Harder acquires money for homeless veterans
With homeless numbers rising to an all-time high and veterans especially vulnerable, Congressman Josh Harder was able to acquire almost $150,000 for 15 veteran families in Stanislaus County. Harder has made several visits to local homeless camps and has been especially focused on getting help for homeless veterans and their families. The current administration had eliminated funding for homeless veterans before Harder and others successfully worked to reinstate the money. Read more here.
Devin Nunes falls down the Trump hole
From the very beginning of the Trump administration, Devin Nunes made it clear that his loyalty to the Grifter in Chief was absolute. It now appears that Nunes may even have been, or at least attempted to have been, an accomplice in the Trump/Giuliani extortion scheme to fabricate dirt on Joe Biden. Lev Parnas, Giuliani’s connection to Ukraine, claims Nunes met former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin in Vienna late last year attempting to further the bogus Biden corruption story Trump is so eager to promote. Nunes, in typical Trump mode, won’t answer questions about Parnas’s allegations. Instead, he’s trying to shoot the media messengers. As things now stand, it looks like Nunes has been more than willing to join Donald Trump’s parade of liars and extortionists. Read more here.
AG bill would protect farmers and farmworkers
Reliable estimates suggest almost a quarter million of California’s farm workers are undocumented immigrants. Congressmen Josh Harder and TJ Cox have sponsored a bill that would lead to citizenship for farmworkers with a history of steady employment. The bill is among a few current California proposals that enjoy bipartisan support. Given the Trump administration’s hostility toward immigrants in general, many farmers have found it harder to find the workers they need, especially during times of harvest. The new bill would protect farmers and farmworkers by providing legal status for undocumented workers until they achieve citizenship. Full story here.
Local districts proposing another water sale to San Francisco?
A credible report from a source described only as “a whistleblower” claims representatives from three local water districts met on October 29 to discuss a water sale to San Francisco. The meeting included Steve Knell, General Manager from Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) and Tom Orvis, Chairman of the OID Board of Directors. When the Modesto Irrigation District (MID) proposed a water sale to San Francisco a few years ago, the fallout resulted in the departure of MID’s General Manager and an almost clean sweep of MID’s Board of Directors. Read the whistleblower’s story here.
Hundreds of thousands of acres to be fallowed
While Valley farmers and water agencies have a twenty year window to achieve groundwater sustainability, restrictions on pumping will actually begin next year. Gary Serrato, former General Manager of the Fresno Irrigation District, said recently that he expects “between 800,000 and 1,000,000 acres” to come out of production throughout the Central Valley. Most of the lost acreage will be in the San Joaquin Valley, where groundwater pumping has caused severe subsidence and continues to pose serious problems for infrastructure stability. Farmers without access to surface water are likely to face the most severe restrictions. Read more here.
Denham, McCarthy, and Valadao received Ukraine money
Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao, two recipients of money from donors now accused of violating campaign finance laws, say they will divest themselves of the money they received from Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. McCarthy said he plans to return the money, an odd response, since it in may end up back in the hands of the accused donors. Even odder is Valadao’s promise to give the money to charity. Doesn’t this amount to using the money to benefit his revived campaign after a loss to TJ Cox? So far, no word from Jeff Denham, who lost his place in Congress to Josh Harder, about his plans for the tainted money. Read more here.
Democrats fail to endorse Costa
Valley delegates for the Democratic Party were split on whether to endorse incumbent Jim Costa or Esmeralda Soria, the Fresno City Councilmember who is challenging him from the left. Costa pulled 49.8% of the ballots on the first vote October 6, then had a two vote margin on the second round. In the end, neither candidate was able to achieve the 50% minimum required to be considered for official party endorsement. Soria’s supporters see her strong showing as a victory in the uphill battle to unseat the incumbent Costa. Read more here.
OtPR still the go-to on water and environment
Anyone mystified or wanting the most informed inside information on Governor Newsom’s veto of SB 1 and the multiple ramifications of the now-sanctified voluntary agreements from water districts in the San Joaquin Valley can check in on On the Public Record. Still our best source for cutting through the fog produced when political hot air gets mixed with water, OtPR has been especially keen of late, cutting through the bloated language of water barons and their government servants to reveal what’s really happening to the Public Trust. Read On the Public Record here.
