September 21, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories

Lawmakers collect thousands on top of salary while absent — California lawmakers are compensated for their cost of living and eating away from their homes when they travel to Sacramento to write and pass bills, in addition to their six-figure salaries and benefits. Unlike many states, however, California has loosely worded rules that allow lawmakers to collect those payments regardless of whether they even show up to work. AP articleAP: ‘List of California lawmakers’ per diem collected while absent’

Dan Walters: California voters will decide hundreds of tax and bond measures — To persuade voters to approve new taxes on themselves, local governments are pitching improvements in local streets and roads, transit services, libraries and police and fire protection – in other words, the most popular services that governments provide. An unspoken factor, however, is that many of the proposed taxes that purport to improve public safety are actually needed to satisfy rapidly increasing demands of pension funds, particularly the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, for more “contributions” to cover pension costs not being met by moribund trust fund earnings. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Gov. Brown

Governor weighs whether to bar some private immigration lockups — A bill that would bar cities and counties from contracting with private prisons to hold immigrant detainees is sitting on the governor’s desk. If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill, three facilities would be impacted by Senate Bill 1289: Adelanto Detention Facility in San Bernardino County, Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield and Imperial Regional Detention Facility in Holtville, in Imperial County. KQED report

Valley politics

Public safety, growth main themes of Merced candidates forum — Improving public safety and positioning Merced for growth were two of the main themes addressed Tuesday during a forum featuring three mayoral candidates and two would-be City Council representatives. Merced Sun-Star article

Dirty laundry aired in lawsuit of former Berryhill aide — Government employees in Sen. Tom Berryhill’s former Modesto office engaged in “racist, sexist and homophobic” banter, illegally conducted campaign activity while on the public clock and left the building to avoid disturbing one staff member’s extramarital affair, a former Berryhill field representative says in a discrimination lawsuit against the California Senate. Modesto Bee article

Nicole Parra, Jim Verros talk Election 2016 — It’s less than two months from election day and many of the local races that will be before voters in November are heating up. From city council and mayoral contests in Fresno and Bakersfield to a couple of contested congressional races, it’s providing plenty of fodder for local political observers. We spoke with former State Assemblywoman and current CSUB political science professor Nicole Parra, and Clovis-based Republican political strategist Jim Verros about what’s really happening in some of the most closely watched contests. KVPR report

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

California voters face choice: End death penalty, or speed it up – This year, voters will decide between two competing ballot measures:Proposition 62, which would end the death penalty and replace it with life without parole, and Proposition 66, which would speed up the executions by accelerating appeals for inmates on death row. A victory for either side will transform the state’s system for capital punishment. New York Times article

Kamala Harris expands lead over Loretta Sanchez for U.S. Senate – Kamala Harris has widened her advantage over fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez with seven weeks left in the campaign to succeed Sen. Barbara Boxer, according to a poll released late Tuesday. Harris, the state attorney general, has opened a 22-point lead among likely voters, 42 percent to 20 percent, according to the survey by The Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Sacramento Bee article

No debating the silence in U.S. Senate race – That silence you hear in California’s U.S. Senate race is the sound of another candidate debate that didn’t happen. LA Times article

Family earn less than $140,000? Kamala Harris says you should go to college free – Kamala Harris, in the final weeks of her U.S. Senate campaign against fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, released a higher education plan Tuesday calling for making public colleges and universities free for students whose families earn less than $140,000 a year. She also wants to allow borrowers to discharge student loans in bankruptcy. Sacramento Bee article
California’s Citizens United proposition started with a chat at Starbucks – When she sat down at a Starbucks in Torrance a few years ago, Michele Sutter was desperately looking for a California legislator to sponsor a bill regarded by many as a nonstarter — a proposition instructing the state’s congressional delegation to change the U.S. Constitution. LA Times article 

CA 120: Voter registration is huge, partisan and volatile — Prior to the June Primary, California experienced a massive surge in voter registration.  More than 2.3 million voters registered, either for the first time, or as a re-registration. Capitol Weekly article


Few Mexicans among illegal immigrant numbers — The number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally has held steady since the Great Recession ended, totaling 11.1 million in 2014, 11.2 million in 2012 and 11.3 million in 2009, according to a study released Tuesday by Pew Research Center. AP article

Other areas

State agency under fire for pressuring open-government groups it regulates to change position on legislation – A rare and heated dispute has erupted between California’s campaign finance regulators  and open-government groups that have accused the watchdog agency of pressuring them to rescind their support for legislation designed to show who is funding political ads. LA Times article

