March 11, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

California tax revenue beats estimate by $1 billion in February — In the latest sign of California’s improving budget outlook, tax revenue last month beat estimates by about $1 billion, the state controller said Tuesday. Receipts of $6.6 billion in February beat estimates in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget by about 18 percent, Controller Betty Yee said in her monthly report.Personal income tax revenue came in at $2.6 billion, 26 percent higher than projected. Retail sales and use taxes were up nearly 16 percent.  Capitol Alert

USC study cites political risk to GOP for opposing immigration plan – A new USC report warns of possible political blowback if Republicans continue to try to block the expansion of President Obama’s deportation relief program.  LA Times article

State budget

Dan Walters:  Legislature’s budget analyst clears up muddled California budget picture — Combining general and special fund spending for historical analysis, the LAO also found, state expenditures have been remarkably consistent over the last three-plus decades at around 7.5 percent of Californians’ personal income, considered to be the fairest measure. It puts all the rhetoric over whether we are spending too much or too little in perspective.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Dan Walters Daily: Limited options for growing California revenue — As much as Democrats would like to spend it, most of California’s growing tax revenue is already earmarked, Dan says. Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics

AD31: Arambula not a Democrat and not living in Kingsburg – yet — Joaquin Arambula says he got a little ahead of himself. He’s not living in Kingsburg, and he’s not a Democrat. Not yet.  Last week, Arambula was identified as a Kingsburg Democrat in a Bee story about his potential 31st Assembly District run.  Fresno Bee article

Bakersfield Californian: McCarthy wise to attend march in Selma — Faced with a potential backlash, McCarthy made the proper gesture and attended the anniversary celebration. His presence suggested the Republicans are more open-minded than perhaps given credit.  Bakersfield Californian editorial


Judge asks Obama administration to explain immigration protections – A federal judge in Texas wants the Obama administration to explain why 100,000 young people have been granted temporary relief from deportation, even though the government said it wasn’t taking applications for such protections.  LA Times article

Illegal border surge dips, crossing forecast to rise in summer — The number of Central American children and families illegally crossing the southern border, particularly in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, is likely to be smaller this year than last, but large enough to overwhelm shelters and courts, new Border Patrol statistics and projections show.  LA Times article

Immigrant program causes DMV delays — There’s rarely a good time to wait in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. But this winter has been among the worst. Two months after the state launched its first-ever program allowing unauthorized immigrants to apply for California driver licenses, wait times at DMV offices are still frustratingly-long for those wanting to renew licenses or take care of other business.  U-T San Diego article

Workshop eases fear of AB60 — Jorge Negrete is eager to apply for a California driver’s license and shed his anxiety over the possibility of being pulled over and losing his vehicle to impound.  Stockton Record article

Other areas

Capitol debates limited to one ‘outcome,’ GOP senators say – The whisper campaign usually sounds like this: Experts testifying on issues before state lawmakers do little more than reinforce the views of the party in power. This year, that contention is being made more publicly.  Capitol Alert

Janet Napolitano says she never sent emails, texts as Cabinet secretary — University of California President Janet Napolitano said she steered clear of email while serving in President Obama’s cabinet, a topic that has dogged Hillary Clinton as she prepares for a potential presidential campaign.  LA Times article

Marijuana legalization gets a boost on Capitol Hill — Marijuana legalization got a boost on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as a trio of rising stars in the Senate launched an effort to rewrite federal drug laws.  LA Times article

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti quietly launches fundraising for 2017 reelection — Less than halfway through his first term as mayor, Eric Garcetti has filed paperwork to begin fundraising for his reelection effort and on Monday launched his 2017 campaign website.  LA Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Agencies admit failing to protect water sources from fuel pollution — The agencies charged with overseeing oil production and protecting California’s ever-dwindling water sources from the industry’s pollution all fell down on the job, one state official told a panel of peeved lawmakers Tuesday.  LA Times article; Bakersfield Californian article; Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article; KVPR report

