March 25, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories

Feinstein, Republicans ask Obama for more water pumping from Sacramento Delta — Adding to the debate over Northern California’s winter stormwaters, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and congressional Republicans asked President Obama on Thursday to increase the volume of water pumped through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley. Sacramento Bee articleKQED reportSan Francisco Chronicle article

AD 26: As Mathis seeks reelection, 2016 is a far different election year – Visalia Republican Devon Mathis in 2014 shocked the local political world when he won the 26th state Assembly seat over his heavily favored fellow Republican, Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza. Heading into the election, Mendoza had raised around $280,000 and had a who’s who of endorsements including all five Tulare County supervisors and Congressmen Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao. Mathis was a total dark horse. Now, Mendoza is seeking a rematch, and for a lot of reasons 2016 is shaping up to be a far different election year than 2014. Fresno Bee article

Gov. Brown

Top Jerry Brown aide’s PG&E stock disclosure investigated — California’s campaign finance watchdog will investigate whether a top aide to Gov. Jerry Brown accurately disclosed the status of her stock holdings in a major utility. Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics 

First Look: Sen. Vidak reaffirms stance on high-speed rail project, SB 640 — California Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Bakersfield, talked about his newest bill regarding the largely contested high-speed rail project on Thursday at The Californian. Bakersfield Californian article

More will get mail-in ballots as Merced County forms new precincts — More than 10,000 of Merced County’s registered voters have been placed in vote-by-mail-only precincts by the County Registrar of Voters Office. Merced Sun-Star article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

As minimum wage heads to November ballot, business groups leap to fight it — Just hours after news that a ballot measure to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 is now eligible for the statewide ballot in November, business leaders across the state vowed to fight it. But they left the door open for a compromise on the issue in the Legislature that would cost them less. KPCC report

Fresno Bee: Minimum wage hike lands in Brown’s lap — Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators should work to avert a battle over a union-backed initiative aimed for the November ballot that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Fresno Bee editorial

Robin Abcarian: Where does Kamala Harris stand on Planned Parenthood videos? –It took a Texas grand jury only two months to reject claims that Planned Parenthood had illegally trafficked in fetal tissue, and instead indict two antiabortion activists whose elaborate plans blew up in their faces. That was some swift poetic justice. But what’s taking California so long? Abcarian in LA Times 

Antonio Villaraigosa getting married again — Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is widely expected to run for governor in 2018, said Thursday he is getting married again. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Other areas

Bills on smoking still haven’t been sent to the governor as tobacco politics play out – Two weeks after approving a package of anti-smoking bills, the state Legislature has yet to send them to the governor for final action and may not do so until mid-April. The delay could hinder a referendum threatened by the tobacco industry to overturn the measures. LA Times article

Bill Whalen: Will California do as well in presidential spotlight as South Carolina? – To paraphrase Norma Desmond of “Sunset Boulevard” fame, California had best prepare for her close-up – a June primary preceded by weeks of journalists prowling the state. Sacramento Bee article 

Is Berkeley Trump country? California Republicans will find out – Because of the way California Republicans award nearly all of their 172 delegates – three delegates each to the winner of each congressional district – the relatively small number of Republican voters living in heavily Democratic districts such as Piedmont’s will hold a disproportionate influence on the result. Sacramento Bee article

Steve Lopez: Why so many voters are drawn to Donald Trump — In Phoenix, I talked to a couple dozen people. Not all of them were parroting the Donald’s name-calling and incendiary talk on immigrants. Many were simply mesmerized by Trump the unconventional, Trump the unpredictable. Lopez column in LA Times

News Stories

Top Stories

High-speed rail support hovers above majority, but possible detours loom – A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows support for rail hovering just above 50 percent among adults (similar to findings since the question was first asked in March 2012). It’s not as popular among those most likely to vote this year, registering at 44 percent support. Then the poll measured how the project, now estimated to cost $64 billion, would fare if it were less expensive. Support swelled to 66 percent with adults and 59 percent with likely voters. Sacramento Bee article

Dan Walters: Big waves pounding on California schools – These are tumultuous times for California schools, affecting how they are financed, what they teach, and whether educators are accountable for results. Walters column in Sacramento Bee 

