September 22, 2015


Political Stories

Top stories

Another Prop 30 income tax increase now aiming for 2016 — A group of health and youth advocates on Monday introduced a ballot initiative to expand and make permanent the Proposition 30 income tax increases on the state’s highest earners. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Dan Walters: California Democrats are facing civil wars in Legislature – Toni Atkins probably would prefer to remain the Democratic speaker of the state Assembly indefinitely, but she can’t. Although the state’s term-limit law has been amended to provide more flexibility, she’s bound by the earlier version that limits someone to three terms in the Assembly. Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Gov. Brown  

Gov. Jerry Brown acts on student representatives, car seats, tow trucks – Following complaints against the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills school districts, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed legislation that would set clear guidelines for when student representatives are appointed to and removed from school boards. In all, the governor acted on 28 bills on Monday, also signing measures regulating car seats and seeking to curb bandit tow trucks taking advantage of California motorists. LA Times article

Jerry Brown signs bill to keep kids in rear-facing car seats until 2 — Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation requiring children to ride in rear-facing car seats until they are at least 2 years old, his office said Monday. Sacramento Bee article


Valley politics

Mims’ evolution: From Democrat to Republican via no political party — Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims has come a long way politically since she was first elected as the county’s top law enforcement official in 2006. As in, all the way from Democrat to Republican, via no party preference. It may have been forgotten, but Mims’ party registration was a big issue during the 2006 race, even though the post is officially non-partisan. Fresno Bee article 

First Look: Kern Deputy District Attorney Wolf announces 2016 run for judge – Twenty-three years after a job as District Attorney, Kern County’s David Wolf plans to run for judge in the 2016 elections. On Monday’s “First Look with Scott Cox,” the judicial candidate introduced himself and talked about his plans for a spot on the bench, if elected. Bakersfield Californian article
Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

State Republican Party votes to alter its immigration plank – Gone is the term “illegal alien.” Gone are passages in the old plank such as “new immigrants should be required to learn English, and businesses should be able to require employees to speak the English language while on the job.” In their place is more nuanced language in a document that still says much of the same things, but in a nicer way. Fresno Bee article 

Joel Fox: Pension initiative to be re-filed? — Over the weekend, two sources indicated to me that the Chuck Reed/Carl DeMaio pension reform initiative would be pulled, re-written, and re-submitted to the attorney general for a new title and summary. If it is to be re-filed, it is worth considering for which ballot it would be re-submitted. Fox in Fox & Hounds


Other areas 

New York Times: California’s Right-to-Die bill — The governor should sign into law a bill that would allow some terminally ill patients to hasten their death. New York Times editorial

Debra Saunders: Democrats have plenty to fear once GOP field dwindles — Democratic partisans have been rubbing their hands with glee as billionaire Donald Trump’s antics have dominated the Republican primary. I hope they’re enjoying themselves, because they soon may find themselves in their own world of hurt. Saunders in San Francisco Chronicle


News Stories

Top Stories

Two major water agencies consider buying Delta islands – Two of California’s largest and most aggressive water agencies have discussed buying four islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, prompting accusations by environmentalists and Delta farmers that the land purchases could be used to engineer a south state water grab. Sacramento Bee articleStockton Record article 

Bakersfield council committee intrigued by proposed citation process — Members of a Bakersfield City Council committee expressed interest Monday in creating an administrative way to ticket code enforcement violators, water wasters, illegal fireworks users, litterbugs and other scofflaws with fines of up to $1,000 — and without invoking the criminal penal code. Bakersfield Californian article


Jobs and the Economy

Chukchansi Gold’s latest setback requires time to resolve – On the verge of reopening Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians’ tribal council last week lost all its gaming regulatory team, which now throws its reopening plans into disarray. Fresno Bee article

Joe Mathews: Can California women keep bailing the state out? — If it weren’t for women, California would be in even bigger trouble. Despite all the state’s obstacles and struggles, one big reason why we keep getting wealthier and more productive is women, and their hard work. As a new report from the California Budget & Policy Center reminds, women are working more and more. In the most recent economic expansion, the typical hours worked annually by women were higher than in previous expansions. Mathews in Fox & Hounds 

Xerox hiring to expand Cal LifeLine call center in Fresno – An expanding Xerox call center in Fresno that handles phone inquiries for the California LifeLine telephone program is seeking applications to fill at least 30 positions as bilingual customer-service representatives. Fresno Bee article

