September 20, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Ashley Swearengin takes GOP center stage – For Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin to have a fighting chance at winning the state controller’s race, she’ll need the vote of just about every Republican in the state. She’ll probably need a huge chunk of independents and probably some Democrats, too. But the road to overcoming long odds and defeating her Democratic opponent, state Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, starts with her own party.  Fresno Bee article

At GOP convention, Swearengin says she’s undecided on Kashkari – The state Republican Party’s fall convention opened on a sour note Friday when the night’s keynote speaker acknowledged she might vote to reelect Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.  LA Times articleVIDEO: Swearengin still cool to Kashkari in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics

How to draw new city council districts in Visalia – District elections are coming and the city has begun the process of getting average citizens in on the process of determining what the new districts will look like.  Douglas Johnson, President of the National Demographics Corporation, explains more about the process and how and why residents should get involved. Johnson will lead the discussion at the both of the upcoming community meetings.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Atwater mayoral and council hopefuls square off – The five candidates running for Atwater mayoral and City Council seats could not be more different. But as they squared off at a candidates forum Thursday, it became clear they have one thing in common: an interest in seeing the embattled city thrive again.  Merced Sun-Star article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Swearengin, Kashkari talk on the radio Friday – Several weeks after she pointedly left open the possibility of voting for his Democratic rival, Republican controller candidate Ashley Swearengin on Friday called in to a talk radio show hosted by GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kashkari.  Sacramento Bee article

Neel Kashkari now says drug test idea ‘was a joke’ – Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari insisted Friday he was joking when on a talk radio show he proposed mandatory drug tests for all California legislators and statewide officeholders earlier in the day.  Capitol Alert

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.  Sacramento Bee article

Fresno County Democrats gather to support Ashley Swearengin opponent Betty Yee – Fresno County Democrats were at Fresno City Hall on Friday morning to show support for state controller candidate Betty Yee, who is running against Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican.  Fresno Bee article

Patient safety, malpractice costs at issue in Prop 46 – A years-long battle between doctors and trial lawyers is coming down to Proposition 46 on the November ballot, leaving voters to sift through a mass of conflicting claims in an effort to pick the winner in what will be the most expensive race of the fall.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Feds give green light to California immigrant licenses – Removing a stop sign for immigrants in California hoping to become legal drivers, federal officials have signed off on proposed licenses for state residents living in the country illegally.  Sacramento Bee article

Protestors say Fresno County sheriff violates immigrant hold law – About 60 people assembled Friday evening outside the Fresno County Jail in downtown Fresno to protest what they contend are illegal detainments of immigrants and collusion with federal immigration officials. But sheriff’s officials maintain that no laws have been broken. Fresno Bee article

Immigration-rights activist detained in O.C., marked for deportation –  An Orange County immigration-rights activist who had led protest marches across California was taken into custody and detained this week, and now is potentially facing deportation hearings.  LA Times article

Other areas

Gov. Brown approves tougher penalties for starting major fires – Hours after a man was charged with arson that allegedly caused the sprawling King fire east of Sacramento, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he has signed into law tougher penalties for those who cause major fires.  LA Times article

End-of-session fundraising tops $3 million – The last weeks of the legislative year are a traditional time for California lawmakers to collect campaign money. With hundreds of bills awaiting final action, breakfast, lunchtime and evening fundraisers crowd a busy end-of-session calendar.  Sacramento Bee article

Jerry Brown vetoes bills to help men change baby diapers – Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed two bills Friday that would have made baby-changing stations more accessible to men in public places.  Capitol Alert

News Briefs

Top Stories

Congress leaves town without agreement on drought legislation – Congress adjourned on Thursday and won’t return to Washington until Nov. 12, and California lawmakers are coming home to wildfires, record high temperatures, and to a state without rain — reminders that members haven’t reached a compromise on a drought bill. KPCC report

Bakersfield police study recommends adding 14 positions at $2 million cost – A much-anticipated study of the Bakersfield Police Department was released Friday and its most urgent recommendations would cost about $2 million and require adding 14 positions.  Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

Unemployment rates fall throughout Valley in August – Unemployment rates fell in all eight Valley counties in August and remain well below August 2013 levels, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department.  The jobless rates ranged from a low of 9.0 percent in Madera County to a high of 11.8 percent in Tulare County.  Here are the jobless rates for August, followed by parentheses by the July 2014 and August 2013 rates:

