September 10, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Field Poll results show support for $7.5 billion state water bond – California voters are likely to approve a $7.5 billion water bond on the November statewide ballot, according to a Field Poll released Wednesday. By nearly 2 to 1, voters indicated they support the water bond, a somewhat surprising result given that the majority of people polled reported at first that they were not familiar with Proposition 1.  San Francisco Chronicle articleSacramento Bee articleCapital Public Radio report

Dan Walters: Brown’s two big legacy projects still face high hurdles – Jerry Brown’s two big legacy projects, a north-south bullet train and twin water tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, are approaching points of no return. They face legal, regulatory and financial hurdles that must be cleared for them to proceed. The next few months – a year at the most – may determine their fates.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics

Analysis: Election season heats up in San Joaquin Valley – Now that Labor Day has passed, election season is in full swing across California and the San Joaquin Valley is no exception. Fresno Bee political reporter John Ellis joined us this week on Valley Edition to talk about some of the region’s hottest races and what we can expect as the candidates race to the finish on November 4th – election day.   KVPR report

Candidates for Atwater City Council, mayor turn out for Association of Realtors forum – The Merced County Association of Realtors held a forum Tuesday morning with candidates running for Atwater City Council and mayor.  Merced Sun-Star article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Field Poll:  Swearengin trails Yee by 14 percentage points in controller’s race – The latest Field Poll shows Republicans trailing in all statewide election races including controller, where Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is facing Democratic Board of Equalization member Betty Yee. Yee polled 46% to Swearengin’s 32% with 22% of the voters undecided.  Sacramento Bee article

Fresno Bee: Swearengin, Yee miss mark with political issues – In the hardball world of politics, candidates often misstate facts and play games with ballot titles. An example is the state controller’s race, where Betty Yee and Ashley Swearengin are looking for any possible edge.  Fresno Bee editorial

Voters in the dark on state superintendent race – A new poll shows newcomer Marshall Tuck with a slight edge over incumbent Tom Torlakson in the race for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, but with a lot of voters saying, “Um …”  San Francisco Chronicle article

Checking in on money in Torlakson-Tuck race – Reports filed with the secretary of state’s office show Torlakson’s campaign had about $195,000 cash on hand as of June 30, and he looks to have raised at least about $239,000 in major donations since then. Tuck had about $180,000 banked at mid-year, and seems to have raised about $303,000 since.  Political Blotter

Other areas

New finance disclosure tool lists top campaign spenders – A new level of campaign spending disclosure unveiled by the state’s ethics agency Tuesday enables voters to quickly see the top donors in this year’s ballot measure fights and other campaigns.  LA Times article

Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill protecting consumers’ online reviews – Californians offering online opinions or reviews of businesses will have new legal protection under a bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.  LA Times article

Tony Quinn: Why the grocery bag bill would be referred – Gov Jerry Brown will soon sign California’s ban on single use plastic grocery bags.  Nothing better represents the de-industrialization of this state; the aversion of California’s elites to the manufacture of products they don’t like even if they are a convenience provided free to consumers.  This legislation should be referred because we need a debate on whether Brown and the legislature are further impoverishing California. Quinn in Fox & Hounds

Sacramento Bee: Many bills should die; here’s a start – Our great state doesn’t have 1,000 problems year in and year out that cry out for additions to already voluminous code books. In the spirit of making our collective lives a little less complicated, we suggest that Gov. Jerry Brown take it upon himself to strike a blow for less, not more, by vetoing the worst of the hundreds of bills on his desk. Here’s where he should start.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Point/Counterpoint:  Isis – Visalia area attorney Joe Altschule and Visalia investment banker Tom Fife debate Isis on the pages of the Visalia Times-Delta.  Point/Counterpoint in Visalia Times-Delta

News Briefs

Top Stories

California reduces water use by 7.5 percent – Drought-stricken California reduced its water use by 7.5 percent in July, a year-over-year savings of 17 billion gallons, according to data released Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board.  San Francisco Chronicle articleSacramento Bee articleAP article‘Biggest increases, drops in water use at a glance’ by AP

Record-breaking sales: Stanislaus agricultural exports soar – Exports from Northern San Joaquin Valley agricultural producers, processors and manufacturers broke another record in 2013, as foreign markets for local products continue to explode.  Modesto Bee articleExports by county, 2005-2013 in Modesto Bee

