May 7, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Jerry Brown to water tunnel critics: ‘Shut up’ — Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday that critics of his twin tunnels water diversion plan should “shut up” until they spend more time studying it, defending the project and strict water conservation rules as California grapples with a fourth year of drought.  Sacramento Bee article; AP article

New online tool will help public easily see lobbyist connection to bills – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, joined former Republican state Sen. Sam Blakeslee and open-government advocates in announcing the launch of Digital Democracy, an online search engine that is now live which allows the public to hone in on specific bills or keywords, such as looking for all references in Legislative hearings to the controversial vaccine bill currently being weighed by lawmakers.  San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article


Gov. Brown 

Jerry Brown: Water woes have deep roots — Gov. Jerry Brown went back to the future Wednesday, saying water problems have confronted him, his father’s governorship and their predecessors as they sought ways to get northern water to the south. Capitol Weekly article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures 

LA’s fake police case captivates, confounds – and captures Kamala Harris’ community liaison — After a months-long investigation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department late Tuesday said it had arrested three members of the mysterious group for impersonating officers, including 31-year-old Brandon Kiel, a community affairs liaison to California Attorney General Kamala Harris.  Capitol Alert; LA Times article


Other areas

Sacramento Bee: Legislators shouldn’t duck obligation to open records – Legislators generally understand the potential implications of the laws they write. Public access to information is fundamental to a functioning democracy. The Legislative Open Records Act always has been something of an oxymoron. Sacramento Bee editorial

Palmdale officials settle lawsuit, agree to voting by district – Palmdale officials Wednesday night announced that they have agreed to major changes in their elections system, settling a widely watched lawsuit over minority representation and the California Voting Rights Act. LA Times article 

Joe Mathews: At end of life, most important right is to change your mind – The uncompromising tone of both sides of debate on “right-to-die” bill is not helping us understand what is at stake. Senate Bill 128 would allow mentally competent California residents with six or fewer months to live to obtain a prescription for lethal drugs they can give themselves. The most important right to protect at life’s end is not the right to die, but rather the right to change your mind. Mathews op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Hillary Clinton shifts from fundraising mode, meets San Francisco mayor – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton took an unexpected detour from her fundraising-only schedule in San Francisco Wednesday to visit a Chinatown teahouse, where she spent an hour with Mayor Ed Lee discussing urban issues including housing and homelessness. San Francisco Chronicle article 

Victor Davis Hanson: No law, no civilization — Increasingly in the United States, the degree to which a law is enforced – or whether a person is indicted – depends on political considerations. But when citizens do not pay any income taxes, or choose not to pay taxes that they owe and expect impunity, a complex society unwinds. And when the law has becomes negotiable, civilization utterly collapses.  Hanson column in Modesto Bee


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Bakersfield proposes largely ‘status quo’ new budget – Bakersfield city officials unveiled a $576 million proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year Wednesday night, one with no additional employees and largely status quo service levels — a “significant departure” from recent years. Whereas the city has been able to enjoy “growth-oriented” budgets the past three fiscal years, the 2015-2016 one presented to the Bakersfield City Council pulls back as a result of depressed oil prices and other hits to revenue sources and increasing employee health care and pension costs. Bakersfield Californian article

Water-pricing in two thirsty cities: In one, guzzlers pay more, and use less – Both Fresno, Calif., and Santa Fe, N.M., face dire water shortages, but only one has embraced tiered pricing, where heavy users pay much more per gallon. New York Times article


Jobs and the Economy

UC study says ranks of low-wage California workers growing – A University of California think tank is adding more fodder to the Capitol’s burgeoning debate over poverty. A third of California’s employed workers are “low-wage” and their ranks are growing, according to a new study from the Center for Labor Research and Education at University of California’s Berkeley campus. Capitol Alert 

Valley business index continues run of positive indications – A Valleywide economic index jumped by almost three points last month, pointing for the 17th straight month to continuing improvement in business conditions in the coming months. Fresno Bee article

California’s walnuts, almonds keep March exports better than rest of U.S. – Led by almonds and walnuts, California exports slipped slightly in March but managed to do better than Texas, its primary shipping rival, and the rest of the nation.  Sacramento Bee article

