October 27, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Dan Walters: California Legislature’s partisan balance a big question – With Election Day just a week away and mailed ballots already pouring into election offices, California’s biggest political unknown is the balance of power in the Legislature. Democrats certainly will retain big legislative majorities, but it’s uncertain whether they will be the two-thirds “supermajorities” the party won in 2012.  Walters column in LA Times

George Skelton: Sierra tribe would hit off-reservation jackpot with Prop 48 – Proposition 48, the Indian casino referendum, has many twists and turns. But at the end, the question for voters is very simple. Do you favor expanding tribal casinos beyond reservations into urban areas? If so, vote yes. If not, vote no. That’s the crux of Prop. 48. Skelton column in LA Times

Valley politics

Bakersfield Californian: Weir is best choice in Bakersfield’s Ward 3 election – Voters don’t have to be charmed by Ken Weir, but they should re-elect him. Bakersfield Californian editorial

Joan LeRoux: Why I’m saying ‘no’ to Measure Z – The chairwoman of the No on Measure Z committee writes, “Measure Z has major problems: a 10-year history of a lack of transparency, inordinate cost overruns on capital projects and payroll, closed-door bidding, lack of oversight and millions of dollars sent to Sacramento. Good intentions aside, Measure Z, as it is written, is just plain wrong for Fresno County.”  LeRoux op-ed in Fresno Bee

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Jerry Brown touts ‘tremendous progress’ in new ad – Gov. Jerry Brown, edging closer to an explicit case for re-election, will start airing a television ad Monday claiming “tremendous progress” in California during his tenure, his campaign said Sunday.  Capitol AlertLA Times article

Controller’s race adds drama to Board of Equalization makeup – Despite overseeing more than $44 billion in yearly tax collections, California’s Board of Equalization and the candidates on the Nov. 4 ballot for the wonky panel remain little known to most voters.  LA Times article


Janet Napolitano throws her support behind executive action on immigration policy – Former homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano is supporting executive action by President Obama to change immigration policy if Congress fails to pass a broad overhaul, citing what she calls her successful 2012 push to delay deportations of many younger immigrants.  Washington Post article

Other areas

Dan Walters Daily: Sacramento campaigns get nasty – With so many political operatives around, legislative campaigns in Sacramento have a different flavor, Dan says. Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Kevin McCarthy vows change on Hill to save GOP – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy landed here from Los Angeles with a bang: he bluntly warned that Republicans will blow the presidency in 2016 if they don’t make some radical changes – and quick. McCarthy, speaking without a working microphone, told a group of Long Island donors that their gains in the House will amount to little if they can’t govern over the next two years.  Politico article

Jim Reeves: AB2501 – Sen. Fuller responds, Conway still silent – On August 28th, I posted the blog “California legislature passes bill banning “gay panic” defense, area Senator and Assemblywoman both vote NO.” In it, I say I was looking forward to hearing from Senator Jean Fuller and Assemblywoman Connie Conway and receiving an explanation for their NO votes on the bill.  Reeves in Visalia Times-Delta

News Briefs

Top Stories

Teacher prep programs gear up as shortages loom – Remember that terrific teacher who made you smile, helped you through, lit the light bulb over your head? That teacher has probably retired, as will roughly one-third of all teachers in California over the next few years. Local districts scrambled this year to fill spots, and teacher preparation programs are gearing up.  Modesto Bee article

Fresno residential infill project generates controversy – A small proposed residential project is shaking up Fresno City Hall’s big plans for community rebirth. Turns out actually doing something to stop the evils of sprawl can make it hard to tell the good side from the bad side.  Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Lottery sales surpass $5 billion for first time – For the first time in its almost three-decade history, wagers at the state’s gambling enterprise broke the $5-billion mark for the year that ended June 30. Revenues rose 13% over the previous year, generating $1.35 billion for K-12 schools and higher education, a jump of 5%.  LA Times article

Hilmar Cheese holding Turlock hiring event Tuesday – A big crowd of hopeful job seekers is expected Tuesday at Hilmar Cheese Co.’s hiring event in Turlock for production employees. Full-time job offers are expected to be made on the spot to top applicants for current openings in Hilmar and future jobs at the company’s dry milk powder plant, which is being built in west Turlock. That plant is under construction and expected to open in about one year.  Modesto Bee article

Experts tell CalSTRS earnings may fall short – The CalSTRS board was told this month that financial experts are forecasting investment earnings of 7 percent a year or less during the next decade, below the 7.5 percent assumed by the pension fund.  Calpensions article

Survey: Gas prices drop 18 cents in two weeks – A national survey of gas prices reports that the average cost of U.S. regular grade gas dropped 18 cents per gallon in the last two weeks.  AP article

Federal rules are deterring banks from approving more home loans – Federal regulators last week took their biggest steps yet to grease the wheels for borrowers, lowering down payment requirements on federally insured mortgages to 3.5% and issuing new rules for what qualifies as a safe loan. Regulators also promised clearer rules for when banks might be forced to buy back defaulted loans after selling them to investors.  LA Times article

Dissent goes missing in pro-labor LA council – With organized labor regularly getting its way on the council floor, even those politicians who hold dissenting views have been keeping their thoughts to themselves.  LA Times article

Business, Caltrain look to improve rail commute system – In a move that could eventually take tech workers off the controversial corporate shuttle buses and put them on fast electric commuter trains, big Peninsula employers — including tech giant Google — and business groups will announce a joint effort to speed modernization of CaltrainSan Francisco Chronicle article

$50 million Bay Bridge crane given to builders for free – Bay Area commuters paid $50 million for that monster crane that was used to help build the $6.4 billion eastern span of the Bay Bridge — only to see it later handed over to the builders for free.  San Francisco Chronicle article

