October 13, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Some California criminals would face lighter sentences under Prop 47 – For decades, California voters have been asked to make tough decisions on how the state handles crime and punishment – from the death penaltyto “three strikes” laws to the creation of drug-diversion programs. Next month, they will be asked to decide the fate of yet another initiative aimed at changing the penalties some criminals face in court and, proponents say, saving the state millions in needless incarceration costs.  Sacramento Bee article

George Skelton: Brown pitches Props 1, 2, but remains mum on 4th-term agenda – About the only thing Propositions 1 and 2 have in common is they’re being used as props of a different kind by Gov. Jerry Brown. They’re handy stage props for the governor’s reelection campaign. You’ve got to tip your hat to a political magician who can meld a water bond with a rainy-day fund and create a shield that protects him from having to talk about his plans — if any — for a record fourth term.  Skelton column in LA Times

Valley politics

Voters to decide on districts in Merced – Voters will decide next month whether to chop Merced up into districts or chance a legal battle over the California Voting Rights Act. A “yes” vote on Measure T would change Merced’s at-large voting system, one in which local elections are decided by a citywide vote, to a system with districts.  Merced Sun-Star article

AD12: Olsen, challenger vie for seat – Incumbent Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, up for her third and final Assembly stint under term limits, holds vice chair posts on the agriculture and education committees. She is expected to take a Republican leadership role in the statehouse and advocates more efficient government. Challenger Harinder Grewal of Keyes, a county agricultural inspector, said he has deeper background knowledge, pointing to his doctorate in ag economics and 23 years of volunteer and elected community leadership posts.  Modesto Bee article

Fresno Unified Area 3 candidates similar on key issues – Both candidates in the Fresno Unified Area 3 trustee race are slinging mud over professional credentials and campaign contributions, while leaving lots of room for agreement over key issues like vocational programs and how to use new state money effectively. Incumbent Valerie Davis is being challenged by veteran candidate Esmeralda Diaz, a retired physician, for the seat that represents Sunnyside High and its feeder schools.  Fresno Bee article

Crowded field for three Lodi council seats – With the departure of veterans Larry Hansen and Phil Katzakian, three of five seats are up for grabs on the Lodi City Council. One incumbent is seeking a third term, and six newcomers are on the ballot. Here is a look at the candidates and their key campaign issues.  Stockton Record article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Dan Walters: Torlakson-Tuck contest is just one front in war over California public education – Even at a superficial level, the contest between two Democrats for the supposedly nonpartisan office of state superintendent of schools is interesting. However, their running debate over the direction of California’s 6 million-student public school system is merely one front – albeit an important one – in a years-long war over education policy, almost entirely within the Democratic Party.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Jim Newton: Can California GOP craft a winning strategy? – Is the GOP’s best strategy to pursue change from the top down — securing a statewide office or two to reestablish a beachhead in Sacramento — or from the ground up, doing the painstaking work of electing Republicans to local offices in the hopes that those politicians can amass the experience and credibility to someday recapture offices once held by the likes of Ronald Reagan, Earl Warren and Richard Nixon? Both approaches are in play during this election cycle.  Newton in LA Times

Prop 45 fight worthy of television drama – The power play behind Proposition 45 could be fodder for an episode of House of Cards.  KQED report

Other areas

Jose Gaspar: Is it time for Latinos to part ways with the Democratic Party? – Cal State professor Edna Molina will not be voting for any Democrats in the November midterm election, which is now less than one month away. “Democratic leaders need to get the message that they won’t get the Latino vote (sorry to say, good-bye Hillary) if they ignore the concerns of our people or, worse yet, if they placate Republicans by implementing a massive deportation campaign that hurts Hispanic families,” wrote Molina in an email.  Gaspar column in Bakersfield Californian

Dan Walters Daily: Slate mailers are tossers – Like a “Seinfeld” episode, slate mailers are much about nothing, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

49ers execs pony up for Santa Clara incumbents’ races – The 49ers are playing big in the upcoming mayoral and City Council races in suburban Santa Clara, home of their new Levi’s Stadium.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Federal judge strikes down Alaska’s marriage ban – A federal judge on Sunday struck down Alaska’s first-in-the-nation ban on gay marriages, the latest court decision in a busy week for the issue across the country.   AP articleLA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

The devil’s in the details – Despite paychecks that may cause most taxpayers to drop their jaws, a Sentinel investigation has found that Hanford’s top management positions cost more per citizen than those in comparable cities, in part because of high demands from the state’s retirement system.  Hanford Sentinel article