Madera industrial park ground breaking Sept. 24 – A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Sept. 24 to celebrate the start of construction for the first building at Freedom Industrial Park in Madera. The city of Madera and Span Construction and Engineering are partners in the 100-acre project at Pine Street and Pecan Avenue. At full build out, the park is expected to add about 1 million square feet of space to the county increasing the industrial real estate inventory by 14 percent. Fresno Bee article

Merced starts resurfacing project on downtown parking lots – The city began work on its Downtown Public Parking Improvement Project on Monday, with construction expected to continue for the next six weeks. The $221,510 project to restore city parking lots will include new pavement-resurfacing in several areas downtown. Merced Sun-Star article 

LA lawmakers to declare ‘state of emergency,’ commit more than $100 million to fight homelessness – Members of the Los Angeles City Council are expected Tuesday to declare a “state of emergency” on homelessness and commit $100 million toward housing and other services for homeless people. LA Times article 

Why Uber is wise to destroy itself, before someone else does — From taxi cab unions and package couriers to politicians and regulators, a growing crowd of people would like to destroy Uber. Add one more name to the list: Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick. Somewhere lost in the scrum over whether Uber drivers are employees or contractors, or whether the company conducts proper background checks, is the simple fact that Kalanick wants to eventually replace all Uber drivers with software and computers. San Francisco Chronicle article

Airlines rake in $5.5 billion, most profitable quarter since 2007 – Lower fuel costs and steady travel demand continue to boost the nation’s airlines, which enjoyed the most profitable quarter since 2007. LA Times article

What State Worker blog users say about their jobs — If working for the State of California is like investing in Wall Street, blog users who participated in a (highly unscientific) poll on this blog are more likely to “sell” than state workers who took the same (scientific) poll conducted by the state this summer. Still, some positive trends emerged, including respondents’ strong belief that their jobs benefit Californians. Sacramento Bee article 

Report: San Francisco has zero affordable neighborhoods for renters – It’s official: Though rents are higher in some parts of San Francisco than others, the days of “low,” “cheap” or even “decent” rents in certain neighborhoods are over. San Francisco Chronicle article

U.S. taxpayers duped into shelling out $51 million in green subsidies for ‘clean’ VW vehicles – The federal government paid out as much as $51 million in green car subsidies for Volkswagen diesel vehicles based on falsified pollution test results, according to a Times analysis of the federal incentives. LA Times article 

Tech firms respond as drivers negotiate for higher wages — Tech bus drivers who are struggling financially will need to wait longer for a raise, but at least a couple of additional companies are now offering support. San Francisco Chronicle article



Fresno Bee: Westlands settlement deal is a smart compromise — Understand: Westland has to come up with drainage that doesn’t harm fish, wildlife or the environment. If the district fails to do so, the federal spigot is turned off. This is a fair deal for taxpayers, the environment and Westlands growers. Fresno Bee editorial 

Analysis: How the Westlands Water District agreement is a retreat from previous U.S. plan – The agreement approved last week by the Obama administration and Westlands beats a long retreat from those requirements, prompting cries that a district legendary for its political sway and hardball tactics has once again come out on top. The amount of land Westlands would retire under the settlement has been cut in half — and the district has already taken most of that acreage out of production. LA Times article

Visalia, Tulare failing to meet state water mandate reduction – The county’s third largest city is best when it comes to meeting the state’s water production reduction mandate. The two largest cities in Tulare County are looking to meet the reduction mandate, ahead of receiving conservation orders. Visalia Times-Delta article

East Porterville gets 100,000 bottles of water – Assemblyman Devon Mathis said the delivery Monday morning of about 100,000 bottles of water here is only a short-term solution to this unincorporated community’s water crisis. Visalia Times-Delta article 

MWD: Residents may have to pay taxes on their turf rebate money – Thousands of Southern Californians who received checks to tear out their lawns and replace them with more drought-friendly landscapes may have to pay taxes on the rebate money they received. LA Times article

Tim Johnson and Rich Matteis: A lot of water is essential to the food we eat every day – Johnson, president and CEO of the California Rice Commission, and Matteis, administrator of the California Farm Bureau Federation, write, “The discussion of agriculture and the California drought has largely focused on how much water each crop takes and how much of the state’s water is used by farms. While headline grabbing, these figures do little to tell a more comprehensive story of how much water each of us needs for the food we eat in an average day.” Johnson/Matteis op-ed in Sacramento Bee

As Californians save water, districts lose money – Bay Area water districts have posted big water conservation numbers this summer, some upwards of 40 percent. But saving water can have a hidden downside for those agencies: budget troubles. KQED report

