March 14, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Jerry Brown blasts Republicans on immigration in Washington — Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday took to the White House driveway for a round of Republican-bashing over immigration. One day after California joined a dozen other states in a legal brief supporting the Obama administration’s policies, Brown used a quickly arranged meeting with reporters to deploy some less judicious language.  McClatchy Newspapers article; San Francisco Chronicle article

John Myers: Jerry Brown (almost) makes it clear he’s not interested in running for president — There are probably only two things you really need to know about the notion of Gov. Jerry Brown — a man afflicted three times with nasty bouts of what’s called “Potomac Fever” — running for president in 2016. First, that it’s a great political parlor game; and second, that it’s the kind of game he must love by always leaving the door ever so slightly open.  Myers in KQED

Gov. Brown

Brown says Republican governors are welcome for jobs visits — Gov. Jerry Brown has a message for Republican governors planning to visit California to woo business from the state: Welcome. Brown, a Democrat, says the governors should “come on out and make your case” but California is growing faster than the national average.  Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics

Fresno event for Boehner attracts around 100, raises nearly $200,000 A Fresno fundraiser for House Speaker John Boehner attracted around 100 guests and raised a bit under $200,000, one of the people close to the organizers said Friday.  Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Passion for affordable housing drives California Assembly speaker – With her tenure as leader of Assembly Democrats expiring at the end of this legislative term, Atkins now is determined to secure statewide support for affordable housing that will endure after her time in the Legislature has ended.  Capitol Alert

No conflict for Atkins, attorney says – Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins’ plan to boost state spending on affordable housing does not violate California’s conflict of interest laws, despite her spouse’s role as an affordable housing consultant, according to a letter from an attorney for the Legislature released on Friday.  U-T San Diego article

California Politics Podcast: Rallying around the flag — In the red and blue fights of politics, few things become more symbolic than battles over the red, white, and blue. This week’s podcast takes a look at the political maneuvering in Sacramento over college students attempting to ban displays of the U.S. flag (among other flags).  California Politics Podcast in KQED

Joel Fox: Top 5 taxes you may see on 2016 ballot — As is nearly always the case in the political world, situations and strategies change. What’s being discussed most heavily today is not necessarily what will be pushed to the ballot for voters to decide in 2016. By measuring fact, rumor and innuendo I’ll offer my reading of the top five tax possibilities for the November 2016 ballot.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Other areas

Mandatory vaccine bills fail in Oregon, Washington – Legislatures in two states this week backed away from bills that would require more kids to get vaccinated, measures similar to one pending in California.  Sacramento Bee article

Clotheslines could be strung out by California bill — Use a clothesline for wet laundry? Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, wants to make sure you aren’t left out to dry. In a state constantly pushing innovation, Lopez is working to ensure people can deploy an ancient technology. Her Assembly Bill 1448 would state that the rules governing common interest developments like apartment complexes can’t prohibit people from stringing up clotheslines.  Capitol Alert

News Briefs

Top Stories

More Valley properties targeted for possibly condemnation for high-speed rail route – More than two dozen pieces of property in Fresno, Kings and Madera counties were added Friday to a list of land that could be cleared for California’s high-speed rail route, signaling a quickening of pace for the project.  Fresno Bee article

Ready to fight: Some growers unwilling to lose land for bullet train – When the state chose to start construction of the high-speed rail in the Central Valley, it was based partly on the theory that assembling needed land would be easiest in the state’s rural backbone. As it turns out, some of the farmers most resistant to accepting state offers are proving to be wealthy, highly educated professionals and investors — and formidable opponents in negotiations.  LA Times article

Supreme Court arguments set in challenge to raisin-price regulation —  Supreme Court justices will unpack many different arguments when they consider a surprisingly big California raisin case. With briefs filed in recent days, parties ranging from the state of Texas and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to a bunch of independent raisin growers from the San Joaquin Valley have challenged a decades-old system for managing raisin supplies. More than one wrinkled fruit is on the line.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Jobs and the Economy

Californians working for tips could miss minimum wage increase – Restaurant servers who derive substantial income from tips would be left out of an impending minimum wage increase under a California bill that has already spurred criticism from organized labor.  Sacramento Bee article

