March 21, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Villaraigosa acts role of gubernatorial candidate — Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa didn’t commit to a 2018 gubernatorial run during a Friday meeting with The Fresno Bee’s editorial board, but he certainly sounded like a candidate.  Fresno Bee article

Gavin Newsom says measure to kill gays violates spirits of initiative process — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a prominent supporter of gay rights, said he tends to agree that Attorney General Kamala Harris has no authority to block a proposed initiative authorizing the killing of gays and lesbians from moving to the signature-gathering stage.  Capitol Alert

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Villaraigosa begins ‘listening and learning tour’ – Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a likely candidate for governor in 2018, told The Fresno Bee on Friday that he is going on a “listening and learning tour” of the state.  Sacramento Bee article


AB 60 application changes underway — The Department of Motor Vehicles announced Thursday its plans to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses in California.  Hanford Sentinel article

Advocates urge health services for undocumented workers in Sacramento County — As the recession decimated Sacramento County’s revenue in 2009, supervisors voted to end health care for undocumented immigrants. For some it was a painful decision. For others it was overdue. Today the county’s finances are in better shape, and supervisors are cautiously looking at restoring some level of health care services to thousands of low-income residents who are not here legally.  Sacramento Bee article

ACLU searches for Mexicali deportees who may return to U.S. — The American Civil Liberties Union visited Mexicali on Friday in search of deportees who may qualify to return to the U.S.  KPBS report

Other areas

Travel schedule means Senate leader will miss drought vote – The leader of the California Senate said Friday that he is traveling to Washington, D.C., and Japan next week and will miss voting on a $1 billion drought-relief package he announced a day earlier.  Sacramento Bee article; AP article

State high court may decide whether gun in backpack is ‘carried’ – It’s a crime for someone to carry a loaded gun or a concealed stabbing knife “upon his or her person.” But what about carrying it in a backpack? California appellate courts are divided – making it a crime for a gun but not for a knife — and now the state Supreme Court has been asked to settle the issue.  San Francisco Chronicle article

California’s Darrell Issa loses power along with House oversight committee post – Issa’s influence began to wane last year, when party leaders diverted attention from his high-drama investigation of the deadly 2012 attack against U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya, by establishing a new committee to focus on the incident.  LA Times article

In abortion debate, Feinstein evokes ‘small step for womankind’ –  As the Senate ground to a halt last week over an otherwise bipartisan bill to combat human trafficking, a potential moment of compromise emerged when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) went to the floor to deliver a simple speech.  LA Times article

Hot microphone moments nothing new in California politics – UC President Janet Napolitano’s sotto voce dismissal of student protesters’ “crap” this week adds her to the ranks of California politicos who’ve been tripped up by live microphones.  Capitol Alert

News Briefs

Top Stories

New data show Kern oil fields lost 1,200 workers in January and February — Employment in Kern County oil fields shrank by 1,200 jobs in January and February, or 10 percent, according to state data released Friday. The layoffs, a result of plummeting oil prices, made up about one-eighth of Kern’s 9,900-job reduction across all industries during the first two months of this year, when the county’s jobless rate jumped one full point to an estimated 11 percent in February, the data from California’s Employment Development Department show.  Bakersfield Californian article

Lawmakers call oil operations ‘reckless,’ call for shutdown of wells — Calling the current situation “reckless,” a group of state legislators on Friday called on Gov. Jerry Brown to immediately shut down more than 2,500 oil production and oilfield waste water wells that the state has allowed to operate in federally protected aquifers.  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Stages of a downtown comeback: Fresno begins the long climb – Urban revivals require a shared narrative, private-sector partners, and a public official championing a far-sighted plan. The Atlantic article

Jobs and the Economy

Unemployment rates drop throughout Valley in February – Unemployment rates fell in all eight San Joaquin Valley counties in February and remain well below February 2014 levels, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department.  The rates ranged from a low of 10.1 percent in San Joaquin County to a high of 13.5 percent in Merced County.  Here are the February jobless numbers, followed in parentheses by the January 2015 and February 2015 numbers:

