March 24, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

More than money at stake in UC budget negotiations — It started like any number of budget debates at the Capitol: The University of California argued that it has been shortchanged and students will have to bear more of its rising costs if the state doesn’t pay up. But this year’s back-and-forth with Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers not only has unleashed unprecedented fiscal scrutiny of the 10-campus system, it has placed on the table the previously unthinkable option of stripping UC’s constitutional independence.  Capitol Alert

Dan Walters: Who might be running for California governor in 2018? — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, having decided not to run for the U.S. Senate next year, quickly made it clear that he wanted the governorship, and is already raising money for what could be a very expensive campaign. Antonio Villaraigosa, another prominent politician who also eschewed a run for the Senate, showed up in Fresno last week on what he called “a listening and learning tour” – political-speak for building visibility in preparation for a political campaign. How about Republicans? Most speculation settles on two relatively young, moderate mayors, Fresno’s Ashley Swearengin and San Diego’s Kevin Faulconer.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Gov. Brown

California chief justice seeks more court funding — Marking an annual budget clash between California’s courts and the other two branches of government, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye used her State of the Judiciary speech on Monday to once again urge Sacramento to augment funding for the judiciary.  Capitol Alert; KQED report


Valley politics

CD16: Fresno County dairyman Tacherra to challenge Costa for Congress again – If at first you don’t succeed, try again. That’s exactly what dairy farmer Johnny Tacherra plans to do. The Republican candidate announced Monday he will make a second consecutive run for Congress, saying this time he has what it takes to unseat “career politician” Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.  Merced Sun-Star article

Modesto councilman challenging mayor in November election — Councilman Dave Lopez announced Monday that he is running against Mayor Garrad Marsh in the November election to lead Modesto. Lopez is the first candidate to publicly challenge Marsh, who is seeking his second and final term as mayor.  Modesto Bee article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

John Myers: Is it too easy to submit unusual (or crazy) ballot initiatives in California? – History books are filled with patriotic prose about how a generation of Californians, fighting back against wealthy political powers, embraced the idea of circumventing elected officials in favor of laws written by citizens. Great system, you say? Sometimes. One with unintended consequences? Sometimes. One that needs fixing? Good question.  Myers in KQED

Joe Mathews: Harris should not circulate the ‘Sodomite Suppression Act’ to voters — Does an attorney general of California have a duty to approve for circulation any ballot initiative she receives? The legal consensus is that Attorney General Kamala Harris does. Reviewing and titling an initiative for circulation is a ministerial act that the a.g. Is supposed to perform without comment. Previous court rulings have found that Harris does not have discretion. Still, I’d like to see Harris block the “Sodomite Suppression Act” from going out to voters.  Mathews in Fox & Hounds


Other areas 

Ted Cruz’s climate change statements delight Democrats — The war of words over climate change is getting blisteringly hot between Gov. Jerry Brown and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, with the Republican presidential candidate blithely dismissing the Democratic governor as one of those “global warming alarmists” who relies on ridicule and insult.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Dan Walters Daily: Spot bills explained — Dan breaks down one of the more common, but still questionable, Sacramento maneuvers.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee 

Three California senators heading to Japan — Three California state senators are traveling to Japan this week to meet with Japanese officials and study the country’s approach to transportation, environmental policy and earthquake preparedness.  Capitol Alert 

Bruce Maiman:  Want higher voter turnout? Get rid of special elections – With consistently low voter turnouts, there’s chatter to expand the electoral pool by lowering the voting age or even by requiring people to vote. Has anyone considered that too few voters might be the result of too many special elections?  Maiman column in Sacramento Bee 

Tom Fife: Democratic party has been co-opted by radicals — Poll most Americans today and I suspect they would agree the Democrat Party has been co-opted by radicals. Left-wing ideologues like Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama set their Party’s national agenda and articulate its uber-liberal philosophy.  Fife column in Visalia Times-Delta