Hallinan announces for Supervisor
Tom Hallinan, attorney for the City of Ceres and a Ceres resident, has announced he will run for Supervisor in Stanislaus County’s District 5, currently held by Jim DeMartini. Earlier this year, DeMartini announced he would be stepping down and moving out of the area. Hallinan enters the race a strong favorite, especially since Anthony Canella decided not to run. District 1 Supervisor Kristen Olsen is also stepping down, and at least four people will enter the race to replace her, including Modesto City Councilman Bill Zoslocki, Riverbank firefighter Buck Condit, Waterford Mayor Mike Van Winkle, and Oakdale School Board Member Diane Gilbert. Zoslocki should be the favorite in that race.
Marijuana and illegal drugs in Denham-owned building
Police found guns, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and butane hash oil in a building owned by a company in which former congressman Jeff Denham is a partner. Located in an industrial district in Turlock, the building is adjacent to a separate Denham-owned building used for Denham’s plastics business. There were at least 4,000 plants in the building which had apparently been up for sale to a group that planned to use it for a legal marijuana operation. Read the full story here.
Costa faces primary challengers
Conventional wisdom has always said the only way Valley Democrats can win is by leaning conservative. Thus, from Congressional District 9 on down to 23, either Republicans or “Blue Dog” (conservative) Democrats have held sway for years. But recent wins by Josh Harder in District 10 and TJ Cox in 21 may have presaged a transformation in the Valley’s long conservative tradition. Both Harder and Cox upset highly favored Republicans, and both ran as traditional Democrats, emphasizing kitchen-table issues like jobs, health care, education and equal opportunity. Now, in another sign that the times could be changing, Blue Dog Democrat Jim Costa is facing two Democratic challengers, Esmeralda Soria and Kim Williams, both of whom will run as mainstream Democrats in Costa’s 16th District. Soria in particular could present Costa’s most serious challenge in many years; she’s finishing her final term as a Fresno City Councilmember. Read more here.
Nunes sues Fresno Bee, McClatchy
Continuing a rampage of lawsuits, Congressman Devin Nunes has sued the Fresno Bee and its parent company, McClatchy. The suit alleges the Bee pursued a “scheme” to “defame” the congressman and “destroy his reputation.” Nunes has also sued the people who objected to him calling himself a farmer during his campaign for congress; he defeated Andrew Janz by a five percent margin. And just for good measure, he has sued Twitter. Ordinarily, the broad latitude of First Amendment rights protects media’s and private citizens’ rights to free speech, especially in matters of politics and government. But like Donald Trump, Congressman Nunes seems determined undermine those rights however he can. Read more here.
City of Modesto denies Straight Pride event permit
Citing the organization’s lack of liability insurance and safety concerns, the City of Modesto has denied the National Straight Pride Coalition permission to hold a parade and meeting in Modesto’s Graceada Park, site of famed Mancini Bowl and 100 years of summer concerts by the city’s volunteer-staffed MoBand. The application for a permit by the group dedicated to what it calls heterosexual Christian values ignited a firestorm of protests amid details that would strain credulity if featured in a daytime soap drama. Just for openers, one of the promoters’ son, who is gay, was given up for adoption by a member of the Modesto City Council, and, in an obvious rebuke to the Straight Pride Coalition’s attempts to demonize those who don’t fit the organizations strained definitions of “normal,” the famously reticent Gallo corporation issued a pointed announcement of its opposition to “divisiveness, hatred, or hostility.” Dozens of protestors were mobilized almost immediately upon learning of the coalition’s plans, and the city was faced with the problem of upholding First Amendment rights even for an organization that looks to many like a hate group. The City has offered an alternative venue, so the drama continues. Read more here.
Gallo takes the lead on community values
In a bold and unequivocal letter to employees at E&J Gallo, its leaders both repudiated the bogus pretenses of advocates of “Straight Pride,” and reaffirmed the values contained in the national motto, “E Pluribus Unum.” Gallo’s statement is yet one more indicator that no one is fooled by the thin garment of camouflage that supporters of Straight Pride hope will conceal the white supremacist values of an organization that isn’t just nativist and nationalist, but homophobic, bigoted, and hateful. Masterful in its controlled tone and due respect for First Amendment protections of speech, the letter is one of the strongest arguments yet for tolerance and inclusion, not just in the workplace, but in the broader community. The letter can be seen in full here, on the Gallo Facebook page.
