November 13, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

CD16: Rep. Jim Costa takes slim lead over Johnny Tacherra – Republican Johnny Tacherra is in Washington, D.C. at the orientation for new members of Congress, but he’s no longer in the lead for the 16th Congressional District seat. Fresno County updated its vote count Wednesday afternoon, and incumbent Fresno Democrat Jim Costa — behind in his reelection bid since election night more than a week ago — took a slim, 86-vote lead over Tacherra.  Fresno Bee article

John Myers:  Might California’s low voter turnout spark 2016 initiative frenzy? – Here’s one to ponder as we await the tallying of tens of thousands of uncounted ballots: Will this fall’s voter malaise in California plant the seeds for a ballot initiative frenzy in two years? What’s the connection, you say? Simple. It’s in the state constitution — a little-talked-about provision that uses votes cast in a gubernatorial election as the measuring stick for future initiatives.  Myers in KQED

Valley politics

Last chance to divide Visalia – Creating five voter districts in Visalia is no simple task. Besides Visalia not being square or round or any other clear shape that could easily be split like a pie, different parts of the city have different population concentrations, so a slice near downtown could have hundreds more people than less densely-populated neighborhoods in the northwest.  Visalia Times-Delta article

State’s political watchdog fines Rios $4,000 for violating campaign-finance laws – Delano Republican Pedro Rios, who has made two unsuccessful runs for the state Assembly, has agreed to pay a $4,000 fine levied by the state’s political watchdog for violating campaign-finance laws.  Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

George Skelton: California Legislature is looking more moderate due to voting reforms – Until last week, no Democratic state legislator running for reelection had lost to a Republican in 20 years. Then suddenly three did. When incumbents start losing their legislative seats, it means something is happening.  Skelton column in LA Times

California pollsters fret about future turnout – California’s premier public opinion gurus on Wednesday offered some sobering thoughts about possible continued voter apathy in non-presidential elections. But first, an observation about a pair of Democratic statewide officeholders believed to harbor ambitions of even higher office.  Capitol Alert

Quinn: Latinos lose in Senate redistricting – After three years and a full complement of State Senate races, it is clear that in 2011 the Citizens Redistricting Commission adopted a plan that actually reduces Latino representation in the State Senate, this at a time when Latino population and political influence was mushrooming.  Quinn in Fox & Hounds

Sacramento Bee: Schools chief race suffered at the bottom of the ballot – California’s schools chief job might not have a lot of power, but it has the power of the bully pulpit and clearly is seen as consequential to the future of education. It deserves a higher spot on the ballot, which can be accomplished with simple legislation.  Sacramento Bee editorial


California immigrant license preparations continue with extended DMV hours – On the verge of granting hundreds of thousands of drivers licenses to immigrants in the country unlawfully, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will extend its hours and offer more appointments next year.  Sacramento Bee articleFresno Bee article

AP Exclusive: Drones patrol half of Mexico border – The U.S. government now patrols nearly half the Mexican border by drones alone in a largely unheralded shift to control desolate stretches where there are no agents, camera towers, ground sensors or fences, and it plans to expand the strategy to the Canadian border. AP article

Other areas

California legislators flying to Maui to meet with special interests – With the dust still settling from last week’s election, two dozen state lawmakers are flying to luxury resorts in Hawaii for conferences subsidized and attended by interests that lobby the Legislature: oil companies, public employee unions, drug and tobacco firms, and others. LA Times article

Concealed gun ruling stands: Opponents of looser permit standards denied bid to join the case – A ruling that greatly loosened California’s rules for carrying concealed firearms came closer to taking effect Wednesday after a federal appeals court denied bids by California’s attorney general, a gun-control group and two police groups to join the case.  San Jose Mercury News articleLA Times article

Bera surges ahead of Ose in razor-close race – Freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera has captured the lead over Republican Doug Ose in the expensive and closely watched race for suburban Sacramento’s 7th Congressional District. Bera surged ahead of Ose by 711 votes, 87,643 to 86,932, in the most recent vote totals announced Wednesday afternoon.  Capitol AlertSan Francisco Chronicle article

California state senator trial up early next year – A federal judge says he wants the political corruption portion of a sweeping San Francisco Chinatown organized crime case to go to trial quickly. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said Wednesday that he wants state Sen. Leland Yee, political consultant Keith Yee and any other defendants caught up in the corruption portion of the case to start trial early next year.  AP articleSan Francisco Chronicle article