Joe Altschule: Ike, Reagan wouldn’t recognize today’s GOP — What has happened to the Republican Party? What has become of a once reasonable, intelligent and formidable political party. Dwight Eisenhower, Bob Dole, and Ronald Reagan would not even recognize what their party has become.  Altschule column in Visalia Times-Delta


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories 

Franklin Templeton files opening brief in appeal of Stockton bankruptcy exit plan – The holdout creditor in Stockton, California’s bankruptcy case filed its opening brief in an appeal of the city’s reorganization plan on Monday, claiming “no bondholder has ever received so little in the history of municipal bankruptcy.”  Reuters article

Fresno’s finances get rid of the scarlet letter of shame – Fresno will soon learn if it can stomach prosperity. Mayor Ashley Swearengin on Monday trumpeted a new report that shows the city once again to be in the land of sound finances.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article


Jobs and the Economy 

Work continues on new Bitwise location in downtown Fresno – Work continues on the historic Phelan building in downtown Fresno where Bitwise Industries is planning a second location.  Fresno Bee article

3 Fresh & Easy stores to close in Fresno, Clovis – Three area Fresh & Easy stores are closing, bringing an end to the retailer’s presence in Fresno and Clovis. Stores in Reedley and Lemoore will remain open. The chain is closing about 50 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada. The Fresno-area stores will close on or about April 3. The stores are at: Shaw and West avenues in Fresno; Cedar and Nees in Fresno; and Herndon and Fowler avenues in Clovis. Fresno Bee article

Two Bakersfield Fresh & Easy stores closing — Two Fresh & Easy stores in Bakersfield will close as part of a massive corporate sell-off by the chain. Fresh & Easy said it will sell 30 stores in Southern California and will redesign the rest, the Los Angeles Times quoted a corporate spokesman as saying.  Bakersfield Californian article; LA Times article

LA County supervisors poised to begin weighing minimum wage hike – A majority of Los Angeles County supervisors want to consider raising the minimum wage for county residents and employees, joining a growing number of local governments in the region.  LA Times article

Seneca will sell Modesto fruit cannery — Seneca Foods Corp. announced Monday that it is selling its Modesto fruit cannery to Pacific Coast Producers of Lodi, which plans to keep the 2,150 employees, most of them seasonal.  Modesto Bee article

Blue Diamond will add Salida almond warehouse — Blue Diamond Growers is boosting the warehouse capacity at its main almond receiving plant by 33 percent, another sign of the industry’s rapid growth. The expansion will add just five to 10 jobs, spokeswoman Alicia Rockwell said Monday, but it will reduce wait times for truckers bringing in the crop from around the Central Valley.  Modesto Bee article

Valley businesses increasingly adopt tablet computers – Sales of tablet devices are on track to outpace laptops and personal computers for the first time this year, signaling a major shift in the way consumers and businesses use technology. The Business Journal article

Patsy Ouellette:  Privatization talk just the latest episode in our societal divide – The retired former teacher from Bakersfield writes, “Privatize the library? My vote is a resounding no. A free and public library is a central core of our country’s greatness. The terrible irony here: One reason we don’t have enough money for library services is because of the cost of the new jail.”  Ouellette op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Library’s Kernville branch slated for closure – Plans are underway to close the Kern County Library branch in Kernville. Kern County supervisors will be asked within the next few weeks to permanently close the 500-square-foot space, which has been out of circulation for repairs since late last year.  Bakersfield Californian article

Sacramento Bee: Once again, California’s demise was greatly exaggerated — California, even with all its problems, is still the best place in the country to live, work, play and, we think, start and grow a business.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Major League Soccer decision on Minneapolis expansion could come Wednesday — As Sacramento presses for a team, the Major League Soccer expansion situation seems to be accelerating. MLS announced Monday it will make “an important announcement” Wednesday in Minneapolis, which is widely believed to be getting an expansion team.  Sacramento Bee article

Los Angeles is looking better and better to NFL owners – Even though no teams have announced plans to relocate, and there have been no formal stadium presentations, several influential NFL owners believe a Los Angeles solution is within reach.  LA Times article

