March 15, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Dan Walters: Capitol talks about poverty, but takes little long-term action — Poverty is a very difficult issue, but as yet, the Capitol is just talking about applying bandages. It will be overcome only if California attracts private investment that creates real middle-class jobs and prepares potential workers for those jobs.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Paper printouts are the norm under California Legislature’s open records law – The bill lawmakers approved in 2000 to give Californians electronic access to public records covered almost every branch of local and state government except the Legislature itself. The measure amended the California Public Records Act – which covers most state and local governments – but didn’t touch the much more restrictive law that governs the Legislature’s information, known as the Legislative Open Records Act, or LORA.  Sacramento Bee article


Sacramento Bee: California is the new Texas on border relations — Even if there were no economic benefit, California’s evolution has been worth it. Building close ties with Mexico, rather than engaging in a war of words, or worse, is the right thing to do.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Other areas

California known for sunshine, but not in Legislature – The law that outlines public access to records within the California Legislature remains riddled with loopholes, decades after it was written to provide more visibility into how business is conducted at the Sacramento statehouse.  AP article

LA’s low voter numbers push state officials toward easing process — Alarmed by the dismal voter turnout in this month’s Los Angeles city election, California lawmakers are considering a massive expansion of vote-by-mail balloting and legalizing pop-up polling stations at shopping malls to help increase the convenience and appeal of voting.  LA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Harris Ranch lassos a new breed – Tesla owner – with charging station – Along this stretch of Interstate 5, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, pickup trucks outnumber cars, radios usually pick up only Spanish-language and country music stations, and the state’s largest beef-cattle feed lot is within sniffing distance. Then there are the Teslas. Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant, a landmark at this Central Valley crossroads, is drawing the pricey electric cars like cows to a salt lick.  LA Times article

Blackstone project sparks Fresno City Hall fight — Fresno City Hall is a house divided over a grocery store proposed for Blackstone Avenue. It has come — the first big test for Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s general plan. Who’s in Fresno’s development saddle, business as usual or high ideals?  Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Stockton mayor’s salary: Council’s choices: Lower it or lower it more The City Council has no choice but to slash Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva’s salary by more than $32,500 — unless it wants to whack even more off his annual paycheck. So says the City Attorney’s office, though Silva disagrees.  Stockton Record article

California wins a round in epic tax fight with Nevada inventor — California’s tax collectors have been fighting with inventor and entrepreneur Gilbert Hyatt for 22 years, demanding he pay tens of millions of dollars on the income he earned after winning a patent for computer chips.  Sacramento Bee article

American Legion to relocate state headquarters from San Francisco to Sanger – After 96 years in downtown San Francisco, the American Legion is relocating its state headquarters to Sanger, a city official confirmed Saturday.  Fresno Bee article

Mike Klocke: Stockton officials touch on issues impacting citizens – Stockton City Manager Kurt Wilson and Police Chief Eric Jones met with the Editorial Board of The Record on Tuesday. They touched on a number of items involving law enforcement in particular and city government in general. Here’s a recap.  Klocke column in Stockton Record

Pins and needles for Apple watch app makers — The success of the Apple Watch — set to go on sale April 24 — will depend largely on the quality of apps built for its tiny screen. But critics have questioned whether a “killer app” will emerge, one that can transform the Watch from a novelty or fashion item into a breakout hit, like the iPhone or iPad.  LA Times article

Loophole in GI Bill is a windfall for helicopter flight schools — For some flight schools that train helicopter pilots, the GI Bill that took effect in 2009 was a windfall the government never intended.  LA Times article


California water wasters elude fines as drought persists – The drought persists, but most local water departments have been reluctant to crack down on water-wasters. Warning letters are unusual. Small fines are rare. And the $500 hammer is virtually never wielded. Still, the State Water Resources Control Board is voting Tuesday on adding more restrictions even while acknowledging it’s not sure how— or whether— Californians are following existing rules.  AP article

Jay Famiglietti: California has about one year of water left.  Will you ration now? – The senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine writes, “Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.” Famiglietti op-ed in LA Times

