November 14, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

CD16: Merced County vote update nets Tacherra 11 votes in his battle with Costa —  Without fanfare, Merced County added 143 ballots to its vote count on Thursday, and incumbent Fresno Democrat Jim Costa’s lead in the 16th Congressional District shrunk by 11 votes. Costa’s lead is now a mere 75 votes over unheralded Republican challenger Johnny Tacherra. In raw numbers, it is 43,232 to 43,157.  Fresno Bee article

Obama overhaul of immigration to cover millions — President Barack Obama will ignore angry protests from Republicans and announce as soon as next week a broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration enforcement system that will protect up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide many of them with work permits, according to administration officials who have direct knowledge of the plan.  New York Times article

Valley politics

San Joaquin County election results updated with 36,000 more votes counted — Leads changed hands and leads grew as totals from about 36,000 vote-by-mail ballots counted by the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters since Election Day were released Thursday.  Stockton Record article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Mark Baldassare: New era for initiatives? – The president of the Public Policy Institute of California writes, “How will voters respond to primaries and general elections with fewer citizens’ initiatives on the ballot? It seems likely that presidential elections will still hold their interest, but primaries and midterm elections might be less compelling. In other words, tinkering with the citizens’ initiative process may unintentionally produce new historic lows in voter turnout. Looking for other tools to engage Californians in elections while improving the initiative process will keep secretary of state–elect Alex Padilla busy over the next four years.”  Baldassare in Fox & Hounds

Other areas

In California, close races test resolve of campaigns – Campaigns send in observers to monitor election workers as they check signatures to verify the late mail ballots. Provisional voters are generally those who moved to another place in the county but forgot to re-register; voted near work instead of their assigned polling place; or are permanent mail voters who came in to their polling place but didn’t bring their ballot.  Sacramento Bee article

Nancy Pelosi rails at sexism in questions about stepping down — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a broadside Thursday at reporters who question why she isn’t considering stepping down as head of the Democratic caucus after three consecutive disappointing electionsSan Francisco Chronicle article

Former Sen. Joe Dunn sues California Bar for firing him – Former Democratic state Sen. Joe Dunn is suing his former employer, the State Bar of California, alleging that the bar’s board wrongfully fired him as executive director after he reported illegal activities and ethical breaches by high-ranking officials in the quasi-governmental agency. Capitol Alert; LA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Cal State trustees approve budget, pay raises – California State University trustees approved a new budget Thursday for the 23-campus system and boosted the pay of top executives. The trustees also heard from students about campus fees but decisions on those won’t be made until January.  LA Times article

Letter confirms General Mills Lodi plant closure – General Mills has cemented plans to close its Lodi plant with a recent letter to city officials detailing four rounds of layoffs of more than 400 employees.  Stockton Record article

Jobs and the Economy

California pension funds are running dry – A decade ago, many of California’s public pension plans had plenty of money to pay for workers’ retirements. All that has changed, according to a far-reaching package of data from the state controller. Taxpayers are now on the hook for billions of dollars more to cover the future retirements of public workers, with the bill widely varying depending on where they live.  LA Times article

Lawsuit accuses BP of overcharging California agencies for natural gas – British energy giant BP, which supplies natural gas to California state agencies under a $250-million annual contract, overcharged the state by as much as $300 million over eight years, a lawsuit contends.  LA Times article

Livingston union blasts city over labor negotiations, sexual harassment claims – The union representing Livingston’s public works employees recently blasted the city manager in a series of letters expressing frustration over stalled labor negotiations and claims of mistreatment and sexual harassment by a supervisor.  Merced Sun-Star article

LA truck drivers strike as tensions mount at ports — Some truck drivers who work at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach walked off the job Thursday, organizers said, in a protest against two trucking firms they accuse of wage theft.  LA Times article

Report: Valley lags in high-speed Internet – A new report by the U.S. Census Bureau showed high-speed Internet use lacking in the Central Valley compared to other parts of the state.  The Business Journal article

DoubleTree, Modesto still talking about Centre Plaza – The city continues to talk with the DoubleTree Hotel about having it take over management of Modesto Centre Plaza, which was the centerpiece of the city’s downtown revitalization when it opened in 1988.  Modesto Bee article

San Joaquin County foreclosures remain at a low boil – San Joaquin County foreclosure activity remained slow in October, nearly unchanged from September and down sharply from a year ago, real estate data firm RealtyTrac reported Thursday.  Stockton Record article

