October 28, 2014


Political Briefs

Top stories

Bullet train just a blur in California governor’s race –  At $68 billion, California’s bullet train is the nation’s largest infrastructure project and arguably Gov. Jerry Brown’s biggest initiative. Even so, it received just a few words earlier this year in his State of the State address. It’s also playing little more than a bit role in the gubernatorial race — relegated to periodic sound bites, sharp attacks and glossy promises.  LA Times article

John Myers: Brown launches re-election bid. Sort of – Eight days away from what many say could be his last big election, the Democratic incumbent finally seems to have launched an active re-election campaign. And even now, Jerry Brown is campaigning as though his policies are the only thing at stake — not his own job.  Myers in KQED

Gov. Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown downplays possibility of tax-hike extension – Emphasizing what he called the Democratic Party’s commitment to frugal governing, Gov. Jerry Brown downplayed the chances Monday of returning to the voters to renew sales and income tax increases when they expire starting at the end of 2016.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Valley politics

Bakersfield Californian: Vote Valadao, McCarthy for congressional seats – Voters should re-elect David Valadao and Kevin McCarthy to their congressional seats. Bakersfield Californian editorial

Bakersfield Californian: Re-elect Vidak, Fuller to state Senate seats – The Bakersfield Californian recommends voters to re-elect Andy Vidak and Jean Fuller to state Senate seats.  Bakersfield Californian editorial

Public safety, restriction abortion, helping business key to Bakersfield Ward 4’s Mbagwu – If voters pick him over incumbent Bob Smith or fellow challengers Richard Schwartz and Joey Titus to represent Ward 4 in the northwest, Daniel Mbagwu said he would push for Bakersfield residents to become less dependent on foreign oil, and for better campus security in the wake of last week’s school shooting near Seattle.  Bakersfield Californian article

Sniping by Fresno County judge candidates escalates – With one week left until voters cast ballots, the two candidates in a heated Fresno County judicial race increased their sniping Monday in what is turning out to be the nastiest local political race in the fall election.  Fresno Bee article

Local leaders defend judicial candidate Rachel Hill – Fresno County Superior Court Judge Robert Oliver joined several other judges, local leaders and business leaders today in support of Fresno County Superior Court Judge candidate Rachel Hill in response to recent negative campaigning in the race.  The Business Journal article

Kings campaigns make final push – As the Nov. 4 election quickly approaches, local political campaigns have been ramping up their efforts to reach voters before they make their final decision.  Hanford Sentinel article

Even-year elections for Visalia school board? – Visalia Unified School District’s board members on Tuesday evening will vote on whether to move school board elections to even years — a shift that would align the district with 39 of 45 school districts in Tulare County.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Jerry Brown looks ahead to possible ‘finish with a flourish’ – Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that he may use stockpiled campaign funds to “finish with a flourish with some major ballot measure battle” in his final term, though he said he does not know what that might be.  Capitol Alert

With election nearing, Sutter Brown hits the campaign trail – Politicians love trotting out celebrities and powerful supporters to win over voters on the campaign trail. In California, the star is Gov. Jerry Brown’s dog. Democrats are dispatching Sutter Brown, a Pembroke Welsh corgi, to help drum up support for candidates and ballot measures. LA Times article

Criminal justice changes stir debate over safety – As Gov. Jerry Brown seeks re-election next month, Republicans say decisions he made to reduce prison overcrowding are endangering the public by putting more criminals on the streets.  AP article

Dan Walters: Decades-old mistake at root of California’s Prop 46 – Proponents and opponents of Proposition 46 are bombarding California voters with tens of millions of dollars in television spots and other propaganda – probably because of a tactical political mistake 39 years ago.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Voters have say in doctor-lawyer battle over malpractice cap – The matter is now before voters as a complex and multifaceted initiative that would raise the limit to $1.1 million and adjust it annually to reflect increases in inflation. Proposition 46 would also mandate random drug and alcohol testing of doctors and require health care practitioners to check a state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain drugs.  Sacramento Bee article

