September 9, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Field Poll: California Democrats leading in all statewide races – California’s nonpartisan race for schools chief, which pits incumbent Tom Torlakson against fellow Democrat and former charter schools executive Marshall Tuck, is shaping up as the marquee matchup of the fall ballot, according to the latest Field Poll.  Sacramento Bee article‘Field Poll: Statistical tabulations for downticket races’ in Sacramento Bee

Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson:  ‘Worst is over for now’ on border crisis – Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday that the “worst is over for now” in the immigration crisis along the southern border as the number of unaccompanied children apprehended entering the United States illegally dropped in August to its lowest level in 1 1/2 years.  Washington Post article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Swearengin challenges Yee in speech to look at Fresno’s financial books – Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin spoke to the Downtown Rotary Monday on a subject that had policy written all over it — a day in her life leading the state’s fifth-largest city. In the last three-to-five minutes of the speech, however, Swearengin and her PowerPoint both veered into the political lane.  Fresno Bee article

Dan Walters: Debra Bowen should have revealed depression earlier – One can sympathize with Bowen’s illness, certainly, but if it was as debilitating as depicted, she should have owned up to it much earlier. She won the office on a promise to improve its performance, but by many measures it has regressed. If she was incapable of doing her job, as the article implies, she should have done the honorable thing and resigned in favor of someone who could do it.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Bowen vows to press on as election nears – Secretary of State Debra Bowen was in the office Monday, two days after her struggles with depression became public, making clear that she intends to oversee November balloting and finish out her term as California’s chief elections officer.  Sacramento Bee article


Sacramento Bee: The immigration reform mirage – It seems there’s always a perfectly good reason not to fix our broken immigration system.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Undocumented immigrants still mistreated by employers despite new law – Undocumented immigrants comprise a whopping 10 percent of California’s workforce. These workers are particularly vulnerable to wage theft and other mistreatment by their employers, according to one national study.  KQED report

Other areas

Californians among richest members of Congress – Members of California’s influential congressional delegation were again well represented on an annual list of Washington’s most well-heeled members. It also showed well on a separate rundown of the poorest federal lawmakers.  Capitol Alert

John Myers: Schwarzenegger returns to Sacramento talking climate, legacy – More than 31Ž2 years after his final “Hasta la vista, baby!” to state government, Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to Sacramento Monday for a victory lap of sorts — bragging about his efforts to combat climate change and, later, unveiling his official portrait under the Capitol dome. For a single day in the capital city, it seemed that Schwarzenegger’s legacy was seen as unquestionably good, a change from the recession-weary send-off he received in January 2011.  Myers in KQED

Back in Sacramento, Schwarzenegger touts climate change record – Earlier in the day, he was at a climate change conference hosted by the California Environmental Protection Agency, where he highlighted his work combating greenhouse gas emissions.  Some of the biggest initiatives being advanced by Gov. Jerry Brown today — the $68-billion bullet train and the cap-and-trade program — were started during Schwarzenegger’s administration.  LA Times article

Schwarzenegger’s legacy mixed as he returns to Capitol – He always said he’d be back – and though it’s taken him four years, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the state Capitol Monday for a climate change symposium and the unveiling of his official portrait. Schwarzenegger’s legacy is a complicated one.  Capital Public Radio report

Schwarzenegger makes rare visit to Sacramento – Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lifted the curtain on his official portrait Monday, revealing a photograph-like giant image of the onetime bodybuilder standing in front of the official California seal. Schwarzenegger unveiled the portrait at a ceremony in the state Capitol in which he made a rare appearance in Sacramento nearly four years after he left office.  AP articleCapitol AlertCapitol Weekly articleSan Francisco Chronicle articleDan Walters Daily in Sacramento BeeSacramento Bee editorial

Sen. Ben Hueso charged with DUI – State Sen. Ben Hueso has been formally charged with two misdemeanors stemming from his late August arrest on suspicion of driving while drunk.  Capitol AlertLA Times article

Court hears arguments over gay marriage’s impact – A debate over whether children would be harmed or helped by legalizing gay marriage was the main focus when a federal appeals court in San Francisco waded again into the issue of the constitutionality of gay marriage.  AP article

Complaints of favoritism in California Senate surface in robbery trial – While the state Senate has yet to make public the results of an investigation of nepotism complaints, three Senate employees recently testified in Sacramento Superior Court that the son of the Senate’s personnel director routinely received special treatment during the years he worked there.  Capitol Alert

