March 3, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

Dan Walters: Bullet train suffers two setbacks that could be fatal – Given the implacable opposition of such heavyweight figures as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, electrifying Caltrain could require decoupling it from the bullet train – and that could doom Brown’s pet project. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Court: Officials’ emails on private accounts are public – Government employees in California cannot hide from the public work-related emails and texts on personal devices and private accounts, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday, closing a loophole justices said could allow the “most sensitive, and potentially damning” communications to be shielded. AP articleLA Times articleSacramento Bee article

Christine Bedell: Court rulings a victory for government watchdogs – Thursday was a VERY good day for people who believe in open government. Count me among those cheering. In a decision journalists and government lawyers have been anticipating for years, the California Supreme Court ruled that public business communicated via private devices may be a public record. Bedell in Bakersfield Californian

State budget

Gov. Jerry Brown’s definition of California’s limit on state spending could be flawed, analysts say — Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget may have mistakenly excluded some $22 billion from a formula to limit spending that was first imposed by voters in 1979, according to a new study by the Legislature’s independent analysts. LA Times article

Valley politics

 Assemblyman Devon Mathis’ newest bill — Assemblyman Devon Mathis introduced a new bill in favor of people with furry four-legged companions. If passed, Assembly Bill 942 would offer pet owners up to $2,000 in tax credits, per year on veterinarian procedures for their dogs and cats. Visalia Times-Delta article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

California Senate appoints a three-person panel to probe GOP Sen. Janet Nguyen’s removal from chamber — After pledging an internal review to investigate the removal of state Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) from the chamber last week, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Léon has designated a three-person panel to determine how the controversial incident occurred. LA Times article

Republicans ask Senate secretary to recuse himself from Nguyen investigation – The drama over Sen. Janet Nguyen’s ejection from the floor session a week ago resumed Thursday when the Senate Republican leader asked the Senate’s top staff member to recuse himself from an investigation into the incident. Sacramento Bee article

From Napa to Australia, sponsored trips for California lawmakers topped $500,000 in 2016 – California lawmakers accepted more than half a million dollars’ worth of sponsored travel in 2016, visiting locations from Pebble Beach to Beijing on trips paid for by industry associations, nonprofit organizations and foreign governments. Sacramento Bee article

Lawmakers raised big money for ballot measures – but didn’t spend much of it – State filings, though, show that most of the more than three-dozen current or former California lawmakers with ballot measure committees took minor, if any, roles in actual ballot measure campaigns during the last election cycle. Sacramento Bee article

California Republicans: The new party of the poor? — Here’s how one political party in California is charting its path to victory. It’s talking about how hard it is to buy a house here. It’s outraged about the income inequality between rich coastal cities and poor Central Valley towns. It wants to help Californians on general assistance get better dental care. It’s talking up class warfare and calling out rich guys in Silicon Valley. And that party would be the Republican Party of California. Really. San Francisco Chronicle article


Report: Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. contribute billions in local and state taxes – Undocumented residents in the United States pay an estimated $11.74 billion annually in state and local taxes, an amount that would increase significantly if these immigrants were given a pathway to citizenship, according to a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.  San Jose Mercury News article

San Francisco supes OK funds to defend immigrants in detention — It appears the San Francisco public defender’s office will be getting some money to defend unauthorized immigrants already in detention — just not as much as it wanted. San Francisco Chronicle article

Welcome refugees, churches say in public challenge to Trump – A broad network of 37 Protestant and Orthodox Christian denominations will announce on Friday a campaign to mobilize its congregants — some 30 million Americans in all — to lobby the president and members of Congress to rescind the executive orders. New York Times article

Report: Peter Thiel’s secretive Palantir builds ‘the engine for Donald Trump’s deportation machine’ — As controversy rises around deportations underway across the U.S., a new report says Palantir, the secretive Palo Alto security firm co-founded by Peter Thiel, has built “the engine for Donald Trump’s deportation machine.” San Jose Mercury News article

Other areas

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he will recuse himself from federal investigation — Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he will recuse himself from a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, while defending his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the election as proper. McClatchy Newspapers articleValley reaction: Nunes, Costa, McCarthy on Sessions reportSacramento Bee editorialLA Times articleNew York Times article

Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi are calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign – A chorus of California Democrats are joining House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) in calling for Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to resign over news that he lied to Congress about meeting with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said if Sessions won’t recuse himself, he should resign. LA Times article

Fact check: Councilman’s column on pot misstates use by children – Gary Bredefeld offered several arguments in his call for a recreational pot ban. Most of these were accurate, but a few – including a statistic on increased marijuana usage among children – were not. Here’s a brief analysis of some of his major points. Fresno Bee article

Bill would open confidential address program to human trafficking victims – A month after authorities arrested nearly 500 in a human-trafficking sting operation, California officials are moving to make victims of such crimes eligible for the state’s confidential address program.  Sacramento Bee article

San Francisco tells high court there’s nothing to fear from trans restrooms — Decades of allowing transgender students, park visitors and government workers to use restrooms that fit their gender identity show that fears of sexual predators and invasion of privacy are unfounded, San Francisco and 30 other local governments said Thursday in a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Hortencia Cabral: Defunding Planned Parenthood is anti-woman – The Kern County resident writes, “Dear Kevin McCarthy, I am one of the 3 million women who marched Jan. 21 in Los Angeles after President Trump’s inauguration. I have come to the conclusion that we are heading down a path of extremism, and a chief example is your party’s threatened defunding of Planned Parenthood. I consider defunding Planned Parenthood a very extreme and anti-women action.” Cabral op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Presidential Politics

Trump accuses Democrats of ‘witch hunt.’ It’s not the first time he’s used that term – President Donald Trump defended embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday night, calling the former Alabama senator “an honest man” and accusing Democrats of “a total witch hunt.” It is the sixth time Trump has used that term on Twitter.  McClatchy Newspapers article

11 senators call on Trump team to allow sale of recreational marijuana — Washington state Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell asked the Trump administration Thursday to allow states to tax and sell recreational marijuana. The senators, along with nine others, wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reminding him that President Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that the issue of legalization should be left up to states. McClatchy Newspapers article

Trump’s White House honing its damage control – As the furor grew over Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador, Trump’s advisers hunkered down. Politico article

Two camps in White House on climate change (one likes it) – Stephen K. Bannon is pushing for the United States to exit the Paris agreement from 2015, but Rex Tillerson and Ivanka Trump see a downside in pulling the rug out from under allies. New York Times article

Trump administration revokes lead bullet ban, but California’s may hold — In one of his first acts as the nation’s new Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke overturned one of the Obama Adminstration’s final acts, banning the use of lead bullets for hunting on wildlife refuges. The ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle was enacted the day before President Obama left office, and applied to federal wildlife refuges and any other lands where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates hunting and fishing. KQED report

News Stories – Top Stories

Superintendent: Bakersfield City School District principal movement necessary move for kids — A group of teachers upset about a massive reorganization of principals across the Bakersfield City School District — the first step in an initiative to turn around low-performing schools — is questioning the district’s decision to uproot long-serving administrators. Superintendent Harry “Doc” Ervin defended the decision, however, describing it as a necessary step to closing the achievement gap and accelerating student growth. Bakersfield Californian article

Ex-Stockton Mayor Silva target of arrest, search warrants – Former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva apparently left the country this week as authorities were preparing to issue a warrant for his arrest. Investigators from the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office and the FBI executed search warrants Thursday at Silva’s Spanos Park home and the Stockton Kids Club. Investigators were seen carrying boxes of evidence, computer equipment and other items from the two locations. Stockton Record articleSacramento Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

State workers wastes thousands of taxpayer dollars on the job, auditor’s report finds — One state employee used his work computer extensively to play video games, another misused her state car for personal commutes and two tax officials improperly referred taxpayers to private businesses to prepare their taxes. Those are some of the findings of State Auditor Elaine Howle based on tips from the state whistle-blower telephone line, she said Thursday. LA Times articleSacramento Bee article

State employee visited 48,000 webpages for online games, videos – A library employee at California State University Fresno may have cost taxpayers $22,200 in time he wasted using his work computer to visit 48,000 webpages for online videos and games unrelated to his duties during a 13-month period, according to a state audit released Thursday. Also, an employee with the California Department of Transportation cost taxpayers an estimated $4,300 by misusing 130 hours of state time for excessive smoke breaks and extended lunches during her workdays over an eight-month period.  San Diego Union-Tribune article