Fresno ranks low as place for small-business job opportunities – Fresno’s high unemployment rate, paired with a relatively low number of small businesses, low pay for employees and other factors, combined to rank the city 92nd out of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas in a new report about places in which to work for a small businessFresno Bee article

San Joaquin County travel sector steps up – San Joaquin County’s travel industry took another step up in 2014, with total destination spending rising nearly $11 million to $584.5 million, state officials reported this week.  Stockton Record article

Aetna’s rate hike excessive for small employers, regulator says – For the third time since 2013, California’s managed-care regulator has criticized health insurance giant Aetna Inc. for imposing an excessive rate hike on small employers. LA Times article

 Craft beer is now a $6.5-billion industry in California – There are now more than 550 craft breweries operating in California and the number just keeps going up. Statistics from the California Craft Brewers Assn. illustrate just how much the industry is growing.  LA Times article

Joel Fox: Don’t repeal Prop 218 — Within the body of Joe Mathews’ argument for repealing Proposition 218 he wrote for this site is the precise reason the taxpayer protection measure should continue to stand. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Asian Americans face glass ceiling at tech firms, report says – A new report released Wednesday finds that although Asian Americans may be well represented in the high-tech San Francisco Bay Area, they are severely underrepresented at the executive levels.  LA Times article

Nuttin’ but nuts at museum — If the three-digit temperature kept you from venturing out to the Kern County Nut Festival last year, you weren’t alone. Attendance was down by 3,000 people from the 10,000 who ventured out to the inaugural — and much more temperate — festival the year before. Bakersfield Californian article

Interns take Turlock’s historic downtown into the digital age — A new internship placement program is raising the profile of Turlock’s historic downtown business district – for free – by pairing communications majors who want experience and references with retailers who want an online presence and social media marketing. Modesto Bee article

100-year-old Dick’s Menswear in Fresno’s Chinatown to close – A slice of Fresno history is coming to an end: Dick’s Menswear in Chinatown will close May 15 after 100 years. Fresno Bee article

Owner closes Si’s Quality Automobiles, son joins Giant – The closing of Si’s Quality Automobiles after 39 years is only the start of a new journey for John Kalfayan. Visalia Times-Delta article 

Seller’s market: Bay Area real estate deal-making accelerates – How fast is fast? For Bay Area real estate, the speed of deal-making is accelerating this spring as homes spend less time on the market and cash deals close at bullet-train speed.  Oakland Tribune article

State must pay benefits to fired worker who left country — An appeals court has ordered the state to pay Jose Robles the unemployment benefits he should have gotten after losing his job when he tried to use a workplace allowance to get an injured friend a pair of shoes. San Francisco Chronicle article

Anthony Thigpenn: Loopholes in Prop 13 let corporations off the hook – The president of California Calls and spokesman for Make It Fair writes, “California does have the resources to create a better future – they just aren’t distributed in a way that meets our shared goals. In large measure, it is because a series of loopholes in Proposition 13 allow corporations and wealthy commercial property owners to pay less and less in taxes.”  Thigpenn op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Emeryville council votes to raise minimum wage – Set to take effect June 1, the new ordinance mandates that workers at small businesses, defined in Emeryville as 55 or fewer employees, will be paid $12.25 an hour with incremental raises toward a $15-an-hour wage by 2018.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Business sells floating in salt water to reduce stress — Everybody knows floating is relaxing, provided you’re not sharing a pool with screaming children. But would you pay to float in salt water for an hour in a quiet isolation tank? Basically, a hollow black cube free of light and sound? Bakersfield Californian article



Meeting water-saving goals will be ‘huge lift for everyone,’ regulator says — In a call with reporters Wednesday morning, State Water Resources Control Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus called California’s current water crisis “the drought of our lives,” and defended the board’s aggressive action to combat it.  LA Times article

California water districts scramble to deal with ruling on rate tiers – An appeals court last month struck down a tiered rate system in one city that charged more for water than the cost of providing it — a decision that has broad implications across the state. Now, agencies must prove that the high water rates for heavy users are not meant as punishment but actually reflect the cost of delivering the extra water.  LA Times article