·       Fresno – 10.1 percent (10.8, 11.9)

·       Kern – 9.5 percent (10.4, 10.9)

·       Kings – 10.6 percent (11.5, 11.9)

·       Madera – 9.0 percent (10.0, 10.3)

·       Merced – 11.3 percent (12.7, 13.1)

·       San Joaquin – 10.3 percent (11.1, 12.1)

·       Stanislaus – 10.2 percent (11.4, 11.8)

·       Tulare – 11.8 percent (12.6, 13.1)

California adds 44,200 jobs in August – California outpaced its recent job growth as employers added 44,200 nonfarm positions in August — far more than any other state. But for the third straight month, the state unemployment rate remained flat at 7.4%, according to Employment Development Department data released Friday.  LA Times article

Fresno County jobless rate drops to lowest point in almost 6 years – Fresno County’s unemployment rate in August fell to its lowest point in almost six years, dropping to 10.1% and continuing a trend of 35 consecutive months of year-over-year improvement.  Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal article

Kern joblessness falls to 2008 levels – Kern’s economy last month posted its strongest performance in almost six years as seasonal hiring in farming and local education pushed down the county’s unemployment rate to an unadjusted 9.5 percent, according to state figures released Friday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Merced County unemployment rate drops in August – Merced County’s unemployment rate decreased to 11.3 percent in August, down from 12.7 percent in July, according to data released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.  Merced Sun-Star article

San Joaquin County jobless rate drops as school restarts – San Joaquin County’s unemployment rate tumbled in August to 10.3 percent, down sharply from a revised 11.1 percent in July, as public and private schools began a new instructional year, state employment officials reported Friday.  Stockton Record article

Tulare County charges unfair labor practices – An unfair labor practices complaint has been filed in the long-running battle between Tulare County and its largest union, Services Employees International Union. But in a role reversal, county government filed the unfair labor practices complaint against the union.  Fresno Bee article

Housing recovery hitting speed bumps in Fresno, statewide – A couple years of fast-rising home prices and sales in Fresno and other California cities is showing signs of slowing down and hitting a plateau in 2015, a real estate economist said Friday.  The challenges include low affordability, a tight inventory of homes for sale and a changing market in which buyers see less urgency to buy homes.  Fresno Bee article

Google launches balloon at Castle – Technology giant Google launched the first of eight high-altitude balloons above Castle Airport around 9 a.m. Friday morning as part of its testing for Project Loon, the cutting-edge balloon technology that provides Internet service to rural areas worldwide.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresno-area business owners bemoan costly lawsuits over disability access – More than a dozen owners of small, minority-owned businesses from in and around Fresno gathered Friday to protest what they call abusive lawsuits that unfairly target them for minor violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal article

Mike Brem: Debating Turlock’s Measure B – now is the best opportunity to fix city’s roads – The candidate for Turlock mayor writes, “For those of us who live in Turlock, we know our roads are in bad shape. On Nov. 4, the citizens of Turlock will have the opportunity to do something about that with the passage of Measure B.” Brem op-ed in Modesto Bee

Export-Import Bank gets reprieve, but supporters remain worried – The federal Export-Import Bank, which was in danger of shutting down at month’s end because of strong conservative opposition, will live on after Congress approved a short-term extension of its charter. But on Friday businesses remained worried that the agency’s days were numbered.  LA Times article

All eyes on downtown in Hanford – The Hanford City Council this week upheld a decades-old policy aimed at preserving downtown. Under the city’s existing zoning ordinance, large department stores are allowed to sell eyeglasses but cannot perform eye exams. In preparation for its new store at Highway 43 and East Lacey Boulevard, Costco asked the city to make the change to allow eye exams within its in-store optical department. Following more than an hour of discussion Tuesday, the council voted 5-0 to deny Costco’s request and refer the issue to the citizens advisory committee for the city’s ongoing general plan update.  Hanford Sentinel article

Alex Tavlian: Losing Giants’ affiliation is more about Fresno than about baseball – The former reporter in Fresno and Sacramento writes, “Losing the San Francisco Giants affiliation was just as much, if not more, about the status of Fresno as it was about balls and strikes. And from outsiders looking in, Fresno has been resting on its laurels too much since coming off the brink of complete economic calamity.” Tavlian op-ed in Fresno Bee

