November 18, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

California tax revenue beating estimates — Tax revenue to California’s general fund is running more than $1 billion above estimates since the July 1 start of the fiscal year, the state said Monday, as Gov. Jerry Brown prepares for another round of budget talks next year.  Capitol Alert

Watchdog: Violations found in ballot props before election day — Before the Nov. 4 general election, California’s political watchdog examined “every advertisement relating to state and local ballot measures” – a total of 172 state and local propositions – and ordered corrections in 19 of them, mostly for failing to make it clear who was financing the ads.  Capitol Weekly article

Valley politics

George Hostetter: Thoughts on the Election Season — A half-dozen thoughts on 2014 election season as it winds down.  Hostetter in Fresno Bee

Ruben Macarano: Mathis vowed to put politics aside – The chair of the Tulare County Democratic Party writes, “Bottom line is that this is one election where Democrats and Republicans came together to vote for someone outside the business-as-usual political establishment for a candidate who declared early during the primary that he would work for us in Sacramento and put people over politics. The hope is that Assemblyman-elect Devon Mathis holds true to his pledge.  Macarano op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta


For Obama, executive order on immigration would be a turnaboutPresident Obama is poised to ignore stark warnings that executive action on immigration would amount to “violating our laws” and would be “very difficult to defend legally.”  New York Times article

Other areas

Sacramento Bee: Don’t dare call it a fundraiser; it’s a heartfelt thanks — There are distinctions between the Monday thank-you and a fundraiser. But there is not much difference. Nor have politicians reformed much of anything, despite claims to the contrary.  Sacramento Bee editorial

On eve of leadership vote, Nancy Pelosi lays out post-election strategy – Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) announced plans Monday to broaden her leadership team ahead of her expected reelection as the House Democratic leader, the first steps in an ambitious strategy designed to put the party in a stronger position to regain seats in coming elections.  LA Times article

Despite losses and grumbling among rank-and-file, Nancy Pelosi isn’t going anywhere – Democrats are expected to easily reelect Pelosi as their leader on Tuesday despite grumblings about stewardship of the caucus, and she quickly reasserted control on Monday, filling out her leadership team with a mix of old allies and fresh faces. Washington Post article

Marin photogs shut business rather than shoot same-sex marriages — Confronted over their decision not to take pictures at same-sex weddings, a Bay Area photography company opted to permanently put on its lens caps and shut its doors, according to a statement posted on the company’s websiteSan Francisco Chronicle article

Foon Rhee: Is it the right time to right a wrong? – Kevin Johnson didn’t win strong-mayor powers, but his consolation prize is a City Council more to his liking. He’s wasting no time cashing in, seeking a do-over on one of his most stinging defeats in office.  Rhee column in Sacramento Bee

Cortopassi, of ‘Liar, Liar’ fame, holds community confab, hints at initiative — Dino Cortopassi isn’t done, he says. The wealthy farmer behind the recent highly critical “Liar, Liar” full-page newspaper ads met with a community group in Stockton this morning and pledged to keep fighting what he considers to be wasteful spending by Gov. Jerry Brown and the state government as a whole.  Stockton Record article

News Briefs

Top Stories

High court allows delta water contracts to be challenged – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed environmentalists to challenge the government’s renewal of 41 long-term contracts for irrigation water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, in a lawsuit seeking greater protection for the endangered delta smelt. San Francisco Chronicle article

Progress remains slow on property acquisition for high-speed rail – The California High-Speed Rail Authority is making painstakingly slow progress assembling the land it needs for its first 29-mile segment from northeast of Madera to the southern edge of Fresno.  Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Sacramento, national retail sales expected to strengthen this holiday, economist say – An improving economy, a boost in hiring and lower gas prices could combine to produce a blockbuster holiday for retailers, economists say. Jeff Michael of the University of the Pacific said he expects 2014 to be the strongest holiday season since the recession officially ended in 2009.  Sacramento Bee article

California No. 1 in workers’ compensation costs — Although Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature enacted a major overhaul of the system that compensates workers for job-related illnesses and injuries two years ago, aimed at reducing overhead and increasing disability payments, California employers have the nation’s highest costs, anew survey says.  Capitol Alert

Local oil industry wonders about Halliburton-Baker Hughes deal – Halliburton’s proposed acquisition of Baker Hughes drew a cautious response Monday from members of Kern County’s oil industry, where some worried about the agreement’s impact on prices and quality of oil field services even as others saw it as harmless.  Bakersfield Californian article

