September 11, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

San Joaquin Valley officials look for aid on Capitol Hill – San Joaquin Valley officials are blitzing Capitol Hill this week in hopes of scoring some federal help. The metaphor is mixed, but then so are the prospects for the 11 mayors, city council members and county supervisors, plus 16 staffers participating in this year’s “Valley Voice” lobbying effort. The Valley team is seeking support for transportation and air quality initiatives from a Congress where seemingly little gets accomplished.  McClatchy Newspapers article

CD 21: Renteria touts Democratic voter registration efforts; poll shows Valadao well ahead – Democratic voter registration efforts in the closely watched 21st Congressional District have paid off, candidate Amanda Renteria said Wednesday.She released registration numbers her campaign pulled from elections officials in the four counties of the 21st that show 6,043 of the 8,010 new voters registered since the June primary registered as Democrats. Meanwhile, a recent poll of “nearly 500 likely voters” by SurveyUSA for KSFN TV Channel 30 in Fresno puts Renteria 19 points behind Valadao in the race.  Bakersfield Californian article

Valley politics

CD21: Poll: Valadao up big in swing district – Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) has a solid lead over his opponent, according to a new poll. Valadao, once viewed as a top Democratic target, leads former Senate chief of staff Amanda Renteria (D) by 56 percent to 37 percent in a new poll conducted by SurveyUSA for a local TV station.  The Hill article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Yee campaigns on Swearengin’s turf, but has no plans to stop at City Hall – The day after a new Field Poll showed Betty Yee with a double-digit lead over Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin in the state controller race, the Bay Area Democrat showed no sign of relaxing.  Fresno Bee article

Support plummets for California health initiatives – Support for a pair of health-related ballot initiatives is eroding, though a large portion of voters remain undecided eight weeks before the Nov. 4 election, according to the latest Field Poll.  Sacramento Bee article

Kashkari knocks Brown on paid sick leave, Tesla factory – Neel Kashkari, the Republican candidate for governor, said Monday afternoon that he did not support legislation granting three days of paid sick leave for millions of California workers.  LA Times article

George Skelton: California teacher tenure finally a major election issue – The quality of California public schools — and most specifically their teachers — is a top issue in this election season. And it’s about time.  LA Times article

LA mayor endorses state schools chief Torlakson – The two most recent leaders of California’s largest city have split over the contentious race for state superintendent of public instruction. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorsed schools chief Tom Torlakson’s re-election campaign Wednesday, praising Torlakson for working to improve school safety.  LA Times article

Joel Fox: All eyes on quest for a two-thirds majority – Many commentators look at the coming California elections with a yawn expecting little drama in most of the constitutional officer contests and little excitement amongst the public on the ballot measures. But, one thing insiders are watching with great interest is whether the Democrats once again can secure a two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Margin in treasurer’s race doesn’t slow Chiang fundraising – California Controller John Chiang is expected to handily win a transfer to the state treasurer’s office Nov. 4, six months after he finished 17 percentage points ahead of Republican businessman Greg Conlon, who has raised almost no money in recent weeks. Chiang’s campaign, though, has been collecting cash as if he’s facing a much tougher race. From Aug. 1 through Tuesday, Chiang had raised $356,000 – on top of the $2.5 million he had in the bank June 30.  Capitol Alert

Joe Mathews: Gubernatorial debate format has outlived its usefulness – Powerful media and political people are accustomed to the current format, and so it may live on, zombie-like, for a few more elections. But next time, like most of my fellow Californians, I won’t be watching. A debate like last week’s isn’t worth our time.  Mathews in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

Dan Walters Daily: Gas prices are new political battleground – Declining gas prices in California are good for consumers – and fodder for politicians, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Debra Saunders: Bad law on campus rape deserves governor’s veto – In its wisdom (such as it is), the Legislature passed a measure that would change the standard of sexual consent on California campuses. Gov. Jerry Brown should veto this bill.   Saunders column in San Francisco Chronicle