Environmentalists ask EPA to reexamine permitting of oil wastewater injections — A coalition of environmental groups has renewed pressure on a vital Kern County oil field practice by asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week to halt or change its process for exempting aquifers from Safe Drinking Water Act protections. Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

How new rules in two states could give birth to Big Marijuana — The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board this week introduced a rule that will allow investors from around the U.S. to help finance the state’s exploding legal marijuana industry. Oregon approved a similar practice last month, and Colorado is expected to follow suit, eliminating its two-year residency requirement for financiers. Though the change comes with risks of Big Marijuana or criminal cartels entering the markets, the states are moving quickly to attract more investors in expectation that California, with a potentially vast recreational pot market, might enter the competition if voters legalize recreational marijuana sales this fall. LA Times article 

‘Immediate need’ for rate hike, Stockton says – With a brand-new $220 million water treatment plant to pay for, and water sales lagging during a historic drought, it doesn’t take a math wizard to determine that the city of Stockton has a problem. And that is primarily why customers of the Municipal Utilities Department may be asked to shoulder a 26 percent water rate hike starting next year, followed by smaller annual increases with the overall increase totaling 40 percent by 2021. Stockton Record article

Biotech company expands manufacturing in Lodi – Cepheid, a Sunnyvale-based producer of medical diagnostic products, is expanding its Lodi manufacturing operation, looking to grow to about 500 employees in two to three years from the current 230 workers, the company and area business officials said. Stockton Record article

Cupertino: Apple spaceship contractor not paying prevailing wage, union protestors say — About 200 union plumbers and steamfitters gathered outside Apple’s under-construction spaceship campus Thursday to protest what they said were unfair wages being paid by a contractor. San Jose Mercury News article

First of 4 Stockton restaurants to appear on ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ Friday — Two of the four Stockton restaurants visited by Food Network celebrity chef Guy Fieri are on the “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” schedule — starting Friday. Stockton Record article

Latinos make more, spend more in LA County, study says – Latinos’ steady rise as a portion of Los Angeles County’s population has been accompanied by a surge in their economic clout, a trend highlighted in a new study that quantifies increases in the group’s educational attainment, income and consumer spending. KPCC report

Crab season faces further delays from sea conditions, pricing — The crusty boat operators at Fisherman’s Wharf stacked and loaded the steel cages used to snare crab this week in preparation for the opening of the commercial Dungeness fishing season, but it doesn’t look like fishing will be happening when the season officially opens Saturday. San Francisco Chronicle article

Volkswagen misses deadline for plan to fix tainted diesel cars – Volkswagen missed a federal judge’s deadline Thursday for submitting a fix for its polluting diesel passenger cars, but the judge said he’s encouraged and gave the carmaker another month to work on the problem. Sacramento Bee article

Uber will fly you to Coachella – for $4,170 each way — Want to get from Los Angeles to Coachella Valley in less than an hour? Uber will take you — for $4,170 one way. LA Times article


So far, so good on Stockton water quality — An initial round of testing for toxic lead in north Stockton’s drinking water has revealed levels far below federal standards and nowhere near what experts found in Flint, Michigan. Stockton Record article

Grape growers hoping to rebound from sour year — Last year left a sour note for most Golden State grape growers. But around the Valley, grape operations that centered around raisin or table grapes fared better than their wine grape-growing counterparts. The Business Journal article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Dyer defends officers as graphic video of Fresno police shooting goes public – A body cam video of Fresno police mortally wounding a mentally ill man in September drew different interpretations Thursday from lawyers for the man’s family and Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer. Fresno Bee article

Poor white kids are less likely to go to prison than rich black kids — In some ways, though, discrimination against people of color is more complicated and fundamental than economic inequality. A stark new finding epitomizes that reality: In recent decades, rich black kids have been more likely to go to prison than poor white kids. Washington Post article

Modesto police plan for Coffee with a Cup gatherings — The Modesto Police Department will begin a new series of Coffee With a Cop gatherings Tuesday. The four events over the next few months in the department’s southern, central, northwest and northeast divisions offer residents a chance to have informal conversations with police representatives. Modesto Bee article 

An eye toward catching crooks in Riverbank — Deputizing owners of private video surveillance cameras has helped law enforcement fight crime in places like Philadelphia, New Orleans, Salt Lake City and Fresno. Why not Riverbank? City leaders this week asked staff to develop a program recruiting people who already have cameras mounted on homes or stores. Modesto Bee article 

