November 30, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Dan Walters: California’s big projects still face money questions — Both the bullet train and the tunnels face daunting political and legal hurdles that must be cleared if Brown is to move some dirt before leaving office. Their major uncertainties, however, remain financial.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

California pushes to expand immigrant health care – President Barack Obama‘s executive order to spare some immigrants from deportation has galvanized Democrats, immigration groups and health care advocates in California to push for expanding health coverage to a segment of the population that remains uninsured.  AP article

Valley politics

Jose Gaspar: 20-somethings a new political force in Arvin — One of the disappointing things about the midterm elections held Nov. 4 was the poor voter turnout at all levels. In Kern County, just 39.2 percent of registered voters thought it important enough to vote. Conventional wisdom often takes aim at young people for not taking an interest in politics. But you need not look further than the city of Arvin, where young people are getting actively involved in their community and literally putting a new face in city government.  Bakersfield Californian article


Out of the shadows: Bay Area immigrants tell their stories – For the half-million Bay Area residents who will benefit from President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, emotions are running high with elation, hope and more than a little uncertainty.  Contra Costa Times article

Victor Davis Hanson: An inconvenient law — There is a humane, transparent, truthful — and constitutional — way to address illegal immigration. Unfortunately, President Obama’s unilateral plan to exempt millions of residents from federal immigration law is none of those things.  Hanson column in Fresno Bee

Other areas

Darrell Steinberg recalls budget battles, FBI raids and gubernatorial gags — After 14 years in the California Legislature, Sen. Darrell Steinberg’s tenure comes to an end on Sunday. The Sacramento Democrat, who served six years as Senate leader, reflected on his experience in the Legislature during an interview in a spartan temporary office inside the Capitol.  Sacramento Bee article

Occidental students confront a reality of political campaigns: Defeat — In what is believed to be the only college program of its kind, the undergraduates in the Campaign Semester course spent at least 2 1/2 months, often seven days a week, 12 hours a day, working on behalf of candidates in contested states. None won.  LA Times article

Marcus Breton: Race, Ferguson, the mayor and the price of candid talk – Mayor Kevin Johnson is best known for leading the effort to save the Kings from leaving Sacramento and getting construction started on a new arena to anchor a downtown revitalization. Johnson is also known as a former elite NBA player and as the first African American mayor in the 164-year history of Sacramento as an incorporated city – though this distinction was an afterthought until last week.  Breton column in Sacramento Bee

Former lawmaker Anthony Adams charts different course — Few, though, undergo as jarring a switch in life’s path as Adams’ transition from conservative legislator representing Southern California’s high desert to a public defender in the liberal North Coast.  Sacramento Bee article

Congress crams unfinished agenda into final days – Like a student who waited until the night before a deadline, lawmakers resuming work Monday will try to cram two years of leftover business into two weeks, while also seeking to avoid a government shutdown.  AP article

For GOP, demographic opportunities, challenges await — The influence of ongoing demographic changes on politics is a familiar story. Given current voting patterns, the increasing diversity in the population is likely to work to the advantage of Democrats in future presidential elections. For Republicans, the question is not just how, but whether they can bend the curve.  Washington Post article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Battle for pediatric patients: Community Regional Medical Center vs. Children’s Hospital Central California — A fight between two large doctors’ groups and a power struggle over pediatric patients between Fresno’s largest hospital and the region’s only children’s hospital threatens to upend a six-decade-old system of care for the sickest children in the central San Joaquin Valley.  Fresno Bee article

Modesto Irrigation District’s culture of imbalance: Farmers coddled, power customers gouged – An intriguing public debate over electricity customers subsidizing farmers has focused on what the farmers get: irrigation water at bargain basement prices. Somewhat lost in the dialogue is how much more power customers are paying – not just to benefit agriculture, but to keep afloat the Modesto Irrigation District’s entire operation.  Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Fresno shop owners grateful for Small Business Saturday – As Shelly Grosz helped customers on Saturday at Horn Photo in north Fresno, her husband, Stan, said of their camera shop and photo lab business: “This is a mom and pop. There’s mom, and here’s pop.”  Fresno Bee article