Sacramento Labor Council, leader Camp agree to $15,500 fine – Sacramento labor leader Bill Camp and the Central Labor Council have agreed to pay a $15,500 fine for accepting donations and making contributions to political candidates above the state-mandated limit in 2010.  Sacramento Bee article

Senate moves to consider bill to limit NSA surveillance – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved Wednesday to take up legislation that would curtail some of the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone data.  LA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Low-income students largely spared tuition hikes – Financial aid and scholarships have largely spared students from low and some middle-income families from shouldering the cost of recent tuition increases at the University of California and California State University, an independent think tank reported Wednesday. AP articlePPIC news release

San Joaquin County General Plan: Lost farmland, more traffic, worse air inevitable – The proposed General Plan for unincorporated San Joaquin County discourages sprawl and directs growth to urban areas, but lost farmland, increased traffic and worse air are inevitable as the county’s population grows to nearly 1 million people over the next 20 years.  Stockton Record article

Jobs and the Economy

Restaurants ponder service fees as wages rise – What if restaurants eliminated tipping in favor of charging patrons a flat service fee?  That’s a question some local restaurant-owners are pondering as a way of dealing with increasing minimum wage in California.  The Business Journal article

Sacramento-based Blue Diamond amasses record revenue of $1.5 billion for state’s almond crop – Sacramento-based Blue Diamond Growers, which will host its 104th annual meeting next Wednesday at the Sacramento Convention Center, amassed record annual revenue of $1.5 billion in 2014, up 25 percent from $1.2 billion the prior year. The cooperative said payments to almond growers will total $1.1 billion, also a record and a nearly 25 percent year-over-year improvement.  Sacramento Bee article

Nurses strike is part of larger labor push – A strike during the past two days by 18,000 nurses at Kaiser Permanente facilities in northern and central California, including three major Sacramento-area hospitals, was the latest salvo by a powerful union that says it is intent on improving the lot of nurses nationwide.  Sacramento Bee article

Business expansion a good sign for Merced – Investments in Merced’s economy through expansion, marketing and new construction continue to improve the business climate in town, according to city leaders.  Merced Sun-Star article

Economy not strong enough yet to lift interest rates, Fed’s Dudley says – A top Federal Reserve policymaker said Thursday the economy still isn’t strong enough to handle an increase in interest rates, but he expressed hope that will change sometime next year.  LA Times article

Commission approves Plaza Drive development – Visalia officials have hoped for years to attract high-tech businesses like Microsoft or Oracle to a parcel of land northwest of Highway 198 and Plaza Drive in Visalia. Despite the area’s “business research park” zoning, those sorts of businesses have never come. So earlier this week, the Visalia Planning Commission decided to give owners of the 25-acre parcel of dry farmland a chance to put other types of businesses there.  Visalia Times-Delta article

California welcomes Chinese visa policy change – Chinese visitors are already flocking to California, and a visa change that takes effect Wednesday could increase the number of Chinese tourists coming to the state.  KPBS report

A real hoverboard? How a Los Gatos startup is making it happen – Skateboarding is going airborne this fall with the launch of the first real commercially marketed hoverboard which uses magnetics to float about an inch off the ground. The creators believe their technology will someday be used to transport large containers or hold buildings above earthquakes as the ground shakes below. But for now, it’s all about fun, as demonstrated in a recent practice session. AP article

Costco shopping center developers seek public input – The developers of the Hanford Marketplace at Highway 43 and East Lacey Boulevard are looking for suggestions about what businesses should be located in the shopping center.  Hanford Sentinel article

Foster Farms to sponsor Bay Area bowl – The Bay Area bowl game that will be played in the new Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 30 will be known as the Foster Farms Bowl. Modesto Bee article

Southland housing market mellows as sales fall, price growth slows – The Southern California housing market took a step back last month, as home sales fell and price gains slowed. But homeowners shouldn’t despair and would-be buyers might even rejoice, analysts say.  LA Times article

New rules would boost consumer protections for prepaid cards – The nation’s top consumer financial watchdog is taking aim at the booming but lightly regulated prepaid card industry with new rules to protect customers from the vagaries of bank-like operations.  LA Times article


State water regulators are watching, Stanislaus water leaders told – While assuring that California’s new groundwater law gives local communities the power to control their water basins, State Water Resources Control Board member Dee Dee D’Adamo warned that state regulators will be watching.  Modesto Bee article

