November 28, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Big state tax decisions lie ahead for California voters — Picking a new president might not be the only crucial issue before California voters at the polls in two years’ time. They could be faced with as many as four competing initiatives asking them to extend, increase or create taxes that would raise billions of dollars in new state revenues. LA Times article

John Myers: Across California, many politicians picked by few voters — A nail-biter of an election is the pièce de résistance in political reporting, a dramatic finish that can leave everyone on the edge of their seats. But 2014’s close contests are also a bit of a distraction from the real news: the apparent nadir, in some California communities, of representative democracy.  Myers in KQED report


Immigration advocacy groups fear more efforts to scam those seeking legal status — Advocacy groups barely waited for President Obama to finish speaking about sweeping changes to the U.S. immigration system to start warning about scams.  AP article

Other areas

Dan Walters: California Republicans’ hopes in Congress dashed – Going into the Nov. 4 election, Republicans appeared to have an excellent chance of recouping several congressional seats they’d lost in 2012, and their optimism was bolstered on election night.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Should a sin tax apply to e-cigarettes? – A public health agency dependent on cigarette taxes for its funding may ask state lawmakers to tax electronic cigarettes to help make up for a decline in consumption of traditional tobacco, says an official for its San Diego branch.  U-T San Diego article

338 LA arrests: No warnings, ‘penned in,’ arrested, protestors say —  As protests continued in the days after a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, some of the hundreds of people arrested in Los Angeles said they had broken no laws and never heard an order for them to disperse.  LA Times article

Democrats’ ‘Dr. Death’ team can’t lose – for now — It might have been the neatest political trick of this election season — Gov. Jerry Brown’s “non-campaign” for a historic fourth term that wasn’t really a non-campaign at all, yet managed to hide all the trappings of a traditional political run. From Brown’s TV spots for a pair of Mom-and-apple-pie ballot measures to his lone, low-key debate with Republican opponent Neel Kashkari, the plan by a team of veteran San Francisco strategists was to push the governor as “the reasonable father figure” rising above the divisive politics that engulfed the rest of the nation.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Sidney Thomas becomes chief judge of Ninth U.S. Circuit Court — The nation’s largest federal appeals court gets a new presiding officer Monday as Sidney Thomas, an appointee of PresidentBill Clinton, succeeds Alex Kozinski as chief judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.  San Francisco Chronicle article

California governor’s mansion to close during renovation — One of the smallest line items to get any attention in this year’s state budget was $2.5 million to renovate the historic governor’s mansion in downtown Sacramento.  Sacramento Bee article

News Briefs

Top Stories

California motorists to begin shouldering costs of carbon auction — Motorists are about to get drafted into California’s war on climate change. Starting Jan. 1, gas and diesel fuel will be subject to California’s cap-and-trade market, a 2-year-old regulatory mechanism that puts a price on carbon spewed into the atmosphere.  The result will be higher gasoline and diesel prices, and probably more controversy for a state program that’s already been attacked in the courts by the business community.  Sacramento Bee article

Universities are focusing more on undergraduate research projects — The Pomona campus and universities around the nation are focusing more attention on undergraduate research, spurred by studies showing that such opportunities can keep students engaged in their education and motivated to complete degrees.   LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

San Joaquin County supervisors approve increased pension costs – Pension costs for San Joaquin County government will rise $15.4 million next year with the adoption of new contribution rates by county officials.  Stockton Record article

City Hall likes chances of latest Hotel Fresno deal — The long-suffering Hotel Fresno may finally be on the road to recovery. The City Council has approved a deal with a Southern California developer to turn the vacant downtown landmark into an apartment complex.  Fresno Bee article

Early Black Friday rush less frantic at Valley stores this year – Stores opened earlier than ever for Black Friday this year — most of them actually opening on Thanksgiving — a move that took some of the pressure off the yearly shopping frenzy in the Fresno area.  Fresno Bee article

Hundreds of shoppers line up early for doorbusters – How badly did cousins Brandon Laguna, of Los Angeles, and Luis Laguna, of Bakersfield, want the privilege of paying $200 a piece for as many 50-inch televisions as they could get their hands on? So badly, they said, they’d taken turns standing in line outside of the Best Buy consumer electronics store in northwest Bakersfield since Nov. 17.  Bakersfield Californian article

Lighter crowds, earlier shopping hours mark Modesto-area Black Friday sales – As the doors at Best Buy were about to open, an employee looked over at neighboring Target to see how many people were waiting and declared it a “baby line.” Still, there were thousands of shoppers in the region willing to sacrifice some of their holiday, albeit with a grumble, in search of the promised big sales.  Modesto Bee article

Hopes for a busy holiday – Retailers in Visalia and across Tulare County are hoping that customers shopping on Thanksgiving and today’s Black Friday sales — as well as throughout the entire holiday season — will be like Hainsworth, determined with a little extra money to spend.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Let the shopping begin – Now that Kings County’s holiday shopping blitz has officially begun, analysts are struggling to come up with a solid prediction. The problem is all the contradictory evidence.  Hanford Sentinel article

Stockton Record: 20 things to consider on Black Friday – Here are 20 things to consider as you shop — or don’t shop — on Black Friday.  Stockton Record editorial

Merchants head downtown as Oakland gains new luster — In the last five years, 140 ground-floor retail stores have opened in the downtown and Uptown areas of Oakland, said Steve Snider, district manager of Lake Merritt/Uptown District and Downtown Oakland associations.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Making sense of California’s sales tax –  As you scan your receipts after Black Friday shopping, take a moment to note that the amount of sales tax you pay varies depending on where you purchased your items.  LA Times article