Obama’s speech on Islamic State gets mixed reviews in divided Congress –  As President Obama laid out a strategy Wednesday night to fight Islamic State militants, Congress is facing a tough decision over whether to approve a key part of his plan – arming the Syrian opposition.   LA Times articleFresno Bee editorial

News Briefs

Top Stories

Google invests $145 million in Kern County solar project – Google Inc. is investing $145 million in a solar power plant on a former oil and gas field near Bakersfield. The 82-megawatt project will feed enough power to the grid for 10,000 homes, Google said. It is expected to bring 650 jobs to Kern County.  LA Times article

California economy will keep plodding through ’16, UCLA forecast says – California’s “painfully plodding” economic recovery will continue its slow march through 2016, according to the quarterly UCLA Anderson Forecast.  LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

Jerry Brown signs bill requiring employers to give paid sick leave – Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday entitling most California workers to three paid sick days a year, a priority of Democrats and labor advocates for years. The legislation affects about 40 percent of California’s workforce, about 6.5 million people who currently are not paid when they fall ill.  Capitol AlertSan Francisco Chronicle article

Nevada’s Tesla tax package could slash funds for state’s film program – Tesla Motors may put the skids on Nevada’s fledgling film program. At least that’s the fear among film industry supporters who are unhappy about a plan to finance a generous tax package for Tesla, partly at the expense of funds for film and TV production.  LA Times article

UC Berkeley team calls for U.S. policies to narrow income gap – A team of UC Berkeley academics is calling Wednesday for raising the minimum wage and limiting the federal mortgage deduction to the interest on a primary residence as a way to narrow the nation’s wealth gap.  San Francisco Chronicle article

WeHo, Santa Monica ponder minimum wage hikes after LA plan unveiled – When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pitched a plan to slowly boost the minimum wage across the city, critics warned that businesses could easily skip town for neighboring cities and pay less. Now some of those cities are beginning to explore whether to boost the minimum wage within their borders too — a trend that could ease concerns about job losses in Los Angeles.  LA Times article

New York, Illinois find success in tackling labor violations – Illinois and New York are national leaders when it comes to curbing worker misclassification. Their efforts were highlighted by a recent review of payroll records on large, publicly financed projects conducted by reporters for McClatchy and ProPublica, an independent nonprofit news outlet, in both states.  McClatchy Newspapers/ProPublica article

Fresno State SBDC gets $63,000 to help small businesses – Fresno State’s Small Business Development Center was awarded $63,000 to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in obtaining capital. The Business Journal article

Valley First Credit Union passes on downtown Modesto building – Valley First Credit Union has decided to pass on downtown Modesto for its new headquarters because of its concerns about the building it was considering purchasing. Modesto Bee article

Tech companies rally against Web fast lanes – The Internet wasn’t slowing down, but a special version of that dreaded “spinning wheel of death” popped up on numerous online sites Wednesday as pages were being loaded.  LA Times article


Local expert: Sacramento region must defend its water interests more aggressively – As California’s prolonged drought stretches into another autumn, debates have intensified over how to balance competing water needs: urban vs. rural; people vs. fish; north state vs. south. Against that backdrop, The Sacramento Bee spoke with a trio of local water experts about what the drought means for the Sacramento area and how the region should adapt and respond.  Sacramento Bee article

‘First Look’: Columnist discusses need for emergency drought plan – California has a drought problem. It isn’t going to sneak up on residents. It’s already here, again. “Wells are going dry and it’s a shocking situation,” Californian columnist Lois Henry said Wednesday on “First Look with Scott Cox.”  Bakersfield Californian article

Tulare reports water consumption decrease – Tulare residents have become frugal water consumers over the last six months, reported Trisha Whitfield, field services manager. Officials are also keeping better track of underground pumped water out and city parks have also reduced their usage.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Southern California’s water usage drop not as steep as rest of the state – Southern Californians are reducing their water use amid a historic drought, but they’ve cut back at the lowest rate in the state, the Water Resources Control Board announced this week.  LA Times article

