November 8, 2014

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Political Briefs

Top stories

GOP blocks Democratic legislative supermajorities – Republicans scored a major election victory on Friday by blocking Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature after flipping an Assembly seat in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area.  AP article

Election 2014 update: Soria takes Fresno City Council lead; narrow Tacherra lead holds; Gamoin extends advantage – Esmeralda Soria has taken the lead over Cary Catalano for Fresno City Council’s District 1 seat, and Johnny Tacherra added five votes to his narrow 16th Congressional District lead over Jim Costa after a wild day of ups and downs as county elections offices updated their vote counts. In the hotly contested battle for Fresno County Superior Court judge, Fresno prosecutor Lisa Gamoian maintained her lead over Fresno attorney Rachel Hill.  Fresno Bee article; KVPR report

Poll: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein shouldn’t run again, majority of voters say — Although U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein — two of California’s most experienced political figures — remain popular, a majority of state voters say they should not run for reelection, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.  LA Times article

Valley politics

Kevin McCarthy announces run for majority leader — Kevin McCarthy has announced his intention to seek his first full term as House majority leader. The California Republican has served in the No. 2 spot in House GOP leadership since August when former majority leader Eric Cantor resigned the post after losing a primary challenge.  Politico article

CD9: McNerney retains Northern California House seat – Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney has won re-election to his Northern California congressional seat after a strong challenge from Republican Tony Amador in a race that was not expected to be so close before Election Day.  AP article

Warnke poised to take the reins as Merced sheriff – Merced County Sheriff-elect Vern Warnke, fresh off his campaign victory this week, said he plans to spend his first days in office reversing or revising policies he sees as ineffective or inappropriate.  Merced Sun-Star article

Modesto Bee: Mandate? We saw it in our Stanislaus County elections — A few votes are still being counted, but the results we’ve gotten so far from Tuesday’s election make one thing abundantly clear: As voters, Stanislaus County residents might be more comfortable living in Kansas than California. Modesto Bee editorial

Police asked to investigate theft of election documents — Tensions spiked on election night in southeast Bakersfield as campaign workers fought to get voters to the polls before voting ended at 8 p.m. At one polling place, the situation ended in a confrontation and the theft of campaign documents — a felony that’s been reported to the Bakersfield Police Department.  Bakersfield Californian article

Opinski maintains slight lead over Johnson in Merced Union High School District board of trustees race — The race for the Area 1 seat on the Merced Union High School District board of trustees continues to be a close one. A Friday night ballot count update showed incumbent Ida Johnson closing the gap as she nears challenger Greg Opinski.  Merced Sun-Star article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Gavin v. Kamala: Who got more votes? — California’s political hack-and-flack crowd shares an obsession with its East Coast counterparts: Neither throng can stop trying to answer/debate the question, “What are Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris going to do NEXT?” San Francisco Chronicle article


State seeks emergency OK of license rules for immigrants in U.S. illegally — Facing a deadline of Jan. 2 to begin issuing driver’s licenses to Californians in the country illegally, state officials said Friday they will pursue emergency approval of regulations that spell out which documents must be provided to prove identity and state residency.  LA Times article; Fresno Bee article

White House: Obama will act on immigration despite GOP warnings to hold off – President Obama firmly rejected advice from top congressional Republicans on Friday that he delay his promised executive action on immigration reform.  Washington Post article

Other areas

Ose-Bera count delayed; Dems surge ahead in other California races – Sacramento County elections officials will wait until Monday afternoon to issue another ballot count, delaying an outcome in the closely watched congressional race in which Republican Doug Ose leads Democratic Rep. Ami Bera by more than 2,000 votes.  Capitol Alert

California Black Legislative Caucus sees election boost – The Legislative Black Caucus is set to claim its largest membership since its founding 47 years ago, expanding from eight members at the end of the last session to eleven who won seats this week.  Sacramento Bee article

