November 24, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Election turnout in state was far worse than previous low — The pundits who predicted a lousy turnout for California’s Nov. 4 election got it wrong. It was way worse than that. With almost every vote counted across the state, it appears about 42 percent of the state’s 17.8 million registered voters cast ballots. That shatters the previous low of 50.5 percent set in 2002, when Gov. Gray Davis won re-election over Republican businessman Bill SimonSan Francisco Chronicle article

George Skelton: Gov. Jerry Brown has plenty of weapons to fight UC’s Janet Napolitano — Brown has plenty of weapons to use — including a nuclear option. He and the Legislature could completely blow up UC’s scheme by reducing state funding by every dollar raised from increased tuition. Then they could negate the students’ burden by using the state savings to provide tax credits for the tuition-payers. Brown also has enormous political capital.   Skelton column in LA Times

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Dan Walters: Plastic-bag referendum is no-lose situation — Just qualifying the referendum would put a nearly two-year hold on the new law, which means its sponsors would have an additional two years of selling bags to grocers in areas without local bans. Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Workers in Silicon Valley weigh in on Obama’s immigration order — Some immigrants working in technology were heartened by the president’s actions and said they could potentially make life and work in the United States easier.  New York Times article

Other areas

California campaign spending boosts business-friendly Democrats — Hoping to reshape the Democratic coalition governing the California Legislature, business-backed outside groups spent millions during the 2014 election cycle to elect Democrats they believe will be more sympathetic to their interests.  Sacramento Bee article

Snail-mail the solution to Silicon Valley vote totals? — With outdated precinct equipment producing slower election night results than almost any other California county, Santa Clara County board of supervisors President Mike Wasserman said it’s time to consider dropping traditional polling places altogether rather than spending millions of dollars on new machines.  Contra Costa Times article

GOP senator calls House panel Benghazi report a ‘bunch of garbage’ – A top Republican on Sunday dismissed as “full of crap” a report by the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee that largely absolves the Obama administration for its handling of the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  LA Times article

Ming Chen: A bipartisan, human rights issue that Congress needs to address – The board-certified pediatrician who works in Delano writes, “House Resolution 281 condemns a little-known but brutal practice in the People’s Republic of China known as “forced organ harvesting”: transplant organs are taken, without consent, from inmates in Chinese prisons, typically from people imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs.” Chen op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

As protest of Washington team name shifts to Levi Stadium, Yolo tribe’s ad provides support — National protests over the enduring name of the Washington’s football team have picked up steam thanks to an advertising blitz funded last summer by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in Yolo County.  Sacramento Bee article

Hagel said to be resigning under pressure — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and the struggles of his national security team amid an onslaught of global crises.  New York Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Central Valley counties see personal income rising – Central Valley counties joined a nationwide trend of growing personal income last year, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Merced, Stanislaus, Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties all registered increases in per capita income – the amount of income for every man, woman and child – between 2012 and 2013.  Merced Sun-Star article

Stanislaus residents rush to get well permits – The county’s already been flooded with well-drilling permit applications, all of which were approved under the current restriction-free standards. More than 500 new water well permits have been issued in Stanislaus this year, including more than 100 since the start of October, county records show.  Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

CalPERS retirees outnumber active workers soon In a few years CalPERS retirees are expected to outnumber active workers, a national trend among public pension funds that makes them more vulnerable to big employer rate increases.  Calpensions article

Black Friday highlights the contrast between rich and poor — Increasingly, the seasonal shopping surge has become a window into America’s class divide, in which high earners have benefited from a booming stock market and rising home prices as many others still grapple with stagnant incomes and lingering financial anxiety.  LA Times article

Sanger development on the rise – Sanger is quickly becoming the next Clovis with residential and commercial development and a quest to educate its residents to find jobs, especially with local companies.  Fresno Bee photo gallery

High-end home sales are surging in Southern California — Luxury home sales in Southern California are hitting levels not seen in decades. The number of homes bought for $2 million or more in recent months is the highest on record. Sales worth $10 million or more are on pace this year to double their number from the heights of the housing bubble.  LA Times article

Fresno lawyer fulfills dream of opening winery in Madera County — It took about a decade for Walt Whelan to finally fulfill his dream of running his own winery. Recently, the Fresno attorney opened Toca Madera Winery, 36140, Avenue 9.  Fresno Bee article

Monday Q&A: Green Team helps businesses gain from conservation — The Stanislaus Green Team, a program of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, sees profit in saving the planet. It certifies businesses and nonprofit groups that reduce their water and energy use and increase their recycling of containers and other materials.  Modesto Bee article

See the gender pay gap in tech — Glassdoor collected salary data from workers at major tech companies across the company. At most of them, men report earning a higher annual base salary than women. There are exceptions to this. Women in the software engineer role at Google report earning an annual base salary of $117,740. That’s $4,192 more than the annual base salary for men in the same position.  San Francisco Chronicle article


California drought: San Francisco wants to add groundwater to tap —  The recipe for San Francisco’s famously delicious tap water is, gulp, about to change. Most city spigots, which, since the 1930s, have gushed water from Yosemite’s pristine Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, will start delivering the Sierra supply blended with a splash of local groundwater — by many measures, a far inferior source.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Merced supervisors will get another look at proposed groundwater ordinance – The Merced County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will get a second look at the county’s proposed groundwater ordinance, which includes some minor language changes and modifications based on community feedback.  Merced Sun-Star article

Burbank fights ‘dirty’ in battle to conserve water — Thanks to California’s persistent drought, the city of Burbank is resorting to “dirty” tactics in the fight to conserve water. More than 300 city vehicles — including those used by the Burbank Police Department, Burbank Water and Power and the Burbank Fire Department — will go unwashed for at least two months as part of a new water conservation program.  LA Times article