Deal hiked pay for Water Resources staff, left others behind – Gov. Jerry Brown agreed to significantly hike pay for employees for 34 job classifications in the Department of Water Resources. The department and the employees’ union said that non-competitive pay had turned the state into a training academy for local, federal and private entities that routinely poached skilled workers.  Sacramento Bee article

Interactive chart: A state-by-state look at median personal income – The United States unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent in January 2015 – the lowest number since May 2008. This is encouraging news, but it begs the question: How much money is the country’s work force actually earning? Interact with the heat map to see each state’s median income levels.  Sacramento Bee article

Wall Street Journal names Sacramento as a ‘great small city’ for food lovers – Don’t take it personal, Sacramento, with your “world class city” aspirations. The venerable Wall Street Journal still considers Sacramento under-the-radar and yet to achieve metropolitan status. However, the paper has singled out Sacramento for its food scene.  Sacramento Bee article

Disney chief rejects idea of third Anaheim park but confirms expansion – A new Disney theme park in Anaheim is probably not in the works but an expansion of Disneyland is very likely.  LA Times article

$20,000 at stake in live Entrepreneurial Challenge – With $20,000 in cash and prizes at stake, 16 would-be entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas before a live audience and panel of business experts Wednesday in a contest that incorporates aspects of “American Idol” and “Shark Tank.”  Stockton Record article

As U.S. hits debt limit, Treasury takes steps to extend borrowing — The Treasury Department has started taking steps to extend the federal government’s borrowing ability as the U.S. hits its debt limit again Monday, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew told lawmakers Friday.  LA Times article

Gustine courts dairy products company from China – A dairy products company from China has an active interest in an industrial property in the small city of Gustine on the West Side, just south of the Stanislaus County line.  Modesto Bee article

Habit Burger coming to Hanford — Hanford is slated to get a Habit Burger at the corner of 12th Avenue and Lacey Boulevard by the end of the year, according to the company’s CEO. Hanford Sentinel article

Lawsuit: Slow background checks cheated Lyft drivers out of bonuses — Lyft drivers who say they were cheated out of thousands of dollars in sign-up bonuses have filed a federal class-action lawsuit that accuses the ride-hailing company of breach of contract and fraud.  LA Times article

Blue Shield to move 650 employees to Rancho Cordova – Blue Shield of California’s blockbuster lease agreement for nearly 175,000 square feet of space in Rancho Cordova was billed Friday as a deal to spread out existing staff, but it also raised the prospect of more health plan workers coming to the Sacramento area.  Sacramento Bee article

Why Sausalito gas station charges nearly $8 a gallon — Prices at a Marin County gas station climbed so high this week — up to nearly $8 a gallon for the regular stuff — that rubberneckers thought it was a joke. But the prices were real. And on Friday, David Mann, owner of the independent Bridgeway Gas in Sausalito, provided an unusual reason for the surge: He doesn’t like complainers.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Fashion biz owner envisions North Fork ‘Bandit Town’ – A clothing company entrepreneur has a vision for turning a sleepy community in the rural Madera County foothills into an entertainment hot spot.  The Business Journal article

Minneapolis group reportedly in line for MLS expansion team — As Sacramento awaits word on its bid for a Major League Soccer expansion team, Sports Illustrated reported on its website Friday that the league is set to award a team to a group in Minneapolis.  Sacramento Bee article


California poised to tighten watering restrictions – The State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday is poised to get even tougher on water conservation as California now seems assured of a fourth year of drought. The main focus of the proposal set for a board vote is landscape watering, responsible for about 70 percent of all urban water consumption in California. Sacramento Bee article

Stanislaus cities vary in watering rules – Most cities in Stanislaus County limit outdoor watering to certain days of the week, but the rules could tighten as the drought goes on. How it stands now, according to city websites.  Modesto Bee article

3,200 people risk running out of water in drought – A California community that sits between two large reservoirs is running out of water. About 3,200 people in the Sierra Nevada foothill enclave of Lake Don Pedro rely on water from nearby Lake McClure. But the lake level is dangerously low. That’s forcing the community to find another supply. Capital Public Radio report