News Briefs

Top Stories

Controller John Chiang unveils website to track local spending, pension overviews – A new website went live Monday that culls more than decade of California city and county financial information into a searchable database compiled by the State Controller’s Office. allows taxpayers to track revenues, expenditures, liabilities, assets,fund balances and other information provided by more than 450 cities and the 58 counties statewide. The data runs from fiscal year 2002-03 through 2012-13.  Sacramento Bee article

Drilling through the drought:  A look at well drilling activity in the Central Valley – After Capital Public Radio reported about local tensions over groundwater access this summer, we were curious who was drilling the most wells, and where. We requested well permit data from each of the eight San Joaquin Valley counties. While the data doesn’t show how much water is being pumped, it does give a picture of where demand for water is high.  Capital Public Radio report

Jobs and the Economy

Michael Fitzgerald: Graph of the day – These graphs are simple, but still telling. Stockton’s revenues started to decline in 2006. That year or 2007 was the time for leaders to make the tough calls, such as exacting concessions from public employees. Instead, in 2007, leaders authorized big new expenditures. They set a course for bankruptcy. Fitzgerald blog in Stockton Record

Stanislaus County budget would restore salary cuts, revamp public safety services – Stanislaus County’s proposed budget aims to eliminate a salary cut for employees and also puts an emphasis on rebuilding public safety services. Risen said the budget team worked hard on a crucial issue for the 2017-18 budget year – how to find $13 million in annual funds for operating the Public Safety Center expansion, which is set to open in early 2017. Staff members are close to solving the problem, the CEO said.  Modesto Bee article

Clovis City Council members raise their pay 17 percent – After seven years without a pay raise, Clovis City Council members Monday night granted themselves a 17% pay increase. The raise brings council members’ salaries to $15,468 per year. It becomes effective following the March election, after the next City Council is impaneled. Since 2007, council members have earned $13,224 annually.  Fresno Bee article

Business sales up in Fresno, Tulare counties – Business sales picked up slightly throughout Fresno and Tulare counties in August, continuing on a four-month growth trend.  The Business Journal article

America’s wealth gap ‘unsustainable,’ may worsen: Harvard study – The widening gap between America’s wealthiest and its middle and lower classes is “unsustainable”, but is unlikely to improve any time soon, according to a Harvard Business School study released on Monday.  Reuters article

U.S. job market’s lingering weak spot: Stagnant pay – The U.S. job market has steadily improved by pretty much every gauge except the one Americans probably care about most: Pay.  AP article

Insurance company files claims over accidents involving public safety workers – An insurance company has filed claims against Modesto, seeking more than $7,000 for the damage to the cars of policyholders involved in accidents with a fire engineer and community service officer.  Modesto Bee article

Home Depot confirms data breach, which may have started in April  – Home Depot Inc. confirmed that its payment data systems had been breached, saying that its investigation is stretching back as far as April. The Atlanta home improvement chain said Monday the breach could affect customers who used credit or debit cards at its stores in the U.S. and Canada. So far, online shoppers and customers at its Mexico locations are not affected.  LA Times article

Riverbank leaders to discuss Mello-Roos taxes for new development – City leaders on Tuesday will discuss a new way for new development to pay for itself. Also on the City Council agenda are a garbage rate analysis and a recommendation to charge more money for the Halloween Haunted Hayride, Tot Time events, and basketball, soccer and tennis programs.  Modesto Bee article

UC Davis, China sign pact to speed development of electric vehicles – The University of California, Davis, and the China Automotive Technology and Research Center will work to speed commercialization of plug-in and fuel-cell electric vehicles in China and the United States, under an agreement signed Saturday in the Chinese city Tianjin.  Sacramento Bee article

Lee looking to boost business ties between San Francisco, Latin America – Mayor Ed Lee is saying bienvenidos to Latin America. Lee, on a two-day trade mission to Mexico City, will announce Tuesday the launch of LatinSF, an economic development program designed to promote business ties between San Francisco and Latin America.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Merced Oks homeowner loan program for energy-, water-efficient improvements – A loan program aimed to help residents add energy-efficient upgrades to their Merced homes could also benefit the city’s goals to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and water waste, according to city leaders.  Merced Sun-Star article

