March 18, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories

California initiative avalanche makes your signature more valuable — Signatures for Gov. Jerry Brown’s parole initiative are $5 apiece. For a measure to raise the tobacco tax, $4. For recreational marijuana legalization, $2. Petitions in a typical year may start at $1 and work their way up based on how they are producing. Competition for valid signatures is so fierce that the firm working on those measures started a $20,000 raffle for those who submit 75 signatures for each petition. Sacramento Bee article

California smoking bills in holding pattern, stalling lobbyist threat – Politically potent tobacco bills have not advanced to Gov. Jerry Brown a week after California legislators passed them, for now delaying the tobacco industry’s strategy to exact revenge with a referendum campaign. Sacramento Bee article

Gov. Brown

Decision time for California governor’s big water project — In what all agree will be the decisive year for the project, Brown’s plan — which is facing obstacles to environmental approval in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and mounting uncertainty over the financing — is splitting farmers and political leaders. AP article

Valley politics

Cox, Shuklian debate for Tulare County District 3 seat – Tulare County Supervisor Phil Cox and Visalia City Councilwoman Amy Shuklian quickly disagreed during their forum on Thursday.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Five candidates file for Merced County District 4 supervisor seat – Five candidates met this week’s deadline to seek the Merced County District 4 supervisor’s seat, making it the most contested of the three board positions going before voters in June. Merced Sun-Star article

Stockton mayoral candidate relying on social media – Tony Finnegan Mannor, a 41-year-old lifelong Stockton resident who is running for mayor, says he communicates with 15,000 people a day on social media. From now through the June 7 mayoral primary, one of Mannor’s foremost Facebook topics will be his campaign to become Stockton’s top elected official. Naturally, he has yet another Facebook page for his campaign: Tony Mannor for Mayor. Stockton Record article

Political scramble: The inside scoop on this year’s elections — Critics of Measure F, the Kern County Library sales tax measure on the June ballot, filed their ballot argument opposing the initiative Wednesday. But on Thursday, three groups named in the argument that will appear in voter education materials asked the Kern County Elections Division to remove them because they hadn’t given their OK. Bakersfield Californian article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Business groups join forces to fight statewide minimum-wage hike initiatives — As two initiatives to raise California’s minimum wage inch closer to the November ballot, business groups have formed a coalition to fight them. A brand-new campaign committee called California Consumers Against Higher Prices is a coalition of a few dozen groups, including the California Restaurant Association, the California Hotel and Lodging Association, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association and the Chambers of Commerce in Los Angeles, Fresno and San Diego. KQED report

Other areas 

FPPC votes to tighten California lobbying regulations – The Fair Political Practices Commission voted Thursday to change a ride-along rule to curb abuse of state lobbying regulations. The ride-along exception was created decades ago to allow subject-matter experts to attend meetings alongside registered lobbyists. Sacramento Bee article 

Calaveras planning commissioner to remain in post – A Calaveras County planning commissioner will stay on the job for now, despite a public outcry over his statement suggesting “people from Mexico” qualify as an invasive species. Calaveras supervisors met in a special session behind closed doors this morning to discuss the “discipline/dismissal/release” of an unspecified employee, according to the agenda. No reportable action was taken. Stockton Record articleSacramento Bee article

California lawmakers again headed to Australia — The first stretch of the legislative year is over, and lawmakers are going down under. Seeking to impart lessons from Australia’s 15-year “millennium drought,” the nonprofit California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy is paying for a handful of lawmakers to fly across the world during the Legislature’s spring recess next week. They’ll be joined by various interest group representatives. Sacramento Bee article

Angelique Ashby, Darrell Steinberg compare resumes in Sacramento mayoral forum — Sacramento Councilwoman Angelique Ashby thinks her experience at City Hall the past five years – and the fact that she’s there now – make her the most qualified candidate for mayor. Former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg thinks his 20-plus years of holding elected office at City Hall and the state Capitol make him the better choice. Sacramento Bee article

