September 13, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

CD21: Renteria, Valadao agree to four debates, two of them in Spanish – Curious about the political positions of 21st Congressional District candidates David Valadao and Amanda Renteria? Looks like there will be plenty of opportunities to get familiar with Valadao, the incumbent Hanford Republican, and Renteria, the Democratic challenger from Sanger. Right now, they are scheduled to meet in four debates.  Fresno Bee article

Six Californias initiative fails to qualify – A proposed ballot measure to carve up California into six states has failed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot after falling short of the signature-sampling requirement needed to trigger a full count.  Sacramento Bee articleLA Times articleSan Francisco Chronicle articleJohn Myers in KQED

Gov. Brown

VIDEO: Jerry Brown calls for service in a ‘screwed up’ world – Gov. Jerry Brown, addressing a crowd of eager, young AmeriCorps members on a sun-soaked lawn in San Francisco on Friday, said the world was “really screwed up” when the Civilian Conservation Corps came into being during the Great Depression – and that it still is, just in a “very different way.”  Capitol Alert

Valley politics

Eric Payne: Fresno Millenials leading the charge for change – The State Center Community College trustee writes, “Getting young people to run for political office is a tough sell, but some 20- and 30-something politicians across the Valley are bucking the trend.” Payne op-ed in Fresno Bee

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Controller candidates insist they’re not politicians – One of November’s hottest ballot battles matches two women who swear they’re not politicians. Democrat Betty Yee of Alameda and Republican Ashley Swearengin, mayor of Fresno, both say their race to replace termed-out Democrat John Chiang as state controller is less about partisan labels and more about who can best serve as watchdog over California’s precariously balanced economy.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Follow the money in California legislative battles – In the November 2014 election, Democrats are struggling to hold their Sacramento supermajorities, while Republicans see mid-term opportunities to grow their ranks. Intra-party battles, meanwhile, are playing out in several districts. Track the money in the races and learn more about the districts here.  Capitol Alert


Mexican crackdown slows Central American immigration to U.S. – The number of Central Americans reaching the U.S. border has dropped dramatically. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, 60 percent fewer unaccompanied minors were apprehended in August than at the height of the migration crisis earlier this summer.  NPR report

Other areas

California Senate leader calls for Sen. Roderick Wright to resign – The leader of the California Senate on Friday called for the resignation of Democratic Sen. Roderick Wright after he was sentenced to 90 days in jail for lying about living in his district.  LA Times articleAP article

State Sen. Rod Wright jail sentence could trigger a special election – The sentencing of Democratic state Sen. Roderick D. Wright to 90 days in jail and a lifetime ban from public office on voting fraud charges Friday could end up requiring a special election but is unlikely to have a significant impact on the ability of Democrats to regain a supermajority in the Senate, officials said.  LA Times articleCapitol Alert

Field Poll: Views of Congress remain in doldrums – California voters continue to harbor exceedingly negative views of the work conducted by Congress and, in a major development, feelings about their own House representatives have turned sour, according to the latest Field Poll. Sacramento Bee article

News Briefs

Top Stories

California breaks heat record since measurements began in 1895 – The first eight months of 2014 were the warmest on average in California’s history since record-keeping began in 1895, federal scientists announced this week. The average temperature was 62.6 degrees in California over the time period, coming in at 1.1 degrees hotter than the previous high and more than 4 degrees warmer than the 20thcentury average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.  LA Times article

State Oks first steps to condemn more Fresno properties for rail route – The California Public Works Board voted 3-0 Friday to adopt resolutions declaring a public need to condemn five Fresno properties to make way for the state’s controversial high-speed train project. Fresno Bee article

Valley and foothill towns using less water – Local folks have cut way back on their residential water use this summer, conserving more during this drought than most other Californians. Data released by state officials this week show how frugal the Valley’s city dwellers have become with water.  Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Congress, state leaders pledge to tackle labor-law tax dodge – Key lawmakers in Washington have pledged to look further into a McClatchy report on companies with federal contracts that defied labor laws in order to avoid their tax obligations.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Jerry Brown calls Nevada’s Tesla tax breaks ‘California’s benefit’ – Less than 24 hours after Nevada lawmakers approved a package of tax incentives to persuade Tesla Motors Inc. to build a battery factory in that state, California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has been criticized for failing to get the factory, said Friday that “Nevada’s tax breaks are California’s benefit” if they put electric cars on California roads.  Capitol Alert