New buyer, restoration plan emerges for historic Hotel Fresno – The historic Hotel Fresno, a landmark on the city’s skyline since 1912, could soon be reborn as the latest residential development in the downtown district. The Fresno City Council is set to vote Thursday on a plan that would allow potential new owners APEC International, LLC to move forward with the $21 million restoration project. Their vision would transform the vacant hotel into a 70 unit apartment building.  KVPR report

Joel Fox: Is local tax measure success a sign of things to come? — As usual, Michael Coleman’s California City Finance website has an excellent recap of local tax measures and how they fared in the recent election. Local ballots contained 268 revenue measures — tax increases, tax extensions or bonds, of which 71% or 189 passed. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Blaze likely to remain in Bakersfield through 2016 – The Bakersfield Blaze’s plans to move to Salinas have hit a roadblock, and that means the team likely will stay at Sam Lynn Ballpark for at least two more seasons.  Bakersfield Californian article

March Madness returning to Sacramento in 2017 – Just having a new downtown sports arena under construction was good enough to persuade the NCAA to bring March Madness back to Sacramento.  Sacramento Bee article; Sacramento Bee editorial

Sacramento-area hotels end September with solid occupancy numbers – Sacramento-area hotel operators closed out a solid summer season with continued year-over-year gains in key categories, according to the latest monthly report by hotel industry tracker PKF Consulting USA.  Sacramento Bee article

Laid-off Chukchansi casino employees attend Madera resource fair – Rogelio Aguilera Zamora said he’s barely scraping by ever since he got laid off suddenly from his job as a janitor at Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold.  Fresno Bee article

Life after the farm — It was 2007, and Richard Felipe, 32, had bottomed out. He had been riding high with a multimillion-a-year hay bailing business serving more than a dozen large dairies. He was excited about plans to build a $500,000 house in the rich farmland northeast of Hanford. But the bottom gradually fell out of the dairy industry. Felipe fell with it.  Hanford Sentinel article

Workers’ rights expand under proposed San Francisco ordinance — San Francisco restaurant and retail workers could soon have more predictable schedules, more opportunity for full-time work and more rights in general after the Board of Supervisors’ budget committee sent two proposed ordinances to the full board over the objections of the business community.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Turlock feed company donates $250,000 to Stanislaus fair – A $250,000 donation from Associated Feed & Supply Co. will upgrade the livestock area at the Stanislaus County Fair.  Modesto Bee article

Misuse of disabled parking placards costing San Francisco, other drivers – The use and abuse of disabled parking placards in San Francisco cost the city $22.7 million in lost meter money last year, a new report shows. The misuse of the blue placards has another price — it means everyone else who parks in the city has to pay more, according to the city controller’s report.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Nurses to resume talks with Kaiser after strike – Nurses are gearing up to return to the bargaining table with Kaiser, after walking off the job for a two-day strike.  KQED report

LA-area port truckers expand strike to three new companies – A port truck driver strike at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach grew Monday, as protest organizers targeted three more companies that they accuse of wage theft.  LA Times article

Indian tribes competing to build huge casino in Vallejo – The ink is barely dry on the rejection that California voters dealt in this month’s election to an off-reservation tribal casino plan in the Central Valley, but already two similar proposals have popped up — right in the heart of the Bay Area.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Graton Resort and Casino attacked again over land claim — Opponents of the year-old Graton Resort and Casino near Rohnert Park have opened up a new attack on the gambling mega-complex, asking the California Supreme Court to invalidate the Graton Indian tribe’s claim over the land.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Jeff Jardine: Hotel Jeffrey owner gets offer of help from a Jeffrey — When Coulterville’s historic Jeffery Hotel suffered major fire damage last week, my column drew an intriguing email. It came from Andrew Jeffery, likely a descendant of George Jeffery, who transformed the building from a store and Mexican fandango hall into to a hotel that opened in 1851.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee


Drought brings boom for water delivery trucks – It’s the dead of autumn and there’s no sign that the California drought will ease up. When wells run dry the immediate answer is to dig a new one, but they’re expensive. In some parts of the state there’s been an uptick in water theft, but in Central California many homeowners are turning to a legal water solution that’s not dependent on city water lines. KQED report