Trump likely needs California triumph to win nomination — The New York real estate titan is the only Republican left who has a plausible shot at securing the necessary 1,237 delegates for the July convention, but he likely can’t do it without a strong showing in California on June 7. San Jose Mercury News article

California Politics Podcast: Trump that, California — The presidential race appears, amazingly, headed to the Golden State. We assess the potential political impact up and down the ticket. Plus: a new U.S. Senate candidate, and power sharing plans from the new Assembly speaker. With John Myers of the Los Angeles Times and Anthony York of the Grizzly Bear Project. California Politics Podcast

News Stories

Top Stories

California farms added 30,000 jobs in 2015 despite drought – California’s farm industry kept growing in 2015 despite a fourth year of drought, adding 30,000 jobs even as farmers idled huge swaths of land because of water shortages. Preliminary estimates from the state Employment Development Department show farm employment increased by an average 7 percent from 2014. Sacramento Bee article

March rains prompt California to boost water project deliveries – California officials announced Thursday that recent rains have been so substantial that more water will be provided to cities and farms from the state’s massive reservoir system. San Francisco Chronicle articleBakersfield Californian article

FBI: UC Merced stabber ‘self-radicalized,’ but not connected to ISIS – The UC Merced freshman who stabbed four people before he was shot to death by campus police in November was “self-radicalized” and inspired by ISIS, but not connected to organized terror groups, the FBI said Thursday. Merced Sun-Star articleLA Times articleKVPR report

Legislative Analyst Report: Halt high-speed rail in Kings County for now – A new report from California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office raises questions about the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s latest plan to end the project’s first operating section near Shafter in rural Kern County. Ending the project in a rural portion of the San Joaquin Valley, and not extending all the way to Bakersfield is a serious concern according to the LAO report. It  suggests the authority make Kings County the southern terminus of the line’s initial operating segment, or IOS. KVPR report

California analyst: High-speed rail lacks spending details – California’s independent legislative analyst says a new $64 billion high-speed rail business plan lacks important details. The Legislative Analyst’s Office on Thursday said lawmakers should require more detailed planning on the cost, scope and schedule of each high-speed rail segment. It says the project’s business plans are hard to compare. AP article

Jobs and the Economy

Assessors agree to tax California oil property based on expectations of $41 per barrel in 2016 – The price California’s county assessors have settled on for calculating the taxable value of oil properties this year is $41 per barrel, one-third lower than last year’s price, all but ensuring steep cuts are ahead for Kern government and the many services it provides. Bakersfield Californian article 

With eye on job growth, Fresno City Council approves rezone for industrial land — Toward the long-term goal of adding jobs, the Fresno City Council on Thursday approved rezoning 95 acres at the city’s southern edge from agricultural use to industrial purposes when it is eventually annexed. Fresno Bee article

Ted Brandvold: Modesto needs a timeout on any new spending – Modesto’s mayor writes, “My first priority will be a thorough review of the city budget. The review committee will analyze the spending and existing priorities in the budget. As I stated during the campaign, our immediate goal will be to look for savings that we can apply to putting more police officers on patrol. Our long-term goal is to create financial sustainability for city operations and taxpayers.” Brandvold op-ed in Modesto Bee

Swearengin rejects idea of city-sanctioned homeless camps – Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is flatly rejecting the concept of city-sanctioned homeless encampments.  The mayor is responding to that suggestion from a candidate seeking to replace her. KVPR report

Joel Fox: Costly California – California is an expensive state to live in and the costs continue to rise. For a long time, California residents have been aware that housing is more expensive in the Golden State, that gasoline costs in the state are well above the rest of the continental U.S., and that taxes put the Golden State near the top of the rankings of all the states. The long drought has put pressure on the cost of water. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Strong one-year gains for San Joaquin County home sales, prices – San Joaquin County home sales and prices declined in February from January but were up strongly from February 2015, as median home prices rose 8 percent and sales gained 9 percent for the year, the California Association of Realtors reported. Stockton Record article

Sales and leasing activity in Fresno office market climbs – Favorable rental rates, plentiful financing sources and optimism among tenants and buyers helped make 2015 the best year for sales and leasing in the Fresno office market since 2006, according to a report from Colliers InternationalFresno Bee article

