March 20, 2015

20Mar

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Political Briefs

Top stories

Jerry Brown, lawmakers propose $1.1 million drought relief bill amid increasing tension – With California trudging into its fourth dry year, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders on Thursday announced $1.1 billion in emergency funding for flood protection and drought relief.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article; John Myers in KQED; AP article: ‘How $1 billion in California drought plan will be spent’; Sacramento Bee editorial

CD16: April campaign event officially mark Tacherra’s third try to oust Costa from Congress – It’s been an open secret that Republican Johnny Tacherra next year will take a third straight crack at ousting incumbent Fresno Democrat Jim Costa in the 16th Congressional District. Now it looks to be official. Tacherra has scheduled his campaign kickoff on April 25. It will be an evening barbecue at the Goodman Barn in Dos Palos. Fresno Bee article

Valley politics

Stockton mayor’s race getting crowded – A lifelong resident who has attended nearly every City Council meeting for a decade and a five-year Stocktonian with a downtown business have added their names to the list of 2016 challengers to Mayor Anthony Silva.  Stockton Record article

Termed-out Holman eyes San Joaquin supervisor run — Elbert Holman, elected four months ago to a second term on the Stockton City Council, announced Thursday he will step back out onto the campaign trail, this time seeking a seat in 2016 on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.  Stockton Record article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

California Politics Podcast: The drought dilemma – This week: the increasing intensity of the political debate over California’s historic drought. Plus, round two of a special election showdown… and our dramatic reading of tweets! With John Myers and Marisa Lagos of KQED.  California Politics Podcast in KQED

State’s congressional leaders weigh risking their power for Senate run – After 14 years in Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank is finally getting the kind of coverage that ambitious politicians crave: CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, MSNBC and NPR have all come calling in recent weeks.  LA Times article

Emily’s List backs Kamala Harris’ Senate bid — Emily’s List announced its endorsement of California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ bid for the U.S. Senate on Thursday — another nod for her candidacy from the Democratic establishment.  LA Times article

California proposal to legalize killing gays hard to stop — An attorney from Huntington Beach, McLaughlin in late February spent $200 to propose a ballot measure that authorizes the killing of gays and lesbians by “bullets to the head,” or “any other convenient method.” McLaughlin’s “Sodomite Suppression Act” now is testing the limits of free speech and raising the question: Why can’t the state’s initiative process screen out blatantly illegal ideas?  Capitol Alert

Immigration

Texas judge threatens Justice Department over Obama’s immigration plan – A federal judge threatened Thursday to sanction the Justice Department if he finds that government lawyers misled him about the rollout of President Obama’s plan to shield up to 5 million people from deportation.  LA Times article

Destroyed border video scuttles drug case — When federal agents destroyed video footage of a mentally impaired woman waiting in line to enter California from Mexico with drugs strapped to her body, they said they were just following routine procedures. What they also destroyed, according to a federal appeals court, was the drug prosecution.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other areas

Campaign ads dwarfed political news stories in 2014, study says – Politics has become all about the ads. A new study by Philly Political Media Watch finds that during evening newscasts leading up to the 2014 midterm elections the airtime given to political ads dwarfed stories about political issues by a ratio of 45:1.  Bloomberg article

California has no ban on use of private email by officials – California has no blanket policy restricting the use of personal email accounts to conduct government business, and it’s among about two dozen states that have no clear rules or precedent-setting cases addressing whether those communications are public records.  AP article

Dan Walters: Democratic Senate duel affects tenor of Capitol – Democrats have controlled both houses of the California Legislature for nearly a half-century, with the exception of 1996 when Republicans briefly ran the Assembly, and Democratic hegemony will continue indefinitely, perhaps forever. That said, partisan dominance begets factiousness and the real nature of the Legislature – the thrust of what eventually emerges as legislation – is determined by which Democratic factions, or coalitions of factions, call the shots.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Sacramento congresswoman questions FCC on controversial surveillance technology — Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, went off script during a Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, on Thursday and asked the head of the Federal Communications Commission about local law enforcement’s use of controversial surveillance technology that has come under fire from civil rights activists.  Sacramento Bee article

