November 19, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

President Obama’s immigrant plans hard to block, legal experts say – Although the program is likely to push the limits of presidential power, immigration law experts predict opponents will have a hard time stopping him. Courts have historically given the executive branch broad leeway to decide how to enforce deportation laws for the estimated 11 million immigrants living and working in the country without legal status.  LA Times article

Tulare’s Nunes to chair House intelligence panel next year —  California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes on Tuesday vaulted into top-secret leadership, as the next chairman of the powerful and ofttimes mysterious House Intelligence Committee.  McClatchy Newspapers article; AP article

Gov. Brown

For donors, Jerry Brown wines but not dines — One advantage of Gov. Jerry Brown’s incumbency – and only faint opposition in his re-election bid – was a degree of flexibility in fundraiser scheduling: Donors, it turns out, care little whether contributions bring access before or after Election Day.  Capitol Alert

Valley politics

Demographics firm to assist Merced’s move to districts — Merced hired a firm this week to help draw up districts and administer public meetings as the city transitions to local elections that use districts.  Merced Sun-Star article


California’s illegal immigrant population drops, still the largest — California still has, by far, the nation’s largest population of illegal immigrants, but it declined between 2009 and 2012, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.  Capitol Alert

East Coast popular for immigrants in US illegally — Immigrants entering the U.S. illegally are increasingly making states along the East Coast their home rather than states closer to the Mexican border.  AP article

Ruben Navarrette: In a fog on immigration reform – There shouldn’t be any confusion about this simple fact: Demagoguing an issue isn’t the same as finding a solution to it.  Navarrette column in Sacramento Bee

Noted photojournalist speaks in Merced about migrant children crisis — Award-winning photojournalist David Bacon stopped by Merced on Monday night to start a local conversation about the growing crisis of migrant children in California.  Merced Sun-Star article

Other areas

9th Circuit says sex offender Internet rules violate free speech – A federal appeals panel decided Tuesday that a California law that requires registered sex offenders to tell authorities their Internet user names, email addresses and other identifying information violates constitutional protections of free speech.  LA Times article

How John A. Pérez can legally serve both in Legislature and on UC board – When former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez takes his seat at the University of California Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, the newly-appointed regent will – for a couple of weeks until his legislative term expires – sit both as a lawmaker and a member of the UC board. The legality of the arrangement is counter intuitive. The state Constitution prohibits lawmakers from holding other non-elective state offices.  Capitol Alert

Nancy Pelosi wields California Democrats’ clout in bid to regain House – Undeterred by a dismal election that shrank the party’s ranks in the House to their lowest level since World War II, Nancy Pelosi is building a path back to power for Democrats in Congress that relies heavily on California clout.  LA Times article

League of California Cities president may lose post – Tony Ferrara, the recently installed president of the League of California Cities, probably will lose that position in two weeks due to being ousted as mayor of Arroyo Grande, a small San Luis Obispo County city.  Capitol Alert

Senate GOP blocks bill limiting NSA access to phone records — Legislation to keep most Americans’ phone records out of government hands was defeated in the Senate, dooming for now prospects of national security reforms that supporters said would protect the privacy of law-abiding citizens.  LA Times article; New York Times article

John Pryor: Cybersecurity needs action, but there is a bigger threat – The Bakersfield risk management consultant writes, “Our representative, Kevin McCarthy, could lead his colleagues to avoid this risk totally, including its horrendous outcomes. McCarthy should take advantage of his leadership role in Congress to extend the 2013 Shield Act (HR 2417) to apply to civilian systems on behalf of his Kern County constituents as well as all citizens throughout the U.S.”  Pryor op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Armenian Orphan Rug, symbol of tragic past, briefly on display at White House — Beauty born from gratitude and horror, the Armenian Orphan Rug went on long-awaited public display Tuesday at the White House Visitor Center.  Fresno Bee article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Public pensions in California pass another bankruptcy test – Public employees and retirees in California absorbed a potentially devastating court ruling a little more than a month ago: Pension benefits can be legally slashed if their employers go bankrupt. The cities in a position to cut pensions, however, have shown no interest in doing so. Sacramento Bee article