‘Aggressive’ new drought rules for California: Now comes the hard part – After state regulators approved California’s first-ever statewide water restrictions on Tuesday, it’s now up to nearly 3,000 local water agencies, big and small, to make it work. KQED report

California fell far short of water-saving target; Modesto’s use rose – The numbers were mixed for Northern San Joaquin Valley cities. The water board reported Modesto increased its water use by 8 percent in March compared with March 2013, Ceres by 11 percent and Livingston by 1 percent. The board said Oakdale (39 percent), Turlock (2 percent), Riverbank (30 percent), Merced (15 percent), Atwater (46 percent) and Ripon (21 percent) reduced their consumption during the same time period. AP/Modesto Bee article 

George Skelton: Governor, show our lawns a little respect – Gov. Jerry Brown apparently wants to turn California’s green lawns into the dreary color that matches his name. Skelton column in LA Times 

Public weighs in at Fresno drought forum — “I think everyone in this room has a story to tell about how this drought is personally affecting us.” That statement was only one of several attention-grabbing comments made at a drought forum Tuesday inside the Big Fresno Fairgrounds’ Industry Commerce Building. Hanford Sentinel article

Sacramento area gears up for drought restrictions — One day after California regulators imposed historic cutbacks in urban water use, a Sacramento suburb announced its plan Wednesday for meeting the targets. The city of Folsom said it will reduce watering in parks by one third, as well as take other steps. Sacramento Bee article

California considers rules for making seawater drinkable amid drought — Water regulators in drought-stricken California on Wednesday were set to adopt new rules for desalination plants designed to make seawater drinkable in the latest effort to shore up water supplies as dry conditions stretch into a fourth year. Reuters article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Tech-savvy kids, the drought and one smart app — Five kids from Fresno who love robotics, computers and contests were in search of an idea: They wanted to enter the national First Lego Leaguecompetition. To do so, the group of sixth-graders needed to come up with an innovative research project that improves the way people learn. So they turned to the crisis most affecting the Central Valley: the drought.  KQED report


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Jerrold Jensen: Overwhelming majority of police deserve respect, thanks – The Visalia resident writes, “It is time to end the media and political war on law enforcement. Certainly we have seen disturbing videos of apparently inappropriate police actions but officers are a reflection of our society and there will always be the occasional ‘bad apple’ or an overreaction to deliberate incitement. But our police forces are the Thin Blue Line that stands between us and anarchy. Jensen op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Judge denies public access to investigation documents — A federal judge has denied a motion that would have allowed public access to documents related to the investigations of notorious serial killers Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine. Stockton Record article

California transgender inmate’s lawyers seek swift surgery — Attorneys for a transgender prison inmate said Wednesday that she could have sex reassignment surgery as early as next month if California correctional officials quickly approve the procedure.  AP article



Colleges move to expand services for immigrant students – With immigration reform stalled in Congress, a small but growing number of colleges are rolling out their own welcome mats for young people residing in the country illegally or, like Davila, under temporary deportation reprieves. Schools in California, Illinois and other states with large immigrant populations are offering in-house grants, scholarships from private donors, law clinics and additional support for such students. AP article 

Heald staffers’ paychecks in limbo – When Heald College was abruptly closed on April 27, employees were told they could pick up their final paychecks that day on campus. However, that wasn’t the case for its adjunct staff. Stockton Record article 

Former Fresno City College leader named interim president — The new interim president of Fresno City College is a familiar face: Cynthia Azari, the school’s former president who left in 2011 to take the presidential post at Riverside City College, was named Fresno City’s temporary leader on Tuesday.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Parent of special education student ‘caged’ in class sues Fresno Unified — The mother of a Fresno elementary student who was allegedly locked in a cage-like enclosure last school year has filed a federal lawsuit against Fresno Unified School District.  Fresno Bee article 

Lisa Bennett and Cathy Yun: 10 reasons to learn teaching at Fresno State – Yun, coordinator of Early Childhood Education, and Bennett, assistant professor in Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education at Fresno State offer 10 reasons to learn teaching at Fresno State.  Bennett/Yun op-ed in Fresno Bee