How teacher tenure figures into November election – Educators in California know well the debate over tenure, the job security given to teachers after about two years in the classroom. But for those outside education, it may be hard to understand why teacher tenure is such a big deal, especially during an election season in which both Democrats and Republicans are seizing on the issue to win votes. Let’s rewind the clock for a moment.  KQED report

Darrell Steinberg and Rusty Selix: Prop 47 can help fix prison mental health crisis – Steinberg, the outgoing Senate president pro tem, and Selix, executive director of the California County of Community Mental Health Agencies, write, “Facts are facts. And when it comes to mental illness within our criminal justice system, the facts tell a damning story – one for which we must rewrite the ending. Proposition 47 on the Nov. 4 ballot is an important step in that process. It can help rebuild our mental health and community infrastructure by reducing waste in the very place – prisons – that has swallowed up those resources over the years.” Steinberg/Selix op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Tony Quinn: Who’s winning, who’s losing a week from election? – Voting by mail is now the rage in California; in the June primary more than 69 percent of the ballots were cast before Election Day.  It is very possible that a majority of votes this November will be by mail.  And thanks to Paul Mitchell and Political Data Inc, for the first time we can watch the return of absentee ballots on a daily basis.  Quinn in Fox & Hounds

Other areas

White men hold most California offices – Campaign season offers promises of fresh faces and new ideas, but one constant remains: even in a state as diverse as California, white men dominate public office. That’s the provocative finding from a new website assessing how much elected officials match the electorate.  Capitol Alert

Bill Clinton to headline rally for Democrat Ami Bera – Former President Bill Clinton will return to the Sacramento region Wednesday to headline a rally for Democratic congressmen running in a pair of closely watched contests.  Capitol Alert

TV losing ground, web gaining for political news – Californians’ reliance on TV for their political news is declining, while an increasing number of people are using the Internet for political coverage, according to a comparative report from the Public Policy Institute of California.  Capitol Weekly article

California voters among those getting mailers in controversial political study –  An unconventional voter guide — part of a controversial political science study that caused an uproar in Montana — also hit the mailboxes of nearly 150,000 Californians last week.  LA Times article

Some Sacramento County voters received wrong absentee ballots due to mailing vendor’s error – Sacramento County Voter Registration and Elections Office employees spent Sunday hand-delivering absentee ballots to voters after elections officials discovered that the wrong ballots were mailed to 232 voters countywide. Sacramento Bee article

Dan Walters Daily: Big money, big names in LA race – A Los Angeles race attracts as much money and attention as a statewide contest might.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Obama appeals ruling on NSA disclosure – Not satisfied with a Bay Area judge’s ruling that allowed the government to withhold a series of documents about its telephone surveillance program, the Obama administration filed an appeal Monday over the one document that the judge ordered disclosed.  San Francisco Chronicle article

News Briefs

Top Stories

City officials say fixing Fresno’s water challenges won’t be cheap – A month of water debate has delivered an unsurprising message to Fresno City Hall — given their druthers, people prefer stuff to be free. But the 150 people who gathered at Gaston Middle School in southwest Fresno on Monday for the third of four water forums got an equally unsurprising reply: Water is the stuff of life, and it’s going to cost you.  Fresno Bee article

Stanislaus County will focus attention on causes of social ills – Stanislaus County officials want to focus more attention on the causes for homelessness, crime and other social ills that degrade quality of life. On Tuesday morning, the Board of Supervisors could approve $110,000 for “Focus on Prevention 2015” to start work on four critical issues: homelessness, strengthening the family, early interventions for youth and reducing the number of repeat criminal offenders.  Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

State will ask for Chukchansi casino to stay closed – The state Attorney General’s office will ask a Fresno federal judge on Wednesday to keep Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino closed until state officials are convinced that the tribe can run the casino without endangering patrons and employees.  Fresno Bee article