Sacramento home prices flattened in October – October saw a seasonal cooling of the housing market in Sacramento County, with the number of sales dropping and prices holding steady, CoreLogic DataQuick reported Thursday.  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento economic groups tentatively OK merger – In a shake-up of Sacramento’s business hierarchy, the organization that has for decades recruited companies to the region tentatively agreed to merge Thursday with an upstart group launched by area chief executives.  Sacramento Bee article

Mike Klocke: ‘We are blessed as a giving community’ – Whether on the giving or receiving end, there has to be more than a day of philanthropy in order for community needs and wishes to be met. But one day can make a difference when you bring together people with different desires and yet one commonality: the fact that they care. Klocke in Stockton Record

Stockton community development director to retire – Steve Chase, who has concentrated on speeding the flow of business through City Hall and taken a strong stance for the invigoration of downtown Stockton, will retire next month after 21Ž2 years as the city’s director of community development.  Stockton Record article

‘First Look’: Tehachapi family-owned company creating frenzy with DIY kits — What if you could make your own lava lamp lip gloss, lip balm, deodorant, or even a clay mask? Those are just a few items offered by Handcrafted Honey Bee, a family-owned company based in Tehachapi.  Bakersfield Californian article

Raft idea wins Turlock round of innovation contest – Elias Ruiz of Hughson made the finals of the Stanislaus Innovation Challenge with his idea for a lightweight raft. Modesto Bee article

List shows Fresno attractive to retirees – A new list by included Fresno as one of the top cities attracting retirees or those fleeing winter weather.  The Business Journal article

One Putt Broadcasting buys three Wilks stations — One Putt Broadcasting has signed a definitive agreement to purchase three FM radio stations from Wilks Broadcasting including 95.7 The Fox (KJFX), New Rock 104.1 (KFRR) and 105.5 The Game (KJZN). The Business Journal article


California drought not likely to end this year, experts say — As California heads into its annual rainy season, water managers, farmers and millions of residents with parched yards are hoping huge storms will finally break the state’s historic three-year drought. Don’t count on it.  San Jose Mercury News article

Modesto hearing will zero in on citrus pest — Leaders in the state’s citrus industry will gather Friday in Modesto to discuss a major pest. The state Senate Committee on Agriculture will hold a hearing on the Asian citrus pysllid, which threatens oranges, lemons, grapefruit and other citrus. Most of the state’s production is in the Southern San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, but the north Valley has nurseries and backyard trees that could harbor the pest.  Modesto Bee article; Stockton Record article

Well owners face decision – Already missing out on state money to address the drought, San Joaquin County officials will soon ask property owners if they’re willing to disclose to the state what some feel are sensitive details about their wells.  Stockton Record article

Farm Beat: Foster Farms hopes to score with bowl game — Foster Farms has raised many turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas tables. Now it’s part of another holiday tradition: college football bowl games.  Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

FBI report violent crime in Kings County down 6 percent – The number of violent crimes committed in Kings County dropped last year, according to statistics provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI released its annual Uniform Crime Report on Monday, showing an overall 6.6 percent decrease in violent crimes in the county — with 765 violent crimes reported in 2012 and 714 in 2013.  Hanford Sentinel article

Chet Hewitt and Tim Silard: Prop 47 will keep youths on right track – Hewitt, president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation, and Silard, president and CEO of the Rosenberg Foundation, write, “With the passage of Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, Californians have made a decision to improve community safety and position our state as a leader in right-sizing our criminal and juvenile justice systems.” Hewitt/Silard op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Chandra Levy hearing pulls back cloak on Fresno law enforcement — An FBI special agent and a longtime federal prosecutor from Fresno on Thursday faced two of D.C.’s favorite questions: What did officials know, and when did they know it? The questions arose repeatedly during a high-stakes, occasionally pointed hearing that’s supposed to help determine whether the man convicted of killing Chandra Levy gets a new trial. The hearing Thursday, though, also provided a peek behind the scenes of real-world law enforcement.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Trial of school shooter opens with testimony from victim – Former Taft Union High School student Bowe Cleveland entered the courtroom Thursday and, for the first time in 22 months, faced the teen who fired a shotgun round into his chest as he finished taking a science quiz.  Bakersfield Californian article

Chukchansi police chief bails out of jail — John Oliveira, the tribal police chief Wednesday in connection with the armed raid on Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, has bailed out of Madera County jail.  Fresno Bee article

