October 11, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

CD21: Race heats up with heavy hitters U.S. Chamber (for Valadao) and Hillary Clinton (for Renteria) – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Hanford Republican David Valadao for reelection in the 21st Congressional District, is now adding financial muscle to its backing. This week, the organization put $250,000 into an independent expenditure on Valadao’s behalf. The money will be spent on television and digital advertising, according to a report on the Federal Election Commission’s website. But the cash also raises a big question — Is the 21st District, where Valadao is being challenged by Sanger Democrat Amanda Renteria, competitive?  Fresno Bee article

SD14: Big money flowing into Vidak-Chavez race — The money is starting to flow into the 14th state Senate District race between incumbent Hanford Republican Andy Vidak and his challenger, Fresno Democrat Luis Chavez. It’s hardly surprising, given that there are only two competitive state Senate races pitting Republicans against Democrats, and all Democrats have to do is win one of those two to maintain a two-thirds supermajority in the body.  Fresno Bee article

Gov. Brown

Jerry Brown awash in money from state party, ‘dual donors’ — Gov. Jerry Brown, who once served as chairman of the California Democratic Party, has turned to the party in a big way in his re-election campaign, raking in about $4.4 million in contributions from the organization.  Capitol Alert

Valley politics

CD21: Identity politics center stage in campaign – In California’s rural Central Valley, a candidate’s identity means everything in politics. Just take the race between first-term Republican Rep. David Valadao and Democrat Amanda Renteria for the state’s 21st Congressional District seat, which is attracting some unusual attention this fall.  NPR report

CD9: McNerney, Amador battle – Tony Amador landed on the political scene in San Joaquin County in 2010, joining a crowded field of challengers who thought Democrat Jerry McNerney couldn’t hold onto his once-Republican seat. The retired U.S. Marshall didn’t make the primary cut in 2010, but he stuck around and entered the fray again this year to try and topple McNerney, making it past the June primary to the November ballot.  Stockton Record article

Merced Sun-Star: Adam Gray has been working hard, keep him on the job in 21st Assembly – Adam Gray has been doing a good job; return him to the Assembly. Merced Sun-Star editorial

In Orange Cove, Victor Lopez again vie for mayor position – When it comes to Orange Cove, a town of about 9,600 residents east of Fresno, there’s one name that always stands out: Victor Lopez.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno Unified candidate forum was devoid of most candidates – Two Fresno Unified school board candidates did not show up and a third was over an hour late for a candidate forum Thursday night in southeast Fresno.  Fresno Bee article

Atwater police program van, cadets used in city election campaign – A committee supporting three political candidates in the contentious Atwater City Council and mayor’s races used a police program van and police cadets to distribute fliers promoting the trio – without the authorization or knowledge of the city’s police chief, the Merced Sun-Star has learned.  Merced Sun-Star article

Merced sheriff candidate Vern Warnke’s pick for undersheriff may not qualify – Merced County sheriff’s candidate Vern Warnke, if elected, said he wants retired sheriff’s sergeant Suzzette Norris to be his undersheriff, but she may not meet basic qualifications for the position and his campaign-trail endorsement of Norris may expose the county to potential unfair hiring practices litigation.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresno Bee: Kahn and Arias would elevate State Center’s Board of Trustees — Bobby Kahn in Area 1 and Miguel Arias in Area 5 are the best choices for the State Center Community College District Board of Trustees.  Fresno Bee editorial

College of the Sequoias trustee candidates agree on issues — When it comes to serving College of the Sequoias, Laurel Barton and Greg Sherman mostly agree on the issues that need to be focused on if they’re the one to be elected next month to serve Ward 1 of the College of the Sequoias Board of Trustees.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Brown’s war chest for Props 1 and 2 grows to $10.7 million – Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign war chest for two propositions on the November ballot has grown to more than $10.7 million, according to campaign filings with the state.  LA Times article

Ballot Watch:  Prop 1’s water bonds followed long legislative odyssey – Amid a multiyear dry stretch that is among the worst droughts on record, California lawmakers this year made crafting a new water bond a priority. They had done this before, back in 2009, but Sacramento consensus held that the formerly passed $11.1 billion measure was doomed at the ballot box: too big, too full of pork for specific local projects.  Sacramento Bee article

Historic drought is backdrop for water bond vote – Jerry Brown and lawmakers are hoping California’s worsening drought persuades voters to approve borrowing billions of dollars for new water projects, treatment systems and conservation measures.  AP article