Stockton Unified teachers authorize strike — Stockton Unified teachers voted Tuesday to authorize their union to call a strike “as necessary” should the union, with the fact-finding process yet to begin, determine one is warranted, Stockton Teachers Association President John Steiner said.  Stockton Record article; AP article

Jobs and the Economy

Unemployment rates see seasonal rise throughout Valley – Unemployment rates rose in all eight San Joaquin Valley counties in January but remained well below January 2014 rates, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department.  The rates ranged from a low of 10.6 percent in San Joaquin County to a high of 14.0 percent in Merced County. Here are the January unemployment numbers, followed in parentheses by the December 2014 and January 2014 rates:

  • Fresno – 12.1 percent (11.2, 13.6)
  • Kern – 11.1 percent (10.0, 12.3)
  • Kings – 12.9 percent (11.7, 15.0)
  • Madera – 11.8 percent (11.4, 12.1)
  • Merced – 14.0 percent (12.8, 16.0)
  • San Joaquin – 10.6 percent (10.0, 13.2)
  • Stanislaus – 11.1 percent (10.4, 13.3)
  • Tulare – 13.9 percent (13.0, 15.2)

Loss of holiday-season retail work sends unemployment higher in Fresno County — About 1,200 retail jobs — many likely holiday-season positions — evaporated between December and January in Fresno County, contributing to an upward lurch in the county’s unemployment rate to 12.1% in January.  Fresno Bee article

Kern jobless rate climbed again in January to 11.1 percent – Kern County’s unemployment rate rose by slightly more than one percentage point in January to an estimated 11.1 percent as local joblessness expanded for a third consecutive month, according to state data released Tuesday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Merced County jobless rate rises, but still down from last year – Merced County lost about 2,200 nonfarm jobs between December and January, pushing the jobless rate up to 14 percent, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Employment Development Department.  Merced Sun-Star article

San Joaquin County job picture brightens despite seasonal layoffs – Seasonal layoffs in retail employment pushed San Joaquin County’s unemployment rate up to 10.6 percent in January 2015, from a revised 10 percent in December 2014, state employment officials said Tuesday. Stockton Record article

Stanislaus County sees January dip in joblessness – Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate of 11.1 percent for January was the lowest for that month in several years. The last time the county had a better January was in 2008, when the unemployment rate was 10.7 percent.  Modesto Bee article

Debate rages in Kern over civil service rules and library privatization – Talk of hacking civil service rules and privatizing the Kern County Library system seem to have put a crimp in the relationship between the Kern County Board of Supervisors and Kern’s largest employee union.  Bakersfield Californian article; Bakersfield Californian editorial

Lengthy homicide cases burden Stanislaus County’s budget – Stanislaus County supervisors gave approval Tuesday to restore 18 positions for the Sheriff’s Department and hire 13 staff members for probation, in what they called public safety restoration.  Modesto Bee article

California state retirements jump in 2015 – State worker retirements rose 14 percent for the first two months of this year, according to the latest CalPERS data. The reason: February set a new retirement record for the month.  Sacramento Bee article

Fresno gas prices rise 75 cents in a month – The average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline in Fresno skyrocketed 75 cents in the last month to $3.38 a gallon, according to AAA of Northern California. Prices rose 72 cents in the Visalia-Tulare-Porterville area to an average $3.31 in the last month.  Fresno Bee article

Welcome to American Futures 3.0: Fresno — Fresno is the biggest city in California’s Central Valley, which is simultaneously one of America’s richest and poorest areas. It is rich in its agricultural output and potential; you name the high-value crop (other than corn or wheat), and farms through the Central Valley are likely to play a major role in world supply.  The Atlantic article

Airbnb and other short-term rentals worsen housing shortage, critics say – As short-term rental websites such as Airbnb explode in popularity in Southern California, a growing number of homeowners and landlords are caving to the economics.  LA Times article

Turlock chamber hears about global food issues – A luncheon honored local students bound for farm-related careers while providing a glimpse into the challenges of global food production.  Modesto Bee article

City of Sacramento moves to loosen rules on food trucks – Five years after the food truck craze took hold in California, Sacramento is poised to loosen rules that truck operators say keep them away from central city streets.  Sacramento Bee article