Proposed ordinance would require LA residents to lock up handguns – A newly proposed Los Angeles city ordinance would require residents to secure handguns when they aren’t being used, either by storing them in a locked container or disabling them with a trigger lock.  LA Times article

In new GOP-led Congress, will Californians in both parties make nice? – California will have clout in the new Congress. The question is what will come of it? With the No. 2 House Republican and the top House Democrat both hailing from California, and key committee seats potentially going to other Californians, the 55-member congressional delegation packs both power and promise.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Republicans in Congress poised to clash with Obama over environment — Despite postelection nods toward cooperation, Republicans, who will hold the majority in Congress next year, appear poised to clash with President Obama over a range of energy and environmental issues, including the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and important rules addressing climate change, smog and water pollution.  LA Times article

Willie Brown: Don’t say Obama blocking caused Democrats’ weak running game — I didn’t realize any one person could be as hated across the nation as Barack Obama. Or that someone who had risen so far in politics could have so few friends, even within his own party. Mostly, the Democrats who were on the ballot away ran from Obama. It couldn’t have gone any worse if they’d run into his arms — at least that might have energized the Democratic base a bit. After all, the guy did manage to get elected to the highest office in the land, twice.  Brown in San Francisco Chronicle

News Briefs

Top Stories

Prop 47 already hitting sheriff’s departments — A ballot measure passed by voters this week is already freeing California suspects from jail as their felony charges are reduced to misdemeanors, and people previously convicted of the charges receive reduced sentences as they appear in court.   Sheriffs across the state immediately began implementing Proposition 47, which calls for treating shoplifting, forgery, fraud, petty theft and possession of small amounts of drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines, as misdemeanors instead of felonies.  AP article

Merced City Schools Part of state panel on budgeting – California’s makeover for school funding has had its rough patches, including a tortuous reporting form and a lot less money than most people think. But Modesto City Schools and Calaveras Unified School District have signed on to be part of the solution.  Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Steady hiring, lower jobless rate suggest improving economy – Steady October employment gains and a drop in the jobless rate to levels last seen in July 2008 suggest the U.S. economy is getting back to normal.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Tejon Ranch’s earnings fall 24 percent – Tejon Ranch Co. on Friday reported third-quarter earnings 24 percent less than a year before amid higher executive compensation costs, greater water-related expenses and lower farming and commercial revenues.  Bakersfield Californian article

Nothing’s budged on Google Barge since its arrival – The Google Barge remains nothing more than a conversation piece in Stockton, The Wall Street Journal reports, after Google halted construction on what was supposed to be a showroom for its products after the Coast Guard repeatedly raised fire-safety concerns.  Stockton Record article

At long last, Stockton fire station set to reopen – A Victory Park fire station that has been closed since April for environmental testing and cleanup is expected to reopen in the next two weeks after months of delays, Stockton Fire Chief Jeff Piechura said.  Stockton Record article

LA-Long Beach dockworkers slow down on job, management says — Dockworkers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are slowing operations to gain leverage during contract negotiations, management said.  LA Times article

Weight-sensing skateboard wins Valley venture forum – The inventor of the world’s first weight-sensing skateboard wowed judges during the ninth Central Valley Venture Forum yesterday. The forum, held at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District, is in its ninth year under the coordination of Fresno State’s Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  The Business Journal article

Sacramento Kings plan spring groundbreaking for hotel, apartments, shops near arena — The Sacramento Kings are planning to break ground in the spring on a 16-story mixed-use tower and thousands of square feet of retail, restaurants and office space surrounding their downtown sports arena, officials said Friday.  Sacramento Bee article

With court’s approval, Detroit bankruptcy is over – The nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy ended Friday, throwing Detroit a life line as it seeks to recover from an ocean of debt and mismanagement that threatened to drown the onetime symbol of U.S. industrial might.  LA Times article