Outside groups stock up for California schools chief race — Independent expenditure committees have set aside almost $5.5 million in the past week for the final stage of California’s hotly contested superintendent of public instruction race, an ideologically charged battle that has pitted incumbent Tom Torlakson against former schools executive Marshall Tuck over teacher job protections.  Capitol AlertEdSource article

Foes of California plastic bag ban press ahead of referendum — Opponents of California’s newly-signed ban on single-use plastic bags have been cleared to begin collecting signatures for a referendum, state elections officials said Friday.  Sacramento Bee articleSacramento Bee editorial

Bakersfield Californian: Prop 45 fixes a problem that doesn’t exist – Voters should reject Proposition 45 in November. If reform efforts are needed in the future, they should be crafted to address a real problem.  Bakersfield Californian editorial

Michael Hiltzik: The five rules on how to kill a consumer-friendly initiative — California’s initiative process can shine a bright light on how money and influence work their magic in American politics.  Hiltzik in LA Times

Other areas

Millions flowing to hot House races in California, updates show – Political parties and other interest groups pumped another $2.8 million over the past week to support or oppose candidates in California’s hottest races for Congress. The groups are not contributing directly to candidates’ campaigns but are buying TV ad time, sending mailers or bankrolling other efforts to influence the outcome of the Nov. 4 elections. LA Times article

Kevin Johnson: Measure L will help Sacramento succeed – Sacramento’s mayor writes, “If Measure L passes, whether it’s me or future mayors, you’ll finally know each and every day where the buck stops. I wouldn’t want it any other way.” Johnson op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Paula Lee: Measure L is bad for democracy – The president of the League of Women Voters, Sacramento chapter, writes, “The League of Women Voters finds that no convincing evidence or arguments have been made to support this risky change. We recommend that voters keep democracy working in our city. Vote “no” on Measure L.” Lee op-ed in Sacramento Bee

McClintock, Moore to debate Tuesday – The on-again, off-again debate between 4th Congressional District incumbent Tom McClintock and challenger Art Moore is back on. A day after McClintock backed away from a one-hour debate that would have been hosted by the League of Women Voters next week, the Elk Grove Republican’s camp issued a press release that he had accepted an debate invitation from the Auburn Chamber of Commerce’s “Meddlers” forum at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.  Sacramento Bee article

Cap-and-trade opponents hit California incumbents – It never came up for a vote this year, but the dispute over California’s carbon-pricing scheme continues to frame November elections, with a group launched by oil company money underwriting ads in select legislative races.  Capitol Alert

Jim Reeves:  National Coming Out Day and Porterville City Council – politics as usual – The Porterville City Council, despite recent elections and the unfortunate passing of respected and re-elected member Pete McCracken (requiring the council to appoint a replacement), has yet to experience the growth we in the larger LGBT community in Tulare County had hoped to see.  Reeves in Visalia Times-Delta

Obama brings stump speech, traffic, protests to SF – Over the past six years the country has made “real, genuine, documentable progress” at recovering from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the president said, but he needs more support to keep things improving.  San Francisco Chronicle article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Is California headed into a ‘megadrought’? – Megadroughts — dry periods that last decades or even centuries — are very much a reality in the Golden State. They have occurred several times during the past millennium, and researchers said there’s a high chance that California is about to enter another super-long dry spell. Some climate experts actually believe the state is already in the realm of a megadrought.  U-T San Diego article

Industry not thrilled with new fracking rules, and neither are environmentalists – State regulators have released a third version of proposed rules for fracking and other oil well stimulation work, tweaking things like what size earthquakes must be reported and how much time neighbors have to request groundwater testing.  Bakersfield Californian articleKQED report

Chukchansi Gold Casino shut down temporarily by state, feds — Years of squabbling and several pitched battles between factions of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians finally forced intervention by the state and federal governments Friday when they shut down the tribe’s casino and hotel. Fresno Bee articleLA Times articleKVPR report

Jobs and the Economy

Downtown Modesto building will get new tenant as foreign company moves in – A company based in the United Kingdom soon will open some kind of processing facility in downtown Modesto. Details about the incoming venture will be revealed Tuesday. The foreign firm will take over about 3,000 square feet of ground-floor space at 14th and H streets, inside the building where The Modesto Bee leases offices.  Modesto Bee article

Sacramento underestimating downtown arena traffic, lawyers say – Lawyers challenging Sacramento’s handling of its downtown arena project argued in court Friday that the city is grossly underestimating the number of people who might show up for an event and the resulting traffic congestion.  Sacramento Bee article

