March 31, 2015

31Mar

Top stories

24 percent of voters registered without political preference — New state figures continue the trend of the fastest growing segment of the California electorate registering without any political affiliation. Secretary of State Alex Padilla released voter registration figures on Monday showing almost 24 percent of voters have no party preference. The report says California had 17.7 million registered voters in February. Of them, 43 percent were registered as Democrats and 28 percent as Republicans.  AP article

John Myers: What if California’s electorate actually looked like … California? — For years, PPIC has tracked this phenomenon — the existence of what it calls California’s “exclusive electorate” — and how the voice of the Golden State’s fast-growing ethnic communities is diminished on Election Day. So, too, is the relative political strength of young voters and millions of middle-to-low-income residents. With some exceptions, it’s still true that the voters who cast ballots in California are older, whiter and richer than the state as a whole.  Myers in KQED

CD16: Madera supervisor Rogers mulls Costa congressional challenge — Madera County Supervisor David Rogers has filed federal paperwork to challenge Fresno Democrat Jim Costa in the 16th Congressional District. Still, it doesn’t mean the Chowchilla Republican is running. In fact, Rogers has sent out a few mixed messages recently, and as of late last week word was spreading that he was out of the race. Not so fast, Rogers says.  Fresno Bee article

 

Gov. Brown

Dan Walters: Jerry Brown’s school overhaul under increasing fire – Gov. Jerry Brown’s historic overhaul of school finances is still very much a work in progress, and resistance to how it’s being implemented appears to be building.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Cynthia Kelly, older sister of Gov. Jerry Brown, dies — Cynthia Kelly, the older sister of Gov. Jerry Brown who had a zest for life, has died, his office said Monday. She was 81.  AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article
Valley politics

UC Merced group to bring GOP strategist to campus for annual summit — Political consultant, CEO and writer Leslie Sanchez and nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrete have been announced as the speakers for this year’s Opportunity in Action Summit at UC Merced. At the event, put on by the College Republicans student group, Navarrete will interview Sanchez on trending topics such as women in leadership, immigration and the California drought.  Merced Sun-Star article
Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Dan Walters Daily: Expanding California voter registration is no solution — Efforts to increase California’s voter participation would probably just result in an even lower turnout rate, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Joel Fox:  Politics in play if Supreme Court throws out redistricting commission — An effort by a newly announced coalition supporting California’s redistricting commission may run into some harsh political realities in its quest to keep current congressional lines in place if the United States Supreme Court throws out redistricting commissions in the Arizona State Legislature vs. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission case.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

 

Immigration

Some immigrants have trouble obtaining AB 60 licenses — For AB 60 applications the Department of Motor Vehicles accepts passports from an approvedlist of countries. Mexico, China and Germany are on it. But Vietnam and Ethiopia are not. Some undocumented African and Asian immigrants say that’s making the process of obtaining a license difficult.  Capital Public Radio report

 

Other areas

Ruling on U.S. flag raises questions about students’ free-speech rights – The Supreme Court rejected a free-speech appeal Monday from several California high school students who were told they could not wear a shirt emblazoned with an American flag on the Cinco de Mayo holiday. The court’s action has the effect of upholding school officials who said they acted because they feared an outbreak of fighting between white and Mexican American students.  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Bill would require search warrants for digital files – The bill is sponsored by the ACLU of Northern California. It would require that law enforcement agencies obtain a warrant to search digital files, such as emails or documents saved on a “cloud” server.  Capital Public Radio report

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to attend anti-vaccine film screening in Sacramento – In a town where political lineage matters, perhaps a Kennedy can sway lawmakers on vaccinations. Amid a heated debate in the California Legislature over whether the government should pass legislation making it tougher for parents to skip vaccinating their kids, vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will arrive in Sacramento next week to attend a screening of a film questioning the safety of vaccines.  Capitol Alert

 

News Briefs

Top Stories 

Tom Steyer wants ‘answers’ for California gas price spike – When California lawmakers met last week to begin asking questions about the recent rise in gasoline prices, Tom Steyer took notice. Steyer, the billionaire environmental activist and Democratic mega-donor, signed his name to a letter Monday sharing his appreciation for the Senate’s preliminary probe into why gas prices rose by more than $1 a gallon in early March.  Sacramento Bee article

Work begins on downtown Stockton revitalization – Workers were busy setting up fencing around two downtown buildings and a parking lot Monday morning, a prelude to the start of construction on an affordable-housing development touted as an early step toward revitalization of the city’s core.  Stockton Record article

 

