October 30, 2014


Political Briefs

Top stories

Field Poll: Tight race for schools chief – The contest to become California’s top education official is the state’s most competitive statewide race, with a new Field Poll showing a virtual tie between incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, trails Democratic Board of Equalization member Betty Yee 44 percent to 36 percent in the race for state controller, an office wielding broad powers to investigate state spending.  Sacramento Bee articleField Poll tabs for statewide races in Sacramento BeeSan Francisco Chronicle articleJohn Myers in KQED

George Skelton: A voter’s guide to California’s boring but important ballot propositions – Six state propositions are on the ballot and none are sexy. All are snoozers. But each is significant. Some, in fact, are game-changers.  Skelton column in LA Times

Gov. Brown

Jerry Brown, weary of agenda questions, dares reporter to ‘print half of what I say’ – Gov. Jerry Brown, who is so far ahead in his re-election bid that he only recently started campaigning, has been asked any number of times why he hasn’t done more to lay out an agenda for a fourth term. On Wednesday, he appeared to have had enough.  Capitol Alert

Valley politics

CD21: Renteria accuses Valadao of dairy violations – The campaign of congressional challenger Amanda Renteria is alleging that dairies associated with Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, sold cows with elevated antibiotic levels to a slaughterhouse five times from 2003 to 2012.  A Valadao spokesman calls it a ‘last-minute political stunt.” Hanford Sentinel article

Merced Sun-Star: Despite some issues, Tom Berryhill is up to the task in 8th Senate District – Representing District 8 is a big job; we believe Tom Berryhill is up to it.  Merced Sun-Star article

Denise Nelson: Embrace your civic duty and vote – The president of the League of Women Voters of Tulare County writes, “Together our votes will influence policies and issues that are addressed by our elected officials. They are about us; we all need to weigh in. As American citizens, it is our responsibility and civic-duty to vote — it is a core-duty of all Americans. Get ready by visiting smartvoter.org and vote on Nov. 4.” Nelson op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Half of California voters getting mail ballots – More than one-half of California’s 17.6 million registered voters have requested vote-by-mail ballots for Tuesday’s election. The question now is: Will they use them?  Capitol Alert

Gov. Brown stumps for Dems, Props 1 and 2 in Arvin – He’d like only Democrats to vote on Election Day, Gov. Jerry Brown joked during his first-ever visit to Arvin Wednesday, where he got serious about water and money and stumped for two state propositions and his fellow party members.  Bakersfield Californian article

Gov. Brown stumps in Modesto for water bond – Democrat Jerry Brown picked a farm owned by Republicans just west of Modesto on Wednesday to wrap up three days of campaigning – not for himself and an unprecedented fourth term as California governor, but for next week’s ballot initiatives touching on water and money.  Modesto Bee article

Gov. Jerry Brown plans to head north for final rally – Gov. Jerry Brown is heading to Colusa County on Saturday for what is being billed as his last campaign rally of the year. He also will be pitching Proposition 1, the water bond proposal, and Proposition 2, the plan for a rainy-day fund.  LA Times article

Dan Morain: Gov. Brown is stingy with his endorsements – Gov. Jerry Brown, the one top-of-the-California ticket draw who’s actually on Tuesday’s ballot, has been especially stingy with appearances. Brown, leading in the latest poll by 21 percentage points, needs little from lesser Democrats. He has been especially tight with endorsements, giving his blessings to only a select few Democrats running for office.  Morain in Sacramento Bee

Candidates in school chief race diverge on key issues – Tom Torlakson, the incumbent and a veteran legislator seeking his second term, and Marshall Tuck, who has managed charter and district schools in Los Angeles, agree on some key policies, like the Common Core State Standards, but disagree on some hot-button political issues, including whether teachers unions wield too much power.  EdSource article

Fresno Bee: ‘Yes’ on Prop 46 will help families and save lives – There is one face that should stay with Valley voters when they mark their ballots on Proposition 46: Brittany Wilkinson.  Fresno Bee editorial

William Bezdek: No-fault compensation system needed, not a vote for Prop 46 – The retired Bakersfield cardiologist writes, “I think rather then voting for Proposition 46, the legal profession and our state legislators would serve the people and the concept of justice much more if they brought about a no-fault compensation system for those injured by medical errors.”  Bezdek op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Allan Hoffenblum: Campaign 2014: Weekly update, what’s hot – Entering the last week of Campaign 2014, I am posting my last weekly piece updating readers on the week’s latest campaign news. CD21 race between David Valadao and Amanda Renteria mentioned.  Hoffenblum in Fox & Hounds