Water levels in California’s reservoirs continue to drop – The water in some of California’s major reservoirs is nearing historic lows. The Department of Water Resources says statewide, all reservoirs are currently holding about 57 percent of their historic norms. But levels are dropping significantly in some of the major reservoirs.  Capital Public Radio report

Modesto Junior College students briefed on region’s water issues – A free-flowing forum on Stanislaus County water issues attracted more than 60 Modesto Junior College students and community members Wednesday night. While most of the students showed up to collect extra credit for their college classes, they likely left with increased insight into the complex water problems facing the region.  Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

ACLU: Police surveillance grows without public input – At least 90 police agencies in California use surveillance tools such as cameras, license plate scanners and facial recognition software. But in launching new technologies, government agencies have sought public input just 14 percent of the time, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report released Wednesday.  San Francisco Chronicle articleKQED report

Judge refuses to lower bail for Chukchansi tribal leaders; tribal police chief turns himself in – The leaders in the raid that ultimately shuttered Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino are staying in the Madera County jail after a judge refused to lower or eliminate their bail Wednesday. Meanwhile, the raid’s mastermind, tribal police chief John Oliveira, turned himself in and was jailed after the hearing.  Fresno Bee article

Chandra Levy case now swings on Fresno gang leader’s credibility – A former Fresno gang leader fed scoops to law enforcement long before his testimony secured the conviction of the man accused of killing Chandra Levy, a court hearing revealed Wednesday.  McClatchy Newspapers article

CHP chief wants more mental health training for officers – Joe Farrow had it right Wednesday morning when he said, “Everybody in this room knows we have an issue to work on. A big issue.” The CHP commissioner uttered those words before kicking off a five-hour meeting to talk about mental-health training for police.  Sacramento Bee article

In push to keep mentally ill out of jail, LA County to expand crisis centers –  At the urging of Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and others lobbying to keep mentally ill people from being locked up in county jails, Los Angeles County supervisors voted Wednesday to fund several programs for people undergoing psychiatric crises.  LA Times article

Stockton Record: New crime prevention leader merits community patience – Jessica Glynn is on the job, trying to stem the tide of violent crime in Stockton. Give her a chance.  Stockton Record editorial

Fresno area CHP office receives its first new Harley-Davidson – It’s back to the future for the Fresno office of the California Highway Patrol, which has received its first Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a statewide CHP rollout.  Fresno Bee article

Motions for change of venue, sequestering jurors denied in trial of alleged school shooter – Motions to have the jury in the trial of alleged school shooter Bryan Oliver sequestered or to move the trial outside Kern County were both denied Wednesday morning as jury selection continues.  Bakersfield Californian article

Sacramento officials question proposed federal prison transition facility – For 13 years, the federal court division covering Sacramento and 22 other Northern California counties has gone without a facility to help inmates transition to life beyond prison.  Sacramento Bee article


Student borrowing is down as tuition rises more slowly, study finds – Challenging the widely held fears that student debt continues to grow monstrously, new data show some financial good news for college students, particularly for those in California.  LA Times articleAP article

Students to protest student success fees – Dozens of California State University students who say they’re already being squeezed too tightly by college costs are planning a rally to oppose campus-based fees at a meeting of trustees Thursday in Long Beach.  LA Times article

Stockton Unified reveals proposals for spending – Stockton Unified School District officials presented a revised 2014-15 Local Control Accountability Spending Plan on Wednesday night that drew on a priority wish list participants had mapped out in the original months-long planning process earlier this year.  Stockton Record article

Fresno Unified trustees deny special ed student’s cage claims – Fresno Unified trustees on Wednesday unanimously rejected two claims from the mother of a special education student who was allegedly put in a locked enclosure during class last school year.  Fresno Bee article

Norris teachers to get 6 percent raise – The Norris School District board unanimously approved a 6 percent raise for teachers Wednesday during a meeting at Norris Middle School.  Bakersfield Californian article

On Campus: No Child Left Behind needs a second act or curtain call – The No Child Left Behind Act started off with the noble goal of raising up kids no one thought could excel. Measuring their progress made their progress matter. Every child was to be proficient by 2014, an appealing political slogan that was intended to get an update by 2007, when the law expired. Today, it lives on in the half-life of the perpetually extended, a status Hickman Charter School co-director Frank Kampen charitably called “unresolved.” Modesto Bee article

UCLA gets $10 million for center to spur socially conscious projects – Former EBay Inc. President Jeff Skoll has donated $10 million to UCLA for a center that will encourage students to create socially conscious entertainment projects.  LA Times article

