May 9, 2015

11May

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Political Briefs

Top stories

Judge grants Kamala Harris a delay in processing anti-gay ballot initiative — California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Thursday received an extension of next week’s deadline to process a proposed ballot initiative that advocates killing anyone who engages in gay sex. AP article

AD 31: Arambula will make his bid official on Monday — Joaquin Arambula, an emergency room doctor and son of former Assembly Member and Fresno County Supervisor Juan Arambula, will on Monday morning officially announce his bid for the 31st Assembly District seat. If Arambula wins next year, he will take over the seat held by his father. Juan Arambula represented the district from 2004 to 2010. The seat is currently held by Fresno Democrat Henry T. Perea, who will reach his term limit at the end of next year. Fresno Bee article

Valley politics

AD 12: Ripon resident joins race — A fourth Republican has announced candidacy for the 12th Assembly District seat being vacated in 2016 when Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, leaves office after three two-year terms. Ripon resident Heath Flora threw his hat in the ring with an announcement Thursday. Modesto Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Swearengin still has campaign debt from state controller’s race — It’s been six months since Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin fell short in her bid to win the state controller’s race, and she’s still carrying campaign debt. Tim Clark, who is Swearengin’s political adviser, said he’s not too worried about raising the money. Maybe he should be, since Clark says all of Swearengin’s remaining debt is owed to him. Fresno Bee article

John Myers: Is do-over on the horizon for California’s sales tax? – The broader issue is that California’s sales tax remains largely focused on goods and not services, while the state’s economy has decidedly shifted toward more growth and reliance on services. So … does that mean changes are overdue? Or, more importantly, are they politically doable? Myers in KQED

Author of ‘shoot the gays’ ballot initiative won’t face discipline — Matt McLaughlin, the Huntington Beach attorney behind a controversial proposal to authorize the killing of gays and lesbians, will not face professional discipline, officials said in a letter released Friday. Carol Dahmen, whose petition to disbar McLaughlin received nearly 140,000 signatures, has been notified by the State Bar of California that it doesn’t plan to pursue the case.  Capitol Alert

Immigration

LA County poised to end jail partnership with U.S. immigration agents — Los Angeles County leaders are poised to end a controversial program that places federal immigration agents inside county jails so they can determine whether inmates may be deportable. LA Times article

U.S.: Work permits issued after immigration action delayed — The U.S. government says it “erroneously” awarded three-year work permits to 2,000 people under President Barack Obama’s executive immigration action after a judge had put the plan on hold. The revelation is the second time the federal government has had to clarify whether part of the immigration plan had been implemented after a court order that put it on hold. AP article

Other areas

Dems, GOP ready to act if Supreme Court axes House districts – Vulnerable House incumbents are fattening their campaign accounts as the Supreme Court approaches a decision on a case that could force legislatures to reshape congressional districts in 13 states or more, perhaps in time for next year’s elections. AP article

Joel Fox: Unwarranted influence of education establishment blunts reforms — In hearing that a number of common sense education reforms were turned away by the majority Democrats in the Assembly Education Committee last week I couldn’t help think of the famous line from President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address. Yes, quite a leap from a California assembly committee vote and Eisenhower’s call to be wary of the military-industrial complex. But, in considering the broad idea behind the president’s thought there is a connection. Fox in Fox & Hounds

The East Bay’s next big intra-Democratic battle – Actually, make that Democrat-on-Democrat-on-Democrat. Former assembly membersWilma Chan, Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson all seem primed to run for the 9th State Senate District seat, from which Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will be term-limited out in 2016.  Political Blotter

Congressman Kevin McCarthy: House legislation helps small businesses thrive – The House Majority Leader (R-Bakersfield) writes, “In the House, we are leading by example and passing bipartisan bills that help small business in a competitive economy.”  McCarthy in Fox & Hounds

