September 1, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

George Skelton: Productive lawmakers can thank a retooled system –  It was a moderately productive two-year session that the Legislature wrapped up at the witching hour Saturday. Credit mainly voter-approved reforms. This is a new era in Sacramento. But another factor also helped greatly: the devastating drought.  Skelton column in LA Times 

Dan Walters: ‘California Comeback’ hasn’t helped everyone – Averaging California’s economy masks some deep-seated problems – including the nation’s highest poverty rate – that shouldn’t be ignored in the political rush to proclaim a “comeback.”  Walters column in Sacramento Bee




Jose Gaspar: Immigrant youth can succeed – so let them – Would you expect a 19-year-old to be a) in college; b) working full-time; c) partying at every opportunity; d) a homeowner? Thinking back to what I was doing at 19, answer c would likely be the top answer. But Brenda Ruiz is no ordinary 19-year-old. Just two years ago, Ruiz was a student at Arvin High. Today she is entering her third year at Cal State Bakersfield with a major in petroleum engineering while holding down a full-time job as technical director for the local Telemundo newscast. And she is a home owner. At 19!  Gaspar column in Bakersfield Californian


Other areas 

Tom Steyer’s $1 million offer to pro-environmental candidates – Steyer says he’ll pour $1 million into legislative races in California this year on behalf of candidates who support environmental causes.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Ad Watch: Karl Rove’s PAC hits Bera with generic TV ad – Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-affiliated outside group, has added a second TV ad into the rotation that takes on Democratic Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove. The ad, nearly identical to a spot running in San Diego against fellow freshman Rep. Scott Peters, faults the congressman for presiding over a spiraling national debt and for refusing to back a GOP-led effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Sacramento Bee article


News Briefs

Top Stories

Fresno County labor conflict keeps Gerawan workers in limbo – A months-long battle between one of Fresno County’s largest fruit growers and the United Farm Workers union is coming to a head: Both sides will soon square off at an administrative hearing that could decide whether the union will represent more than 3,000 of the company’s workers.  Fresno Bee article 

For college textbooks, newer – and pricier – isn’t always better – As the price of new college textbooks continues to rise, many students returning to class this fall are finding sympathy — and relief — from faculty. Between 2002 and 2012, prices for new textbooks rose 82%, while tuition and fees increased about 89% during that period, and overall consumer prices grew 28%, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.  LA Times article
Jobs and the Economy

1 in 6 California construction workers labors in shadows, study finds – Informal workers are growing part of California’s economy — a shift keenly felt in the construction industry, where 1 in 6 workers is either off the books or misreported, new research has found.  LA Times article

Legislators vow to continue fighting for reform – California certainly is the golden state when it comes to payoffs for people systematically pursuing tens of thousands of disability access lawsuits. Despite years of business owners claiming they’re essentially victims of extortion, legislators haven’t fixed the legal landscape that makes California unique, attracting 40 percent of the nation’s Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits despite having only 12 percent of its population.  Modesto Bee article

Tesla Motors dealing as states play factory poker – Through a series of unusual plays, Tesla has five states bidding up subsidy packages to land the coveted plant. The winner is expected to offer the luxury car-maker publicly financed incentives exceeding a half-billion dollars.  AP article‘Incentive state can offer to get Tesla factory’ – AP article

California Legislature fails to reach a deal on Tesla battery factory – It looks as if California’s effort to attract an electric car maker’s battery factory has run out of juice, at least for now. State lawmakers left town without seeing, let alone debating, a much-anticipated incentive bill that was supposed to entice Tesla Motors Inc. in Palo Alto to build a $5-billion battery factory in the Golden State.  LA Times article

New small business lender in town as economy improves – Small business lender VEDC is opening its first office in Bakersfield, the latest sign that access to capital is coming back after slowing to a crawl during the recession. In Kern County, small business loans backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration plunged nearly 56 percent from $53 million in 2008 to $23.5 million in 2009, but last year they totalled about $44.5 million.  Bakersfield Californian article