Valley tourism leaders share ideas at Modesto summit – The second annual event brought forth ideas on how to boost visitor spending in the five-county region from San Joaquin County south to Fresno County. The region got only $2.9 billion of the $109.6 billion that tourists dropped in California last year, according to a report by the Dean Runyan Associates consulting firm.  Modesto Bee article

Valley fuel prices dip toward $3 – and cheaper at some stations – Hardeep Gahunia, who owns U-Save Gasoline on North Hughes Avenue in Fresno, sold regular unleaded gas for $2.98 on Monday. Gahunia said he only makes 4 or 5 cents per gallon of gas that he sells — around $300 a day — but lowering his prices by even 1 cent over nearby competitors drives more customers to his lot.  Fresno Bee article

Save Mart confirms deals reached with union – The union representing many of the employees of Save Mart Supermarkets announced a tentative contract agreement with the Modesto grocery chain Monday, calling the pact a “win-win” that benefits labor and management alike.  Modesto Bee article

San Francisco hails ‘Twitter tax break’ as rousing success – Construction cranes and rattling power tools are visible evidence that the 2011 tax break designed to draw tech firms like Twitter to San Francisco’s long-neglected Mid-Market has attracted businesses.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Job brokers steal wages, entrap Indian tech workers in U.S. – Labor brokers providing Indian high-tech workers to American companies have hijacked a professional visa program, creating an underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit.  Center for Investigative Reporting article

Merced County bus contracts at risk; leaders fear job loss – The fuel, maintenance and operations contracts for Merced County’s bus system may be put up for bid – but the risk of potentially losing the contracts to another vendor has some county officials worried it could result in a loss of jobs.  Merced Sun-Star article

Donations down for Fill the Boot fundraiser – A fundraiser that benefits muscular dystrophy gathered about $4,000 less than last year, the first time the total has decreased in at least four years – and organizers blame the city’s ordinance against panhandling for the dip.  Merced Sun-Star article

LA tech economy is underrated, venture capitalist Peter Thiel says – The Los Angeles start-up economy seems destined to live in the shadow of Silicon Valley, but PayPal co-founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel offered some fresh optimism to Los Angeles entrepreneurs and investors. The region’s technology industry is the most “underestimated” in the nation, he said, and especially underrated relative to New York City.  LA Times article

California cities putting the brakes on some for-profit parking apps – California cities have been moving aggressively to keep some parking apps off the grid, contending that individuals and companies should not be allowed to profit by, effectively, auctioning off taxpayer-owned parking places.  LA Times article

Soda makers try to take fizz out of Bay Area tax campaigns – Again and again in the U.S., anti-soda crusaders looking to fight obesity have been stymied wherever they’ve tried to impose new laws on soda sales.  NPR report

Twitter user growth slows, but revenue more than doubles – Twitter’s third-quarter revenue outpaced expectations, but investors concerned about user growth and holiday-quarter sales clipped the company’s stock price late Monday.  AP article

California state website crash prompts job application changes – California’s advanced technological ambitions ran smack up against bureaucratic reality this month when its Internet job-application portal crashed under the weight of thousands of users who stormed the site in search of an entry-level state-office job.  Sacramento Bee article


Coping in a drier world:  California’s drought survival strategy – The past few years have been California’s driest on record. Forecasters predict that punishing droughts like the current one could become the new norm. The state uses water rationing and a 90-year-old water distribution system to cope until the rains come. The system is a huge network of dams, canals and pipes that move water from the places it rains and snows to places it typically doesn’t, like farms and cities.  NPR report

Stanislaus considers new rules for groundwater wells – After about six months of debate, Stanislaus County’s Water Advisory Committee is set to vote Wednesday on an expanded groundwater ordinance.  Modesto Bee article

How California is turning drainage canals back to rivers – The Santa Ana River, born of snowmelt and natural springs near Big Bear Lake, flows through Southern California as one of the region’s most scenic rivers — until it hits Orange County.  LA Times article

No luck with October storms this year, but remember the blizzard ’04? – Ten years ago this month, the dry season ended with a blizzard pounding the high Sierra with 3 feet of snow, leaving two dead on Yosemite National Park’s famous El Capitan.  Fresno Bee article