Victor Davis Hanson: Our Keystone Kops government — What has gone wrong with the U.S. government in the past month? Just about everything, from the fundamental to the ridiculous. Hanson column in Fresno Bee

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Sierra snowpack smallest on record, state water officials tell Fresno meeting — Most of California’s summer water supply arrived this winter in just a few warm Northern California rain storms — a bleak setup for crushing news that the vital supply from Sierra snowpack will be the smallest in more than a century.  Fresno Bee article

Obama administration to issue rules for fracking on public lands – The Obama administration is set to issue the first major federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing on Friday, with new mandates targeting oil and gas wells on public land.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Jobs and the Economy

Fresno and Clovis office markets looking up – Bakersfield has its oil industry and Silicon Valley has its tech businesses filling up office space and enticing developers to build more. Fresno lacks a core enterprise to fuel its office market, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. There is good news on the local front — leasing activity is robust, values are up and buyers are interested. On the down side, vacancy remains unchanged.  Fresno Bee article

Bullet train no bonanza for Valley eminent domain attorneys – California’s $68 billion bullet train project has yet to provide the bonanza of eminent domain lawsuits some Valley lawyers had been anticipating.  The Business Journal article

Bill Jordan: First-time home buyers fuel recovery – The president/CEO of Century 21 Jordan-Link & Company writes, “The Visalia/Tulare housing market is in for a solid year in 2015 propelled by job and income gains plus a pent-up demand.”  Jordan op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Fresno Bee: Together we can reopen Storyland and Playland – The reality is, Playland and Storyland need regular tender loving care. They will require community support beyond this fundraising drive. And to boost attendance, industry experts say Playland should change one ride ever year. That’s OK. Fresno is up the challenge.  Fresno Bee editorial

Would LA wage hike cost 140,000 jobs or add $5.9 billion in stimulus? – Business and labor groups released warring studies Thursday on how boosting the citywide minimum wage to $13.25 or $15.25 an hour would affect the Los Angeles economy.  LA Times article

LA mayor: Downtown NFL stadium still could happen – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday that a proposal to build an NFL stadium downtown is not dead.  AP article; LA Times article

Amazon.com gets go-ahead from FAA to test drones for delivery – Amazon.com is inching closer to a future where packages will be delivered by drone. The online retail giant, which has been aggressively opening new distribution centers to shorten delivery times, was granted permission Thursday by the Federal Aviation Administration to test an unmanned aircraft design.  LA Times article; New York Times article

Inland Empire: Poised to be a ‘big dog’ in California economy? – Much of California is still struggling: The strong dollar is depressing Central Valley agricultural exports, the lowest oil prices in years are squeezing the Kern County oil fields and extreme housing prices along the coastline are giving potential home buyers pause. But in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, those factors are fueling a growth spurt that’s already among the fastest in the state, according to a report released at an economic conference in Ontario on Thursday.  LA Times article

See which California jobs require the longest hours – Workers in the Bay Area are more likely to work long hours than workers in the Central Valley. This graphic details the California occupations that have the highest proportion of employees working at least 50 hours a week, year-round.  Sacramento Bee article

Fresno Bee: Regulators must thoroughly analyze Comcast merger — If a more powerful Comcast is able to use its market power to control content that flows over the Internet, rich and poor would suffer the consequences. Regulators need to make sure that doesn’t happen if this merger goes forward.  Fresno Bee editorial

Audit: California’s state technology department falling short — California’s state technology department lacks guidelines for suspending or axing struggling computer projects, fails to set formal expectations for the agencies launching them, and struggles to keep and train key employees responsible for oversight, a new state audit says.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article;Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Eight move on in business start-up contest – A reusable piñata, a lightweight raft and six other ideas have moved on to the second round of the San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge. An expert panel and the audience voted for these start-ups after hearing two-minute pitches Wednesday night. They will vie April 8 for a total of $20,000 in cash and professional services.  Modesto Bee article