  • Fresno – 11.6 percent (12.1, 13.5)
  • Kern – 11.0 percent (11.1, 12.5)
  • Kings – 12.2 percent (12.9, 14.9)
  • Madera – 11.2 percent (11.8, 12.0)
  • Merced – 13.5 percent (14.0, 16.1)
  • San Joaquin – 10.1 percent (10.6, 13.1)
  • Stanislaus – 10.7 percent (11.1, 13.3)
  • Tulare – 13.4 percent (13.9, 15.1)

California added 29,400 jobs in February; jobless rate falls to 6.7 percent — Job growth in California continued to outpace the rest of the U.S. in February as employers in the state added 29,400 workers during the month. California’s unemployment rate fell to 6.7% from 7% a month earlier and 8% in February 2014, according to the state Employment Development Department. The rate is at its lowest level since May of 2008.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article; AP article

Dan Walters: California’s economic recovery is deceptive – Unemployment is down, but the whole state isn’t benefiting, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Fresno County unemployment dips in February, continues year-over-year improvement — February’s unemployment rate of 11.6% was an improvement from the same month the year before, and showed a good drop from January because of substantial job growth in several major industry sectors. Fresno Bee article

Kings unemployment numbers change dramatically – Look closely at the jobless figures for Kings County in the adjacent graphic, and the change is stark: It looks like there’s been a big drop in the percentages.  Hanford Sentinel article

Merced County unemployment falls to 13.5 percent – Merced County’s jobless rate fell three-tenths of a percentage point from January to February, making it more than 2 percentage points lower than the same time last year, according to numbers released Friday by the Employment Development Department.  Merced Sun-Star article

San Joaquin County job growth looking up – Early spring job gains helped cut down San Joaquin County’s unemployment rate in February to an estimated 10.1 percent from a revised 10.5 percent in January, and well below February 2014 jobless rate of 12.4 percent, state employment officials reported Friday.  Stockton Record article

Stanislaus jobless rate for February lowest since 2007 – Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate dipped again in February as the area’s workforce continues its slow climb back to prerecession levels. The county’s jobless rate slipped to 10.7 percent for February, the lowest it has been for the month since February 2007 when it sat at 9.3 percent.  Modesto Bee article

As drought persists, Kern River rafting businesses dry up – Several Kern River rafting companies have looked at the dismal snowpack and low ­anticipated runoff and decided to hang up their paddles for this year.  Bakersfield Californian article

Water sales boost Tejon Ranch’s finances – Thanks primarily to water sales, Tejon Ranch Co. this week posted a 37 percent, year-over-year increase in its net income for 2014. The Lebec-based agribusiness and real estate development company said Monday its income improved to $5.66 million last year on revenues of $51.25 million, which was 13 percent more than the business took in the year before.  Bakersfield Californian article

Sacramento sees drop in ‘underwater’ homeowners — The number of “underwater” homeowners in the Sacramento metro area was 14.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, down from 15.7 percent in last year’s third quarter and from 20.5 percent the previous year, according to a report released Friday by Seattle-based real estate data tracker Zillow.  Sacramento Bee article

Coast key to state’s housing costs — Competition for limited housing in coastal areas pushes up rents and prices, with those unable to afford those costs moving inland to less expensive housing. But that shift drives up the inland housing costs, as well. High land and construction costs also figure in housing costs. Another impact: Californians are four times as likely to live in crowded housing than others in the country.  Capitol Weekly article

More tech industry buyers snapping up LA real estate – Tech moguls looking to buy a trophy home have long turned to Southern California. LA Times article

It’s good business to hire inmates, Gov. Brown tells companies – Gov. Jerry Brown urged business leaders Friday to take part in expanded programs to train and hire prisoners, saying such efforts have economic and humanitarian benefits for taxpayers.  San Francisco Chronicle article; KQED report

