May 19, 2017


Political Stories

Top stories


Retaking Congress, battling Trump: California Democrats prepare for 2018 – Is fighting President Donald Trump at every turn enough? Could California help Democrats retake the House next year? Is it time to replace some of the state’s longtime political leaders with fresh faces? That’s the backdrop to the state’s Democratic Party convention this weekend in Sacramento, a high-profile event where Democratic leaders both in Washington and California are given a stage to lay out the direction of the party and articulate its most important values. Sacramento Bee article


California leaders vow to continue state-run retirement plan — California’s treasurer and top Senate leader said Thursday they’re going forward with a plan to automatically enroll private-sector workers in retirement savings accounts even after President Donald Trump signed legislation revoking a legal safe haven for the program. AP article; LA Times article


Gov. Brown

Majority vote on cap and trade? No, thank you, governor’s office says — Gov. Jerry Brown’s top advisor says he won’t accept anything less than a two-thirds vote to extend California’s cap-and-trade program for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. LA Times article


Valley politics


Congressman David Valadao: Why I voted for the American Health Care Act – The Hanford Republican writes, “Obamacare’s devastating impact on the health-care industry effectively reduced access to health-care services and treatment for entire communities. Possession of an insurance card does not equate to health-care services and medical treatment. This is why I voted in favor of the American Health Care Act.” Valadao op-ed in Fresno Bee


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures


De Leon sends candidate-style political video – but says he has no imminent political plans – As rumors swirled that California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León was mulling a gubernatorial run, he said Thursday he had no imminent plans to jump in the race but demurred when asked about his political future. LA Times article


Berniecrats look to push California Democratic Party leftward — Progressive activists looking to push the California Democratic Party further to the left at the party’s annual convention this weekend may be making it harder to challenge Republicans in more conservative parts of the state, some party leaders worry. San Francisco Chronicle article


Garcetti dismisses speculation about a run for higher office – mostly – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday sidestepped questions about a possible run for governor — or any other higher political office — but didn’t totally dismiss the idea. LA Times article




Trump’s executive order catches undocumented workers at Travis Air Force Base — Two undocumented Mexican workers sent to Travis Air Force Base to help renovate a hospital are now facing deportation under one of President Donald Trump’s first executive orders toughening enforcement of immigration laws. Sacramento Bee article


Other areas


Lawmakers try again to sway Gov. Jerry Brown on more jail visits for families – State lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of crafting a budget proposal that would require all but eight California county jails to provide spaces for inmates to visit their families in person. LA Times article


California pot czar expects lag time for testing newly legal weed — With businesses expected to get state licenses in January to sell marijuana in California, the top regulator said Thursday that they will be given up to six months to comply with a requirement the pot be thoroughly tested by a licensed laboratory.  LA Times article


Lawmakers seek to ban marijuana oil processing labs from neighborhoods — Alarmed by several explosions in residential areas caused by drug processing labs, the state Assembly on Thursday voted to ban home manufacturing of marijuana concentrates using volatile solvents. LA Times article


Dan Walters: Recall of California senator about GOP regaining relevance, not gas tax — Democrat Josh Newman, who had never held public office, scored two upsets last year to win a state Senate seat that Republicans had held for decades. Walters column in Sacramento Bee


California and 14 other states take legal action to preserve Obamacare cost-sharing — California and 14 other states took legal action Thursday to try to preserve Affordable Care Act funds that insurance companies receive to lower insurance costs for some Americans. LA Times article


Presidential Politics


Trump calls himself victim of a ‘witch hunt’ – President Trump lashed out on Thursday, saying he was the target of an unprecedented witch hunt, a day after the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate ties between his presidential campaign and Russian officials. New York Times article; Washington Post article


Trump-Russia is now a criminal matter, senators say after ‘sobering’ briefing — The counterintelligence investigation into possible collusion by the campaign of President Donald Trump with Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections has become a criminal probe, several U.S. senators said after a briefing Thursday.  McClatchy Newspapers article


California wants to block Donald Trump’s legal strategy on Obamacare – California led a move Thursday to block one path Republicans in Washington might take to kill critical health care subsidies that go to millions of people using Obamacare. Sacramento Bee article


Advisers urge Trump to hire an outside lawyer – Several White House advisers and personal associates of President Trump have urged him to hire an experienced outside lawyer to help him deal with issues arising from a surging controversy over whether his campaign had ties to Russia, according to several people briefed on the conversations. New York Times article


Health insurers and state officials say Trump is undermining Obamacare, pushing up rates – Health insurers across the country are making plans to dramatically raise Obamacare premiums or exit marketplaces amid growing exasperation with the Trump administration’s erratic management, inconsistent guidance and seeming lack of understanding of basic healthcare issues. LA Times article


