May 20, 2017


Political Stories

Top stories


Lawmakers pass budget bills in Sacramento, but they’re almost completely blank –The official record will show that the state Assembly passed all of the bills related to a new state budget on Thursday, almost a month before the constitutional deadline to do so. But the record will also show those bills were devoid of any language related to the budget. They were, like ones passed last week by the Senate, empty legislative vessels. LA Times article


FFA was left out of state budget. The cries of protest reached the governor — Omitted from Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest budget proposal, FFA and other Career Technical Education programs were given a reprieve Friday. In an email to “Ag and Ag Education Stakeholders,” California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said those programs, on the chopping block since last week’s budget unveiling, will retain their $15.4 million allocation in the 2017-18 fiscal year. Fresno Bee article


Gov. Brown


Daniel Borenstein: A great deal could go wrong with Brown’s pension plan — Gov. Jerry Brown and state Treasurer John Chiang have a plan to help cover the state’s soaring pension payments: Borrow money at low interest rates and invest it to make a profit. What could go wrong? Lots. Borenstein in East Bay Times


Valley politics


Protestors pretend to be dead at Civic Center Park — The “die-in” demonstration held at Civic Center Park was given by members of the Kings County Jimmy Carter Democratic Club and Indivisible Kings County, who gathered to protest the House of Representatives’ — including Congressman David Valadao’s (R-Hanford) — vote to advance the American Health Care Act. Hanford Sentinel article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures


Gavin Newsom faces backlash as state fights Sierra Club and San Francisco over waterfront — One of Gavin Newsom’s few duties as lieutenant governor is to serve on the State Lands Commission, a powerful agency that governs much of California’s shoreline. The three-member panel rarely draws public attention. But now its lawsuit to overturn a San Francisco ballot measure that can limit the height of waterfront developments is stirring up trouble for Newsom as he runs for governor. LA Times article


Tom Steyer says (again) he’s not running for California governor – but he’s in retail politics mode — Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer was one of several declared and potential candidates for governor seen roaming the halls of the Sacramento Convention Center on Friday, the opening day of the California Democrats’ three-day convention. LA Times article


Nurses heckle Democratic leader, threaten legislators over health care — State Democrats’ three-day convention had a raucous start Friday, as liberal activists booed and heckled Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez after marching from the state Capitol to promote a universal heath care program. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article


California Democratic heavyweight John Burton exiting the political stage – The California Democratic Party will undergo a historic transition in Sacramento this weekend, when its legendary chairman, John Burton, steps down after eight years as party chair. KQED report


Calexit plan is back, but it’s toned down – Calexit has resurfaced, but California could remain a part of the United States under a milder ballot measure that eases up on the independence-or-bust movement that arose following Donald Trump’s presidential victory. Sacramento Bee article




LA city attorney says new limits on assisting immigration agents don’t violate federal rules – New restrictions that limit how Los Angeles city workers can assist with immigration enforcement do not violate federal rules, City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a report for city lawmakers this week. LA Times article


After ICE agents appear at a Sacramento church, pastor tries to calm his flock’s deportation fears — A Sacramento pastor is pleading with his congregants to return to church this Sunday after a recent encounter with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents sparked fears of deportations. LA Times article


How the Contra Costa County sheriff works with ICE — For decades Contra Costa County has worked with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold immigrant detainees in a county jail in Richmond. But now new legislation could change that. KQED report


Other areas


State issues new assault weapon rules after threat of legal action – Regulations on the ownership and registration of assault weapons in California were released to the public late Thursday after a coalition of Second Amendment proponents threatened legal action against state agencies if the rules were not disclosed. Fresno Bee article


Andrew Fiala: What causes the powerful to come to ruin? In a word, pride – The professor of philosophy and director of The Ethics Center at Fresno State writes, “The game of power requires a constant effort to keep the hot air blowing in your own preferred direction. And when the winds shift, as they always do, the tyrant rants and howls like old King Lear raving on the heath. Pride makes us stubborn and irrational.” Fiala column in Fresno Bee


Presidential Politics


Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with case say – The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter. Washington Post article; McClatchy Newspapers article


Trump told Russians that firing ‘nut job’ Comey eased pressure from investigation — President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting. New York Times article


Former CIA director sees prosecutions from review of Trump campaign and Russia meddling — Former CIA Director Leon Panetta predicted Friday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s possible meddling in the 2016 election will result in “some prosecutions.” Fresno Bee article