San Jose regional economy strong, but challenges imperil job growth — Silicon Valley’s economy remains red hot as the region adds innovation jobs faster than rival areas, but a host of challenges could imperil that growth and edge, according to a report released Thursday. San Jose Mercury News article

Some California prison doctors could get big raise — California is ready to dramatically increase pay for certain prison doctors in response to pressure to add physicians and improve inmate health care. The tentative contract with the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, obtained by The Associated Press, includes a 9 percent raise over four years for the union’s roughly 1,500 members. AP articleSacramento Bee article

Sacramento asks residents what they want downtown to be when it grows up — City Hall issued a personal request of residents this week: “Tell us about one of your happiest urban experiences.” That question is part of an online survey the city of Sacramento has posted, aimed at giving officials a better idea of how to mold the central city into a place where thousands more people will want to live and play in the coming decade or two. Sacramento Bee article

Gov. Brown appoints pair of Fresnans to workforce board – Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a couple of Fresno residents to serve on the California Workforce Development Board. Lee Ann Eager, president and CEO of the Fresno County Economic Development Corp., and Charles Riojas, longtime member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 100, will serve on the board that oversees the state’s workforce investment program. The Business Journal article

Can’t get any work done? New survey reveals politics is killing productivity — The survey found that workers on average are spending two hours reading or talking about political news at work. For some employees it’s three or four hours a day. And it’s not just liberals in the Bay Area. People from across the political spectrum and across the country have become news junkies. KQED report


Feds: Drought ends in San Joaquin – After 1,892 days, the drought is over in San Joaquin County. That’s the conclusion of the federal government, which Thursday morning issued new maps showing the entire county — and indeed, 79 percent of the state — free from any kind of drought designation. Stockton Record article

Farmers scratching heads over announcement – Westside Kings County farmers who depend on Central Valley Project water are used to getting their initial water supply allocation from the federally-run system in February, which gives them time to make investment and planting decisions for the summer crop. But this year’s written announcement, released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation this week, has left them in the dark. Hanford Sentinel article

Michael Fitzgerald: Stockton’s $65 million maybe – There are boondoggles and there are wise investments, and there is a unique category of things that shift maddeningly between both categories as time and conditions change. Such a mercurial thing is Stockton’s New Melones Conveyance. The $65 million system of tunnels and canals is designed to bring water from New Melones Reservoir. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Modesto begins partially releasing treated wastewater into San Joaquin River – To protect pond levees and its water treatment infrastructure, the city of Modesto began releasing partially treated wastewater into the San Joaquin River on Thursday afternoon. Modesto Bee article

Storm damage: Nearly $4 million – San Joaquin County suffered nearly $4 million in damages from the winter storms over the past two months, which included flooded roadways, collapsed levies and fallen trees. Stockton Record article

Visalia residents can resume outdoor watering – Visalia residents can resume outdoor watering this month, but city administrators are calling for smart use and adherence to local regulations. Similar to Tulare, there are designated days and times for Visalia water users. Visalia Times-Delta article

Despite challenges, citrus leaders remain upbeat about state’s $3.3 billion industry — California’s $3.3 billion citrus industry is facing rising labor costs, increased foreign competition, and the threat of a devastating citrus disease. Despite all that, the leaders of California’s four leading citrus companies are optimistic about the future. Fresno Bee article

California Citrus Showcase — Jim Gorden, a Central Valley citrus grower and chairmen of the Citrus Research Board, sees lemons, tangelos and navel oranges on daily basis. Regardless, he made sure to stop and appreciate the citrus variety at the 2017 California Citrus Mutual Citrus Showcase Thursday. Visalia Times-Delta article

Nick Blom: Sustainability, not drought, can be the future of our state – The Stanislaus County almond grower and director of the Modesto Irrigation District writes, “Whether above ground or below, increasing water storage is key to addressing the water supply concerns of today as well as preparing our state for future droughts and the impacts of a changing climate. We cannot continue to operate with a ‘feast or famine’ mindset, but we can’t break out of this frame of mind without making drastic changes to our water infrastructure.” Blom op-ed in Modesto Bee