Inglewood’s forceful mayor wants people to follow his NFL lead — For so many years, people did exactly what James T. Butts Jr. told them to do. It works like that when you are a police chief and your officers must follow every command. But after Butts got elected mayor of Inglewood in 2011, he ran smack into a couple of City Council members who kept opposing him.  LA Times article

2 San Francisco supervisors want to tighten ‘Airbnb law’ on short-term rentals – The city’s “Airbnb law” has been in effect for just one month, but city planning officials already are calling it unworkable, and on Tuesday two supervisors will introduce legislation to further limit short-term rentals.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

California IT director says state will grade vendors — California will start scoring information technology contractors, the state’s top IT chief said Monday during a hearing into why another multimillion-dollar computer is underperforming and over budget.  Sacramento Bee article

Broadband providers sue FCC to stop net neutrality regulations — Broadband providers sued the Federal Communications Commission to try to stop tough new net neutrality regulations, the first step in an expected lengthy court fight over the online traffic rules.  LA Times article

California PUC delays vote on Comcast-TWC deal — The California Public Utilities Commission has delayed until May 7 its vote on Comcast Corp.’s proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable.  LA Times article

Twitter sexism suit could have greater impact than Ellen Pao case — A gender bias suit filed against Twitter by former software engineer Tina Huang, however, could affect many more women in tech by exposing the allegedly secretive rules around promotions at the social media giant.  San Francisco Chronicle article



A candid conversation with California’s ‘water czar’ — There will be no “March miracle” this year. After a record-dry January, California is on track for a March that is also in record-dry territory. And the state Department of Water Resources says we may be looking at the skimpiest Sierra snowpack on record. None of this has been lost on Felicia Marcus, who chairs the State Water Resources Control Board. When water supplies are tight, as they are now, her board is where the buck stops in arguments over who gets what. I sat down with her to find out where we go from here.  KQED report

Mark Grossi: He’s not drilling a new well – why gamble with $30,000? — As the drought deepens, I’m hearing from more people who are forced to go without indoor plumbing because they do not have $20,000 or $30,000 to replace their dried-up wells. I’ve also heard from a few folks who could afford to drill a new well. At least one says he will skip it. He asks: What if this drought keeps going and the next well goes dry?  Grossi in Fresno Bee 

Busy Modesto Irrigation District agenda includes water rate hike — Modesto-area farmers on Tuesday should learn how much water prices will go up and whether they’ll be able to buy or sell water shares to help cope with drought.  Modesto Bee article

As water dwindles, lawmakers seek access to confidential well logs — It’s not a secret that California is facing a groundwater crisis. But something else is: a vast repository of state records that scientists and water policy specialists say could dramatically improve our understanding of California’s groundwater resources if they were made public.  Center for Investigative Reporting

Reservoirs still open despite drought – Just because Mother Lode reservoirs are shrinking doesn’t mean they aren’t open for business. But boaters should be aware of both current and future restrictions due to the worsening drought.  Stockton Record article

Deal would spare Lake Tulloch this summer — Water districts announced a deal Monday that would prevent scenic Lake Tulloch from being drained — at least until after the end of the summer boating season.  Stockton Record article

Rachel Surls: Urban farms can help feed the hungry – The adviser with the UC Agriculture and National Resources Cooperative Extension writes, “In addition to health benefits, urban gardens beautify the community and provide common ground for people of different ages and cultures to work together. They can also create jobs, learning opportunities and economic savings on food. Given the numerous potential benefits, local officials can better serve their communities by making it easier to cultivate food locally.”  Surls op-ed in Sacramento Bee