Rosenstein knew Comey was going to be fired before writing his memo, senators say — Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein knew James B. Comey was about to be fired before writing his scathing memo to President Trump about the FBI director, senators said Thursday. LA Times article


Foon Rhee: What will President Trump do to NAFTA? — Trump’s views on global trade will be highlighted as he attends his first G-7 summit May 26 with the leaders of the world’s other major economic powers. Many CEOs and thousands of workers in California will be watching closely and keeping their fingers crossed. Rhee in Sacramento Bee

News Stories

Top Stories


State of the City: Stockton mayor offers a reason for hope — Michael Tubbs issued a challenge Thursday afternoon toward the end of an optimistic “State of the City” address in which the young mayor sought to bury the darkness of Stockton’s recent bankruptcy and replace it with a hopeful gaze toward a brighter future. “This nation is looking for a comeback story … a reason to have hope,” Tubbs told about 800 community members gathered in a Port of Stockton warehouse for the annual event. Stockton Record article; ‘The state of the city is forward’ in Stockton Record


UC regents approve first limit on out-of-state and international student enrollment – University of California regents on Thursday approved the first limit on out-of-state and international student enrollment, settling for now a prolonged fight over who gets admitted to the prestigious public research university. LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article


Jobs and the Economy


Kern County Fire Department set to undergo examination after persistent budget struggles — The Board of Supervisors is poised to spend $150,000 examining how the Kern County Fire Department operates, a rare move aimed at addressing what’s been a substantial drain on the county’s finances in recent years. Money — or more specifically a $9.1 million lack of it — is powering the move. Bakersfield Californian article


Cracker Barrel signs lease for Fresno location – Cracker Barrel is coming to Fresno after all. A local retail broker, Commercial Retail Associates, has reported to The Fresno Bee’s leases section, which runs on Fridays, that Cracker Barrel has signed a lease. It’s going into a 9,170-square-foot space at the southwest corner of Herndon Avenue and Riverside Drive, part of the Marketplace at El Paseo near Highway 99. Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article
Hey, Wal-Mart, we’ve got room for you. Love, Coalinga – The city of Coalinga – has a message for mega-retailer Wal-Mart: “We want u here.” Using the hastag #coalingawalmart, the city – and its mayor, police department and many of its citizens – have taken to social media in an effort to get Wal-Mart to open a store in town. Fresno Bee article


Bay Area slips in startup rankings — Fewer entrepreneurs are flocking to the Bay Area to start companies; instead, more are heading to metropolitan areas like Miami, Austin and Los Angeles, a new report shows. San Francisco Chronicle article


Hanford trash fees will increase – The average Hanford homeowner’s monthly garbage bill will go up 15 percent, according to an increase approved this week by the Hanford City Council. Hanford Sentinel article


Inglewood football stadium’s opening will be delayed a year because of record rainfall –The $2.6-billion stadium for the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood, originally scheduled to open in 2019, will be delayed almost a year and is now scheduled to be ready for the start of the 2020 NFL season. LA Times article


Bethany Clough: New Yorkers wait in line three hours for this ice cream. Now it’s coming to Fresno – In a few weeks, Fresno will get its own rolled ice cream shop. Roll Me Some Artisanal Ice Cream is expected to open at Iron Bird Lofts in early June. Until then, the two full-time moms who own the business and their husbands are taking their mobile ice cream-making cart (nicknamed Rolinda) to weddings, birthdays and corporate events. Clough in Fresno Bee


LA lawmakers sign off on $9.2-billion budget – The Los Angeles City Council voted Thursday to approve a $9.2-billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year, striking a last-minute deal that ensures funding for street safety initiatives as well as the repair of badly damaged roads. LA Times article


Uber launches freight service to meet on-demand trucking needs – Uber Technologies inched closer to becoming a logistics company Thursday with the launch of Uber Freight, an on-demand freight service for trucking carriers.  LA Times article


Criminal Justice/Prisons


States trim penalties and prison rolls, even as Sessions gets tough – More than 30 states, including Texas, have moved to curb incarceration rates and find alternatives to prisons, saying they have saved money while crime has stayed low. New York Times article


Was Fresno deputy chief Keith Foster acting as a drug cop? Or a trafficker? – Jurors will soon decide whether Keith Foster was a drug-dealing deputy chief for the Fresno Police Department or working undercover to make big drug busts. Fresno Bee article


No suspect ID’s in possible Fresno hate-crime slaying – Fresno police Thursday said they are still trying to identify who killed Imer Eliu Alvarado, gunned down in an alley early Wednesday morning in southeast Fresno. But whether Alvarado was a transgender woman, as police said he appeared to be, has generated debate in the transgender community.  Fresno Bee article