Hughson poultry team tops nation – The nation’s best young judges of poultry this year came from Hughson High School – experts on what makes a good egg or turkey breast or chicken patty. The four-person team placed first among 38 at the national convention of Future Farmers of America, held last month in Louisville, Ky.  Modesto Bee article

UC Merced Connect: Researchers dig for knowledge about Sequoias – When people get near California’s giant sequoias, they usually look up. But professor Steve Hart looks down, and what he finds beneath the trees has intrigued him.  UC Merced Connect in Merced Sun-Star

Buhach Colony rivalry week video ‘big mistake,’ says school board leader – A video posted on YouTube showing Buhach Colony High School administrators pretending to be in combat with students from rival Atwater High – ending with the students being “shot” with a fake gun – drew sharp criticism from school district leaders Wednesday. Merced Sun-Star article

Bakersfield College Panorama campus reopens after bomb hoax – The Bakersfield College Panorama campus was evacuated Wednesday afternoon after a bomb threat was called into Bakersfield police, but no explosives were found and the campus was deemed safe by school officials at 5:30 p.m. Classes originally scheduled for 6 p.m. took place as planned, school officials said.  Bakersfield Californian article


Bakersfield residents finally get break from awful air – Breathe deep, Bakersfield. The air quality in the southern San Joaquin Valley saw dramatic and welcome improvement late Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing relief to residents who had been living through one of the worst concentrations of ultra-fine particulate pollution seen this time of year.  Bakersfield Californian article

California leads by example on climate change – As the U.S. and China — the world’s top two polluting nations — turn to implementing new rules aimed at curbing climate change, the countries can look to the most populous U.S. state as an example of the costs and challenges of fighting global warming. California already has imposed some of the world’s toughest air quality standards as it moves aggressively to lower emissions.  AP article

U.S.-China climate deal already under fire – A landmark agreement on climate change between the U.S. and China, the world’s top two polluting nations, faced immediate challenges from experts who warned that it would require an overhaul of China’s economy and from Republicans in Congress who vowed to undermine the deal.  LA Times articleSacramento Bee editorial

Climate deal shines sun on Bay Area solar – Another day, another “historic” agreement reached between the United States and China, this one of considerable interest to the Bay Area’s solar power industry.  San Francisco Chronicle article

John Muir’s legacy questioned as centennial of his death nears – John Muir is the patron saint of environmentalism, an epic figure whose writings of mystical enlightenment attained during lone treks in California’s wilderness glorified individualism, saved Yosemite and helped establish the national park system. As the first president of the Sierra Club, Muir shaped enduring perceptions about how the wild world should be prioritized, protected and managed. But now some critics are arguing that the world has changed so much in the century since his death that Muir has gone the way of wheelwrights.  LA Times article

Alien fish poisoned by the thousands to save San Francisco’s Mountain Lake – The end came quickly Wednesday for the invasive fish that had turned San Francisco’s historic Mountain Lake into a mucky swamp-like pond filled with gluttonous aliens.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Health/Human Services

‘First Look’: Clinica Sierra Vista providing help with Covered California open enrollment – If you still haven’t enrolled in Covered California and need to, you still have some time. But don’t wait until the last minute. That is the advice Clinica Sierra Vista Chief of Programs Bill Phelps offered Wednesday on “First Look with Scott Cox.” Bakersfield Californian article

Dena Murphy: Open enrollment is almost here: Here’s what you need to know – The director of Kern County Human Services writes, “Since many people are just completing their first year of health coverage, they may not be aware that yearly renewals are part of maintaining healthcare coverage. We hope to see people move through the renewal process with no interruption to their coverage.” Murphy op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

New law requires California schools to stock epinephrine injectors for allergic children – Now, with the passage of a new law in September, all schools in California will be required to stock at least one injector that is prescribed to the school or district, rather than a specific person, and to train at least one staff member on how to use it. Sacramento Bee article

Michael Hiltzik:  How the rise of Catholic hospitals is jeopardizing women’s healthcare –  Via Nina Martin of ProPublica comes word that America’s Catholic bishops are moving toward tightening religious restrictions on physicians and nonsectarian hospitals that join with them in mergers and partnerships.  Hiltzik in LA Times

Land Use/Housing

Plan unveiled to house the homeless in San Diego – San Diego officials unveiled on Wednesday several new initiatives aimed at fighting homelessness by getting people off the street as quickly as possible when they ask for help. Called the “housing-first” model, the approach provides permanent housing — not shelter beds — as the first step to solving a homeless person’s problems.  U-T San Diego articleKPBS article