Youth council funding up for discussion in Merced – Mayor Stan Thurston said last month he would like to discuss adding a roughly $25,000 expenditure for the youth council to the city’s budget, which could cover expenses related to travel or other efforts. As with any proposal to spend tax dollars, the City Council would have final say over the money.  Merced Sun-Star article

Grants target specific Stockton upgrades – A state agency recently awarded Stockton just more than $3 million in federal grants for four different projects in the city, including a menu of infrastructure upgrades at Fremont Park, which was plagued by criminal activity less than two years ago. Stockton Record article 

Sacramento Bee: On this Labor Day, ask yourself what kind of country you want – California may not be ready for six states, but certainly it shouldn’t be two, either: struggling interior and affluent coast.  Sacramento Bee editorial

The state of labor in California – Reading the history books, it’s easy to think of the American labor movement as something relegated to history. But labor in California is alive and well, and engaged in some very big fights. We talk with Rafe Sonenshein about some of those. He’s the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.  California Report (audio)

Equity credit lines are making a comeback as home prices rise – If you’ve got it, tap it. That appears to be the strategy for growing numbers of homeowners across the country who have begun taking out home equity credit lines at a rapidly accelerating pace.  LA Times article

Unions’ new friends on LA County board may not bring them raises –  As the final push begins to fill a key seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, union leaders, elected officials and political analysts are anticipating a realignment of power that could strengthen the hand of organized labor in decisions affecting a wide array of public services and the region’s largest employer.  LA Times article

San Francisco property owner to get tax break from creating urban farms – A new law taking effect next week will mark another innovation for San Francisco: The city will be the first in the country to offer a financial incentive for urban farming.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Lemoore to set development goals – The Lemoore City Council will continue its discussion Tuesday about how it should approach economic development in the city. The city’s decades-long relationship with the Kings Economic Development Corp. ended after the council opted to cut the $37,000 per year service from its 2014-15 budget.  Hanford Sentinel article

Lemoore chamber board appoints new CEO – After four months at the helm, Jenny MacMurdo is now officially the new CEO of the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce.  Hanford Sentinel article



California’s drought: What losing 63 trillion gallons of water looks like – What happens when 63 trillion gallons of water disappear? “As it turns out, 63 trillion gallons of water is pretty heavy,” Fritz wrote. ” … That incredible water deficit weighs nearly 240 billion tons, and as it evaporated, the ground began to shift” — in California’s mountains, by as much as half-an-inch.  Washington Post article 

Why doesn’t California build big dams any more? – Experts say there are a confluence of factors, from environmental laws to funding to a lack of suitable sites. Now supporters of new reservoirs are trying to start a new dam-building era.  San Jose Mercury News article

Drought myth-busting:  Why El Niño is never a good bet – If, like many Californians, you’ve been on El Niño Watch, you’re no-doubt confused by now. It’s happening. It’s not happening. But whether it is or isn’t might matter less than you think.  KQED report

John Booker: Time to put a hold on all new ag wells – The member of the Stanislaus Water Coalition writes, “Given the urgency and severity of the situation, it seems prudent for the county to place an immediate hold on issuance of all new large wells, including wells that have been permitted but have not started construction. This hold should remain in place until a California Environmental Quality Act report is done to determine the impact these wells will have on the long-term sustainability of groundwater levels and until we understand the impact on the viability of our underground water supply.” Booker op-ed in Modesto Bee

Ask TBC: Do these water districts offer rebate for artificial turf? – California Water Service Co., which serves about two-thirds of Bakersfield residents, offers a slew of rebate programs but none for installation of artificial turf, said Rudy Valles, Bakersfield district manager. That goes not only for Bakersfield but all of its districts in California, according to Susan Cordone, corporate conservation coordinator for Cal Water.  Bakersfield Californian article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Tulare County law enforcement: Armed and armored – California law enforcement agencies have accepted nearly 649,000 pieces of surplus military equipment from Uncle Sam since 2006, according to Gannett’s analysis of federal data. Tulare County was ninth in terms of equipment value — nearly $2.2 million — though it received a relatively modest 352 pieces of equipment. The most expensive item is a surplus aircraft power unit valued at $800,000, according to DLA data.  Visalia Times-Delta article