Sanger sees uptick in home construction — New home construction is picking up in Sanger two years after the city council eliminated development fees to encourage builders to finish abandoned and unfinished subdivisions.  Fresno Bee article

Pump prices at noticeable low — The wallets of Kings County drivers have recently been reaping the benefits of steadily declining gas prices. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, the current average cost of unleaded gas in the South Valley is $3.18 a gallon. Pump prices a month ago were $3.64 a gallon. Hanford Sentinel article

Turlock Oks expansion of Dust Bowl Brewing — Dust Bowl Brewing Co. has won Planning Commission approval for a major expansion just west of Highway 99. The Thursday night vote on the $10 million project will be final unless it is appealed within 10 days to the City Council.  Modesto Bee article

LA City Council approves firefighter raises — The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to give a 2% pay increase to the city’s firefighters next summer, along with increases in taxpayer support for healthcare and dental benefits.  LA Times article

City Hall debates who should trim LA’s trees — To save money during the recession, the city began to jettison dozens of employees who trimmed trees. The city retained a small group of trimmers for emergencies. And as the economy improved, it began hiring outside companies for routine jobs — a practice meant to be more efficient. But then the private companies started increasing their prices.  LA Times article


Drought, insects on citrus industry’s mind — Though the nearly 400 people who attended California’s Citrus Mutual’s 2014 annual Meeting Thursday night were happy and festive, their conversations often took serious turns. And the topics often were the same. Visalia Times-Delta article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Sandy Banks: Prop 47 an important move in the right direction – Proposition 47 is an important move in the right direction. But its success depends on whether addicts and miscreants want to reform and will voluntarily seek treatment — and whether we are able to fund and create the right kind of programs to treat them.  Banks column in LA Times

Former abused horse works for Livingston police — Officer Lobo had a proud bounce in his step and a shiny badge around his neck as he moved Friday morning through the streets of Livingston.  Merced Sun-Star article


Cal State hires system’s first coordinator to combat sexual violence – California State University has hired the system’s first coordinator dedicated solely to enforcing gender discrimination laws and combatting sexual violence, officials announced Friday.  LA Times

Joel Fox: Higher ed tuition hikes for what purpose? — Like other government budgets, pension costs are squeezing the college budgets like a boa constrictor. When pro-tax advocates talk about the need for more money to pay for services, we should ask for a list of how that money will be spent and how much will be used to offset pension costs.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Fresno State receives $2.87 million grant to expand online graduate programs – Fresno State was awarded a five-year, $2.87 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create an online graduate campus that will expand access to graduate education for Hispanic, low-income and first-generation students.  Fresno Bee article

UC Merced extends leases at Castle until 2020 – UC Merced officials extended multiple lease agreements for space at Castle Commerce Center this week, continuing what county officials call a mutually beneficial relationship for another five years.  Merced Sun-Star article

Bob Wise: Linked Learning helps students succeed – The president of the Alliance for Excellent Education writes, “Imagine the impact on low-income communities nationwide if every class of high school seniors graduated equipped to excel in college or ready to start a career. Through Linked Learning, California is helping to lay that foundation for its students. The rest of the nation should take notice.” Wise op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Fresno special ed student ‘caged’ in class, claims say — A 7-year-old Fresno Unified School District special education student was allegedly locked in a makeshift cage by her Viking Elementary first-grade teacher last school year, according to two claims filed against the teacher and school administrators in mid-October.  Fresno Bee article

On Campus: State plan urges schools to get parents involved – The state released a guide this week for bringing more parents on campus and making them part of the school team. The California Department of Education’s Family Engagement Framework offers a rationale for why involving the community is important, outlines for how to go about it and gives tips to avoid potential pitfalls. Modesto Bee article

Former Iraq POW Jessica Lynch urges Turlock students to persevere in life — Jessica Lynch got caught in an ambush in the early days of the U.S. war with Iraq and suffered injuries that nearly cost her a leg. She lived to tell about it, and 11 years later, students at Turlock High School heard her story. Modesto Bee article