Joel Fox: NFL football players and California’s income tax rate — Last month, prompted by the efforts to build a Los Angeles football stadium and lure an NFL team, I commented on how Proposition 13’s tax vote provisions were influential in the moves and countermoves on the stadium debate over public funding. But, the state’s sky-high income tax also is a factor when individual players consider accepting free agent contracts with California teams.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Loss of Giants affiliation leads Grizzlies closer to home – The change of major league affiliation may have disappointed some local baseball fans when it was announced last fall, but Fresno Grizzlies management say the team’s new contract with the Houston Astros is allowing them to reach out to the community like never before.  The Business Journal article

Fresno marketing firm helping to boost agricultural exports — Peter DeYoung, an advertising and marketing veteran, is setting some big goals for his Fresno-based company, Culinary Competitions International. The marketing firm is making a major push this year to connect with agricultural commodity boards to help them expand their domestic and international sales. Fresno Bee article

FedEx distribution hub breaks ground in Tracy – FedEx Corp. joined with local and state officials Friday to formally break ground on a sprawling 660,000-square-foot distribution hub on South Hansen Road, one of 34 major U.S. distribution centers for its FedEx Ground service.  Stockton Record article

The $3.75 billion question:  Can California do big IT right? — With California committed to several billion dollars for a handful of massive state-technology overhauls, an annual ritual has returned to the Capitol: hearings into why big-bucks IT projects fail.  Sacramento Bee article

Foon Rhee: San Francisco leads in income inequality — San Francisco may have a lot of bragging rights over Sacramento, but its huge gap between rich and poor is nothing to crow about.  Rhee column in Sacramento Bee


Five pictures of Yosemite’s Half Dome that capture California’s historic drought — At Yosemite, Half Dome is generally quilted with snow by this time of year. The iconic peak stands roughly 9,000 feet tall — and is today virtually snow free, with no big snow storms in the forecast for the remainder of the month. These images, taken by a Yosemite Conservancy webcam, show Half Dome on March 19 of each year from 2011 to 2015Sacramento Bee article

UN warns world could have 40 percent water shortfall by 2030 — The world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water in just 15 years unless countries dramatically change their use of the resource, a U.N. report warned Friday.  AP article

Living on the frontlines of drought – It’s not clear how much longer Yesenia Chavira Guevara-Rangel, age 27, her husband, Gustavo Rangel, age 29, and their three children — Maria, 6, Gustavo, 4, and Fernanda, 2 — can keep paying the rent, which recently climbed from $675 to $750 a month. Their family is one of hundreds if not thousands in Kings County that have taken a direct hit from the four-year drought. The reason? They depend on agricultural work to pay the bills and put food on the table.  Hanford Sentinel article

Baja farmworkers’ strike crimping some produce supplies in U.S. – Farmworkers protesting low wages at Mexican export farms in Baja California timed their strike for the peak of the harvest season, and their bold tactics appear to be having an impact.  LA Times article

Peter Gleick:  California reservoirs at the ‘bottom of the barrel’ – State officials are applauding restrictions on watering lawns and legislators have proposed emergency legislation.  But the idea that the state will go waterless in a year is far-fetched according to Peter Gleick with the water-focused think-tank the Pacific InstituteKVPR report

Temperance Flat seeks key water bond money – Mario Santoya was in Sacramento Wednesday listening intently to the state Water Commission discuss the development of California’s Water Bond allocation, making sure that the Friant Water Authority’s Temperance Flat project was still on its rails to garner some of the billions of dollars available for new water storage projects.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Conservationists say thinning Sierra forest may help state water supply — With the state entering its fourth year of drought, some conservationists are looking at thinning Sierra forests to increase the amount of water that flows into area rivers.  Sacramento Bee article

Oakdale chamber hears water concerns at luncheon — The Ag Scholarship Luncheon raised money Thursday for young people studying for farm-related careers. It also provided a lesson for grown-ups on the uncertain future of water supplies.  Modesto Bee article

Farm Beat: Port of Oakland has news for Stanislaus – The Port of Oakland, an important place to food and beverage producers in and near Stanislaus County, had two announcements of note this week. One had to do with the exports it handles, bound for consumers the world over. The other is a new project at Jack London Square that will celebrate local food.  Modesto Bee article