Prop 47 could leave counties scrambling for drug treatment funds — The passage of Proposition 47 could leave San Francisco and other counties scrambling to make up the state money they used to receive for successfully treating rather than imprisoning low-level drug and property crime offenders, law enforcement officials say. San Francisco Chronicle article

Jobs and the Economy

Dan Walters: Big pension gap won’t vanish soon – State Controller John Chiang performed an admirable public service by publishing a detailed report on the finances of California’s public employee pension systems. The most eye-popping fact in the report is that the “unfunded liabilities” of those systems exploded from $6.3 billion in 2003 to $198.2 billion in 2013. Why? It was a perfect storm of irresponsibility.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Stockton Record: End game futile for Franklin Templeton? – Stockton was able to work out deals with other creditors and the whole process would have been expedited if it could have come to terms with Franklin Templeton. It’s generally agreed that $35 million is not a huge sum in the grand scheme of things for Franklin Templeton. But, obviously, potentially setting a precedent is important. And so, unfortunately, this spat carries on. Stockton Record editorial

Bakersfield council will consider raises for police officers – A one-year extension of the police union’s labor contract that would cost the city $976,000 through June 30 will be considered by the Bakersfield City Council on Wednesday. The proposed agreement would give 2 percent raises to most members except Bakersfield Police Department detectives, who would get a 3 percent raise.  Bakersfield Californian article

Valley home sales increase in October – The Central Valley saw some healthy increases in home sales in October, even as figures stayed flat throughout the state as a whole. According to a new report from the California Association of Realtors, homes sales in Fresno County improved 4.2 percent from September to October. However, sales were down 1 percent compared to October 2013.  The Business Journal article

Foreclosure activity slows down — Foreclosure activity has slowed year-over-year and so have my reports which could be a good thing — fewer foreclosures to worry about. The downward trend reflects a decline in foreclosures that started in March 2009, according to Madeline Schnapp, director of economic research for PropertyRadar, formerly ForeclosureRadar, a real estate data company.  Fresno Bee article

Sacramento gets a D in home affordability — Sacramento nearly flunks when it comes to home affordability, according to one study. Middle-income families are unable to afford the median-priced home in many of the country’s 25 largest cities, said  Sacramento Bee article

Barely 1 in 5 LA homes affordable to middle class, study finds — The bad news: Los Angeles County is the second-least affordable housing market in the country for a middle-class family. The sort-of good news: At least it’s not getting much worse.  LA Times article

Fresno food bank fundraiser provides 630,000 meals for needy families – The Community Food Bank in Fresno raised $70,000 and collected more than 2,000 pounds of food — enough donations for 630,000 meals — in a fundraising campaign led by local media groups, Reedley agricultural retailer Gar Tootelian and the contributions of local businesses and residents.  Fresno Bee article

Hunger Banquet highlights inequalities of life – In a word, the overwhelming response Laurel Klafehn sensed last year at The Hunger Banquet, was “anger.” The fundraising meal of the University of the Pacific’s Social Entrepreneurs invites all guests who pay $5 to pull a ticket for the night’s meal.  Stockton Record article

Restaurants are feeling the heat in crackdown on wage theft — Precise data on the extent of wage theft are hard to come by. But an often-cited 2009 report by the National Employment Law Project estimated that 1 in 4 low-wage workers surveyed in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York were not receiving the minimum wage, and 75% were not getting overtime pay that they were owed.  LA Times article


Talks on drought bill underway on Capitol Hill – California’s water future is boiling below the surface this week. Only the chosen few have a clue about details. Bill documents, currently about 50 pages, are stamped “confidential draft language, do not distribute.” Capitol Hill doors are shut, congressional timetables are opaque and negotiators are strictly mum.  Fresno Bee article

Merced Sun-Star: Open up those doors and let us see the water deal – Whatever is being proposed, legislators must know that any deal struck in secret will have detractors – and it should.  Merced Sun-Star editorial

Oakdale Irrigation District plans to sell $3.9 million in water to outside buyers – The Oakdale Irrigation District plans to sell $3.9 million worth of water to out-of-area buyers in 2015, has begun negotiating potential sales, and is considering offering local farmers financial incentives to fallow their land so additional irrigation water can be marketed to others.  Modesto Bee article