George Runner: Tax hikes look silly as state gets financial windfall – The vice chairman of the State Board of Equalization writes, “It must be silly season in Sacramento. As the state receives billions in unanticipated revenues, liberal tax-and-spend lawmakers are proposing massive tax hikes, proving once again that they are out of touch with reality.” Runner op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Legal marijuana faces another federal hurdle: Taxes – The country’s rapidly growing marijuana industry has a tax problem. Even as more states embrace legal marijuana, shops say they are being forced to pay crippling federal income taxes because of a decades-old law aimed at preventing drug dealers from claiming their smuggling costs and couriers as business expenses on their tax returns.  New York Times article

Carly Fiorina’s misleading claims about her business record — Fiorina is running for president in part on her record in the business world, as a former executive at AT&T, Lucent and Hewlett-Packard. So let’s check each of these claims as she framed them. Washington Post article

Hillary ‘on fire’ at Portola Valley fundraiser, Dems say — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton talked about foreign policy, joked about dying her hair, and spoke about the passing of David Goldberg, the husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, during her stop in Portola Valley Friday, according to an insider on the scene. San Francisco Chronicle article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Modesto pitches for tax at budget hearings – Mayor Garrad Marsh and other top city officials last week continued to make their case for why Modesto needs a sales tax increase. That message dominated Wednesday’s and Thursday’s budget hearings as the City Council’s Finance Committee – chaired by Marsh – heard staff presentations on the city’s proposed $367 million operating budget for its 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts July 1. Modesto Bee article

Fresno State task force calls for more water education programs – A water task force report by Fresno State faculty and administrators and local agriculture leaders calls for strengthening the school’s programs and research aimed at educating the next crop of Valley water policy leaders and managers. Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Index: Valley economic growth accelerated in April – Growth in the local economy will continue to accelerate through the next three to six months, according to the latest San Joaquin Valley Business Conditions Index for April.  The Business Journal article

Senators apply new pressure on oil industry as gas prices rise — California senators investigating the recent surge in gas prices are escalating pressure on oil industry executives. Sens. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, and Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, demanded in a letter Thursday that companies provide more information about their operations, including maintenance, outages and price spikes. Capitol Alert

Two Von’s supermarkets in Fresno closing – Two Vons supermarkets in Fresno will close in a month, a company official confirmed. The last day for the store at Holland and Blackstone avenues is scheduled for June 12, said Keith Turner, senior communications manager. “We are working to place employees in other stores,” Turner said in an email. Turner also confirmed the Vons at First Street and Nees Avenue also would close. The exact date was not disclosed. Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

LA councilman floating compromise plan on minimum wage hikes – A Los Angeles city councilman is floating a compromise plan on boosting the minimum wage, one that would move more gradually to increase hourly pay to $15.25 than other proposals being studied at City Hall. LA Times article

Court revives two investment suits against CalPERS – In a case with racial overtones and ties to the CalPERS bribery scandal, an appeals court Friday revived two lawsuits targeting the pension fund’s refusal to invest $100 million with a private equity firm.  Sacramento Bee article

LACMA’s most reliable patrons: 10 million taxpayers —  When the Los Angeles County Museum of Art celebrates its 50th anniversary, it’s worth remembering that its biggest, most steadfast benefactors, past, present and future, are the county’s 10 million residents. Yes, when it comes to shouldering the financial load for LACMA, celebrated arts philanthropists such as Eli and Edythe Broad, Lynda and Stewart Resnick and Wallis Annenberg have done praiseworthy service. But they all rank far below You, the People.  LA Times article

On tap for Lengthwise: Expansion through the Valley — On Wednesday the brewery shipped 84 kegs north, taking the Lengthwise brand out of Kern County for the first time. Kern County, where nearly all of Lengthwise’s business is now located, will always be home, Williams said. But the brewery has signed a distribution agreement with Fresno-based Valley Wide Beverage Co. that will take its bottled beer and kegs into Fresno, Madera, Merced, Mariposa, Kings and Tulare counties, he said. Bakersfield Californian article