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Geraldo reports on Scott Peterson’s ‘cushy’ life in prison — According to Geraldo Rivera, infamous murderer Scott Peterson seems like he’s having a fun time on death row. Geraldo’s weekend program delved into the post-conviction life of Peterson, who was sentenced to death after being found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn son. Peterson has lived in San Quentin since 2005 and, to hear the program tell it, prison’s not so bad.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Supreme Court weighs San Francisco police shooting of mentally ill woman — Wrestling with the case of a knife-wielding San Francisco woman who was shot in her room at a group home by city police officers, U.S. Supreme Court justices seemed inclined Monday to give police some leeway in dealing with mentally ill, potentially violent suspects.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Challengers to prison solitary gain support from Justice Kennedy — Inmates challenging lengthy solitary confinement in California prisons, a case scheduled to go to trial in Oakland this December, gained some high-placed moral support Monday from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Sacramento County pays $515,000 to settle suit over inmate’s death — Sacramento County taxpayers will foot the $515,000 paid to Scott’s family to resolve a wrongful-death lawsuit in U.S. District Court, a case that Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said could have been tough to defend in front of a jury.  Sacramento Bee article



Prop 30 closes spending gap between state and nation – Revenue from temporary taxes from Proposition 30 has closed the K-12 spending gap between California and the national average by more than 60 percent, according to data released Monday by the California Budget and Policy Center, a nonprofit research organization. EdSource article

Fresno named ‘pacesetter’ for improving student reading levels – In recognition for measurable progress in helping low-income children become proficient readers, Fresno has been named one of 30 pacesetters in 2014 by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.  The Business Journal article 

Bill requires oversight before school police get military equipment – Police departments obtain the equipment through a federal program that provides them with military surplus items for free. The Los Angeles and San Diego school districts made headlines after their police departments received armored vehicles through the program. LA also acquired rifles and grenade launchers.   Democratic Senator Bill Monning has introduced legislation that would require school boards to approve the acquisitions. He says his measure does not ban the equipment.  Capital Public Radio report

Laws to prevent abuse of GI benefits bill weren’t enforced, records show – Helicopter flight training companies were able to collect tens of millions of dollars a year through a loophole in the latest GI Bill in part because officials didn’t enforce laws aimed at preventing abuse of veteran education benefits, according to interviews, court records and state and federal documents.  LA Times article 

UC Merced police chief retires – Rita Spaur, the founding chief of police at UC Merced, has retired, the Sun-Star has learned. Spaur, 56, confirmed her retirement Monday in an interview with the Merced Sun-Star. Lt. Chou Her is running in the interim as the college searches for a new chief, she said.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Kern High School District implements changes in use of district credit cards — The Kern High School District is implementing changes in the use of district credit cards — including requiring those issued cards to use the conference or government rate when staying at hotels on district business.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Defenders rally around history teacher accused of using n-word in class — Parents and students are pressing for the reinstatement of a veteran English and history middle school teacher who was suspended after a student accused him of making racially charged comments in class.  LA Times article



California’s push for clean energy has a big problem: no place to store it —  On a quiet Sunday morning last April, power plants were pumping far more energy into California’s electricity grid than residents needed for their refrigerators, microwaves and television sets. So officials made an odd request in a state that prides itself on leadership in renewable energy: They asked wind and solar plants to cut back their output.  LA Times article

San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District receives funding for cleaner trucks – The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will receive thousands of dollars in diesel emission reduction funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to replace heavy duty trucks powered by cleaner, newer engines. The $677,214 will swap out 48 heavy duty trucks with 2013 or newer engine models.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Lamont facility’s ownership change clears way for settlement — A long legal battle over a controversial Lamont composting facility is over. Kern County supervisors have settled two lawsuits brought against the county by the Lamont Public Utility District and the composter, Community Recycling & Resource Recovery Inc.  Bakersfield Californian article

Birds die as East Bay wind turbine replacement lags — A battle that pits union jobs against the lives of thousands of birds is playing out in the scenic hills of the Altamont Pass, where a wind power company operates hundreds of turbines that environmentalists say are outdated and kill protected species.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Health/Human Services 

Cancer center to announce expansion – An expansion of services at Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center on Truxtun Avenue will be announced Tuesday, both for patients undergoing treatment and the increasing number who are surviving their illnesses.  Bakersfield Californian article

