March 25, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

Harsh portrayal of their hometown congressman Devin Nunes riles his neighbors and friends – “This B.S. that he milks cows from Podunk and shouldn’t be on the intelligence committee – c’mon,” Watte said. “It’s just a continuation of, I guess, Trump’s election. They need to get over it.” In the agricultural community of Tulare, the Nunes family is known for working hard and speaking plainly, Watte said: “There’s no beating around the bush. They are straight ahead. What you see is what you get.” Fresno Bee article

In Washington’s daily Trump wars, Devin Nunes becomes a human shield – Many lawmakers crave attention, racing to microphones and pounding lecterns in search of cable news glory. But Mr. Nunes, who can seem by turns earnest and reticent in person, is something different: After over a decade in the House, he has appeared to lurch haphazardly into the spotlight, like Kramer entering a room on “Seinfeld,” straining to keep his balance as a human shield in Washington’s daily Trump wars. New York Times article

Transportation deal taking shape between Jerry Brown, Democratic leaders — Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders are putting the final touches on legislation to raise several billion dollars for road maintenance and repairs, yet with no assurance that the measure will pass by a self-imposed April 6 deadline. Sacramento Bee article

Disappointment and relief: Valley reaction to pulled federal health bill –San Joaquin Valley political and community leaders voiced disappointment to cautious relief at the president’s request that the American Health Care Act be pulled from consideration for a vote Friday. Fresno Bee article; Sacramento Bee editorial; New York Times article

Valley politics

Freeman nabs chamber PAC endorsement — A Ward 5 special election candidate received a big endorsement Friday from the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee. Bruce Freeman, 67, is one of three candidates running to fill the seat left open by City Councilmember Jeff Tkac’s death. The Chamber of Commerce PAC cited Freeman’s role as president of Castle & Cooke California Inc. for 21 years as the reason for its endorsement. Bakersfield Californian article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Valley leaders urge Sacramento to raise fuel taxes for road repairs — Valley elected representatives and transportation officials are hopeful that lawmakers in Sacramento will be able to pass legislation in the next two weeks to make a dent in backlogged repairs on the region’s highways and roads. Fresno Bee article


Immigration lawyers warn of visa delays and more denials with beefed-up vetting — Heightened security procedures for vetting some visa applicants at U.S. embassies worldwide will likely cause long delays for would-be travelers as the government scrutinizes everything from work history to social media, immigration lawyers and advocates said Friday. Washington Post article

ICE agent accused of helping Mexican national with convictions reenter U.S. – A veteran U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent was accused this week of working with an organized crime figure to help a Mexican national with multiple convictions reenter the country illegally. LA Times article

Other areas

GOP health plan withdrawal offers some reprieve to some California consumers — After months of angry town halls, contentious debate and last-minute White House lobbying, Obamacare got a reprieve Friday, as House Republicans pulled their replacement health care proposal before it went to a vote. For now that means the Affordable Care Act remains intact. While health care advocates in California say consumers “dodged a bullet,” it remains unclear if or when another repeal plan might appear. Sacramento Bee article

Dispute in California Senate leads to ethics complaint against leader Kevin de Leon – Republican state Sen. Andy Vidak on Friday filed an ethics complaint asking for an investigation into whether Democratic Senate leader Kevin de León engaged in an improper “cover-up” of threats allegedly made by former state Sen. Isadore Hall III against a group of farmers. LA Times article

Foon Rhee: After 100 days, so far, so good for Steinberg – Mayor Darrell Steinberg passed his 100th day in office on Thursday with little drama or fanfare. That’s a good thing for the people of Sacramento. Rhee in Sacramento Bee

California Uber drivers would need only one license under new legislation — California Uber and Lyft drivers would have to register for only one business license no matter where they drive in the state under a bill unveiled this week by a Los Angeles lawmaker.  LA Times article

Presidential Politics

‘The closer’? The inside story of how Trump tried – and failed – to make a deal on health care – Shortly after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled the Republican health-care plan on March 6, President Trump sat in the Oval Office and queried his advisers: “Is this really a good bill?” And over the next 18 days, until the bill collapsed in the House on Friday afternoon in a humiliating defeat — the sharpest rebuke yet of Trump’s young presidency and his negotiating skills — the question continued to nag at the president. Washington Post article

California vs. Trump: California regulators move forward on climate change rules — California environmental regulators, taking a defiant stand against President Donald Trump on climate change, reaffirmed their commitment Thursday to tough standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; New York Times article

More signs that House panel’s Trump-Russia probe is reeling –
A week that began with a public hearing by House Intelligence Committee that confirmed the FBI is conducting a counter-intelligence investigation into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s election campaign and Russia ended on Friday with “deeply disturbing signs” that a House probe into the same topic is breaking apart. McClatchy Newspapers article 

Investors wonder if collapse of a healthcare bill signals trouble for Trump’s tax cuts – For investors, the healthcare debacle was just the warm-up act for the Trump administration production they really want to see: tax cuts. LA Times article

California’s chief justice: Trump dissing judges threatens the courts — A week after telling federal officials to stop “stalking undocumented immigrants” in the state’s courthouses, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye says she’s none too happy about President Trump’s disparaging comments about judges either. KQED report