Joel Fox: Politics past and present – On Tuesday, I had an opportunity to listen to someone running for statewide office in California today and a short time later spend time with someone who helped many candidates run for office decades ago, including one who won the highest office in the land. Ashley Swearengin is running for controller; Stu Spencer was the campaign manager who helped put Ronald Reagan in the White House.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Other areas

Government workers are a voting power in Sacramento area – Three Democrat-on-Democrat state legislative races could well hinge on a segment of voters who, to the sorrow of campaign strategists, pervade Sacramento and area suburbs but are tough to target: government employees.  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento Bee: Sacramento must separate Measure L from the mayor – The mayor is a polarizing figure, yet voters must separate the measure from the man. And if you do that, it becomes clear that Measure L is the right move for Sacramento.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Pat Fong Kashida: ‘Strong mayor’ will be good for business in Sacramento – The president/CEO of the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce writes, “If Measure L passes on Tuesday, small businesses will finally know where the buck stops. If Measure L passes, businesses and the public will be able to hold the mayor accountable for creating common-sense policies to improve our business climate.”  Kashida op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Karen Humphrey: Sacramento’s ‘strong mayor’ plan different from Fresno’s – The former mayor of Fresno writes, “Since I was mayor of Fresno and supported Fresno’s move to a ‘strong-mayor system’ in 1993, you would think I support Measure L in Sacramento. You would be wrong. Fresno is cited by Measure L supporters as a model for Sacramento’s proposal, but there are significant differences between the cities and the proposals.”  Humphrey op-ed in Sacramento Bee

State Sen. Mark Leno considers challenging San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee – Tech tensions between the public and City Hall have popular state Sen. Mark Leno considering a run for mayor next year — even if it means taking on incumbent Ed Lee.  San Francisco Chronicle article

A Republican challenges Rep. Tom McClintock – from the left – In a twist from the typical tea party challenge — or the typical same-party challenge, for that matter —  the Republican candidate is attacking McClintock from the left, not the right. Art Moore says the incumbent is too rigid, too partisan and too unwilling to work with Democrats.  KQED report

Bill Clinton to Californians: ‘We need you’ – Former President Bill Clinton encouraged California Democrats on Wednesday to stifle the urge to pass on the midterm election next Tuesday, imploring them to dismiss Republican efforts to feed off of voter frustration.  Capitol Alert

The Clintons get love at UC Davis – There was a lot of love for the Clintons – both Bill and Hillary – when the former president appeared at a get-out-the-vote rally for California Democrats at UC Davis on Wednesday. Capitol Alert

Bill Clinton says voting is cure for polarization – Former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday urged California Democrats to vote, saying it is the only solution to political gridlock in Washington, D.C., as he rallied with vulnerable congressional incumbents who are at risk of losing their seats in Tuesday’s midterm elections.  AP article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Stockton bankruptcy ruling will decide the fate of public pensions –  In a closely watched case, a federal judge on Thursday is expected to decide whether the bankrupt city of Stockton can continue to pay employees generous pensions that soon could consume one-fifth of municipal revenues.  LA Times articleStockton Record article;AP articleStockton Record editorial

State rail agency seeks to avoid bullet-train injunction battles – The California High-Speed Rail Authority is facing seven lawsuits over its approval of the Fresno-Bakersfield segment of its statewide bullet-train line. Now the agency is asking the federal Surface Transportation Board — which oversees rail lines in the U.S. and gave a green light to the project over the summer — to declare that those lawsuits should not be able to seek a California judge’s order to block construction.  Fresno Bee article;California High Speed Rail Authority petition in Fresno Bee

Kern County defeats Chevron in landmark tax case – Kern County scored an important court victory against Chevron USA Inc. this week in a landmark property tax case that had threatened a key source of local government funding. A state appeals court ruling issued Tuesday supported the county’s assertion that drilling new wells increases the value of oil property. It rejected Chevron’s claim such activity merely preserves the land’s value.  Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

Judge grants preliminary injunction to keep Chukchansi casino closed – A federal judge in Fresno on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction requested by the state government to keep Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino closed.  Fresno Bee articleKVPR report

Fresno ranks high in job growth – Fresno ranked 15th in job growth so far this year out of nearly 360 metro areas across the U.S., according to a new analysis by the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.  The Business Journal article

Construction employment up amid worker shortage – Construction employment is up in the Fresno metropolitan area and other cities nationwide, but contractors are having trouble finding qualified workers, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno City Council to consider Fulton Corridor project ideas – The Fresno City Council on Thursday will find itself with a “put up or shut up” moment concerning the Fulton Corridor. This call to action refers to the private sector as well as government.  Fresno Bee article