South San Joaquin Irrigation District might raise water rates for higher-volume users — Water rates could rise for higher-volume users in the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to encourage conservation. Its board will hold a hearing Tuesday morning on a proposal to increase rates for farmers using more than 48 vertical inches in a growing season. That was 32 percent of the total customers in 2014. Deliveries are capped at 36 inches this year because of drought. Modesto Bee article

Scientists see a future of El Nino-fueled coastal erosion — The seacoasts of California and nations on both sides of the Pacific are likely to be battered in coming years by increasingly high waves pushed ashore by ever-stronger weather patterns, leaving them vulnerable to destructive erosion, an international group of experts said Monday. San Francisco Chronicle article 

Eastside Water District plans for recharge – The Eastside Water District, which serves part of eastern Stanislaus and Merced counties, will lay out plans Thursday for a groundwater recharge project. Modesto Bee article

Drought supply spurs water taste complaints from some EBMUD customers — Some East Bay Municipal Utility District customers are complaining their water has tasted and smelled worse recently. They’re not imagining it. Contra Costa Times article


Criminal Justice/Prisons 

Sheriff’s Department employees appeal to supervisors for funding – Stagnant salaries and long work hours are provoking Merced County Sheriff’s Department employees to seek better jobs elsewhere, according to officials and deputies who say they increasingly are concerned that public safety could be compromised. Merced Sun-Star article 

How California death row inmates die – While no execution has taken place in California since 2006, inmate deaths are becoming increasingly common, effectively turning many death sentences into life without parole. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977, about 70 of the state’s condemned inmates have died of natural causes. Another 24 killed themselves. Sacramento Bee article

ShotSpotter contract on tonight’s Stockton council agenda – Residents in a high-crime portion of south Stockton report less than 30 percent of the gunfire that occurs in their neighborhood to the police. That statistic is among the nuggets in a staff report included in an agenda item for tonight’s City Council meeting. The item recommends approval of a contract with the providers of ShotSpotter, a high-tech gunfire-detection system. Stockton Record article

DOJ awards Fresno $1.87 million for new officers — The City of Fresno has been awarded $1.875 million in federal grant funding for the creation of 15 new community policing officers. The Business Journal article

Sacramento Bee: On cameras and the rising cost of excessive force – Cameras are revolutionizing police work. Unfortunately, some departments hope closing their eyes will make the revolution go away. It won’t, and the Sacramento County sheriff should keep that in mind as he deals with this latest round of excessive-force headlines.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Woman, 82, shot by Tulare County sheriff’s deputies — An 82-year-old woman was shot by deputies when she brandished a gun, but she suffered only minor wounds and will survive, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said Monday. Fresno Bee articleVisalia Times-Delta article

‘Rare’ helicopter shooting raises questions — A Friday incident involving a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy shooting from a helicopter above the 215 Freeway is raising eyebrows in law enforcement. KPCC report

LAPD gets $1 million for body cameras from Department of Justice – The Los Angeles Police Department was awarded $1 million in federal funds Monday to help buy more body cameras, part of about $20 million being distributed to dozens of agencies across the country to help spread the technology. LA Times article

Lodi swears in five new officers — The five — Officers Austin Blythe, Shea Duke, Noe Gonzalez, James “Jimmy” Macho and Sundell — will bring Lodi’s force up to 70 sworn personnel, one shy of the 71 the Police Department is budgeted for. Stockton Record article



University students divided over sex policy’s effectiveness – Now that the new school year is under way — as are alcohol-sloshed parties — students at UC Berkeley say the “yes means yes” policy sounds simple on paper, but in practice it’s complicated. Some even say alarming. San Francisco Chronicle article

1 in 4 college women report unwanted sexual contact – A quarter of undergraduate women surveyed at more than two dozen universities say they experienced unwanted sexual contact sometime during college, according to a report released Monday. AP article

Backers want half of LA Unified students in charter schools in eight years, report says — Backers outlined an ambitious strategy to place half of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District into charter schools over the next eight years, a move they said would serve as a model for the rest of the nation, according to documents obtained by The Times. LA Times article 

1 in 6 school districts gives up on Medi-Cal outreach reimbursements — Nearly one in six California school districts has dropped out of a federal outreach program for low-income student health that brings millions in unfettered dollars into schools, citing bungled state management and years-long delays in receiving funds, according to a new state auditEdSource article