Michael Hiltzik: Tesla is taking Nevada for a ride – The state of Nevada, of all places, should understand the gambler’s adage about how if you can’t pick out the sucker at your card table, it’s you. Despite that, the state Legislature has approved a massive giveaway to Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors to build a lithium-ion battery factory in the desert north of Reno.  Hiltzik in LA Times

Valley taxable sales showing progress – The California Board of Equalization reported taxable sales for the second quarter of 2013, with considerable increases throughout the San Joaquin Valley.  The Business Journal article

Housing price cuts point to a shift in Southland market – The latest sign that buyers are gaining leverage in Southern California’s housing market: Price cuts are back. The number of homes with reduced asking prices has risen sharply in recent months, a reversal from last year’s sellers’ market, when list prices seemed more like a floor than a ceiling.  LA Times article

Sacramento Bee: Stimulus contract cheats ripped off workers and taxpayers – Companies that play by the rules lose out, too, when government regulators either look the other way or fail to uncover what’s happening under their noses. By failing to pay taxes, health benefits and prevailing wages on government projects, cheaters underbid honest competitors by as much 25 percent and still turn a profit.  Sacramento Bee editorial

‘First Look’: Ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil downtown Bakersfield beautification project – If you’ve driven past the Kern Federal Credit Union downtown, you may have noticed the area around H Street has been aesthetically improved. That’s because Kern Federal took on the H Street Improvement Project to beautify downtown.  Bakersfield Californian article

Dan Cort: Free parking essential to development, growth – The president and CEO of Cort Companies writes, “For downtown (Stockton) to successfully compete with the rest of our city, and essentially the entire Central Valley, there needs to be an equal playing field. Although downtown has amenities such as the crosstown freeway, utility infrastructure, and a plethora of excellent historic architecture, it is being asked to perform under difficult circumstances. Specifically, it is being asked to operate under an antiquated and inefficient parking district.” Cort op-ed in Stockton Record

Downtown business group: Changes needed in Garcetti’s wage hike plan – A business advocacy group says it might consider backing a boost to the Los Angeles minimum wage – but only if Mayor Eric Garcetti adjusts his plan to phase in wage hikes more slowly, allow lower pay for teenage workers and count tips and benefits toward pay requirements.  LA Times article

Fresno Regional Foundation hires new CEO – The Fresno Regional Foundation has hired a new CEO to replace Dan DeSantis, who departed in June after nine years at the helm of one of the Valley’s largest community benefit organizations. The Fresno Regional Foundation (FRF) board has selected Hugh Ralston, president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation, said David Johnson, interim CEO of the FRF.  The Business Journal article


Fresno City Hall moves forcefully to ensure supply of water – Fresno City Hall is moving full-speed toward a major restructuring of its water system even as it prepares for the first of four public forums designed to gauge the public’s appetite for such projects.  Fresno Bee article

Water agencies are learning pools aren’t a big factor during drought – As California’s drought worsens, swimming pools have become a target for those who think the classic backyard oasis wastes water. Some water districts have prohibited new pools from being filled and have limited how much water existing pools can use. But some of those agencies are walking back the rules as they make a surprising discovery: Pools aren’t the water wasters some have made them out to be.  LA Times article

State Sen. Jim Nielsen and Bob Williams: Governor should veto groundwater regulation – Nielson (R-Gerber) and Williams, a farmer and Tehama County supervisor, write, “In the last month, Assembly Bill 1739, Senate Bill 1168 and Senate Bill 1319 were put together in the back rooms of the Capitol. These bills were continually amended and tweaked up until the final moments of passage in the late hours of the legislative session. Together, these bills undermine more than 100 years of water law, precedent and trust.”  Nielsen/Williams op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Fresno water issues to be focus of upcoming forums – Fresno City Hall will hold four community forums over the next two months to review the city’s water challenges and possible solutions.  Fresno Bee article

Survey shows almond growers deeply impacted by drought – A recent survey of California almond growers shows that the state’s devastating drought has forced many farmers to drill new wells, rely on salty groundwater and bulldoze trees.  Fresno Bee article

Steve Knell: Oakdale Irrigation District staff want all drought options before board – The general manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District writes, “The Bee’s front-page story Sept. 2 (“OID ponders fallowing pastures to save water”) is an example of one-sided reporting. It unfortunately misinforms the public on the ramifications we in agriculture will face if the drought goes into a fourth year.” Knell op-ed in Modesto Bee