Books, drugs, data and more
Sam Quinones’ Dreamland has been out since 2015. It’s still the best overview of the opioid epidemic anywhere—how it got started, how the pharmaceutical companies pushed it, and how gangsters capitalized on it with black tar heroin from Mexico. Now, the rest of the media world is catching up with Quinones and offering more specific detail about the mind-staggering extent of a marketing scheme that the drug pushers—aka Big Pharma—knew was resulting in financial ruin, addiction, and death. One of the more illuminating data sources is at The Washington Post. Readers and researchers can find out how many pills were pushed and by whom in their own states and counties. It’s fascinating stuff. Data for Stanislaus County are here. Other Valley counties and the nation’s entire data base are also available.
Turlock considering allowing homeless tent camp
Turlock city officials are considering allowing a homeless camp for a portion of the city’s estimated 250 homeless people. Though no one thinks allowing homeless people to camp in tents at designated sites is an ideal solution, it’s proving to be an effective interim solution for people who would otherwise be in downtown streets, neighborhood parks, and along our rivers, canals, and freeways. Like most other cities, Turlock is struggling with an order by the 9th Circuit Court, which ordered that people with nowhere else to go can’t be cited for sleeping in public places. Homeless encampments remain controversial, and the Turlock proposal is no exception. Read more here.
Bad as it is, Valley air is getting better
Even though air quality in the San Joaquin Valley ranks among the worst in the nation, it’s better than it used to be. In fact, a recent study argues that the reason the notorious Valley Tule Fog has almost disappeared in the northern part of the Valley is due to improved air quality. UC Berkeley scientists say the correspondence between air quality and fog explains why the fog is worse in the southern San Joaquin than farther north. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District says air quality has improved most noticeably over the last 15 years. Though it’s still a hazard to human health, the air does seem to be getting better. Read the Berkeley study here.
Fresno Grizzlies losing sponsors
The Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball team has lost at least two major sponsors because of an ad featuring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a group photo with Fidel Castro and Kim Jong Un. The group is described as “enemies of freedom.” Sun Maid, Tecate and Dos Equis have all disavowed the ad and severed ties with the Grizzlies. Tecate and Dos Equis are owned by Heineken. Spokespersons for the Grizzlies have said the ad was aired because of an employee error. Read the full story here.
Bad air costs Valley $6 billion
The southern San Joaquin Valley has the worst winter air particulate levels (PM2.5) and summer ozone levels in the United States. The northern part of the Valley is better, but still hazardous to health. The pollution has punishing effects on Valley residents in the form of high incidences of childhood asthma, heart and lung disease, and a host of other maladies. Over the last ten years, most regions in the U.S. have surpassed the Valley in measures of air quality improvement. Nonetheless, Republican Congressmen in the southern Valley have been trying to weaken Federal Clean Air standards since 2017. For a keen analysis, read Tom Frantz of the Fresno Community Alliance here.
Denham takes lobbying job
Turns out those rumors Jeff Denham would run again for congress in California’s District 10 were ill-founded. Denham has joined the hordes of other “retired” politicians and taken on a job as a lobbyist—the job description won’t be much different than his role as a congressman. Insiders think Denham will continue to work to bring water to wealthy political influencers in the southern San Joaquin Valley and offer advice on how to weaken or eliminate laws protecting wildlife and nature, most especially the Endangered Species Act. Denham will be working for K&L Gates, a global law firm as a “government affairs counselor.” Read more here.
Newsom administration bans popular pesticide
A pesticide used widely throughout the San Joaquin Valley has been banned by the Newsom administration. Chlorpyrifos, used on a range of crops including almonds, is believed to harm brain development in babies. Recently, the Trump administration has sought to lift restrictions on the popular pesticide imposed during the Obama administration, but California will phase it out over the next two years and disallow aerial spraying in the interim. Read more here.