‘First Look’: El Nino may bring seasonal rain to Kern — If you’re getting ready to do the rain dance because El Nino will magically wipe out California’s drought, take a break and sit down because the predicted amount water is declining each month.  Bakersfield Californian article

Vance Kennedy: Put a price on groundwater, coming and going – Kennedy, who farms north of Modesto, writes, “Our backup water source – groundwater – should be treated as an asset that is charged for when used and is paid for when added to. Treat it as a market.” Kennedy op-ed in Modesto Bee

San Diego considers recycling water for drinking – Dismissed only a few years ago by residents of California’s second-largest city, San Diego is joining other California cities that are taking a closer look at recycling wastewater for drinking as the state suffers from severe drought. AP article

Sasha Khokha: Central Valley remembers a crusader for rural health — Teresa DeAnda was one of the very first people I met when I moved to the Central Valley to cover the region for The California Report a decade ago. I decided to take a Great Valley Center bus tour of the valley with some incoming professors at the newly established UC Merced, which was just about to open its doors. We traveled to rural Tulare County, where DeAnda shared her story about trying to raise seven children near fields where farmers regularly sprayed pesticides.  Khokha in KQED

Prices easing on California nut crops — California’s almond crop is smaller than expected, hurt by the state’s ongoing drought, while the predictions of a record walnut harvest seems to be coming true, industry experts said. But in both cases, laws of supply and demand, and in particular shifts in global market conditions, have led to softening prices.  Stockton Record article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Kern sheriff mulls use of body cameras for deputies – Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood thinks having his deputies wear “body cameras” will protect both the public and his officers. But he will have to tread carefully, and publicly, through a minefield of privacy concerns and logistical complications first.  Bakersfield Californian article

Missing juror puts Oliver trial on hold – The trial of Taft school shooter Bryan Oliver was expected to resume Monday, but it never got off the ground when one of the seats in the jury box came up empty.  Bakersfield Californian article

Charles Manson gets marriage license — Mass murderer Charles Manson has gotten a license to marry a 26-year-old woman who visits him in prison. The Kings County marriage license, viewed Monday by The Associated Press, was issued Nov. 7 for the 80-year-old Manson and Afton Elaine Burton, who left her Midwestern home nine years ago and moved to Corcoran, California — the site of the prison — to be near Manson. She maintains several websites advocating Manson’s innocence.  AP article; LA Times article

Small town with several detention facilities debates whether it needs another — With Adelanto facing a $2.6-million budget deficit, some officials want to add another jail, this one to house overflow inmates from Los Angeles County.  LA Times article


Brown appoints two new UC regents on eve of tuition debate –  As the UC regents prepare this week to vote on possible tuition increases, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday appointed two new members to the university’s governing board, including Assembly Speaker Emeritus John A. Perez.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article

Jefferson Kuoch-Seng: UC students’ future is at stake in tuition vote – The UC Merced student and president of the University of California Student Association writes,”Californians are looking for bold leadership to tackle these tough problems facing the UC. I urge the regents and Legislature to cooperate and truly commit to investing in the UC, for not just the future of our students, but the future of our state.” Kuoch-Seng op-ed in Sacramento Bee

California students in high-poverty schools lose learning time, study says – California high schools with high-poverty students lose nearly two weeks of learning time annually because of teacher absences, testing, emergency lockdowns and other disruptions compared with their more affluent peers in other schools, according to a new UCLA study.  LA Times article

Dan Walters: California’s achievement gap needs more than money –  Improving the educations of underprivileged youngsters involves more – much more – than simply spending additional money, even if it is focused.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

State board approves school funding rules – After soliciting input for over a year from education groups, research and advocacy organizations, students and parents, the State Board of Education on Friday approved final regulations governing how districts spend funds they receive through the Local Control Funding Formula, the state’s new school financing law.  EdSource article

Modesto teacher protest Common Core launch at board meeting – About 125 teachers dressed in black packed the Modesto City Schools board meeting Monday to stand in solidarity, complaining of a disorganized and punitive start to Common Core instruction.  Modesto Bee article

Poll: Voters know little about Common Core – More than half of California voters said they knew nothing or very little about the state’s new Common Core standards for English language arts and math, according to a newly released report by the Policy Analysis for California Education/USC Rossier School of Education.  EdSource article

Under half of students projected to test well — Between a third and 44 percent of students in California and 16 other states taking the same test next spring on the Common Core standards are expected to score at grade level in math and reading, according to projections released Monday by the creator of the states’ tests.  EdSource article