Twitter rolling out ‘buy’ button; impulse shoppers beware – Impulse shopping online got a little easier Monday with Twitter’s announcement that it will begin testing a “buy” button on tweets. The San Francisco-based company plans to gradually roll out a product that will enable users to make purchases with just a few taps.  LA Times article

San Francisco supervisor aims to phase out fleet, use car sharing – Those rows of white Toyota Priuses with San Francisco municipal logos on the side will be a thing of the past by 2027, with city workers instead using vehicles from car-sharing services like Zipcar or City CarShare.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Lew pushes Congress for action on corporate offshore tax ‘inversions’ – The Obama administration is close to finishing an evaluation into executive action to make a recent rise in corporate offshore tax shifting “less economically appealing,” but the best way to limit the maneuver is with legislation, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said Monday.  LA Times article

Downtown San Francisco developers prepared to sue city over tax district – Downtown property owners say they are preparing to sue the city over a proposed tax district that’s a key part of paying for the extension of Caltrain into the $4.5 billion Transbay Transit Center at First and Mission streets.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Bills regulating state’s groundwater not an instant fix for aquifers – California is finally about to join the rest of the West in regulating groundwater supplies. But the package of bills awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature is not an instant fix for the state’s shrinking, over-pumped aquifers.  LA Times article

How to drive home the drought message: Make it a game – If you’ve watched your neighbor “watering her sidewalk” or wrung your hands at the sight of agricultural runoff, now is your chance to allocate the state’s water resources. A new online game lets California residents control the state’s water — virtually, at least. From desalination investment to mandatory water reductions, the California Water Challenge lets users choose a range of outcomes and see how others voted.  KQED report

California drought forces farmers to adapt – While the situation is grim, it has pushed area farmers to adapt, by using new irrigation methods and crops that require less water — like grapes.  KPBS report

Bursting from its shell – Federal farm officials predict a record-cracking walnut crop for California; pegging this coming fall harvest at 545,000 tons, up 11 percent from last year’s 492,000 tons, and 8 percent larger than the previous record, tallied in 2010, of 504,000 tons.  Stockton Record article

Quake-revived streams could keep flowing for a while – The resurgence of Dry Creek is just one of many similar stories that have arisen since the August 24 quake that struck the Napa Valley and damaged buildings in at least three significant North Bay cities. But the underground dynamics that started it all are complicated and not nearly as clear as the crystalline water bubbling up from below.  KQED report

Plans for big water slide in downtown LA adjusted to address drought worries – A proposal to set up a 1,000-foot water slide on a downtown L.A. street has been altered to address the concerns of those who say expending thousands of gallons of water is inappropriate during a protracted drought.  LA Times article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Missing M16s not loose in the community, Stockton police say – Late last month, reports surfaced that the Stockton Police Department had lost two M16 assault rifles. Monday, the department admitted the report is true. A spokeswoman said the department does not believe the military grade weapons are loose in the community. Rather, they were unaccounted for two years ago during an audit and may be in a department vehicle or locker, she said.  Stockton Record article

Domestic violence pervasive in Fresno, statistics show – Domestic violence cases like the one that has put NFL running back Ray Rice in the headlines are an everyday occurrence in Fresno. In 2012, the most recent year that complete statistics are available, there were more than 6,000 such cases reported to the Fresno Police Department, ranging from vandalism to attempted murder. Officers responded to incidents that took place anywhere from a homeless encampment to an exclusive gated community.  Fresno Bee article

Shelton makes history at Merced County Sheriff’s Department – A Merced native made history Monday, becoming the first black person to attain the rank of sergeant in the nearly 160-year history of the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.  Merced Sun-Star article

Ferguson protests the impetus for Q&A with Merced police chief, NAACP – In the wake of protests in Ferguson, Mo., a coalition that is less than a month old is planning a forum to talk about safe demonstrations in Merced.  Merced Sun-Star article

Dreams come true as Stanislaus County sheriff swears in six new officers – With the addition of the three new deputies, the department’s patrol operations are now just four positions short of the 119 deputies allocated.  Stockton Record article


Colleges reject charge that freshman reading lists have political bias – Freshmen at colleges around the country for years have been assigned to read the same books as a way to bond at orientation and to encourage intellectual interactions rather than just social ones. But this year, some of the reading selections are coming under attack.  LA Times article