Wood burning banned as Valley experiences unusually unhealthy air — Rare levels of microscopic soot, chemicals and other debris prompted air authorities Friday to ban wood burning in several San Joaquin Valley counties. Authorities also asked the public to reduce driving.  Fresno Bee article

Cancel football due to awful air: right or wrong? — Dangerously high levels of air pollution descended on Bakersfield this week, prompting an environmental group to call for the cancellation of all school sporting events. But postponing Friday night football — even when vigorous outdoor activity is not advised — may be a tall order in football-crazy towns like Bakersfield and other valley communities.  Bakersfield Californian article

State environmental agencies meet Friday with gas leak evacuees — Frustration built and tempers flared as state environmental agency representatives and county officials attempted Friday to answer the questions of the Arvin residents who have been evacuated from their homes for nearly eight months.  Bakersfield Californian article

Cranes crowd Staten Island as other Valley habitat dries up — Every fall and winter at sunset, the sky above Staten Island fills with majestic sandhill cranes alighting in the fields. The sight is more spectacular than usual this year, as the number of cranes wintering on the island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has doubled over the same time in 2013.  Sacramento Bee article

Health/Human Services

Supreme Court to again decide the fate of Obama’s healthcare law – The Supreme Court will decide the fate of President Obama’s healthcare law yet again, this time ruling on whether low- and middle-income Americans may receive subsidies in two-thirds of the states to make insurance more affordable. LA Times article; AP article

Jerry Brown administration issues Ebola memo for state workforce — State employers must clear employees returning from Ebola-stricken nations before allowing them to come back to work, according to a memo issued by the California Department of Human Resources.  Sacramento Bee article

Valerie Schultz: Ebola a concern, but it shouldn’t lead to panic — Amidst the current popular panic, not all Americans are taking the threat of exposure to the Ebola virus seriously. You may have heard the tongue-in-cheek statistic: More people have been married to a certain Kardashian than have died of Ebola in the United States. Or the social-media joke: “I have a great joke about Ebola … but you probably won’t get it.” Get it? But when my husband went to a doctor’s appointment last week, he was asked if he had recently traveled to or from West Africa. He was not, however, asked if he wanted a flu shot. That he had to request, even though the onset of flu season poses a much greater risk to his health.  Schultz column in Bakersfield Californian

New veterans mental health facility celebrated in Fresno – A new mental health care facility was unveiled at the Veterans Affairs Central California Health Care System medical center during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Fresno on Friday.  Fresno Bee article

18,000 Kaiser nurses to go on strike next week – Kaiser Permanente’s 18,000 nurses throughout Northern California plan to walk out on a two-day strike next week to demand higher Ebola treatment standards.  AP article

Harold Goldstein: This election, the tide turned on soda taxes – The executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy writes, “By any measure, Tuesday’s passage of the soda tax is a game changer for diabetes prevention and may be an early indicator that Americans will, in time, be less willing to give a free pass to products that sicken their communities.”  Goldstein op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Heather Knight: Why Berkeley passed a soda tax and San Francisco didn’t – Many Americans consider San Francisco and Berkeley two peas in a very liberal pod — both of them far-left, wacky cities filled with pot-smoking, quinoa-eating eccentrics whose mayoral candidates go by names like Chicken John (San Francisco, 2007) and Running Wolf (Berkeley, 2012). But there are plenty of differences between the two bluest of blue Bay Area cities. Take a look at Tuesday’s election and the very different outcomes for both cities’ attempts to pass a tax on sodas.  Knight in San Francisco Chronicle

Berkeley taxes soda, but barely anyone in town drinks it —  Berkeley may have passed the nation’s first tax on sugary drinks, but don’t expect a Pepsi revolution. Turns out, hardly anyone in Berkeley even drinks soda.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Land Use/Housing