 Foundation provides backing for police’s canine officers — The “Paws for A Cause” foundation is helping Tulare police take a bite out of crime. Or is it get a (dog) leg up on criminals? Thanks to donations from foundation members, the police department purchased a fourth K-9 officer. With this purchase, Tulare police will have a four-legged officer for each of the four shifts, providing round-the-clock K-9 presence.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Senate leader offers alternative to UC tuition hike proposal – Concerned that a surge in out-of-state students at the University of California may put residents at a disadvantage, Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) on Thursday called for UC administrators to significantly boost tuition for nonresidents.  LA Times article

UC Merced encouraging potential entrepreneurs – Teaching students to transform years of research and study into a profitable commercial venture that could bring jobs to the region was the focus of an event Thursday at UC Merced called “Global Entrepreneurship Day.”  Merced Sun-Star article

Sexual violence reporting up at state universities – A California State University official said Thursday that he’s hearing there are more reports of sexual violence on campuses — but that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more attacks.  AP article

School district responds to Buhach Colony fake shooting video – The Merced Union High School District’s administration responded Thursday to a YouTube video created by Buhach Colony High staff members that simulates a school shooting, the first reaction from district officials since the controversial video surfaced earlier this week.  Merced Sun-Star article

School groups ask to delay API scores – The State Board of Education, as expected, voted Thursday to move ahead in the spring with the new Smarter Balanced tests on the Common Core State Standards while leaving open, for now, the decision on what to do with the test results.  EdSource article

Education Secretary checks in on Common Core — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan toured Angier Elementary School in San Diego on Thursday to get a firsthand look at the new Common Core academic standards that went into effect in California and most states this year.  U-T San Diego article

District LCAPs must include student input — School districts must specifically seek student input in developing their Local Control and Accountability Plans under the revised regulations being considered for adoption by the State Board of Education Friday.  EdSource article

Marymount considers Visalia campus – Marymount California University, a liberal arts institution offering associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and serving students in three California communities, is considering a Visalia campus if a location can be provided.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Elementary, middle schools to be separate at Rivera site – In less than a year’s time, what has been known since the 1960s as Rivera Middle School will become two campuses, one for seventh- and eighth-graders and the other for kindergartners through sixth-graders.  Merced Sun-Star article

Modesto Christian students learn retail – and larger lessons – The cool quotient of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos may not make sense to grown-ups, but at one tiny middle school, it factors into the draw, the till and the bigger picture for young teens.  Modesto Bee article

LA Unified says girl, 14, could consent to sex with teacher —  L.A. Unified officials are coming under fire for allowing their attorneys to argue that a 14-year-old student was mature enough to consent to sex with her middle school math teacher.  LA Times article


Drought and warm temperatures cause unusual spike in Central Valley air pollution – The main culprit is PM 2.5, tiny particles of soot, chemicals and debris that can burrow deep into the lungs, causing breathing problems, heart attacks and even strokes. Scary stuff.  KQED report

California sees third-warmest October, on pace for hottest year ever – This past month was the third-warmest October in California since officials began keeping records more than a century ago, continuing the state’s pattern in what is likely to be its hottest year ever, according to government climatologists.  LA Times article

LA lawmakers press for action on fracking ban despite new report — Two lawmakers who want Los Angeles to bar hydraulic fracturing and other kinds of “unconventional drilling” at oil and gas wells are pushing back after city staffers cast doubt on the idea, urging them to swiftly draw up rules that would bar such practices.  LA Times article

Another $2 million available for upgrading stoves, inserts – Having burned through almost $2 million — and quite rapidly — air regulators approved another $2 million on Thursday for residents willing to upgrade to cleaner-burning stoves or gas inserts.  Stockton Record article

Bret Lane: Energy summit highlights how natural gas could fuel Kern’s future – The chief operating officer to Southern California Gas Company writes, “Kern County is the perfect location to talk about the future of energy. It’s been a traditional energy hub for California and the entire nation, and now it is becoming a new center for renewable energy. This week at the Kern County Energy Summit, the future of the energy industry was earnestly discussed, especially the role of natural gas in fueling our economy.” Lane op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Pasquale Romano: Utilities should help build electric vehicle charging network – The CEO of ChargePoint writes, “While there are 19,000 charging locations on the ChargePoint network, the demand has grown exponentially. To accelerate the transition to fueling with electricity, we believe investor-owned utilities should take a larger role.”  Romano op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Health/Human Services

Hospital quality increases, accrediting group says — More U.S. hospitals are giving patients the recommended treatments for common conditions, according to an annual report released Thursday by an independent accrediting group.  AP article