San Francisco soda tax backers sweet on Mexico’s sugar-fighting success — Voters next month could make San Francisco the first place in the United States to adopt a soda tax after similar efforts in dozens of other cities and states have fizzled. But a soda tax isn’t unprecedented.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Willie Brown: San Francisco upping the ante to win bid for 2024 Olympics — San Francisco is getting serious about the 2024 Olympics bid. That was the message I got the other day at a sit-down in the mayor’s office, where all the city department heads who would be involved with bringing the big Games here were in attendance.  Brown in San Francisco Chronicle


East Porterville residents to get 2,000 cases of donated water — As many citizens of East Porterville continue to live without running taps, an Ohio disaster relief organization is trucking in almost 2,000 cases of water this weekend.  Fresno Bee article

With drought, new concerns over fracking’s water use – The southern San Joaquin Valley is the site of rising tensions between farming and fracking, as the two industries are increasingly coming into contact. While farmers fallow land and pull up orchards, they’re asking whether there’s enough water to go around.  KQED report

High milk prices helping dairies cover past losses – Record high milk prices are helping California dairy farmers recover from five years of slim to no profits and running losses, experts report, but volatile global commodity markets and the state’s ongoing drought remain major concerns.  Stockton Record article

Valley raisin growers seeking higher price for their crop — With a small crop expected this season, San Joaquin Valley raisin growers are trying to put pressure on the region’s packers to pay them more for their fruit.  Fresno Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

LAPD ghost cars:  Cops lied about officers on patrol, report finds — Los Angeles police deliberately deceived senior officials by artificially inflating the number of officers on patrol, according to an investigation by the LAPD’s independent watchdog.  LA Times article

One clown down and more Yik Yak — Clowns and Yik Yak-ers were in the news this week, but it wasn’t always funny. Bakersfield police on Thursday arrested both an anonymous social media user who authorities believe threatened Liberty High School, and a pseudo-clown who allegedly chased children in jest.  Bakersfield Californian articleLA Times article

Woman behind bars for 17 years walks free after judge says she’s innocent – A woman convicted of murder and imprisoned for 17 years walked out of a Torrance courthouse Friday after a judge called her life sentence “a failure of the criminal justice system” and ordered her release.  LA Times articleAP article


Stockton Unified police receive surplus military equipment – The non-tactical equipment Stockton Unified received in a December requisition made under the former administration has an estimated worth of $23,588.80 and went to supply the district Police Department’s current location, district spokeswoman Dianne Barth-Feist said. Stockton Record article

Program allows scientists to share expertise in San Joaquin County schools – If a mind is a terrible thing to waste, how much more so to waste the collective knowledge of a generation of scientists, teachers, engineers, physicists, pilots and other science enthusiasts accumulated over a lifetime of scholarship? That’s the premise behind San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Teaching Opportunities for Partners in Science program, which is proving so popular with students there’s a waiting list of schools in need of volunteer science buffs to pass on their expertise in the classroom.  Stockton Record article

John Steiner: Teachers, parents fighting Stockton Unified’s ‘fiscal piracy’ – The president of the Stockton Teachers Association writes, “On Oct. 2, more than 300 parents and teachers expressed our frustrations with the school board and administration of our school district, who have been refusing to make our students and our classrooms the top priority. We expressed our collective frustrations by again demonstrating in front of the headquarters of the Stockton Unified School District with the hopes that this time the school board and its senior managers would hear our voices.” Steiner op-ed in Stockton Record

Duct tape or dunk tank?  Students try to stay afloat – Just to make it clear, getting wet doesn’t diminish the grade. Nor the point in the pool at which the boat — and its crew — sink. But freshman engineering and computer science students from University of the Pacific — buoyed by the promise, if not the proof, that it can be done — made boats of cardboard and duct tape and attempted to traverse Kjeldsen Pool on Friday. All in the name of learning.  Stockton Record article

Studious kids get a boost from Foster Farms, Second Harvest Food Bank — Foster Farms has launched the sixth year of its Food 4 Thought campaign, which provides groceries twice a month to students in after-school programs.  Modesto Bee article


Open arms greet fracking in Kern County – The oil extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing may be controversial in California, but it’s not at all new. Fracking, as it’s known, has been happening for more than 40 years in Kern County, east of Los Angeles.  KQED report

Anti-fracking activists in California take fight to county ballots — Fracking bans are on the November ballots in Mendocino, San Benito and Santa Barbara Counties. Butte County voters could see a measure on the 2016 ballot.  KQED report

