March 22, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

U.S. Senate race fails to strike expected sparks – While the lack of strong competition is surprising, the reasons are no mystery. (Requisite caveat: with more than a year until the June 2016 primary — a lifetime in politics, blah blah — much could change.) Part of the explanation speaks to individual motives; each of the potential top-shelf Democratic contenders had reasons for skipping the Senate contest. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would both rather be governor, a job that comes open after 2018, when the term-limited Jerry Brown steps aside.  LA Times article

Taking the pulse of Obama’s health care law at age 5 – Another Supreme Court case threatens to topple one of the law’s main pillars, there’s bipartisan support in Congress to eliminate the tax on medical devices – one of the law’s primary funding mechanisms – and a slight majority of Americans still have negative views of the sprawling legislation. But despite the political head winds, experts say Obama’s legacy-defining law is quietly accomplishing the goals it was created to achieve.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Democratic group cancels local gastropub dinner reservation over foie gras — A controversial menu option was the reason the California Democratic Council said it abruptly canceled dinner reservations for more than 100 people at a local gastropub ahead of its weekend convention at Fresno State. Guri’s Grubhouse on Shaw Avenue near Cedar Avenue was slated to host members of the council for a 7 p.m. Saturday dinner, but plans changed.  Fresno Bee article


Marcos Breton: Sacramento County should restore health services to undocumented — Efforts to suppress these serious threats to public health are undermined by excluding a vulnerable population from basic health care. It exposes the larger community to health risks. It puts doctors in a terrible position, denying them the ability to do their jobs well.  Breton column in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

Pot funds help pay for San Francisco gun buyback – An only-in-San Francisco alliance of police, community groups and medical marijuana dispensaries held a gun buyback in the city’s Western Addition that took an AR-15 assault rifle and 90 other weapons off the streets Saturday.  San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article

Andy Vidak: Beware of green-energy prophets and promises – The Valley state senator (R-Hanford) writes, “Sen. de Léon’s radical environmental agenda will only hurt the people who can least afford it by increasing the cost of gasoline, electricity and other necessities. Gasoline and electricity are not luxuries for impoverished families in the Valley who are struggling to survive. Beware of green-energy prophets — they make a lot of false promises that are currently devastating and will continue to hurt our Valley.”  Vidak op-ed in Fresno Bee

Dan Morain: Mouse roars at Tesla rebate — Sen. Ted Gaines is a quiet guy, unassuming, even a little bit mousy. But for one notable exception, Gaines doesn’t speechify or throw elbows, not like most politicians around this place. That’s why his Senate Bill 40 is unexpected. Ever so quietly, without even a news conference, the Republican has taken aim at no less a figure than Elon Musk, the new-age car magnate, rocket ship builder and solar energy mogul.  Morain in Sacramento Bee

Matt Witt: Not until death did they part – The writer and photographer writes, “Fewer than 800 people in Oregon have taken end-of-life medication, but thousands like my father have been comforted by knowing their choices were up to them. It’s too late for my mother. The California Legislature can ensure that no one is denied that peace of mind in the future.”  Witt op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Jessica Levinson:  Sen. Janet Nguyen’s misguided notion of banning bans – The professor at Loyola Law School writes, “Students should use college as a time to explore, express themselves, test boundaries, make some mistakes and make some more mistakes – as long as those mistakes lack the hallmarks of intolerance. And government representatives should fix real problems, not news stories that look like they might at some time point lead to a potential problem. Let’s give the California Constitution a little rest and not lard it up with a ban on bans.”Levinson op-ed in Sacramento Bee

News Briefs

Top Stories

Recession’s aftermath widens gap between Fresno’s rich and poor – The recession and its aftermath hit Fresno hard. But a new look at income inequality suggests that the economic upheaval put a bigger hurt on Fresno’s poor than it did upper-income households.  Fresno Bee article

Dan Walters: What if California’s drought is permanent? — But what if the drought continues for many years or is even permanent? Shouldn’t we be thinking about alternatives? They’d begin with some form of permanent rationing affecting all users but probably hitting farmers the hardest. Agriculture ordinarily uses three-quarters of the state’s developed water, so farmers must be part of any doomsday scenario.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Are biosolids a hazard?  LA’s opinions differ from Kern’s – Kern County and the City of Los Angeles have been clashing over biosolids for more than a decade. They can’t even agree on a name for the stuff. “They say biosolids. We say sludge,” said Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner.  Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

‘Stockton is going to be a destination’ – On a June morning more than nine months ago, Stockton officials led 50 developers through three decrepit and long-shuttered city-owned downtown hotels, hoping someone would be sufficiently inspired by a vision of urban restoration to dig into their pockets and back up their ideas with their money. But no inspiration was sparked, no cash flowed, and nothing happened. Last week, though, something did happen — something that could be very significant for those who have yearned for years for a revitalized downtown Stockton. Stockton Record article