Church seeks state Supreme Court review of high-speed rail case – The First Free Will Baptist Church of Bakersfield is taking its opposition to paying for the bullet train with the sale of $8.6 billion in bonds to the California Supreme Court. The Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the church, filed a petition for review late Monday asking the state high court to hear the case against the bonds.  Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

Pension ‘spiking’ to cost CalPERS nearly $800 million, controller says – Taxpayers and local governments are on the hook to pay nearly $800 million stemming from “legal” pension spiking over the next two decades, the state controller said Tuesday. The price tag came as Controller John Chiang issued a new audit of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.  LA Times articleDan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

CalPERS audit finds loose controls, but no spiking – A state controller’s review of CalPERS found no pension spiking among retiring workers in a sample of 11 employers, including CalPERS itself, but urged tighter automated controls and more anti-spiking staff.  Calpensions article

Kern supervisors approve high-dollar hospital CFO contract – The Board of Supervisors approved a $520,000 contract for chief financial officer services at Kern Medical Center Tuesday, saying the caliber of the company’s work is worth the high cost. Under the contract with HSF Consultants, Arebi Garsa, a fiscal executive officials say has decades of top-level hospital experience, will serve as interim CFO.  Bakersfield Californian article

Companies win labor contracts while flouting federal law – Roofers, painters and bricklayers paid meager hourly wages are required to file taxes as if they were self-employed, which means paying their share and their companies’ share to Social Security and Medicare. But many live in the underground economy, paying no taxes or less than they owe.  McClatchy Newspapers article

List: Fresno not great for Hispanic entrepreneurs – Despite having a large share of Hispanic residents, Fresno placed relatively low on a list of cities with the most opportunity for Hispanic entrepreneurs. The list, compiled by consumer research website WalletHub, ranks 150 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas on Hispanic purchasing power and business friendliness.  The Business Journal article

Napa quake: Wine industry losses top $83 million – The wine industry suffered more than $83 million in damage from the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that rocked the southern part of Napa County on Aug. 24, according to a report released Tuesday by Silicon Valley Bank.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Parking lot workers fear jobs will be lost – Scattered around Stockton is a group of employees who tend to the city’s parking lots, earn low wages and, lately, work overtime fretting about their job security. Tuesday afternoon, 29 of those workers signed a letter and emailed it to City Manager Kurt Wilson, Mayor Anthony Silva, council members and other city officials.  Stockton Record article

Sacramento County spends surplus funds on animal control, law enforcement – Sacramento County supervisors decided Tuesday to use $33 million in unexpected revenue to hire animal control officers and prosecutors and pay off debt, among other things.  Sacramento Bee article

Gas prices fall 9 cents in last month – Gas prices are falling statewide as California begins the switch to a cheaper blend of wintertime fuel, according to AAA of Northern California. The average cost of a gallon of unleaded gas in Fresno fell 9 cents in the last month to $3.82. Prices fell 9 cents in the Visalia-Tulare-Porterville area to $3.78.  Fresno Bee article

Navy: F-35 decision on track amid delays – Despite earlier estimates, the Navy says it won’t make a final decision on where to base its West Coast fleet of F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft until later this fall.  Hanford Sentinel article

LA to warn Airbnb hosts to stay paying hotel-type taxes –  If you’re renting out rooms through or similar websites in Los Angeles, you could soon get an online warning urging you to collect and pay city taxes aimed at hotels.  LA Times article

San Francisco cuts deal with downtown property owners on tax district – San Francisco city officials cut a deal Tuesday with downtown property owners who had threatened to sue over a proposed tax district that city officials are counting on to help pay for the $2.6 billion extension of Caltrain into the new Transbay Transit Center at First and Mission streets.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Landing Tesla is latest chapter in reinvention of Reno – It seems hard to believe, in the afterglow of the Tesla jackpot, that Reno was an economic basket case just a few years ago, with even bigger problems than Sacramento.  Sacramento Bee article

Apple Watch goes beyond being a wrist-sized smartphone – Apple’s first new product line in the post-Steve Jobs era, as expected, is a smartwatch that goes on sale early next year.  LA Times articleSan Francisco Chronicle article

Ebay’s mobile payment unit making move to embrace bitcoins – Ebay’s mobile payment unit said it will soon enable merchants to accept payments in bitcoins, making it the latest mainstream company to embrace the upstart digital currency.  LA Times article