News Stories – Top Stories

California jobless rate dips to 5 percent as state adds 22,900 jobs in February – California’s unemployment rate ticked down to 5% in February, reaching a 10-year low on eight consecutive months of job growth. Businesses in California increased their payrolls by a net 22,900 employees, according to data released Friday by the state’s Employment Development Department. LA Times article; Sacramento Bee artice

New parole rules released as California prisons near court-ordered cap — As the state prison population comes close to exceeding a court-mandated limit, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is pursuing new regulations that aim to get more inmates paroled more quickly over time. Sacramento Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Fresno County employment continues upward trend in year-over-year performance – The number of jobs on farms and in nonfarm industries rose in Fresno County in February, putting the county’s unemployment rate at 10.3 percent for the month – an improvement not only from January, but also compared to a year ago. Fresno Bee article

Kern’s jobless rate dips slightly, remains more than twice national rate – State figures released Friday show Kern County’s unemployment rate slid to a seasonally unadjusted 10.9 percent in February, down only slightly from January’s 11.1 percent, after farming sloughed off 2,000 jobs in a seasonal dip that occurs annually. Bakersfield Californian article

Merced year-over jobless tally improves, statewide growth is sluggish – Merced County’s unemployment rate made a slight decline in February, dropping to 12.4 percent from 12.9 percent one year ago, according to numbers from labor market analysts. Merced Sun-Star article

Job growth continues in Stanislaus County – but it’s slow going – Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate continued to drop in February, but — matching the statewide trend — job growth is slowing. The area’s unemployment rate for the month stood at 8.8 percent, down from a revised 9.0 percent in January, 2017,, according to the California Employment Development Department’s monthly jobs report released on Friday. A year ago — an important indicator in the economy — was 9.6 percent. Modesto Bee article

Prevailing wage bill: Better income for construction workers or higher housing price? – Home builders, housing advocates and Fresno leaders say a new law making its way through the California Legislature could raise home prices, widening the gap of housing affordability for central San Joaquin Valley families. Fresno Bee article

Teamsters and UC reach tentative deal in which employees get raises – The University of California announced this week a tentative labor agreement with the Teamsters union, which covers approximately 12,000 administrative, clerical and support workers. Merced Sun-Star article

Economist: State, Tulare County still in growth mode – Despite Donald Trump’s claims of the nation being an economic disaster throughout his successful bid to become president, the nation and California are in pretty good shape — and Tulare County is no exception. The Business Journal article

Merced adding two firefighters, but remains below pre-recession tally – Merced’s two newest firefighters wrapped up six weeks of training Friday, coming closer to their goal of joining the department. The addition of the rookies, who still must “shadow” firefighters for eight more days, would raise total membership to 59, fire officials said. Merced Sun-Star article

Why not just shut down Valley’s decaying rural communities? Passion stands in the way – The media rarely addressed the question almost every stranger asks about Matheny Tract and other places like it in the Valley: Why don’t residents just move away and get away from the problems? For many people such as McKinney, the answer is passion. Fresno Bee article

San Jose and Oakland area job markets tumble – Santa Clara County and the East Bay suffered their worst two-month stretch of job losses since the Great Recession during January and February, state jobs data showed Friday, raising questions about the region’s economic strength. San Jose Mercury News article

Details of Oakland’s Hail Mary stadium bid to keep Raiders – A last-minute bid to keep the Raiders from leaving Oakland for Las Vegas went into overdrive Friday, as Mayor Libby Schaaf and investors behind the plan touted details of how a $1.3 billion stadium on the current Coliseum property would be developed and financed. San Francisco Chronicle article; San Jose Mercury News article

The onetime ‘Tesla Killer’ abandons plan to build Vallejo car factory — Electric car startup Faraday Future has scrapped a deal with the city of Vallejo to build a vehicle plant on the north end of Mare Island. KQED report

Robots could take over 38 percent of U.S. jobs within about 15 years, report says — More than a third of U.S. jobs could be at “high risk” of automation by the early 2030s, a percentage that’s greater than in Britain, Germany and Japan, according to a report released Friday. LA Times article

How did Hanford end up owning the Bastille? – With questions of expensive Bastille maintenance dominating Hanford City Council news this week, the questions comes up: How did the dilapidated former county jail end up on the city’s books? Hanford Sentinel article

Audit: California tax collectors on ‘parking lot duty’ for promotional events as politicians push boundaries — A soon-to-be released audit of the state Board of Equalization finds that the agency still can’t explain how it misallocated tens of millions of dollars worth of tax revenue and describes how one of its elected leaders effectively swelled his political staff by “redirecting” civil servants to his own projects. Sacramento Bee article


Agritourism can boost farm income – and bring trouble — A meeting Thursday explored how produce stands, tasting rooms, festivals and other ventures could increase farm income in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Speakers also warned of county rules designed to protect the countryside from traffic, noise, trash and other impacts. Modesto Bee article

