October 22, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories

California voters returning ballots in big numbers, election officials say — Election officials around the state say that mail ballot returns are running higher than usual for a presidential election. Explanations include the overall increase in the number of Californians receiving mail ballots and interest in the high-octane presidential contest. They also cite some voters’ fatigue with the race’s relentlessly negative tone and suspect some just want to be done with it. Sacramento Bee article 

Kevin McCarthy crisscrossing the country to save House GOP seats – While many lawmakers are unwinding on vacation this August, or using downtime to visit family, Kevin McCarthy is on a mission: Keeping the House firmly under Republican control. Politico article

Valley politics

Early Fresno city mail ballot returns favor Democrats over Republicans — It’s been close to two weeks since City of Fresno residents began voting ahead of the November 8 general election, and so far half the ballots returned have been from Democrats. These ballots matter in the Fresno mayor’s race. It is technically non-partisan, but mayoral candidate Henry R. Perea must like what he sees so far because he’s a Democrat. Fresno Bee article

Measure N’s passage would prevent costly lawsuit – One way or another, change seems inevitable. Either residents are going to overturn Stockton’s 30-year practice of electing the City Council citywide, rather than by district voting, or the courts will do it for them. Stockton Record article 

Merced mayoral hopefuls talk police-resident relations – A forum hosted and run by young people in Merced had the mayoral candidates fielding questions about relations between police and South Merced residents. Merced Sun-Star article 

What’s up with those Neighborhood Watch campaign fliers? — Residents of downtown and southwest Bakersfield are getting campaign fliers from City Councilman Terry Maxwell and Vice Mayor Harold Hanson, with one whole side a reproduction of a Neighborhood Watch sign. Not an artist’s rendition either — these look like the real deal and advise the holder to “place this card in your window with this side facing out.” Bakersfield Californian article

Grand jury says it’s satisfied with election security — County clerks and assorted local elections officials across the country have been speaking out about the assertions of a certain presidential candidate and his surrogates that this election is rigged. No, it’s not, they say with near-unanimity.  Kern County elections chief Karen Rhea is one of them. She’s heard the concerns about supposed voter fraud and she’s not buying it. She spelled out for The Californian this week, in convincing terms, how various procedures and safeguards make it virtually impossible for anyone to tamper with the results. On Friday, the Kern County Grand Jury got into the act, releasing its findings from a recent trip to the Kern County Elections Office. Bakersfield Californian article

What you should know for voting in Merced County — The Merced County registrar of voters wants to spread the word about voting-related information ahead of the November election. Merced Sun-Star article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

What you need to know about California’s 17 ballot measures – The Nov. 8 election is upon us, and Californians are already voting in record numbers. They face 17 ballot measures – tax increases, condom requirements, ammunition controls and marijuana legalization among them. What to do? Sacramento Bee articl 

Sean Parker, pushing pot legalization, invisible in California campaign – Sean Parker, the billionaire tech tycoon who has helped push California to the precipice of legalizing marijuana, isn’t talking. Parker, founding president of Facebook and co-founder of the file-sharing service Napster, has contributed $7.3 million toward the Proposition 64 legalization effort. Another $1.5 million went to New Approach PAC, a committee affiliated with the legalization drive. To date, however, he has been absent from the public campaign for the initiative. Sacramento Bee article

How would legalizing marijuana affect drug war at San Diego’s border? – What happens if California voters decide to legalize recreational marijuana on Nov. 8? Would a legal marijuana market cut into the profits of the Mexican drug cartels enough to cripple them? Or would it make it easier for traffickers to grow pot in the United States under the shadow of legitimacy? The answers are a game of speculation, experts acknowledge, although recent drug-smuggling trends and the experiences of other states that have pioneered recreational marijuana laws provide some clues as to what drug-trafficking at our border might look like. San Diego Union-Tribune article

Kamala Harris continues to cash in on California Democratic Party support – The California Democratic Party says it has increased its direct support of Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ U.S. Senate campaign to more than $690,000. LA Times article 

Rep. Loretta Sanchez bounces back from past comments to receive Muslim group’s co-endorsement for Senate – Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who was criticized by Muslim groups last year after a comment about Muslims’ support for establishing a strict Islamic state, appears to have made amends. LA Times article