Group obtains, posts Twin Tunnels comments – Claiming it is “doing the government’s job,” an environmental group this week finished posting online nearly 1,000 of the most complex public comments received last year on Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build Twin Tunnels beneath the Delta.  Stockton Record article

Drought forcing new ways to irrigate – The grand opening Thursday of Bennett Farm Supply in Lemoore — dubbed a retail irrigation “superstore” – might not seem out of the ordinary. But slice below the surface, and you’ll find that it’s connected to the number-one factor dictating Kings County’s future: drought.  Hanford Sentinel article

Tomato plant virus could be making a comeback in San Joaquin Valley – A plant virus that wrecked the central San Joaquin Valley’s tomato crop in 2013 could be making a comeback, experts say. Recent inspections in Fresno and Kings counties have turned up a high number of beet leafhoppers, the insect responsible for spreading beet curly top virus.  Fresno Bee article

Earth Log: Maria Herrera is third Valley member on water commission — The San Joaquin Valley now has a third member on the California Water Commission, the group that will have a big say in carving up part of the $7.5 billion water bond passed last November. The new member is Maria Herrera, 32, of Visalia, joining west-side farmer Joe Del Bosque, who was reappointed, and Dave Orth, general manager of the Kings River Conservation DistrictFresno Bee article

Farm Beat: Celebrity chefs take on food waste — The Natural Resources Defense Council told me about the new campaign in an email this week. Chefs such as Mario Batali and Dominique Cremm will create dishes with the bottoms of broccoli stalks, the fiber left over from juicing and other supposed waste.  Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Homicides likely have ripple effect in Merced economy – Experts and area leaders say Merced’s record-high number of homicides last year, and the five so far this year, have both direct and indirect impact on the city’s ability to grow its economy.  Merced Sun-Star article

Merced ‘still a relatively safe place’ to live, police chief says – Police Chief Norman Andrade, in an interview this week, acknowledged Merced has “work to do” in terms of public safety, but said the overall perception of violence in the city is exaggerated compared with the reality.  Merced Sun-Star article

Racist texts prompt probe of San Francisco police officers — The San Francisco Police Department says it’s investigating four current members of the force who reportedly joined in an exchange of racist text messages with an SFPD sergeant recently convicted on theft and corruption charges.  KQED report; San Francisco Chronicle article


As university costs rise, some going hungry to pay for college – Thousands of California university students are seeking help each month from food banks and free meal programs as higher tuition and living costs squeeze their meager budgets.  KPCC report

Stockton Unified files unfair labor claim against teachers – Lawyers for the Stockton Unified School District filed an unfair practice charge against the Stockton Teachers Association on Thursday night, claiming that the union has been actively planning a strike for nearly a year in violation of its contract.  Stockton Record article

Turlock recruitment fair shows teachers again in high demand – English teacher in training Kaylee Walker found herself in high demand at a teacher recruitment fair this week – a pleasant surprise, she said, after years of hearing about openings in math and science classes.  Modesto Bee article

New school testing approach starts this week – This week kicked off a new approach to standardized testing in California schools. Gone are the days of No. 2 pencil-and-Scantron STAR tests as the Smarter Balanced Assessment launched this week in schools across Visalia and Tulare and in the entire state.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Pacific renames economic research program – University of the Pacific’s Business Forecasting Center changed its name to Center for Business and Policy Research to better reflect the full scope of its work and addition of a Sacramento location.  Stockton Record article

LA teachers launch union drive at Alliance charter schools — Teachers at the largest charter school organization in Los Angeles have launched a drive to unionize, a move that could alter the path of school reform in the city.  LA Times article

Woodshop class may be chucked – Nathan Sanchez, 14, was having what teacher Dale Reed called a “tough start” in school at Compton Junior High. Truth be told, his grades (a mix of As, Bs, Cs and Ds) are still like a variety pack of potato chips. But they’ve been improving since he’s started coming to Reed’s room 15 — woodshop. Problem is, the Compton Junior High program that’s 55 years old is set to end with this school year.  Bakersfield Californian article

Larry White: Myriad reasons teachers teach – Why do people choose to teach? They teach because they care. Seriously. They believe in youth and believe that they can make a difference in student learning, not just in terms of content and skills, but also in students learning to be better human beings and to help improve the world in which they (and we), live.  White column in Stockton Record