Six Democrats lose LGBT support after a vote in final hours of Legislature — A prominent group advocating for LGBT rights has withdrawn its endorsement of six state Assembly members because they abstained or voted against a bill aimed at protecting gay and transgender students from discrimination at private colleges. The group said it was taking back its endorsements from Assembly members Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) for voting against SB 1146. The group is also withdrawing backing from Assembly members Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino), Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando) and Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) for abstaining. LA Times article

California Forward launches 50 State Solution political reform project – We are excited today to launch the 50 State Solution. Our hope is that this effort will provide a platform and soft infrastructure to support and expand the critically important work of reforming our democracy at the state level. California Forward report 

Black Life Matters marchers hurled racial remarks, fists in attack on family during Stockton protest — A 46-year-old white woman and her two teenage daughters said they were viciously assaulted by more than a dozen male and female Black Lives Matter protesters in a racially charged attack Friday night outside a popular Stockton restaurant. Stockton Record article 

How drugmakers used money and influence to shape the national response to opioid abuse — For more than a decade, members of a little-known group called the Pain Care Forum have blanketed Washington with messages about prescription painkillers’ vital role in the lives of millions of Americans, creating an echo chamber that has quietly derailed efforts to curb U.S. consumption of drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. AP/Center for Public Integrity article

Presidential Politics

California Democrats ramp up their efforts to link GOP candidates with Donald Trump – Taking aim at what they call Republicans “running on the Trump ticket,” California Democrats launched a new online and social media effort Tuesday to link GOP congressional candidates in close races with their party’s presidential nominee. LA Times article 

Tom Steyer puts more money into voter turnout machine – Tom Steyer—the San Francisco billionaire, political donor and environmental advocate—said Tuesday he would put $20 million of his own money behind a campaign to mobilize 2 million voters in eight swing states to boost support for Democrat Hillary ClintonLA Times article 

Tom Fife: American news picks on Trump — The level of hypocrisy and vitriol expressed by the media whenever Donald Trump is mentioned is breathtaking. Like a single-celled amoeba, theirs is always a collectively negative reaction to anything Trump and underscores exactly why the American public holds the lowest opinion of America’s news media in American history. Fife column in Visalia Times-Delta

Joe Altschule: Liar, liar pants on fire — I intended this column to leave aside politics for a change, writing about something like spring planting, the subtleties of quilting, or how to effectively clean and restructure a messy garage. But that was before Donald Trump again entangled himself in the massive lie about his involvement in the idiotic birther movement claiming that President Obama was not a real American but was born in Africa. Altschule op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

News Stories

Top Stories

Fresno County poverty recedes, but still above pre-recession level — Fresno County recorded one of the nation’s largest declines in the poverty rate in 2015, according to new data from the Census Bureau, but its 25.3 percent poverty rate still remains higher than it was before the Great Recession. Fresno Bee article

Kern supervisors kill vacant positions, set hiring freeze – Members of the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to delete 177 long-term vacant positions across county government. They also implemented a hiring freeze on all discretionary positions paid for out of the county’s “general fund,” its main operating pool of cash. Bakersfield Californian article

Valley lawmakers blast river flow proposal – Two lawmakers from the Modesto area urged a state board on Tuesday to rethink a plan for greatly increasing river flows. The doubling of reservoir releases into the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers would devastate the region’s already wobbly economy, Assembly members Kristin Olsen and Adam Gray told the State Water Resources Control Board. Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

SEIU protest co-opts public safety forum, plunges meeting into chaos – Service Employees International Union 1021 members shut down the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors evening work session on public safety Tuesday, demanding higher wages. Stockton Record article

Visalia-Porterville among fastest growing GDP in nation – The Visalia-Porterville area’s gross domestic product grew by 7.6 percent last year, the fourth fastest growth of a metropolitan area in the country, the Commerce Department announced Tuesday. USA Today article

Merced County budget closer to peak years before recession – The Merced County Board of Supervisors passed a balanced budget of $591.4 million on Tuesday that includes long-term safety nets and focuses on public safety and mental health. The budget includes 35 new positions countywide and an increase of nearly $3.8 million in revenue from June’s proposed budget. Merced Sun-Star article