California Politics Podcast: Propositions, polls, parole — This week, we discuss polling on the 17 ballot propositions California voters are being asked to consider on Nov. 8. And then we focus, in particular, on Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison parole proposal, Proposition 57. With John Myers of the Los Angeles Times and Marisa Lagos of KQED News. California Politics Podcast

Joel Fox: Are bonds free? – Voters in California have hundreds of local bonds to consider in this election but I suspect many voters don’t understand how the bonds are funded. They won’t find out by reading ballot summaries. Fox in Fox & Hounds


Immigrants’ stories resonate in multicultural community — In a time when discussion of immigration is vitriolic, to say the least, Cristina Henríquez found a way to quietly share her point of view. And she offered her perspective the best way she knows how: through writing. Stockton Record article

Other areas

Punch the clock and pass the brownies – If prosecutors can’t keep up with the maze of competing marijuana laws these days, one might forgive regular folks who feel a little hazy about them. And workplace attorneys say the issue promises to become even more puzzling for employers and employees alike on Nov. 8, when voters will decide whether to allow or expand legal access to marijuana in nine more states. McClatchy Newspapers article

Golden State Warriors tickets for free? Oakland and Alameda County pols use free suites for friends, family, cronies — A Bay Area News Group examination found seven public officials each claimed more than $250,000 in complimentary tickets to luxury suites at publicly owned Oracle Arena for Warriors games over the last three seasons as the team rewrote the NBA’s record book. San Jose Mercury News article 

Former state Sen. Ronald Calderon sentenced to 42 months in prison on corruption charge — Former state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon was sentenced in Los Angeles on Friday to 42 months in prison after he pleaded guilty in a federal corruption case. LA Times article (scroll to item); AP article

Was Steve Westly talked about for energy secretary, but shot down? — Former State Controller Steve Westly, a venture capitalist, clean-tech investor and major fundraiser for Obama in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, looks to have come up in an email from Sara Latham to John Podesta, an Obama transition adviser and chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Sacramento Bee article

Presidential Politics

Why these Central Valley Republicans stand by Donald Trump – Politically speaking, the Central Valley is a pretty red region in our mostly blue state. So, with the most controversial candidate in memory at the top of the GOP ticket, I wondered how Republican voters in the valley are feeling. KQED report

Brittany Castanos: Stop it: Trump talk shouldn’t be a part of ‘just being born a girl’ in Fresno —  The Fresno resident writes, “Since Oct. 8, over 1 million women (and men) have started telling their stories about being sexually assaulted, harassed and devalued. They heard what Donald Trump said to Billy Bush on video, and it reminded them of “that one time” or “that other time” or “Yeah, of course, that’s happened to me.” He said they were just words, that it was “locker room talk.” Now others are saying, “That’s just how guys talk” and that, really, it’s OK. So I’m done. Here it goes.” Castanos op-ed in Fresno Bee

News Stories

Top Stories

State letter to farmers demands water to fix nitrate problems – A state water agency has told some farmers in Tulare County that their operations caused nitrates to get into drinking water, and that the contamination must be replaced with a clean source. If the farmers don’t do it voluntarily, the state will order them to do so, the enforcement division of the State Water Resources Control Board says in a confidential letter obtained by The Bee. Fresno Bee article

Showdown could loom as park service holds on to a critical Yosemite management report – The National Park Service is declining to provide lawmakers with a critical report on Yosemite National Park management problems, raising the possibility of a subpoena showdown. Directed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hand over the Yosemite report by Oct. 11, park service officials have instead opted to hold on to the document while allowing committee staffers to read it in private. McClatchy Newspapers article

Jobs and the Economy

Unemployment rates drop throughout Valley – Unemployment rates fell in all eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley in September, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department.  Here are the September rates, followed in parentheses by the August 2016 and September 2015 rates:

  • Fresno– 8.3 percent (8.7, 8.3)
  • Kern– 9.2 percent  (9.7, 8.7)
  • Kings– 8.3 percent (8.9, 8.2)
  • Madera– 7.7 percent (8.2, 8.3)
  • Merced– 8.2 percent (9.2, 8.3)
  • San Joaquin– 7.5 percent (7.7, 7.6)
  • Stanislaus– 7.5 percent (7.9, 7.9)
  • Tulare – 10.2 percent (10.6, 10.0)