PG&E profits more than quadruple after rate hikes approved – PG&E profits soared in the third quarter, primarily due to increased revenue from a rate increase and lower charges related to the company’s work on its natural-gas pipeline¿ system in the wake of the fatal explosion in San Bruno, the utility reported Tuesday.  Contra Costa Times article

Daniel Borenstein: Contra Costa supervisors undermine their credibility with 33 percent raise – The 33 percent raise supervisors granted themselves was an arrogant display of greed that insulted taxpayers and workers alike. It follows negotiations that netted most county workers 4 percent increases this year and 3 percent in 2015, and comes as firefighters and nurses are still bargaining.  Borenstein column in Contra Costa Times

California pension data highlights troubling trends – Local-government employers contributions to defined-benefit retirement systems have nearly tripled in the last 11 years, according to the most recent data published by the California State Controller’s Office, while employee contributions have nearly doubled. Meanwhile, more retirees are drawing money from their retirement systems while fewer active employees are paying in.  Sacramento Bee article

Riverbank council turns away merchants, raises garbage rates – Despite fears of appearing anti-business, city leaders this week agreed to temporarily turn away merchants who want to set up e-cigarette, vapor or hookah lounges as well as those offering drug paraphernalia or Internet gambling, and also extended a previous ban on new tattoo shops. The City Council also raised garbage rates 21 percent.  Modesto Bee article

Pacific Ethanol reports higher sales and profits – Pacific Ethanol Inc., which has four plants, including one in Madera County, reported higher third-quarter profits Wednesday in spite of a recent steep decline in the price of ethanol.  Sacramento Bee article

Kings break ground on new Sacramento arena – Sweeping aside years of missed chances that nearly cost the city its only major league sports franchise, the Sacramento Kings officially broke ground Wednesday on their new $477 million downtown arena.  Sacramento Bee article

A welcome price slump at the pump – Last week, the average price for gas in the Visalia-Tulare-Porterville area was just over $3.34 a gallon, according to data provided by the American Automobile Association. And at some gas stations, the prices were considerably lower, down to $3.05 a gallon at the station where Aguiniga fueled his car, and continuing to drop.  Visalia Times-Delta article

LA City Council backs proposal to toughen foreclosure registry – Los Angeles is poised to tack a new fee on foreclosed properties, in a move that the city hopes will help keep the homes from turning into crumbling wrecks.  LA Times article

Garcetti says housing shortage, minimum wage linked in LA – The housing shortage in Los Angeles – possibly the most severe since the end of World War II – is linked to a low minimum wage and a host of other economic issues in the city, according to Mayor Eric Garcetti.  LA Times article

LA fire chief vows to overhaul hiring procedures – The Los Angeles County fire chief Wednesday said he will overhaul the agency’s hiring procedures in response to a Times investigation that found that a large percentage of firefighters given jobs have family ties to the department.  LA Times article

Federal Reserve votes to end bond-buying stimulus program – Federal Reserve policymakers voted Wednesday to end the central bank’s controversial bond-buying stimulus program, determining the economy is strong enough to remove the unprecedented support.  LA Times article

Guy Fieri’s eatery coming to Bakersfield – Celebrity chef Guy Fieri will open one of his Johnny Garlic’s restaurants in Bakersfield, a company spokesman confirmed this week. And this place, with its seared yellow fin ahi and bourbon buffalo meatloaf, is no diner, drive-in or dive.  Bakersfield Californian article

Rocket explosion a setback for commercial space – Crews searched for scorched wreckage along the Virginia coast Wednesday in hopes of figuring out why an unmanned commercial rocket exploded in a blow to NASA’s strategy of using private companies to fly supplies and, eventually, astronauts to the International Space Station. AP article

Investigation into NASA rocket explosion looks at Aerojet Rocketdyne engines – Russian-made, 1960s-era rocket engines – tested, modified and supplied by Rancho Cordova-based Aerojet Rocketdyne – became an early focus of speculation following Tuesday’s explosion of an unmanned Antares rocket, which blew up just seconds after its nighttime launch on the Virginia coast.  Sacramento Bee article

FCC chief proposes opening the pay-TV industry to tech firms – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler wants to open the pay-TV industry to technology companies.  LA Times article

Judge dismisses Clovis man’s lawsuit against Walmart – A Clovis man’s six-year legal battle with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. ended Wednesday when a judge dismissed his lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court.  Fresno Bee article