Those rising vegetable prices? Blame California’s warm winters – Fruit has been ripening and ready to pick at almost shockingly early dates. At the same time, some vegetables have been in extremely short supply, resulting in much higher than normal prices. Lettuces are selling at wholesale for twice what they were at this time last year. Cauliflower has doubled just since February. LA Times article

Hobby Lobby slates grand opening in Hanford – The store will hire between 30 to 50 local employees including cashiers, stockers, managers and other positions. Parker said new stores usually start taking applications three to four weeks before they open. The company will announce when and where to apply via a local classified ad. Hanford Sentinel article

Newsom: Grand strategy needed – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that California needs “a grand strategy” to prepare for economic and social changes that a recent flurry of technological innovation will continue to bring in coming years. U-T San Diego article

Spanos, Faulconer meet again – Chargers owner Dean Spanos met Thursday morning with top city and county officials to discuss progress on a possible new stadium for the team in San Diego, a spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Friday.  U-T San Diego article

Politico drops suit against Ranadive over Kings ownership dispute — Sacramento power broker Darius Anderson has dropped his lawsuit against two of the top owners of the Sacramento Kings, claiming they reneged on an agreement to let him invest in the team. Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento tech organization names new CEO — SARTA, a Sacramento technology organization, named a new chief executive Friday, for the second time in eight months. The Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance named Howard Bubb as its CEO effective Monday. He’s worked for several technology companies, including Intel Corp.  Sacramento Bee article

Local show support for Visalia Fox Theatre’s 85th anniversary – Folks of all ages crowded the doors of the Visalia Fox Theatre Friday night, eager to celebrate 85 years of history. Visalia Times-Delta article

Amgen delivers economic boost to midtown Sacramento on busy weekend – According to the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, Amgen will pump more than $2.7 million into Sacramento’s economy. It’s expected to draw 50,000 spectators on Sunday. Sacramento Bee article

Foon Rhee: The Numbers Crunch: Can tourism help narrow California’s prosperity gap? — You know that old saying: It’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there? Turns out it isn’t quite true when it comes to tourism spending. In California, as elsewhere, the top visitor destinations are also where the most people live. Rhee in Sacramento Bee

San Francisco protestors make their case (loudly) in the halls of power — “Ed Lee, can’t you see, we don’t need more luxury!” chanted some 400 protesters Friday inside City Hall, as they rallied against widespread evictions in the Mission and in support of protecting arts communities.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Bay Area transit funding fight spreads as layoffs, cutback options loom — A federal agency has backed off a legal challenge that has delayed more than $100 million in federal grants to Bay Area and other transit agencies, but the state wants to keep fighting because it says the money remains in limbo. Contra Costa Times article

Agriculture/Water/Drought

Livingston looks to reduce water use, step up enforcement – The water restrictions in Livingston will tighten on Monday after a vote by City Council this week to enact an “urgency” ordinance. Under the new rules, residents will now only be able to water two days a week rather than three. The city had no time-of-day restrictions on sprinkling of outdoor plants and grass, but the new ordinance prohibits outdoor water use between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Merced Sun-Star article

State building rock barrier to protect delta from salt water – The state began erecting a rock barrier Friday across a riverbed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in an emergency effort to prevent salt water from contaminating the freshwater supply used by 25 million Californians.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Shawn Hubler: A couple more fightin’ words in the water wars – Shut up. Shut up. Can you believe he said that? Just when you thought California’s water wars had used up every fightin’ word invented, Gov. Jerry Brown this week opened a whole new floodgate. Hubler in Sacramento Bee

Drought spinoffs: Dead orchards may go up in smoke – In drought-wounded Terra Bella, Kent Duysen says he has seen the plumes of smoke recently — farm-waste burning linked to both the devastating dry time and a faltering biomass energy industry. The San Joaquin Valley’s tainted air might be getting an extra dose of soot and ozone-forming gases this spring as growers wrestle with the woody waste from dead citrus orchards. Fresno Bee article