Game tests California residents’ water knowledge – A new online tool allows Californians to take charge of the state’s water future. The California Water Challenge by the non-partisan group Next 10 asks residents to make choices about the state’s limited water supply.  KPBS reportKVPR report

Madera supervisor talks with governor about river flows – Madera County District 2 Supervisor David Rogers spoke with Gov. Jerry Brown in August about water concerns in Madera County. During Brown’s visit to the Rural County Representatives of California, Rogers asked the governor to join Madera County and call for a moratorium on San Joaquin River restoration flows.  Merced Sun-Star article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

LA is ‘epicenter’ of cartel money laundering, U.S. official says – Federal agents launched a series of raids in the downtown Los Angeles fashion district on Wednesday and seized an estimated $65 million in cash and other assets they allege were part of a widespread attempt by Mexican drug cartels to launder narcotics profits.  LA Times article

Off-duty deputy’s gun stolen from unlocked car – The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office has initiated an Internal Affairs investigation after an off-duty deputy’s loaded gun was stolen from his unlocked vehicle Wednesday morning in north Stockton, authorities said.  Stockton Record article


Thousands of school children homeless in Fresno County – Thousands of public school children in Fresno County are homeless and living in hotels or motels, shelters, doubling up with family or on the street, according to a study released Wednesday.  Fresno Bee article

Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine: Governor should approve California’s higher education funding – The co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education writes, “In considering AB 1476, the governor should recognize that this is a $100 million investment we can’t afford not to make. The two best things going for the state are its weather and its higher education system. We may not be able to do much about the weather, but we can make sure our public higher education system is the best in the nation and the world.” Ackerman/Levine op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Could personal videos become the heart of college applications? – The college admissions game is intense, competitive and, some would say, out of control. Now one Maryland college is looking to make it a little bit simpler. Goucher College, a liberal arts school in Baltimore, is offering students the opportunity to skip submitting standardized SAT and ACT scores, as well as the traditional college application packet that includes a transcript, letters of recommendation and essays. Instead, students can apply with a self-produced, two-minute video that explains how they see themselves thriving at Goucher, and why they want to go there. Students are also asked to submit two “works of scholarship.”  NPR report

New funding law could raise cost of textbooks – Under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula, spending authority has shifted from Sacramento to school districts, including the responsibility for choosing and purchasing general education textbooks. Now some lawmakers are balking at the idea that the state continue to pay the cost of braille and large-print textbooks, rather than districts.  EdSource article

CSU Bakersfield provost named president of Cal Poly Pomona – Cal State Bakersfield Provost Soraya Coley will become the first female president of Cal Poly Pomona. Cal State University trustees made the announcement Wednesday, and Coley followed with a conference call with reporters.  Bakersfield Californian articleLA Times article

Literacy report card shows mixed results – This year’s report card showed truancy edging downward in San Joaquin County for the second year in a row, even more timely in a month designated nationwide as Attendance Awareness Month. But that gain was offset by negative trends in key indicators of early literacy: Preschool enrollment dropped sharply, the rate of new mothers without high school diplomas inched up and library use remained stagnant.  Stockton Record article

Fresno State offers special courses for those over 50 – Adults aged 50 and older can now participate in fall semester classes and lectures at Fresno State as part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  Fresno Bee article

Bullard High contract riles Fresno Unified board over bid process – Fresno Unified trustees signed off on a $35.2 million lease-leaseback construction bid on Wednesday for major Bullard High renovations, frustrating the trustee who represents the Bullard neighborhood and riling debate among board members about the disputed bidding method.  Fresno Bee article

HEART’s after-school program makes quick expansion at new sites – The new Expanded Learning after school program at the Sequoia High School campus started at the beginning of the school year with nearly just the site’s lounge in Room 25. Fast forward four weeks and the site now has a commercial refrigerator, four televisions, a couch, a DJ set, an X-Box 360 and more — all donated from the community. Visalia Times-Delta article