Fresno Bee: City of Fresno’s water plan is sound and worthy of approval – Compared to what people in other Valley cities pay for their water, Fresno’s rates are a bargain; the rate hikes needed to pay for the new infrastructure won’t change this fact. We encourage the Fresno City Council to put a sharp pencil to Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s $410 million proposal and save money where it can, but keep the integrity and strategy of this plan in place.  Fresno Bee editorial

Fresno and Clovis councils meet to discuss water, jobs – Jobs and recreation played second fiddle Tuesday evening at Fresno City Hall to the issue on just about everyone’s mind: water. For the second time this year, the Fresno and Clovis city councils held a joint meeting to discuss topics of mutual interest.  Fresno Bee article

Lois Henry: Carrot or stick for groundwater management? – California’s groundwater hit the big time Sunday night, starring as the lead item in the “60 Minutes” television news program. Upshot of the piece: Cali’s been in a prolonged drought and our groundwater is being tapped like never before.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Porterville residents get portable showers — Hundreds of people living in a drought-stricken California farm town could soon be taking their first hot shower in months after county officials set up portable facilities in a church parking lot. Residents of East Porterville in the agricultural Central Valley must bring their own towel and soap, but the hot shower is free. Until now, many have been forced to bathe from buckets and drink bottled water.  AP article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Top leader of ruthless Mexican drug cartel is a Tulare native — The U.S. State Department is offering a $5 million reward for the capture of a Tulare native who is described as a top commander of a ruthless Mexican drug cartel called the Zetas.  Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

Donation makes Stockton police body cams possible – An anonymous donor is prepared to make a six-figure contribution to the city to pay for the first year of a program that would equip about 250 police officers in Stockton with body cameras, Chief Eric Jones told the City Council on Tuesday night.  Stockton Record article

LAPD study focused on small part of discipline system — The officers were blunt in their assessment of the Los Angeles Police Department’s disciplinary system: It was unfair and needed to be fixed.  LA Times article

Taft school shooter ‘a little’ remorseful – Prosecutors finished presenting evidence in the trial of school shooter Bryan Oliver on Tuesday by playing a video in which Oliver told investigators he shot classmate Bowe Cleveland and probably would have shot another classmate, Jacob Nichols, “if I’d had a clean shot.”  Bakersfield Californian article

Sister of man killed by Bakersfield police speaks out — He was the baby of the family, the youngest of six, a loyal Dodgers fan and the apple of his mother’s eye. He took in stray dogs, regularly attended St. Joseph Church and, at 22, his life was just beginning. These are the memories and personal recollections of Sarina Gonzalez, 29, the sister of Ramiro James Villegas, who died Thursday after four Bakersfield police officers fired multiple gunshots and a Taser at him during an incident in northeast Bakersfield. Bakersfield Californian article

Stockton officers association criticizes Fugazi — Councilwoman-elect Christina Fugazi faced harsh criticism Tuesday from the Stockton Police Officers Association, one of her prime financial supporters during her recent victorious campaign to unseat incumbent Dyane Burgos Medina.  Stockton Record article

UC cops say bosses eavesdropped on them in bathrooms — A University of California campus police department secretly installed a surveillance system throughout its headquarters, including in bathrooms, and recorded officers’ private conversations, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by a police union.  San Francisco Chronicle article


UC Merced students hold tuition-hike protest – Almost 100 UC Merced students participated in a demonstration on campus Tuesday to protest proposed hikes in tuition across the University of California system.  Merced Sun-Star article

UC tuition-hike debate reveals struggle over university autonomy – A growing rift between the University of California and Gov. Jerry Brown over tuition increases has exposed a broader struggle over who controls the powerhouse university system and who should pay for it.  Oakland Tribune article

Sacramento Bee: Gov. Brown is heavy-handed but shows he hates to lose – Gov. Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano ought to stop the brinkmanship over tuition, and find common ground.  Sacramento Bee editorial

UC Davis students protest proposed tuition hike on anniversary of pepper spraying — Hundreds of students gathered on the UC Davis quad Tuesday to protest proposed tuition hikes. Three years to the day after a notorious pepper spraying incident, they stood near the spot where that happened and demanded their tuition be kept in check.  Sacramento Bee article