Raley’s chain adopts new grocery water, energy savings — West Sacramento-based Raley’s is rolling out a cleaning and sanitation program designed to save millions of gallons of water and dramatically lower its energy costs.  Sacramento Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Access to officers’ body camera videos limited under state bills – Lawmakers in at least 15 states have introduced bills to exempt video recordings of police encounters with citizens from state public records laws, or to limit what can be made public. AP article

Review cites prison guards’ problems with guns and alcohol – California’s corrections department has a problem with off-duty prison guards brandishing or carrying firearms while they are intoxicated, the department’s inspector general said Friday.  AP article

California cities debate militarization of local police departments — Military-grade equipment usually comes to local police from two main sources — for free from the Pentagon, after being used in Iraq or Afghanistan — or purchased with assistance from Homeland Security grants. The trend began during the 1990s and escalated after 9/11. But today, especially after the events in Ferguson, Missouri, more questions are being asked about whether this is the right direction for a local police department to follow.  KQED report

Court’s new multimillion-dollar computer system creates trouble for inmates, staff – Glitches in the Merced Superior Court’s new $2.3 million computer software system caused at least one jail inmate to be kept in custody nearly a week longer than his court-ordered release date and allowed another man to post bail on a lower amount than the court set, the Merced Sun-Star has learned.  Merced Sun-Star article

Bakersfield police to hold community zone meetings — The Bakersfield Police Department, which last year redivided the area it serves from 25 geographical beats to six larger zones, will hold a series of meetings to introduce the men and women who now lead policing in those zones.  Bakersfield Californian article

Supreme Court considers impact of disability law on police — The police shooting in Georgia earlier this month of a naked, unarmed man with bipolar disorder spotlights the growing number of violent confrontations between police and the mentally ill – an issue that goes before the Supreme Court this coming week. AP article


Stanislaus County education pay adjustments bring some big jumps – School administrators are comparing salaries and realizing Stanislaus County pay is on the low side. Their solution: raises. Districts have adjusted management pay schedules to reflect more competitive numbers, with some eye-popping results.  Modesto Bee article

Stockton Unified teachers cry foul over substitute pay – Just as the district prepared to head into spring break, the Stockton Teachers Association said late Friday afternoon that it had filed a grievance with Stockton Unified over what substitute teachers will be paid in the event of a strike, saying the figure violates the teachers contract and seeking to make the rate permanent should strike subs receive it.  Stockton Record article

UC student association says Napolitano’s apology fell short – University of California students aren’t letting President Janet Napolitano off easy after she apologized for calling a student protest “crap” this week in San Francisco. The UC Student Association issued a statement Friday saying the apology didn’t go far enough because it covered only her regret for using the derogatory word, captured on UC’s video of the regents’ meeting Wednesday.  San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article

Merced College students push to expand ‘free speech zone’ campuswide – Students at Merced College say they intend to hound the administration until it expands the campus’s “free speech zone,” a topic that has led to litigation at other California community colleges.  Merced Sun-Star article

Colleges look to virtual reality tours to enhance recruiting – The virtual reality market is in its infancy, and VR itself is still far from mainstream adoption, but colleges think it might be more attractive than brochures, phone calls and visits.  LA Times article

Public schools work to remain relevant a options (charters, private, home) grow – In California’s central San Joaquin Valley, the school choice movement is swelling, with more parents than ever sending their children to charter schools. Enrollment at private schools, which dipped during the recession, is picking up again. And home and online schools continue to attract interest from Valley families. Fresno Bee article; Database: Comparing Valley’s charter schools and public schools in Fresno Bee

In struggle to balance budgets and attract students, charter schools sometimes fail – Imagine running a school on a bare-bones budget. You get money from the state for classroom basics, but cash for sports, or a reading specialist? No way. You’ll likely have to struggle to rustle up enough money to rent classroom space each year. Teachers’ salaries will fall below their city school counterparts. And if you have a bus to take children to and from school, or even a cafeteria to serve lunches, you’re lucky. Welcome to the grind of operating a charter school. Fresno Bee article