New groundwater rules endorsed – After a couple hours of lively debate and passionate objections, Stanislaus County’s Water Advisory Committee endorsed an expanded groundwater ordinance Wednesday.  Modesto Bee article

Why California’s largest estuary no longer works for wildlife – California’s historic drought has put the state’s water problems in the forefront this year and those problems aren’t likely to be solved when the clouds open up again. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the water system’s central hub — the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  KQED report

As infrastructure crumbles, trillions of gallons of water lost – The Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit focused on sustainability, recently put out a report that estimates “about 6 billion gallons of water per day may be wasted in the U.S.,” says Danielle Gallet, the group’s water supply program manager.  NPR report

Tulare County prepares for school water deliveries – Tulare County will give bottled water to schools with contaminated water systems after the Board of Supervisors voted to accept a $1 million grant from the California Water Resources Control Board.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Madera County farm company, feds reach labor practices agreement – A Madera County farming company and the federal government have entered into a voluntary agreement to self-monitor the farmer’s labor practices and those of the labor contractors it hires.  Fresno Bee article

Tulare County is nuts about walnuts – With walnuts being one of the top million dollar crops in Tulare County — bringing in $262,094,000 in the county in 2013, according to the Tulare County Farm Bureau — and with a report coming out just days ago in the “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease” which indicates a diet consisting of walnuts just might prevent Alzheimer’s disease — walnuts are going strong.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Rebate offered on propone engines – Through Dec. 31, California farmers can earn up to $10,000 toward new propane irrigation engines through the Propane Education & Research Council.  Stockton Record article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

State high court to take up issue of police personnel files – At the request of San Francisco’s district attorney and police, the state Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to decide whether prosecutors must examine officers’ confidential personnel files for evidence of misconduct that could help the defense in a criminal trial.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Police need more training to deal with mentally ill, LA County told – A consultant hired to find a way to divert the mentally ill from Los Angeles County’s jail system found that not enough law enforcement officers were trained to handle people undergoing a mental health crisis.  LA Times article

Sacramento Bee: A story about murder, not immigration failure – There are things about murder suspect Marcelo Marquez’s story that we know for sure, however: It is not a metaphor for failed immigration, it is not a result of President Barack Obama’s policies and it should not be used to further entrench the two sides of the federal immigration debate.  Sacramento Bee editorial


Frank Lamas:  Fresno State makes college affordable for Valley students – Fresno State’s vice president for Student Affairs writes, “I’m a newcomer to Fresno State — learning my way around the beautiful campus, finally remembering names of people I’ve met starting back in May and soaking up all things Bulldog! And while I may still be memorizing the words of the alma mater and locating all the campus buildings, one thing is already crystal clear to me: Students and their success are the top priority for everyone at Fresno State.”  Lamas op-ed in Fresno Bee

Obama administration rules target for-profit colleges – The Obama administration on Thursday will publish new regulations intended to target for-profit career colleges that leave students with debts they cannot repay.  LA Times article

On Campus: Will Common Core help girls get good-paying jobs? – Count the American Association of University Women as a fan of Common Core, arguing it will give girls a better shot at higher-paying jobs. While women have a long way to go in the job market, an old yearbook gives a glimpse at how far we have come.  On Campus in Modesto Bee

UC Berkeley chancellor upholds Bill Maher speech despite protests –  UC Berkeley’s administration is insisting that a campus speech by Bill Maher will proceed as scheduled in December despite opposition from students who say the offer should be rescinded to protest what they allege were anti-Muslim statements by the political satirist.  LA Times articleAP article

Robin Abcarian: UC Berkeley Muslim students are wrong to silence Bill Maher – There’s a special kind of irony emanating right now from the UC Berkeley campus. A group of offended students is trying to get the political satirist Bill Maher banned as the school’s winter graduation speaker, even as the campus is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement.  Abcarian column in LA Times

In City College of San Francisco trial, panel chief now says she didn’t edit key report – The president of the commission trying to revoke the accreditation of City College of San Francisco returned to the witness stand Wednesday and said the college had not been denied time to defend itself and that she had not directed others to edit out favorable language about the college from a report.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Fresno State library specializing in grape and wine industries renovated – The recently renovated V.E. Petrucci Library at Fresno State will now house rare and important titles in the history of California’s grape and wine industries.  Fresno Bee article