Don Curlee: Henhouse ballots net rotten eggs — California voters, bless their hearts, made another bad decision six years ago when they pretended to know how much space hens require to produce their eggs. Iowans are offering a correction now by charging that the decision has led to a restraint of trade.  Curlee column in Visalia Times-Delta

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Stockton police turning to cutting-edge fingerprint technology – For the past four years, the Stockton Police Department has quietly been testing state-of-the-art equipment that could change the way law enforcement agencies across the country process fingerprints and identify suspects.  Stockton Record article

Oakland seeks to diversity, ‘legitimize’ its thin blue line — It was Halloween day when Isaiah Harris pulled on a police uniform and crossed over the thin blue line. It wasn’t make-believe. This day, he’d wear an authentic police badge.vNow, at 24, he’s part of a new generation of cop the city recruited and trained not only to properly use force, but also to understand Oakland and its residents so that they can police more effectively. Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent calls it “police legitimacy.”  San Francisco Chronicle article


UC students plan walkout Monday to protest tuition increases — UC Berkeley students will take to the streets Monday as part of a systemwide day of action protesting a proposed tuition increase.  San Francisco Chronicle article

University of California: The hidden cost of tuition hikes — As tuition soars, so does taxpayer-funded financial aid, becoming a larger — though often-overlooked — piece of the UC funding picture. Each time the state cut the university’s budget during the Great Recession, UC hiked tuition, and the state, in turn, gave ever-greater sums of tuition grants to help low-income students pay for their UC educations.  San Francisco Chronicle article

San Joaquin Delta College might offer four-year degree – A bachelor’s degree, from San Joaquin Delta College? It could happen if state officials approve Delta’s proposal, which is narrow in scope, extending only to the college’s existing electron microscopy program.  Stockton Record article

Rivalry pranks gone too far? — Something was recently amiss at Golden West High School. One day before this year’s Battle for the Saddle rivalry game with El Diamante High School, a mattress was found plunked in the school pool. And across the mattress was a derogatory message with the initials “EDHS.”  Visalia Times-Delta article


Benicia mayor’s public skepticism puts vote on oil trains in jeopardy – The hot national debate over crude oil train safety has taken an unusual twist in the Bay Area city of Benicia, where a blunt-talking mayor’s right to free speech is being pitted against an oil company’s right to a fair public hearing.  Sacramento Bee article

White House threatens to put brakes on alternative fuels —  As biotech masterminds and venture capitalists scramble to hatch a new generation of environmentally friendly fuels that can help power the average gasoline-burning car, they are confronting an unexpected obstacle: the White House.  LA Times article

Dan Walters Daily: Something odd about PG&E fine — PG&E is slapped with a fine for exerting improper influence over the California Public Utilites Commission, while officials get off scot-free. Something is not right here, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Health/Human Services

Bay Area nurses, hospitals clash over Ebola training — The lack of a clear plan prompted thousands of nurses around the Bay Area to take to the streets last week to demand that their hospitals step up their efforts.  Contra Costa Times article

Sacramento Bee: Gruber fetish obscures huge Obamacare gains — Millions more Americans have health coverage, finally. To willfully try to make that not work is just dumb.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Land Use/Housing

Low-income housing in Hickman to bust stereotypes — A representative for Modesto developer Wendell Naraghi said he will present plans for 60 low-income duplex units at a community meeting here next month and attempt to dispel myths about affordable housing.  Modesto Bee article


ACE trains a touchdown for Merced-area 49ers fans — Those 49er faithful who have yet to discover the Valley’s rail connection to Levi’s Stadium are really missing the train. So said enthusiastic Modesto-area football fans — to a person — riding the rails Sunday to San Francisco’s home game against the Washington Redskins.  Modesto Bee article

Other Areas

Bee Investigator: Money, staffing trip up sidewalk repair in Modesto – City staff reported to the City Council in April that it had a seven-year backlog of repairs needed for Modesto’s 1,438 miles of sidewalk. Short-staffed and operating with an annual sidewalk budget of $1.2 million, staff was falling farther behind each day. Another issue, Hunt said, is that the city workers who cut the tree roots before they started coming up through the sidewalks were laid off several years ago and have not been replaced. Modesto Bee article

Bakersfield Homeless Center meal is about thanks, giving – The beauty of the day was that attorneys and business owners mixed with the homeless and their children, and everyone was just … people. No societal strata. No marginalizing. Just a caring community.  Bakersfield Californian article

Free turkeys make Thanksgiving a little brighter for Merced’s less fortunate – Thanksgiving will be a little brighter for hundreds of Merced County families, thanks to the generosity of local businessman Greg Hostetler.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fitz’s Stockton: The way to feast in the 209 – Today: a Stockton Thanksgiving menu.  Michael Fitzgerald in Stockton Record

Modesto teen teams with sorority to deliver coats to kids – Coats, jackets and sweatshirts lost at area schools are finding appreciative new owners thanks to Omega Nu and a Gregori High School freshman.  Modesto Bee article

Doug Greener: Don’t let your holidays go up in smoke – Bakersfield’s fire chief writes, “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet and apparently we’ve entered full Christmas mode in Bakersfield, with decorations, music and red coffee cups everywhere, and the shopping rush beginning to gain momentum. All of this is probably fun for those really in the holiday spirit, but it also gives me an early reminder as the fire chief to offer everyone the Bakersfield Fire Department’s annual holiday safety tips.” Bakersfield Californian article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Sacramento Bee – Millions more Americans have health coverage, finally. To willfully try to make that not work is just dumb.