November 15, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

CD16:  Fresno County vote update pushes Costa to 700-vote lead over Tacherra – Fresno Democrat Jim Costa, who is in the midst of his second re-election battle in the past four years, on Friday surged to a 700-vote lead over upstart Republican challenger Johnny Tacherra in the 16th Congressional District race.  Fresno Bee article

AD21: State watchdog launches probe of GOP spending – The state’s political ethics watchdog has launched an investigation into whether the California Republican Party violated campaign finance rules in the Central Valley’s 21st Assembly District race between Adam Gray and Jack Mobley.  Sacramento Bee article

Gov. Brown

Harry Snyder: What happened to Jerry Brown, the crusader against corruption? – The consumer advocate and lecturer at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health writes, “With two state senators facing criminal charges, another convicted, and a Public Utilities Commission president outed for secret, possibly illegal, dealings with PG&E, this has been a banner year for political corruption in California. Unfortunately, the re-election of Gov. Jerry Brown seems to hold little promise for improvement.”  Snyder op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Field Poll memo: Why California missed GOP wave – California was an exception to the Republican wave that swept the nation in Nov. 4’s low-turnout midterm election in part because Californians are happier than the rest of the nation with how things are going, according to a new Field Poll memo.  San Jose Mercury News article

California officials ponder all-mail voting – When all the ballots are finally tallied from last week’s election, the proportion of Californians voting by mail is expected to break the record set in 2012, the first time more than half of the state’s electorate voted absentee. The uptick has more Californians pushing for the state to go all the way and ditch traditional polling places.  Sacramento Bee article

Low turnout eases ballot-measure requirement – Got a ballot measure for 2016? You’re in luck. Ballot initiatives two years from now will need about 30 percent fewer qualifying signatures than they did this year, according to the political-consulting types at Sacramento’s Redwood Pacific Public Affairs.  Sacramento Bee article

Joel Fox: Legislatures challenging initiative process in federal courts — Those who don’t like the initiative process may have found a powerful ally in the United States Constitution. I write “may” because precedent is not on their side. But that hasn’t stopped initiative critics from making the effort to enlist the court’s support — and the courts are at least listening.  Fox in Fox & Hounds


Sacramento Bee: Obama prepares to make correct immigration move – President Barack Obama shouldn’t need to resort to executive action to take steps toward solving the nation’s immigration mess.  Sacramento Bee editorial

California immigrant advocates applaud Obama plan — California immigrant advocates are applauding President Obama’s pledge to use executive action to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. And they’re pushing him to be bold.  KQED report

Border crossings by children decline as immigration debate intensifies — The number of unaccompanied children apprehended by federal agents last month at the nation’s Southwest border was down by 40% compared with last October, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced on Friday. The announcement comes as the nation prepares for renewed a battle over immigration issues.  LA Times article

DMV prepares to issue high volume of immigrant driver’s licenses — The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced on Wednesday that it will be adding staff, appointment opportunities and extending office hours in up to 60 locations to accommodate the anticipated demand for driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants next year under Assembly Bill 60.  Merced Sun-Star article

Other areas

Bera continues to lead Ose in close race – With thousands more votes counted the last two days, Democratic Rep. Ami Bera’s lead over Republican Doug Ose was virtually unchanged at 697 votes in the race to represent Sacramento County’s 7th Congressional District.  Sacramento Bee article

Dan Walters: Rental law likely to be big issue – The Ellis Act has been California law for nearly 30 years, a major milestone in the recurrent political conflict over landlord-tenant relations – and changing it likely will be an issue when the Legislature reconvenes in December.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Chile, Maui destinations for California lawmakers this month — California campaign season has concluded, and the time for legislative junkets – with special interests attending and paying some of the costs – has begun.  Capitol Alert

Why New York soda tax crusader passed on helping pass San Francisco’s Prop E — Political campaigns can be rather mysterious and opaque from the outside. One such puzzle in the Nov. 4 election was why former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t give money to San Francisco’s Proposition E to levy a tax on sodas and other sugary drinks.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Sandy Banks: Marijuana legalization trend calls for research and care — Our experiments with open access show there are hazards to address and a critical need for the kind of research that federal rules proscribe — research that would help us harness the drug’s benefits and avoid the minefields of dependence.  Banks column in LA Times