Sacramento police are frustrated by footage of confrontations. Will more video help? — Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said this week that police should release “as much video as possible” to increase trust, transparency and officer morale in a department with fractured relations in some neighborhoods. Sacramento Bee article


Dubious arrests, damaged lives: How shelters criminalize hundreds of children – The county shelters in the nation’s largest foster care system are supposed to serve as a refuge for vulnerable children removed from unsafe homes. Instead, they have funneled hundreds of children, some as young as 8 years old, into the criminal justice system, a Chronicle investigation has found. San Francisco Chronicle article


Empty guard towers helped Atwater prison inmate escape, union official claims — The recent inmate escape at U.S Penitentiary Atwater could have been thwarted if staff was still manning the prison towers, according to a representative of the prison guards’ union. Merced Sun-Star article


Garden program at prison medical facility offers renewal, hope — About 20 inmates at the California Health Care Facility are participating in the Insight Garden Program, which is focused on gardening and landscaping training to reconnect offenders to “self, community and the natural world.” Stockton Record article


Motorcycle thefts rise nationwide – again – and California is the top state — The annual theft report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau shows bike thefts rose 2% nationally in 2016. A total of 46,467 motorcycles were reported stolen, up from 45,555 in 2015. A shocking number of them disappeared in California, where 7,506 motorcycles were reported taken — compared with 4,482 stolen in Florida and 3,692 in Texas, the next most troublesome territories. LA Times article




State auditor urges UC regents to boost oversight of central budget practices but says audit found nothing ‘nefarious’ — What a difference a venue makes. When state Auditor Elaine Howle told a joint legislative committee this month that University of California central administrators had amassed a $175-million undisclosed surplus and interfered in her audit, lawmakers cried foul. One compared UC administrators to corrupt officials in the city of Bell. Others asked whether administrators had committed any crimes and should be subpoenaed. One legislator called for the resignation of UC President Janet Napolitano. But UC regents struck a markedly different tone when Howle came to talk about the audit at their meeting Thursday in San Francisco. LA Times article


CSUB graduation ceremony Friday will be largest in its history, and its most expensive, too – If you’re heading to Cal State Bakersfield’s commencement ceremony Friday, you’ll be greeted with happy graduates, a reception replete with food and about 18,000 other family members clamoring for that perfect photo. CSUB officials are anticipating that Friday’s ceremony will be the largest in the university’s history, both in the number of graduates walking – 2,415 – and in the number of family members they’re inviting. It was so big, in fact,that the university had to set up a second ceremony to accommodate all the guests. Bakersfield Californian article


Should the district pay for Fresno Unified trustees to have their own personal assistants? — After an intense debate, a divided Fresno Unified school board voted to move forward with plans to hire personal assistants for its seven trustees. Fresno Bee article


Joel Fox: Education changes? There’s something happening here – The education status quo, buttressed by teachers’ unions and the education establishment, is beginning to buckle. It can be seen in poll responses and Tuesday’s school board election in Los Angeles. Fox in Fox & Hounds


Transitional kindergarten helps prepare English learners for school, study finds — English learners who attended transitional kindergarten were better prepared in math, foundational reading skills and language skills when they entered kindergarten than English learners who did not, according to a new study.  EdSource article


Federal support for teacher training to continue, but next year’s funding in doubt – As Congress struck a $1.1 trillion-dollar budget deal earlier this month to fund the federal government through the rest of the 2016-17 fiscal year and avoid a government shutdown of federal agencies, education leaders in California are relieved that the state will continue to receive federal support for teacher preparation programs. But support for these programs in the coming fiscal year, beginning on Oct. 1, is still in doubt. EdSource article


UC regents defend Janet Napolitano, blame media for ‘salacious’ coverage of state audit – The University of California’s governing board on Thursday defended President Janet Napolitano against a critical state audit of her office and media coverage that some members felt unfairly maligned her. Sacramento Bee article; AP article


Carmen George: Despite her lung transplant, she was determined to get a college degree — More than one doctor had told Blaire Strohn to quit school. As a teenager, she’d already lived longer than many others with the serious progressive genetic disease, cystic fibrosis, that has left her with the use of only a fifth of her lungs. “I was like, that’s not me, I’m not a quitter,” Strohn says of her decision to continue her education. “I’m a fighter.” Fortunately, when she moved from Hollister to Fresno four years ago to attend Fresno State, she found a doctor who wanted her to graduate. George in Fresno Bee


The Trump effect on colleges: Fewer international students are applying – Admissions officials at Cal State Long Beach were struck recently when they got their latest batch of applications on April 1. While there was a slight increase in the number of undergraduate applications received, the decline in graduate applications from some countries was in the double digits: 42 percent drop from India, 9 percent drop from China and a 24 percent drop from Iran. KPCC report


