November 26, 2015


Political Stories

Top stories 

George Skelton: Despite California’s budget surplus, unions eye tax hikes – A proposed ballot measure to continue the so-called temporary tax hike 12 years beyond its scheduled Dec. 31, 2018, cutoff was cleared by the secretary of state for signature collection. The initiative’s sponsors are the California Teachers Assn. and the state Services Employees International Union. That’s right: The treasury is spilling over, but some unions want to keep collecting income taxes at the highest rate in state history. Skelton column in LA Times

Dan Walters: State still owes one huge debt — When Jerry Brown returned to the governorship in 2011, he pledged to clean up the state’s finances and pay off a “wall of debt.” Brown defined the debt rather narrowly, however, as $33 billion borrowed from banks, special funds and school aid to cover budget deficits during the Great Recession. One of the debts that Brown omitted was the $10 billion that California borrowed from the federal government to keep unemployment checks flowing to jobless workers. Walters column in Sacramento BeeState budget 

Gov. Brown 

Jerry Brown has stern words, flash drives for Republicans challenging climate rules — Continuing to lambaste climate change skeptics as he prepares to attend a global climate summit in Paris, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday chided the attorneys general of Texas and West Virginia for seeking to convey to world leaders their opposition to new federal emissions rules. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article 

Valley politics 

First Look: Kevin McCarthy talks Syrian refugee crisis, proposal for new task force — Tough calls are being made in the capitol this month as politicians are tasked with efforts to quell the rising Syrian refugee crisis. And conceivably at the center of it all, is local congressman and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Bakersfield Californian article 

Riverbank City Council shakeup is coming — With a 3-2 split vote, leaders on Tuesday divided the city into four voting districts, creating one predominantly Latino district with no incumbent in east Riverbank and forcing council members Cal Campbell and Leanne Jones Cruz to face each other if they choose to run in the future. Modesto Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

John Pitney Jr.: A sleeper Senate race in California — The race to succeed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California could very well produce the upset of 2016. Pitney in Fox & Hounds

Other areas

Donors gave a super PAC $6 million.  Candidates actually got about $140,000 — The story behind the creation of Carson’s fundraising network is another example of the way that super PACs, which are supposed to be independent from campaigns, have become more entangled with candidates than ever before. It also illustrates how effective the checks of tens of thousands of small donors, many of them of modest means, can be at enriching campaign consultants. LA Times article

Mike Dunbar: Understanding refugees is a necessary first step — Of the 70 to 80 people at Tuesday’s meeting, a fairly small group had come to demand the board pass a resolution telling the governor to stop accepting refugees from the Middle East. A larger group was there to show supervisors there is support for continuing to welcome those refugees – just as refugees have been welcomed here for generations. Dunbar column in Modesto Bee 

Laws struggle to keep up as hoverboards’ popularity soars – They are this year’s must-have holiday item, coveted by children and adults alike. Retailers are promoting them heavily online and on catalog covers, and they are an increasingly common sight on city streets across America. But in many places — from New York State to individual schools, malls and stores — they are illegal. New York Times article 

For Carly Fiorina, peripatetic childhood helped build worldview — After attending elementary schools in New York, Connecticut and California, she followed her father as he took a visiting professorship at the University of London. There, she said, she attended London’s Channing School for Select Young Ladies, a Unitarian school with the motto “cras ingens iterabimus aequor,” or “tomorrow we shall journey across a vast sea.” New York Times article

Obama struggles with stance on death penalty —  President Barack Obama is making a hard case for overhauling the U.S. criminal justice system, but where he stands on the death penalty is unclear. Obama has hinted that his support for capital punishment is eroding, but he has refused to discuss what he might call for. AP article

News Stories

Top Stories

Bullet train faces new scrutiny after release of report predicting higher costs – The Los Angeles to San Francisco bullet train is headed for new federal and state scrutiny following disclosure that the project’s lead contractor forecast significant cost increases that were not made public. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), chairman of the U.S. House rail subcommittee, said he plans to call hearings early next year to examine the project’s cost and the state’s failure to disclose the higher budget projections. LA Times article 

New deal with Madera County brings Chukchansi hotel-casino closer to re-opening – Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, closed for more than a year, is a step closer to opening after the tribe agreed earlier this week to a change in its contract with Madera County. But county supervisors asked for a bit more during a special meeting Wednesday. Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal article