Dan Schnur: No place for California GOP delegation to hide – A GOP congressman who attempts to avoid the burgeoning scandals by attempting instead to concentrate on ongoing legislative debates on health care, taxes or infrastructure appears to be shirking his or her responsibility to get to the bottom of a potential constitutional crisis. Schnur column in San Francisco Chronicle


Steve Lopez: Trump may hate California, but he’s not shy about asking its residents for donations — How can Trump ask me for money when he despises everything my state stands for and says we’re out of control, just because half the population is undocumented? Lopez column in LA Times


‘President Barack H. Obama Freeway’ en route to California –Soon Southern California drivers could be cruising along the “President Barack H. Obama Freeway.” A resolution passed by the state Senate this week names a roughly 4-mile stretch of the CA-134 freeway in Eagle Rock and Pasadena after the 44th president, waiving the usual practice that honorees be deceased before the highway designation is bestowed. Sacramento Bee article


News Stories

Top Stories


California employers slash payrolls for first time since June; jobless rate falls to 4.8 percent — California employers slashed 16,300 jobs from payrolls in April, according to data released by the state’s Employment Development Department on Friday. It was the first month that the state posted a job loss since June 2016. LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article


California State University set to scrap placement tests – California State University’s placement tests are set to become a thing of the past. The chancellor’s office wants to evaluate whether students are ready for college by using markers like high school grades and SAT or ACT scores instead of the English and math placement tests that have long been the standard. The central office sent the draft executive order, obtained by the Bay Area News Group, to presidents of the system’s 23 campuses this week for feedback. San Jose Mercury News article


Jobs and the Economy


Valley unemployment rates drop throughout Valley – Unemployment rates dropped throughout the eight-county San Joaquin Valley region in April, according to data released y the Employment Development Department. Here are the April 2017 rates, followed in parentheses by the March 2017 and April 2016 rates:

  • Fresno – 8.8 percent (10.2, 9.8)
  • Kern – 9.5 percent (11.5, 10.6)
  • Kings – 9.5 percent (11.2, 10.2)
  • Madera – 8.5 percent (9.9, 9.7)
  • Merced – 10.2 percent (12.1, 11.3)
  • San Joaquin – 7.1 percent (8.2, 8.1)
  • Stanislaus – 7.9 percent (8.9, 8.9)
  • Tulare – 9.9 percent (12.3, 10.8)


Spring hiring on Valley farms boosts April employment – The start of spring means workers are returning to Central Valley farms — 18,800 just last month alone, to be exact. That’s the word from the California Employment Development Department (EDD), whose latest unemployment data for April indicates that farm employment in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties is starting its upward cycle for the season. The Business Journal article


April set a record-low jobless rate in Merced County, analysts say — Merced County recorded the lowest unemployment rate (10.2 percent) on record for April, according to labor marker analysts. Down from last year’s 11.3 percent, April’s jobless rate beat out the previous low from 2000, according to the state Employment Development Department. The records go back to 1990, according to Steven Gutierrez, an analyst with EDD. Merced Sun-Star article


Report: Pelco to lay off estimated 200 workers by December – A new round of layoffs will hit Pelco by Schneider Electric in Clovis. ABC30 reported Friday that the company, a maker of security cameras and surveillance equipment, will lay off about 200 workers through December as it reduces its video line. Fresno Bee article


Corcoran leaders push for sales tax hike – Twice last year, Corcoran voters failed to pass Measure K, a quarter-cent sales tax increase that would have been earmarked for police and fire department needs. Now Corcoran officials are trying again with something called Measure A. Hanford Sentinel article


Merced families improving their English and job prospects through program — On Thursday afternoon 27 students in the Community Based English Tutoring program, or CBET, received certificates of recognition for the English classes they’ve been attending for about nine months. The program is geared toward Spanish-speaking parents who want to learn English. The program is offered by the Merced City School District. Merced Sun-Star article


Lemoore staff proud of proposed budget –The City of Lemoore finance committee has submitted a proposed budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, and the finance director and council seem to be happy with it. Hanford Sentinel article


Foon Rhee: How millions of minimum wage workers are getting stiffed – If you’re working for low pay, you’re already struggling to get by. Now imagine how upset you would be if you’re not even getting the minimum wage that’s legally yours. Rhee column in Sacramento Bee