News Briefs

Top Stories

California: Customers would pay for water tunnels — Customers of a proposed twin-tunnel project intended to send water around a California delta-estuary would have to make billions of dollars in fixed payments each year, even during dry periods when they’re sent little water, officials said Friday.  AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article; Stockton Record article

Federal judges order California to expand prison releases — Federal judges on Friday ordered California to launch a new parole program that could free more prisoners early, ruling the state had failed to fully implement an order last February intended to reduce unconstitutional crowding.  LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

Creditor Franklin appeals Stockton bankruptcy ruling – The lone holdout creditor in Stockton’s bankruptcy case is appealing the city’s recent climactic court victory, a legal challenge City Manager Kurt Wilson says is not “alarming, nor surprising.”  Stockton Record article

CalPERS drops nearly 15,000 from state health rolls – CalPERS has dropped health coverage for nearly 9,000 people over the last year after a sweeping audit revealed they weren’t eligible for benefits received through state-worker and state-retiree health plans.  Sacramento Bee article

Stanislaus County’s towns are demographically distinct, Census Bureau statistics show – Demographic statistics often get lumped together by county, but Stanislaus’ cities have their own distinct characteristics. Each town has a different population mix. They vary by age and race and lifestyle, which can create both opportunities and challenges for the private businesses and public agencies.  Modesto Bee article

Demographic snapshot: Kings getting poorer, more Hispanic, less married – In the last six years, Kings County has become poorer, more inclined to rent, more Hispanic and more inclined to raise kids in single-parent, female-managed households.  Hanford Sentinel article

Baker Hughes says in preliminary merger talks with rival Halliburton – Oilfield services provider Baker Hughes Inc said on Thursday it is in preliminary merger talks with its larger rival Halliburton Co, though any potential deal would likely face antitrust concerns.  Bakersfield Californian article

Craig Scharton’s new Fresno marketing firm to focus on start-up food companies – Craig Scharton, the owner of Peeve’s Public House, has launched a new marketing company aimed at promoting local businesses and events. The new company — Croptown Creative Team — was formed in partnership with Peeve’s marketing director H. Steele.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Paul Eisman: Facts about our refinery’s future in Bakersfield – The president and CEO of Alon USA writes, “The Nov. 9 article “Alon backs off plan to reopen refinery” certainly came as a surprise to many people, not the least of whom were myself and my colleagues in Bakersfield. Frankly, we are disappointed that facts from our recent quarterly investor call surrounding our proposed further development of the Bakersfield refinery have been disregarded by The Californian.”  Eisman op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Southern California is hotbed for wage theft in garment industry – Investigators found that 1,549 local garment workers were owed more than $3 million in unpaid wages — an average of $1,900 per laborer, the equivalent of five weeks of typical pay.  LA Times article

Postal Service hiring for holidays and beyond – As it gears up for the holiday season and beyond, the U.S. Postal Service is having its first online career fair on Wednesday.  Modesto Bee article

Orange County Register asks reporters to help deliver its newspapers — The Orange County Register is now asking its reporters and other staff members to deliver papers, according to company employees. Amid continued problems with newspaper deliveries, the paper is offering employees up to $150 in Visa gift cards to deliver hundreds of newspapers on Sundays and Thanksgiving, according to a sign-up form.  LA Times article

Kern Community Foundation hits 15th anniversary Tuesday – Fifteen years. Thirteen million dollars. One hundred-twenty individuals, families and corporations with good will to sow — and the money with which to sow it. The Kern Community Foundation’s first decade and a half of uniting a unique assortment of disparate philanthropists with the people and organizations that need them has been quietly memorable.  Bakersfield Californian article

Why millennials don’t buy homes — Whether it’s a scar from the Great Recession, being overwhelmed with student loan debt, or having the ability to move for a career, America’s generation of young professionals just aren’t buying homes the way their parents did, a UBS executive said in La Jolla Thursday.  U-T San Diego article


Water thievery on the rise amid California drought — As California’s drought has grown more extreme this year, so have efforts to obtain water — some now veering toward the criminal. Parched places like the East Bay hills have experienced not only an increase in water theft in recent months, authorities say, but a bump in brazenness. San Francisco Chronicle article