Port drivers seek support from city pension board – Port truck drivers on Tuesday told the managers of the biggest pension system for the city of Los Angeles that they should closely examine their investment in a trucking company that they claim illegally fired them when the drivers pressed their claim for back wages.  LA Times article


Assemblymembers Kristin Olsen/Henry T. Perea: Rushed California groundwater bills hurt Valley communities – Olsen (R-Modesto) and Perea (D-Fresno) write, “We represent the San Joaquin Valley, one of the most productive farming regions in the country. Agriculture is a major reason why California is now the world’s eighth-largest economy. But the Legislature recently passed legislation that puts our ag economy and local jobs at risk.” Olsen/Perea op-ed in Fresno Bee

Valley communities lobby Congress one more time for drought help – Seventeen California cities and counties urged Congress on Tuesday to complete drought legislation that’s currently hung up in closed-door negotiations. The municipal resolutions passed in recent weeks by small towns like Dos Palos and counties like Kern and Kings were presented to the House Natural Resources Committee as part of a public drumbeat that included a several-hour long hearing on easing environmental rules.  Fresno Bee article

Most San Joaquin County communities saving water – San Joaquin County communities saved almost half a billion gallons of water in July compared to the same month last year, though the 20 percent goal established by Gov. Jerry Brown remains elusive in many areas.  Stockton Record article

Bera sponsors bill to block federal funding for Delta tunnels – Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, sponsored a bill Tuesday to block the federal government from paying part of the cost of building two water diversion tunnels, though Bera and other lawmakers last year said that it was unrealistic to expect any federal money to flow to the project.  Capitol Alert

Stanislaus supervisor irked by delays in starting loan program for replacing failed wells – Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O’Brien vented frustration Tuesday about delays in launching a low-interest loan program for rural homeowners who can’t afford to replace their failed wells.  Modesto Bee article

Lois Henry: Earthquake plan? Check.  Drought plan? No – In a state routinely plagued by drought, you would think we’d have a system to respond to whole communities whose wells go dry. Eh, not really. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Modesto Irrigation District discusses water theft appeals – Modesto Irrigation District leaders on Tuesday privately discussed appeals by people accused of stealing water, but skipped over the item in public session when the customers did not attend.  Modesto Bee article

Next 10 launches the California Water Challenge – As our state faces some of the most severe drought conditions in its history, Next 10 wants to issue a new challenge to Californians: can you create a plan to make sure there’s enough water for everyone?  Next 10 website

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Taft police issue 8 citations against high school football team in hazing incidents – As part of its investigation into the Taft Union High School varsity football team, the Taft Police Department has issued citations — including some for battery and sexual battery — to eight juvenile students.  Bakersfield Californian article

Clovis has an MRAP.  Is that OK with you? – The August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, a black unarmed teenager, by a white Ferguson police officer resulted in multiple violent protests in Middle America. The way police handled the situation with equipment like armored vehicles has left communities questioning the use of military grade weapons by local law enforcement. FM89’s Ezra David Romero climbs into one of these machines in an unsuspected Valley city.  KVPR report

Sacramento Bee: A healthy re-evaluation of the militarization of local police – It took two weeks of civil unrest in Missouri, but the nation has started the hard and healthy discussion about the appropriateness of outfitting local law enforcement with military tools.  Sacramento Bee editorial

LAPD fingerprint backlog more than doubled in the last two years – Los Angeles police officials said Tuesday that the number of cases with unanalyzed fingerprint evidence has more than doubled in the last two years, hampering efforts to solve thousands of burglaries, thefts and other property crimes.  LA Times article


Cal State trustees raise scenario of transfer-only university system – Could California State University one day limit enrollment to transfers, admitting burgeoning numbers of community college students but turning away new freshmen? The idea sounds far-fetched, but that scenario was raised Tuesday by trustees who cautioned that insufficient state funding could radically reduce the mission of the nation’s largest university system.  LA Times article

UC money plan aids environment, but divestment uncertain – A UC panel proposed Tuesday that environmental and social issues should influence how the system invests its $91 billion in endowment and retirement funds. But the group stopped short of endorsing the sell off of holdings in the fossil fuel industries that student activists are seeking.  LA Times article

Battle brewing over online community college classes and local control – A proposal to make it easier for students to take online community college classes offered by any California campus is running into opposition from local faculty.  KPCC report