Claudia Newcorn: Is there enough water for people and nuts? – Do almond barons put us at water risk?  Newcorn column in Modesto Bee

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Feds: No prosecution warranted in David Sal Silva death – The federal investigation into the death of David Sal Silva determined there is not enough evidence to support a federal criminal prosecution and the case has been closed, officials announced Monday. The 33-year-old Silva died May 8, 2013, while in the custody of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and the incident led to protests and questions about whether excessive force was used by some or all of the nine officers, including California Highway Patrol officers, involved.  Bakersfield Californian article

Judge orders attorneys in Bryan Oliver case to not speak to the media – The judge hearing the trial of alleged school shooter Bryan Oliver ordered prosecutors and Oliver’s defense attorney Monday to not speak to the media until the case is resolved.  Bakersfield Californian article

Jury selection begins with outburst from mother of student in Bryan Oliver’s class – A courtroom outburst from a woman who said she is the mother of one of the students in the classroom where accused school shooter Bryan Oliver allegedly opened fire prompted a warning from the trial judge followed by her dismissal from the jury pool. Bakersfield Californian article

Father of shooting spree suspect’s wife said she was abused, planned to talk to police – As Sacramento deputies approached their car Friday morning in a Motel 6 parking lot, Marcelo Marquez and his wife, Janelle Monroy, were arguing loudly, and she planned to speak to the officers when her husband suddenly opened fire – the first in a series of shootings that left two area deputies dead.  Sacramento Bee article


UC Merced helps Food Bank obtain donations – UC Merced and the Merced County Food Bank have formed a new partnership, one that may benefit hundreds of families in the community.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresno Unified raises $50,000 for student scholarships – About 450 educators, business leaders and elected officials from across Fresno met Monday to celebrate Fresno Unified and raise at least $50,000 in student scholarship money at the district’s annual fundraiser luncheon.  Fresno Bee article

State implements new kindergarten cutoff age – Of the panoply of reforms now being implemented in California schools, the one affecting the state’s youngest public school students passed almost unnoticed this fall. For the first time since the state enacted kindergarten legislation in 1891, California children have to be 5 years old by Sept. 1 to enroll in kindergarten.  EdSource article

San Francisco City College’s accreditation trial opens with future on the line – By the time a commission voted to revoke accreditation from City College of San Francisco in 2013, the college had a huge obligation to pay retiree health benefits — $189 million and growing then by $10 million a year — and no way to pay for it. The testimony on opening day of the trial to decide the fate of the college of 79,000 students was key to the commission’s argument that it was justified in deciding that City College had so many financial and other problems that it should lose accreditation and shut down.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Tioga Middle principal suspended for using school computers to promote ‘rock ‘n roll’ autobiography – A central Fresno middle school principal is on paid administrative leave for apparently using school computers to promote a book he wrote, Fresno Unified officials announced Monday.  Fresno Bee article

LA officials order review of every senior’s transcript – Reacting to ongoing problems with a new computerized student data system, Los Angeles school district officials have ordered a review of every senior’s transcript and brought in counselors and administrators to ensure those records won’t hurt students’ chances to graduate or apply to college.  LA Times articleKPCC report

UC Berkeley students seek to block Bill Maher speech – Comedian Bill Maher is scheduled to be the speaker at UC Berkeley’s mid-year commencement, but some students, who object to what they allege to be his anti-Muslim statements, are asking administrators to rescind the invitation.  LA Times article


Valley air district implements new burn rules – Feel free to fill your lungs the next time you step outside because our air is the cleanest it’s been in the post-industrial history of the San Joaquin Valley.  Bakersfield Californian article

UC Merced sets goal of 100 percent renewable energy by late 2016 – UC Merced leaders say the campus could be completely powered through renewable energy by the end of 2016, sooner than originally planned.  Merced Sun-Star article