Special election puts new Merced trustee in office – The Merced Union High School District has a new member of its board Wednesday, as the prior day’s special election was won by a district employee. Phillip Schiber, a mentor with the district’s Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program, received 61 percent of the votes to beat out two opponents, according to the Merced County Registrar of Voters Office. Merced Sun-Star article

Mom wants songs with overtly sexual lyrics banned from all Kern High School District schools – The mother of a Bakersfield High School student is trying to get what she calls vulgar music and suggestive dance moves banned from high school events and classes — even though technically they already are. Bakersfield Californian article 

Officer involved in strip search had prior investigation – A former Stockton Unified School District police officer accused of strip searching a high school student had previously been accused of making a 9-year-old boy expose himself, according to court records. Stockton Record article 

Students occupy City College of San Francisco administration building for several hours – About 200 students occupied the administration building at City College of San Francisco for several hours on Wednesday, demanding that program cuts be reversed and that the special trustee running the school be removed.   San Francisco Chronicle article

Kings County schools win state award — Two Kings County schools were chosen this year to receive Gold Ribbon School Awards by the state. Lemoore Middle College High School and Pioneer Middle School were recognized for adopting new and innovative projects and practices on campus. Eligible schools must show that these projects and practices have helped them implement the new Common Core standards. Hanford Sentinel article 

Gregori, Davis and Valley Charter high schools in Modesto and named state Gold Ribbon schools – Three Modesto high schools and a Calaveras County middle school brought home gold, each earning statewide distinction for a particular program that sets them apart.  Modesto Bee article

State board awards disputed test contract to ETS – The State Board of Education on Wednesday awarded the Educational Testing Service a three-year, $240 million contract to administer the state’s standardized tests, despite a competitor’s call for reopening a bidding process that it called flawed and “arbitrary.” EdSource article

Call for action after sudden death of Gregori High student — It likely will be more than a month before an official cause of death is determined for the 16-year-old Gregori student who collapsed during physical education class, but a local cardiology nurse practitioner is on a campaign to prevent it from happening again. Modesto Bee article 

On Campus: Journalists hear education stats, pet peeves — The American Educational Research Association brought journalists to Chicago for Data at Your Desk training, giving us an overview of nationally collected education statistics and a serious dressing down for media misdeeds. Modesto Bee article



Restraining order sought against PG&E in Fresno pipeline explosion – Lawyers for men injured in the April 17 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. pipeline explosion are seeking a restraining order against PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission prohibiting the pipeline from being further damaged or destroyed.  Fresno Bee article 

Amount of carbon dioxide in air keeps rising, hits milestone – Global levels of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent heat-trapping gas, have passed a daunting milestone, federal scientists say. AP article

State, federal firefighters warn of worrisome fire season – Firefighters and community leaders gathered Wednesday afternoon before a depleted Millerton Lake to warn residents that severe drought conditions have again made forests and fields “ripe” for fast-moving wildfires. Fresno Bee article

U.S. quake damage is a risk that goes way beyond California – People living in California and the West Coast still face the highest earthquake risk. But a new study says we are not alone. That report found that close to half of all Americans — nearly 150 million people — are threatened by shaking from earthquakes strong enough to cause damage. LA Times article

Lots of earthquakes across California – is there a connection? – It was an active seismic day in California, with small earthquakes rattling residents across Northern California and the Inland Empire on Wednesday morning. Although conspiracy theories are tempting, earthquake experts said there’s no reason to think they’re connected.  LA Times article

Fresno residents receive solar panel systems with climate change funding – Southeast Fresno resident Salvador Mendoza can’t afford the $2,000-a-month medication for his lung disease, but starting Thursday he will be closer to relief. Fresno Bee article

Fresno State electric car charging station opens – Electric car owners in Fresno and Clovis now have another spot to charge up their vehicle. Fresno State has installed six charging stations just west of Save Mart Center, where students, staff and the public can park and plug in. Signs will soon go up on Highway 168 advertising the station. Fresno Bee article