West Sacramento homeless move from river to converted motel – On Wednesday, as city officials, police and nearly 100 volunteers helped the homeless pack up their belongings and take them to a converted motel, the colony president widely announced that – at last – it was safe to leave.  Sacramento Bee article

Restaurant, bar plans raise neighbors’ ire – Seng Saephan has made a comfortable living flipping houses and helping his wife run their hair and nail salon. But for years, the Visalia man has held a dream of running his own sports bar and restaurant, and earlier this week the Visalia Planning Commission gave him his shot by granting Saephan a conditional-use permit to open such a business off South Fairway Street and West Orchard Avenue.  Visalia Times-Delta article


High-speed rail officials hold meeting about Fresno construction – Representatives from the California High-Speed Rail Authority and its contracting companies will hold an open house Thursday for people to learn more about upcoming rail construction in the Fresno area.  Fresno Bee article

GET changes to better track bus arrivals, riders – Starting in January, a series of additions to Golden Empire Transit District vehicles and stops will help riders figure out when the next bus is due — and tell the agency how many passengers it has, its spokeswoman said Wednesday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno deemed friendly for ridesharing services – A recent report gave Fresno an “A” grade for accommodating ridesharing services while its regulations for taxi companies were also friendly.  The Business Journal article

Plan for Bay Bridge bike path from Oakland to San Francisco in high gear – Pushing the plan for a bike and pedestrian path on the western span into higher gear after years of pondering the project, a Bay Area Toll Authority committee voted Wednesday to pay a consultant up to $10 million to produce an affordable proposal that would pave the way for an Oakland-to-San Francisco crossing.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Where’s Bob Hope Airport? Rebranding seen as possible way to boost use – Burbank has long labored under the shadow of Los Angeles. From studios to shopping centers to film schools, the city has struggled to carve an identity apart from the megatropolis roughly 12 miles to its southeast. And that includes its airport. Much like John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Burbank’s airport has a moniker that doesn’t help travelers figure out where it is: Bob Hope.  LA Times article

Other Areas

Stockton motel residents still reeling from shutdown – Six days after its hasty closure by city code enforcers, the Stockton City Motel remained shut down Wednesday, its sparse units scoured of their contents and a small crew of workers laboring over repairs that will take weeks to complete.  Stockton Record article

Fresno Bee: Progress for veterans, but much more to do – To do right by our veterans, a day of speeches and parades isn’t enough. We can’t break the bank, but we must give all the help they deserve.  Fresno Bee editorial

NTSB:  Pilot thrown free as spaceship broke apart – The surviving pilot of the Virgin Galactic spaceship that tore apart over the Mojave Desert was thrown clear of the disintegrating craft and did not know his co-pilot had prematurely unlocked the re-entry braking system, federal investigators said Wednesday.  AP articleLA Times article

Gov. Brown appoints Fresno County Judge M. Bruce Smith to appellate court – Fresno County Judge M. Bruce Smith was appointed Wednesday as a new associate justice with the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced. If confirmed, Smith will be the first African-American judge to serve on the Fifth District Court of Appeal.  Fresno Bee article

‘First Look’: More fireworks restrictions on way to reality – Fourth of July has become fireworks mania. Californian columnist Lois Henry has voiced her opinion many times, advocating a ban on all personal fireworks.  Bakersfield Californian article

O they did see: Man’s rendition of national anthem a hit on Facebook – Donald Lora doesn’t do Facebook. Not Twitter, either. “I’m not really a computer person,” the 85-year-old Bakersfield man says. But he became a social media hit last week when video of him singing the national anthem — including a little-known additional verse — in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda during an Honor Flight trip with fellow local veterans was posted online.  Bakersfield Californian article

Court upholds confidentiality of San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance records – Communications between the San Francisco city attorney’s office and the city’s Ethics Commission on rules for handling complaints under the Sunshine Ordinance, the city’s public-records law, will remain confidential.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – To do right by our veterans, a day of speeches and parades isn’t enough. We can’t break the bank, but we must give all the help they deserve.

Sacramento Bee – California’s schools chief job might not have a lot of power, but it has the power of the bully pulpit and clearly is seen as consequential to the future of education. It deserves a higher spot on the ballot, which can be accomplished with simple legislation; Obstructionists are running out of arguments to oppose necessary steps to slow global warming.

Stockton Record – Jessica Glynn is on the job, trying to stem the tide of violent crime in Stockton. Give her a chance.