PG&E prepares to open new power-grid command center in Fresno – Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is getting ready to open a new control center in northeast Fresno from which operators will be able to monitor an increasingly complex electricity grid in real time and quickly isolate where problems are happening.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno Bee: Throw the book at Yosemite’s Mist Trail tagger – The Park Service should throw the book at CreepyTings when they find and arrest her. The great landscapes of the West are national treasures. They were preserved to inspire generations to come.  Fresno Bee editorial

Health/Human Services

CDC: New restrictions for those at high Ebola risk – U.S. health officials are recommending that people who are at highest risk for coming down with Ebola avoid commercial travel or attending large public gatherings, even if they have no symptoms.  AP article

CDC recommends looser Ebola monitoring than state quarantines for health workers – The federal government announced new guidelines Monday for monitoring healthcare workers returning from West Africa that are far less restrictive than the quarantines that some states put in place for aid workers at risk of contracting Ebola.  LA Times article

Disease outbreaks in U.S. have history of government infighting – The tussle between state and federal authorities over whether to quarantine travelers coming to the U.S. from the West African countries at the center of the Ebola outbreak fits a familiar pattern. Indeed, clashes between federal and local governments over epidemics are a common feature of American history, according to epidemiologists.  LA Times article

Opioid meds prescribed by doctors led to 92,000 overdoses in one year – More than 90,000 Americans were treated in the nation’s emergency rooms in a single year after overdosing on opioid drugs that were prescribed by a doctor, according to a new report.  LA Times article

‘First Look’:  Veteran Californian reporter says cancer ‘put fun back in my life’ – When you’re told you’re going to die but it hasn’t happened, life instantly becomes a choice of how you will live. You can either embrace death and live out the rest of your life happy or you can shut down and let it eat you alive. For Steve E. Swenson, that decision was obvious.  Bakersfield Californian article

Land Use/Housing

Modesto council to hear $141,000 proposal to hire consultant for general plan amendment – The Modesto City Council will be asked Tuesday to approve spending as much as $141,163 for a consultant to conduct environmental studies for the city’s amendment to its general plan, which serves as a blueprint for how the city will grow and develop in the coming decades.  Modesto Bee article


Bicycle traffic deaths soar; California leads nation –  If you are going to be killed by a car while riding a bicycle, there’s a good chance you are male, older than 20 and living in California or Florida. That’s the finding of a report issued Monday by the Governors Highway Safety Assn. that also noted that between 2010 and 2012, U.S. bicyclist deaths increased by 16%.  LA Times article

As economy improves, LA and OC rise in traffic congestion rankings – Now, as the economy recovers from the Great Recession, L.A. and the O.C. are making a slow comeback in the congestion rankings.  LA Times article

Other Areas

Spanish videos to boost California’s DMV outreach – When it comes to bureaucracies, the Department of Motor Vehicles can be difficult to navigate in any language. But California’s Spanish-speakers will soon have a new resource: a romance language counterpart to the popular DMV series in which “Answerman” responds to common driver queries. Appearing in a series of new videos will be “El Sabelotodo del DMV,” or “Mr. Know-It-All of DMV.”  LA Times article

Ceres council splits police, fire departments – The City Council on Monday voted to dissolve the Department of Public Safety in favor of establishing separate police and fire departments.  Modesto Bee article

No oath needed for child witness – A child who is called to testify in court must show she understands the difference between truth and lies, and must promise to tell the truth. But, unlike adult witnesses, a child under 10 doesn’t have to take an oath, says a state appeals court.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Bakersfield Californian – Voters should re-elect Andy Vidak and Jean Fuller to state Senate seats; Voters should re-elect David Valadao and Kevin McCarthy to their congressional seats.

Fresno Bee – The Park Service should throw the book at CreepyTings when they find and arrest her. The great landscapes of the West are national treasures. They were preserved to inspire generations to come.

Merced Sun-Star – Tagging of Yosemite is theft, not art.

Modesto Bee – Tagging of Yosemite is theft, not art.

Sacramento Bee – Tagging of Yosemite is theft, not art.