Street Smart: ‘Real talk’ on dealing with police — With Our Words Inc., a Stockton-based youth development and leadership organization, brought community members and local law enforcement leaders together for some “real talk” Thursday evening at the Merlo Gymnasium in south Stockton. Stockton Record article


Cal State joins national trend to switch to 15-week semesters – The Los Angeles campus and its sister Cal State in Bakersfield are making the change this fall. Similar switches are expected to follow over the next four years or so at the four other Cal States remaining on quarters – East Bay, Pomona, San Bernardino and San Luis Obispo. The change is aimed at creating a unified time system across the CSU, since its other 17 campuses long have been on semester calendars. EdSource article

Federal funding formula hurts California schools, report says – California schools are not getting their fair share of Title I federal funds because of “chronic underfunding” and “complex formulas that distort allocations,” according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. EdSource article

At UC Berkeley, promises of a crackdown on sexual misconduct are met with skepticism by students — More than 35 years after UC Berkeley’s first sexual harassment case, the campus seen as a bastion of progressive politics and social-justice activism is still struggling to get it right. LA Times article

Joshua Pechthalt: Teacher-tenure lawsuit distracts from real issues – The president of the California Federation of Teachers writes, “Since voters approved Proposition 30 in 2012, California has begun to repair the damage to our public schools caused by the Great Recession. But more needs to be done. All of our children deserve additional resources, excellent teachers, smaller class sizes, and social services. We should be working constructively to ensure that all students have what they need to excel, not blaming teachers.” Pechthalt op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Fresno City College interim President Azari leaving for Oxnard — Cynthia Azari, interim president at Fresno City College since May, is leaving to become president of Oxnard College. Fresno Bee article

Victor Davis Hanson: The hypocrisy behind the student renaming craze – University students across the country – at Amherst, Georgetown, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UC Berkeley and dozens of other campuses – are caught up in yet another new fad. This time, the latest college craze is a frenzied attempt to rename campus buildings and streets. Apparently some of those names from the past do not fit students’ present litmus tests on race, class and gender correctness. Hanson column in Fresno Bee 

Karen Williams: Why we should help Spanish speakers get high school diplomas – The executive director of LearningQuest writes, “Since our destination is graduation, we want to provide alternative routes. Spanish preparation for a High School Equivalency test is another route that has limited availability locally. I think it is something we should support as a county and make sure people have this option so they can get a job and take care of their families as Isabella is now doing.” Williams op-ed in Modesto Bee

Rachel Burstein: Schools aren’t teaching students to argue truth to power – Why can’t history classes show students why history matters? That’s what I thought as I read through a new framework for teaching K-12 history in the U.S.—California’s History-Social Science Framework. This is supposed to be the new, 21st-century approach. It spans hundreds of pages of minute detail. But the document privileges comprehensiveness over vision. This history framework doesn’t seem to recognize the value of history. Burstein in Zocalo Public Square

Marcus Castro: Call for on-site nurses in Kern High schools – The Bakersfield resident an beat reporter for South Kern Sol writes, “While elementary school districts and middle schools in Kern County have school nurses, the high schools have been left out. That could change if some in the community have their way.” Castro op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

State awarded $1.1 billion judgment against for-profit college — A San Francisco Superior Courtjudge has awarded California a $1.17 billion default judgment against the bankrupt operator of for-profit colleges. Corinthian Colleges Inc. filed for bankruptcy in May 2015, and it’s unclear if the state can collect. But Attorney General Kamala Harris said the judgment can help former students pay off loans through aid programs. AP articleLA Times article 

Construction on Livingston’s school-based health center begins — The Merced Union High School District and Livingston Community Health celebrated on Thursday the groundbreaking of the county’s first school-based health center at Livingston High School. Merced Sun-Star article

Lee Cooper: Can a public university fix a city’s Achilles heel? — Can a university really help make its home city 100 percent independent on water and energy? In Los Angeles, we’re going to find out. UCLA, where I’ve spent almost 50 years on the faculty of the business school, has issued a Grand Challenge: “achieving sustainability in energy and water while enhancing ecosystem health in Los Angeles County by 2050.” Cooper in Zocalo Public Square