Delta trustee’s residency status a cautionary tale – Taj Khan read a carefully prepared statement explaining the sudden resignation of one of his colleagues, and when he finished, the San Joaquin Delta College board president added a piece of advice to his peers on the dais: “I suggest to all my colleagues please check their addresses and make sure you live in the area you represent,” he said.  Stockton Record article

LA school board approves contract to destroy emails after a year – The Los Angeles Unified School District took steps this week to enforce rules under which emails are deleted after one year, raising concerns about whether important public records would be destroyed in the process.  LA Times article

Costs tied to San Juan Unified superintendent’s ouster top $3 million – The San Juan Unified School District has paid $3.4 million in settlements and other costs tied to accusations that its former superintendent, who was forced to retire in January, mistreated female employees.  Sacramento Bee article


Kern County approves state’s biggest ‘oil train’ project – The Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a controversial plan Tuesday to ship millions of gallons of volatilecrude oil daily on trains through California to a refinery in Bakersfield. Opponents immediately said they likely will sue to stop the project.  Sacramento Bee article

First death reported from California earthquake – A 65-year-old woman who suffered a head injury when a television struck her during last month’s earthquake in California’s wine country has died — the first death attributed to the magnitude-6.0 temblor, sheriff’s officials said.  AP articleLA Times articleSan Francisco Chronicle article

Smoke from Meadow fire clogs Valley air – As the fire continues to burn, smoke has started to impact air quality in central counties, local air officials said Wednesday. Merced, Stanislaus, Madera and Fresno counties are being affected by smoke floating in from the Meadow fire. Officials anticipate the counties of San Joaquin, Kings, Tulare and Kern may also be periodically impacted.  Fresno Bee/Merced Sun-Star article

Lodi closes one contamination site, makes progress on others – The city is making headway in its arduous campaign to clean up soil and groundwater contaminated by chemicals dumped by businesses decades ago.  Stockton Record article

No big quake safety concern at California nuclear plant, regulators say – There is no immediate or significant earthquake safety concern associated with California’s last remaining nuclear power plant, federal regulators have decided.  LA Times articleSan Luis Obispo Tribune article

Health/Human Services

Job-based health premiums increasingly slowly, deductibles faster – Average premiums for job-based family health coverage are up just 3 percent this year, while the cost of single coverage rose only 2 percent, continuing a sustained trend of moderate growth in insurance costs, according to a nationwide survey of more than 2,000 businesses.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Vaccine opt-out rate doubled in seven years; look up your school online – California law requires that children entering kindergarten be fully vaccinated against a range of diseases. But despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe and effective, the rate of parents opting out of vaccines for their children has doubled since 2007.  KQED report

Government funding drops – and scientists give up – Federal funding for biomedical research has declined by more than 20 percent in the past decade. There are far more scientists competing for grants than there is money to support them. That crunch is forcing some people out of science altogether, either because they can’t get research funding at all or, in Glomski’s case, because the rat race has simply become too unpleasant.  NPR report

Health care and the six-state split – A plan crafted by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper to carve California into six states would do a lot more than change the lines on a map. It would have a profound effect on California’s health care system, which is now in a dramatic transition because of the Affordable Care Act.  Capitol Weekly article

Drugs used for anxiety, sleep are linked to Alzheimer’s disease in older people – Older people who have relied on a class of drugs called benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety or induce sleep are at higher risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, new research finds, with those whose use of the medications is most intensive almost twice as likely to develop the mind-robbing disorder.  LA Times article

Student at new pharmacy school plans to give back to the Central Valley – The Central Valley has struggled with a long list of health care issues for decades. Now with the opening of the Valley’s first and only pharmacy school in Clovis just weeks ago. Instructors and students hope to make a dent in the problem and attract more health care professionals to the region. FM 89’s Diana Aguilera explains how one young man plans to help by giving back to the community he calls home.  KVPR report