Homeless count keeps growing
Stanislaus County’s “Focus on Prevention” program is five years old now. The program was initiated to prevent and reduce homelessness. The latest “point in time” count, conducted in January, showed 1923 homeless people, a record since the count began. The previous high was 1800. That was in 2009, during the Great Recession. Even though this year’s count has more volunteers and better methodology, insiders are saying it is still too low. Despite what is being touted as an economic boon, homeless numbers keep increasing, despite attempts to reduce them. Read the full story here.
Stapley scorches Modesto Irrigation District
Some of us lamented Garth Stapley’s promotion to Editor of the Modesto Bee’s Editorial page, not because we thought Stapley didn’t deserve the job but because we lamented the loss of the Bee’s best reporter. Turns out Stapley is still on task as a superb investigative reporter. Stapley’s long investigation of the Modesto Irrigation District’s favoritism in billing has another chapter, this time on the Editorial Page. As usual, it’s a fact-filled look at the very questionable billing practices of an agency that should be serving the public interest, but isn’t. Read Garth Stapley’s fine report here.
Denham to run again?
Former California Congressional District 10 Representative Jeff Denham is amassing a war chest and appears prepared to run again against incumbent and Turlock native Josh Harder. Republican Ted Howze, who was eliminated during the primary campaign in 2018, has already announced his candidacy. Both Denham and Howze promoted theories that the general election last November was tainted by illegal votes. After a difficult primary that included a field of powerful Democrats, Harder went on to beat Denham by almost 10,000 votes in the general election. Though he’s already raised more money than any other Democratic representative in the nation, Harder will almost certainly face a well-funded candidate as Republicans are desperate to regain a seat in a region they controlled until Harder and TJ Cox scored upset victories over favored incumbents. Read more here.
Harder slams DeVos for hypocrisy
Newly elected Representative for California’s Congressional District 10 Josh Harder hasn’t wasted any time getting to work. He’s already made more high profile visits to his district than former rep Jeff Denham did over a year’s time, and Harder has also been promoting legislation that would help Valley citizens. He’s fighting hard for the issues he said he would, including education. And in a recent video, he slams Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for her hypocrisy while cutting literacy programs. Read more here.
Selling out to Westlands Water District
Donald Trump’s acting Secretary of the Interior is David Bernhardt, former lobbyist for Westlands Water District and dedicated foe of sustainable fishing and farming. The Trump administration’s plan for the San Joaquin Delta and San Joaquin Valley rivers is to ruin them so Westlands corporate farmers can continue growing nuts for export. The plan isn’t just a threat to endangered species, it puts sensitive salmon populations on the fast track to extinction and treats our rivers as little more than irrigation ditches. Read more here.
Naramsen Goriel steps up to power
After many years of suppression and silence, the Valley’s young immigrants and minorities are speaking up. Naramsen Goriel’s recent comments in the Modesto Bee are the latest sign that a new generation of Valley citizens isn’t afraid to speak truth to power. Inspired in part by the Women’s March, Goriel has realized the value of standing strong against the divisive tactics of Donald Trump and his allies. Trump’s fear-mongering grows and gains strength when good citizens fail to oppose it, and it weakens when they challenge it. Read Mr. Goriel’s comments here.
Susan Eggman to run for senate
Susan Talamantes Eggman, current Assembly representative for California’s 13th District, has decided to run for State Senate after all. Only last year she announced she had decided not to run in part because of the poor health of her spouse, who had surgery for a spinal tumor. Current 5th District Senator Cathleen Galgiani terms out next year and has pulled papers to run for state controller in 2022. Eggman has been a very popular Assemblywoman and will be a favorite for Senate out of the gate. Read more here.
Harder hits the right note (again)
Most anyone who followed Josh Harder’s brilliant campaign last year knew he would apply tremendous energy and focus once in congress—he’s one of those people whose cruising speed is several levels above the recommended maximum. But Josh Harder also has a special gift for zeroing in on problems that need fixing and doing his best to fix them. His latest project is an effort to expose the pernicious effects of lobbying on government funding. In a recent OP/ED, Harder vows to make government funding more open and more directed to actually helping people rather than a few narrow interest groups. Read Harder’s note from inside Congress here.