As downtown LA grows, so does urgency to fix skid row – A lot of people want to fix Skid Row, but how it’s done is extremely controversial. And as downtown Los Angeles develops, it’s a problem that’s become more and more urgent.  NPR report


Don Curlee: Fruits and veggies generate ag jobs – Most of California’s 464,000 farmworkers are hired by farmers who grow high-value fruits, vegetables and horticultural specialties, underscoring the importance of these crops, both as job providers and as contributors to the state’s economy.  Curlee column in Visalia Times-Delta

Stockton East now ‘swimming’ in storage – That big hole in the ground has turned into a giant, 10-million-gallon “swimming pool.” The Stockton East Water District recently finished a new concrete-lined reservoir that helps secure Stockton’s water supply and also prepares for the city’s future growth.  Stockton Record article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Mystery deepens in Sacramento slaying suspect’s past – He was born in Mexico, got married in Arizona, was deported twice but appeared to be living quietly with his wife in a suburb of Salt Lake City. Beyond that, however, little is known publicly about Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte, a man with at least two aliases who mysteriously surfaced Friday morning in Sacramento.  Sacramento Bee article

After fatal shootings, officials try to find a reason for the violence – The survivor of a shooting rampage that killed two Northern California sheriff’s deputies remained hospitalized Sunday as authorities searched for a reason for the violence.  LA Times article

Tulare County considering mandatory HIV testing – The Tulare County Board of Supervisors could vote Tuesday whether to approve an ordinance requiring people arrested on suspicion of rape and other sexually-related crimes to undergo HIV testing.  Visalia Times-Delta article

CHP chief denounces nude photo trading as ‘dehumanizing’ – The California Highway Patrol’s top Bay Area official has condemned the actions of officers who allegedly shared revealing photos stolen from women’s cell phones and promises to vigorously investigate the incidents — which may result in charges being filed this week.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Trial to begin on City College’s fate, accrediting panel’s reach – Now comes the denouement for City College of San Francisco. As the trial begins Monday to determine whether a commission illegally moved to strip the vast college of its accreditation, an audience of students, taxpayers, faculty and public officials will behold a Shakespearean moment in San Francisco Superior Court when players in the 2-year-old drama come together for the first time to publicly unveil their version of events.  San Francisco Chronicle article

California ‘yes means yes’ sexual standard has liberals divided – Consider it a clash between those who believe the law is too intrusive and those who believe intrusiveness is the entire point.  LA Times article

Inglewood schools chief criticizes over costs of his security detail – Parents and community leaders are questioning why the cash-strapped Inglewood Unified School District is paying for an armed California Highway Patrol officer to serve as Brann’s personal driver and bodyguard.  LA Times article


Spanos Cos. sets aside 140 acres, and the habitat is thriving – More than 140 acres of habitat restored by The Spanos Cos. finally looks like real, thriving wetland, the kind that once blanketed the Central Valley before humans planted crops and built cities.  Stockton Record article

Karen Briefer-Gose: No-burn exemptions are good, but be open to other technology – The Bakersfield resident writes, “Let’s not let politics or lack of familiarity prevent people in the valley from using affordable technology to burn cleanly in the fireplaces that were built into their homes and that they want to enjoy, when exemptions and incentives are being offered for solutions that are more expensive but not demonstrably “better” in terms of real emissions.” Briefer-Gose op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Yosemite Sustainability Conference set for December – Yosemite Gateway Partners will host the inaugural Yosemite Sustainability Conference in December, an event designed to help organizations with sustainable practices through hands-on learning and hearing from expert speakers.  Fresno Bee article

Health/Human Services

Quarantining health workers could worsen Ebola epidemic, officials say – Top Obama administration officials publicly warned Sunday that mandatory quarantines in the U.S. of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who have traveled to Africa to help Ebola patients risked worsening the epidemic.  LA Times article

Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome link found – A team at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla has reported an explanation for why people with Down syndrome often develop Alzheimer’s disease.  U-T San Diego article

Youth center coming back to south Merced park – Youth advocates are celebrating something of a victory after receiving approval last week to run the McNamara Park Youth Center in Merced.  Merced Sun-Star article


Alaska Airlines to consider using fingerprints to screen passengers – Security experts have long predicted that airlines in the future will rely on biometrics — fingerprints or retina scans — to verify the identity of air travelers. That has not happened yet, but Seattle-based Alaska Airlines began in August to use fingerprint scans to screen fliers at the airline’s four airport lounges, including one at Los Angeles International Airport.  LA Times article

Other Areas

Marijuana ban to have rare hearing in federal court – Marijuana users and growers usually try to stay out of federal courts, which strictly enforce the nationwide laws against the drug and have rebuffed challenges to the government’s classification of pot as one of the most dangerous narcotics.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Winds of change move National Weather Service – The National Weather Service is working to become more relevant, more valuable, more effective, in a fast-changing world. And the agency’s Hanford station is initiating those changes at the local level.  Bakersfield Californian article

Visalia’s feral cat problem:  Trap, neuter and return – As darkness falls at the mobile home park just south of Mooney Grove Park, feral cats come out of the shadows. They gather in small groups where dry cat food has been tossed onto porches by sympathetic residents.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Book chronicles Merced County’s early history – “Merced County Memories” can be pre-ordered now. The 128-page pictorial history book has sections devoted to Merced County’s early days in transportation, commerce, education and community organizations.  Merced Sun-Star article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Bakersfield Californian  Voters don’t have to be charmed by Ken Weir, but they should re-elect him.

Fresno Bee – Every vote should count in California, but that’s not the case.

Merced Sun-Star – It’s time to bag the opposition to the bag ban.

Modesto Bee – It’s time to bag the opposition to the bag ban.

Sacramento Bee – Two bright minds for West Sacramento schools.