State water agency unlikely to meet deadlines to repair Oroville Reservoir, expert says —  An engineering expert who visited the troubled Oroville Reservoir said this week that it would be nearly impossible for the state to complete temporary repairs to its fractured and eroded main spillway by a target date of Nov. 1. LA Times article

Why this California town’s water costs way more than national average — President Trump has proposed privatization as the best way to fix infrastructure, including water systems. That’s already happened in Lucerne, where water bills have gone through the roof. KQED report

Criminal Justice/Prisons

California to free 9,500 inmates in 4 years under new rules — Corrections officials announced new criminal sentencing rules on Friday that are projected to trim California’s prison population by 9,500 inmates over four years. AP article

Summit highlights strategies for law enforcement – City leaders, law enforcement officials and community organizers from 20 cities across California convened in Stockton on Friday to share experiences and ideas on bolstering the fractured relationship between police and the community.  Stockton Record article

Discussions take aim at criminal justice reform in Stockton – The city is ripe for a criminal justice reform, advocates say, but it’s going to take awareness, action and dismantling a history of mass incarceration that has resulted in an unyielding cycle of poverty and crime.  Stockton Record article

Donald Hill’s family files wrongful death claim — The family of Donald Hill filed a wrongful death claim Thursday in connection with his Dec. 31 death in Lemoore police custody. Hill’s mother, Diane Hill, appeared during a press conference Thursday in front of Lemoore City Hall along with attorneys Neil Gehlawat, of the Bakersfield firm of Chain Cohn Stiles, and Thomas Seabaugh of Pasadena. Hanford Sentinel article


Another lawsuit targets Fresno Unified’s bidding practices – Another local construction firm is suing Fresno Unified over its bidding process – this time regarding concerns about school board president Brooke Ashjian’s conflicts of interest. Fresno Bee article

Second Kern High School District cop readies lawsuit against district in CLETS scandal — The Kern High School District launched an internal affairs investigation against a senior officer last year and accused him of wrongdoing after he helped uncover a decades-long practice of administrators misusing a sensitive police information database, a government claim filed against the district Friday alleges. Bakersfield Californian article

Bakersfield Californian: Recoup losses and correct flaws first, point fingers later – Our schools have been slowly swindled out of $19 million. Two tasks are now at hand. Bakersfield Californian editorial

What does it mean to be a ‘sanctuary campus’? Two college presidents weigh in – In a lively panel Friday at Pitzer College, education leaders and experts on race, immigration and civil rights gathered before dozens of students and professors to discuss the future of liberal arts education in today’s political climate. LA Times article

UC spent nearly $1 million in probe of former UC David Chancellor Katehi – University of California officials spent nearly $1 million investigating former UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, a probe that ended in her resignation last August and a deal that allowed her to take a year off at full pay before returning to a faculty job, according to figures released Friday. Sacramento Bee article

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks improperly accepted free fitness benefits, university probe finds — UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks improperly accepted free university benefits, including membership to the campus fitness center, two years of personal training sessions and the unauthorized transfer of exercise equipment from the public gym to his private residence, a university investigation has found.  LA Time article


Brik McDill: Sierra die-off and the question of man’s domination — Clearly our Sierra devastation is climate change related and here is exactly where the Kegley Institute of Ethics comes into the picture. It’s about ethics and the myriad unnoticed and unacknowledged ethical choices we make daily about how we live and personally, and carelessly, contribute to climate change. It’s also about how we each view our responsibilities to prevent further damage to our human habitat by wastefully misusing diminishing water (and other) resources. McDill column in Bakersfield California

Health/Human Services

Tulare Regional Medical Center gets ‘green light’ for loan — Directors of the Tulare Regional Medical Center have handed its management company authority to find the money to finish its long-stalled tower. Visalia Times-Delta article


Caltrans project to bring street lights to Tulare Avenue at 99 — The California Department of Transportation wants to install traffic lights on Tulare Avenue at the Highway 99 on- and off-ramp intersections, a project city administrators fully support. Visalia Times-Delta article

Other areas

Lois Henry: Former NFL player is mobile, causing a fresh set of worries — Well, Kenny Graham finally got his Rialta motorhome. At the beginning of the year, Kenny picked up the newly refurbished vehicle in Southern California and drove it back to Bakersfield, grinning all the way. Henry in Bakersfield Californian

Modesto names Alan Ernst interim fire chief — Modesto has appointed Operations Division Chief Alan Ernst as interim fire chief in the wake of the departure of Fire Chief Sean Slamon.  Modesto Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Bakersfield Californian Our schools have been slowly swindled out of $19 million. Two tasks are now at hand.

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down; By our yardstick, Rep. Devin Nunes had a terrible week fulfilling his duties as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Merced Sun-Star – Republicans have insisted the Affordable Care Act is a nightmare, and that Americans hate it. So why couldn’t they find the votes to replace it? Maybe because their arguments were lies.

Modesto Bee – Republicans have insisted the Affordable Care Act is a nightmare, and that Americans hate it. So why couldn’t they find the votes to replace it? Maybe because their arguments were lies.

Sacramento Bee – Republicans have insisted the Affordable Care Act is a nightmare, and that Americans hate it. So why couldn’t they find the votes to replace it? Maybe because their arguments were lies.