141 DUI arrests in Fresno, Madera counties in ongoing Labor Day weekend operation – Law enforcement agencies in Fresno and Madera counties have made 141 DUI arrests in the past 16 days through the Avoid the 21 campaign.  Fresno Bee article

Talks underway to resolve 10-year-old Atwater prison death – In life-or-death trials, as in real estate, a lot comes down to location, location, location. As federal prosecutors and defense attorneys prepare for the long-awaited trial of a former U.S. Penitentiary Atwater inmate, they’re disputing over whether it should be held in Fresno or Sacramento.  Merced Sun-Star article

Bay Area police departments say census data on diversity flawed – Brentwood Police Chief Mark Evenson is the first to acknowledge it — police departments in the Bay Area and across the country can and should be more diverse. He just wants to make one thing clear: His department isn’t all white. Neither are the ranks of officers in Antioch, Daly City, Napa, Novato and Walnut Creek, officials in those cities say, despite a 2010 Census Bureau report that estimated the cities’ police departments were 100 percent white.  Oakland Tribune article



California Legislature passes stiffest U.S. bill to protect K-12 students’ online data – Trying to protect children from marketers, identity thieves and predators, California could establish the nation’s toughest protections of student privacy and forbid the sale and disclosure of schools’ online student data.  San Jose Mercury News article

UC Merced volunteerism gets one staffer going – Every year, thousands of UC Merced students volunteer around the city, whether cleaning parks, spending time with the elderly or tutoring children, and one university employee had her finger in just about every pie. As the associate director of student life, Vernette Doty oversees civic leadership, which means she’s charged with helping to meld UC Merced and the city as they grow. She’s also the engine behind a food pantry that feeds scores of students.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Compton Unified policy on rifles draws criticism but isn’t unusual – Despite the local outrage, though, the board’s decision to allow semiautomatic rifles on campus isn’t unusual in the wake of high-profile shootings nationwide. In California, at least half a dozen school districts allow campus officers to carry high-powered rifles.  LA Times article



Earthquake study drifts as scientists seek money – Earthquake scientists are striving to save a pioneering project buried 2 miles under a Central Valley pasture that could one day reveal the hidden mechanics of quakes like the one that jolted Napa last week — and the inevitable “Big One” to come.  San Jose Mercury News article

Modesto considers replacing streetlights – The Modesto City Council will consider Tuesday spending about $3.8 million to replace nearly 9,500 streetlights with energy-efficient ones that last longer and will reduce the city’s electric bill.  Modesto Bee article
Health/Human Services

Published Valley fever research from UC Merced available online – A literature review on Valley fever written by UC Merced researchers will be available online at no cost until Sept. 28. “Valley Fever: Danger Lurking in a Dust Cloud” gathers everything known about the illness and the impact it has on communities. The article was recently published in the scientific journal Microbes and Infection.  Merced Sun-Star article

People found ineligible for Obamacare coverage must repay subsidies – Consumers getting government subsidies for health insurance who are later found ineligible for those payments will owe the government, but not necessarily the full amount, according to the Treasury Department. KQED report

Doctors are shifting their business model – Being a doctor in private practice today is more complicated than it used to be, with growing financial pressures, more government regulation, greater oversight by insurers, rapid developments in medicine and pressure to keep up with technology.  LA Times article


Land Use/Housing

‘Birthplace networks’ are a boon to immigrant homeowner, study finds – Economists at Rutgers University and the Georgia Institute of Technology found that immigrants leverage “birthplace networks” to come up with money to not only purchase their homes, but also to maintain them during hard times. Unique to immigrants, birthplace networks are social groups of friends and family from the same country of origin.  LA Times article