Toni Atkins: There’s a better way than tuition hikes to fund UC – The Assembly Speaker writes, “A shared solution of increased state funding for UC and for financial aid, limiting out-of-state students and charging them appropriately and implementing greater efficiencies within UC is the course to take.”  Atkins op-ed in Sacramento Bee

New CSU Bakersfield dorms ‘light years ahead’ – The $41.3 million residential project has rooms for 500 students (20 singles, 150 triples and 330 doubles), as well as study rooms, lounges, classrooms, a game room and a multi-purpose room.  Bakersfield Californian article

Stockton Unified trustees approve spending plan – In a meeting packed with teachers union supporters again calling for a contract, Stockton Unified School District trustees on Tuesday approved the revised 2014-15 Local Control Accountability Spending Plan for a priority wish list mapped out earlier this year.  Stockton Record article

Stanislaus County students honored for language skills – Stanislaus County was the first county in the nation to offer a gold seal for students proficient in another language through its Office of Education. Now in its fourth year, the Seal of Multilingual Proficiency program recognized 154 students this year.  Modesto Bee article

UC Merced Connect: Research takes graduate student across the world – Graduate student Kaiqi Hua’s research into premodern China has taken him to the canals of Hangzhou, the rocket-battered streets of Jerusalem and the East-West Center in Hawaii.  UC Merced Connect in Merced Sun-Star

Hughson hazing investigation leads to citations – An investigation into a suspected hazing incident involving members of the Hughson High School football team has resulted in criminal citations for two teenagers, the suspension of several players from the team and the apparent removal of the coach.  Modesto Bee article

Search continues for person behind Yik Yak posts that closed high school — Police have not yet identified the anonymous person who posted messages on Yik Yak that were deemed threatening and led to the closure of Mira Costa High School. But the investigation continued Tuesday afternoon with hopes of finding the sender soon, Officer Stephanie Martin said.  LA Times article


Environmental group pushes to close oil wastewater sumps – In the latest salvo targeting California’s petroleum industry, an environmental activist group called Tuesday for a statewide ban on the practice of using unlined sumps to dispose of water that comes up from the ground along with crude oil.  Bakersfield Californian article

Stockton Record: Hyacinth response fine, but tardy – The feds and the state have aggressively entered the battle to eradicate water hyacinth from Stockton area waterways. We ask where they were in past years.  Stockton Record editorial

Beet ethanol demonstration project to begin next month — A new source of transportation fuel may soon flow from the Central Valley if a pilot-scale biorefinery wrapping up later this year in Fresno County proves successful in converting thousands of tons of beets into ethanol.  The Business Journal article

New technology better tracks Central Valley fog, rain — When heavy fog rolled into the Central Valley, meteorologists at the National Weather Service couldn’t issue alerts until the fog actually was spreading over towns, cities and roadways. But with new technology launched in September, the Weather Service forecasters in Hanford and the rest of the county have been able to forecast where and when fog will form hours before it actually rolls in.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Organizers: Don’t tune out on tune-up program — Thousands of dollars worth of free car repairs were left unclaimed the last time a Tune In & Tune Up smog check event was held in Stockton. Local organizer Jose Marin doesn’t want that to happen again.  Stockton Record article

Health/Human Services

Covered California hopes to enroll more Latinos, but there’s a problem – With the second open enrollment period of Covered California in full swing, state officials are boosting their efforts to reach out to Latinos. Yet, there are many people in the Central Valley who are living in the shadows when it comes to enrolling for health care.  KVPR report

California expected to drop hundreds of thousands from Medi-Cal rolls – When it comes to expanding health coverage to its poorest residents, California could be taking two steps forward and one step back. Even as the state celebrates its enrollment of more than 2.7 million low-income Californians in Medi-Cal in 2014, it may drop an unusually high number of beneficiaries from its rolls by year’s end.  Contra Costa Times article

Anthem, Blue Shield criticizes for doctor networks — Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California, two of California’s largest health insurers, misled customers about the number of doctors in their networks under plans sold through the state’s insurance marketplace, according to a state report released Tuesday.  AP article; LA Times article