Vito Sgromo: Schools must be part of downtown Sacramento revival – The historian and midtown activist writes, “A new arena, bars, restaurants and thousands of housing units are being planned or are in the works for Sacramento’s downtown core. What’s missing? Schools.”  Sgromo op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Ann O’Leary:  Amid plenty for some, wage inequality worsens and kids suffer – The vice president and director of the Children and Families program at The Center for the Next Generation writes, “If we truly believe in the California dream, if we truly want to provide opportunities for all our kids, we must recognize that the real economic constraints on families means that we have a greater responsibility than ever to increase opportunities for children through investments in child care, our schools and our communities.”  O’Leary op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Carson NFL stadium backers get 14,000 ballot initiative signatures – The plan to build a $1.7-billion stadium for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders in Carson moved ahead Saturday as backers collected more than 14,000 signatures in support of a ballot initiative for the project.  LA Times article; AP article

Stan Kroenke ready to show NFL owners detailed Inglewood stadium plans – Stan Kroenke won’t be empty handed this week when he arrives at the NFL owners meetings in Arizona. The St. Louis Rams owner will be packing finished schematic plans for the world’s most interactive and integrated football stadium, a futuristic, $1.86-billion, privately financed venue proposed for the Hollywood Park site in Inglewood.  LA Times article

San Diego’s new stadium committee will not ask for tax increase – In San Diego, the mayoral committee assigned to find a location and financing plan for a new stadium for the Chargers has decided it will not ask for a tax increase.  LA Times article

Judge Oks punitive damages in California gender bias case – A California trial judge has ruled that a woman suing a Silicon Valley venture capital firm in a high-profile gender bias case may seek punitive damages that could add tens of millions more to the $16 million in lost wages and bonuses she is pursuing.  AP article

More cash-strapped Americans turn to tax refund advances – Cash-strapped Americans anxious for tax refunds are increasingly turning to payment advances, prepaid cards or other costly services when getting tax preparation help, according to new federal data raising concerns among regulators about whether consumers are fully informed about the fees.  Modesto Bee article

Steve Lopez: A $35-million tear-down: LA’s unreal estate has plenty of buyers — It’s not uncommon on the Westside of Los Angeles for people to shell out $20 million or more for a house. And then take a wrecking ball to it.  Lopez column in LA Times

‘A David vs. Goliath situation’ for Placer roasting company — You could call it a brew-ha-ha. But for small coffee companies fighting Keurig Green Mountain Inc. over the use of its signature K-cup plastic coffee pods, it’s nothing to laugh about.  Sacramento Bee article


California first to feel hydro-power crunch of drought – Snowpack at 12 percent of average in the Sierra Nevada means there is less runoff to feed rivers and streams that run through dams to generate cleanly produced hydroelectric power. Despite the state’s ambitious clean-air goals, officials are turning to dirtier, more costly fossil-fuel plants to fill some of the power gap. AP article

Fresno Bee: Struggling bees need allies beyond the almond industry – Everyone who eats has a stake in this issue. Bees cannot live on the self-interest of California almond farmers alone.  Fresno Bee editorial

Affordable housing a problem for California farmworkers – With low wages and rising rents, affordable housing is a problem for many farmworkers in California’s agricultural communities.  AP article

Experts: Yes, Bakersfield, you can have a lawn on two waterings a week – For more than two years, Kathy Robinson has been “harping on” the people of Bakersfield to stop watering their lawns so much. You only have to water a couple of times a week if you do it right and fertilize regularly, even in the summer, says Robinson, whose family has owned Robby’s Nursery for more than 50 years.  Bakersfield Californian article

Scott Shafer: ‘Water police’ seek out water waste in San Francisco – San Francisco is still trying to squeeze out more savings. I spent some time with a pair of women who are like the Sherlock Holmes of water conservation — Sue Tensfeldt and Julie Ortiz from the San Francisco Public Utilities DepartmentShafer in KQED

Lois Henry: Local water districts feel cheated by ‘exchange’ — If you’ve never heard the term Exchange Contractors, I don’t blame you. Until now, they were a pretty quiet group of water districts strung along the San Joaquin River. What do they have to do with Kern County, right? A lot, as it turns out.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Oakdale Irrigation District water-table issue resurfaces – Irrigation leaders were pleased to learn in a recent meeting that groundwater levels in the Oakdale Irrigation District’s wells have dropped less than 41/2 inches in the past year, on average, despite record pumping. But those numbers were based on data from only three-fourths of OID’s deep wells, a Modesto Bee analysis found.  Modesto Bee article

Drought alters the face of Tahoe tourism — As California’s drought stretches into its fourth year, ski resorts, hotel owners and others are scrambling to find new ways to get tourists to the lake. They’re relying less on snow and putting greater emphasis on entertainment, fine dining and other forms of recreation.  Sacramento Bee article