With homeless using it as a bathroom, Central Library spends thousands on cleaning – The whoosh of flushing toilets is a constant interruption in the hush of Sacramento’s Central Library, where the bathrooms are the most reliably available public facilities for homeless people in downtown Sacramento. Sacramento Bee article


Another hotel planned for Sacramento airport falls through – The developer who had planned to build a hotel at Sacramento International Airport has dropped out of the project, saying it is unable to obtain financing, according to a county report. Sacramento Bee article


Skewers buys building that once housed Hero’s, St. Stan’s Brewery – The building that once housed Hero’s Sports Lounge and St. Stan’s Brewery in downtown Modesto and has been vacant for more than two years has a new owner with a familiar name. Skewers Kabob House has bought the building and is having it remodeled, said Brad Morad, who owns the downtown Mediterranean restaurant with his father, Jonathan Moradkhan. Modesto Bee article


Erika D. Smith: She’s no longer homeless, but does that make her a success story? – Desiree Salazar, once homeless, lost her infant son, Sivam Lekh, to SIDS. She’s stable now but can’t find a job or housing. Smith op-ed in Sacramento Bee




Onion peels become compost, owls eat gophers, and more tales of sustainable farming – The American Farmland Trust went looking for California farmers who strive to protect soil, water and air. They found more than 60 worth profiling in a new report, including three in and near Stanislaus County. The non-profit group used a $114,143 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to compile the report. The feds agreed with the need to spread the word about the practices. Modesto Bee article


Lemon growers hope for repeat in new lawsuit over Argentine imports – The U.S. Citrus Science Council has joined with five citrus growers in Central and Southern California to challenge the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to lift a 70-year-old ban preventing Argentine lemons from being imported to the U.S. The Business Journal article


Criminal Justice/Prisons


Thanks to drug ring bust, Fresno County sheriff gets money for a new helicopter — The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office was given a $1.8 million check Friday from the federal government as part of an assets seizure from the breakup of a synthetic marijuana-smuggling ring. Fresno Bee article


Was the top cop working undercover or dealing drugs? It’s in the jury’s hands – Jurors began deliberating Friday in the Keith Foster drug-trafficking trial after the prosecution portrayed the former deputy police chief of Fresno as a corrupt law enforcement official. Fresno Bee article


Millions of dollars in fentanyl found in Fresno County drug sting – Fresno County Sheriff’s deputies and allied drug agents this week seized an estimated $6.8 million in fentanyl during a narcotics sting. Fresno Bee article


Big changes recommended for California’s traffic court – The more than 4 million traffic tickets handed out to Californians each year for such infractions as speeding, failing to stop at a red light or failing to signal before changing lanes should no longer be criminal charges, but instead be handled in civil court, says California’s top judge.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Nearly 800 guns, including anti-tank rocker launcher, turned in at LAPD buyback — Uzis, AK-47s and an anti-tank launcher were among the nearly 800 weapons turned in at the latest Los Angeles Police Department gun buyback — an annual event that police say is helping to reduce gun crime in the city. LA Times article




Sacramento Bee: Here’s a smart way to cut college costs, courtesy of Sacramento State — At President Robert S. Nelsen’s direction, the university created its “Finish in Four” program. In addition to working with high schools to reduce the need for remedial classes, Cal State University, Sacramento, has added 658 course sections, and offers $1,000 scholarships to ease the cost of summer classes for students who promise to graduate in four years. “Sacramento State is doing an incredible job,” said Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda. Sacramento Bee editorial


Project Rebound – how ex-cons, even lifers, can get out and stay out of prison – The confetti poppers exploded and a tissue-paper storm showered the dozens of graduates at Fresno State’s Department of Social Work Education commencement Friday morning. Arnold Trevino, 51, of Strathmore also had a few rainbow-colored paper shreds dotting his ebony graduation gown here and there, and a couple of pieces got caught on the honor-student’s medallions. But he paid them no mind. He was too busy hugging his classmates as they put the last flourish on a series of celebrations. Fresno Bee article


For 16 years, these 2 Bulldogs left unfinished business in the classroom.  No longer — Sixteen years later, thanks to a boost from an ex-teammate, Huff and Marsh donned caps and gowns during Friday’s College of Social Sciences graduation ceremony at Save Mart Center. Fresno Bee article