California adds 30,000 jobs as unemployment holds at 5.5 percent — California’s unrelenting economy refused to slow in September, amassing another 30,000 new jobs even as more people seeking work opted into the labor market, according to state data released Friday. LA Times article

Fresno County’s jobless rate in September remains unchanged from a year ago — Fresno County’s year over year unemployment rate remained unchanged in September compared to the same month in 2015, data released on Friday show. September’s jobless rate was 8.3 percent, a slight improvement from August, which posted 8.7 percent. Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal article 

Seasonal jobs employ more in Merced County – Seasonal fluctuations in Merced County and the state drove the unemployment rate down in September to 8.2 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2007, according to labor market analysts. Merced Sun-Star article

Stanislaus County adds 4,100 jobs in past year – The Northern San Joaquin Valley continues to add jobs, with much of the growth coming in Stanislaus County. California’s Employment Development Department released figures Friday showing Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate was 7.5 percent, down from 7.9 percent a year ago. The September unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in Merced County, down from 8.3 percent a year ago, and the rate was 7.5 percent in San Joaquin County, down from the 7.6 percent rate a year ago. Modesto Bee article

Sacramento unemployment falls to 5.2 percent – Sacramento’s unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent in September amid a surge of job growth, state officials reported Friday. California unemployment held steady at 5.5 percent despite another strong month of job creation. Sacramento Bee article 

Bay Area gains jobs, led by South Bay, East Bay, San Francisco area – The Bay Area added 3,600 jobs during September, and Santa Clara County and the East Bay, in a welcome rebound from a weak August for those two areas, powered to sturdy employment gains, officials reported Friday. San Jose Mercury News article

Fresno wants to build citywide high-speed internet system – Six years ago, Fresno went gaga competing for Google Fiber, a pilot program to build an ultra-high-speed fiber optic network in one major U.S. city. Fresno lost the competition but not the dream. City officials are exploring plans to build Fresno’s own high-speed network and issued arequest Friday to telecommunications companies seeking a partner in developing at least 1 gigabit-per-second broadband for residents and 10 to 100 times faster for businesses. Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal article

Merced Sun-Star: Want better roads: Vote for Measure V – Yes, this tax will cost us a few more pennies when we go shopping. But what we’ll get in return are smoother roads, cars that need fewer repairs and a stronger transportation network. It adds up to a smart move. Pass Measure V. Merced Sun-Star editorial

Steven Phillips: Visalia police supervisors and managers say Yes on N – The president of the Visalia Police Supervisors and Managers Association writes, “So after you work your way through elections for public office, and the 17 propositions, make sure you vote YES on Measure N. Nothing else on the ballot will have more of a positive and direct impact on the quality of life in the City of Visalia.” Phillips op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Amid slow-but-steady recovery, Valley builders waiting to shift into high gear — Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That seems to be the sentiment lately among Valley homebuilders as many appear hesitant to shift into a higher gear construction-wise, especially after getting burned holding neighborhoods of excess inventory less than a decade ago during the Great Recession. The Business Journal article

Modesto considers $450,000 agreement for economic development – A City Council committee will consider Monday a new, six-year $450,000 agreement between Modesto and Opportunity Stanislaus for economic development services. Modesto Bee article 

Foon Rhee: The ‘gig’ economy is going strong in Sacramento, too – For all those Silicon Valley wannabes in Sacramento’s economic development circles, this should come as encouraging news: A new study puts our fair city in the top 10 nationally – and not too far behind San Jose and San Francisco – in the growth of the “gig economy.” Rhee in Sacramento Bee

Thousands of California soldiers forced to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after going to war – Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade. LA Times article

Golden 1 Center plaza: Public or private? – Sacramento Kings’ officials are fond of calling the plaza in front of the team’s new arena a communal hearth where people can come together. Sacramentans appear to have embraced that notion, thronging to the 3-acre open space before Golden 1 Center events to mingle, enjoy a drink or take selfies in front of the Koons sculpture or the arena’s vaulted glass facade. But to the surprise of some visitors, the plaza is not open to all comers on event days. Sacramento Bee article

Poll shows doubts about economic boost hurting stadium measure — Voter skepticism that San Diego would get an economic boost from a downtown stadium and convention center annex is a significant hurdle for the Chargersballot measure, according to a Union-Tribune/10News poll released Friday. San Diego Union-Tribune article