Jobs and the Economy

Sales tax shocker: Rate to hit 10 percent in some Bay Area cities April 1 – Sales tax rates are going up in parts of California on Wednesday and will, for the first time, hit double digits in some Northern California cities. Shoppers in Albany, Hayward and Union City and San Leandro in Alameda County and El Cerrito in Contra Costa County will pay 10 percent starting next month.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Valley business sales off to sluggish start this year – Business sale transactions in the Central Valley are on a sluggish pace so far in 2015 — 8 percent lower than last year, according to the BizBen Index that collects and reports data on the rate of small and mid-sized business transfers.  The Business Journal article

Two local Haggen stores to open Tuesday — Two local Albertsons stores are in the process of a 46-hour transformation will convert them from their previous commercial identity into Haggen Food & Pharmacy grocers, the familiar blue and white logo replaced with pine-green Haggen signage, and by week’s end a total of three Bakersfield Albertsons will have been changed over.  Bakersfield Californian article

Bass apparel store closes at Tulare Outlets Center — The G.H. Bass & Co. Store at the Tulare Outlets Center closed over the weekend, creating a temporary 8,000 square-foot hole in the shopping center.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Sacramento Kings chairman pledges action on old arena site – The lead owner of the Sacramento Kings promised Monday that the team won’t forget about its current home in Natomas after it moves downtown next year.  Sacramento Bee article; Sacramento Bee editorial

AT&T wants $139 a month, or your privacy, for superfast Internet – AT&T believes Bay Area customers are ready to pay for faster Internet service — whether it’s with their wallet or their privacy. On Monday, Cupertino became the first West Coast city to offer AT&T’s GigaPower, which promises Internet speeds so fast customers can download 25 songs in less than a second. But that speed comes at a price: $139 a month, or $110 for those who allow AT&T to monitor their browsing habits.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Midtown Sacramento condos, restaurant space to rise after 8-year wait — It all started with a conversation between pals Julie Young and Linda Clifford as they were driving to brunch in Napa nine years ago. Young was telling Clifford she wanted to build a modest, mixed-use project in midtown Sacramento – a home for her family above a retail operation. Clifford was intrigued.  Now, eight years after buying their parcel at 1813 Capitol Ave., the partners have broken ground on what will be a five-unit condo complex with four residences above a first-floor restaurant space.  Sacramento Bee article

 

Agriculture/Water/Drought

California drought: Sour water – a new normal in East Bay? – It turns out the taste, and a foul odor associated with it, comes from algae in the Pardee Reservoir, which supplies most of the drinking water for East Bay Municipal Utility District customers. The good news is that it’s safe to drink, said Abby Figueroa, an EBMUD spokeswoman.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Morada could see water rate hike – Residents of an especially thirsty neighborhood here will be asked once again to agree to a water-rate hike. And if they refuse as they did in 2012, they could face much tougher rules, including a possible ban on outdoor watering. That’s how San Joaquin County describes the situation.  Stockton Record article

Linden farmer facing trial over claim he pulled pistol on federal agent — On a sunny February morning just over three years ago, Andrew Watkins was plowing a safflower field on farmland his family has owned for generations. He saw a stranger walking on his property to the east.  Sacramento Bee article

Why isn’t desalination the answer to all California’s water problems? – Nowhere near enough water has fallen on California in years, and there’s nothing you can do to make it rain. So where else can we get water? One idea gaining traction is desalination: converting seawater into drinking water. While desal has long been confined by steep costs and environmental concerns, even some critics now say it merits a place in the state’s water portfolio.  KQED report

Arsenic found in California wine, industry speaks out – Valley grape growers and winemakers are responding to a new lawsuit that claims many lower priced California wines contain too much arsenic. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports.  KVPR report

Arkansas lawmaker drops proposal to ban California wine – A proposal to prohibit the import of California wine has withered after an Arkansas lawmaker he won’t continue to seek retribution over egg regulations.  AP article

Pickers back at work in Baja California, but animosity remains — The farmworker strike that has crippled Baja California agricultural exports appears to be easing, but labor leaders and industry officials remain at odds and hundreds of protesters on Monday headed to the state capital to keep pressing for higher wages.  LA Times article

Almond milk sales soar, but how healthy is it? — Almond milk is no longer a health food niche product. Last year national sales were up 40%, according to Nielson data. Today’s market is worth more than $700 million dollars a year. That’s good news for California where virtually all the nation’s almonds are grown. But, as Lesley McClurg in Sacramento reports some dietitians question the nutritional value of almond milk.   Capital Public Radio report

Tribe fights Coachella Valley water agencies for aquifer rights —  In drought-ravaged California, the vast freshwater aquifer beneath the Coachella Valley is a rare bright spot. The U.S. Geological Survey once tried to measure how much water it held but gave up because the supply was so plentiful. But there is growing concern by some that local water agencies are drawing too much out of the aquifer, which supplies water for more than 260,000 people. LA Times article

 