Sacramento County housing market sees annual gains across the board – Sacramento County’s housing market saw year-over-year gains in all major sectors in February, according to home sales totals released Thursday by Irvine-based researcher CoreLogic. Sacramento Bee article

Boom looms for state office construction — Build it and they will come. A surge in state government office construction looms for downtown Sacramento, including the replacement or renovation of the Capitol’s 64-year-old annex. Capitol Weekly article

Stockton Record: Hope floats … away: Google Barge leaves town after intriguing, uneventful stay – We were pretty excited about prospects here at The Record. We ordered up some aerial photos of the barge chugging into town on the early March day in 2014. Plastered them all of the front page of the newspaper, we did. But just as Coast Guard officials put the kibosh on Google’s plans to park the barge in the Bay Area, nothing really materialized during its Stockton stay. Stockton Record editorial

Michael Fitzgerald: Google sails off into the sunset – I came, I saw, I left. Or, as Ceasar might have said if he were a loser, Veni, Vidi, Vamoosi. That is the less-than-heroic story of the Google barge in Stockton. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Applications for jobless aid rise but stay at healthy level – More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but their numbers remained at low levels consistent with a healthy job market. AP article 

State site allows motorists to compare average premium rates among insurers – The California Department of Insurance has set up an online tool to help motorists compare average premium prices among insurers. CDI’s Automobile Insurance Comparison Tool can be accessed here or via the “latest news” link on the CDI homepage, Bee article

Daniel Borenstein: The multiplier effect of pension spiking – Imagine employers handing workers $150,000 bonuses just before retirement. Or $216,000. Or more than $1 million. That’s effectively what happened to, respectively, four Contra Costa County doctors, a county hazardous materials worker and the former fire chief of the Moraga Orinda Fire District. Their cases provide excellent examples of the math behind pension spiking. Borenstein in Contra Costa Times 

Sacramento Kings issue sustainable food charter for Golden 1 Center – The Sacramento Kings announced on Thursday an ambitious new food and sustainability charter that aims to turn the new Golden 1 Center arena into a trailblazer in culinary, nutritional and ethical food standards. Sacramento Bee article

San Francisco wants Airbnb hosts to pay taxes on beds, stoves and cutlery – San Francisco has a message for vacation-rental hosts: You owe more taxes. Next week the city will notify hosts using services like Airbnb and HomeAway/VRBO that they must submit an itemized list of all the “furniture, appliances, supplies, equipment and fixtures” used in their rentals, specifying the cost and acquisition date. San Francisco Chronicle article

Sacramento officials want metered parking until 10 p.m. – Sacramento parking officials will ask for City Council approval next week to extend parking meter operating hours downtown to 10 p.m., and some midtown meters to 8 p.m. Sacramento Bee article

CPUC regulators still hashing out more rules for Uber and Lyft – The California Public Utilities Commission met Thursday to talk about the latest phase of regulations for ride services, just two days after its president told a state Senate committee hearing that no state agency — including his, apparently — wants to oversee Uber and Lyft. KQED report

Garcetti pushes fingerprint-based background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers – Drivers for Uber, Lyft and limousine services in Los Angeles should undergo fingerprint scans and background checks similar to those imposed on local taxi drivers, Mayor Eric Garcetti and two city lawmakers told California regulators this week.  LA Times article

LA to consider new rules for homeless people’s property – Los Angeles leaders are poised to pass new rules Friday restricting how much property homeless people can keep on the streets. KPCC report

Tribune Publishing wins auction for Orange County Register; Justice Department sues to block sale — The owner of the Los Angeles Times was selected as the top bidder for the Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise, but must first overcome serious anti-trust concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Justice. LA Times article


Things to know about California’s giant twin tunnels project – California is proposing its most ambitious water project in a half-century. At $15.7 billion, it would run two giant tunnels, each four stories high, for 35 miles under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in Northern California, sending water to cities and farms to the south. In size and cost, the feat would rival or dwarf the tunnel under the English Channel and Boston’s Big Dig. Some things to know about the delta tunnels. AP article 