“The threat of climate change is both ominous and abstract”
Congressman Jerry McNerney in California’s 9th District is one of our most-informed leaders on energy and climate. An engineer and former consultant for traditional energy utilities as well as clean power sources, McNerney is well-versed in the science and economics of energy and climate change. While he doesn’t get as much national attention as some proponents of clean energy and aggressive strategies to address climate change, McNerney offers some of the soundest reasoning on the political, scientific, and economic consequences of failure to act now. His recent article in The Humanist is a must-read for anyone who wishes to well-informed and up-to-date on the looming catastrophe of climate change. Read it here.
Harder stands firm
Despite what many believe is a risky position, Josh Harder is standing tall on his campaign promise to support Medicare for All. So-called “Blue Dog” Democrats, including Fresno’s Jim Costa, are still claiming the costs outweigh the benefits. But if Josh Harder understands anything, he understands economics. He’s got a degree from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard. What Harder knows and the Blue Dogs won’t admit is we already pay more for health care than any other industrialized nation. Medicare for All will actually save us money. Read more here.
Time to lose half a million acres of farmland?
While insiders have been saying for years that the realities of water supplies should dictate how much land we farm, public discussion rarely ensued. Now, realistic proposals for fallowing farmland are finally out in the open. The Public Policy Institute of California has released a study arguing that we should fallow 500,000 acres of farmland if we wish to manage water supplies fairly and efficiently. While the proposal to fallow that many acres is certain to be controversial and even inflammatory, it’s long past time to face water realities and address them with sustainable policies. Read more here.
Despite decades of talk and proposals to do something about it, air pollution is still a major threat to public health in the San Joaquin Valley, even in the northern portion, where Modesto and Merced routinely rank in the top ten cities in concentrations of particulate matter. One of the major polluters, Chevron Incorporated, continues to do business with little restraint from penalties and only occasional bad publicity. Severe asthma, high incidences of lung cancer, and shortened life spans apparently aren’t reasons enough to clean up our bad air. Read more here.
Newsom tosses tunnels
In a radical departure from the vision of Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom has rejected the California Water Fix and its plan for Twin Tunnels. Instead, Newsom favors one tunnel and a holistic approach to growing demands for water during a period of climate change and uncertain water supplies. Environmentalists have so far been optimistic about the new approach which represents a blow to southern California water interests as well as to corporate AG in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Read more here.
Harder forwards bi-partisan bill for vets
Despite lip service to veterans, both political parties have failed to provide them adequate compensation for the harm many suffer in service to their country. Mental illness is especially rampant among vets, and too seldom acknowledged as a factor in divorce, bankruptcy and homelessness. Now, in the very first weeks of his term, Congressman Josh Harder has pushed and passed a bill that would provide significant help for mentally ill vets and their families. “The Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act allows veterans and their families to access free childcare when they use VA Medical Centers and Clinics.” Harder’s bill makes it easier for vets to access care and provides timely support for their children as well. Read more here.
Latino vote made a difference
Despite conspiracy theories from the likes of Ted Howze and Donald Trump, November’s surge of Democrat wins is easily explained by one word—turnout. And a key factor in turnout was the Latino vote. For years, and especially in the San Joaquin Valley, insiders have despaired at getting out the Latino vote. Even popular astronaut Jose Hernandez didn’t inspire Latinos in his 2012 run for Congress. But in 2018, Latinos came out in record numbers. Some attribute the turnout to the “Trump Effect,” but Democrats also devoted tremendous effort to getting out the Latino vote, an effort they will need to sustain to stay in office. Read more here.
RIP Dr. Allen
Charles Van Dyn (CV) Allen was one of Modesto’s quietest but most influential movers and shakers for decades. He got less recognition than most because he was modest, operated in a field that for many years got little attention, and preferred moderate progress to radical bombast. Today, health care is on the front burner of attention, but Dr. Allen was a pioneer in realizing decades ago that the San Joaquin Valley didn’t just need good doctors, it needed to find a way to lower health care costs. He did everything he could to address both problems; he was a major force in the establishment of the Memorial Medical Center as a non-profit and he recruited hundreds of doctors to Modesto from all over the United States. Though modest, he was not afraid to take a firm and public stand for truth, and did so as late as last fall, when he called out Congressman Jeff Denham for misleading statements about health care. One of Modesto’s greatest contributors to community welfare, Dr. Allen died on January 19. Read more here.