Jobs and the Economy

Early snow means happy Thanksgiving – A pair of Central Valley ski resorts will get their season underway this week, hoping to cash in on skiers and snowboarders who have been anxiously waiting for the 2015-16 season to get underway. Stockton Record article

Robin Abcarian: The inevitable legalization of pot sets off a new California Gold Rush — Here at the New West Summit, everyone seemed busy. Hedge fund managers and venture capitalists mingled with medical cannabis dispensary owners, app developers and all manner of cannabis entrepreneur. Publicists and certified public accountants worked the rooms, looking for new business. The whiff of money was almost as strong as the whiff of cannabis, both of which intensified as the conference unfolded. Abcarian in LA Times

Black Friday different for various retailers – Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. Well, it really depends on who you ask. Stockton Record article

Downtown Hanford merchants hope shoppers ‘think small’ on Saturday – With crazy Black Friday deals dominating shopping news coverage and advertising, will the day after – Small Business Saturday – get lost in the shuffle? Downtown Hanford merchants are fervently hoping that’s not the case, and they’re offering extra bells and whistles on Saturday to bring in customers who may want to avoid the big-box retail crush expected on Friday. Hanford Sentinel article

Douglass W. Wilhoit Jr.: Shop local – on Black Friday and all year round – The chief executive officer of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce writes, “The revenue from all sales 365 days a year help not only the local businesses continue their success and services but also fund much-needed community services for all.” Wilhoit op-ed in Stockton Record

Black Friday falters as consumer behaviors change – Black Friday has lost its distinctive edge. Sure, tens of millions of Americans will still hit the malls this Friday. But the relentless race for holiday dollars has blunted the day’s oomph, as stores offer deep discounts weeks before Thanksgiving and year-round deals in stores and online are breeding sales fatigue. Some fed-up shoppers cheered this year when the outdoors retailer, REI, declared it was opting out of Black Friday sales altogether. New York Times article

More beer in downtown Visalia? — Craft breweries could get the green light to set up in downtown, particularly east downtown Visalia, if a proposed ordinance change goes through. Visalia Times-Delta article 

Henry Perea: Hope for homelessness – The Fresno County supervisor writes, “While great strides have been made, local government has much more work ahead to mitigate homelessness. I challenge our community to look at the issue of homelessness with fresh eyes and a new perspective. We need to balance the current philosophy of working tirelessly to get homeless individuals into treatment programs and housing with the reality that there are many who will refuse assistance and be left to handle their own situations.” Perea op-ed in Fresno Bee

Warehouse to open doors to Stockton homeless — Business owner Dean Fitzgerald began learning about the depth of Stockton’s homeless problem when he paid a visit to the encampment beneath the Crosstown Freeway and Interstate 5 back in May. Stockton Record article 

Research, manufacturing business planned in Tulare – A building in east Tulare that has been empty for years could employ 50 to 70 people within a couple of months. Visalia Times-Delta article

Sacramento City Council to vote on term sheet for soccer stadium – In an attempt to show Major League Soccer that political and civic support exists for a new soccer stadium in Sacramento’s downtown railyard, Republic FC and city officials will bringa preliminary term sheet to the City Council next week outlining plans for a 25,000-seat stadium project costing $226 million.  Sacramento Bee article 

Uber-style restaurant app catching on in Sacramento area — A Sacramento startup with an Uber-like app is raking in new customers and closing in on a big venture capital deal – thanks to a recent tweak in its business plan. The company, Requested, was launched in March with what its founders thought was a killer smartphone app for the dining industry. Sacramento Bee article 

California regulators order more Volkswagen recalls in pollution scandal — The California Air Resources Board told Volkswagen Group of America to submit a recall plan covering Volkswagens, Porsches and Audis equipped with 3.0-liter diesel engines. Sacramento Bee articleAP article

Holiday drone sales predicted to take off, despite new FAA rules — Despite ongoing efforts to create new registration guidelines for recreational drone use, local retailers say the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may have a hard time grounding the holiday rush. Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are expected to be one of this year’s most popular holiday gifts, said John DeNicola, manager at Visalia Hobbies. The Business Journal article

California’s hard-hit water districts will get a shot at relief – Seven months after state regulators drew up their plan to achieve a statewide reduction in urban water use, Yorba Linda Water District and its counterparts will get their first formal chance to ask for relief. LA Times article

Madera restricts outdoor watering to one day per week – Outdoor watering is now limited to only one day per week in Madera after the City Council voted to implement the city’s Drought Water Restriction Level C on Nov. 18. Fresno Bee article