Drought woes hit Tulare County schools — Schools across Tulare County are changing routines and attempting to adapt to one of the most stifling droughts on record in California in similar ways as families dealing with wells going dry and farmers worrying about irrigating their crops.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Drought leading to more horses being abandoned — When local rancher Kim Oviatt noticed nearly a dozen starving horses lying in the dirt, he knew something needed to be done. The horses were nearly dead, he says.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Officials meet in Modesto to discuss citrus pest — California citrus industry leaders, researchers and government officials met Friday with state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, to provide an update on the ongoing battle against the citrus industry’s most feared pest: the Asian citrus psyllid. Fresno Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Chandra Levy case hearing hints at shadowy Fresno crime figure – Subject 1 is a dangerous man, officials believe; maybe one of Fresno’s worst. His name remains a secret, closely held by prosecutors and investigators. But over three days this week, during hearings related to the revived Chandra Levy murder case, the man dubbed “Subject 1” was repeatedly cited as a top Fresno-area law-enforcement target dating back to the 1990s.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Marijuana cards, gun ownership combination remain a legal risk — As the use of marijuana gains acceptance for both recreational and medicinal use, owners and buyers of firearms should be aware that the federal government still doesn’t believe the two should mix, according to authorities in both fields. They add that the chance of prosecution for a federal felony, while not highly probable, is nothing to take lightly.  Fresno Bee article

Cellphone policy violates privacy, Merced County deputies group says – A policy that allows Merced County Sheriff’s Department administrators to search the personal cellphones of deputies was at the center of recent Merced County labor negotiations, with leaders of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association calling it an invasion of privacy.  Merced Sun-Star article

Students say school shooter was bullied, teased at Taft High – Several students in the Taft Union High School classroom where Bryan Oliver opened fire last year testified Friday the teen was repeatedly bullied during his time at the school.  Bakersfield Californian article

Merced County DA’s son free; judge dismisses murder charge – A Merced County judge on Friday formally dismissed a murder charge against the son of the Merced County district attorney, saying prosecutors failed to prove their case by a wide margin.  Merced Sun-Star article

Chukchansi preliminary hearings set for December – Four men arrested for their alleged involvement in a raid that ultimately shuttered Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino last month will have their preliminary hearings on Dec. 17, said Dana Clinton, office services supervisor with the Madera County District Attorney’s Office.  Fresno Bee article

Modesto Bee: Modesto crime is down, but for how long? – In the long run, Proposition 47 might work out for the best. But for now, roughly 1,000 convicted criminals statewide are out of jail looking for something to do. We hope it will be constructive.  Modesto Bee article

At San Quentin, from prisoner to programmer – Separating San Quentin State Prison from San Francisco is just 20 miles of the San Francisco Bay, but the divide between the prison and the opportunity of the city’s tech boom is much wider. A new prison program seeks to narrow that gap — by teaching inmates how to code.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Fatal shooting of unarmed man draws hundreds to site — Some sobbed with grief. A few screamed in anger and frustration. But most remained quiet and watchful. Close to 200 protesters and mourners gathered at a candlelight vigil held on a street corner in northeast Bakersfield Friday evening, the scene of an officer-involved shooting the night before that ended with the death of 22-year-old Ramiro James Villegas.  Bakersfield Californian article


Napolitano makes case for UC tuition increase — University of California President Janet Napolitano said Friday that UC officials had no choice but to propose annual tuition increases of up to 5 percent over five years because the system has been shortchanged by state lawmakers, despite UC’s value to Silicon Valley and other key parts of the state economy.  Sacramento Bee article

Stalemate continues in Stockton Unified teachers contract talks – A mediation session Thursday failed to resolve a stalemate between the Stockton Unified School District and the Stockton Teachers Association, both sides reported Friday.  Stockton Record article

LA Unified fires lawyers who said girl could consent to sex with teacher — The L.A. Unified School District has severed ties with an outside attorney over comments he made on a radio broadcast saying that it was a more dangerous decision for a 14-year-old to cross the street in traffic than to have sex with a teacher, officials said Friday.  LA Times article

Student brings gun to Modesto Village I middle school — A 12-year-old boy was cited and released to his parents this week on suspicion of bringing a gun to Daniel Savage Middle School in east Modesto.  Modesto Bee article


Feds, state may join hyacinth fray – Don’t expect those water weeds to vanish tomorrow, but state and federal support seems to be growing for a long-term strategy to wage war against hyacinth.  Stockton Record article

Clovis trail system gets new hub — The City of Clovis will unveil the latest addition to its already robust trail system with the grand opening of the Dry Creek Trailhead at Sunnyside and Shepherd avenues on Saturday.  Fresno Bee article