Reservoirs are getting a big boost from Miracle March’ – but drought isn’t over yet – Experts say subsequent reports ofthe drought‘s demise have been exaggerated. With the state’s most-telling snowpack measurement less than two weeks away, California can boast little more than an average year of rain and snow. LA Times article 

John Laird: Here’s how to protect fish and deliver water to Central Valley farmers – The California secretary for natural resources writes, “I know the drought has stressed communities that rely on state and federal water. It is hard to wait for a long-term fix if the current threats challenge the economic viability of our cities and farms. But new intakes and tunnels are the long-term solution that can provide sustainability for cities, farms and habitat.” Laird op-ed in Fresno Bee

Modest improvement in state drought picture — Virtually all of California remains in some level of drought but weekly monitoring data show modest improvement after a stormy early March in northern parts of the state. AP articleKPCC report

Oakdale Irrigation District approves outside water sale – Farmers around Oakdale and Riverbank can sell some shares of Stanislaus River water to wealthy outsiders, irrigation leaders decided this week on a 3-2 vote. Also, Oakdale Irrigation District customers face no cap this year on water use. Last year – the fourth in an extended drought – marked the first time OID had imposed limits, initially set at 30 inches but periodically bumped up to 44. Modesto Bee article

Sacramento region cut water use 31 percent in recent months – Buoyed by stronger than expected conservation efforts in a warm, dry February, most of the Sacramento region’s water districts continue to hit their state-mandated water-savings goals, according to the regional water agency. Sacramento Bee article

California congressmen try to talk Uncle Sam out of taxing turf rebates – After months of debate about whether rebates for water-saving measures are taxable, two members of Congress from California have introduced a bill that would clarify that they are not. KPCC report

Anthony Iton: Flint’s not the only place where drinking water is not safe – The senior vice president of The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities program writes, “Incredibly in 2016, more than 1 million Californians lack reliable access to safe drinking water.” Iton op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Farmworkers remember historic Delano-to-Sacramento march 50 years later — Fifty years to the day after Cesar Chavez led a historic march from Delano to Sacramento seeking labor rights for farmworkers, surviving members of the 340-mile trek assembled here to mark the anniversary. Fresno Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Prop 47: Tracking lawmakers’ promise of drug treatment over prison — Proposition 47 has resulted in the release of more than 4,500 people from prison, but advocates warn the state may not deliver on the promise of increased drug rehabilitation and mental health funding. Why? KPCC report 

New tool pairs neighborhood criminal, real estate data – Knowledge of potential risks in a neighborhood can be helpful, law enforcement agencies say. “It’s definitely important for people to be aware who’s in their neighborhood,” said Rosie Calderon, community service officer for the Stockton Police Department,. “Anytime you can get that information that is as accurate as possible, that is definitely helpful for public safety.” And that is what real estate data company RealtyTrac Inc. is attempting to do with a report released Thursday to draw attention to its new website — homedisclosure.comStockton Record article

Chowchilla police chief seeks community support to quell violence – Chowchilla Police Chief David Riviere called for more community involvement after a gang-related shooting Wednesday afternoon prompted a lockdown of area schools. Fresno Bee article

Fresno burn center chief William Dominic, seriously hurt on bicycle, seeks help to find hit-run driver — Dr. William Dominic, director of the burn center at Community Regional Medical Centersince 1992, is asking the public for help to find the hit-and-run driver who struck him while he was riding his bicycle home from work late last month. Fresno Bee article

San Francisco Police Department Chief Greg Suhr adept at weathering scandals — How good is Suhr at playing the game? One measure of his political acumen has been his ability to weather a cavalcade of scandals that would have unseated a less connected and less adroit leader. San Francisco Chronicle article


UC Merced students strive to connect pees, residents – UC Merced students this month have been challenged by their peers to connect with the greater community through volunteer work, actions that organizers hope will better connect the campus to the local region. Merced Sun-Star article