UC schools high on list of top public universities – University of California schools are prevalent on the U.S. News & World Report’s recently released 2015 college rankings. Six California schools are in the top 25, including one that’s in the coveted first spot.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Fresno State drops 10 spots on annual college rankings, Fresno Pacific checks in at No. 40 – Fresno State fell 10 spots on the annual scorecard of colleges from U.S. News & World Report, dropping from 36th to 46th on the West regional ranking. Fresno Pacific University ranked No. 40 in the West. It’s one of four regional rankings lists in the report and stretches from the Pacific Coast to Texas and Oklahoma. Fresno Bee article

UC Davis places in top 10 again among public universities – UC Davis has placed ninth in a nationwide ranking of public colleges by U.S. News & World Report. It is the fifth consecutive year that UC Davis has been ranked in the top 10 of public universities. The university scored high in average freshman retention rate and had a high school counselor rate of 4.2 out of 5.  Sacramento Bee article

Fresno State gets $1.2 million grant for sign language program – Deaf and hard of hearing children throughout the Valley will get some extra assistance from Fresno State students thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.  The Business Journal article

Final Fresno State hazing defendant pleads no contest in death – The last of three defendants connected to the 2012 binge-drinking death of Fresno State fraternity pledge Philip Dhanens has pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of hazing and furnishing alcohol to a minor causing death.  Fresno Bee article

Delta trustees approve $3.7 million new soccer field with synthetic turf – Officials approved the $3.7 million relocation of San Joaquin Delta College’s soccer field on Tuesday, putting a positive spin on what was, at least in part, a costly mistake.  Stockton Record article

Visalia student who posted shooting threat on Twitter may face charges – A Visalia high school student has been released from juvenile hall after threatening to shoot students at a rival school in the wake of a losing football game, and prosecutors are considering charges of making criminal threats.  Fresno Bee articleVisalia Times-Delta article

Trustee had been living outside district boundaries – One month after the sudden resignation of San Joaquin Delta College Trustee Lisa Turner, Delta officials disclosed on Tuesday that Turner had been living outside of her elected district for about three years.  Stockton Record article


Yosemite wildfire closes popular Half Dome peak through Thursday – Wiildfire burning in Yosemite National Park will shut down access to the iconic Half Dome peak through at least Thursday, closing off one of the most coveted and exclusive trails in the park, officials announced. Access to the 8,800-foot peak will be re-evaluated later in the week as firefighters take advantage of less windy conditions and the park’s natural granite barriers.  LA Times article

Yosemite officials update fire spread to 4,500 acres; 5 percent containment – A Yosemite National Park fire that started Sunday has burned almost 4,500 acres and is about 5% contained, officials said Tuesday.  Fresno Bee article

NASA image shows extent of Yosemite fire’s smoke plume – A new NASA satellite image of Yosemite National Park shows a massive tower of smoke billowing up and fanning out from a wildfire that has so far burned thousands of acres and closed off access to Half Dome.  LA Times article

Kern unanimously Oks Alon’s oil-by-train project – The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve Alon USA Energy Inc.’s controversial plan to bring in two mile-long oil trains per day through Bakersfield.  Bakersfield Californian article

Prosecutors: PG&E ignored safety law on numerous gas lines – Pacific Gas and Electric Co. ignored federal law not just in San Bruno but on hundreds of gas-line segments before the 2010 disaster, showing a pattern of intentional disregard for rules requiring testing for at-risk pipes, prosecutors say.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Earth Log: She figured her own temporary fix for leaking hydrant – Fresno resident Susan Kidder knew what to do when she noticed the dripping city fire hydrant on Ashlan Avenue near her home: She called the city. During the intense drought, the city has invited residents to call and report such problems. Someone came out to tighten down the hydrant, but the leak persisted. City water officials finally shut down the leak on Tuesday morning. But for several days, Kidder figured out her own fix.  Fresno Bee article

Meadow Fire:  Helicoptered out, a hiker’s journey up Half Dome – The Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park is raging and forced over 185 hikers and climbers to be airlifted from Little Yosemite Valley and Half Dome Sunday after the fire struck. Valley Public Radio Reporter Ezra David Romero spoke with one hiker whose regular hiking day turned into a helicopter ride over Yosemite Valley. KVPR report

Climb on: Disabled veterans scale Yosemite walls on 9/11 – On Sept. 11, Cody Elliott will be standing below a 1,400-foot granite cliff in Yosemite Valley and likely thinking of a familiar phrase while looking up the massive, vertical wall: “It’s just you and me brother. Let’s do this.”  Fresno Bee article