Despite efforts to protect San Francisco tenants, housing crisis persists – San Francisco’s elected officials have attempted to tackle the housing crisis with gusto since 2013, passing laws that govern condo conversions, the merging of units, the legality of in-laws, tenant harassment and Ellis Act evictions. Whether these laws are having or stand to have wide-ranging impacts remains to be seen, most observers agreed.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Protecting homes central to both sides in landlord-tenant debate – In some ways, Jerrold Jacoby and Daniel and Maria Levin have a lot in common with Beverly Upton and Jacqui Naylor: All five have called San Francisco home for decades and feel part of the fabric of the city. But they are on opposite sides of one of San Francisco’s most pressing and controversial issues, one with no easy fixes: rental housing.  San Francisco Chronicle article



Jason Cater: A bicycle agenda?  No, this is just about improving the quality of life – The executive director of Bike Bakersfield writes, “We believe that bicycling for everyday transportation is a simple, effective solution to addressing a number of issues which affect the quality of life in our community. And investing in safer streets for pedestrians and bicyclists benefits the community at large as well.” Cater op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Will traffic deaths rise as states legalize pot? – As states liberalize their marijuana laws, public officials and safety advocates worry that more drivers high on pot will lead to a big increase in traffic deaths. Researchers who have studied the issue, though, are divided on the question.  AP article

Muni fares set to go up on today – The cost to commute in San Francisco is about to go up this Labor Day. Daily cash fares for riding San Francisco Municipal Railway will go from $2 to $2.25 effective Monday, SFMTA officials said.  KQED report

Sacramento light rail headed off to college – After nearly a decade of struggles, Sacramento Regional Transit’s Blue Line light-rail extension project – the line that will land trains at Cosumnes River College’s front door – is now full throttle.  Sacramento Bee article
Other Areas

Visalia considers children-only park – While city parks are public, the Visalia City Council will consider on Tuesday whether the playground at Wittman Village Park should be a children-only area.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Merced’s first LGBT community center opens to the public – A historic moment took place Saturday, as a rainbow flag was raised above the corner of G and 18th streets to mark the opening of Merced’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center.  Merced Sun-Star article

Michael Fitzgerald: Earth to drone: Watch those Delta palm trees – Today: #dronefail. That’s the hashtag for people interested in mishaps involving drones. Stockton entered these hapless annals recently.  Fitzgerald in Stockton Record

Open Cockpit draws thousands to Castle Air Museum – Joe Pruzzo, CEO of Castle Air Museum, estimated about 3,000 turned out for Sunday’s event, which had about 35 of the museum’s 60 vintage aircraft open for viewing, including the museum’s crown jewel – the former Air Force One, a Douglas VC-9.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresno woman with birthmark gets unwanted social media exposure – Last year, she posted a photo of her face 20 minutes after a laser treatment. What Hodges never expected: More than 50,000 Facebook “likes” and thousands of comments. She learned earlier this month that a Christian organization from South Carolina with nearly 2 million Facebook followers stole her image and turned it into a meme, adding the group’s logo and the caption, “1 like = beautiful.” Her name, story and websites were not included.  Fresno Bee article

For some parents, legalization complicates how to talk about pot – Laurie Ritchie prides herself on being an open-minded parent. She voted in favor of legalizing marijuana two years ago. She started talking to her daughters about drug use around the same time. She hasn’t stopped.  AP article

Judge Paul Vortmann dies – The Honorable Paul A. Vortmann died at his home on Sunday, the Tulare County Superior Court announced Sunday.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Placer County gets a new animal shelter – The Board of Supervisors last week unanimously approved a new $22.1 million state-of-the-art animal services center in north Auburn. The 36,657-square-foot facility, expected to open in 2016, will replace the county’s existing animal shelter, a small cinder- block building from 1975.  Sacramento Bee article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – California may not be ready for six states, but certainly it shouldn’t be two, either: struggling interior and affluent coast.

Merced Sun-Star – California may not be ready for six states, but certainly it shouldn’t be two, either: struggling interior and affluent coast.

Modesto Bee – California may not be ready for six states, but certainly it shouldn’t be two, either: struggling interior and affluent coast.

Sacramento Bee – California may not be ready for six states, but certainly it shouldn’t be two, either: struggling interior and affluent coast.