Tulare supervisors get a raise, pot goes down again – The nine Tulare County elected officials got a pay raise as the Board of Supervisors approved the 2016-2017 budget Tuesday. Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux got the largest pay raise while District Attorney Tim Ward will continue to be the highest paid department head in the county. Visalia Times-Delta article

Lois Henry: Budget woes put helicopter rescues firmly back in Fire’s hands — After years of squabbling and outright hostility, the helicopter hoist wars ended with barely a whimper earlier this summer. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood gave authority for all helicopter hoist rescues over to the Fire Department in late July as part of the county’s budget bloodletting. I think that’s a good thing, but let’s come back to that. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian 

The lowdown – and high-up – of Blue Diamond’s high-tech warehouse – Blue Diamond Growers unveiled its new state-of-the-art warehouse Tuesday, taking visitors above, below and all around 40 million pounds of nonpareil almonds. Modesto Bee article

Go, Mariners! Modesto Nuts sign new affiliate contract — The Modesto Nuts and Seattle Mariners officially joined hands at high noon Tuesday, signaling a new era in the city’s professional baseball history. Modesto Bee article 

Michael Fitzgerald: Constant crime, homeless driving out marina managers — Stockton’s waterfront is a free-for-all of homeless people, vandalism and constant theft, says the city’s marina management company, which is giving up on Stockton. Westrec Marinas is pulling out. So are boaters, adds Westrec, saying harassment and theft are driving away Delta boaters and boat clubs in droves. Stockton Record article

New digs, new name in hallowed Modesto shopping spot — Portico, a design and home store in McHenry Village, may have a new name and a new site, but there is plenty of history there, too. Modesto Bee article

Stockton diocese reveals bankruptcy plan — The Diocese of Stockton on Tuesday announced a plan that could result in its exit out of bankruptcy more than two years after legal costs stemming from dozens of child sexual-abuse lawsuits depleted its funds. Stockton Record article

CalPERS may need to lower investment hopes soon, thus increasing cost to taxpayers – The retiring forecaster for California’s largest public employee pension fund offered some final advice on Tuesday: State and local governments should be required to pay more into the system as soon as next year. LA Times article

Report: Fresno among top cities for nurses – A new report ranks Fresno among the top U.S. cities to be a nurse. SmartAsset, a personal finance technology company, ranks Fresno No. 5 among the nation’s top cities to find a nursing job. The Business Journal article 

Sacramento home prices still rising, but more slowly — Home sales continued to chug along in August, as the Sacramento region saw incremental growth in median sale prices. The median price for resale single-family homes in Sacramento County inched up by $500 to $310,500 in August, according to Tuesday’s report by Irvine-based real estate market tracker CoreLogic. Sacramento Bee article 

Investment group offers to purchase Coliseum, keep Raiders in Oakland — A group of investors with ties to NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott is offering to purchase the Coliseum land with the hopes of keeping the Raiders in Oakland, according to a letter the group’s attorney sent to local officials last week. East Bay Times article


South Valley water coalitions to study nitrate leaching from farms — The Kings River Water Quality Coalition along with several other South Valley water quality coalitions received a $2 million grant from the federal government to address nitrate leaching from irrigated agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture grant will be used to launch a program to quantify and minimize the nitrate leaching from farming operations in the southern San Joaquin Valley, including portions of Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties. Fresno Bee article

Drinking water of some Californians exceeds limits for ‘Erin Brockovich’ chemical – The report found 11 water districts serving some 400,000 Californians had hexavalent chromium in their tap water at levels above the state’s legal limit. KQED report

Who is the ‘Wet Prince of Bel-Air’? Here are the likely culprits — Los Angeles officials have steadfastly refused to identify the Wet Prince of Bel Air, the homeowner who pumped an astonishing 11.8 million gallons of water during a single year of California’s crippling drought. Center for Investigative Reporting article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

How are Valley police, sheriffs helping officers cope with trauma? – Over the last few weeks, Valley Public Radio has aired a series of reports looking at how life in violent communities can affect the health of area residents, and how thelack of health care can contribute to some of that violence at times. But there’s another side of this story – the one of the police who patrol those streets. In the final part of the series, Valley Public Radio reports on what law enforcement agencies in the valley say they are doing to help officers cope with the mental strain of a violent line of work. KVPR report

Mental hospital backlog costs Stanislaus taxpayers $40,000 a month – Including King, 13 local inmates await such transfers. Meanwhile, Stanislaus County pays about $100 a day to house each of them. That’s $40,000 a month borne by Stanislaus taxpayers, not the state, which does not reimburse the county to care for these inmates destined for state lockups. Modesto Bee article