Robin Abcarian: Pot farm a template for strapped Indian tribues – or a cautionary tale? – As many states march toward marijuana decriminalization, if not outright legalization, the Pinoleville project could provide a template for cash-strapped tribes. Or it could prove a cautionary tale about the perils of navigating the maze of contradictory and confusing federal, state and local pot laws.  Abcarian column in LA Times

Beverly Hills bakery workers say they were paid as little as $2 an hour — The owners of two French bakeries in Southern California exploited employees who came to the United States from the Philippines on guest worker visas for what they thought would be well-paying jobs, the immigrants allege in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.  LA Times article; AP article

Online insurer eHealth lays off workers in Sacramento area — A Gold River call center has laid off 72 workers as its parent company, a private health insurance exchange, grapples with the competitive forces unleashed by the Affordable Care Act.  Sacramento Bee article

Agriculture/Water/Drought

No, California won’t run out of money in a year – State water managers and other experts said Thursday that California is in no danger of running out of water in the next two years, even after an extremely dry January and paltry snowpack. LA Times article

California’s $1-billion emergency drought relief is tiny drop in bucket –  No matter how much longer California’s drought lingers, politicians don’t have the power to make it rain. So on Thursday they tried the next best thing – they proposed showering the state’s parched landscape with money.  LA Times article

Infographic: 169 drought maps reveal how thirsty California has become — The majority of California is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the state’s condition isn’t expected to improve in the near future. The Drought Monitor, which collects data from 50 different weather indicators, have shown an increasingly red California since 2011, the last time the drought map was clear.  LA Times article

Ben Boychuk: California’s response to drought has fallen woefully short – If our situation is dire and dismal now, imagine what superlatives we’ll be using a year from now: nightmarish, cataclysmic, apocalyptic. And tragic. Because we got ourselves into this mess – and we waited too long to get out.  Boychuk column in Sacramento Bee

Dana Stotsky/David Reed: Feds should take over protecting groundwater – Stotsky, a former U.S. EPA enforcement attorney and Reed, an attorney and wetlands biologist, write, “The state’s regulators have broken their public service covenant and must be held accountable. It is time for the U.S. EPA to take control – and for Californians to demand immediate actions from their state regulators and leaders.”  Stotsky/Reed op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Vance Kennedy: Discouraging flood irrigation a foolish mistake – The retired USGS scientist writes, “The Modesto Bee and most, if not all, of the irrigation districts’ board members appear to have accepted the idea that the public has been ‘ripped off’ by low water charges to farmers who are using flood irrigating. I beg to differ.”  Kennedy op-ed in Modesto Bee

Values for saving farmland up for a vote – Six of the nine cities in Stanislaus County are lining up against a proposed farmland preservation rule scheduled for a vote Wednesday.  Modesto Bee article

Mexican farmworkers strike over law wages, blocking harvest – Pickers not only stayed out of the fields, they stood shoulder to shoulder blocking the main highway, stalling traffic for hours and all but stopping the harvest at the height of the season.  LA Times article

Manteca considers selling treated wastewater for farm irrigation — The drought is creating a new way for cities to make money, including selling treated wastewater for farm irrigation. A Manteca group called Neighbors United is urging the city council to sell treated wastewater to local farmers as water sources dry up in the drought.  Capital Public Radio report

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Southeast Bakersfield police substation will reopen – In an effort to further lower response times on urgent calls — which are down nearly 28 percent this year — the Bakersfield Police Department will reopen a southeast Bakersfield substation that closed some eight years ago, officials said Thursday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Atwater adds six to police force – Officials at City Hall here Thursday swore in five new police officers and a reserve, new additions to the police force thanks in part to Measure H funding. Chief Frank Pietro said the new hires bring the total number of officers in Atwater to 32. Three of those positions are paid through Measure H, a half-cent tax hike for all transactions, passed with a 67.1 percent vote two years ago this month.  Merced Sun-Star article

