November 4, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

GOP puts millions toward independent spending in legislative races – The Californian Republican Party has spent millions this election on independent spending campaigns in pivotal legislative races, a tactic that enabled the GOP to expand its influence this election. But Democrats are crying foul, arguing the reliance on independent expenditures lets Republicans subvert state campaign finance law. The spending includes bolstering incumbent Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) over Democratic challenger Luis Chavez, and targeting Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) in his reelection bid over Republican Jack Mobley Jr. LA Times article

Election Day: Key races include Fresno mayor in race for state office – Turnout is trending down. The stakes are high, as usual. The money is flowing — more than ever. Tuesday is Election Day in California and across the nation.  Fresno Bee articleBakersfield Californian articleMerced Sun-Star article

Valley politics

Merced County registrar hopes for 55 percent voter turnout – The Merced County Registrar of Voters is “optimistically” estimating a 55 percent turnout of registered voters by the end of Election Day, Tuesday.  Merced Sun-Star article

Atwater council candidate’s fliers violate election law – An Atwater City Council candidate mailed 10,000 campaign fliers to residents over the weekend containing the logos of the city’s police and fire departments – a violation of the state’s election laws – and without the authorization of those agencies’ leaders.  Merced Sun-Star article

Jeff Denham: This is the day your voice can be heard – The Valley congressman (R-CD10) writes, “Voting is a quintessential component of the American dream. Our democracy gives each of us a chance to make our voices heard. I hope you’ll exercise that right today.”  Denham op-ed in Modesto Bee

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

George Hostetter: State controller’s race is one to remember – Fresno City Hall will never be the same, no matter how Mayor Ashley Swearengin does in Tuesday’s state controller’s election. If Swearengin beats Betty Yee, it’s a wild rush to select the next mayor. If Swearengin loses, the next two years unfold with a chief executive whose powerful ambition for higher office is no secret.  Hostetter in Fresno Bee

California’s election may set record for apathy – California voter turnout will likely sink to just 46 percent on Tuesday, a new record for apathy in a statewide general election, according to Field Poll estimates.  Sacramento Bee articleAP article

Dan Walters Daily: Low turnout skews California election results – Californians are expected to turn out in record-low numbers today, resulting in an electorate that is not representative of the state as a whole, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Democrats sign up thousands of new voters, but will they cast ballots? – Democrats in California have signed up tens of thousands of new voters in recent months, but a big question in Tuesday’s election is whether enough of them will cast ballots to stave off erosion of the party’s dominance in the state.  LA Times article

John Myers: Election Day 2014: A California Index – Ready, set … vote. Election Day is, for politics fans, kind of like the Super Bowl. Huge excitement, armchair analysis, a lot of pizza. But until the returns start coming in, it’s also a chance to take stock of some of the mounds of data and anecdotes about the candidates and campaigns that have been laboring so intensely for your vote.  Myers in KQED

Under the radar: Resentencing prison inmates – The statewide battle in the airwaves over Tuesday’s ballot propositions has been dominated by health insurance regulation, water works and drug testing doctors, but one measure that would have a far-reaching effect on judicial policy is flying under the radar. That is Proposition 47, which would resentence thousands of California prison inmates imprisoned for nonserious or nonviolent crimes and downgrade an array of such crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.  Capitol Weekly article

Tony Quinn: Election day – by the numbers – This article is about numbers, but that’s what elections are about.  With the polls closing in 36 hours, once again it is worthwhile to look at where the vote stands.  Thanks to Political Data’s fine analysis, we can now trace the early vote by day, party and district. Vidak-Chavez race in Senate District 14 mentioned.  Quinn in Fox & Hounds

Joe Mathews: Take the quiz: Prop 2? Or Prop 58? – If you have a feeling of déjà vu as you try to make sense of Prop 2, the complex formula for a rainy day fund, it’s not just you. Ten years ago, Californians were presented with a very similar measure, Prop 58, which they approved.  Mathews in Fox & Hounds

Other areas

Election 2014: Top 7 races to watch – For the Sacramento region, here are the Top 7 races to watch in the election Tuesday, November 4, 2014.  Sacramento Bee article

Using plastic earns points for California lawmakers – A story in Sunday’s Sacramento Bee explained how lawmakers charged more than $4 million on campaign credit cards during the first 18 months of the 2013-14 election cycle. The cards’ benefits, though, extend beyond convenience and bridging the gaps in campaign donors’ generosity. Under state law, candidates and elected officials can personally collect campaign card reward points and miles.  Sacramento Bee article

Thorny passport issue divides Supreme Court justices – The Supreme Court justices sounded sharply and closely split Monday by a case challenging the president’s power to refuse to allow the passports of American children born in Jerusalem to be stamped with “Israel.”  San Francisco Chronicle article