Fresno private schools grapple with changing academic landscape – Several Fresno private schools are attempting to forge a new academic identity in the wake of the California public school system’s switch to controversial academic standards for English language and math, the Common Core Standards InitiativeFresno Bee article

Demand for creative programs creates charter school wait lists – Demand for charter schools that provide a quality education with creativity and programs tailored to student interest has been on the rise despite small budgets, lack of facilities and high-profile failures.  Fresno Bee article

Home schooling loosely regulated by state, fiercely guarded by proponents – Michael Cox has a master’s degree in education administration and his wife has a teaching credential, but the Madera County couple long ago decided to bypass the public education system and teach their children at home.  Fresno Bee article

Online schools give students extra choices for busy lives – The Delsid family calls Kingsburg home, but it’s really more a base of operations as they deliver their children to dance classes in Clovis, martial arts training in Visalia and acting classes and auditions in Southern California.  Fresno Bee article

Kevin Cookingham: Clovis Online School an alternative to traditional education – The principal of Clovis Online writes, “We are commonly asked, what kind of students attend Clovis Online? The answer is all kinds. We have students who travel with hockey teams, actors, race car drivers, students who have day jobs, teen moms, brilliant students who want to work on their own, students who were bullied and/or have anxiety concerns, and, of course, students who have made poor decisions and need another educational option.” Cookingham op-ed in Fresno Bee

Rodolfo Garcia: People with a choice in schooling work harder – The executive director and principal for the Edison Bethune Charter Academy writes, “Southwest Fresno has a gem of an elementary TK-6 charter school, Edison Bethune Charter Academy (EBCA), authorized under the Fresno County Office of Education since 1999.”  Garcia op-ed in Fresno Bee

Fresno’s tiniest citizens: An elementary school of and for the urban community – Kepler’s mission begins with a commitment familiar in the non-traditional school terrain: service learning, which means, as the name suggests, combining community service with regular academic instruction. But then Kepler expands that mission to position the school as an integral player in the effort to build civic and cultural strength in downtown Fresno. Its goals include raising students as self-conscious citizens who can help make their city’s recovery happen.  The Atlantic article

Turlock councilman stands up for Christian student group not recognized by university – A city councilman has taken the cause of a Christian student group that he says was wrongfully removed by California State University, Stanislaus, because the group refused to comply with policy that conflicts with its beliefs.  Modesto Bee article

Vice principal who said, ‘I just don’t like the black kids,’ put on leave – A vice principal at a Fresno middle school was placed on leave after he was filmed saying he doesn’t “like the black kids.”  LA Times article


California oil producers unfazed by new federal fracking rules – California’s oil industry welcomed new federal rules on hydraulic fracturing Friday, calling them affirmation that the controversial well stimulation technique can be performed safely.  Bakersfield Californian article

Obama administration releases new fracking rules to keep up with technology – The Obama administration on Friday announced for the first time regulations on the controversial practice known as fracking, which has reduced U.S. dependence on foreign oil but raised fears of contamination of drinking water and other environmental risks, saying that safety rules have failed to keep up with advances in the extraction of gas and oil from beneath the earth’s surface.  LA Times article; AP article

Kettleman City activists charge racial discrimination in toxic dump approval — Activists battling a toxic waste dump near Kettleman City said Friday they have filed administrative complaints against two state agencies alleging civil rights violations in the approval of an expansion of the Chemical Waste Management facilityFresno Bee article

Cost to earthquake-proof LA’s crumbling pipe system? $15 billion —  In San Francisco, $4.8-billion pipe retrofitting effort is expected to triple water bills. How about in L.A.? Mayor Eric Garcetti’s call to strengthen Los Angeles’ water system — one pillar of his ambitious plan to ready the city for a major earthquake — would cost as much as $15 billion and require decades of work, Department of Water and Power engineers estimate.  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

California needs more primary care docs, but residency slots threatened – In California, there are 140 residency slots every year in the family practice specialty. That number may diminish, given the pending loss of four funding sources designed to encourage California medical students to join family-practice residencies, particularly in underserved areas of the state. KQED report