Stanislaus accepting loan requests from homeowners with failed wells – Stanislaus County has started to accept loan applications from rural homeowners who need to replace dry wells. Applications for the Emergency Domestic Water Financial Assistance Program were posted today on the county’s home page at The Board of Supervisors created the program more than weeks ago to offer low-interest loans to residents contending with falling groundwater levels. The cost for a new well and pump runs around $20,000.  Modesto Bee article

Avenal could run out of water – One of the mottos of this small city in western Kings County is “Oasis in the Sun.” But that oasis could be without water by the end of the year, officials said at an Avenal City Council meeting Thursday night.  Hanford Sentinel article

During drought, pool construction at five-year high – Water is the topic on everyone’s minds this summer. Where to get it, how to conserve it and how much is left are common questions residents and municipalities are asking each other. But as the statewide drought deepens, some have begun asking another question — are swimming pools in poor taste?  The Business Journal article

City reports Sacramento greatly reduces water usage – The City of Sacramento Department of Utilities reports Friday that city water customers saved more than one-billion gallons of water last month.  Capital Public Radio report

State health department confirms investigation into Sacramento rice cooperative –The California Department of Public Health confirmed Friday it is investigating allegations that the Sacramento-based Farmer’s Rice Cooperative may have sold sub-premium and potentially unsanitary rice as premium grade rice.  Sacramento Bee article

California nudist camp accused to stealing water – Officials in Northern California are accusing a nudist resort of stealing water during the state’s historic drought.  AP article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Data Center:  See military gear your police department received using controversial program – California police agencies used a federal program to acquire about 420,000 military items worth a total of $150 million from the Pentagon, according to new federal data released by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.  Database in Sacramento Bee

Voters mostly approve of police, but views split along racial lines – A solid majority of California voters believes local police have a tough job and do it well, but nearly a third say law enforcement targets minorities unfairly, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.  LA Times article

NAACP asks Ceres about police misconduct rumors – A civil rights group has put the city on the spot regarding rumors that police officers have put cameras under a desk and in the changing room of some of the city’s female employees. Modesto Bee article

Marc Haiungs: Stop underpaying Kern law enforcement – The past president of the Kern Law Enforcement Association writes, “How then is it possible for our Board of Supervisors to more than double the salary of the CFO of KMC while seasoned Kern County Sheriff’s deputies and District Attorneys investigators have taken a net 4 percent pay cut over the last two years?”Haiungs op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Mestas to retire as Hanford chief of police – Hanford Police Chief Carlos A. Mestas has announced he will be retiring from his position on Sept. 22, marking it the end of his 38 and a half year career in law enforcement.  Hanford Sentinel article

Two Kings marijuana grows shut down – Two major marijuana grows in Kings County were shut down this week resulting in the arrest of four people and the seizure of over 18,000 pounds of marijuana, the Kings County Narcotic Task Force said.  Hanford Sentinel article

LA police union president calls latest contract offer ‘insulting’ – The Los Angeles police officers’ union announced Friday it wants a third-party mediator to step into its salary talks with the city, describing the latest contract offer from Mayor Eric Garcetti and other elected officials as insulting.  LA Times article

Domestic violence spotlighted – More than 1,400 calls reporting domestic violence were made to law enforcement in Merced County in 2013, according to Valley Crisis Center.  Merced Sun-Star article

Defining cases: A beating, a shooting – and some 50 deputies firing – Steve E. Swenson covered crime and courts for The Californian for 33 years. We recently asked him to list the 10 most memorable cases of his journalism career. In typical fashion, he gave us 11.  Bakersfield Californian article

Stolen sheriff’s deputy’s gun returned – A loaded gun stolen from the unlocked car of an off-duty San Joaquin County sheriff’s deputy Wednesday morning is back in safe hands after it was left outside the home of Stockton community activist Ralph White late Thursday night.  Stockton Record article


Truancy costing California schools billions, report says – Truancy and chronic absenteeism rates across California cost school districts billions of dollars in state funding each year, and it’s getting worse, according to a report released by Attorney General Kamala Harris on Friday.  San Francisco Chronicle article

California study:  Truancy data shows racial divide – Black elementary school students in California missed more school last year than children from any other group, including the homeless, according to findings from a study released Friday that mirror national research from the U.S. Education Department.  AP article

How money factors into college rankings battle – The premier college rankings from U.S. News & World Report are out this week. The list is unsurprisingly topped by three Ivy League schools. Stanford follows in three-way tie for fourth, and Caltech is 10th. Berkeley comes is at the top of the UC schools at 20th.  California Report