Valley’s only alternative birthing center opens in Fresno — Tucked away near several medical offices in Downtown Fresno lies a cozy looking home with a simple sign out front reading: The Birth Place. Run by midwives, the facility is the Central Valley’s only alternative birthing center and is designed to be a comforting and natural environment where expectant mothers can learn about home-birthing options.  The Business Journal article

Local Alzheimer’s disease association awarded $10,000 by Kern Gives — The Alzheimer’s Disease Association of Kern County, Inc. was awarded $10,000 Thursday night to benefit its adult day care services after receiving the most online votes in a first-time philanthropic effort by Kern Gives.  Bakersfield Californian article

Swamped with dependency cases, law center may refuse young clients —  As caseloads grow without money to hire more attorneys, the system appears to be reaching a breaking point, and the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles could stop taking on new clients. The stakes go beyond a funding battle to the way children in California’s dependency courts are represented.  LA Times article

Land Use/Housing

Diablo Grande developer buys additional parcels, reshaping vision for community – World International LLC paid almost $500,000 at Thursday’s county delinquent tax sale auction to buy 20 of the original parcels at the troubled Diablo Grande community. It was a signal the developer has continued interest in reshaping the vision for the golf-centered community in western Stanislaus County.  Modesto Bee article

Michael Fitzgerald: Breaking up is hard to do — Today: Secession talk in Weston Ranch. Some Weston Ranch residents want to break off their neighborhood of roughly 25,000 from Stockton’s southwest corner and become an unincorporated area served by the County of San Joaquin.  Stockton Record article


Sacramento-area commuters prefer diverse system, poll says – When it comes to complaining about our daily travels, Sacramentans appear to fall into one of three “gripe” groups, a new phone poll shows.  Sacramento Bee article

New Bay Bridge fix –no steel plates, no traffic nightmares? – Caltrans has come up with a $2.7 million fix for damaged portions of the Bay Bridge western span — relying on quick-setting concrete in lieu of steel plates — that the agency hopes will prevent a repeat of the epic traffic jams that infuriated motorists when work started last month. San Francisco Chronicle article

Other Areas

Obama nominates Sacramento judge for Fresno federal bench – Longtime Sacramento federal magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd has been nominated by President Barack Obama to become a U.S. District Court judge in Fresno, a move that comes three years after the White House learned current federal Judge Anthony W. Ishii was moving toward retirement.  Fresno Bee article

Hanford to begin analysis of historic downtown buildings – Some of Hanford’s historic treasures are about to get some much-needed attention. The city’s 2014-15 capital improvements budget includes funding for structural and electrical assessments of the Bastille, Old Courthouse, Veterans/Senior Center building and the old firehouse on Lacey Boulevard. Last month the Hanford City Council authorized about $67,000 to proceed with the project.  Hanford Sentinel article

Dramatic Fresno fire rescue caught on video leads to honors for 3 men – Three men who rescued a man from a burning duplex last month — a heroic act that got national attention after a witness shared video with The Bee — were honored Thursday with a proclamation by the city of Fresno.  Fresno Bee article

Another California city opts for bulletproof vests for firefighters — They’ve been prepared to work in commercial fire, house fire and car fire. Within the next few weeks, firefighting crews in Fairfield, Calif., can add a new category to that list — gunfire.  LA Times article

Downtown Modesto courthouse land deal set for final approval on Friday — The next step in the state’s plan to build a new courthouse in downtown Modesto is expected to be approved Friday. The State Public Works Board will vote on whether to buy the 2.75-acre block between G and H streets and Ninth and 10th streets for $5.45 million.  Modesto Bee article

City Beat: The latest scoop on Bakersfield municipal government — Cities don’t just trap warmth — leading to their technical designation as “urban heat islands” by scientists who study them. They also give off light at night, thanks to thousands of street lights, traffic signals and the like. Which is why resident Barbara Brink wrote Executive Editor Robert Price recently — to inquire about one persistent source of late-night light: Mesa Marin Sports Complex.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno Philharmonic’s Theodore Kuchar to step down in 2016 — Theodore Kuchar, whose exuberance on the podium and strong personal connections in the world of international classical music has enlivened the Fresno Philharmonic for more than a decade, will step down at the end of the 2015-16 season, the orchestra announced Thursday.  Fresno Bee article; KVPR report

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Some 4 million Americans have spoken and it’s time for the FCC to reclassify the carriers, impose net neutrality by regulation and do right by the public interest, right down to the last, devilish detail.

Sacramento Bee – Europeans give the rest of us a gee-whiz moment.