Dan Morain: Rural lawmaker lives the drought — Frank Bigelow stood at the bottom of a gully that a few years ago was stocked with largemouth bass, and, more importantly, supplied water for a herd of cattle that numbered 600 head.  Morain in Sacramento Bee

Masumoto Farm:  The family peach farm that became a symbol of the food revolution – In the heart of California’s Central Valley, a vast expanse of orchards, vineyards, and vegetable fields, lies a small collection of aging peach trees. Farmer Mas Masumoto’s decision to preserve those trees, and then to write about it, became a symbol of resistance to machine-driven food production. NPR report

Fresno Bee: Cities win in water wars between trees and people – Growers of almonds and other perennial crops reap the benefits of high prices for their bounty. But there’s a trade-off. Unlike growers of rice and other annual crops, they have less flexibility in time of drought. They cannot fallow their fields. Without water, their trees will die.  Fresno Bee editorial

Jeff Jardine: So many weeds, so many needs, so little water – A 300-yard stretch of the Tuolumne River near Hughson shows one of the many impacts of the ongoing drought.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Rotten egg smell in Hanford water vanquished by chlorination — The rotten egg smell in Hanford tap water is a thing of the past now that the city is chlorinating its water. Fresno Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Did Bakersfield Police Department botch attempt by informant to help bring in a dangerous suspect? – Jorge Joel Ramirez was walking a tightrope. It was mid-September 2013 and the 34-year-old man had just offered to help Bakersfield police find and arrest a dangerous, wanted felon by the name of Justin Harger. What the father of five may not have known was that he would be working without a net.  Bakersfield Californian article

Opening communications – A cross section of community members, civic leaders and law enforcement officials from San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties gathered at University of the Pacific on Saturday to discuss ways to improve community relations with law enforcement agencies.  Stockton Record article

March draws attention to deaths in encounters in law enforcement – More than 200 family members, friends and supporters of people who have lost loved ones in confrontations with local law enforcement took to the streets Saturday in a march that revisited the scenes of some of the deaths.  Bakersfield Californian article

Bigoted texts ‘disgraced’ SFPD, chief says, vowing rapid action — The four San Francisco police officers under investigation for sending racist and homophobic text messages have all been on the force for more than a decade, and at least two have faced disciplinary action in the past, The Chronicle has learned.  San Francisco Chronicle article


UC tuition debate threatens its independence — As a former governor and cabinet secretary, Janet Napolitano came to the University of California with hefty political credentials many hoped she would wield in Sacramento as a champion for the state’s prestigious public research university. But the UC president’s play for more state money after years of deep budget cuts has put her and the 147-year old institution on the firing line.  Contra Costa Times article

SAE chapters in California have faced discipline over rule breaking — Well before the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in Oklahoma became infamous for videotaped racist chants, SAE chapters in California were involved in numerous serious incidents, including a hazing death, the closing of two houses and disciplinary sanctions for drinking and conduct problems. LA Times article

Pencils down as state K-12 testing centers enter the computer age — For the first time in the history of standardized testing in California, students didn’t pick up a No. 2 pencil to show what they know. They hit the power button.  San Francisco Chronicle article

How California schools are using art to boost achievement – After years of arts taking second stage to math and reading, a state task force is now recommending arts be returned to California classrooms as a core subject.  KQED report

Q&A: Interim CSU Bakersfield AD Siegfried overseeing new era for athletics — Kenneth “Ziggy” Siegfried, Cal State Bakersfield’s interim athletic director, has been on the job since July, overseeing some Roadrunner highs — the volleyball team won the WAC tournament in November — and lows. One of those came Friday, when both the CSUB men’s and women’s basketball team were bounced from the WAC tournament.  Bakersfield Californian article


Rulings bode ill for Modesto Irrigation District cash cow – Two recent appellate court rulings frowning on overcharging electricity customers could have important implications for the Modesto Irrigation District and the 113,000 families and businesses who buy its power.  Modesto Bee article

Heat wave sets new temperature records across California – A March heat wave set new temperature records across California on Saturday, with more sweltering conditions in the forecast for Sunday.  LA Times article; Fresno Bee article

Modesto Bee: Preserve our resources without destroying our region – We have an obligation to help save the rivers, but state must help save our livelihoods.  Modesto Bee editorial