New homes in Sacramento region highest since 2008 – New home sales in the Sacramento region jumped in February to their highest level in seven years, offering new evidence that the real estate market locally is moving past its recession blues, and prompting builders to say they expect solid spring and summer sales. Placer County home sales led the way.  Sacramento Bee article

Targets lays off 1,700, won’t fill another 1,400 vacancies — Target Corp. said Tuesday that it is laying off 1,700 workers and eliminating another 1,400 unfilled positions as part of a restructuring aimed at saving $2 billion over the next two years.  AP article

San Diego’s post-recession success comes with caveats, experts say — San Diego’s life sciences and communications technology industries have been around for decades, Vitner said. But they have boomed lately as an aging global population demands drugs to extend life, methods to track and analyze health and gadgets to help ease their twilight years. LA Times article


Fresno County supervisors get first look at severe water restrictions – Water restrictions could soon be coming to about 400 water customers in communities that are provided water by Fresno County.  Fresno Bee article

California rain, snow among the big misses in NOAA’s long-term forecast — Only days away from the end of another miserably dry winter, a private meteorologist revisited the long-term federal forecast — the one made before the winter started. Maybe you remember the prediction of slightly above-average rain and snow for much of California, said meteorologist Jan Null, a Bay area weather expert for the last four decades. Reality tells us it missed, rather badly in some places, such as the Southern Sierra Nevada.  Fresno Bee article

Tulare County approves well project to ease East Porterville drought woes — The Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to help build a new well to supply emergency water to drought-stricken residents of East Porterville whose wells have gone dry. The well would be operated by the city water system of neighboring Porterville.  Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

Hot droughts, Stanford study links drought and global warming – California is now in the fourth year of its on-going drought, and this winter’s meager snowpack has water experts worried, thanks to remarkably warm temperatures. But scientists at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment say that in just a few decades, this severe condition could be the new norm, thanks to climate change.  KVPR report

South San Joaquin Irrigation District caps water deliveries for first time – For the first time ever, drought has forced the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to cap water deliveries. Modesto Bee article

Tulloch water outlook precarious – Pressuring Gov. Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama might represent the best hope for Lake Tulloch neighbors trying not to wither in the drought. Modesto Bee article

‘First Look’: Career fair at CSU Bakersfield to provide information on ag jobs in Valley — The 4th annual Growing Opportunities Career Fair hosted by Cal State Bakersfield will bring local agriculture industry leaders in the same room to discuss job opportunities in the valley. Aaron Hegde, a CSUB economics professor, said the career fair on Wednesday will be a place for students to learn about the United States Department of Agriculture and the many ag related jobs available in the industry.  Bakersfield Californian article

Property rights debate bogs down Modesto Irrigation District — Unusually warm temperatures the past few days have made the four-year drought worse for crops, so Modesto Irrigation District leaders said Tuesday they’re inclined to start farmers’ water season April 12 instead of two weeks later. The MID board also waded through tricky dialogue with several growers and attorneys who object to proposed rule changes granting ditch tenders carte-blanche access to private property under threat of losing water rights.  Modesto Bee article

Reservoirs for East Bay water users near 38-year lows – Levels at Sierra reservoirs that supply water for 1.3 million East Bay customers are as low as they’ve been in nearly 40 years, and it could take a miracle to make them better before the onset of the long dry season, officials were told Tuesday.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Big water rate hike plan reduced by Santa Clara Valley Water District — Facing a public outcry and some skepticism from their board of directors, the top staff of the Silicon Valley’s largest drinking water provider on Tuesday suggested reducing a proposed drought-related water rate hike this year from 31 percent to 19 percent.  San Jose Mercury News article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department sued over ‘Stingray’ surveillance technology — A lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department over its refusal to release documents surrounding its controversial use of surveillance technology that allows detectives to collect location data from the cellphones of investigative targets, with or without a court order.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

Glynn files suit against Stockton — Jessica Glynn has filed a gender and pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against the city just weeks after she was fired from her job as manager of Stockton’s new Office of Violence Prevention.  Stockton Record article