It’s World Water Day: Learn 20 amazing facts about water — As the drought deepens, it’s important that Californians start conserving water. As a nice reminder, March 22 is World Water Day.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Michael Hiltzik: Big-time college sports should split from their universities — Critics of college sports maintain that big-business college programs — that is, NCAA Division 1 football and basketball teams — should be severed from their universities and reconstituted as independent minor league pro teams.  Hiltzik column in LA Times

‘It’s a dream to me’ — Maybe it’s because most of them are thousands of miles from Stockton, but as a girl, Najja Haynes never heard much about historically black colleges or universities. She always knew she’d be the first member of her family to go to college — her parents made sure of that. But those post-Civil War schools on the East Coast and in the South might as well not have existed.  Stockton Record article


Green Acres is the place to be, for tons of LA sludge – Green Acres Farm was almost serene on a recent midweek day under looming gray clouds. Tractors rumbled on the fields and trucks drove the latticework of paved and unpaved roads. But grand sweeps of growing wheat, alfalfa, milo and oats filled most of the farm’s more than 4,600 acres with an orderly silence. But Green Acres’ place in the national debate over the land application of biosolids is far from serene.  Bakersfield Californian article

California overhauling its tsunami evacuation scenarios — Emergency officials will soon be able to make improved tsunami evacuation orders as California writes detailed scenario plans, state authorities said Friday.  LA Times article

Former water engineer says Gallo’s Fresno contamination should be cleaned up — More than a decade ago, E&J Gallo Winery’s pungent operation at Olive and Clovis avenues was known all over southeastern Fresno. But the world’s largest winemaker had a decades-old problem well below the public radar — an old plume of dirty groundwater.  Fresno Bee article

Health/Human Services

Health consultant doubts the need for general anesthesia at Valley dental centers – The state has proposed guidelines for the use of general WEATHER’s finally ready. Sorry for the delay.for severely disabled adults and low-income children with extensive dental decay, who often are referred to surgery centers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The surgery center owners hope the guidelines will break a deadlock with Health Plan of San Joaquin, a Medi-Cal health plan that in September stopped routine approval for treating dental patients under general anesthesia.  Modesto Bee article

Modesto Junior College group with issues has answers — One day last fall, members of Modesto Junior College’s NAMI on Campus organization decided they would hand out candy suckers. Each wrapper bore a positive message intended to chip away at the stigma associated with mental illness. They’ve still got plenty of chipping to do, they learned.  Modesto Bee article

Program has girls thinking positive – One by one, the girls shuffled up to the podium. Some refused to take their eyes off their prepared statements and let loose a few coy giggles. Others jumped directly into their speeches with the authority of seasoned elected leaders. Though the speaking styles differed, the substance of each rang similarly: The last six weeks have made quite a difference. That’s the length of the Kern County Sheriff’s Activities League Positive Image Program, which, in its inaugural incarnation, has mentored 14 local junior high and high school girls. Bakersfield Californian article

LA County supervisors debate whether to lock up at-risk foster youth — When, if ever, is it OK to lock up the victims — foster children, some as young as 10 — to protect them from aggressively manipulative pimps?  LA Times article


7 companies licensed to test automated vehicles in state — With interest and momentum in self-driving cars building, seven automotive and technology companies have been licensed by the state Department of Motor Vehicles to test their automated vehicles on California’s public roads.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Elk Grove commuter question: To ride light rail or not — With Regional Transit opening a light-rail extension to Elk Grove’s doorstep this fall, essentially overlapping e-trans’ commute service, the city faces a tough question: Should it disband its commuter lines, and use the buses to drop passengers off at the new light-rail station at Cosumnes River College?  Sacramento Bee article

Other areas

Modesto Bee: Start protecting us from dangerous pit bulls — It’s time for our county supervisors and City Council members to join their counterparts in Ripon and Manteca and pass laws to provide at least a modicum of protection from dangerous dogs. Require pit bulls and aggressive breeds to be neutered, then require them to be muzzled and properly caged.  Modesto Bee editorial

Miller to give ‘State of the County’ address – The president has the State of the Union address. The governor has the State of the State speech. And Stockton’s mayor holds the floor at an annual State of the City gathering. But there hasn’t been a comparable speech for San Joaquin County government. That will change on Tuesday morning, when Chairwoman Kathy Miller will be giving a State of the County presentation.  Stockton Record article

Judge upholds $4.58 million judgment against Paul Evert RV Country – A Fresno County Superior Court judge had no conflict of interest because he was a Facebook friend of a lawyer whose client got a $4.58 million judgment in his favor last year, a retired judge hired to study the case found.  Fresno Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeStruggling bees need allies beyond the almond industry.

Modesto Bee – Kristin Olsen is trying to spread a little sunshine with new amendment; It’s time for our county supervisors and City Council members to join their counterparts in Ripon and Manteca and pass laws to provide at least a modicum of protection from dangerous dogs. Require pit bulls and aggressive breeds to be neutered, then require them to be muzzled and properly caged.

Sacramento Bee – Bees need allies beyond Big Almond.