Bee doubts Berryhill can serve
In a powerful editorial, the Modesto Bee suggests newly-elected Stanislaus County Supervisor Tom Berryhill should step down. Berryhill, who has been absent from public view for most of the last year, recently broke his hip and has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He had a heart transplant in 2006. Berryhill missed well over half the votes over his last couple of years as an Assemblyman in Sacramento. Given the need for a pro-active supervisor in Berryhill’s critical District 4, the Bee has a point. Read more here.
Will OID double down on dumb?
Just off a big loss to the Oakdale Groundwater Alliance (OGA) in Fresno’s Appellate Court, Oakdale Irrigation District’s (OID) Board of Directors are apparently eager for another hefty payout to water attorney Tim O’Laughlin, followed by an almost certain defeat. OID Directors are considering suing the state for thwarting OID’s practice of abandoning its water rights so it can sell water to buyers far south of the San Joaquin Delta. The state has warned OID repeatedly that its tactics for water sales are clear violations of the rules, but OID refuses to learn its lesson. Just as was the case in the suit against the OGA, OID is looking at an almost certain loss and another big expense. Read more here.
Inside TJ’s big win
While Republicans from Paul Ryan on down to Jeff Denham and Ted Howze keep insisting there must have been dirty pool involved in the come-from-behind victories of Democrats like Josh Harder and TJ Cox, insiders knew all along that Harder and Cox applied relatively simple tactics to bring about their upset wins. First and foremost, both Harder and Cox were gluttons for work. Second, both had superb ground games, mostly because they inspired hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers to help them get out the vote. Of course, there were other factors as well. For an inside look at TJ’s stirring comeback from way down in the vote, here’s a great story.
Josh Harder close up
The Modesto Bee has two excellent reports on Josh Harder, the recently elected representative for California Congressional District 10. Harder surprised many local political insiders when he upset incumbent Jeff Denham, but in retrospect his combination of high intelligence, drive, and dedication to public service became more and more obvious the longer he campaigned. Garth Stapley’s excellent report offers more than just a glimpse of Harder’s private life, and Harder explains some of his goals for the district in a well-edited Bee video. Read Stapley’s report and watch the video here.
Cox trims Valadao’s lead to 447 votes
Though most everyone called the race in California Congressional District 21 well over a week ago, David Valadao’s seemingly insurmountable lead over TJ Cox has dwindled to 447 votes. Shortly after Election Day, Valadao led by almost 5,000 votes and was declared the winner. Every update since then has cut into his lead and the latest updates have cut it significantly. There is still uncertainty over exactly how many votes are left to count, but it’s clear there are thousands. Nate Silver has predicted the vote could be decided by as few as 100 votes. Read more here.
Another drought threatens Valley drinking water
During the drought years of 2012-2016, the state recorded over 2500 failed wells. There were probably more that weren’t reported. A recent report shows that in the event of another drought—a near certainty—wells in the eastern San Joaquin Valley are among those most likely to fail. Domestic wells that provide drinking water for homeowners and small communities are especially threatened as they are typically drilled to much shallower depths than agricultural wells. As is the case with fires, well failures are associated with higher temperatures, which are widely seen as signs of global warming. A new study urges pro-active responses now. Read more here.
More Denham lies
Over the last couple of weeks, supporters of Jeff Denham have gotten ever more desperate. First, there was the appearance of a group of raucous “Proud Boys” at the Josh Harder Ag Roundtable in Hughson. These guys made the category “drunken lout” a step up. Then came a stream of bogus letters to the editor, easily exposed by the Modesto Bee’s Mike Dunbar. But then the letters kept coming, including a bogus letter complaining about Dunbar’s exposure of bogus letters! We’ve known all along that Jeff Denham lies about water and health care. Now it looks like the habit is contagious and has been taken up by his supporters. Read Mike Dunbar’s latest exposure of Denham supporters’ lies here.
Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Endorses Harder
When she announced that the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare had officially endorsed Josh Harder, Catherine Dodd added that Harder had filled out a complicated questionnaire and received an A+. “Jeff Denham received an “F,” she said on October 24. Dodd was in Modesto not just to endorse Harder, but to sound the alarm about the Republican attack on Social Security and Medicare. She said that, “This is the closest we’ve come to losing Social Security and Medicare.” Dodd said that the Republican Party’s attempts to balance tax cuts for the wealthy with cuts to Social Security and Medicare were a serious threat and noted that Jeff Denham votes consistently to slash Medicare funding.