Report: Riverbank groundwater supply ‘more than adequate’ – Others may be worried about declining groundwater, but not Riverbank, according to a draft of the city’s first official Urban Water Management Plan. City Council members will review it Tuesday.  Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Turlock council considers employee contracts – The City Council on Tuesday night will consider contracts with most employee groups, along with the city manager and attorney. The council also could accept a federal grant for hiring four police officers, which requires a city contribution, and consider replacing six patrol cars.  Modesto Bee article

Unemployment insurance program getting help in ferreting out fraud – In recent years, the state Employment Development Department has been plagued by breakdowns of a 30-year-old computer system. Staffers were forced to spend extra time manually dealing with cases to look for irregularities or suspected fraud. Now, the agency hopes it’s found a faster, cheaper and more accurate way to zero in on fraudulent claims that cost an estimated tens of millions of dollars a year: It’s teaming up with a Sacramento-area company that partners with Google Inc. technology to ferret out fraud, sometimes even before it happens.  LA Times article

San Jose vote may derail pension ‘rights’ ruling – An appeal of a San Jose pension reform ruling that could cause the state Supreme Court to revisit “vested rights” may be halted by a settlement with unions, if candidates aligned with the policies of Mayor Chuck Reed are defeated next month.  Calpensions article

Gasoline prices fall to lowest level since November – The average price of regular gasoline in the U.S. slid to the lowest level in more than 10 months, dropping 11.6 cents in the three weeks that ended Friday to $3.26 a gallon, according to a survey of gasoline retailers.  LA Times article

Taking care of business in San Francisco’s high-turnover climate – San Francisco is a city of change, and perhaps nothing reflects that more than its high rate of business turnover. Nearly 13,000 businesses will close up shop or move this year and more than 18,000 will open, up from about 1,300 closures and 4,000 openings or moves in 1992, according to a new report prepared for the Board of Supervisors. Between 1992 and 2011, business closures and relocations have risen by 884 percent, the analysis found — and if current trends hold, the rate of change will continue to grow.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Fits and starts: Tech boom fuels Bay Area economy – Five years after the Great Recession officially ended, the California economy looks like a patchwork quilt. In the Bay Area, the tech boom has driven the unemployment rate down – and housing prices up.  Capital Public Radio report

Chevron is still going strong after 135 years –  At 135 years and counting, the oil company now known as Chevron Corp. is one of California’s oldest survival stories.  LA Times article

Auburn considers ordinance to regulate Airbnb home-sharing services – The city of Auburn is creating an ordinance that would regulate home-sharing operations like Airbnb – a popular platform on which residents rent private rooms for money – making it the first jurisdiction in the Sacramento region to attempt oversight of the budding industry.  Sacramento Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Stockton sees 5 slayings in 4 hours – Police called in the California Department of Justice to help gather evidence on a bloody Sunday after five people were gunned down in a series of overnight killings in Stockton. Six people in all were shot in three separate and apparently unrelated incidents over a span of less than four hours, said Officer Joe Silva, a spokesman for the Stockton Police Department. Stockton Record articleSacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Some attorneys fear bail amounts climbing too high – The Superior Court of San Joaquin County has set bail on certain crimes significantly higher than other nearby counties have, and some defense attorneys are concerned over the disparity, saying it is unfair to an area grappling with low incomes and diminished assets.  Stockton Record article

Stockton fills violence prevention, community services leadership roles – The city announced late Friday afternoon it has filled two key leadership positions by hiring a manager for Stockton’s new Office of Violence Prevention and a director of community services. The crime-related position is in support of the city’s Marshall Plan to reduce violence.  Stockton Record article

Child predator app expands – The first federal law enforcement app designed to seek the public’s help with fugitive and suspected child predators is expanding its reach to more smartphones and languages. The Operation Predator app, initially released last year for iPhone, is now available for Android-based smartphones, and in Spanish for both Apple and Android versions.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Law helps homeless students graduate – Assembly Bill 1806 – authored by Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September – also allows homeless students who enter a new high school in their junior year or later to graduate if they complete state graduation requirements. State requirements of 130 credits are typically much lower than school district requirements, which can be almost twice as much.  EdSource article

Tulare Union High School stands by Redskins mascot amid national firestorm – A statue of Chief Seattle, the epitome of Tulare Union High School’s depiction of its Redskin mascot, evokes a myriad of reactions depending on the eye of the beholder. Where some see beauty and dignity, others see ugly racism. The school views the centerpiece of its campus and Redskin Pride Park as a masterpiece portraying honor and respect.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Bay Area schools scramble for qualified teachers amid shortage – A long-predicted teacher shortage has hit several Bay Area school districts this year, resulting in stiff competition for qualified candidates and more classrooms in the hands of temporary or emergency teachers who lack full credentials. A combination of teacher retirements, high attrition rates, lack of new recruits and increased competition among districts in a postrecession economy has flip-flopped the education job market, school officials say. San Francisco Chronicle article