Report: Community college transfer reform failing – The Associate Degree for Transfer came with promises that students would be guaranteed admission to CSUs and gain enrollment in majors similar to their field of study. It was supposed to streamline the process, churning out college graduates faster while reducing the number of undergrads taking excess classes not needed for transfer. Those students clog the system, some said. But six years later, those reform efforts are failing, a new report released by The Campaign for College Opportunity shows. Bakersfield Californian article

Three more state lawmakers want UC Davis chancellor to leave – Three more state lawmakers called Thursday for UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi to depart after accepting questionable paid board seats that they said posed a conflict of interest. Sacramento Bee article

Schools commit to reducing suspensions, but parents don’t have the details – Every one of California’s 50 largest school districts has committed to reducing the number of students sent home for behavioral infractions. But two years into a state requirement that districts let parents evaluate the path of progress, most of those 50 districts have not set specific suspension goals nor provided comparison rates that would allow parents to see if improvement is happening, according to a report released Thursday. EdSource article

Rating schools by students’ social-emotional skills worth trying, evaluator says – A Harvard University professor who evaluated the CORE districts’ research on the relationship between students’ social and emotional skills and academic achievement reports encouraging initial results. EdSource article 

Grants pay for teaching robotics, geocoaching and more – The California Table Grape Commission offered grants to teachers for “innovative” classroom projects and two Kings County teachers took advantage of the offer and now students will be coding robots, using GPS systems for scavenger hunts and growing plants. Hanford Sentinel article

Teachers turn to each other to make makeovers happen — For generations, strong teaching meant giving good lectures. Lectures that kept students interested – maybe prompting a question now and then – were a success. The gold-standard lecture gave children all the information needed for homework and test-taking. Good lectures were what good teachers did. Until Common Core. Modesto Bee article

Integrated math in the mix at high schools — Students taught with the essentially Socratic method of Common Core math appear to have more confident student discussions, and veteran teachers say they see a better grasp of math concepts. Modesto Bee article

Schools’ family math nights play up Common Core pluses – Besides its math nights, the Stanislaus Union School District in north Modesto created a listof links to help parents, including information for English learners. Some schools sent home Cliff Notes versions of math sections to help folks decipher the ciphering. Oakdale Joint Unified School District put theirs online. Modesto City Schools created a page of grade-organized homework helps. Modesto Bee article

Nan Austin: Math need not divide us – From the moment a toddler holds up two chubby fingers to ask for two cookies until he tears out his last gray hair doing taxes, we count. We compare. We organize with numbers. Austin in Modesto Bee

Reality check: Middle school digs into much-misunderstood math – Middle school math has changed the most under Common Core, taking a pause in the push toward advanced courses to flesh out skills kids will need as consumers, sports fans and term paper writers. Modesto Bee article

Sexual harassment outcry at UC Berkeley Law School spreads to campus provost – The recent sexual harassment scandal at UC Berkeley has spread to Provost Claude Steele, including concerns that he imposed lenient sanctions against the law school dean who admitted to sexual misconduct in exchange for a faculty appointment. LA Times article

Young master teacher leading the way in STEM — Ashlee Freeman’s sixth-grade class at Marshall Elementary School broke open tubs of tiny robotic parts, pieces that with enough time and patience would become a remote control car. There are hundreds of parts; many smaller than a pinky fingernail. With a project this complex, the instructions are not on paper but are viewed on an iPad. The students here are engaged early in STEM-related curriculum thanks to Freeman, who was recently named as a Project Lead the Way Master Teacher. Stockton Record article


EPA rejects Southern California smog-fighting program as ineffective — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected part of a smog-reduction plan by Southern California air quality regulators, saying it has failed to cut pollution from oil refineries and other big emissions sources as required by federal law. LA Times article 

The earthquake expert who made California safer and smarter moves on — In her 33 years with the USGS, Lucy Jones has become a universal mother for rattled Southern Californians. After each quake, she turns fear of the unknown into something understandable. LA Times article