Health/Human Services

Income checks throw Californians off health plans – Some Californians who purchased individual health coverage through the state’s insurance exchange are suddenly being dropped or transferred to Medi-Cal, the program for the poor that fewer doctors and providers accept.  AP article

Merced County Mental Health Department accepts public comment on funding plans – The Merced County Department of Mental Health has opened a 30-day public viewing and comment period in which community members can give department officials feedback on how funding received from the Mental Health Services Act should be utilized.  Merced Sun-Star article

Kaiser agrees to pay $4 million fine over mental health care – Kaiser Permanente agreed to pay a $4 million fine over claims that it did not provide adequate access to mental health care services for its patients.  KQED report

Merced victims weigh in on Ray Rice, domestic violence – Domestic violence is nothing new, but after video footage was released Monday showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then fiancée in an elevator, discussions on the dynamics of abusive relationships resurfaced.  Merced Sun-Star article

New rules could bar commissioner from First 5 Fresno County board – Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson wanted his candidate named to the revised Fresno County Children & Families Commission, the agency that oversees First 5 Fresno County. Under the revisions Larson and other supervisors voted for in July, the commission shrank from nine to seven members and conflict of interest regulations were strengthened.  Fresno Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Drug rehab facility gets approval in Kings – A 49-bed drug treatment program – one of the largest ever proposed in Kings County – got a thumbs-up Monday night from Kings County planning commissioners. Hanford Sentinel article


TRIP projects: What’s being built, what’s coming up – The city of Bakersfield recently updated the city council on the various projects managed by the Thomas Roads Improvement Program. Here’s what’s being built and what will be, including TRIP’s largest construction project to date: various improvements along Highways 58 and 99.  Bakersfield Californian article

BART trains shorter, more crowded – If your BART train looks shorter and more crowded lately, it probably is. In August alone, BART averaged 418,000 riders per weekday – 27,000 more than a year earlier. Last week, there were three days when ridership topped 430,000.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other Areas

Modesto narrows field to five in city manager search – The City Council has narrowed the search for its next city manager to five candidates and in several weeks could pick one to lead Modesto, which has about 1,100 employees and a $340 million operating budget.  Modesto Bee article

Riggs Ambulance awarded Merced County contract – Most companies on the losing end of a competitive bidding process don’t get another shot, but Riggs Ambulance Service did, and now it has Merced County’s estimated $12 million ambulance contract.  Merced Sun-Star article

Audit: Sacramento Fire Department needs to keep better count of narcotics – Eight years after a scandal over stolen morphine vials rocked the Sacramento Fire Department, a city audit has found that the agency could do more to keep an accurate count of the potent narcotics it uses to administer medical care.  Sacramento Bee article

Bay Area boasts best counties in California – The “best county” in California is Marin, according to real-estate site Movoto. Of course “best” is a very subjective term, but Movoto used 2010 Census data on unemployment rankings, percent of families below the poverty line, average commute time (the lower the better for all of the above), as well as the median household income, median rent, median home price and high school graduation rate (the higher the better for all of these).  San Francisco Chronicle article

Speakers inspire with tales of courage – Melissa Carson spoke with passion about United Cerebral Palsy, the words tumbling out in great gulps of emotion. Jose “Joe” Garcia was careful in his appreciation of the agency that has enabled him to live life independently. His words were deliberate and direct. Both spoke courageously about their struggles, continuing a United Way of San Joaquin tradition of using the annual campaign kickoff luncheon to inspire and inform.  Stockton Record article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – In the hardball world of politics, candidates often misstate facts and play games with ballot titles. An example is the state controller’s race, where Betty Yee and Ashley Swearengin are looking for any possible edge.

Merced Sun-Star – President Obama lets politics bury immigration reform efforts.

Modesto Bee – President Obama lets politics bury immigration reform efforts.

Sacramento Bee – It took two weeks of civil unrest in Missouri, but the nation has started the hard and healthy discussion about the appropriateness of outfitting local law enforcement with military tools; In the spirit of making our collective lives a little less complicated, we suggest that Gov. Jerry Brown take it upon himself to strike a blow for less, not more, by vetoing the worst of the hundreds of bills on his desk.Here’s where he should start.

Stockton Record – Homes – at last:  River Islands’ 30-year journey is a study in patience.