Merced County joins water project coalition – Merced County has agreed to join the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, a coalition representing five counties that aims to secure and distribute grant funding for water projects that benefit the area. Merced Sun-Star article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Gun used to kill Oakland muralist traced to ICE agents’ car – A federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer’s gun — stolen from his rental car in San Francisco — was used 16 days later in the Oakland slaying of a popular muralist, authorities confirmed Wednesday. San Francisco Chronicle article 


In Supreme Court case, university defends race-based policy giving middle-class minorities an edge – With the constitutionality of race-based affirmative action hanging by a thread at the Supreme Court, University of Texas officials are struggling to explain a policy that gives an extra edge to Latino and African American students from middle-class households and top-performing high schools. LA Times article

Cellphones make a comeback in the classroom, with teachers’ support – Farinas wanted to flip the script: Rather than reprimanding her students for using their phones, she wanted to put them to work as a learning tool. She is among a growing number of teachers who are instructing students to use their phones to conduct research, listen to music, calculate math problems or photograph assignments. LA Times article

Joe Mathews: Public universities could try to become more like USC – USC has capitalized on its flexibility as a private school to raise the school’s endowment and profile. Public universities are hamstrung in fundraising by the perception that they are state funded (even though state money is a small fraction of their revenue) and by wariness about donations from politically unpopular sources. Mathews in Sacramento Bee

Victor Davis Hanson: Campus officials reap what they sow — For a half-century, professors have privileged diversity over unity. Faculties focused more on American sins than American virtues. They fixated on the color of our skins rather than the content of our characters. Administrators watered down the curriculum, lowered standards and appeased pampered students. Now they are reaping the liberal whirlwind that they alone have sown. Hanson column in Fresno Bee

Pass rate for summer California bar exam hits historic low: under 47 percent – For the second year in a row, the percentage of people who successfully took the summer California bar exam fell to a historic low, with less than 47% passing, according to state statistics. Last year, only 48.6% of those who took the exam made the grade, the first time the passage rate dipped below half in nearly a decade. LA Times article

Foodie culture is spurring degree programs at U.S. colleges – An estimated 30 U.S. colleges and universities have formal interdisciplinary food studies programs that offer degrees or minors. New ones opened this fall at UC Berkeley, the University of the Pacific and Syracuse University. Hundreds of other more traditional degrees in agriculture, nutrition and the environment are attracting new food-focused interest. LA Times article

Sacramento-area groups provide food for students beyond cafeteria — School breakfast and lunch programs have long been a lifeline to low-income children who rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school week. But the practice of helping students stave off hunger when classes are not in session is playing out at more than a half-dozen schools in Rancho Cordova, the city of Sacramento and Placer County. Some groups expanded their efforts last week to provide Thanksgiving turkeys and side dishes to students and their families. Sacramento Bee article

Project-based learning on the rise in California public schools — State education officials now want more schools to take on this approach, known asproject-based learning (PBL), because Common Core academic standards ask students to collaborate and solve real-world problems. KQED report


Air quality cops tackle wildfires – Now, after another bad fire season, air quality officials are taking another look at the link between forest fires, air quality and public health. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District took a first step earlier this month toward making it easier to conduct prescribed burns, intentional fires that produce some pollution of their own but help to prevent much larger catastrophic wildfires in the future. Stockton Record article

Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks raise entry fees for 2016 – Entrance fees to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are going up at the start of the new year. A single-vehicle pass good for seven days will increase to $30, up from $20. An annual pass will increase to $50, up from $30. Fresno Bee article

Air district tells Tulare County to stop demolition of Pixley Park building – Following a tipster’s complaint, Tulare County has been ordered to halt demolition of an old building in Pixley Park until it is checked for asbestos. Fresno Bee article

Feinstein turns to Obama to protect California desert – Standing in 97-degree heat before a rowdy crowd of nearly 1,000 people last month at the Whitewater Preserve north of Palm Springs, Sen. Dianne Feinstein made clear that she will do whatever is necessary to protect California desert. San Francisco Chronicle article 

Emissions event aims to clear the air with low-income drivers – With Black Friday almost upon us, it’s time to start thinking about getting into another line: the queue for the popular “Tune In & Tune Up“ event, a free way for older, potentially smoggier cars to inch their way toward a smog check. Bakersfield Californian article 

Hanford officials resume annual crow battle – As the weather cools off, swarms of crows have resumed their annual roost in downtown Hanford. City officials struggle annually to deal with the birds, which create health concerns by leaving their droppings on streets, sidewalks and other property. Thousands of crows invade the downtown area during the winter months, coming into the city to roost around dusk and dispersing in the morning. Hanford Sentinel article