Lori Coleman: New CSU Stanislaus program to boost kids, region – The Turlock resident writes, “Hoping to capture many of these benefits for its students, CSU Stanislaus recently launched One Purpose , an annual fundraising campaign . The goal of One Purpose is a $1 million scholarship fund to recognize high-achieving students and invest in their success. Using the team concept, more than 300 volunteers from the university’s six-county area will work to raise money through Oct. 9.”  Coleman op-ed in Modesto Bee

UCLA tops USC in college rankings, with Caltech in top 10 – UCLA edged out USC in U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of university rankings, and another local campus, Caltech, once again cracked the top 10 in the widely anticipated survey.  LA Times article

Top colleges that enroll rich, middle class and poor – To see which selective colleges are doing the most, and the least, to change the situation, The Upshot has analyzed data for every college with a four-year graduation rate of at least 75 percent. We combined data on enrollment and tuition costs to measure how hard each college is trying to attract and graduate poor and middle-class students. The result is our College Access Index.  New York Times article

Hazing incidents at Taft High School led to game’s cancellation – The fallout from two incidents characterized Monday by Taft Union High School officials as “hazing” continued to spread as at least five football players were suspended from school and the football coach placed on paid administrative leave.  Bakersfield Californian article‘Bryan Oliver attorney: Alleged hazing shows ongoing pattern of bullying at Taft High’ in Bakersfield Californian

Yard duties at Modesto elementary campuses get union representation – Yard-duty supervisors at Modesto City elementary schools will join school secretaries and bus drivers as union employees, and will likely see a raise in the future. The Modesto City Schools Board voted unanimously Monday to move forward with negotiating wages and benefits for the approximately 150 employees affected.  Modesto Bee article

Hot lunch debate as Bay Area schools goes meatless on Mondays – Mondays have become meat free in hundreds of school cafeterias across the Bay Area, a move praised by animal rights activists and environmentalists and condemned by the livestock industry for pushing politics into the lunch line.  San Francisco Chronicle article

College Night Fair targets foster students – Bakersfield High School junior Sarah Mans packed a yellow plastic resource bag with college brochures Monday at the 15th annual Kern County College Night. The three-hour-long College Night at Rabobank Convention Center attracted 116 colleges and universities, and between 6,000 and 8,000 attendees.  Bakersfield Californian article


Yosemite fire burns 2,600 acres, but rain, cooler weather help firefighters – Approximately 2,600 acres have burned in Little Yosemite Valley on either side of the Merced River. It is thought to be from a spot fire from a lightning-caused burn, dubbed the Meadow fire, which started in mid-July. Around 185 hikers — 100 from Little Yosemite Valley and 85 from the Half Dome summit — were safely evacuated Sunday night and relocated to other lodging areas.  Fresno Bee article

Earth Log:  Nobody’s house is in the middle of all ozone problems – Even though this week’s clouds and sprinkles may have kept pollution down briefly, ozone has made a comeback in September. Six of the first seven days had ozone problems. But did you experience the ozone comeback at your house? If you live in Clovis or Arvin, yes. If you live in northwest Fresno or Visalia, not so much.  Fresno Bee article

California has 100,000 plug-in cars, and counting – Cumulative sales of plug-in electric cars in California have surpassed 100,000, industry experts announced Monday.  U-T San Diego article

Algae stinking up Stockton waterfront – With optimistic eyes and a keen imagination, parts of the Deep Water Channel might evoke thoughts of a soupy pesto sprinkled with occasional wedges of blue cheese, and a few leafy greens cropping up every now and again. But only a person with a completely impaired sense of smell would allow such culinary reveries to linger for more than a millisecond, because in certain spots along Stockton’s picturesque downtown waterfront it out-and-out reeks.  Stockton Record article

California aquaculture companies explore sustainable fish farming – California has some of the strictest environmental protection laws for fish farming in the country. But so far, the state’s aquaculture industry is embryonic. It added up to just $175 million in total value last year, said Randy Lovell, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife aquaculture coordinator.  KQED report

Investigators fault PG&E’s contractor selection for Bakersfield demolition fatality – State investigators faulted Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s selection of a Covina-based contractor to lead the ill-fated demolition of a former power plant on Coffee Road, including overlooking data on workplace injuries.  Bakersfield Californian article