Lois Henry: Let’s be realistic about GET’s revenue challenges – Local politicians pointing fingers at King and the GET board for not having better solutions need to look in the mirror. Sure, there’ve been some missteps like not quickly reinstating bus stops for homeless and disabled community members when it became clear in 2012 that GET’s attempt to streamline its service had left out whole swaths of people in need. But let’s get realistic here. GET wrestles two demons every day — lack of funding and serving a city built for cars.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

LA lawmakers could vote next week on wage boost for hotel workers – Los Angeles lawmakers could vote as soon as Wednesday to boost the minimum wage for workers at big hotels to $15.37 — well above the minimum that Mayor Eric Garcetti is championing for workers citywide.  LA Times article

Joel Fox: Business should imitate CTA advocacy effort – The California business community should take a page from the game plan of the state’s most powerful public employee union to build an argument for a healthy business climate.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Major League Soccer official declares Sacramento’s effort to land team ‘tremendous’ – Major League Soccer executives completed an intense two-day evaluation of Sacramento as a potential expansion market Friday and proclaimed they were “incredibly impressed” by the city.  Sacramento Bee article

Bill could limit franchise expansion in California – A bill sitting on Governor Brown’s desk this month may lead to significant changes for the franchise industry in California. If passed, Senate Bill 610 will require companies to find a “substantial and material breach” of contract before terminating an agreement with franchisees.  The Business Journal article

Sacramento rail manufacturer scores major contract – Sacramento-based Siemens Rail Systems announced on Friday it has won a major contract to build 175 light rail cars for San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency.  Sacramento Bee article

Frank Santos: Businesses hold jobs hostage – The Madera resident and retired aerospace coordinator writes, “Corporate blackmail? Why would we expect less from Tesla? American business has been holding jobs in this country hostage for a long time. We have been convinced by business that the only way to secure existing jobs or grow new jobs in a community is to succumb to blackmail and give large offsets, rebates and incentives to those businesses.” Santos op-ed in Fresno Bee

LA city sanitation workers disciplined for on-duty protest – Months after dozens of city trash trucks circled Los Angeles’ civic center as part of a union-backed protest, a city official said more than 100 sanitation workers have been disciplined for taking part in the demonstration while they were on duty.  LA Times article

Teen’s death aboard party bus focuses attention on a booming industry – The number of party bus carriers nationwide has skyrocketed in the last five years — from 6,000 to 9,000 in California alone, records show — and more than 20 people have died in accidents. But most states have done little to regulate the industry, with efforts focusing mainly on alcohol use.  LA Times article


Brown orders more action on drought – California’s ongoing drought is prompting Governor Jerry Brown to take new executive action. Friday, Brown ordered that money be made available to provide water for drinking and sanitation to households without running water. He also extended the prohibition on price-gouging during emergencies to apply to the drought.  Capital Public Radio report

Hanford Sentinel: Groundwater must be managed to help people here – We have a choice: We can just complain and file lawsuits, and point fingers at the state and federal government for not building as many dams as we want, or we can settle down and address issues that we do have the authority to solve. We urge the latter course – before it’s too late, and before the state steps in and handles our water in ways that may not be to our benefit.  Hanford Sentinel editorial

‘A coming tsumani’ of dry wells in Kings – Despite the allure of peace and quiet, life in the countryside in Kings and Fresno counties is looking less and less attractive. The reason — drought — isn’t hard to identify. For residents living off relatively shallow private wells, it seemed attractive not having to pay hundreds of dollars a year in city water and sewer fees. But with farming neighbors and nearby cities sucking a lot more out of bigger, deeper wells, there’s no telling how much longer water will be flowing out of rural kitchen faucets.  Hanford Sentinel article

California olive oil producers create new quality standards – California is the first state in the nation to create quality standards for its olive oil producers, a key step toward growing the industry. The state’s Department of Food and Agriculture approved a set of rules last week that California’s olive oil producers must abide by before labeling their bottles as extra virgin, virgin or refined.  Fresno Bee article

Los Banos council’s water resolution aimed at feds – The Los Banos City Council passed a resolution during Wednesday’s meeting asking federal legislators to set aside partisan bickering and pass legislation increasing flexibility when it comes to water allotments from the San Joaquin River-Sacramento River Delta.  Los Banos Enterprise article