California reactivates firefighting airplanes – California officials reactivated the state’s 22 firefighting air tankers on Friday, days after one of the aircraft crashed in Yosemite National Park, killing the pilot. AP article

NTSB: No mechanical issues with air tanker that crashed in Yosemite — The air tanker that went down while fighting a wildfire near Yosemite National Park this week, killing the pilot, did not appear to have mechanical issues, officials announced Friday. LA Times article

Judge rules Kern won’t have to pay legal bills fees in court battle with composting facility – Despite losing a high-profile lawsuit filed by a Lamont-area composting facility and its landlord, Kern County won’t have to pay more than $1 million in attorneys’ fees requested by the plaintiffs.  Bakersfield California article

Emails: AG investigating Public Utilities Commission — State Attorney General Kamala Harris quietly opened an investigation last month into the California Public Utilities Commission regarding rate setting procedures and the gas line explosion in San Bruno, according to emails obtained by The Sacramento Bee.  Sacramento Bee article

Garbage heap on Dry Creek’s shore an unsightly hazard — The creek’s shore has become a makeshift dumping ground for park users, stacked deep with dangerous garbage. Besides the carelessly discarded cups, plates and bags, it’s cluttered with syringes and needles, knives and razors, shopping carts and bicycle parts, clothing and junk of all kinds. Modesto Bee article

Health/Human Services

Is $1,125 hepatitis pill from Bay Area drugmaker worth it? – After shaking up the health care industry with a $1,000 hepatitis C pill, Gilead Sciences of Foster City won approval Friday for a new version of that treatment that works faster, drops the usual injections and boasts an already-controversial $1,125 price tag.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Activists see link between overprescribing of opoid painkillers and increase in overdoses — In rallies on Capitol Mall in Washington and across the nation, in testimony before legislators, in community meetings and online, parent-activists are trying to make their voices heard. They are armed with statistics such as this shocker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers, enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills.  Sacramento Bee article

Supervisors to discuss ‘medical home’ at Kern Medical Center — Kern County supervisors will talk about a partnership with Kern Health Systems on Monday afternoon. The county is beginning the long and difficult process of creating a health authority to take over county control of Kern Medical Center and its fiscal challenges.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno woman with terminal cancer spends her dream day with California Chrome — When Karon Penny learned in August that her best friend of over 40 years, Jeralynn Stout of Fresno, would be moving into hospice care with a terminal cancer diagnosis, she wanted to give her one final make-a-wish moment. Penny asked her longtime travel companion to pick anywhere in the world she wanted to go, fully expecting the two would set out on another cruise to Mexico. Stout’s answer was something different entirely — she wanted to meet California Chrome.  Fresno Bee article


Caltrans outfits fleets with high-tech devices — By the end of this month, Caltrans will finish outfitting its vast fleet with high-tech devices that tell managers everything from where a vehicle has gone, how long it remains idle or when its check-engine light goes on to how fast it has been driven and whether it complies with state smog standards. The system even tracks which employee is driving.  Sacramento Bee article

Other Areas

Coarsegold community, visitors troubled by Chukchansi casino closure — Sitting in a pizza parlor Friday afternoon, a longtime employee of Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino said she was “nervous.” The woman, who didn’t want to be named out of fear she could lose her job, was one of more than 1,000 casino employees who found themselves without work after the casino was nearly emptied Thursday night.  Fresno Bee article

Modesto council to interview city manager candidates Monday – The Modesto City Council will meet in closed session Monday to interview candidates for city manager. Officials have said two candidates are scheduled to be interviewed. There is a third candidate, but officials have said he cannot make the interview but could be available at another time.  Modesto Bee article

Michael Olcott:  Committed to a family oriented Kern County Fair – The CEO and general manager of the Kern County Fair writes, “I believe, as do members of the fair board, that it is important that all citizens of Kern County maintain a voice in insuring a fun, family oriented and traditional fair each year. Thank you, citizens of Kern County, for helping our fair live up to its name: the Great Kern County Fair.”  Olcott op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Valley Editorial Roundup

Bakersfield Californian  Voters should reject Proposition 45 in November. If reform efforts are needed in the future, they should be crafted to address a real problem.

Fresno Bee – Bobby Kahn in Area 1 and Miguel Arias in Area 5 are the best choices for the State Center Community College District Board of Trustees; Thumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – Adam Gray has been doing a good job; return him to the Assembly; Proposition 2 is clearly worthy of support.

Modesto Bee – Our Views: Boys & Girls Clubs of Stanislaus County already doing good, getting deep in water details.