Mod Shop showcases local talent, community vibe – Handmade crafts and homegrown talent drew crowds in downtown Modesto, bringing the community together in spirit and on paper with a mural painted by passers-by.  Modesto Bee article

Repurposed Valley retail spaces find new life – Storefronts that went dark in Fresno and Clovis when retailers closed or downsized during the recession are flickering back to life, with some serving a new purpose.  Fresno Bee article

Tumbling gas prices curb costs for businesses and consumers, but will they boost sales? – Second-generation Sacramento florist Jim Relles has a passion for petals, but what really has him smiling lately is the plunging price of gasoline. With gas tumbling below $3 a gallon this fall, Relles is spending considerably less to fuel his fleet of floral delivery trucks, which log hundreds of miles a week.  Sacramento Bee article

Blaze eyes Salinas, safe at home for now – Bakersfield has had a minor-league baseball team for 73 years. For at least 29 of those years, team officials have wanted to play in a new stadium. That desire hasn’t changed under the frustrated current ownership. The Blaze will likely be in Bakersfield one more season and probably two, but it’s not because hope is on the horizon.  Bakersfield Californian article

Lewis Griswold:  Hanford offers land swap with fertilizer plant to aid Costco – In a dramatic move, the Hanford City Council voted unanimously last week to help Helena Chemical Co., a large fertilizer retailer in east Hanford, find a new home out of the path of development. The move averts a crisis in a less-developed part of the city that is on the cusp of long-term retail, commercial and residential development as envisioned in the city’s pending general plan.  Griswold in Fresno Bee

Health care rules to affect many tax returns – Area tax advisers say there are a couple major changes in the tax laws for 2014 that affect average taxpayers, as well as businesses and high-income individuals. New tax forms and procedures associated with the Affordable Care Act will affect many taxpayers, particularly those who obtained insurance through an ACA marketplace (such as or for people who have no health insurance.  Stockton Record article

How and why buyers from China are snatching up Bay Area homes – Although the Bay Area has always attracted foreign home buyers, anecdotal evidence suggests that their numbers are growing, creating even more competition in areas where demand has far outstripped the supply of new homes. The boom is partly because of globalization, but mostly a result of the tremendous buildup of wealth in developing countries, especially China, which had 2.4 million millionaires in 2013, up 60 percent from the year before, according to the Boston Consulting Group.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Mountain View may raise developer fees to fund affordable housing — Mountain View is considering raising fees on new construction to fund affordable housing, a move developers say would shift projects to other towns. But City Council members say the move is necessary because of a decrease in government funding for the projects. KQED report

San Francisco’s leaders mull bid for Olympics – This tech-booming city, home to Twitter and other innovative startups, is experiencing its greatest growth since the California Gold Rush more than 150 years ago. With the climate ripe for commerce, local organizers think they can make a strong case to bring the 2024 Olympics here.  AP article

Claudia Newcorn: Be smart when it comes to making charitable donations — T’is the season for charitable giving. Many local, regional and national organizations are issuing volumes of fundraising solicitations by mail, phone and digital. But as you open up your wallet to help those unfortunate, are you really doing any good with your money?  Newcorn column in Modesto Bee

Billboard firms battle for scarce Rancho Cordova highway space — Digital billboards are becoming so popular in Sacramento County that advertising companies are running out of places to put them.  Sacramento Bee article


Sacramento Bee: No room for waste in California’s water bond – With $7.5 billion on the table and the state in the fourth year of drought, it’s critical the taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.  Sacramento Bee editorial

A push to share drought’s burden – In these hills overlooking San Diego, the only indication of the continuing drought — now among the worst in California’s recorded history — is the perpetually cloudless sky.  New York Times article

Jack Hamm: Water bond will shape state’s agriculture – The president of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau writes, “With election season behind us, it’s now time to focus our energy on decisions that will shape the future of agriculture in California. As many of you are aware, the voters passed Proposition 1, commonly referred to as the water bond.”  Hamm op-ed in Stockton Record