Harvey Mudd among colleges experimenting with ‘flipped’ classes — Instructors at Harvey Mudd College, a school known for its science and engineering experiments, are studying a new group of subjects: their students. Over the last couple years, three professors have split some of their classes in half. One group takes part of the course online while the other has only classroom instruction. As part of a federally funded study, the professors have compared the groups to see which performed better.  LA Times article

Forest kindergartens push back against academic focus for young kids — For many children, even young ones, school has become more of a training ground for the tests used to measure the efficacy of their teachers and schools than a place to learn about the world. As pressure to focus on academics pushes into ever younger grades, some parents are being drawn to alternatives that they hope will help inspire their children to discover a lifelong love of learning.  KQED report

Ballico-Cressey superintendent to participate in national digital learning summit — Bryan Ballenger, superintendent of the Ballico-Cressey School District, will join 99 other school leaders from across the country at the first National Connected Superintendents Summit at the White House on Wednesday.   Merced Sun-Star article


PG&E narrows Fresno County route options for new high-voltage line – Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is holding a trio of open houses this week for people to learn more about proposed routes for a new high-voltage transmission line through western Fresno County.  Fresno Bee article

Huge solar plant lags in early production – The largest solar power plant of its type in the world — once promoted as a turning point in green energy — isn’t producing as much energy as planned. One of the reasons is as basic as it gets: The sun isn’t shining as much as expected.  Visalia Times-Delta article

No place like space to see shocking changes on Earth – File this under “cool things you can find digging around the NASA website.” From theater balconies to skyscraper observatories, it’s no secret that a height advantage makes for a better view. Some of the best views on Earth come from satellites in orbit. Over the decades, NASA has amassed thousands of photographs of our changing world and is sharing them on its website World of ChangeSan Francisco Chronicle article

Stanislaus forest drafting plans to replant after Rim fire – The Stanislaus National Forest is drafting a plan for replanting part of the vast acreage burned by the Rim fire last year. Crews could plant conifer seedlings on perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 of the 257,314 acres in the burn area, Georgia Dempsey, public affairs officer for the Rim Fire Recovery Team, said Monday.  Modesto Bee article

Parkway Trust leader Dave Koehler to step down after 25 years — Dave Koehler, 59, is stepping down next year as executive director the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust after spending the last quarter century building a future for the river he loves.  Fresno Bee article

Global warming labels coming to Berkeley, San Francisco gas pumps? — Drivers filling up at gas stations in Berkeley and San Francisco may soon get a shot of accountability along with their petroleum, with stickers on pumps warning that burning fuel contributes to global warming.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Health/Human Services

In California, that MRI will cost you $255 – or $6,221 – Prices for common medical tests like mammograms and MRIs are notoriously opaque. Negotiated rates between insurance companies and doctors or hospitals are sealed tight by contract. We know there’s price variation, but comparing what one insurance company pays versus another is virtually impossible. That’s why we here at KQED in San Francisco turned to members of our audience to help us find out what medical tests and devices cost.  KQED report

‘First Look’: Council aims to stop chronic hunger in Kern — Food insecurity in Kern County is a concern that affects countless communities, and the problem seems to continue to grow worse. In an effort to develop strategies to end chronic hunger and food insecurity, the Community Action Partnership of Kern — through funding from the United Way of Kern County and the California Endowments — established the Kern Food Policy Council was formed last year.  Bakersfield Californian article

Kaiser Permanente joins forces with Target Corp. on in-store clinics – HMO giant Kaiser Permanente entered the growing retail clinic business for the first time by joining forces with Target Corp. on four in-store locations in Southern California.  LA Times article

Doctors scarce in Sierra town of Groveland – In the Sierra Nevada, the air gets thinner and so does the supply of doctors for treating local residents. People in this town on the Highway 120 route to Yosemite said the lone doctor serving their community is now seeing patients only two days a week at Groveland Family Medical Center. Modesto Bee article

Auberry nursing home to close after state suspension order – A skilled nursing home in Auberry is closing next month after state officials threatened to shut it down as a result of “immediate and serious risks” to residents.  Fresno Bee article

Stockton Shelter for the Homeless: A Christmas wish – renovations – Helen Ellis, coordinator of the collaborative courts at the Superior Court of San Joaquin and longtime shelter supporter, is leading an effort to raise money to improve the shelter. She is hoping the renovations can be done in time for Christmas.  Stockton Record article