Uncounted ballots could cause delay in naming Oakland mayor – By late Tuesday or early Wednesday, Oakland voters could know the name of the mayoral candidate who comes out on top after ranked-choice tabulations are run. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that person will be the mayor.  San Francisco Chronicle article

101 million reasons why Nancy Pelosi’s House leadership job is safe – Anyone wondering why House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi can keep her job  despite the prospect of double-digit losses for Democrats in the House  Tuesday might start with her latest fundraising numbers.  San Francisco Chronicle article

House Republicans could see their first black, gay members in years – House Republicans are expected to expand their majority in Tuesday’s election in part by welcoming a new crop of fiery conservatives — but also by adding something that has been missing from the GOP: diversity.  LA Times article

Scholar tells Fresno audience U.S. foreign policy has created global ‘crisis period’ – Classical scholar, historian and conservative columnist Victor Davis Hanson said the Obama administration’s foreign policy has overturned a 70-year “postwar world order” of U.S.-led engagement in peacekeeping and policing around the world.  Fresno Bee article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Making Tulare County a Promise Zone – During his 2013 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama outlined his “Promise Zone,” a plan to use federal resources to help bring jobs and develop businesses in poor, underprivileged areas of the country. This week, leaders from Tulare County’s government and some of its eight cities are beginning the process of deciding whether to apply to become a part of that program.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Dan Walters: California’s school test situation is a big jumble – Underlying the muddy accountability situation is a burgeoning conflict over using student test results to evaluate teacher competency, especially with a judge’s declaration that the teacher tenure system discriminates against poor and minority youngsters. Confusing? Absolutely – with no end in sight.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Jobs and the Economy

Much of San Joaquin County can apply for cap-and-trade funds – More than 287,000 residents of San Joaquin County face disproportionately high environmental health risks, the state has concluded. That finding will allow local communities to compete for hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds from California’s new cap-and-trade climate change program — money that could then be reinvested in the most vulnerable neighborhoods.  Stockton Record article

Valley business sales steady in October – Business sales didn’t change much throughout the San Joaquin Valley in October, even as the state as a whole saw a considerable increase.  The Business Journal article

First-time home buying hits lowest level in nearly three decades – The share of houses bought by first-time owners is at its lowest level in nearly three decades and down sharply from 2013, according to a new survey out Monday from the National Assn. of Realtors.  LA Times article

Date announced for Fieri’s Bakersfield restaurant – Food Network star Guy Fieri’s new Bakersfield restaurant will open in January, and company officials estimate 120 local employees will be hired.  Bakersfield Californian article

More retailers announce earlier opening times on Thanksgiving – Retailers are stumbling over one another to announce ever-earlier opening times on Thanksgiving as they race to woo Black Friday shoppers with deep discounts during hours usually reserved for family gatherings.  LA Times article

U.S. soda makers headed for tax showdown in California – No American city has passed a ballot measure raising taxes on sugary drinks, and ahead of votes Tuesday in Berkeley and San Francisco, the U.S. soda industry has been working hard to keep it that way.  Reuters article

Kathryn Lybarger: UC outsourcing is bad for workers and campuses’ bottom line – The president of AFSCME Local 3299 writes, “Going forward, UC can save money and offer their subcontracted workers a chance to build a better life. Or UC can continue paying outside contractors more for less, and hope that facilities will magically clean themselves.” Lybarger op-ed in Sacramento Bee

State shuts down Sacramento’s Casino Royale – Agents from the California Bureau of Gambling Control shut down the Casino Royale in north Sacramento Monday morning after it allegedly failed to pay off nearly $60,000 in winnings it owed customers.  Sacramento Bee article


State to release per-capita water use numbers – Data to be released Tuesday will show per-capita water use in communities across California that are facing pressure, including the threat of fines, to cut back during the third year of a drought.  AP article

Fresno to vote on water conservation incentives – The Fresno City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on an act  that would award residents up to $1,000 when they take action to conserve water. If passed, the Water Conservation Act, introduced by Councilmembers Lee Brand and Paul Caprioglio, would establish a fund of $250,000 per year for two years to be paid out as rebates for water conserving devices.  The Business Journal article

Oakdale Irrigation District to discuss selling water to outside agencies during closed-door meeting – Oakdale Irrigation District directors will discuss options for selling water to out-of-county agencies Tuesday morning during a closed-door session.  Modesto Bee article

Hanford to pay for well chlorination – The Hanford City Council will hold a special meeting Thursday to approve emergency funding to purchase and install chlorination systems at the city’s 14 well sites. According to a staff report, the project will cost an estimated $792,620 that will come from the city’s water capital reserves fund.  Hanford Sentinel article