Daniel Borenstein: Richmond hopes voters OK record tax, largely illegal elsewhere and 15 times state norm — The Richmond City Council wants to charge homeowners the highest property transfer tax rate in the state, nearly 15 times what most Californians pay. Measure M on the Nov. 8 ballot would grab homeowners’ hard-earned equity to compensate for Richmond officials’ inability to competently manage city finances. Borenstein in East Bay Times

In Venice, home to the homeless, councilman is determined to push his plan despite opposition — His plan: turn an abandoned senior center in the heart of Venice into a storage facility for homeless people. The criticism: It will only attract more people, and the site is way too close to a school. LA Times article


Save Mart’s unsold produce goes to new use – Since 1997, Save Mart has composted produce that was no longer fresh. Customers of the Modesto-based grocery chain could buy bags of it to enhance their garden soil. That’s starting to change. Save Mart is one of the suppliers to a Sacramento-area company that turns food waste into liquid fertilizers for farmers. It will phase out the composting as the 205 stores switch to the new plant between now and early 2018. Modesto Bee article

Driscoll’s aims to hook the berry-buying shopper – On 40 acres at a farm near the Santa Cruz County city of Watsonville, new varieties of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are being tested, each of them proprietary. No other company in the world grows berries exactly like these. Now the business behind it all – Driscoll’s, the family-owned berry juggernaut – is hoping a new marketing campaign will make berry lovers care about that distinction. New York Times article

Documentary plumbs the future of western water, blends optimism with caution — If you think California can secure its water future on its own, think again. If there’s one key takeaway from the new documentary Beyond the Mirage, it’s that the western states are bound together by water, and they’ll all have to play nice together to secure future supplies for any of them. KQED report

Criminal Justice/Prisons

D.A. charges Bakersfield man with hate crime following attack on local Sikh resident – The Kern County District Attorney’s Office today filed misdemeanor charges against a Bakersfield man who allegedly accosted a local Sikh man outside of a California Avenue restaurant on Sept. 30, cursing at him, threatening him and drenching him with a drink. Bakersfield Californian article

Mexico’s demand for potent California marijuana creates southbound smuggling — California’s cultivation of marijuana has created an unprecedented phenomenon: southbound smuggling of the drug across the U.S.-Mexico border. KPBS report

Bringing law enforcement, citizens together – Casey Ake is finishing her degree in criminology. The mother of four boys hopes to one day become a police officer. Ake woke up early Friday morning and headed to theCalifornia Highway Patrol’s Coffee with a Cop event. The second installment of the community outreach event was held at Tulare’s Portuguese Bakery and Imports. Visalia Times-Delta article

Holt-Singh family gets access to personnel files – A San Joaquin County Superior Court judge granted a motion Friday to open personnel records of 32 current and former Stockton police officers who fired their weapons during a 2014 shootout that claimed the life of hostage Misty Holt-Singh. Stockton Record article

Father sentenced to 1,503 years in prison for raping daughter – Fresno prosecutor Nicole Galstan asked a judge on Friday to sentence Rene Lopez to 1,503 years in prison for raping his teenage daughter over a four-year period, ending in 2013. Judge Edward Sarkisian Jr. agreed, sentencing the 41-year-old Lopez to the longest-known prison sentence in Fresno Superior Court history. Fresno Bee article

San Francisco police union announces breakdown in use-of-force negotiations – Negotiations between San Francisco officials and the police union over new rules governing officers’ use of force have reached an impasse, according to a statement released by Police Officers’ Association President Martin Halloran Friday evening. KQED report

Impressed by boy and his crime report, police replace stolen bike — When police officers arrived at Josh Taylor’s home late Wednesday afternoon to ask if he could identify his stolen bicycle, he said he could. When he stepped outside, though, the bike he was shown wasn’t his. It was one officers bought to replace it. Modesto Bee article


Marathon bargaining and still no contract at Stockton Unified – In an effort to come together to finalize a deal on teacher contracts, negotiation teams from Stockton Unified and the Stockton Teachers Association met once again on Thursday in a marathon meeting that lasted more than 10 hours. By late Thursday, nothing was accomplished. The threat of a full blown teachers strike continues to loom. Stockton Record article