C.W. Nevius:  Microcosm of San Francisco housing plight: 6,800 applications for 18 units — When real estate developer Forest City began construction on a new apartment complex at 2175 Market St., it announced that it would build more affordable units than required by the city — 20 percent instead of 12. The response was overwhelming. Forest City put a booth in the lobby of The Chronicle building — chosen because it is centrally located, near public transit and well-recognized — and got more than 6,800 applications. For 18 apartments.  Nevius in San Francisco Chronicle

Schaaf: Oakland won’t make the same mistake as San Francisco on housing – Oakland’s Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf said Oakland has an advantage over San Francisco in keeping housing prices down because it’s twice the size with half the population. She also said she would not wait before it’s too late to expand the housing supply.  KQED report


Mexico cancels deal with Chinese-led consortium to build bullet train — Bowing to intense criticism, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto yanked a contract worth nearly $4 billion from a Chinese-led consortium to build a bullet train, billed as one of Mexico’s largest infrastructure projects in recent times.  LA Times article

Judge to rule on Bakersfield plan to finance freeways – Attorneys for Bakersfield and the West Park Home Owners Association offered differing views in court Friday on whether the city should be able to borrow $240 million for major road projects, then use gas tax, utility surcharge and transportation impact fees to repay it.  Bakersfield Californian article

Ribbon cut to open Bradley Overhead in Merced – The rickety old bridge on the eastern edge of town on Highway 140 is officially a closed chapter in the county’s history book. On Friday, local political leaders, state Department of Transportation officials and others started a new chapter, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new $41.2 million Bradley Overhead project.  Merced Sun-Star article

BART link to Oakland airport to open before Thanksgiving – BART’s Oakland Airport Connector will open in time for the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel season, ending years of controversy and construction.  San Francisco Chronicle article

LA’s not-quite ‘subway to the sea’ finally breaks ground — More than 30 years ago, officials promised that Los Angeles’ first modern subway would cut through the congested and heavily populated Wilshire Corridor connecting downtown to the city’s coastal suburbs.  LA Times article

Other Areas

Navy Cross recipient says in lawsuit he was roughed up by Sequoia park ranger — A disabled combat Marine who received the Navy Cross for heroism in Iraq is suing the federal government in a dispute over a Sequoia National Park handicap parking space in which he says a ranger handcuffed him and roughed him up in front of his family.  Fresno Bee article

Dawn Golik: Saluting military veterans who never wore uniforms – The Fresno resident writes, “One of my favorite family photographs was taken this summer on the deck of the USS Midway. My dad, a retired Navy flight officer, posed proudly with his granddaughters and me in front of an aircraft painted with his squadron’s logo, the Hormel Hawgs: a red razorback pig fiercely charging across a blue background.”  Golik op-ed in Fresno Bee

Mike Dunbar: Owners of pit bulls didn’t like Our View — I don’t hate pit bulls. In fact, I think I might prefer them to some of the folks I’ve encountered online since The Bee’s editorial “Pit bulls can be deadly; hold owners accountable” was posted.  Dunbar column in Modesto Bee

Many line up for tattoo removal event — As varied as the reasons people get tattoos are the reasons for their removal, as evidenced by those receiving free tattoo removal treatments Friday through Friends Outside.  Stockton Record article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Good citizens that we are, we’ve thrown the dirty, ugly and lowdown campaign mailersinto the recycling bin. Good riddance; Thumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – We want a law that will allow cities and counties to adopt tougher restrictions on specific dog breeds, up to and including bans. They won’t have to, but they can.

Modesto Bee – A few votes are still being counted, but the results we’ve gotten so far from Tuesday’s election make one thing abundantly clear: As voters, Stanislaus County residents might be more comfortable living in Kansas than California; Congratulations, winners – now get ready to work.

Sacramento Bee – Legislature needs to act to grant local governments the power to further restrict dangerous dog breeds.