Ginny Fitzpatrick: Understanding science of climate change and recognizing misinformation – The researcher and freelance writer writes, “A man walks into a room carrying a snowball. Although it sounds like the start to a joke, no one should be laughing when that man is Sen. James Inhofe and he is exhibiting the snowball on the floor of the U.S. Senate as “evidence” that global climate change is not occurring.”  Fitzpatrick op-ed in Sacramento Bee

San Onofre plan details under scrutiny — The criminal investigation into the California Public Utilities Commission is focusing on two key revisions to the plan for dividing up $4.7 billion in costs for premature shutdown of the failed San Onofre nuclear power plant.  U-T San Diego article

Health/Human Services

Startups, entrepreneurs try to solve medical records debacle – Modernizing medical records has been a major challenge, and requires cooperation from the government and the private sector. While the big medical records corporations, hospitals and federal officials attempt to solve these problems, some startup companies are hard at work trying to find solutions. KQED report

UC Merced Connect: Self-portraits aid in assessing patients — If a picture is worth a thousand words, professor Jitske Tiemensma’s research speaks volumes. The UC Merced health psychologist uses self-portraits to assess how patients feel about their illnesses.  UC Merced Connect in Merced Sun-Star

Land Use/Housing

Mobile home parks: A vanishing source of affordable housing — Affordable housing for middle- and lower-income families is drying up by the month in California. Among the hardest hit are those living in mobile home parks. In the last decade, 4,792 mobile home lots in the state have vanished from the map, according to data from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, with even more expected to disappear.  KQED report

Hanford council may start zoning changes — As discussions about the future of downtown Hanford get under way, the Hanford City Council will consider some changes Tuesday regarding hotels, motels and large medical offices.  Hanford Sentinel article

Other areas

Sunshine Week: In California, fees can add up for public access to court records — Under California law, the public is entitled to a remarkable level of access to a vast array of government records. And the California Public Records Act, which ensures that the government’s business is conducted in public, applies as much to the state’s courts as to other state and local agencies including cities, counties, school districts and even cemetery districts. Just be prepared to open your wallet. Fresno Bee article

Sunshine Week: Big fees to view public documents discourage public access — The public’s right to see government records is coming at an ever-increasing price, as authorities set fees and hourly charges that often prevent information from flowing.  AP article

Sunshine Week: After 2 years, Fresno Unified releases legal fee information — In Fresno Unified, ferreting out certain school information that should be available for public inspection, like legal expenses, requires a Herculean amount of pestering. One battle that crackled into the public conversation in recent years was over how much Fresno district officials pay outside attorneys hired to fight their legal battles. From start to finish, it took The Bee two years to get district gatekeepers to release the information its reporters asked for.  Fresno Bee article

Joyce Terhaar: Sunshine Week begs the question: Why aren’t Californians angry about a court ruling allowing official secrecy? — It’s been almost one year since the 6th District Court of Appeal decided San Jose city officials could keep private the texts and emails about city business they had sent on personal cellphones, from personal accounts.  Terhaar column in Sacramento Bee

Dave White: Giving county’s cities more ‘curb appeal’ from 99 – The executive director of the Stanislaus Alliance Worknet writes, “Recently, two consultants have come to town and both have told me privately that Highway 99 doesn’t ‘show’ well. It leaves visitors with an image litter, graffiti and weeds. When you consider that more than 100,000 motorists pass through Modesto, Ceres and Turlock each day on 99, you have to think that they are not getting a good image and failing to get a true perspective about all that’s good in our county.”  White op-ed in Modesto Bee

Lois Henry: Kern’s Bones: Digging up treasures past and present — Sorry, no snarky column today. Instead, I wanted to alert you to a new feature you won’t want to miss. We’re calling it “Kern’s Bones: Digging up treasures past and present.” (The name may change, depending on what my bosses think.)  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Cities win in water war between trees and people; California is the new Texas on border relations.

Modesto Bee – We have an obligation to help save the rivers, but state must help save our livelihoods; California is the new Texas on immigration.

Sacramento Bee – California is the new Texas on border relations; Cities will prevail in competition between trees and people.