Becoming Mr. Love: Fresno State ID means better life for trans student — With the help of Fresno State’s Cross Cultural and Gender Center, Love was able to get his student ID remade with his new name for free. For most students, a swipe of the plastic card doesn’t mean much more than access to meals or grades or events. But for Love, it’s a big step in the right direction.  Fresno Bee articl

Nationally recognized ‘green’ program connects students with nature — When the last bell at Yosemite High School rings at 2:05 p.m., a handful of students stay on campus and shed the school day’s stresses as they work in a garden, tend to a worm farm or work on plans for an outdoor classroom and butterfly sanctuary. Merced Sun-Star article

Clothing Tulare County’s needy students — In 2016, there are still children in Tulare County that don’t go to school because they don’t have the clothes for it. The Assistance League of Visalia wants to end that through Operation School Bell, one of their programs that provide clothing for needy Visalia Unified School District children. Visalia Times-Delta article

Turlock Junior High after-school staffer fired after profanity — What are being called “inappropriate comments toward students” by a staff member during the Turlock Junior High after-school program led to the staffer’s dismissal and a city inquiry. Modesto Bee article


Surfers take to sometimes-tainted water in name of science — More than 600 local surfers played a role in a groundbreaking epidemiological study looking into the risks of surfing in compromised water. Using a phone app, they logged when they went into the water and how often they got sick. LA Times article

Health/Human Services 

Hundreds of American kids are suddenly paralyzed, and doctors still don’t know why – Hundreds of children across the country have shown up at hospitals unable to move their arms or legs. Dozens of kids have become paralyzed in the past few months alone. They suffer from a mysterious illness that continues to alarm and puzzle scientists. This kind of sudden and devastating paralysis hasn’t been widespread since the days of polio. LA Times article

Fewer California doctors accept Medi-Cal, despite surge in number of patients – Although enrollment in California’s low-income health plan has surged in the last three years, fewer physicians are accepting these Medi-Cal patients, according to a new report. That means 40 percent of doctors provide 80 percent of Medi-Cal visits statewide. California Health Report article

New partnership brings meals, social services to rural communities – Thanks to a new partnership between Poverello House and the Valley’s agriculture community, Fresno County rural residents in need have access to hot meals and social services. Vida en el Valle article

New group aims to keep kids safe — Kings County safety agencies are joining forces to tackle the county’s high rate of childhood injuries. Officer John Tyler, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol office in Hanford, said dozens of local public safety and health agencies are joining a newly formed group called Safe Kids Kings County. Tyler said the coalition will allow local agencies to pool resources and knowledge to better serve Kings County children. Hanford Sentinel article

Adventist seeks clinic near Costco — If your crying child has an earache after you and your family walk out of the new Hanford Costco, there may eventually be a walk-in clinic you can go to just a few doors away. Adventist Health wants to put a rural health clinic in the new shopping center. Hanford Sentinel article

Land Use/Housing

Kern offering housing assistance to those displaced by Erskine Fire — Property owners in the Kern River Valley who were displaced by last summer’s Erskine Fire may apply to receive portable manufactured housing units, but the Nov. 4 deadline for applications is fast approaching. Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno airport goes high-tech with new firefighting vehicle – A new firefighting vehicle capable of spewing 2,400 gallons of water or foam onto a burning aircraft in a minute is now in operation at Fresno Yosemite International Airport, replacing a 23-year-old truck that has been retired. Fresno Bee article 

Long Beach residents critical of plan to add international flights at airport — Demand for international flights is on the rise in Southern California but neighbors of the Long Beach Airport are fighting a plan to bring flights from Mexico and Latin America to the regional airfield.  LA Times article

It’s official: Caltrans to open full Bay Bridge bike path on Sunday — Caltrans just made it official: The agency will open the final segment of the Bay Bridge Trail, the cycling and pedestrian path from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island, around noon on Sunday. KQED report

Other areas

Jewelle Scales: If you agree it’s about the kids, come join us – The chairwoman of the Friendship Advisory Board writes, “Imagine this: A kid-friendly place located in the heart of southeast Bakersfield. A place where families can go to build lifelong memories. A place where kids can hang carefree from the monkey bars and pretend to be superheroes.” Scales op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Valley Editorial Roundup

Merced Sun-Star – Want better roads? Vote for Measure V.

Sacramento Bee – Ami Bera deserves a third term in Congress, despite a rocky year.