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Fresno deputy chief of police says he’s on ‘brink of bankruptcy’ — As a Fresno deputy chief of police, Keith Foster wore expensive suits purchased in Los Angeles. In his spare time, he would buy diamonds and furs and drive a Mercedes. His backup ride was a Corvette. But now he has hit hard times. In addition to facing federal drug charges, Foster, 51, has a monthly payment of $5,100 in spousal and child support and owes about $38,000 in back taxes to the IRS and tens of thousands of dollars in credit-card and loan debt, even though he made nearly $14,995 per month in gross income last year from the Fresno Police Department, according to his divorce file in Fresno County Superior Court.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd apologizes for criticizing question about police — Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd said Monday his response to a question at a Friday news conference about police Deputy Chief Keith Foster was inappropriate.  Fresno Bee article; Fresno Bee editorial; Rudd letter to editor in Fresno Bee

George Hostetter: Thoughts on DROP and the Foster situation — How does DROP impact a Fresno police chief’s ability to manage the department’s deputy chiefs and, by extension, the department itself? I hope that question is among those that get answered by various investigations in the wake of Deputy Chief Keith Foster’s arrest last week on federal drug charges. (Foster pleaded not guilty.)  Hostetter in Fresno Bee

Livingston police consider body cameras, look at privacy concerns – Livingston police officers soon could wear body cameras, a step some law enforcement leaders say protects the public just as much as the men and women in uniform. But others are concerned the devices could invade privacy.  Merced Sun-Star article

Pharmacists’ group discourages providing execution drugs — A leading association for U.S. pharmacists on Monday adopted a policy that discourages its members from providing drugs for use in lethal injections — a move that could make carrying out executions even harder for death penalty states.  AP article

In wake of police shootings, LAPD training program focuses on empathy — This exercise is part of a one-week class, the latest effort by the LAPD to train cops how to de-escalate encounters with people who may be aggressive or mentally ill. The message here: Slow down and try to empathize with the person.  KPCC report

San Francisco Police Academy revives program to diversify force – San Francisco will recruit high school students from violent neighborhoods to join the Police Department, Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr said Monday, reviving a defunct program in an effort to diversify the city’s force.  San Francisco Chronicle article

San Francisco police chief, DA clash over corruption task force — San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said Monday that he has formed a task force to look into cases of alleged corruption, misconduct and racism in the city’s law enforcement structure — a move that Police Chief Greg Suhr criticized as politically motivated.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Bruce Maiman: Supreme Court was right to throw out Jessica’s Law – The state will now assess sex offenders on a case-by-case basis, separating high-risk parolees who remain a threat to children from low-risk offenders.  Maiman in Sacramento Bee

Technician, boss in SFPD lab scandal flunked DNA skills exam — The San Francisco police crime-lab technician and a supervisor implicated in alleged misconduct that could jeopardize hundreds of criminal cases failed a DNA proficiency exam last year and were barred from processing evidence, documents show.  San Francisco Chronicle article

 

Education

Sacramento State looks to emphasize riverfront views – Taking a planning cue from Sacramento and other riverfront cities, Sacramento State is building new dorms and amenities overlooking the American River, which flows past the campus but has long seemed like a design afterthought.  Sacramento Bee article

In California, opposition to Common Core relatively minimal – In contrast to other parts of the country where the Common Core standards have run into fierce opposition, several large California school districts and communities served by a leading charter-school organization have experienced considerable support and little overt opposition to the new standards in math and English language arts.  EdSource article

Jeremy Adams: My greatest fear: Are teachers as important as we thought? – The AP government teacher at Bakersfield High and political science lecturer at Cal State Bakersfield writes, “I will not stop jumping as high as I can — even if my students come from profound disadvantages, even if the research proves my feet are encased in cement. It is only when I stop jumping altogether that I am certain my worst fear has come to fruition. There are outliers and I will teach in the hopes of creating more.”  Adams op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

In-house pick for provost aims for expanded research role for USC —  As the newly named provost and No. 2 administrator at USC, neuroscientist Michael Quick said Monday he wants to help the university use its brain power and growing financial resources to keep improving the school’s reputation and focus high-powered research on societal problems. LA Times article

Hundreds march against San Francisco archbishop’s ‘morality clauses’ — Carrying signs reading “Love One Another” and “Who Am I to Judge?” hundreds of students, teachers and supporters marched Monday evening from the Mission Dolores Basilica to St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Franciscowhere they delivered petitions opposing the archbishop’s “morality clauses” at four Catholic high schools.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Michael Kirst: New school funding is a formula for success – The president of the State Board of Education writes, “A recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California focuses on the implementation of the new school funding formula. But The Sacramento Bee’s editorial about the report (“Brown’s school funding formula needs tweaking,” March 19) failed to acknowledge why the law intentionally targets concentrations of high-need students, and how county offices of education are helping ensure these students receive additional services.”  Kirst op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Pamela Clute: Our schools shouldn’t skimp on math – The special assistant to the chancellor at UC Riverside writes, “Have you ever started an exercise program, stopped for a year and then tried to pick up where you left off? It’s a mistake. California education officials are making the same mistake with our students, with math.”  Clute op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Student lawyers state their case — Dickens, 26, is one of numerous students Humphreys College’s Laurence Drivon School of Law sent to represent individuals coming through the San Joaquin County Superior Court’s Collaborative Courts. The school’s involvement was started out of the county’s necessity and it’s become a win-win for everyone, stakeholders agree.  Stockton Record article