Golden Valley Health Centers upgrades technology for faster services – Golden Valley Health Centers has upgraded some of its technology with the goal of improving patient experience and safeguarding data. The nonprofit health care system, which includes 21 clinical sites and nine dental sites in Merced and Stanislaus counties, underwent a significant boost in broadband speed from Comcast Business Services earlier this month.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Vets air grievances; officials give ear – Veterans lined up to tell regional officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs about their problems claiming benefits and receiving health care at a quarterly town hall meeting held in Stockton on Monday.  Stockton Record article

Lawmaker says it’s ‘unfair’ for Olympus to profit from superbug outbreaks – A federal lawmaker said it’s wrong for device-maker Olympus Corp. to profit from recent superbug outbreaks as hospitals buy more of the company’s scopes in response.  LA Times article


Land Use/Housing

Concerns grow over future of empty Golden State Mall building – Once a popular Montgomery Ward department store, the hulking relic of that old box of a building still stands at the north end of F Street in Bakersfield. Now some are worried about what’s coming next for the now-empty retail location.  Bakersfield Californian article


Other areas

Atwater council rules Frank Pietro can keep chief, city manager jobs – for now – City Manager and Police Chief Frank Pietro will be able to keep both jobs, the City Council determined during a special meeting Monday.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Bakersfield council committee targets synthetic drugs – Bakersfield will get tough on the synthetic drugs “spice” and “bath salts,” a city committee decided Monday. Members of the Bakersfield City Council’s Legislative and Litigation Committee directed the City Attorney’s office to draft a letter in support of state Senate Bill 139, which targets both substances, for consideration at their April 20 meeting.  Bakersfield Californian article

Some California cities see end in sight for veteran homelessness — Cities across California have committed themselves to what sounds like an impossible goal: ending homelessness among military veterans by the end of this year. More than 25 cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Cruz, have joined a federal campaign known as the “Mayor’s Challenge” to house every homeless vet.  HealthyCal article

LGBT leaders plan to protest Stockton commission nomination – LGBT leaders say they will ask the City Council tonight to reject Mayor Anthony Silva’s appointment of activist Motecuzoma Sanchez to a citizen’s commission developing proposed amendments to Stockton’s charter. The LGBT leaders say they object to past posts by Sanchez on social media that they say are homophobic and racist.  Stockton Record article

Modesto council to consider more space for public safety – The City Council is expected to meet in closed session Tuesday night to discuss the possible purchase of the former Stanislaus Implement Hardware Co. for the site of a new public safety administration building and fire station.  Modesto Bee article 

Livingston nonprofit organizations selected to sell fireworks — The Livingston City Council selected five nonprofit organizations to sell fireworks before Fourth of July this year, a highly coveted fundraiser that several groups compete for each year.  Merced Sun-Star article

Ex-Madera County Supervisor Harry Baker suffers stroke, molestation trial delay likely — Former Madera County Supervisor Harry Baker, who is facing trial on child molestation charges, suffered a stroke March 11, Baker’s attorney Roger Nuttall confirmed Monday night. This new development will likely further delay Baker’s trial, which has been delayed repeatedly.  Fresno Bee article

A new hurdle for LA County emergency-radio effort: Cell tower fears — Groups of firefighters and residents are planning to pack Tuesday’s L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting to protest the placement of giant cell towers needed to connect the agencies. Some cities have dropped out of the project, arguing they don’t need the network and don’t want to pay the costs.  LA Times article



Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeDeter the deluded and raise the ballot initiative fee.

Merced Sun-Star – California, even with all its problems, is still the best place in the country to live, work, play and, we think, start and grow a business.

Modesto Bee – California, even with all its problems, is still the best place in the country to live, work, play and, we think, start and grow a business.

Sacramento Bee – California, even with all its problems, is still the best place in the country to live, work and play and, we think, start and grow a business; If Sacramento card room rules are loosened, city must keep close watch.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers:  SoCal attorney shows epitome of hatred with initiative proposal, Delta baseball is tops in the nation, and other issues.