Clovis parents question school boundary proposals — Clovis Unified Assistant Superintendent Don Ulrich asked the dozens of parents who filed into Clovis North High School on Monday night to first take a deep breath. “We all know how emotional this is. It’s tough. This is a tough thing for all of our families to go through. We recognize that,” Ulrich said. Fresno Bee article

Sandy Banks: LA Unified’s bullying tactics wound abuse victims again — When it comes to handling sexual misconduct by teachers, the Los Angeles Unified School District loses even when it wins. LA Times article 

$490-million plan would put half of LA Unified students in charter schools — Critics of Los Angeles public schools have outlined an ambitious $490-million plan to place half of the city’s students into charter schools over the next eight years, a controversial gambit that backers hope will serve as a catalyst for the rest of the nation. LA Times article

PG&E seeks to have some charges dismissed in San Bruno explosion — PG&E formally asked a federal judge on Monday to dismiss eight criminal charges against it for causing a fatal explosion in San Bruno, but government prosecutors countered during a court hearing they will prove that the embattled utility deliberately broke an array of laws in the case. Contra Costa Times article

Grant Grove reopening delayed due to new firefighting efforts – The National Forest Service said Monday that the reopening of Grant Grove Village has been delayed to allow firefighters more time to finish firefighting activities. The mixing of fire equipment and park visitors remained an unsafe situation, the Forest Service said. Fresno Bee article

Scope of devastation clearer as wildfire evacuees return – The scope of the devastation from one of California’s most destructive wildfires is becoming clearer and so too is the size of the humanitarian need in one of the state’s poorer counties. More than 1,000 homes have been confirmed destroyed and the number likely will go higher as assessment continues in Lake County, 90 miles north of San Francisco. Many others are damaged or don’t have power, leaving thousands in need of shelter. AP article 

Crews gain on destructive Valley, Butte fires – Firefighters are gaining ground on the Valley and Butte fires that destroyed hundreds of homes and killed five people. The Valley fire in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties that started more than a week ago is now 75 percent contained. It has blackened 75,781 acres and destroyed 1,050 structures. In Amador and Calaveras counties, the Butte fire is 74 percent contained. Sacramento Bee article

UC Merced map a tool for watching Butte fire – A map of the Butte fire created by UC Merced researchers as a way to help spread information to those affected by the blaze has been viewed more than 35,000 times, according to the team. Merced Sun-Star article

Vineyards, wineries spared from most wildfire damage — Both the Butte and Valley fires in northern California were in areas with vibrant wine industries. Fortunately, vineyards in both areas were relatively unscathed by the flames. Smoke damage is now the concern. Capital Public Radio report 

Lake County cracks down on looting of Native American artifacts — The wildfires ravaging Lake County this summer might have an impact unnoticed by most people: the increased looting of ancient Native American artifacts. KQED report 

Plastic pollution: Billions of pieces of tiny plastic litter found in San Francisco Bay — San Francisco Bay is contaminated with widespread pollution from billions of tiny pieces of plastic in greater concentrations than the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and other major U.S. bodies of water, according to a groundbreaking new study. San Jose Mercury News article

Work stops after habitat permit mixup — City of Stockton officials were forced to temporarily suspend work on a small erosion repair project after they realized they had failed to seek approval under a regional plan to conserve habitat for fish and wildlife. Stockton Record article


Health/Human Services 

How strict California rules on emissions led to lower cancer risk – California has made tremendous progress cleaning its once-notorious air pollution over the last generation, with Los Angeles smog easing in response to the state’s ever-stricter emissions standards. LA Times article

Judge blocks Berkeley’s warning about cell phones and children – A federal judge upheld Berkeley’s authority Monday to require cell phone retailers to tell customers that carrying switched-on phones too close to their bodies might exceed federal radiation-exposure standards, but barred a warning that “this potential risk is greater for children.” San Francisco Chronicle article

Stanislaus County, Modesto leaders could approve agreement to develop veterans center – Stanislaus County could enter an agreement with Modesto and a nonprofit foundation to provide a center for the 27,000 veterans and their family members who live in the county. Modesto Bee article

Consumers can check medical prices, quality scores on new state website — California officials unveiled a website Monday where consumers can look up average prices for common medical procedures alongside quality scores for healthcare providers.  LA Times articleSacramento Bee article

Nurses union withdraws petition for second election at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto — The California Nurses Association has withdrawn a petition for holding a second election on union membership at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto. Last year, registered nurses at Memorial rejected union representation in a 462-352 vote, but the nurses association filed objections with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that hospital management used tactics to coerce nurses to vote against the union. Modesto Bee article