Health/Human Services

New study gives more evidence of Obamacare gains for millions –  As congressional Republicans move toward another vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, new evidence was published Wednesday about the dramatic expansion of insurance coverage made possible by the law. LA Times article

Madera protestors urge discount retailers to remove toxic chemicals from toys, baby products — A small group of protestors gathered in front of Dollar Tree in Madera on Wednesday morning to raise awareness of toys and baby products they said are laced with toxic chemicals. Fresno Bee article

Bill to require prescription labeling for non-English speakers moves forward in California — Labels or instructions would have to be available in one of at least five other languages, upon a patient’s request. Those languages are Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Korean or Russian.  Capital Public Radio report


Land Use/Housing 

Hanford growth presents challenges — City officials got a preview Tuesday night of some of the growing pains the Hanford might face over the next 20 years. The Hanford City Council held a joint study session with the city planning commission to hear a progress report on the update to the city’s general plan. When finished, the plan will set policies to shape the city’s long-term growth. Hanford Sentinel article



Caltrans responds to Bay Bridge leak concerns – The discovery of chloride in water accumulating at the tower base of the new Bay Bridge does not mean that salty bay water is leaking in, Caltrans says. Contra Costa Times article

GET changes bus service to improve reliability — Service changes approved Tuesday by the Golden Empire Transit District’s board of directors will make buses run more frequently on some routes while extending operating hours on others. Bakersfield Californian article


Other areas 

Fresno County District Attorney Smittcamp forms ‘public integrity’ unit to root out corruption – Fresno County District Attorney Lisa A. Smittcamp on Wednesday said she was forming a “public integrity” unit that will investigate possible public corruption or election-related crimes.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Fresno federal bench hopeful Drozd finally get Senate hearing — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday lent a sympathetic ear to U.S. Magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd, as he sought elevation to a Fresno-based position as U.S. District Court judge. McClatchy Newspapers article 

‘Call Vinnie at the FBI’ – Details emerged Wednesday in the wild limousine outing late last year in which a Woodbridge man riding with Mayor Anthony Silva was arrested by the California Highway Patrol for allegedly bloodying a female companion and causing major damage to the vehicle. Stockton Record article

Cal Fire chief battles bureaucracy – In his first press interviews after purging management at his department’s Ione cadet academy, Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott says he’s rubbing off the tarnish of scandal there that has sullied his department’s image. The boomerang promotions of two managers he disciplined, however, illustrate the challenge he faces managing the sprawling bureaucracy. Sacramento Bee article

BMoA embracing period of change – With three executive directors in two years and the loss of a popular and influential curator, it’s been a period of seismic transition at the Bakersfield Museum of Art, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year. Bakersfield Californian article 

Livingston councilman resigns — The Livingston City Council accepted the resignation of one of its members Tuesday, and set into motion an effort to appoint his replacement before July. Former Councilman David Mendoza officially submitted his resignation from the council by email on April 30, Interim City Manager Odi Ortiz said during the meeting this week. Merced Sun-Star article

State Supreme Court to decide definition of ‘marital separation’ — On Tuesday, the California Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides on how to tell when a married couple starts to live “separate and apart,” the date when each spouse can start keeping his or her own income.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Nobody took charge when protestors disrupted Oakland council — When an Oakland City Council meeting devolved into chaos Tuesday, with protesters storming the dais and commandeering the chambers to hold their own “People’s Council” meeting, many city officials were caught flat-footed, waiting for someone to take charge. It never happened.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Judge Judy gives justice to Fresno man, scolds teacher and her family — A dispute over a handicapped parking space in a northwest Fresno shopping center led a teacher and her family to give 44-year-old Adrian Gamez a beatdown in broad daylight. Gamez, however, says he got the last laugh, courtesy of Judge Judy, who did her own verbal smackdown of Vickie and Daniel Dupont and their teenage son before a national audience. Fresno Bee article



Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – California needs a “cash-for-grass” program.

Sacramento Bee – Sacramento arts center boosters must show us the money; Legislators generally understand the potential implications of the laws they write. Public access to information is fundamental to a functioning democracy. The Legislative Open Records Act always has been something of an oxymoron.