California citrus greening quarantine spreads to Kern County – Add Kern County to the list of areas under quarantine because of citrus greening. The California Department of Food and Agriculture this week said the Kern quarantine area measures 113 square miles centered around Bakersfield. It follows the detection of a single Asian citrus psyllid, which can carry the citrus greening disease, south of Bakersfield.  Fresno Bee article

Tomato growers’ lawsuit against feds fails to bear fruit –  A federal court has rejected the potentially far-reaching claims of Florida tomato growers who say they lost business because of Food and Drug Administration warnings.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Farm Beat: Event will benefit Stan State, fair – Future producers of food and beverages will benefit from an Oct. 2 event involving wine and cheese tastings. The 12th annual Taste of the Valley will raise money for the agriculture studies department at California State University, Stanislaus, and the Friends of the Fair Foundation, which supports the county fair.  Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

License plate scanner networks capture movements – A rapidly expanding digital network that uses cameras mounted to traffic signals and police cruisers captures the movements of millions of vehicles across the U.S., regardless of whether the drivers are being investigated by law enforcement.  AP article


California students match record pass rate in high school exit exam – California students in the class of 2014 matched last year’s record-high pass rate on the state high school exit exam, with 95.5% demonstrating the required reading, writing and math skills, state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Friday.  LA Times article

A push to educate children in their earliest years attracts attention, money – The state’s move to add a new grade level for some of its youngest learners comes amid a slew of other changes to early education, an infusion of more money for preschool after years of recession-era cuts, and a renewed focus among state and federal politicians on educating children in their earliest years.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno Bee: Give a boost to early children education and everyone benefits – The outcomes for high school dropouts often lead us right back to law enforcement, prisons and the perils of poverty. We have a clear choice: We can solve the problem when it’s little. Or we can solve it when it’s big. We stand for the “littles.”  Fresno Bee editorialVideo: Early childhood education gives kids a jump start in Fresno BeeVideo: Preschools serve migrant and special education students in Fresno Bee

Jim Yovino: Early childhood education puts children on track to academic success – The superintendent of the Fresno County Office of Education writes, “The cargo net of early learning must start before a child is born, continue through the development of the family and be reinforced and nurtured by every compassionate adult who can lend a hand. Let’s all put our hands together and pull our children forward into a successful future.” Yovino op-ed in Fresno Bee

Cathy K. Yun: Early education is much more than smaller desks and fatter pencils – The coordinator of the Early Childhood Education Program in the Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education department at Fresno State writes, “At Fresno State, early education isn’t about smaller desks, fatter pencils, and colorful worksheets. It isn’t a simpler and cuter version of what older children typically experience in the upper grades. Our early childhood education programs are based on an entirely different approach that fits the developmental needs of young children.” Yun op-ed in Fresno Bee

UC students struggle to access mental health services – Students throughout the University of California system are having trouble accessing mental health care, and health services directors are raising alarms that increased staffing and funding could be warranted to meet demand.  KQED report

More Kern High School District students pass exit exam on first tries – Slightly more sophomores in the Kern High School District passed required exit exams last school year than in 2012-2013, according to state results released Friday. Eighty-three percent of first-time test-takers in math and 82 percent in English passed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) by the end of May 2014.  Bakersfield Californian article

Results generally flat for high school exit exam – Results of high school exit exams show little change overall, but incremental progress drew praise from local and state educators. The pencil-and-paper test, tied to the old state standards, chugged away like a sturdy old pickup as trial-run computerized assessments whizzed by last spring. Modesto Bee article

Math scores improve but English rate dips in San Joaquin County – Tenth-grade students in San Joaquin County improved slightly in math but performed at a marginally lower level in English compared to one year ago, according to California High School Exit Examination data released Friday by the state Department of Education. Stockton Record article

Merced High student with Down syndrome crowned Homecoming queen – Merced High School student Maggie Mayo had a dream of one day being crowned Homecoming Queen. On Friday night that dream came true.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresh, healthy school lunches focus of conference in Modesto – A Modesto conference packed in plenty for kids hoping for more fresh food in their cafeteria lunches and school administrators wishing to cut costs.  Modesto Bee article