Local organizations to receive $2.1 million for youth crime reduction – The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, the office of education and three other local agencies will share $2.1 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice over the next three years for a program designed to positively impact local youth.  Visalia Times-Delta article

San Francisco PD officer in offensive-text scandal resigns — A San Francisco police officer identified as being among four members of the department involved in sending racist and homophobic text messages has resigned, his attorney said.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Education

Napolitano apologizes for calling UC student protests ‘crap’ — UC President Janet Napolitano publicly apologized Thursday for describing a disruptive student protest as “crap” the day before.  LA Times article; AP article

Joel Fox: Big UC changes may come from private ‘Committee of Two’ meetings — Ironically, in the midst of Sunshine Week, designed to create more open government and freedom of information, the “Committee of Two” considering the financial situation of the UC system – Governor Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano – are not forthcoming in revealing details about their negotiations. Despite protests to the contrary, this may be a necessary thing.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

UC extends discounted tuition to military veterans – Military veterans and their dependents who are UC students will be able to pay lower in-state tuition even if they otherwise are not eligible, the UC regents decided Thursday.  LA Times article

Districts adopting measures to assess students in earliest grades – As millions of California students prepare to take new online assessments beginning in the 3rd grade, districts are grappling with how best to measure academic progress in the earliest grades – starting in kindergarten.  EdSource article

Lynn Beck/Nikolas Howard: California’s teacher shortage is becoming a crisis – Beck, dean of the University of the Pacific School of Education, and Howard, executive director of Teach for America/Sacramento-Stockton, write, “The dearth of new teachers entering the classroom has obvious negative consequences: larger class sizes, more long-term substitutes or teachers with emergency permits, and even worse shortages in subjects such as math, science and special education.”  Beck/Howard op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Nan Austin: No-bubble tests begin, but reality check is third-grade reading – State testing has returned; accountability has not. The most recent read on how well schools are doing will remain the 2013 bubble test – until at least the fall of 2016Austin in Modesto Bee

Schools wait to see what becomes of No Child Left Behind law – The law, which was intended to make sure schools were educating children, particularly the neediest, ushered in an era of high-stakes testing to measure student progress. After more than a decade, the proliferation of tests, and punishments for schools that failed to improve their scores, has angered parents and teachers. It has also set off protests and boycotts of testing.  New York Times article

Stratford school gets $25,000 grant — Stratford Elementary School students are getting a first-hand experience of what it’s like to be farmers. The school was awarded a $25,000 grant from America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education last October, a fund created by ag company Monsanto. Hanford Sentinel article

Newseum features Bakersfield High School student newspaper cover — The Newseum, a 250,000- square-foot interactive journalism museum based in Washington, D.C., highlighted the Blue & White as part of its Scholastic Journalism Week. Bakersfield Californian article

Ballico-Cressey schools leader earns statewide award — Bryan Ballenger, Ballico-Cressey School District superintendent, has been named the top superintendent of a small school district in California for 2015.  Modesto Bee article

Energy/Environment

Michael Fitzgerald: Water rules may kill off Delta smelt – There are more smelt out there than six. But the record low smattering means the species may have fallen below the minimum number necessary for its survival. This tragedy reveals the utter failure of state and federal regulatory agencies to protect the Delta, which is central to our region and to our way of life. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Sacramento City Council will consider plastic bag ban — The Sacramento City Council will review an ordinance on Tuesday that calls for a ban on single-use plastic bags from certain stores and will require a 10-cent charge on paper and reusable bags.  Sacramento Bee article

Hyacinth funding on fast track – An extra $4 million to battle water hyacinth might be available sooner than first expected. The money, originally proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown for next year’s budget, now is wrapped into a $1 billion drought-relief package unveiled by legislators and the governor on Thursday.  Stockton Record article

Review of San Onofre deal is sought —  A Los Angeles County lawmaker is asking state regulators to reopen a legal settlement that apportioned costs of permanently closing the San Onofre nuclear power plant near San Clemente.  LA Times article

BP double-billed government, others for clean-up, state says — California officials say oil giant BP double-billed the government and insurance companies for clean-up of old gas-storage sites.  AP article