EPU Children’s Center announces new director — Fresno’s Exceptional Parents Unlimited, which works with special-needs children and their families, announced that Ellen Knapp will become the organization’s executive director effective Jan. 5, 2015. Knapp, former CEO of the American Red Cross Central Valley, replaces founder Marion Karian. The Business Journal article

Land Use/Housing

Tulare council to decide on $105 million adult care facility — Bethel Family Worship Center Lead Pastor Dennis Sunderland wasted no time appealing a Tulare Planning decision to deny an extension to a permit for a proposed $150 million adult health-care facility.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Weston Ranch group talks about splitting from Stockton — A group organizing an effort to “detach” Weston Ranch from the city and convert it into an unincorporated pocket of San Joaquin County met for two hours Monday in the living room of a home in the south Stockton community.  Stockton Record article


New segment of Kings Canyon Expressway project completed — The second segment of the Kings Canyon Expressway was completed on Friday, the project now having widened nine miles of Highway 180 from a two-lane highway to a four-lane expressway.  Fresno Bee article

Stanislaus transportation leaders to consider creating Highway 132 agency – The idea of creating a new agency to guide the design and construction of a Highway 132 bypass west of Modesto will go before transportation leaders Wednesday.  Modesto Bee article

Merced County bus contracts to be put out for bids — The fuel, maintenance and operations contracts for Merced County’s bus system will be opened to a competitive bidding process, the Merced County Association of Governments decided in a majority vote earlier this month. Merced Sun-Star article

Other Areas

California among worst on issue of child homelessness, report says – The sheer number of kids in California who have nowhere to call home and the failure of the state’s leaders to address the growing crisis place it 48th among the 50 states for dealing with children’s homelessness — ranking it just above Mississippi and Alabama.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Bakersfield shelter sees fewer animals than expected in first year – The Mount Vernon Avenue animal shelter saw 450 fewer city critters than expected — and about 2,450 fewer than when the county ran it — during its first year as a Bakersfield-only facility, officials said Monday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Stockton: Fugazi disputes circumstances of traffic stop – Incoming City Councilwoman Christina Fugazi and her boyfriend were stopped in downtown Stockton after police say she failed to stop at three flashing four-way red lights Friday night, with officers adding they detected the “odor of marijuana” and “evidence of alcohol” once they pulled the car over. Raised in the aftermath, and not completely squelched by Fugazi, was the question of whether racial profiling was a factor in the incident. Stockton Record article

Bob Barzan: I made up the ‘Modesto Art Museum,’ now it’s real – The executive director of the Modesto Art Museum writes, “Our art museum is different from most because we have chosen not to have a building; instead we bring art into the community or raise awareness that art is already around them. I think of the museum as a performance piece involving the people of Modesto, artists and their work in a kind of dance over time and space.” Barzan op-ed in Modesto Bee

Townsend and Fresno Grand opera companies to partner — In what is hoped will be a precedent-setting artistic partnership, Modesto’s Townsend Opera and the Fresno Grand Opera are joining forces.  Modesto Bee article; The Business Journal article; Fresno Bee article

Sierra helicopter program takes off in Atwater — Sierra Academy of Aeronautics flew several helicopters high over Castle Airport this week, with students from the flight school’s new helicopter training program at the controls.  Merced Sun-Star article

El Dorado County ousts chief administrative officer — El Dorado County’s chief administrative officer, once hailed by supervisors for trying to change a toxic workplace culture, has been forced from her job and will be paid nine months’ salary while the county searches for a replacement.  Sacramento Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – A salute to NASCAR’s champions from the Valley: Kevin Harvick and Matt Crafton.

Merced Sun-Star – Don’t dare call it a fundraiser – it’s a “thank-you” for Gov. Brown; President Obama prepares to make the correct move on immigration.

Modesto Bee – Don’t dare call it a fundraiser – it’s a “thank-you” for Gov. Brown; President Obama prepares to make the correct move on immigration.

Sacramento Bee – There are distinctions between the Monday thank-you and a fundraiser. But there is not much difference. Nor have politicians reformed much of anything, despite claims to the contrary; New Sacramento arena pays off with “March Madness.”

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers on a local sports hall of fame, more money for stoves and inserts and other issues.