Building trades highlight apprentice programs – More than 500 area high school students gathered Friday at the electrical workers training center on El Pinal Drive to try their hand at hammering, soldering, bricklaying, wiring and other skills at the annual Construction Trades Career Fair.  Stockton Record article

Bear Creek threat suspect says he was trying to avoid Columbine-style attack – A man charged with phoning in a terrorist threat to Bear Creek High that left the school with only about one-third of its normal attendance on Friday insisted he was trying to avert a Columbine-style attack, not carry one out himself.  Stockton Record article


As blazes rage, California’s firefighting bill soars – California is on pace to exceed its annual wildfire-fighting budget less than three months into the fiscal year. This year’s budget allocated $209 million to Cal Fire’s emergency fund. Through Thursday, the agency had spent $191 million.  KQED report

California fire hit with record amount of retardant – Firefighters are dropping record-breaking amounts of retardants on a massive Northern California wildfire that is burning explosively because of the prolonged drought.  AP article

What causes California’s most devastating wildfires – Over the years, California’s biggest and most destructive wildfires have been sparked in a number of ways – originating with runaway campfires, lightning storms and arsonists.  San Francisco Chronicle article

It’s official:  Summer of 2014 was hottest on record –  If the summer of 2014 felt unusually warm to you, you were right — at least on a global level. From June through August of 2014, the average temperature of our planet was 62.78 degrees Fahrenheit — 1.28 degrees higher than the 20th century average, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. LA Times article

PG&E’s judge shopping outrages state PUC employees – California Public Utilities Commission employees expressed outrage at a staff meeting over a judge-shopping scandal involving top agency officials and Pacific Gas and Electric Co., with some demanding the resignation of the commission’s president.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Pete Moe: Citizens alliance has solutions for climate change – The Fresno resident writes, “The stunning growth rate of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is based on one simple fact: CCL has a simple yet effective plan to combat climate change: a national carbon-fee-and-dividend law.” Moe op-ed in Fresno Bee

Health/Human Services

Video: Why the new autism benefit is so important to Medi-Cal families – Effective this week, Medi-Cal now covers a key autism therapy, and some 12,000 kids stand to benefit statewide. One of the children who will benefit is Timothy Wilson, a bubbly 6-year-old who will now be able to get Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) through Medi-Cal, the state’s insurance program for people who are low income. ABA is the clinical standard of care for autism.  KQED report

Marjaree Mason leader applauds talk about domestic violence – In Fresno, the leader of the Marjaree Mason Center said that talking about the issue of violence against women is a good first step. Both victims and perpetrators often come in contact with the Marjaree Mason Center, an institution established four decades ago intent on protecting the victims. The center often provides shelter to the victims and oversees programs that must be attended by those convicted of domestic violence.  Fresno Bee article

Modesto adoption agency puts out call for financial help – Modesto’s Bethany Christian Services is facing a $150,000 shortfall in its current budget, enough of a gap that the nonprofit adoption and pregnancy resource agency could face staff and service cuts if donations aren’t received by the end of the month. Modesto Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Stanford grad students creating urban design project – A global team of students, urban designers and idealists is assembling around 15 vacant lots along Airport Way in the hope of transforming one of the city’s longest-standing corridors of blight. City Hall owns several of the blighted properties.  Stockton Record article

Other Areas

Fresno County supervisors face slew of pot grower appeals – When Fresno County supervisors approved the medical marijuana cultivation ordinance in January, they might not have anticipated the workload that would go with it.  On Monday, supervisors will spend an entire day hearing appeals from residents who were issued medical marijuana cultivation citations. There are 12 appeals on that agenda. A second day of hearings is scheduled for October. It’s expected a similar number will be on October’s agenda.  Fresno Bee article

New judge takes the bench in Tulare County – Nathan Ide may have assumed his new role as a judge in the Tulare County Superior Court system last month, but that didn’t take away from the significance of the ceremony Thursday afternoon where he was formally sworn in.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Give a boost to early childhood education and everyone benefits.

Hanford Sentinel – Groundwater must be managed to help people here.

Merced Sun-Star – Taking a stand on sitting.

Modesto Bee – The Modesto Bee looks at who will win the race for Stanislaus County corridors, good news and other issues.

Sacramento Bee – Jeff Harris and Larry Carr are the strongest for Sacramento City Council; Taking a stand on sitting.