Flag ban: UC Irvine cancels student meeting; ‘viable threats’ cited – UC Irvine administrators have canceled a Tuesday night student meeting after receiving “viable threats” connected to a short-lived decision to remove the American flag and other flags from a student government office lobby.  LA Times article

At UC Irvine, some say furor over attempted U.S. flag ban is overblown – UC Irvine students Prasoon Saurabh and Jinfeng Li both hang U.S. flags in their apartments. Saurabh, a 26-year-old graduate student in chemistry, also hangs flags from Ecuador, Argentina, Germany, France, Brazil, China and other countries to celebrate the diverse homelands of his many friends. So Saurabh is bemused by the national furor sparked by news that six members of a student government council voted last week to ban flags of any country in their office lobby.  LA Times article

With suspensions down, some schools struggle to increase learning – In many school districts across California, schools are cutting down on the number of suspensions. The theory is: Keep kids in class, and they’ll learn more and be less likely to drop out.  San Francisco Unified School District has been a leader, passing a resolution last year to ban all suspensions for “willful defiance.” To do this right, all the teachers in a school have to build deep relationships with their most challenging kids. That’s not easy.  KQED report

New state standardized tests begin after rocky trial run – Tuesday marked the first day that schools statewide could begin administering new standardized tests that, for the first time, will be given online.  LA Times article

Gender gap in education cuts both ways – Amid the din over top girls’ mathematical abilities, something important was forgotten: What is happening that so many boys are falling behind in pretty much everything else?  New York Times article

Science comes to Highway City’s reborn community center in northwest Fresno – Every child’s passion for learning has rescued perhaps the most forlorn neighborhood center in all of Fresno. The city’s parks department is on the verge of reopening the Highway City Neighborhood Center some four years after the doors were slammed shut due to the Great Recession. This time, though, the mission isn’t fun and games. The world has changed — we’re now talking fun and science.  Fresno Bee article

Task force unveils plan to overhaul special education — A statewide task force unveiled Friday a 222-page plan to dramatically improve education for students with disabilities, described as the crucial next step in education reform in California.  EdSource article

Obama calls for more rights for struggling students borrowers – Issuing a clarion call to Americans saddled by student debt, President Obama urged student borrowers Tuesday to stand up for their rights, and announced a medley of modest steps to bring some order to a notoriously chaotic system.  AP article

Brooke Ashjian: Time for Fresno Unified trade school is now – The Fresno Unified trustee writes, “We need to build a Career Tech Facility for these kids and teach them a trade like plumbing, road building, carpentry or welding. Why don’t we teach them to build a few small houses a year and sell them? They need something that channels their energy into creating income for their families. We all know education is the only vehicle for this change and changes lives for the better.”  Ashjian op-ed in Fresno Bee

Greg Sherman: A look back at a giant journey – The member of the College of the Sequoias Board of Trustees writes, “Recently, however, I had the privilege to participate in a very different planning retreat. This January, our session focused on the very bright future of this community college district. We discussed how to grow the college and help our students. Nearly every topic focused on serving students and helping them succeed.”  Sherman op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Fresno Unified spokeswoman to resign — Fresno Unified School District spokeswoman Micheline Golden announced Tuesday that she is resigning from her post. Her last day of work is Friday. Fresno Bee article

LA Unified to send layoff notices to hundreds of teachers — Hundreds of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District will receive layoff notices this month under a budget plan approved Tuesday by the Board of Education.  LA Times article

Lois Henry: UCLA’s immense power couldn’t squash this ‘David’ – The reality of our world is that sometimes David slays Goliath and sometimes he has to settle for giving the big Phillistine a black eye. Such is life when dealing with giants who have all the money and all the power. In this case, longtime researcher James Enstrom last week agreed to settle his lawsuit against UCLA alleging retaliation for his academic and political views on air pollution. He settled for $140,000, a reversal of his termination and access to school resources.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