Lisa Ling talks human trafficking at Fresno women’s conference – At the conference – which welcomed a record number of about 3,400 attendees – Ling, who grew up in Carmichael, spoke of her world travels and how her experiences have changed her. She called for reform of America’s prison system, criticizing the disproportionate number of black men behind bars, and the treatment of the growing number of female inmates – especially those who are mothers. Fresno Bee article

Crowd in southwest Stockton harasses police making arrest – Police were harassed by a large crowd Monday afternoon as they pursued two off-road vehicles driving illegally on city streets. The scene was in the same neighborhood where just a day earlier a man was found shot. He died later at a hospital, according to authorities. Stockton Record article

Sacramento mayor promises police reforms after videos of fatal shooting made public – Sacramento police on Tuesday released video that shows a mentally ill man running from police officers, then stopping to gesture at them before they shot him dead in July. Sacramento Bee article

Timothy Davis: Accurate investigations of shootings take time – The president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association writes, “The Bee’s editorial against the dedicated men and women of the Sacramento Police Department (“Sacramento police flirting with disaster,” Sept. 16) is just another in a long line of attacks on police officers and serves no purpose other than to create controversy. The department is transparent. What the editorial is asking for isn’t transparency; it’s asking to be the judge and jury on matters of police conduct.” Davis op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Police commission faults LAPD officers in two deadly shootings —  The Los Angeles Police Commission concluded Tuesday that LAPD officers violated deadly-force rules in two controversial shootings last year, breaking ranks with Police Chief Charlie BeckLA Times article


CSU officials want to spend $75 million to improve graduation rates – California State University officials plan to ask the system’s board of trustees to consider spending about $75 million next year as part of a plan to drastically improve graduation rates by 2025. LA Times article 

Timothy White: CSU raises its graduation goals – The chancellor of the California State University system writes, “Tuesday, the CSU announced Graduation Initiative 2025, setting new targets. Among other aims, we will double four-year graduation rates, while making further improvements in rates for six years or less and for students transferring from community colleges.” White op-ed in Sacramento Bee

UC Merced enrollment continues ticking up – Enrollment at UC Merced continues to grow each year as California students are drawn to the small campus, with more than a third of this year’s new students coming from Southern California, a new university report shows. The newest campus in the University of California system has 6,815 undergraduate students registered for classes this fall, and 2,049 of them are first-year students. Merced Sun-Star article 

UC Merced chief involved in traffic collision – UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland was involved in a traffic collision Tuesday evening, the California Highway Patrol confirmed. Leland, 68, was traveling south on Lake Road around 6:23 p.m. in her Lexus RX 450 when her vehicle was struck by a gray Toyota Corolla. Nobody was injured, Officer Moises Onsurez told the Sun-Star. Merced Sun-Star article

Bill Moseley: Measure J an investment in future of Bakersfield – The professor in the Business Management and Information Technology Department at Bakersfield College writes, “Bakersfield College is a huge part of training our local workforce, and where our students benefit so does Bakersfield. Voting ‘yes’ on Measure J is far more than an investment in BC. It is an investment in the future of Bakersfield.” Moseley op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Redfin: Teachers that want to own a home? Move to Fresno – Residential real estate company Redfin has put out new data showing the benefits of living in inland California. The web-based brokerage found that only 17 percent of all the homes currently for sale in California’s most populous counties are affordable on the average teacher salary of $73,536. That figure represents a 13-percentage point decline in affordability since 2012, when 30 percent of all homes were within reach on the average salary, then at $70,487. The Business Journal article

LA Board of Education votes to move school start closer to Labor Day — The nation’s second-largest school system on Tuesday moved away from its brief experiment with an earlier school start, edging back closer to the traditional day-after-Labor Day schedule. LA Times article

Interim UC Davis chancellor seeks to inspire more civil discourse — Interim UC Davis Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter launched the fall semester Tuesday by saying he could not recall a moment during his lifetime when the political discourse of the nation was more starkly polarized, dysfunctional or lacking in civility. Sacramento Bee article

LA Unified paves the way for 15,000 students to take community colleges classes – during their high school day — The Los Angeles Unified School District board approved an agreement Tuesday with the Los Angeles Community College District that will let high schools enter partnerships with their local community colleges to offer classes on campus, during the regular school day. The schools hope to serve 15,000 L.A. Unified students a year. LA Times article