Dog Rock fire 95 percent contained, Highway 140 reopens – Firefighters battling the Dog Rock fire finished removing debris from Highway 140 Sunday morning, allowing both lanes to reopen as of 8 a.m. The highway, which leads to Yosemite National Park, had been closed since Tuesday. As of Sunday, the fire — likely caused by a spark from a vehicle — had burned 311 acres and was 95% contained.  Fresno Bee article

Vast landscape charred by King Fire will receive emergency treatment – Rugged and isolated, the Rubicon River Valley on the border of El Dorado and Placer counties was for many years an idyll of old growth trees and icy swimming holes. Then the King fire roared through last month, turning a 20-mile stretch of the canyon into a vast dead zone of ashen earth and smoldering stumps.  Sacramento Bee article

Wardens last line of defense for fish, wildlife – California’s roughly 375 game wardens, each of whom patrols on average more than 400 square miles, have been called the “thin green line.” They are all that stand between poachers and their prey. They are trying to preserve what’s left.  Stockton Record article

Crowds take to the street for car-free Berkeley day – Shortly before noon on a cloudless 80-degree Sunday, Markos Sommer and Connie Kim walked down the middle of Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley, beaming. No cars or buses to dodge. It was just them and about 50,000 other non-drivers commandeering the roadway in the third annual Sunday Streets Berkeley, with 1.7 miles of a main city artery closed to vehicular traffic from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Health/Human Services

New Dallas Ebola case brings attention to risks faced by healthcare workers –  A breach in safety protocol at a Dallas Hospital has caused a female health care worker to become infected with Ebola after having extensive contact with Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan. The development — the first case of the deadly disease transmitted in the United States — stunned health officials who had not included the woman in the group of 48 people being monitored for the disease because she was thought to be of low risk for infection because she had worn personal protective equipment while caring for Duncan.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Ebola researcher turns to crowdfunding for help in finding cure – A scientist at the Scripps Research Institute who is leading an international effort to find a cure for Ebola has turned to crowdfunding to raise money to buy equipment to speed her work.  LA Times article

New breast cancer treatment can reduce radiation to a single day for some – Intrabeam is used in more than 50 facilities throughout the United States, including nine in California. Sutter is the only facility using it in Sacramento, according to representatives of the device’s German manufacturer, Carl Zeiss Meditec AG. The goal of this type of radiation is for women to not have to endure daily radiation treatment in the weeks following surgery, as they would with the more traditional “whole-breast” radiation technique.  Sacramento Bee article

School nurse: Sedentary habits lead to health issues – There’s no question that there is a close connection between how a student feels and how he does in school, Mary Piniol believes. Piniol is the nurse for the 2,700 students at Weaver Union School District campuses. A registered nurse, she has been in nursing for 35 years and in her current role for five years. She is credentialed for public health nursing.  Merced Sun-Star article

Doctors’ pay for unapproved prostate cancer device raises ethical questions – A newly released database from the federal government offers an unprecedented window into the operations of a company that urges American doctors to conduct an unapproved procedure abroad, and compensates them for it.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Land Use/Housing

Expansion of Cutler recycling facility being considered – Tulare County Supervisors on Tuesday will hold a public hearing on whether to rezone a parcel of land in Cutler to allow Peña’s Disposal Service to expand its recycling operation there. Currently, the more than 18-acre parcel northeast of Avenue 408 and Road 120, on Cutler’s west side, is zoned exclusively for agriculture.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Other Areas

Keeping up with Bakersfield graffiti removal proves successful – Wearing a florescent orange and yellow vest and a simple white painter’s mask, city worker Chuck Todd spent a recent weekday morning spraying paint over graffiti found on a Chester Avenue underpass. He is one of multiple city workers who remove the tens of thousands of pieces of graffiti found across the city each year. The sprayed on, looped font and characters can be regularly spotted on walls, buildings, streets and signs.  Bakersfield Californian article

Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino closure leaves Hoover High class reunion in limbo – For Hoover High School’s class of 1994, the sudden closure of Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino is personal.  Fresno Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Michael Peevey leaves a mixed legacy as California Public Utilities Commission president.

Sacramento Bee – Ballot-box voting is the wrong way to control growth in El Dorado County.