Sacramento water agencies plan gentle approach on drought cutbacks – The decision is final, the deadline is non-negotiable, and the targets for conserving water are the most stringent in California. Just don’t expect Sacramento-area water agencies to go into a tough-cop mode as they gear up for new state-ordered drought restrictions that begin in June.  Sacramento Bee article

Northern California’s water-bottling plant critics consider the source – Siskiyou County officials were effusive in 2013 when Crystal Geyser’s chief executive announced outside an idled bottling plant here that it would soon be churning out sparkling water, teas and flavored beverages. LA Times article

Joe Mathews: Boyfriend’s back and he’s watering the lawn — The California public is like the worst boyfriend or girlfriend you ever have; he or she is full of complaints, but he or she can’t tell you what they want done to solve the problem. That phenomenon is starting to show up in surveys on water. Mathews in Fox & Hounds

Drought takes a gulp out of splash pads – What isn’t the drought impacting these days? It certainly hasn’t left the water play areas in Hanford’s parks untouched. Officials are cutting hours and reducing the number of days at sites at Freedom Park, Centennial Park, Hidden Valley Park and Coe Park. Hanford Sentinel article

Jeff Heinle: Quit fooling around and do something about this drought – The captain with the Bakersfield Fire Department writes, “I, like many others, literally don’t care about the smelt in the Delta, don’t care if the empirical data quantify climate change, don’t care about the environmental impacts of desalination, and don’t care about any jobs that can be created by making a water pipeline across the United States. And I certainly don’t care who makes a profit off water rights, as pathetic as that is to profit from. What I care about, and what everybody should care about, is having a water supply, filing up our existing reservoirs, maintaining our aquifers, keeping our farms producing and being able to turn on the faucet to get a drink of water.” Heinle op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

More sour-tasting water coming to some California homes – Residents in some San Francisco Bay Area cities are again going to experience sour-tasting drinking water. That’s because the East Bay Municipal Utility District is switching its water supply due to California’s ongoing drought and legal obligations to protect threatened fish species. AP article

William Tweed: Who uses water? The answer isn’t easy – Whatever your politics, we’re not going to solve our water shortage just by focusing on getting water back from environmental uses, or from any other single user for that matter. We’re all in this together. Tweed column in Visalia Times-Delta

Cattle ranchers lock horns with almond investors – Kathy Smith’s family has grazed cattle on this ranch near Oakdale, southeast of Modesto, since 1943. But now she’s worried that an explosion in investor-backed almond orchards might threaten that livelihood. KQED report

Getting creative on saving water: Tips from experts and listeners – With maximum fines now set at $10,000 and the citation process a bit more streamlined, many Californians are going to have to move from merely thinking about conserving water to actually doing it.  KQED report

Flood plan comes at a cost – The plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers calls for improving 23 miles of levees, from Mosher Slough in the north to French Camp Slough in the south. This is intended to protect much of Stockton from catastrophic floods worsened by climate change. But deep in the documents are details that might alarm residents living immediately behind these levees. Stockton Record article

Farm Beat: Dairy farmers seek relief from low milk prices – Farmers hope for relief through a June 3 hearing in Sacramento called by Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. She will consider an extra adjustment on top of the monthly minimums in an effort to help farmers cover feed and other costs. Modesto Bee article

Dealers: Drought hurting farm equipment sales – With California’s historic drought draining the profits of many Valley farmers, area ag equipment suppliers are also feeling the pain. Dealers up and down the Valley report sales of tractors, combines and balers have slowed considerably in recent weeks as more Valley acreage is fallowed and farmers gird for what could be a bone-dry summer growing season. The Business Journal article

Building boom and drought collide on Catalina Island — Hotels are shipping laundry to the mainland for washing, contractors are mixing cement with water they import by barge and residents are squaring off with developers over choices between rationing and curbing growth. LA Times article

California rainstorm too little, too late – The rain and snow that falls in Southern California does help recharge our local groundwater supply and fill small reservoirs. But the way California’s water system is set up, consistent heavy downpours must also drench Northern California to make a real dent in the drought. LA Times article