Health/Human Services

California faces challenges enrolling undocumented children in Medi-Cal – Hundreds of thousands of low-income, undocumented children in California will be eligible to enroll in full-scope health coverage through Medi-Cal starting on May 1 under legislation approved last year. KQED report

Lisa Smittcamp: We must confront Fresno child abuse crisis – Fresno County’s district attorney writes, “The cost of inaction is high: Kids who drop out of high school become addicted to drugs and commit frequent crimes cost our communities an average of $2.5 million over their lifetimes. We have a moral obligation as a society to protect all children from harm. We must all redouble our efforts to do everything we can, from the beginning, to provide safe, nurturing havens for all children. We know what works. We simply have to find the will to do it.” Smittcamp op-ed in Fresno Bee

California pulls back on BPA warnings, angering advocates — Public health advocates are assailing California’s move to delay labeling of products containing a chemical commonly known as BPA. Sacramento Bee article

Like alcohol, heavy pot use linked to economic, social problems – Persistent, heavy use of marijuana is associated with economic and social problems in adults, according to an international study led by researchers at UC Davis. KQED report

Kaiser-Fresno among hospitals recognized as leader in LGBT equality — Kaiser Permanente-Fresno is among the health system’s 38 hospitals to be recognized as a leader in LGBT equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. Fresno Bee article

Grand Jury blasts Tulare hospital — In a scathing report, the Tulare County Grand Juryrecommended that the Tulare Local Healthcare District fully disclose how it spent $85 million in bond money on the never-completed expansion of Tulare Regional Medical Center. Visalia Times-Delta article

‘Concussion’ doctor Omalu receives top sports medicine award — Dr. Bennet Omalu, the UC Davis pathologist who achieved big-screen fame for his discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy among NFL players, has received the United States Sports Academy’s highest award in sports medicine, the Dr. Ernst Jokl Sports Medicine Award. Sacramento Bee article

Scope maker Olympus sought price rate hike amid superbug outbreak — Soon after doctors at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center traced deadly infections to tainted medical scopes last year, they pressed the device maker to lend them replacements. But Olympus Corp. refused. Instead, the Tokyo company offered to sell UCLA 35 new scopes for $1.2 million — a 28% increase in price from what it charged the university just months earlier, according to university emails obtained from a public-records request. LA Times article

Land Use/Housing 

Modesto City Council moves forward on senior playground — The Modesto City Council has approved hiring a company to develop a master plan for converting the roughly one-third-acre park in front of the Ralston Tower senior complex into a senior playground, which would have space for classes such as tai chi, low-impact exercise equipment and tables for chess and other games, as well as other amenities. Modesto Bee article

Merced planners approve first big subdivision since 2008 — Plans for a 242-home subdivision in north Merced narrowly won approval this week from the city’s Planning Commission, the first such decision in nearly a decade, according to the city staff. Merced Sun-Star article


Nine workshops will help imagine how downtown Bakersfield will look when the bullet train comes — At nine upcoming public workshops, local officials will ask residents to help forge a vision for downtown Bakersfield if the California High-Speed Rail Authority builds a bullet train station near F Street and Golden State Highway. Bakersfield Californian article

San Joaquin County wish list finalized for One Voice delegation to DC — Improvements at the Stockton Metropolitan Airport, the Port of Stockton and the Altamont Corridor Express hub are just a few of the projects that will be highlighted for lawmakers in Washington, D.C., next month. Stockton Record article

Other areas

Financial, domestic problems common among regular pot smokers, study says – Frequent smokers of marijuana tend to earn less, occupy a lower social class than their parents and have more domestic problems than people who don’t use pot, a long-range study concluded. Modesto Bee article

ACLU lawyers say Fresno bar kicked them out because they’re black — Two American Civil Liberties Union lawyers say they were kicked out of a central Fresno bar earlier this month for being black. Operators of The Brig, a dive bar near East Gettysburg and North Blackstone avenues, say they are devastated by the allegations and are asking for an apology. Fresno Bee article

Michael Fitzgerald: Journey through the chaos of Iraq — At a mass grave in Iraq, on a mountainside where ISIS gunned down dozens of women and girls, Stan Rapada watched as a guard gazed in anguish over the plain. Rapada, 65, of Stockton was in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq earlier this month with a crew filming “The Longest Road,” a documentary about the refugee crisis. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record