Jeff Jardine: Talkin’ turkeys where the turkeys talk back — More than a year ago, I noticed a sizable a flock in an almond orchard along Stearns Road and stopped to get some photos. A dozen, I counted at that time. But for the past several months, only five. I have no idea what happened to the others. Hunters? Coyotes? A mountain lion? Or were some part of a bumper crop because they wandered on to the road at the worst possible time? Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Projects stall after feds allow fish farming in open ocean — Some 90 percent of seafood consumed by Americans is imported — a fact that the Obama administration vowed to start turning around by expanding fish and shellfish farms into federal waters.

Yet nearly two years since the first permit was issued, the United States still has no offshore farms. AP article

Health/Human Services 

United Healthcare remains option for Valley health plan shoppers – for now — It’s the first time that United Healthcare, the nation’s largest insurer, has participated in Covered California, the state’s insurance exchange created for the Affordable Care Act. But a month into its entrance in the California market, the insurer’s future in the exchange market beyond next year has been thrown into question. Fresno Bee article

Number of E. coli cases linked to Costco chicken salad expected to grow – The number of people sickened in an E. coli outbreak linked to Costco chicken salad will likely grow over the next few weeks, even though the product has been removed from store shelves, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. AP article

Turing reneges on drug price cut, rival’s version sells well – After weeks of criticism from patients, doctors and even other drugmakers for hiking a life-saving medicine’s price more than fifty-fold, Turing Pharmaceuticals is reneging on its pledge to cut the $750-per-pill price. Instead, the small biotech company says it’s reducing the price for hospitals by up to 50% for its Daraprim, which treats a rare parasitic infection that mainly strikes pregnant women and HIV patients. LA Times article

2 Valeant dermatology drugs lead steep price increases, study finds – Two drugs sold by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International to treat cancer-related skin conditions increased in price by about 1,700 percent over the last six years, according to a newly published survey that found big increases in the cost of dermatology drugs across the board. New York Times article

Gifford was suffering concussion-related brain injury CTE when he died — Bakersfield High School legend Frank Gifford was suffering from a traumatic brain injury at the time of his death, his family has announced. Gifford’s family chose to have his brain studied by pathologists, who determined that Gifford had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative brain disease believed to be related to head trauma sustained during his football career. AP/Bakersfield Californian articleLA Times article

Porterville hospital accused of overbilling Medicare — Federal auditors have concluded that Sierra View District Hospital in Porterville mistakenly billed Medicare more than $798,000 due to billing errors for 25 patients. Visalia Times-Delta article

Land Use/Housing

Fresno mayor declares emergency at apartment complex — Mayor Ashley Swearengin signed an emergency proclamation Wednesday for the Summerset Village Apartment complex, where residents have been without heat and hot water for two weeks. The proclamation will allow the city to hire a contractor if the property owner fails to fix the problems. Fresno Bee article


Oil train safety concerns cast shadow over cross-border rail deal – Concerns about the safety of crude oil trains loom over a proposed rail takeover that would create the largest rail system in North America. McClatchy Newspapers article

California road suddenly buckles creating roadway mess – A stretch of road suddenly buckled last week in Santa Clarita, Calif. Within a period of only three hours Vasquez Canyon Road became undriveable with hills and massive cracks. The upheaval of soil also disrupted power lines that are now leaning haphazardly over the roadway. San Francisco Chronicle article

Other areas

It’s OK to spank your kid, court rules – Spanking one’s child does not amount to abuse that warrants judicial intervention, at least as long as the child is not seriously injured or endangered, a state appeals court has ruled. San Francisco Chronicle article

Sacramento Bee: Safety doesn’t require ethnic profiling – In times like these, it’s easy to close ranks around our loved ones to ensure their safety – to blindly give in to fears about our own well-being instead of digging deep to find our selfless, clear-eyed selves. That’s why President Barack Obama sought to reassure Americans on Wednesday, telling them there is no credible terror threat right now. Sacramento Bee editorial

Postcards, letters target Hanford councilman – Hanford Councilman Francisco Ramirez is once again being attacked by anonymous accusations, this time with a wave of postcards sent to an unknown number of residents and businesses. Hanford Sentinel article 

Hanford Sentinel, city partner on app – The Hanford Sentinel is working with the city on an app focused on providing users info on local businesses and organizations. Hanford Sentinel article 