Smoke from coastal wildfires causes Valley air-quality alert – An air-quality alert has been issued for the San Joaquin Valley because of smoke from wildfires burning in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties and will extend through Wednesday, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said. Fresno Bee articleVisalia Times-Delta articleHanford Sentinel articleMerced Sun-Star article

Busted: We’re glad Fresno litterbugs are learning a costly lesson — We have many challenges to overcome in making Fresno a better place for everyone. Litter should not be one of them. Fresno Bee editorial

Health/Human Services 

Maureen Martin: We’re gaining against breast cancer, but not there yet – The noted hepatobiliary and transplant surgeon who also is active in breast cancer research writes, “The long battle against breast cancer has shown impressive gains. While the disease remains the second most frequent cause of cancer death among women (behind only lung cancer), the trend lines are going in the right direction.” Martin op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Carson retires, Clinica takes over Ebony Counseling — Kern County supervisors lauded former Bakersfield City Councilwoman Irma Carson, 81, Tuesday as she retired from Ebony Counseling Center. And Clinica Sierra Vista CEO Steve Schilling announced that his health care company has acquired Ebony and will continue its mission to fight alcohol, drug abuse and gang violence, and promote youth development. Bakersfield Californian article

Land Use/Housing

Strong south Stockton turnout for first General Plan workshop — The public portion of Stockton’s newest effort to rewrite its long-range General Plan is finally underway, and about 75 people turned out Tuesday night for the opening kickoff. The city’s choice of a location for the workshop — the Merlo Gym in south Stockton — was noteworthy. Officials have said they are seeking more participation by residents on the long-neglected south side, and they got plenty Tuesday. Stockton Record article


California’s proposed DMV rules for driverless cars could change in wake of federal guidelines – Though the federal guidelines issued Tuesday are short on specifics, the Department of Transportation will take responsibility for regulating the driving hardware and software, and it has devised a model state policy that probably will take the pressure off individual state agencies.  That policy, issued jointly by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, could result in changes to current California draft regulations on autonomous vehicles. LA Times article

Benicia nixes Valero’s plan to run crude oil trains through Sacramento, Davis and Roseville — The Benicia City Council on Tuesday unanimously rejected a controversial plan by the Valero Refining Co. to ship crude oil trains through Sacramento and other Northern California cities to its bayside refinery. Sacramento Bee article

Other areas

Fresno County will pay probation chief to avoid legal liability – Fresno County supervisors agreed to pay Probation Chief Rick Chavez $100,000 to avoid liability in a potential lawsuit. Because of the payment, Chavez will waive claims against Fresno County for any role it played during his administrative leave in cooperating with the Fresno County Superior Court’s investigation of him. Fresno Bee article

Racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Modesto – An African American wastewater treatment plant operator is suing the city, claiming he was subject to racial slurs and other discrimination and harassment, and was retaliated against when he complained. Modesto Bee article

Fulton Street restoration project uncovers a bit of Fresno history — Reconstruction of Fulton Mall into Fulton Street uncovered an interesting find Monday. Telephone line workers repairing a bundle of damaged lines under Mariposa Street found old tubing and redwood planking likely used for early phone lines, perhaps dating back to 1910. Fresno Bee article

Fresno police lawyers suspended for mishandling friend’s estate — Larry Donaldson, the longtime lawyer for the Fresno Police Department, has been suspended from practicing law for 30 days and placed on three years of probation for mismanaging the estate of former Fresno City Attorney Harvey Wallace, according to State Bar of California documentsFresno Bee article 

Fresno zoo commits to large-scale elephant welfare project — Fitness tracking is all the rage right now. If you want to, you can monitor your heart rate, count your footsteps and calories burned, and even monitor your sleep patterns, all using devices that can fit around your wrist or in your pocket. But that’s if you’re a human. Kerry Klein takes us to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, where fitness tracking is moving to a whole new level. KVPR report

New book chronicles Kerman history, images — The San Joaquin Valley is home to two of the nation’s 100 largest cities with Fresno and Bakersfield. But it’s the small towns like Kerman that make this part of the state such a unique place. Now Kerman farmer and community leader Paul Betancourt has written a new book about the history of this small farm town. KVPR report

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – We have many challenges to overcome in making Fresno a better place for everyone. Litter should not be one of them.

Sacramento Bee – New federal guidelines for autonomous vehicle makers make the roads safer and cut red tape; Barack Obama, the realist on foreign policy.