UCLA student government unanimously condemns anti-Semitism in vote — In a crowded hall on the university’s Westwood campus, the Undergraduate Students Assn. Council voted 12 to 0 in favor of a five-page resolution that denounces the hatred of Jews and calls for fair treatment of the university’s Jewish population.  LA Times article


Chance of 8.0 earthquake in California rises, USGS says — Estimates of the chance of a magnitude 8.0 or greater earthquake hitting California in the next three decades have been raised from about 4.7% to 7%, the U.S. Geological Survey said Tuesday.  LA Times article

Desert renewable energy plan is altered to win counties’ support – The California desert may be a green energy developer’s dream, but county officials have serious concerns about a plan to manage renewable energy projects on 22 million acres of the state’s sunniest public and private lands.  LA Times article

Major new cuts eyed for greenhouse gases — Nearly a decade after California’s landmark law curbing greenhouse gases was signed, a key author of AB 32 wants to dramatically boost the crackdown on climate-changing carbon emissions over the next 35 years.  Capitol Weekly article

With legal hurdle cleared, Fresno trails leader hails progress on canals project — Last month, the effort to turn Fresno’s canal banks into trails got a boost when state officials cleared one major impediment that had stalled trail construction – the issue of liability. The man many consider to be the father of the Fresno and Clovis trail system, Mark Keppler joined us on Valley Edition to talk about this new plan to bring trails to Fresno canal banks. KVPR report

Health/Human Services

David Ojcius and Paul Brown: Vaccination against measles protects entire community – Ojcius, professor of immunology at UC Merced, and Brown, professor of public health at UC Merced, write, “We believe we should strive for the goal of vaccinating 100 percent of the population. Every member of the community who can be vaccinated should receive the vaccine, to protect both himself or herself and our neighbors who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons – because they are too young or have other medical conditions that prevent them from benefiting from vaccination. Nobody should opt-out for personal or religious reasons.”  Ojcius/Brown op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

Sacramento County backs higher marriage certificate fee for domestic abuse program – Sacramento County supervisors on Tuesday backed a proposal to increase fees on marriage certificates and other vital records to help pay for domestic abuse programs.  Sacramento Bee article

Prime Healthcare pulls out of deal to save local hospitals — Citing Attorney General Kamala Harris’ “unprecedented” list of demands, Prime Healthcare Services pulled of its deal to buy Daughters of Charity Health System’s six nonprofit Catholic hospitals, including Daly City’s Seton Medical CenterSan Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article

Record $535,000 raised on Kids Day – Kids Day last week set a record with $535,000 raised, Molly Marquez of Valley Children’s Hospital announced Tuesday. Kids Day, in its 28th year, is a key fundraiser for the hospital, which specializes in treating children with serious and life-threatening illnesses. The event is co-sponsored by The Bee and ABC30.  Fresno Bee article

Placer County bans e-cigarettes from public buildings and vehicles – Vaping, or using electronic cigarettes, will soon be banned in Placer County public buildings and vehicles. The Placer County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in county-owned buildings and vehicles.  Sacramento Bee article

Blinding cases of syphilis found on West Coast, now potentially in LA – Public health officials across the West Coast are urging medical professionals to look out for cases of ocular syphilis – a sexually transmitted disease that can cause blindness – after two potential cases in Los Angeles recently.  LA Times article

‘Sugar Papers’ show industry’s influence in 1970s dental program, study says — Hundreds of pages of newly-found documents show that the sugar industry worked closely with the federal government in the late 1960s and early 1970s to determine a research agenda to prevent cavities in children, researchers who analyzed the documents say.  KQED report

A year later, Fresno family therapist makes progress after seizure and surgery for brain tumor — Melissa Carleton wants to to talk but only a soft, barely audible sound escapes her lips for the speech therapist, who leans close and encourages her to try again. In the next room, Carleton’s son, West Lande, laughs and babbles as only a 9 1Ž2-month-old can.  Fresno Bee article

Michael Fitzgerald: Kindness brings a dying man home — Bob Kearney can die at home. Thanks to readers’ generosity, the Stockton man near death in New Orleans got an airplane ride home — two airplane rides, actually, owing to a mishap with the first ride.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Land Use/Housing