Turlock Unified bond bargain could save $21 million — Turlock Unified says its initial bond sale went better than expected, adding an estimated $1 million to the building budget and chopping a projected $20.8 million off the taxpayers’ bill compared to initial estimates. Modesto Bee article


California is about to go nuts thanks to some fourth-graders from Merced — To some, California has long had the reputation of being a little nutty. Now, a fourth-grade class in Merced is trying to make it official. Earlier this year, students from Margaret Sheehy Elementary School launched a letter-writing campaign urging their local state legislators to draft a bill making almonds the official California nut. Fresno Bee article




Rising sea levels could mean twice as much flood risk in LA and other coastal cities — The effects of rising oceans on coastal flooding may be even worse than we thought. Scientists have found that a mere 10 to 20 centimeters of sea-level rise — which is expected by 2050 — will more than double the frequency of serious flooding events in many parts of the globe, including along the California coastline. LA Times article


California approves new refiner safety rules 5 years after Chevron fire – California regulators on Thursday approved new safety rules for oil refineries, nearly five years after a major fire at Chevron’s Richmond facility sent thousands of East Bay residents to local hospitals.  San Francisco Chronicle article


State breaks another renewable energy record – A stretch of sunny, windy days, combined with brimming reservoirs at hydroelectricity facilities across the state, helped California reach yet another renewable energy milestone last weekend. San Francisco Chronicle article


Health/Human Services


Tulare Regional Medical Center’s battle with state over inspection report — A renewed dispute between the state health department and Tulare Regional Medical Center over the hospital’s relationship with its doctors was settled when the hospital withdrew a pages-long challenge to state regulations and specified that its medical staff would be self-governing. Visalia Times-Delta article


Narcotic-affected newborns nearly double in California, but ‘it’s not the mom you expect’ — Their cries are piercing. Their distress is visible. For babies born to mothers using narcotics – even legal prescription painkillers – the first weeks of life can mean a wrenching withdrawal off drugs. In California, the number of babies born affected by drugs has nearly doubled over seven years to more than 3,630 in 2015, according to state public health officials. That rise is directly tied to the stubborn opioid epidemic of prescription painkillers and illegal street drugs such as heroin that have hooked increasing numbers of women, both in California and nationwide. Sacramento Bee article


Land Use/Housing


Diablo Grande’s amended plan calls for 1,000 additional single-family homes — The developer of Diablo Grande has approval for what it calls a new “right-sized” plan for the golf resort in western Stanislaus County. The revised plan, approved by county supervisors Tuesday, allows for 1,000 additional single-family homes by reducing the number of condos and townhouses and eliminating apartments. Modesto Bee article


Luxury high-rise boom makes downtown San Jose a millennial magnet – Transit-rich, adjacent to freeways and with parks, museums and theaters already in place, the approximately 250-square-block downtown core — with rents lower than San Francisco and more or less on par with Oakland — appears poised to become a new urban destination for millennials and the tech crowd. San Jose Mercury News article




Is Uber returning to Fresno airport? – Fresno Yosemite International Airport officials and Uber are in talks to restore pickup and drop-off service at the airport. Fresno Bee article


Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao says she can’t approve Caltrain electrification grant yet — U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao isn’t budging on approving federal funds to help the Bay Area begin the electrification of Caltrain tracks. Chao said at a hearing Wednesday morning of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee that she won’t sign off on a funding agreement necessary to release federal funds for the project, even as a critical June 30 funding deadline looms. San Jose Mercury News article


Bike share starts in Sacramento.  See where you can get one – Bike share arrived in Sacramento Thursday with several dozen ready to rent in downtown Sacramento and along the West Sacramento waterfront. Sacramento Bee article


Other areas


Michael Fitzgerald: Stockton’s era of black leaders – Don Blount was recently named editor of The Record. Blount is African-American. Stockton now has a remarkable cadre of black leaders. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record


Hanford approves tough fireworks rule — Following the path of several San Joaquin Valley cities, the Hanford City Council has adopted a tough new fireworks rule designed to get landlords to keep tenants in line when it comes to illegal fireworks. Hanford Sentinel article


Bakersfield Judge Phil McNutt remembered as Kern County Superior Court’s gentleman jurist — He wore the formal black robes of a Kern County Superior Court judge — and wielded the awesome power that comes with that honorable position. Yet Judge Charles Phillip “Phil” McNutt was viewed almost universally as an old-fashioned gentleman, a man in whom honor and respect and kindness were ingrained in his character and his demeanor, inside and outside the courtroom. McNutt died May 10 after a long fight against pancreatic cancer. He was 69. Bakersfield Californian article


Valley Editorial Roundup


Sacramento Bee –- Census Bureau director John Thompson is quitting. A botched population count would be disastrous for funding for California.