Often overlooked, brick chimneys pose hazards in quakes – Although brick chimneys have received little attention from seismic safety experts — overshadowed by more life-threatening issues such as unreinforced masonry and older concrete-frame buildings — they account for the most common form of damage during larger California quakes.  LA Times article

Half of North American bird species threatened by climate change – Half of all bird species in North America — including the bald eagle — are at risk of severe population decline by 2080 if the swift pace of global warming continues, the National Audubon Society concluded in a study released Monday.  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

Details of autism benefits – like provider rates – coming after rollout – At the first stakeholder meeting last week to review California’s new autism Medi-Cal coverage, state health officials said many details have yet to be worked out. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program. New benefits, which include coverage of applied behavior analysis — also known as ABA therapy — begin next week. Department of Health Care Services officials said many details — including the crucial figure of what the reimbursement rates will be — still need to be worked out. Rates will be discussed at the next stakeholder meeting Oct. 16, officials said.  KQED report

UC Davis study breaks ground on early intervention for infants showing signs of autism – Results of the three-year study, released Monday, tested the merits of a new parent-driven intervention for infants showing symptoms of autism. The study showed a significant reduction in those symptoms for six of the seven infants enrolled, including Noah. His mother called the chance to participate “a big blessing.” Sacramento Bee article

Virus poses particular danger to kids with asthma; cases in 12 states – A rare virus that threatens respiratory systems has sickened hundreds of children in Kansas City, Mo., and and Chicago and could be responsible for far more cases in about a dozen states, national health officials said Monday.  LA Times article

UCSF’s first undocumented medical student begins training – I first met Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn a little over two years ago. He was completing his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley and had dreams of going to medical school. But he had no idea if he’d ever get there. Latthivongskorn is an undocumented immigrant. His parents brought him to the U.S. from Thailand on a tourist visa when he was 9 years old, and the family never left.  KQED report

Land Use/Housing

Visalia delays General Plan vote – The Visalia City Council didn’t quite get around to approving a new General Plan Update Monday night. Instead, after about three-and-a-half hours of discussion and comments by several members of the public, the five council members voted unanimously to continue the special City Council meeting to October 6.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Kit fox death runs up cost of highway project – The death of an endangered San Joaquin kit fox on Highway 178 in late June — possibly because of the historic statewide drought — could cost the city more than $33,000, the Bakersfield City Council will learn Wednesday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Other Areas

Hanford’s Clark Center will close in 2015 – The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture in Hanford, which for 20 years has provided world-class exhibitions, will close in July — three years earlier than expected. But when it closes, the center’s celebrated collection of 88 trees are headed for Woodward Park’s Shinzen Friendship Garden.  Fresno Bee articleHanford Sentinel article

Milt Younger: It’s time to get serious about distracted driving accidents – The Bakersfield attorney writes, “A recent study out of the University of Colorado, Boulder, seems to be giving opponents of California’s cell phone and texting-while-driving bans reason to cheer. But as an attorney who has represented clients who suffered enormously as a result of distracted drivers — one lost both of his legs and the other is still trying to recover from massive injuries — I am not cheering.”  Younger op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Hanford YMCA building sold – Four months after the Kings County YMCA closed its doors, the Hanford facility at 1010 W. Grangeville Blvd. has been sold. David Hembree, interim CEO for Golden State YMCA, said he could not disclose what the buyer intend to use the property for.  Hanford Sentinel article

Whistleblower investigations find problems at Animal Care Center and Fire Department – The Sacramento City Auditor says his office is receiving so many whistleblower complaints, he needs more staff to keep up.  Capital Public Radio report

Firm likely to get retroactive approval to demolish Earle – When the city-owned Earle Hotel burned in June, it slowed traffic for neighboring downtown businesses in the weeks that followed as the building was knocked down and the rubble was cleared. But not everyone saw some of their money go up in smoke.  Stockton Record article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Video forces NFL to finally do the right thing.

Merced Sun-Star – California voters deserve another ride on the debate train in gubernatorial race.

Modesto Bee – California voters deserve another ride on the debate train in gubernatorial race.

Sacramento Bee – Arnold Schwarzenegger donates a pumped-up selfie; It seems there’s always a perfectly good reason not to fix our broken immigration system.

Stockton Record – Cheers and jeers on water meters, touchdown catches, bicycles and more.