Sacramento State pays $123,000 to settle lawsuit alleging harassment by president’s son – Sacramento State has agreed to pay an employee $123,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging he was sexually harassed by the university president’s son. The employee, Jeffrey Sharp, agreed to resign from his position and never apply again for a job in the California State University system.  Sacramento Bee article

Six Weaver Union parents of truant children arrested, Merced DA says – Six parents of truant children were arrested Friday in Merced County, the District Attorney’s Office reported. Merced Sun-Star article

Lemoore High’s former principal dies — Lemoore lost another prominent member of the community this week. Former Lemoore High School principal Ralph Peterson died on Monday at age 92. He was principal of the school from 1962 to 1983, serving a total of 21 years. Before that, he worked as principal at Avenal High School from 1957 to 1962.  Hanford Sentinel article


PUC seeks higher PG&E penalties for San Bruno explosion – The new head of the Public Utilities Commission wants to increase financial penalties against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to a record $1.6 billion for negligence related to the 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight people and leveled a neighborhood in the Bay Area suburb of San Bruno.  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

$133 million for Merced River canyon rockslide fix — Nearly a decade after the 2006 Ferguson rockslide blocked the highway leading to Yosemite National Park’s western gate, a $133 million fix will begin this spring, state officials announced on Friday.  Fresno Bee article; Merced Sun-Star article

Clean air agency proposes new rules to cut and track oil-refinery emissions — The Bay Area’s clean air agency has proposed two new rules to measure, track and reduce oil refinery air pollution as part of a new approach toward curbing oil-industry emissions.  Contra Costa Times article

Health/Human Services

Three Fresno hospitals targeted by state for help to reduce high infection rates — Three Fresno hospitals have too many patient infections and have been targeted for help by state public health officials. Kaiser Permanente Medical Center-Fresno, Community Regional Medical Center and Saint Agnes Medical Center had significantly high health-care associated infection rates, according to a California Department of Public Health report released Friday.  Fresno Bee article

Valley Children’s Hospital opens clinic in Bakersfield – Valley Children’s Hospital has opened an outpatient clinic in Bakersfield in an effort to help ease the growing demand for pediatric specialists in Kern County.  Bakersfield Californian article

Merced nonprofit given $20,000 to fight human trafficking — The Valley Crisis Center, which advocates for victims of sexual and domestic violence, recently received a $20,000 grant to help develop a plan to assist victims of human trafficking.  Merced Sun-Star article

Progress is slow at VA hospitals in wake of crisis – The nation’s largest hospital system has made only halting progress in hiring new doctors, replacing incompetent supervisors, upgrading outdated computers and rebuilding trust with veterans, nine months after President Obama concluded that a “corrosive culture” had led to systemic problems at hospitals run by theDepartment of Veterans AffairsNew York Times article

VA probing whether scopes gave patients superbug infections — Veterans Affairs Department officials are investigating whether patients have been exposed to antibiotic-resistant superbugs from tainted medical scopes in the wake of several hospital outbreaks.  LA Times article

Medical trade school approved for ultrasound degree — If you’ve had an urge to see what’s going on with other people’s innards, there’s a program starting this summer in northeast Fresno that might be right in your wheelhouse.  Fresno Bee article

Kaiser tops customer-satisfaction survey for eighth year in row — For the eighth consecutive year, Kaiser Permanente has been given the highest ranking for customer satisfaction in California in a key measurement of in-state health plans.  Sacramento Bee article

Other areas

Federal court administrators recommend six new judges for Fresno, Sacramento – Federal court officials this week recommended six new judge positions for California’s overworked eastern federal judicial district, a region that includes courthouses in both Fresno and Sacramento.  Fresno Bee article

Open-records law morphs into tool for corporations, advocates — Newspapers were once the dominant force in dislodging documents and other records from reluctant federal government agencies, but a new crop of media players, advocacy groups and corporate interests now drive the release of information.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Wasco councilman agrees to $4,000 fine to settle conflict of interest charge — A Wasco city councilman has agreed to pay $4,000 to settle accusations he violated California’s Political Reform Act by voting in his official capacity on a project he had a financial interest in.  Bakersfield Californian article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.