Obama pardons Modesto Thanksgiving turkeys ‘Honest’ and ‘Abe’ – President Barack Obama spared two turkeys named for one of the nation’s most admired presidents, continuing a White House tradition that provides a refreshing sense of amusement and bipartisan cheer no matter how troubled the times. AP article 

Why we feast – Eaters, chefs, and scholars chew on the connection between gluttony and good times.  Zocalo Public Square report

Mike Klocke: Happy Thanksgiving! – Sharing just a few of the many things I’m thankful for today. Klocke column in Stockton Record

Castle Air Museum brings Hercules to Atwater — The Castle Air Museum this week added a new aircraft, a Lockheed C-130that flew as part of the “Four Horsemen” in the 1960s. The newest addition to the collection was also flown during the Vietnam War and later used to fight forest fires, according to museum CEO Joe Pruzzo. Merced Sun-Star article 

Carmen George: Baby brought back to life, twice, by men who stopped at Visalia crash — As Mike Spicer laid 8-month-old Ryder Lockwood on the passenger seat of his truck to start CPR, he said a prayer to God. George in Fresno BeeVisalia Times-Delta article

Clark Center founder dies at 85 — Community and global figure Bill Clark died at 85 on Sunday. Willard “Bill” Clark, founder of the world-renowned Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture outside of Hanford, died on his Hanford-area ranch on Sunday. His death came soon after him and his wife, Elizabeth, closed the center in June. Hanford Sentinel article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Sacramento Bee – In times like these, it’s easy to close ranks around our loved ones to ensure their safety – to blindly give in to fears about our own well-being instead of digging deep to find our selfless, clear-eyed selves. That’s why President Barack Obama sought to reassure Americans on Wednesday, telling them there is no credible terror threat right now; Giving thanks, and remembering history.

Maddy Events

Sunday, Nov. 29, at 5 p.m. on Fresno ABC30 – Maddy Report: Employment Conditions Post-Recession: Same As It Ever Way — Guests: California Budget Center Policy Analyst Luke Reidenbach, National Federation of Independen Business (NFIB) California State Director Tom Scott. Host: Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler.

Sunday, Nov. 29, at 10 a.m. on KMJ (580AM and 105.9FM Radio/podcast) – Maddy Report – Valley Views Edition: “Valley’s Future Workforce: Low Skill/Low Wage or High Skill/High Wage” – Guests: Carole Goldsmith, Ed.D, president of West Hills College Coalinga; Lee Ann Eager, president/CEO of the Economic Development Corporation Serving Fresno County; and Antonio Avalos, chair of the Fresno State Economics Department.  Host: Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler.

The Maddy Report airs throughout California on The Cal Channel.  Check to find the Cal Channel and schedule in your area.  You also can view previous Maddy Report programs in their entirety at


Next 10: UPDATED California budget challenge – For the first time in a decade, California’s budget is largely in balance.  However, the state has outstanding debts of $28 million, not counting long-term pension and retiree health care costs.  Budget choices affect us all.  Take the Challenge and decide how much should be spent on programs and where the money should come from.  Next 10 California Budget Challenge

Next 10: Federal budget challenge — The Federal Budget Challenge is based on The Concord Coalition’s Principles and Priorities budget exercise, which has been used in numerous town hall meetings across the country by members of Congress from both parties, as well as in hundreds of high school and college classrooms.  Next 10 Federal Budget challenge at

Next 10: California Water Challenge – As our state faces some of the most severe drought conditions in its history, Next 10 wants to issue a new challenge to Californians: can you create a plan to make sure there’s enough water for everyone?  Next 10 California Water Challenge

LEGISLATORS’ VOTING RECORDS: How often has a California legislator broken party ranks, abstained or switched sides? The Sacramento Bee has a database of the voting records of every member of the state Senate and Assembly. Enter a lawmaker’s last and first names to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it. Check it out at this link.

More Information

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Maddy Institute Updates List of San Joaquin Valley Elected Officials – The Maddy Institute has updated its list of San Joaquin Valley elected officials.  The list is available here.

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The Kenneth L. Maddy Institute at California State University, Fresno was established to honor the legacy of one of California’s most principled and effective legislative leaders of the last half of the 20th Century by engaging, preparing and inspiring a new generation of governmental leaders for the 21st Century. Its mission is to inspire citizen participation, elevate government performance, provide non-partisan analysis and assist in providing solutions for public policy issues important to the region, state and nation.

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