Marge Gutsch: Why keep building more water-consuming homes – The Visalia resident writes, “We will do our share and not complain about doing it, but it’s time for the people to take some pride in their homes, keep them neat and the city needs to take steps to stop the building of anything that will require water hookups. Gutsch op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Sexual assault investigations: College student’s stand prompts reforms by Oakland police – Shaken and anxious, Kendall Anderson didn’t know what to expect when she arrived at the Oakland Police Department to meet with an investigator after reporting she was raped on a date. But she certainly didn’t imagine being led into a windowless interrogation room with handcuffs on the chair, gruff questions about her virginity and the insinuation that she was confusing “rough sex” with rape. San Jose Mercury News article

San Francisco police scandal focuses attention on dwindling number of blacks – In the wake of a police scandal involving racist text messages, some black leaders are again lamenting the shrinking size of the city’s black community. They have questioned whether a mass exodus of African Americans in recent decades have been driven as much by subtle forms of racism as by the city’s high cost of housing. LA Times article

Friends puzzled by trio accused of creating fake police force — Public records and interviews with those who dealt with them over the last few decades offer a glimpse into how a group of apparently civic-minded people seemed to establish a fictitious police department, complete with badges, uniforms and weapons. LA Times article

Education

UC Merced graduation ceremonies set for next week – UC Merced could pass its record set last year for the number of graduates during two ceremonies set next weekend. Brenda Ortiz, a spokeswoman for the university, said 1,115 students will participate in the ceremonies, but some of them must return in the fall to finish up their degrees. That gives UC Merced only the slightest buffer to surpass the record set last year of 1,106 graduates. Merced Sun-Star article

Avenal district may close school — Young, struggling students could soon lose a vital learning resource this year. The Reef-Sunset Unified School District is considering closing its Primary Community Day School, a small school geared toward helping students up to sixth grade who struggle in regular class due to behavioral problems. Hanford Sentinel article

After 33 years, Mackey signing off – For every teaching experience that Lori Mackey and her Deaf students have gone through, there are pictures. Snapshots of riding cable cars in San Francisco, of visiting planetariums, of touching the ocean for the first time, of going to Monterey or Santa Cruz. Stockton Record article

The lesson of diversity – Friday’s main lesson for hundreds of Franklin High School students wasn’t on a whiteboard, in a classroom or from a book; it was outdoors, where they mingled, danced and ate during the school’s first multicultural festival. Stockton Record article

LA Unified teachers ratify three-year contract – An overwhelming majority of teachers union members voted to ratify a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the union announced Friday. More than 97% of 25,407 educators who cast ballots favored the pact, which includes a 10% raise over two years. LA Times article; AP article

Michael Hiltzik: Suit against teachers union isn’t about free speech but silencing members — Attacks on public employee unions, especially teachers unions, have become a permanent feature of the political landscape. But you’d be hard pressed to find one as incoherent and dishonest as a lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Los Angeles against six California and national teachers unions. Hiltzik in LA Times

Sacramento State announces fundraising campaign to build events center — Sacramento State officials hope to ride the momentum of breakthrough seasons for the men’s and women’s basketball teams to the construction of a new multi-purpose campus events center. Sacramento Bee article

Energy/Environment

Merced Sun-Star: Merced Irrigation District must contest flawed FERC impact statement – When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission grants a license to operate a dam, it usually lasts 50 years. So you want to get it right. Unfortunately, much of what we’ve seen in the 645-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement that would govern Merced Irrigation District’s operation of New Exchequer Dam doesn’t strike us as right or acceptable. Merced Sun-Star editorial

LA becomes first U.S. city to enact quake safety standards for new cellphone towers — On Friday, Los Angeles became the first city in the nation to enact seismic standards for new cellphone towers, part of a new effort to strengthen communications infrastructure in preparation for the next big quake.  LA Times article