Health/Human Services

State lawmakers investigating high health costs – During a hearing at the state Capitol, doctors, researchers and consumers told lawmakers that despite the federal health care law, health costs are still a barrier to care.  KQED report

Domestic violence victims sue state — The state does allow for waivers of the rule in some cases, including domestic violence. But even though the California Department of Social Services concluded Velma was a domestic violence victim, it still denied her a waiver because she was not eligible to participate in the CalWORKS Welfare to Work Program. That is a requirement for receiving a waiver.  Capital Public Radio report

HCCA re-opens healthcare center in Lindsay – HealthCare Conglomerate Associates President Dr. Benny Benzeevi said the opening of the Lindsay Healthcare Center is the beginning of creating an integrated health care system in the county. Visalia Times-Delta article

Omega-3 fatty acids help improve boys’ attention spans, research shows – In boys with and without Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, new research has found that an extra daily dose of Omega-3 fatty acids reduced symptoms of inattention.  LA Times article

Transportation

ACLU sues TSA for data on passenger-observation screening program — The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Transportation Security Administration on Thursday, seeking information on a controversial passenger screening program.  LA Times article

City Beat: Another piece of the transportation puzzle — Another piece of Bakersfield’s jigsaw puzzle transportation system was poised to fall into place Thursday, as officials broke ground on the Rosedale Highway widening.  Bakersfield Californian article

Other areas

Stockton Record: Tuesday’s triple-fatal shooting another blow to community — It happened again: another blow to Stockton’s collective gut, courtesy of criminal idiots who don’t give a damn about humanity or community.  Stockton Record editorial

George Hostetter: Thoughts on Ferguson, Fresno and code enforcement – Here’s a tip to perhaps the next governor of California on a worthy piece of springtime reading. Mayor Ashley Swearengin — dig into “Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department” by the United States Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. I make the suggestion because the City of Fresno is tackling head-on, with passion and wisdom, the municipal challenges of code enforcement, social capital and personal responsibility. Hostetter in Fresno Bee

Danny Morrison: Where have all the heroes gone? They’re right here in Kern – The Bakersfield radio personality writes, “As I write this, another Black History Month has ended. February allows us African-Americans to wax nostalgic about the brave souls that have come before us and celebrate those who continue to pave the way to progress.”  Morrison op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

DNA tests help California shelter speed up dog adoptions — A quarter of the dogs taken in by one California animal shelter look like Chihuahuas. So how do you make a pet stand out when it’s similar to so many other dogs at the shelter? Check the DNA.  AP article

Modesto firefighters responding to medical aid call finish victim’s yardwork — Modesto firefighters responding to a medical aid call of a man who had a heart attack while doing yardwork finished up the job for him.  Modesto Bee article

SoCal veterinary hospital expands into Bakersfield — A veterinary hospital company with two locations in Los Angeles County hopes to expand into Bakersfield later this month. Access Specialty Animal Hospitals said Thursday it will open what it calls a satellite location offering cardiology and internal medicine services at Animal Emergency and Urgent Care, 4300 Easton Drive. Bakersfield Californian article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Together we can reopen Storyland and Playland; If a more powerful Comcast is able to use its market power to control content that flows over the Internet, rich and poor wouldsuffer the consequences. Regulators need to make sure that doesn’t happen if this merger goes forward.

Merced Sun-Star – If a more powerful Comcast is able to use its market power to control content that flows over the Internet, rich and poor would suffer the consequences; Regulators need to make sure that doesn’t happen if this merger goes forward.

Modesto Bee – If a more powerful Comcast is able to use its market power to control content that flows over the Internet, rich and poor would suffer the consequences.

Sacramento Bee – If a more powerful Comcast is able to use its market power to control content that flows over the Internet, rich and poor would suffer the consequences; State officials cobble $1 billion to fight drought.

Stockton Record – It happened again: another blow to Stockton’s collective gut, courtesy of criminal idiots who don’t give a damn about humanity or community.