Humboldt County to vote on banning GMO production – Two years ago, statewide Proposition 37 would have required labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms – but it failed by a slim margin. That measure had wide support in Humboldt County, though, and on Nov. 4 residents will vote on whether to ban the production of GMO crops in their region.  KQED report

In Cambria, rift over water treatment plant is a drain on parched town – In Cambria, the water shortage is particularly acute because its 6,000 residents get all of their supply from two shrinking local creeks. To prevent the creeks from going dry, the Cambria Community Services District is building a controversial treatment plant to essentially make the town’s water go further.  LA Times article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Four sought in Chukchansi casino takeover turn themselves in – Two tribal council members and two members of the security force that stormed Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino near Coarsegold turned themselves in to Madera County law enforcement officials Monday to face charges for their roles in the conflict last month.  Fresno Bee article

Third panel of jurors brought in for trial of alleged school shooter – A third panel of prospective jurors was led into court Monday in the case of alleged school shooter Bryan Oliver.  Bakersfield Californian article

Thousands pay respects for slain Sacramento sheriff’s deputy killed on duty – They came by the thousands Monday to a Roseville church to say goodbye to Danny Oliver, the Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy killed in a two-county rampage last month that also claimed the life of a Placer County sheriff’s detective.  Sacramento Bee article

San Joaquin County courts: Parolee program funding to continue – The state Judicial Council has awarded the Superior Court of San Joaquin County continued funding to operate its Parolee Reentry Court. The $488,109 grant will fund the program through June 2015 in an effort to reduce incarceration rates among parolees in the county. Stockton Record article

Three more officers join Stockton police ranks – Three new officers were sworn in Monday to the Stockton Police Department, bringing the agency’s ranks up to 371 in its quest to reach 500 officers by June 30, 2017.  Stockton Record article

Tim Ward: Join the fight against human trafficking – Tulare County’s district attorney writes, “The Office of the District Attorney has formed the Tulare County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force to provide specialized training to local law enforcement and other partners in the fight against modern slavery. We are raising awareness about all factions of human trafficking, from labor to child sex trafficking.”  Ward op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta


Sexual consent at Fresno State: When does yes mean yes – A new state law that redefines sexual consent on college campuses is prompting questions among some Fresno State students and an all-out effort by the campus to help students grasp the rapidly evolving concept of when sex is consensual and when it’s not.  Fresno Bee article

Why San Francisco has a severe shortage of substitute teachers – When a San Francisco teacher calls in sick, there’s no guarantee a substitute will be available to cover the classroom. In September, there were 1,618 teacher sick calls, but only 1,325 substitute shifts to cover their classrooms. San Francisco Chronicle article

Innovative program rethinks high school – No bells ring at this high school, and you won’t find monitors roaming the halls or restless students asking fitfully for permission to use the restroom. But you might find biotechnology students cloning carrots in the lab, or see public policy students researching ballot propositions in preparation for a community-wide town hall forum they’re organizing, or watch a group of budding computer scientists hunched over a computer monitor, creating a video game they’ve designed from scratch.  EdSource article

Seven Fresno Unified schools get $25,000 checks – Seven Fresno Unified schools each are getting a $25,000 check this week as a reward for making big gains on state standardized tests since 2011.  Fresno Bee article


Forecasting also an issue in controversial wood-burning rules – New, strict wood-burning rules didn’t stop anyone in the San Joaquin Valley from lighting a fire in the fireplace over the weekend. But a burn ban should have been enforced Sunday in Fresno County. Like most things connected to wood burning in fireplaces, the forecast is a sensitive subject.  Fresno Bee article

Dianne Feinstein may ask Obama to bypass Congress to protect Mojave sites –  U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein threatened Monday to ask President Obama to create two national monuments in the Mojave Desert, without approval of Congress, if lawmakers again fail to pass legislation protecting the land.  LA Times article

David Lazarus: Plastic bag makers want you to overturn California’s plastic bag ban – Listening to the plastic-bag industry oppose bans on their product is eerily similar to what carmakers said decades ago in opposition to seat belts and air bags. Bad idea, they argued. Bad for consumers. Won’t accomplish what supporters intend. Lazarus in LA Times

Killing of 11 coyotes in California infuriates conservationists – The killing of 11 coyotes in Bakersfield during a weekend hunting contest has infuriated conservationists who are trying to ban animal killing competitions that they say are needlessly harming important predator populations in California, including, potentially, migrating gray wolves.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Kerry McGill: How far should we go to save some of California’s creatures? – The retired former Bakersfield resident writes, “The well-meaning efforts of environmentalists to help save species at the expense of agriculture or other human interests, or at the use of tax dollars, have caused a backlash. And this backlash could be at the expense of other very legitimate environmental causes. My point is this: Environmentalists had better learn to choose their battles wisely or they may lose the war, resulting in the loss of the very act they fought so hard to get.”  McGill op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Health/Human Services