Shunned by banks, legitimate pot shops must deal in risky cash — Though Harborside’s business is legal in California and a growing number of other states, most banks still won’t touch the marijuana industry, fearing the federal prohibition that remains in place.  LA Times article


Fresno City Hall will allow outdoor watering this winter — City Hall will let Fresnans water their yards one day a week this winter. The rules are simple.  Fresno Bee article

Valley interests decry lack of water help — The Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation and others gave voice to frustration over the delay of federal drought relief at a Tuesday morning news conference.  Fresno Bee article

Sacramento Bee: Setting the table for better food policy – Given California’s abundance of both farms and foodies, this seems a good a place as any to start considering food at a policy level. Small changes, properly cultivated, have a way of growing into big ones. Dig in.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Is drought causing more animals to be hit by cars? – The number of collisions between cars and large animals in the foothills spiked dramatically last week, state officials say – 23 hits in six days. They involved mainly deer, but also bears.  Sacramento Bee article

Ag recognizes Merced plant scientist’s achievements — It is only fitting that Bill Weir would follow his early years growing up on a vegetable farm in Texas with a lengthy career as a plant scientist and innovator in growing cotton and other crops.  Merced Sun-Star article

Growers grateful for higher Christmas tree prices — Prices vary according to the variety of tree, but growers this year will see about $20 per tree, $2 more than the last several years, according to Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Salem, Oregon-based Pacific Northwest Tree Association. Prices will likely rise as the holidays near and supply decreases.  AP article


Air Resources Board gets to OK to regulate emissions on big-rig engines — California’s air quality cops have scored an important victory with a state appellate ruling Monday that they have the legal right to regulate the emissions equipment on heavy-duty engines.  Sacramento Bee article

Ruben Guerra: Latino businesses support clean energy – The board chairman and CEO of the Latin Business Association writes, “As CEO of the largest Latino business organization in the state, let me assure you: Latinos who own and run California companies strongly believe that our state’s pioneering efforts to tackle climate change are good for business.”  Guerra op-ed in Sacramento Bee

California sees record-breaking Thanksgiving heat – While the East and Midwest shivered, Thanksgiving was hotter than a roasting turkey in California as a high-pressure ridge caused record-breaking highs in several cities.  AP article

New solar photovoltaic project coming to Bakersfield — Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., a renewable energy company, announced plans Monday to bring a 10-megawatt solar photovoltaic project to Bakersfield next year. The project, named Bakersfield II Solar, will be located on 64 acres of land next to a 20-megawatt project already in the works in Bakersfield.  Bakersfield Californian article

Health/Human Services

STD infections rising statewide, but even higher in Kern – Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise statewide, but the rate of infection in Kern County is particularly alarming. Kern led the state in chlamydia cases last year, was second only to San Francisco County in gonorrhea cases, and came in third for primary and secondary stage syphilis cases. Only San Francisco and Fresno counties had more.  Bakersfield Californian article

Kaiser criticized over mental healthcare staffing – Healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente is facing mounting criticism about the care it provides mental health patients in California. A union is accusing the company of understaffing its mental health unit, causing patients to face excessive delays before treatment. LA Times article

Land Use/Housing

Oakland falling behind in push to add housing — Oakland’s housing boom is bringing more than 11,000 new apartments, condominiums and lofts to the city, but it’s not nearly enough to satiate the Bay Area’s seemingly endless need for new housing, regional planners say.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Joe Mathews: I’ve changed my mind on high-speed rail — I may have to take back everything bad I ever said about California’s high-speed rail project. This thought ran through my head one morning last week at Gate A3 of Burbank airport, as I engaged in another of my now-frequent battles with Southwest Airlines.  Mathews in Fresno Bee

Other Areas

Fresno County librarians leave branch behind, hit the road — The image of the shy librarian who points you to the latest novel or reference materials is getting a makeover by the Fresno County library system. The new-styled librarian is bolting out from behind the counter to meet Fresno County business owners and organizations and showcase library services.  Fresno Bee article

Chowchilla hires interim city leader — Chowchilla has hired an interim city administrator, who said she hopes to guide the city as it continues to see changes in its highest positions. The City Council voted last week to hire Carolyn Lehr as interim city administrator.  Merced Sun-Star article

Wooten retiring after nearly 30 years with San Joaquin County Counsel’s office — Born in Greenwood, Miss., the 59-year-old David Wooten went to college in Tennessee before moving out to California, where he got his law degree from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law. His introduction to San Joaquin County government began when he was still a student. He was a law clerk for both the county counsel and the public defender.  Stockton Record article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – With his nomination of rising legal star Leondra R. Kruger to the California Supreme Court on Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown has made his boldest move yet to infuse the court with new blood and high-powered diversity.

Merced Sun-Star – There’s power in counting those kinds of blessings, and not just on the last Thursday in November. Let’s make the mother of all virtues into the mother of all habits. This and every week, thank someone.

Modesto Bee – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s sacking doesn’t end the debate over wars.

Sacramento Bee – If it’s Saturday, it’s Shop Small time; Given California’s abundance of both farms and foodies, this seems a good a place as any to start considering food at a policy level.

Stockton Record – Here are 20 things to consider as you shop — or don’t shop — on Black Friday.