High-tech farming poised to change the way the world eats – Investors and entrepreneurs behind some of the world’s newest industries have started to put their money and tech talents into farming — the world’s oldest industry — with an audacious and ambitious agenda: to make sure there is enough food for the 10 billion people expected to inhabit the planet by 2100, do it without destroying the planet and make a pretty penny along the way.  San Jose Mercury News article

Drought aftermath in Terra Bella: ‘We survived … we’re hurting’ — Citrus growers Brent Doyel and Geoffrey Galloway strolled between two vastly different orchards of mandarins — one vibrant, the other dead.  Fresno Bee article

Frank Clark: Oakdale Irrigation District doesn’t mine groundwater – Clark, a director for the Oakdale Irrigation District, writes, “OID does not pump groundwater and then sell it. That is called water mining. It is prohibited in Stanislaus County. We don’t do it. This summer – in the third year of the California drought – we pumped about 17,000 acre-feet of groundwater. That’s about twice our average. We also sold no water.”  Clark op-ed in Modesto Bee

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Fresno Bee: Video cameras can get to the truth about officer shootings — Though these cameras don’t always capture everything that occurs, they are valuable tools for determining what happened and which witnesses are providing the most accurate recollections of a situation.  Fresno Bee editorial


Mike Kirst: School funding plan will improve over time – The president of the California State Board of Education writes, “It’s been one year since Local Control Funding Formula was enacted, and it is expected to take eight years to reach full funding levels. With time and proper implementation at the local level, it has the potential to minimize achievements gaps, especially among our most disadvantaged students.” Kirst op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Lightspeed Systems key player in education technology — Bakersfield can’t compare to Silicon Valley in high-tech industry but it does boast a key player in education technology, a home-grown company with 182 employees and about $40 million in annual revenue.  Bakersfield Californian article

Online education run amok? — Massive open online courses, first envisioned as a way to democratize higher education, have made their way into high schools, but Washington is powerless to stop the flood of personal data about teenage students from flowing to private companies, thanks to loopholes in federal privacy laws.  Politico article


Muir Woods coho salmon vanish, fanning fears of extinction — The cherished coho salmon that historically wriggled their way past beachgoers up Redwood Creek into Muir Woods vanished this year and are now on the verge of extinction, prompting a last-ditch attempt by fisheries biologists to save the genetically unique species.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Health/Human Services

Cancer-causing flame retardants found in some people — A growing body of evidence found an array of flame-retardant chemicals – many which are carcinogenic – in test participants, a potential health concern for firefighters and others exposed to the chemicalsSacramento Bee article

Other Areas

Army plans major facelift for west Fresno reserve facility – The U.S. Army plans to tear down two 1950s-era buildings at the Leymel Hall U.S. Army Reserve Center in west Fresno and replace them with a new training building and maintenance shop.  Fresno Bee article

Jeff Jardine: Stolen car recovered, but at what cost? – His car stolen while he was in a dialysis center, a Modesto man was doubly victimized by hefty bills for a tow yard release and repairs.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Willie Brown: Modest proposal for making San Francisco a real city of lights — The lighting of City Hall has to be one of San Francisco’s most wonderful traditions. It’s almost become a game to try to figure out the significance of the color combinations illuminating the grand building all the way up to the dome.  Brown column in San Francisco Chronicle article

Our Diversity: Native Americans first to call Stockton home — Long before Captain Charles Weber realized the value of a port city to serve foothills-bound prospectors, the area we now call Stockton was home to the Northern Valley Yokuts, a segment of the Native American population that lived in present-day California for thousands of years before Europeans arrived.  Stockton Record article

Bill Dwyre: Del Mar racing in the fall? California Chrome makes it even better — California Chrome made it a rare November to remember in horse racing Saturday. It takes a real star to do that.  Dwyre column in LA Times

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Video cameras can get to the truth about officer shootings.

Sacramento Bee – There is no room for waste in California’s water bond; The conversation on race in America is stuck on repeat.