Electric rates may rise for EV program — The Southern California Edison Company has submitted a proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission for a rate increase to cover the costs of implementing a four-year, two-phase program to install charging stations throughout the state and conduct an educational campaign about them.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Ratepayers file new suit over deal to close San Onofre nuclear plant – A group of mainly San Diego County activists is suing Southern California Edison Co. and state electric power regulators over more than $3 billion in costs to close the San Onofre nuclear power plant.  LA Times article

House votes in favor of Keystone oil pipeline — Congress inched closer to a possible showdown with President Barack Obama over the Keystone XL oil pipeline as the Republican-controlled House approved the project. Supporters in the Democratic-run Senate predicted they will get the 60 votes needed to pass it next week.  AP article

Health/Human Services

California targets 1.7 million for health signups — After initial missteps caused a choppy start, California health care officials are betting that an upgraded website, more help and better Spanish-language outreach will result in a smoother and bigger second open enrollment season under the Affordable Care Act this year.  AP article

California adopts tough Ebola-protection rules for health workers – California has adopted some of the nation’s strongest regulations to protect doctors, nurses and other health workers treating patients with Ebola. The regulations, announced Friday by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, require the state’s 300 or so acute-care hospitals to provide hazardous material suits, respirators, isolation rooms and extensive training to those working with patients suspected of having the Ebola virus. San Francisco Chronicle article

Sacramento hospitals, nonprofits work to take pressure off emergency rooms – The number of people visiting emergency departments has been on the rise in Sacramento County and throughout the state since the recession, officials say, and hospitals are seeking to divert those patients to more appropriate medical facilities, especially as more and more people acquire health insurance.  Sacramento Bee article

Gleason House celebrates three years of caring for homeless – The late Edna Gleason, a pioneering pharmacist and Stockton’s first city councilwoman, would no doubt be pleased that her former home at 423 S. San Joaquin St. has been used to provide so much needed medical care to the city’s homeless and disenfranchised.  Stockton Record article

Retiring Chelli put a human face on San Joaquin County services — In 11 years heading San Joaquin County Human Services Agency, Joe Chelli has overseen sweeping changes that have brought safety-net services to more residents in need of help.  Stockton Record article

Catherine Campisi: Disabled have their own beliefs on ‘death with dignity’ – The former director of the California Department of Rehabilitation writes, “The death of Brittany Maynard has generated attention on “death with dignity” and a push to enact laws on physician-assisted suicide in California (“How we die is no one’s business but our own,” Viewpoints, Nov. 11). As a person with a significant disability, I believe we need to think through this concept and its ramifications, especially for seniors and people with disabilities.” Campisi op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Other Areas

Fresno, Visalia score lower than state average on Human Rights Campaign equality report – The Human Rights Campaign this week released its third annual report assessing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in 353 cities across the nation — and Fresno and Visalia scored under the California average.  Fresno Bee article

Kern planner is named Bakersfield planning director – Bakersfield has picked Jacqui Kitchen, a supervising planner for the county of Kern, to be its new planning director, replacing Jim Eggert, who retired in June.  Bakersfield Californian article

State Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter of Fresno honored at dinner — Former California Gov. George Deukmejian, justices on the state Supreme Court, and many others in the state’s legal community gathered in Fresno Friday night to honor Marvin Baxter for his 24-year career as a justice on the high court.  Fresno Bee article

Susan Robinson: Pit bulls are different, and so must be the rules – The Modesto resident and long-time animal activist writes, “Until there is a new pit bull breed, we need new laws.” Robinson op-ed in Modesto Bee

Gary Walker: Fresno’s Jewish heritage enriches community – The Fresno resident and writer writes, “Our local Jewish population, a microcosm of their larger community throughout the nation, has impacted the local scene in ways far beyond what their numbers would portend.”  Walker op-ed in Fresno Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The entire world must take bold steps starting now – when there’s still a chance to slow global warming before it becomes too difficult and expensive;Thumbs up, thumbs down.

Modesto Bee – In the long run, Proposition 47 might work out for the best. But for now, roughly 1,000 convicted criminals statewide are out of jail looking for something to do. We hope it will be constructive.

Sacramento Bee – President Barack Obama shouldn’t need to resort to executive action to take steps toward solving the nation’s immigration mess; Heavy lifting is ahead for California’s new arts center.