Fresno Pacific president resigns, plans to relocate – Fresno Pacific University President Pete C. Menjares has resigned after serving a little more than two years as head of the private university, the school announced on Friday.  Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal articleKVPR report

Sacramento City Unified reaches deal with teachers on pay hikes – Negotiators for Sacramento City Unified and the Sacramento City Teachers Association have signaled an end to a long stretch of discord by agreeing to two years of pay hikes and smaller class sizes for the youngest students at high poverty schools, the district announced Friday.  Sacramento Bee article

More homeless students in California, but number declines in some counties, report says – Like trying to count the revolving number of people who sleep under freeways and in doorways, gauging the number of Bay Area students who are homeless isn’t easy to pin down. But their numbers are on the rise in California and some Bay Area counties, according to a report released earlier this week by the California Homeless Youth Project.  Contra Costa Times article

Larry White: Good teachers need to be kept – The former Lincoln High School teacher writes, “Even though issues relating to lifetime tenure do indeed need to change, teachers need protection from personal repercussions, administrators, and political correctness. Creating a thought-provoking curriculum is still essential to the well being of our next generation of citizens. That is critical for all of us. By protecting teachers’ ability to teach we can enhance our students ability to learn.” White op-ed in Stockton Record

Madera superintendent selected for German study tour – Madera Unified’s superintendent will travel to Germany on Sept. 21 for a special tour designed to bring together German and American businesses, educators and training providers.  Fresno Bee article

Strained ties cloud future of Deasy, LA Unified – The controversy engulfing Los Angeles Unified’s $1.3-billion technology project has inflamed long-held tensions between the Board of Education and Supt. John Deasy, who is questioning whether he should step down.  LA Times article


Yosemite wildfire crews also battling bears on fire lines – Crews battling a wildfire in Yosemite National Park have had to deal with steep terrain, dense forest brush, oppressive heat, and now, bears. According to the U.S. Forest Service, bears have become “a major issue with fire crew safety” in camps and along the fire line.  LA Times article

Arvin evacuees told of gas leak progress – After a meeting with representatives of Kern County, residents who have been evacuated from their homes due to a gas leak were satisfied with some of the remediation efforts being made.  Bakersfield Californian article

Council picks Barwick, Vejvoda for air board – Council members Skip Barwick and Craig Vejvoda were selected earlier this month as Tulare representatives for the Special City Selection Committee for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution meeting Sept. 30.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Health/Human Services

Bakersfield named site for expanded breast cancer testing – Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center in Bakersfield has been named the first site in the nation where breast cancer patients can obtain a promising experimental drug through an expanded access program.  Bakersfield Californian article

Remaining uninsured face challenges in cost and simply signing up – When the Affordable Care Act rolled out last fall, Californians enrolled in both Covered California and expanded Medi-Cal in high numbers. But there are still millions in the state without health insurance. Undocumented people don’t qualify for Obamacare benefits. Many others still find coverage too expensive, or face other obstacles in enrolling.  KQED report

Shortage of in-home dialysis solution has patients worried – Baxter International Inc., the nation’s leading supplier of the home dialysis solution, says it can’t keep up with demand and has started rationing the product, directing physicians to limit the number of new patients to whom they prescribe the treatment and reducing the size of shipments sent to existing customers. LA Times article

California’s top Medi-Cal official stepping down – The director of California’s Department ofHealth Care Services will leave his post by year’s end, according to a letter to employees issued by Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Diana Dooley. Toby Douglas, 42, was one of Gov. Jerry Brown’s first appointees to head the department that handles Medi Cal services for more than 11 million Californians.  Sacramento Bee article

Francine Farber: Let’s all debate Laura’s Law – The member of the Fresno County Mental Health Board writes, “At a time when serious mental illness may affect between 5% and 7% of the Fresno County population (equating to 50,000 to 70,000 of our residents), educated consideration should be given to the benefits and problems of Laura’s Law.” Farber op-ed in Fresno Bee

Jordana Steinberg’s story draws families’ attention to new childhoold mood disorder – Today, however, Clark has new hope. The Folsom mother learned of a newly identified severe childhood mental condition – called disruptive mood dysregulation disorder – which affects kids from 6 to 19 years old. Such a diagnosis could explain Kim’s inability to hold her angry moods in check and, importantly, signal an end to family turmoil.  Sacramento Bee article