 

Energy/Environment

Modesto will see the light with LED streetlight project — Modesto is starting work on a bright idea – replacing about 9,700 of its streetlights with ones that use less energy, last longer and should cut the city’s annual electric bill by about $500,000. Modesto Bee article

Rare bighorn sheep herds moved into Yosemite, Sequoia parks — The next chapter in the restoration of the iconic bighorn sheep was played out over the last several days as two herds were moved into Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, federal officials announced Monday.  Fresno Bee article; AP article; KVPR report
Health/Human Services

Jeff Jardine: Haven head Rolicheck leaving after 8-plus years — For more than eight years, Belinda Rolicheck fought to fund and direct the fight against domestic abuse and sexual assault as executive director of Haven Women’s Center in Modesto.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Olympus scopes may have infected more patients, Seattle health agency says — More patients across the country may have been infected by medical scopes manufactured by Olympus Corp. than previously thought, health officials warned Monday.  LA Times article

Paralysis cluster cases linked to polio-like virus — A team of researchers led by UCSF scientists has found strong evidence that recent, alarming clusters of sudden-onset paralysis cases — most of them in California and Colorado — were caused by the same virus that was also responsible for hundreds of severe respiratory infections in U.S. children last year. San Francisco Chronicle article

Report finds some progress in foster care reform in LA — It’s been almost a year since a blue ribbon panel, organized by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, declared a “state of emergency” in the county’s child welfare system. But according to a new report released today by a foster care watchdog group, the county’s made real progress. KPCC report

 

Transportation

George Runner: Should green car drivers feel guilty? – The member of the State Board of Equalization writes, “If you own a hybrid or electric vehicle, you probably feel pretty good about yourself. After all, you’ve made a socially responsible decision to help the environment, reduce your carbon footprint and improve air quality. But you might feel a bit guilty, too. After all, you are in part responsible for the poor condition of our roads. Your car uses less gas per mile, so you pay less tax per mile too. Less tax means less transportation funding. Less funding mean worse roads — right?”  Runner op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Uber, Wingz cleared to pick up passengers at John Wayne Airport – A pair of ride-sharing companies were issued permits Monday to begin picking up passengers at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, one of the first large Southern California airports to allow the service.  LA Times article

 

Other areas

Fresno firefighter severely burned in roof collapse faces difficult recovery — Fresno firefighter Pete Dern remains in serious condition and faces skin grafts and weeks of other intensive treatment for burns he suffered Sunday when a roof collapsed at a garage fire and he fell into an inferno, the medical director of the Leon S. Peters Burn Center said Monday afternoon.  Fresno Bee article

Stanislaus County to hire center for focus on homelessness – Stanislaus County leaders could approve a contract Tuesday with the Center for Collective Wisdom to guide the first phase of a long-term prevention initiative, which will start with trying to address the root causes of homelessness.  Modesto Bee article

Library gets new leader – Community activists who have been pressing the city to increase funding for public libraries and to the reopen the eastside’s shuttered Fair Oaks branch praised Stockton officials Monday for their choice of a new leader for the 12-facility agency.  Stockton Record article

Fresno County supervisors break up fourth cockfighting event this year — Fresno County sheriff’s deputies on Sunday broke up the fourth cockfighting event in the two months, this time in the Caruthers area.  Fresno Bee article

Philanthropist and humorist, Allan Fisher, dies — Allan D. Fisher, the active community member, philanthropist, humorist, and founder and former CEO of Mission Care Group, died Monday morning at Kaweah Delta District Hospital. He was 81 years old.  Visalia Times-Delta article

For whom the bell tolls:  Stockton holds ceremony for Vietnam Veterans — The tone from the small bell on a pedestal temporarily placed outside the Stockton Civic Memorial Auditorium on Monday was loud enough to climb over the noise of passing traffic that washed over a gathering of veterans and their supporters. A veteran struck the bell 68 times with a wooden gavel. Once for every local servicemember killed during the Vietnam War.  Stockton Record article

 

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Fresno city manager now says public scrutiny of police department is “welcome.”

Sacramento Bee – Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive wants to do much more than win games; While some national Republicans are stepping away from anti-gay discrimination, Indiana Republicans led by Gov. Mike Pence have gone the other way.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers on mistletoe and city trees, an impressive soccer crowd, and other issues.