For families with mixed-immigration status: Some insured, some not – Jessica Bravo walks house-to-house in the piercing Southern California heat. Over and over, at doorsteps around Orange County, she asks the same question: “Are you insured?” Getting an answer isn’t always easy. Doors slam in her face. She gets shooed from porches. And sometimes people cut her off mid-spiel.  KQED report

Brittany Maynard’s death could spur California lawmakers to action – Prodded by a terminally ill California woman’s public decision to end her life in Oregon, lawmakers are again mulling legislation that would allow Californians to usher in their own deaths.  Sacramento Bee article

Brittany Maynard dead; right to die widely supported, and widely illegal – You can’t really choose when to begin your life, but at the other end of the scale, the battle over the choice to legally end life has become more complex after Brittany Maynard, a right-to-die advocate, took the ultimate step.  LA Times articleAP article

Binge eaters struggle to get covered despite shift on diagnosis – Binge eating may be the most common eating disorder in America, but health experts say it’s more stigmatized and misunderstood than anorexia and bulimia, and it’s harder to find treatment.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Medical firm profited on pain with knockoff spine surgery hardware – With a metallic clatter, evidence of an elaborate scheme to enrich a few landed in the receiving room of Richard Walker’s surgical supply firm in South Africa. Although the true extent of the caper remains buried in the necks and backs of people scattered around the U.S., it began to unravel that day in 2009.  Center for Investigative Reporting article

Land Use/Housing

Modesto urban growth boundary could move closer to 2015 ballot – The Modesto City Council on Tuesday night is expected to certify the signature count for a petition drive to put an urban limit boundary on the November 2015 ballot.  Modesto Bee article

Merced contracts with Habitat to rehabilitate 25 homes – The city of Merced will team with Habitat for Humanity of Stanislaus County after a unanimous vote by the Merced City Council at Monday’s meeting. The council voted to use $500,000 in Department of Housing and Urban Development money to pay for the rehabilitation of 25 homes in Merced County.  Merced Sun-Star article

Nearly half of LA adults double up on housing, study finds – Nearly half of all working-age adults in Los Angeles and Orange counties live in a home with another adult who is not their spouse — a higher percentage than any other big city in the country, according a new report by real estate website Zillow. In second place: the Inland Empire. LA Times article


Engineers brainstorm to lower cost of North County Corridor – Slimming the North County Corridor from six lanes to four east of Riverbank could shave $10 million off the future freeway’s estimated $400 million cost, a team of road construction experts will tell transportation leaders Wednesday in a public meeting.  Modesto Bee article

Street improvements in east Bakersfield go to council – More trees on Mount Vernon Avenue in the northeast, and a traffic signal for drivers exiting Highway 58 in the southeast could be on the way later this year if approved by the Bakersfield City Council Wednesday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Other Areas

Many questions remain unanswered in spaceship crash – Federal accident investigators have an early sense of what went wrong before an experimental spaceship designed to ferry tourists beyond the Earth’s atmosphere broke apart during a test flight.  AP article

Merced courthouse’s new computer system to boost efficiency, public access – The Merced County Superior Courthouse on Monday went live with a new $2.3 million computer system aimed at improving case-processing efficiency and cutting costs.  Merced Sun-Star article

Verizon, AT&T tracking their users with ‘supercookies’ – Verizon and AT&T have been quietly tracking the Internet activity of more than 100 million cellular customers with what critics have dubbed “supercookies” — markers so powerful that it’s difficult for even savvy users to escape them.  Washington Post article

Stockton council to discuss short-term library plan tonight – Colleen Foster calls it a “back-to-the-future” document, but the former director of the public library quickly adds that her description is not intended as a criticism.  Stockton Record article

Hundreds honor fallen Woodlake soldier – In June, after members of the Wounded Warrior Project arranged to have an overcrossing on Highway 198 named in honor of Jared Verbeek, an Army Corporal from Visalia killed in Afghanistan, Wounded Warrior spokesperson Norbie Lara called Manuel Holguin.  Visalia Times-Delta article

One Stockton man got involved and became a hero – Car salesman Gary Smith, 49, was driving with his wife through northwest Stockton on a Saturday afternoon last month when he noticed something suspicious: two men in a car focusing on two teen girls walking on a sidewalk, oblivious to the world around them.  Stockton Record article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Fill out your ballot and then remind a kid to vote.

Merced Sun-Star – Voting is a privilege – don’t throw it away.

Modesto Bee – Voting is a privilege – don’t throw it away.

Sacramento Bee – Help a kid vote – it will make you both feel good.

Stockton Record – Cheers and jeers: Mid-term election needs voters, Stockton Unified police dog is a cherished gift and other issues.