UCSF-Fresno has 100 percent residency match — The UCSF-Fresno Medical Education Program filled 100% of its available residency positions during this year’s Match Day on Friday. The residency program has filled all of its positions every year since 2011, University of California at San Francisco-Fresno officials said.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Urgent care sites: Too many patients, not enough doctors – As Merced County residents walk into urgent care facilities, quick and easy medical attention isn’t always what they find. Instead, they discover long wait times or that they can’t be seen because there aren’t enough providers available.  Merced Sun-Star article

California puts big dose of health care data on the Internet – California public health leaders are joining an open data movement that is igniting enthusiasm nationwide for its potential to improve health care delivery.  Sacramento Bee article

Blue Shield seeks to avoid disclosing its price for Care1st — Nonprofit insurer Blue Shield of California, already under scrutiny for its huge cash reserves and lack of disclosure, is refusing to say how much it’s spending to acquire a Monterey Park insurance company and is seeking confidentiality from state regulators.  LA Times article

California ads highlight vaping dangers — California has taken another step in its campaign against electronic cigarettes, with the Department of Public Health on Friday releasing video advertisements calling the devices toxic and warning they are being marketed to kids.  Sacramento Bee article

Land Use/Housing

State Oks bonds for Hanford apartments — A Hanford apartment complex was among 16 affordable housing projects awarded funding through the State Treasurer’s Office. The bonds will be used for the acquisition and rehabilitation of the Amberwood I and Amberwood II apartments, an 85-unit multifamily housing project on Oakview Drive in south Hanford.  Hanford Sentinel article

Affordable-housing project proposed for Sacramento railyard — A developer is planning a 200-unit affordable-housing project for the downtown Sacramento railyard, the dormant 240-acre district waiting to come to life.  Sacramento Bee article


Number booming for local train, bus services – In a big year for people taking public transit across the country, the number of San Joaquin County riders of the bus and train climbed faster than the national average.  Stockton Record article

Warren Kessler: Fast train in China: You don’t know what you’re missing – The former philosophy professor writes, “In a state extending over 1,000 miles, with some of the largest, most prosperous cities in America spread from San Francisco and Sacramento down to Los Angeles and San Diego, it is foolish to ignore the potential of high-speed rail for business, family and tourism travel.”  Kessler op-ed in Fresno Bee

Other areas

Hanford council action raises Brown Act issues — The Hanford City Council may have violated the state’s open meeting laws Tuesday when it added movie theaters and shopping malls to an agenda item that was specific to hotels, motels and downtown medical offices.  Hanford Sentinel article

John Muir’s journals:  Read, decipher, share – Michael Wurtz unlocks a door to history when he steps into the archive room at the University of the Pacific’s Holt-Atherton Special Collections.  Rows of compact shelving lined with acid neutral boxes hold the key to John Muir’s inner world. KQED report

Cal Fire employees cheated to get jobs – Two Cal Fire managers allegedly cheated to get leadership jobs at the department’s Ione academy, and others drank while on duty and on state property, according to state records released Friday.  Sacramento Bee article

Historic Fresno County Courthouse cupola to see new home — The old Fresno Courthouse cupola was lifted out of a dim and dusty storage unit south of downtown on Friday morning and strapped onto a trailer for a ride to its new home at the Fresno fairgrounds.  Fresno Bee article

Dick Hagerty: Oakdale has the perfect identity, the ‘Cowboy Capital’ — We residents of Oakdale proudly call our little city “The Cowboy Capital of the World.” Well, that was until the brilliant folks at City Hall decided that we should have a new and improved slogan.  Hagerty column in Modesto Bee

San Francisco area’s LGBT population tops survey; San Jose near bottom — A first-of-its-kind Gallup survey confirmed Friday what many people have long assumed — that the San Francisco area has the nation’s highest concentration of men and women who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Few other areas come close.  San Francisco Chronicle article



Valley Editorial Roundup


Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.