Fresno-area residents face mosquito district vote — Ballots are in the mail for residents in the Fresno Mosquito Vector and Control District, which oversees the control and extermination of the pesky insects in an area that includes much of Fresno and rural areas west and south of the city. Fresno Bee article

Health/Human Services

San Francisco mayor signs law that bans chewing tobacco at ballparks – San Francisco has become the first city in the nation to outlaw chewing tobacco from its playing fields, including AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants. AP article

After cuts in California dental insurance, ER visits went up – After dental benefits were removed from California’s public health insurance for the poor, emergency room visits for dental problems went up, a new study shows. Removing comprehensive dental benefits from the state’s Medicaid program in 2009 led to nearly 1,800 additional ER visits per year for dental problems, the researchers estimate.  Reuters article

Are California nail salons safe for workers? —  So how safe are working conditions at nail salons in California? Some are asking that question after much-discussed stories in the New York Times this week examining working conditions and safety at New York nail salons. LA Times article

Construction of new center for disabled kicks off — Under cloudy skies, New Advances for People with Disabilities broke ground Friday morning on the new Center for Creative Achievement, a $4.1 million, 17,000-square-foot facility that will be built on Brittan Street, west of North Sillect Avenue. The center is a day program that provides a creative learning environment for more than 180 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Bakersfield Californian article

Transportation

Stockton air travel on the rise — Passenger traffic is on the rise at Stockton Metropolitan Airport, with a 12 percent increase in volume through the first four months of year. Stockton Record article

Other areas

Children raise 44,020 dimes to help injured Fresno fire captain – Maple Creek Elementary students learned the value of a dime Friday. For collecting $4,402 — the equivalent of 44,020 dimes —for the Leon S. Peters Burn Center, they got a wave and a smile from Pete Dern, the Fresno fire captain who is recovering from severe burns he got while battling a blaze. Fresno Bee article

Dyer: ‘We need more people with passion’ — Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer spoke candidly Thursday about personal and professional struggles during the Kings Prayer Force’s 15th annual National Day of Prayer in Hanford. Dyer, who has been with the Fresno Police Department for 36 years and nearly 14 of those as chief, told the crowd of hundreds gathered at the Civic Auditorium how faith in God has guided him and provided purpose during good times and bad.  Hanford Sentinel article

San Joaquin County supervisors settle sexual harassment lawsuit – San Joaquin County has settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with two employees who filed a claim last fall. San Joaquin County supervisors voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve a settlement of $150,000 to both women. Stockton Record article

Mothers lead change in Merced communities – Some say that if you want to see change in a community, you leave it up to moms. The power of moms, they say, is like no other. Mothers around Merced County are proof of this. Merced Sun-Star article

City considers closing loophole in Sacramento’s public nudity law — There’s no law that forbids a naked person from walking down J Street. Sacramento police want to change that. A proposed amended ordinance would make it illegal to be nude on streets, sidewalks. Sacramento Bee article

Complaint: Pasadena leaders received thousands in Rose Bowl tickets — Pasadena city leaders received tens of thousands of dollars worth of free tickets to the Rose Bowl in 2014, according to a Times analysis of ticket disclosure forms. Free tickets are a common perk for officials in cities such as Los Angeles or Anaheim, where there are large entertainment venues. But Pasadena officials’ acceptance of free tickets has raised concerns with some residents.  LA Times article

Newspapers place bets on a regional strategy —  The Los Angeles Times and U-T San Diego will soon share an owner, in a bet that they can usher in a new era of newspapering in Southern California built on geographic strength in numbers. LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission grants a license to operate a dam, it usually lasts 50 years. So you want to get it right. Unfortunately, much of what we’ve seen in the 645-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement that would govern Merced Irrigation District’s operation of New Exchequer Dam doesn’t strike us as right or acceptable.

Modesto Bee – Our View: We’re glad reps are working together for veterans, Assemblymember Kristin Olsen’s good law comes to a bad end, and other issues.