Silver now showing Harder at 72.2% probability
Statistician extraordinaire Nate Silver will be the first to admit that polling isn’t always accurate. That’s one reason he adds what he calls “non-polling factors” into his mix of predictions and probabilities. Silver’s latest prediction for California Congressional District 10 has Josh Harder with a 72.2% probability of winning. Jeff Denham is at 27.8%. While there have been few polls altogether, recent polling suggests Harder is pulling away from Denham. Read Silver’s latest report here.
Senior citizens favor Harder by large margin
One of the most reliable demographics to vote consistently, senior citizens are also among the most informed on current events and issues. And in California’s Congressional District 10, senior citizens favor Turlock native Josh Harder over Republican incumbent Jeff Denham by 17 points, according to a survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The survey of 601 respondents showed Harder with 51% and Denham at 34% with the remaining voters unsure or refusing to say. The survey has a margin of error at 4% and is in line with more recent surveys showing Josh Harder pulling ahead of Jeff Denham. See the survey results here.
Josh Harder raising record dollars
Democratic candidates in general are raising record-breaking sums around the nation, but candidate for Congress in California’s Congressional District 10 Josh Harder has entered the stratosphere. Only Kentucky’s Amy McGrath has raised more than Harder. She’s at $3.65 million for last quarter. Harder was right behind her at $3.5 million. Those are numbers more typical of Senate races, and could bode well for Democrats in the upcoming elections in November. But Republicans aren’t likely to let Democrats run away with the election, either. Rumors are that Harder’s opponent, Jeff Denham, will receive a $6 million boost from the Republican Party, in hopes he can hold his seat in congress against the up-and-coming young challenger from Turlock. Read more here.
Jeff Denham largest beneficiary of money from indicted congressman
Even though Congressman Duncan Hunter has been indicted on corruption charges for using campaign money to pay personal expenses, Jeff Denham is still refusing to return the money Hunter donated to his campaign. Hunter is another of the southern California Republicans supporting Denham’s efforts to fast track the Delta Tunnels and make it easier to send northern California water south. Hunter’s PAC, “Peace Through Strength,” donated money to three congressman, with Jeff Denham receiving the largest amount. Read more here.
Is Jeff Denham afraid of Josh Harder?
People who saw first-hand Jeff Denham’s bizarre outbursts of shouting, interruptions, and failures to address questions during the September 22 debate with Josh Harder are wondering whether the candidate from Turlock has Denham unnerved. How else to explain Jeff Denham’s bizarre behavior, which resembled a pre-teen trying to cover for stealing from his mother’s change purse after being caught red-handed? He was very close to a rolling fit. Very early on, Denham’s stage presence went from puzzling to embarrassing. He did not look, act, or sound like a public official. He was undignified, uninformed, and unhinged. Unfortunately for Jeff Denham, it’s all on tape. Watch the video here.
Berryhill owes voters an appearance
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but on the same day Frank Damrell swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco to help raise $50,000 for hydrocephalus research, a Modesto Bee editorial noted that Tom Berryhill hasn’t been seen in public in weeks. Even before he announced his run for supervisor, there were rumors about his health. But now that we’re in the final weeks of the race for supervisor in Stanislaus County’s District 4 between Damrell and Berryhill, Berryhill owes it to voters to at least make an appearance and assure people he’s healthy enough for the job. He hasn’t campaigned at all and there are rumors he’s suffered a broken hip. Berryhill had a heart transplant in 2001, and appeared healthy afterward, but his absence from public view when he should be visible has caused increasing concern. Read the Bee editorial here.
Harder speaks truth on water
It didn’t take Josh Harder long to figure out Jeff Denham’s true loyalties on water. Congressman Denham has been working with his buddies David Valadao and Devin Nunes to send northern California water south for years. Now, the state is trying to take our water to make up for the deficit caused by Big Ag in the southern San Joaquin Valley. We need a congressman who is working for us, not his donors from out of the district. Read Josh Harder’s most recent stand on water here.