Michael Hiltzik: A huge spike in the cost of an old drug reignites the pharma pricing debate — Until last month, patients suffering from the parasite-borne disease toxoplasmosis — which in its worst manifestations can cause blindness, neurological problems or death — had reasonable access to a remedy: a six-week, two-pill-a-day course of the drug Daraprim, at a cost of about $1,130. Then an entrepreneurial company called Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the exclusive rights to Daraprim and raised its price from $13.50 per pill to $750, bringing the total treatment cost to $63,000. Hiltzik in LA Times

Merced event to connect homeless to services — Providing vital services and opportunities to people who are homeless in Merced County is the aim of this week’s Homeless Connect, according to organizers. Merced Sun-Star article 

Carmen George: Larcs meet milestone, continues to help people with disabilities in Valley – During a day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in central Fresno, 89-year-old Pat Kourafas lovingly wraps an arm around one man scooting down a hallway with a walker and a big smile. The man is a client of The Arc of Fresno and Madera Counties. Kourafas has been supporting the facility – and a number of other similar organizations in the central San Joaquin Valley that help people with special needs – since 1957, when she and a group of seven other women founded LarcsGeorge in Fresno Bee 

Seniors’ mental health linked to vitamin D levels – Seniors with low vitamin D are at a “substantial” increased risk of developing short-term memory loss and diminished brainpower, according to a new UC Davis study that looked at 400 seniors over five years. Sacramento Bee article

Firm sues California attorney general over bid for Catholic hospitals — Hospital operator Prime Healthcare Services Inc. is suing California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris for imposing strict restrictions that caused the Ontario company to back out of its attempted purchase of six Roman Catholic hospitals earlier this year. LA Times article


Other areas 

Fighter jet crashes near Lemoore NAS – A fighter jet assigned to Lemoore Naval Air Station crashed just before 4 p.m. Monday in a field near the base, the Navy confirmed Monday evening. Fresno Bee articleVisalia Times-Delta articleHanford Sentinel articleLA Times article

Fresno City Council member vows to rebuild torched Romain Park playground – Fresno City Council member Clint Olivier promised Monday to rebuild the playground at southeast Fresno’s Romain Park, which burned down Sunday afternoon in a possible arson. Fresno Bee article

Modesto considers $119,300 to revamp website – The Modesto City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve spending $119,300 to revamp the city’s website. A city report states that while full of useful information, the site is viewed by many as a “congested array of buttons, links, graphics and headers that users are finding frustrating to navigate and difficult to know where to find the information they need.” Modesto Bee article 

Merced LGBT center celebrates its reopening with October event – The Merced LGBTQ Alliance is preparing to officially reopen the doors to the community center that closed earlier this summer. Merced Sun-Star article

Booze ban on the table after beating at Levi’s Stadium — The beat-down of a fan after the 49ers game last Monday has Santa Clara City Council members expressing serious concerns about safety at the billion-dollar Levi’s Stadium — with two even suggesting that the city consider halting alcohol sales after halftime. San Francisco Chronicle article

First Look: Local horse rescue provides a ‘bit-o-heaven’ to aging animals — It takes a lot to care for an animal as large as a horse. But try 37. That’s exactly what Tracy Totton-Martin, owner of Bit-O-Heaven Horse Ranch, does on a daily basis. The rescuer takes horses that have been abandoned, injured or unable to be taken care of and provides them a space to peacefully live out the rest of their lives. Bakersfield Californian article

Dogs from South Korean meat farm arrive in Bakersfield for non-culinary purposes — Four very lucky dogs rescued from a South Korean meat farm are now safe in Bakersfield. The canines are part of a group of 103 dogs and puppies of several breeds that the Humane Society International worked to remove from poor conditions in Chungcheongnamdo, South Korea, where they were being raised for food. Bakersfield Californian article



Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The Westlands settlement deal is a smart compromise.  It is a fair deal for taxpayers, the environment and Westlands growers; Perhaps Pope Francis will light the path to reconciliation.

Sacramento Bee – Hey, TBD Fest fans, meet Sacramento; Pope Francis’ visit to the United States this week won’t include California. It’s a missed opportunity; Cameras are revolutionizing police work. Unfortunately, some departments hope closing their eyes will make the revolution go away.

Stockton Record – Cheers and jeers on United Way campaigning needing your help, tragedy amid Lode fire and other issues.