Jerrold Jensen: Fresno’s school drop-outs a problem for entire Valley – About 70% of the inmates in our state prisons are high school dropouts – and Fresno Unified has a history of producing a lot of them. Jensen op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta


Marcos Breton: Buckle up, Sac City Unified parents: A reformer is about to take over –Long before he was named the new superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District, Jorge Aguilar was a freshman at UC Berkeley who had his educational self-worth shattered on his first day of chemistry class. Breton column in Sacramento Bee


The doctor is only a click away at these Sacramento schools. Not everyone is happy — Sacramento City Unified School District is using telemedicine to serve students at five campuses. Doctors treat kids by video call, but school nurses say care is compromised. Sacramento Bee article


Conservative force behind speeches is roiling colleges – The Young America’s Foundation, a well-funded group based in Washington, is on a mission to “restore sanity” at schools by deploying provocative speakers. New York Times article


LA teachers union faces tough questions in wake of charter election wins —  Los Angeles’ teachers union, for decades a dominant political force in school district politics, suffered a crushing defeat this week that speaks to a larger power shift away from labor and toward the growth of the well-heeled charter school movement. LA Times article


Health/Human Services


San Joaquin General Hospital surgery residency program on probation – Recently heralded as among the top medical residency training centers for aspiring surgeons, the surgery residency program at San Joaquin General Hospital was placed on probation last month by its national accreditation organization. As a result, three medical residents have decided to resign and have made arrangements to continue their surgical training in other programs. Stockton Record article


California board drops audit of 52,000 nurses – A California licensing board curtailed a massive audit of nursing credentials that it launched late last year, choosing not to finish a project that threatened to overwhelm the small department. Sacramento Bee article


West Nile virus strikes Tulare County – West Nile Virus has been detected in mosquitoes caught at three different locations in Visalia, near the Tulare city border. Visalia Times-Delta article


This shouldn’t be a public health problem, but it is … poop in the pool — Ewww! Poop in swimming pools is a big problem – and getting bigger, according to a federal public health agency. Outbreaks of parasitic infection associated with fecal material in pools are increasing, says the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fresno Bee article




Ahron Hakimi: What happens when the $680 million earmark Bill Thomas brought to the region is spent? – The executive director of Kern Council of Governments writes, “On Wednesday, Bakersfield City Council members joined retired Congressman Bill Thomas, other elected officials and the public to celebrate the city’s latest local transportation improvement project: widening State Route 178 to four lanes. While Highway 178 had to be widened and its completion marks a milestone in Bakersfield history that’s more than 20 years in the making, it begs the larger question: What happens when the $680 million earmark that Thomas brought to the Kern region is spent?”  Hakimi op-ed in Bakersfield Californian


Why did passenger train nearly derail? Elected officials want answers — Rail officials in Sacramento and the Bay Area are calling on Amtrak to publicly explain what safety actions – if any – it has taken after a passenger train jolted violently at high speed in December outside Davis, rattling riders, including two members of the train system’s board of directors. Sacramento Bee article


Other areas


Former manager of money-troubled Kings SPCA faces embezzlement charge — A former manager at Kings SPCA was arrested Friday on suspicion of embezzlement and grand theft as the shelter awaits closure because of a lack of funds. The arrest of Darlene Laboc, 58, was reported by the Kings County Sheriff’s Office, and the shelter’s board of directors confirmed it in a Facebook post on Friday. Fresno Bee article


Trailblazing Merced and Chowchilla businesswoman dead at 92 — A longtime real estate agent and trailblazing businesswoman in Merced and Chowchilla has died, a representative of the company confirmed on Friday. Roberta Flanagan, who died Thursday, was one of the first three women to open an independent real estate brokerage office in Merced, according to Carole McCoy a retired Merced real estate agent. Merced Sun-Star article


Fresno selects Napa artist to create new work for downtown’s Mariposa Plaza — Downtown Fresno’s Mariposa Plaza could soon get a major new piece of public art. The Fresno City Council is set to vote on a proposal Thursday May 25th to award a Napa  artist a $200,000 contract to create a new piece of public art for square at Fulton and Mariposa Streets. Valley Public Radio report


Valley Editorial Roundup


Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.


Sacramento Bee –- Here’s a smart way to cut college costs, courtesy of Sacramento State.