New brewery on tap for Bakersfield later this year; downtown apartments considered — Members of the city zoning board turned the tap on a new brewery in the southwest Tuesday, but gave a new downtown apartment complex proposal more time to mature.  Bakersfield Californian article

Council balks on north Tulare office space project — Businessman Madram Shuaibi says a project that would have brought office space to north Tulare will likely be abandoned after the city council denied his request for fee waivers.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Funding for Stockton road projects gets final OK — A public-works project first discussed nearly a quarter-century ago may at last be completed in 2016 after the City Council unanimously approved final funding provisions at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.  Stockton Record article

Other areas

Kings homeless shelter makes new plans – Despite rumors of its demise, Andy’s House, Kings County’s only transitional housing facility for homeless men, is alive and looking to the future. Patty Carter, executive director for Cornerstone Men’s Transitional Housing, which operates Andy’s House, said she and the organization’s board of directors have been working to reassure the public that the program hasn’t gone away.  Hanford Sentinel article

Magsig will serve as Clovis mayor for next two years — Clovis City Council members named Nathan Magsig the mayor in the council’s reorganization Monday night. The new mayor pro tem is Bob Whalen.  Fresno Bee article

Atwater’s Pietro reassigned to interim city manager – Atwater City Manager and Police Chief Frank Pietro’s job title was changed to interim city manager this month, apparently without the knowledge of some City Council members.  Merced Sun-Star article

Stockton Record: What to pay a mayor? – Looking forward, will qualified candidates who truly could help the city move forward be discouraged by a lower salary? You would think citizens would want the best pool of candidates possible. On the other hand, there’s no requirement that it’ll take high pay to get quality candidates. Many elected officials emphasize public service over pay.  Stockton Record editorial

Castle Air Museum expecting new jet this month — The Castle Air Museum is expecting the arrival on March 18 of its newest aircraft, a Northrop-Grumman EA-6B ProwlerMerced Sun-Star article

State accuses Merced judge of ethical violations – State authorities on Tuesday accused a Merced County judge of concealing $250,000 in payments he received from his former law partners over a four-year period while he was on the bench.  Merced Sun-Star article

Belinda Rolicheck: ‘American Crime’ isn’t really Modesto, but we have those same problems – The executive director of the Haven Women’s Center of Stanislaus writes, “I’m not personally exposed to drug use, racism, homelessness or violence. My work, and some of the volunteer work I do, however, regularly puts me in front of people who face some or all of these challenges on a regular basis. It is this work, in addition to watching the pilot episode of “American Crime,” that reminds me that the Modesto I live in and love is not the same for all of my neighbors.” Rolicheck op-ed in Modesto Bee

Nicholes becomes Ceres’ permanent fire chief – The restructuring of public safety in Ceres was completed Monday, when the City Council voted unanimously to hire Bryan Nicholes as the new fire chief.  Modesto Bee article

Sacramento City Council unanimously approves contract with artist for $8 million arena sculpture — After nearly three hours of passionate testimony from local artists and philanthropists, the Sacramento City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a contract with renowned artist Jeff Koons for an $8 million sculpture outside the downtown sports arena. Sacramento Bee article

New sign appears after swastika display ripped down from Sacramento house — A day after a swastika display was ripped down from a Sacramento home, a new sign appeared Tuesday on the front door with the word “TERRORISM?” written in large letters and several other words written smaller.  Sacramento Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Bakersfield Californian Congressman Kevin McCarthy was wise to attend the march in Selma; Library privatization options merits close scrutiny in Kern.

Fresno Bee – When in Rome, don’t be an “ugly American.”

Merced Sun-Star – Our flag represents our ideals; let it fly.

Modesto Bee – Our flag represents our ideals; let it fly.

Sacramento Bee – Republicans senators need a civics lesson and should stop meddling in Iran nuclear deal; Sacramento City Council must not squander Measure U windfall.

Stockton Record – Looking forward, will qualified candidates who truly could help the city move forward be discouraged by a lower salary?; The horrors of drunk driving played out on two fronts last Wednesday in Stockton.