How likely are you to have heart surgery?  A C-section? Depends on where you live – “Location, location, location” may be a well-known maxim in real estate, but it applies in health care, too. Where you live matters in terms of what treatment you will receive for a given condition. A new statewide survey published Tuesday found significant variation in the rate of 13 common elective procedures for several health conditions — including heart disease, childbirth and arthritis of the hip or knee.  KQED report

UCSF to study early menopause vs. preventive cancer surgery risks – Cavalheiro is one of about 100 Bay Area women between 35 and 50 years old with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations who are participating in a clinical trial that is examining changes in cardiovascular health, bone density, sexual function, quality of life and other effects on women who go into early menopause.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Tulare residents warned not to buy cheese from street vendors — A cluster of people in Tulare County have become ill with salmonella from eating cheese they bought from an unlicensed cheese maker, the county health officer said Tuesday.  Fresno Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Ceremony marks opening of Modesto senior housing complex – Officials gathered Tuesday morning for the grand opening of Downey Terrace, an 11-unit apartment complex for low-income seniors in Modesto.  Modesto Bee article

Capital of Silicon Valley takes biggest step in years to help struggling renters — Facing an affordability crisis in the biggest community of pricey Silicon Valley, San Jose leaders on Tuesday took their biggest step in years to help low- and middle-class workers struggling to afford skyrocketing rents.  San Jose Mercury News article

Landowner hopeful about long-vacant lot — Hanford property owner Joe Garcia has been struggling to develop the same vacant 2.1-acre parcel for the past 15 years, and he’s not done trying.  Hanford Sentinel article


United temporarily cancels Sacramento-to-D.C. nonstop flights – Citing a seasonal drop in demand, United Airlines is temporarily grounding the only nonstop flight between Sacramento and Washington, D.C., airline officials confirmed Tuesday.  Sacramento Bee article

TSA: OK to bring your ice skates on the plane — The Transportation Security Administration displayed thousands of items on Tuesday that were confiscated from carry-on bags over three months at New York’s Kennedy Airport. As the chaotic holiday travel season approaches, the agency wanted to remind the public what carry-on items were no-no’s.  AP article

Fresno airport adds third screening lane — A third security screening lane has been added at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport making the pre-boarding process faster for passengers.  The Business Journal article

Westside Parkway, Highway 58 builds fall behind – Two major highway improvement projects expected to be finished this year are behind and likely won’t be done until early 2015, a city engineer said Tuesday.  Bakersfield Californian article

BART line to San Jose lurching into view, in fits and starts — Long considered a good idea, getting BART to San Jose continues to be a struggle — despite the generosity of South Bay voters, who have twice raised their sales taxes, and support from the tech industry.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other Areas

Oakland is bracing for possible violence in the wake of Ferguson decision – Oakland is warning residents and merchants to prepare for possible riots when the Missouri grand jury announces its decision over whether a white Ferguson police officer will face charges in the shooting death of a black man.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Diane Blair: The language of fear should be our real concern — It seems lately that we are bombarded by social and international crises and threats.  Incurable diseases and clandestine terrorists are lurking, and social institutions are cracking.  Our sense of security is in question.  In this edition of The Moral Is, Fresno State Communication Professor Diane Blair explores this rhetoric of fear, which she argues has reached new heights in our public discourse and deliberation.  Blair commentary in KVPR

Atwater files motion to retry $3.2 million pedestrian death case — Atwater attorneys this week filed a motion for a new trial to overturn a recent verdict that awarded $3.2 million to the family of a woman who was killed while trying to cross an intersection.  Merced Sun-Star article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – City of Fresno’s water plan is sound and worthy of approval.

Merced Sun-Star – Whatever is being proposed, legislators must know that any water deal struck in secret will have detractors – and it should.

Modesto Bee – Whatever is being proposed, legislators must know that any water deal struck in secret will have detractors – and it should.

Sacramento Bee – Gov. Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano ought to stop the brinkmanship over tuition, and find common ground; El Dorado County deserves better.

Stockton Record – Stockton was able to work out deals with other creditors and the whole process would have been expedited if it could have come to terms with Franklin Templeton. It’s generally agreed that $35 million is not a huge sum in the grand scheme of things for Franklin Templeton. But, obviously, potentially setting a precedent is important; The feds and the state have aggressively entered the battle to eradicate water hyacinth from Stockton area waterways. We ask where they were in past years.