Health/Human Services 

Study: Nearly half of Valley adults at risk for diabetes – A new study out of UCLA estimates that 46 percent of adults in California have prediabetes, a precursor to diabetes marked by high blood sugar. The study suggests the risk is even higher in the San Joaquin Valley.  KVPR report

Physician praises Bakersfield’s commitment to burn center – For years when burn patients from Kern County needed treatment they were faced with an arduous drive out of the area — often to Los Angeles. After six years at San Joaquin Community Hospital, the Grossman Burn Center is relocating its facilities to Memorial Hospital. It puts Kern County in the unique position of having two burn units — other comparable counties have none. Bakersfield Californian article

State won’t move fragile kids to managed care – for now – In recent years, Sherri Brady and other parents of children in the program have lived in fear that the care of their kids could be disrupted — at what they see as a great risk of physical and emotional harm. That’s because the state’s Department of Health Care Services ultimately wants to move all the children into managed care. But the first phase of that move, which would have targeted just under one-fifth of the children beginning next January, is now on hold. KQED report

Mayor Swearengin celebrates 1-year anniversary of MAP Point @ The Pov – Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin joined community leaders today at the Poverello House to celebrate the one-year milestone of the community’s participation in the coordinated entry system called MAP Point @ the Pov. For the past year, the MAP Point program has connected individuals facing homelessness, substance abuse challenges and/or mental illness to area support services. The Business Journal article 

Fresno Bee bumps Kids Day total to $600,000 with donation — The Fresno Bee announced Thursday the newspaper will add to the Kids Day fundraising total to ensure the 2016 effort hits a record $600,000. Fresno Bee article 

Ken Carlson: Access a concern for disabled in Stanislaus County and patients in Turlock — A consultant will undertake a massive evaluation of Stansilaus County’s government services and facilities to see whether there are barriers to the disabled. Carlson in Modesto Bee 

Judge rules in favor of Tulare hospital in dispute with former staff — A Tulare County judge on Thursday ruled that Tulare Regional Medical Center can move forward with its new medical staff organization, the hospital announced. Fresno Bee articleVisalia Times-Delta article

Land Use/Housing

Michael Belluomini: Make sure apartment complex outdoor spaces are livable — The zoning standards for security and livability will set Merced’s cultural expectations for what is an acceptable living environment for residents of Merced, whether they are students, low-income residents, senior citizens, single parents or large families. Belluomini op-ed in Merced Sun-Star


High-speed rail construction takes on a higher profile in Fresno – Contractors are picking up the pace of construction on the first stage of California’s high-speed train system, with cranes, bulldozers and other heavy equipment at work at several sites in and around downtown Fresno. Fresno Bee article

Dan Walters: California bullet train a moving target for analysis — Those charged with building California’s north-south bullet train system have been more or less making it up as they go along.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

State revises proposed bullet-train routes, but San Fernando Valley communities remain skeptical – The California rail authority has proposed major bullet-train route changes that would put more of it underground as it crosses the San Fernando Valley, avoiding some of the impacts of aboveground routes that have drawn strong protests. LA Times article

California auditor: Caltrans road work open to waste, fraud, abuse — The California state auditor has criticized the Department of Transportation’s approach to highway maintenance, saying Caltrans has “weak cost controls” that “create opportunities for fraud, waste and abuse.” Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento ‘zeroes’ in on dangerous streets, hopes to reduce injuries — Sacramento city leaders are joining with bicycle and pedestrian advocates for a community-based effort to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries on city streets. The program, called Vision Zero, also will try to do away with, or at least not use, the word “accident” to describe the crashes. Sacramento Bee article 

BART shutdown underscores again system’s overwhelming problems – A BART equipment problem that shut down a station and threatens to disrupt service for months has laid bare the transit agency’s big problem. The system that a booming Bay Area relies on is overwhelmed with more riders than anyone had ever predicted it would attract, and at the same time it’s struggling to replace its aging infrastructure. San Francisco Chronicle article

BART talks back: Agency’s Twitter account responds to user complaints — For commuters in the San Francisco area, the announcement of delays Wednesday on the Bay Area Rapid Transit network from the struggling system’s Twitter account was no surprise. New York Times article