California faces another bleak salmon-fishing season, a holdover from the drought — California salmon anglers are looking at another bleak fishing season, despite the remarkably wet winter – a lingering impact from the state’s five-year drought. Sacramento Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

6 months after Fresno jail shooting, officers recovering as jail security is enhanced — Six months after a shooting at the Fresno County Jail left two correctional officers seriously wounded, the officers continue to recover as major revisions to jail security, including physical and policy changes, have been implemented, Sheriff Margaret Mims said Thursday. Fresno Bee article

Louis Medina: Violence, gratitude: Eclectic issues during sheriff’s ride-along — After my three ride alongs with officers of the Bakersfield Police Department, I signed up for the opportunity to accompany deputies from the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. I asked to go on a weekend night patrol in Oildale. Medina op-ed in Bakersfield Californian


Sacramento moves to block immigration officials from student data – As federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents ramp up arrests of residents who are in this country illegally, California lawmakers are taking steps they hope will prevent that agency from accessing student records that could help agents deport people. KPCC report

State to leave college, career readiness off upcoming school and district report cards – California will issue school and district report cards later this month, but without a key measure – whether students are prepared for college or careers. EdSource article

School, parent groups urge state board to give more weight to high school tests — Not taking “no” for a final answer, a broad coalition of parent, student and teacher advocacy groups is asking the State Board of Education to place more emphasis on high school test results than the board intends for the new California district and school report cards it’s creating. EdSource article

West Hills Chancellor Dr. Frank Gornick honored with 2017 Harry Buttimer Award — West Hills Community College District Chancellor Dr. Frank Gornick was recently awarded the Harry Buttimer Distinguished Administrator Award. Hanford Sentinel article

College of the Sequoias Hanford Center 2017 projects — College of the Sequoias Hanford Education Center will be undergoing some changes as the college aims to give students a campus with a more traditional college feel. The college has both an expansion project and a construction project on the horizon. Hanford Sentinel article

UC Merced professor finds genetic triggers related to cancer — After studying human cancer cells, a UC Merced professor was able to identify certain triggers in genes that cause and control cancer. Fabian Filipp, professor of systems biology and cancer metabolism, found that the “hidden layers” controlling the activity of genes are critical to understanding the progression of cancer cells. Merced Sun-Star article

Fresno State pair’s venture earns viral love, 6-figure success – Like most college students, Fresno State seniors Natalie Fugere and her husband Josh Martin have endured many long nights. Not all, however, have been devoted to last-minute study sessions. Instead, the couple has spent most hours outside the classroom immersed in their young business, The Painted Press. The Painted Press, a company that designs and creates handmade personalized jewelry dishes, was started by accident. The Business Journal article

Lesson plans include reading, silliness — Theodor Seuss Geisel, more commonly known around the world under the pen name Dr. Seuss, would’ve turned 113 years old on Thursday. What better way to celebrate the special occasion than with a bowl of warm green eggs and ham? Stockton Record article


Assemblymember Adam Gray: Cap-and-trade must do more to combat climate change in Valley – The Merced Democrat writes, “We desperately need solutions not just to minimize the damage already done, but also to implement strategies allowing us to adapt to this new normal. If that solution is cap-and-trade, so be it. But simply ratcheting up burdens on the Valley while failing to recognize that this is where investment is most needed – and most effective – is not good government.” Gray op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

California explores energy impacts of cannabis cultivation — The strain that California’s legalized cannabis industry could place on the state’s power grid came into focus on Tuesday, as marijuana cultivators, energy regulators and utility companies huddled to begin hashing out how to square the state’s clean energy goals with the surge in electricity usage expected to accompany recreational pot.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Vital power plant shut down after Oroville spillway erosion could be tested Friday, officials say – A power plant at the foot of the Oroville Dam, closed last month after a portion of the reservoir was overwhelmed by rising waters, could begin tests as early as Friday in anticipation of reopening, state water officials said. LA Times article

Southern California clean-air plan up for vote — A long-term plan for cleaning up the air in a huge swath of smoggy Southern California is due for consideration by regulators. AP article