Dr. Charles McCormick: Electronic records turn off the thought process – The Stockton pediatrician writes, “In short, electronic medical records were supposed to create significant efficiencies in the delivery of medical care. In reality, the electronic health record (EHR), also known as an electronic medical record (EMR) has been a physicians’ nightmare. None of the hoped-for benefits has been seen, but every physician that I know who has used one has seen a significant reduction in efficiency in their own practices.” McCormick op-ed in Stockton Record

California not investigating foster care complaints promptly – The state agency responsible for overseeing California’s foster care system is violating its own rules by failing to promptly investigate complaints of children being mistreated or living in poorly maintained homes, according to records obtained by The Times.  LA Times article

California Foster Families linking parents, kids in need of a home – California privatized a portion of its foster-care system 28 years ago. That change allows local charitable organizations to recruit and supervise foster-care parents. San Joaquin County has five licensed agencies, according to the California Department of Social Services. One of them is California Foster Families, Inc., a small, 12-year-old placement bureau that recently moved downtown into an office adjacent to the Bob Hope Theatre.  Stockton Record article


BNSF ending container hub service in Fresno – BNSF Railway’s Fresno yard will no longer serve as a hub for loading and unloading of “intermodal” shipping containers — cargo containers that can be hauled on both trucks and trains.  Fresno Bee article

Los Banos leader says airport project still up in the air – Whether a plan for a 1,500-acre industrial park and airport facility near Los Banos will move forward is scheduled to be decided by the Merced County Board of Supervisors in November.  Los Banos Enterprise article

Other Areas

Few details released in NASL jet crash – Two Navy jets based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore crashed Thursday while conducting routine flight operations 250 miles off the coast of Wake Island in the western Pacific Ocean. The Navy said one pilot was rescued, while search efforts for the second continue.  Hanford Sentinel articleFresno Bee article

Library to be its own department some day, but not yet – Autonomy may yet come for the Stockton-San Joaquin Public Library. But it probably will not happen as quickly as library supporters wish, even though City Council members were supportive of their message at last month’s meeting.  Stockton Record article

Blessings in a Backpack gives kids food for the weekend – This weekend, one out of every four children in the city will go hungry. If their parents have anything in the cupboard — and are home to provide it — some might have a few beans or a slice of bread to tide them over until Monday, when they can get a free breakfast and lunch at school. Others will have nothing. Six-year-old William Franks won’t be one of them. What looks like a plain white plastic bag really is a lifeline for students such as William, a second-grader at Spanos Elementary School who picked one up Friday afternoon.  Stockton Record article

Modesto Nuts, Colorado extend player development contract through 2016 – The Modesto Nuts and Colorado Rockies announced Friday that they had extended their Player Development Contract through the 2016 season.  Modesto Bee article

Keeping ‘em honest: Cat report a bit misleading – Kern County Animal Services Director Shyanne Shull reported some good news this week to Kern County supervisors. But the good news wasn’t quite as good as she said it was.  Bakersfield Californian article

Merced County issued keys to convicted felon in temporary program at animal control – A convicted felon participating in a welfare program was given keys to Merced County’s Animal Control facility, a privilege usually reserved for county employees, the Merced Sun-Star has learned.  Merced Sun-Star article

Merced County civil grand jury members question working conditions – Merced County civil grand jury members say they are working under questionable conditions, including a room without air conditioning and no secure place to store confidential investigative files.  Merced Sun-Star article

Future parks: Wi-Fi, more senior activities – In some ways, Visalia’s parks haven’t changed much over the generations. Children still run across lawns, teams still gather to play softball, families still have barbecues at parks and the parks are still good places to relax on sunny days. But Visalia’s parks have evolved a lot over the years, even if those changes aren’t so obvious, said the city’s Park and Recreation Director Vince Elizondo.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Catherine Steele: Council’s vote reveals Fresno’s racial problems – The Fresno resident writes, “The Fresno City Council vote to allow a chemical storage facility to be located in southwest Fresno is another example of the racial bias of our council.” Steele op-ed in Fresno Bee

Beyond Bakersfield: News from around Kern County – Water in the Edwards Air Force Base area has always been viewed as a commodity. According to Gerald Boetsch, 412th Civil Engineering Group energy manager, Edwards has always been very proactive about water conservation.  Bakersfield Californian article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Much of the legislation on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk is drivel and needs to go in the trash. But there are prizes, too. Here are six bills worthy of his signatureThumbs up, thumbs down.

Modesto Bee – Saturday shorts on fake permit forms, Riverbank being pro-active on Mello-Roos, and other issues.

Sacramento Bee – Help the disabled by fixing Americans with Disabilities Act scams.