Jeff Jardine: Shoeshine stand at Peer Recovery starts ‘conservation’ – A shoeshine stand outside Peer Recovery Art Project has brought a rare service back to Modesto’s downtown and aims to help break down the stigma involving those who have dealt with mental health, chemical dependency or prison histories as they try to work their way back.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Other Areas

California Supreme Court to decide who gets to sue government – Taking up a Marin County case, the state Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to decide whether a 105-year-old California law, allowing taxpayers to file suits challenging state and local government policies, applies to all residents or just to property owners.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Fresno officials look to ban pot use at city parks, facilities – The Fresno City Council will try again to decide if it wants to stop people from smoking weed at City Hall. The council today is scheduled to debate a bill that would prohibit the use of a controlled substance at many of the city’s facilities.  Fresno Bee article

Stockton mayor bemoans status as ‘cheerleader’ – Anthony Silva says he often feels more like a “cheerleader” than the mayor of Stockton, and he says he sometimes wonders “what’s the point of running for office when you’re trying to get things done?”  Stockton Record article

Robert Price: 13  years later, her purpose hasn’t faded, but she worries about ours – Six years ago Cathie Ong-Herrera was invited to speak at the academy graduation of 200 FBI agents in Portland, Ore. The agency’s Oregon office wanted its newly minted agents to hear from someone who had been affected by terrorism.  Price column in Bakersfield Californian

Hazing incidents another black eye for Taft – Still reeling from a January 2013 school shooting, residents of Taft are weary and distressed the town’s image has suffered another black eye from a hazing scandal at the same high school, parents and community leaders said Wednesday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Divided Bakersfield council removes GET board members – After hearing an outpouring of support, a divided Bakersfield City Council voted 4-3 Wednesday to remove longtime Golden Empire Transit board members Howard Silver and Norris Ledbetter.  Bakersfield Californian article

Michael Fitzgerald: ‘You will disappear.  You will be gone’ – That’s allegedly what Stockton’s former City Manager, Mark Lewis, told one of his executives in the city of Chowchilla would happen to her if she spoke to the council without his approval. He’s been place on administrative leave.  Fitzgerald blog in Stockton Record

Modesto City Council honors young hero – Among the Modesto City Council’s actions Tuesday was honoring 12-year-old Omar Perez for his selfless actions during a July 29 fire in his west Modesto neighborhood. Modesto Bee article

LA will pay $725,000 to lawyers who stopped skid row police sweeps – The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to pay $725,000 in fees to civil rights attorneys who successfully challenged police sweeps of overnight homeless encampments on skid row.  LA Times article

Citing homeless infusion, Lancaster city officials move to shut down Metrolink station – The Antelope Valley, about an hour-and-half north of Los Angeles, is home to roughly 12% of the county’s homeless population. Officials from the city of Lancaster claim that number grows by the day because of an alleged migration of train-hopping homeless people. To curb this apparent surge, the city aims to shutter the sole public transit station linking Lancaster to L.A.  California Report

Steve Lopez: Badly needed veterans home sits half empty; no kitchen is a problem –  In June of 2010, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stood on the grounds of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus and dedicated the $253-million home for veterans. But today, after four years of mind-boggling bureaucratic breakdowns, half the beds in the West Los Angeles Home for Veterans are still empty.  Lopez column in LA Times

TV show to highlight Fresno’s ethnic cuisine – One of the Central Valley’s best kept secrets will finally be shared when a new show premiering on ValleyPBS brings viewers into local restaurants for a look at some of the most authentic ethnic cuisine around.  The Business Journal article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – President Obama sets the right course in vowing to eradicate ISIL; Help the disabled by ending predatory ADA lawsuit scams.

Merced Sun-Star – Follow the example of 9/11 heroes by serving others; Delta tunnels fight must not overshadow California water bond.

Modesto Bee – Follow the example of 9/11 heroes by serving others; Delta tunnels fight must not overshadow California water bond.

Sacramento Bee – War on terror goes on 13 years after 9/11; Secrets and shame shrivel under social media spotlight.

Stockton Record – September 11, 2001 – 13 years ago today – will stay with us forever.