Health/Human Services 

California could require doctors to tell patients they’re on probation – Complaints against physicians for misconduct have dogged the Medical Board of California for years. Some say the system is broken, with patients unable to easily figure out if their doctor has been disciplined. With complaints rising – more than 8,000 lodged annually over the past three years – the issue was revived this week as lawmakers, patients and a consumer group demanded answers on why the number of medical complaints keeps growing and how the medical board is informing patients. Sacramento Bee article

State kept secret guidelines on safe cell phone use – For years, state health officials kept secret a set of guidelines meant to inform the public about the risks associated with cell phone use and the best practices to avoid potential harm. San Francisco Chronicle article

Stem cell: Knee arthritis in new $33 million research plan — The California stem cell agency this week approved nearly $33 million for clinical stage research projects testing treatments for type 1 diabetes, arthritis of the knee, ALS and an immunodeficiency affliction.  Capitol Weekly article

Land Use/Housing

Fresno adopts plan to expand and improve sidewalks, trails, bike lanes – An ambitious plan to improve and expand Fresno’s network of sidewalks, trails and bicycle lanes and paths was unanimously approved Thursday by the Fresno City Council. Now the trick is figuring out how to pay for it. Fresno Bee article

Tip-off time? Fresno considers basketball courts for downtown’s Eaton Plaza — The city of Fresno appears poised to build a couple of basketball courts in downtown Fresno’s Eaton Plaza, shoehorned between a pair of asphalt parking lots near an amphitheater and the city’s historic water tower. Fresno Bee article

Modesto receives $782,150 for park renovations — Modesto has a $782,150 state grant to renovate two of its older and well-used parks. The City Council on Tuesday accepted the California Department of Housing and Community Development grant for Garrison and Pike parks. The renovations are expected to start in the fall. The city expects to spend $255,000 on Garrison and $527,150 on Pike. Modesto Bee article

LA is building lots of homes but too few for its growing population — This decade the city, in fact, will easily surpass the number of new homes built in the 1990s and possibly even during the 2000s with its housing bubble — gains that have caused a backlash and spurred Measure S, an initiative on next week’s municipal ballot that would halt developments that receive certain zoning exemptions. But to many housing experts, the development wave isn’t a wave, but rather a ripple. LA Times article


Uber to apply for California permit to test self-driving cars — In a surprising about-face, Uber said Thursday it will apply for the state permit needed to legally test its self-driving cars here — a step the company previously had refused to take.  San Jose Mercury News article

Other areas

Joan Voris: Longest-serving UCSF Fresno dean led program through major changes — Dr. Joan L. Voris was a modest, hardworking pediatrician who was tapped to head the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program, and would go on to lead the institution through major changes during her tenure as the longest-serving associate dean in the history of the doctor training program. Dr. Voris, 75, died Feb. 11. Fresno Bee article

Why did museum CEO leave and what’s next? — The directors on the Kern County Museum board said they wanted “a catalyst for change” when they hired Zoot Velasco as CEO last year, but change, as they say, can be hard. Bakersfield Californian article

Modesto fire chief Slamon leaving to head Carson City department — Modesto Fire Chief Sean Slamon is leaving his post to take a similar job in Nevada, he said Thursday night. The 28-year veteran of the Modesto Fire Department accepted the job as new fire chief in Carson City on Wednesday. He was formally introduced to the Carson City Board of Supervisors on Thursday. Modesto Bee article

Parlier turns to Ron Manfredi as interim city manager — Have municipal management experience, will travel. That’s the motto of Ron Manfredi, who later this month will take over interim city manager duties in the City of Parlier after the recently announced resignation of current City Manager Israel Lara effective March 15. The Business Journal article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – It’s becoming clearer by the day that to get to the bottom of Russian interference in the presidential election, we need a bipartisan select committee in Congress, plus a special prosecutor; California must protect the environment from Trump attacks.

Sacramento Bee – It’s becoming clearer by the day that to get to the bottom of Russian interference in the presidential election, we need a bipartisan select committee in Congress, plus a special prosecutor; Sacramento could benefit from more buskers, especially in midtown and downtown. To encourage it, the city shouldn’t craft a busking ordinance, but tweak laws that make performing on street corners tough to do.

Stockton Record – Stockton cannabis by the numbers.