The Grade: The ins and outs of education in Kern County – The Panama-Buena Vista Union School District will receive a Golden Bell award in large part for a school garden created at Buena Vista Elementary School, the district announced in a news release Tuesday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Student carrying tripod sparks Hanford High lockdown – Hanford police investigated reports of a person with a weapon on the Hanford High School campus that led to a brief campus lockdown.  Fresno Bee articleHanford Sentinel article


Gov. Brown makes a call on Arvin pipeline leak – The Arvin gas pipeline leak that has displaced eight families from their homes since March got swift action from Gov. Jerry Brown at Wednesday’s get-out-the-vote rally.  Bakersfield Californian article

Stockton Record: Hello, state officials … it’s not easy being green – Throughout the area, our waterways look as if they are covered with hideous green shag carpeting. Stockton Record editorial

Feds name New York woman as national parks ‘painter’ – A week after a woman was slammed on social media for painting rocks in Yosemite and other national parks and then posting photos of her actions on Instagram, federal officials confirmed Wednesday that the woman — Casey Nocket of Highland, N.Y. — is suspected of committing vandalism at eight sites across five states.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Environmentalists push for review of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant – An environmental group is pushing for a public review of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s license, amid concerns about the seismic safety of the Central Coast plant.  KQED report

Health/Human Services

California issues quarantine policy for Ebola exposure – Anyone arriving in California from an Ebola-affected area and who has had personal contact with a person infected with the deadly virus will be quarantined for 21 days, according to an order issued Wednesday by the state’s public health director.  LA Times articleSacramento Bee articleAP article

U.S. health care unprepared for Ebola – The U.S. health care apparatus is so unprepared and short on resources to deal with the deadly Ebola virus that even small clusters of cases could overwhelm parts of the system, according to an Associated Press review of readiness at hospitals and other components of the emergency medical network.  AP article

San Mateo health officials reviewing Ebola quarantine of doctor – Health officials Wednesday were reviewing the quarantine they set for a Stanford doctor who was treating Ebola patients in Liberia after the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their own quarantine guidelines.  LA Times article

Obama steps up defense of his administration’s Ebola response – Standing with an Ebola survivor and doctors in white coats, President Obama declared Wednesday he was confident the U.S. would lead the way to eradicating the deadly virus, ramping up his public relations effort to defend his administration’s handling of the epidemic.  LA Times article

A depressing sign of America’s obesity problem: Fatter crash test dummies – Crash test dummies have long helped auto manufacturers keep cars as safe as possible, but the slim plastic mannequins are increasingly poor mirrors of the modern American man and woman. So the world’s leading producer is making a fatter version. Washington Post article

Land Use/Housing

Supporters of Tulare County topless bar speak out – Supporters of a topless bar south of Lindsay offered their comments Tuesday to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Project to approve Sanger’s Academy Avenue approved – The Sanger City Council has approved the project to reconstruct and improve Academy Avenue between 11th Street and North Avenue in Sanger.  Fresno Bee article

BART’s Oakland Airport Connector on track for holiday debut – It’s beginning to look like air travelers can count on using BART’s new Oakland Airport Connector for their holiday sojourns. Which holiday, however, remains to be seen.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other Areas

Jeff Jardine: Taking spins about Modesto, positively – When Modesto gets a mention in the media, it’s too often unflattering. Not this week, though. A TV show came to film with no intent of dissing the town. And a geocaching event will be here Saturday, highlighting the city’s most beloved landmarks.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

‘First Look’: Columnist investigates sewer line for resident – Californian columnist Lois Henry had one piece of advice for those in local government Wednesday morning: help constituents when they call and take them to the right person to talk to about their issue.  Bakersfield Californian article

Honor Flight veterans welcomed with fanfare at Atwater’s Castle Airport – Thousands of people cheered, waved flags and held up signs welcoming home 66 veterans as they exited the Central Valley Honor Flight plane on Wednesday at Castle Airport.  Merced Sun-Star article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – “Yes” on Prop 46 will help families and save lives.

Merced Sun-Star – Despite some issues, Tom Berryhill is up to the task in 8th Senate District.

Sacramento Bee – The mayor is a polarizing figure, yet voters must separate the measure from the man. And if you do that, it becomes clear that Measure L is the right move for Sacramento; There are things about murder suspect Marcelo Marquez’s story that we know for sure, however: It is not a metaphor for failed immigration, it is not a result of President Barack Obama’s policies and it should not be used to further entrench the two sides of the federal immigration debate.

Stockton Record – If Federal Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein does not think Stockton’s plan is sustainable for the long-term future, he could deliver bad news this morning. For the sake of our community, we hope that does not happen; Throughout the area, our waterways look as if they are covered with hideous green shag carpeting.