Denham votes “yea”
Jeff Denham is still telling people he’s against the Delta tunnels, but on July 19 he voted “yea” on H.R. 6147. That’s the bill with a rider that prevents lawsuits against the tunnels. Oh, and there’s another rider that prevents litigation against water projects in general. If all this sounds confusing, don’t let it. It’s right in line with Denham’s claims to fix immigration. Republicans, after promising to vote on immigration reform before the midterm elections, just decided not to. What does all this tell us? It’s election time for Jeff Denham, that’s what. See Denham’s vote here.
Denham gets called out
July 20, representatives from the Sierra Club, Friends of the River, Indian tribes and Restore the Delta held a press conference outside Jeff Denham’s Modesto office and criticized Denham for his implicit support of the Delta tunnels and attempts to eliminate due process for California water projects. Denham has been telling local constituents he’s against sending water south at the same time he’s supporting Republican friends like David Valadeo in their attempts to bring more water south via Delta tunnels. Read the press release here.
Harder’s endorsements soar
Josh Harder’s campaign continues to garner coveted endorsements, with the latest coming from the Modesto Bee and Dr. CV Allen, one of Modesto’s most highly regarded citizens and an early force in the establishment of Modesto’s Memorial Hospital. Dr. Allen has written Bee OP/ED columns critical of our current health care system and was persuaded Josh Harder is the best congressional candidate to work on a fix. The Bee editorial endorsed Harder over several other candidates while ripping Michael Eggman for claiming to be a “local farmer” when he actually sold his farm last year. Read the Bee editorial here.
Stop Westlands’ war on Valley environment now
Westlands Water District’s war on the environment began the day the largest water district in the United States was formed. The really fascinating aspect of the history of Westlands is that it has always had very few water rights. But the lack of water rights hasn’t stopped Westlands from grabbing water from those who do have water rights through political chicanery at the highest levels. Though it’s been convicted of securities fraud and managed to dodge debts owed to taxpayers for decades, The San Luis Drainage Resolution Act (HR 1769) would be the biggest opportunity yet for Westlands to steal water, pollute the environment, and avoid paying what it owes to American taxpayers. Read to the whole story here, and be sure to contact your Senators.
More Enron accounting in water
Hard on the heels of the Westlands Water District financial scandal comes another. California state controller Betty Yee has announced multiple improprieties after a review of the nearby Panoche Water District’s administration. Perks for employees included free housing, tickets to A’s and Raiders’ games, and items from the Ralph Lauren fashion line. The really mind-boggling number is $3 billion dollars in public money was likely involved since January, 2015. Full story here.
Flows are not just about salmon
Too many Valley citizens have bought into the people versus salmon story, where every drop of river water gets dedicated to saving a few fish. The real story is more complicated, but absolutely necessary to understand if we’re to get the most public benefit out of our water. Think it’s only about fish? Think again; we have an entire bay and coastal ecosystem at stake. Read more here.
San Joaquin will flow
For the first time in more than sixty years, the San Joaquin River is expected to flow year-round in 2017. The restored flows are the result of a decades-long lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council and part of an effort to restore salmon runs along the river. The San Joaquin spans three-hundred sixty miles and is California’s second longest river. At one time, half a million salmon used the San Joaquin, which was once deep enough to support cargo-filled paddleboats. Read more here.
Is Fresno the new Flint?
In certain sections of town, Fresno homeowners complained for years about the dirty water coming from their taps. Like many Valley residents, they worried about the sporadic discharges of brown and smelly water that came from their faucets and shower heads and were frustrated when public officials were slow to respond. Now that the Public Utilities Department has begun testing the discolored water, technicians are discovering high levels of lead in some of the water. Read the developing story here.
More OID Conflicts?
The closer you look at the Oakdale Irrigation District’s (OID) reliance on outside water sales, the more you find a tangled web of hidden agendas, outright secrecy, and conflicts of interest. Now it appears OID Director Gary Osmundsen may be involved in another conflict involving the district’s fallowing program. OID is also offering sweetheart loans to a select group of farmers. Seems OID hasn’t learned from its sweetheart deal with Trinitas Partners. See the latest at Protect Oakdale’s Water.
Westlands: Enron of water?
Westlands Water District, one of Oakdale Irrigation District’s favorite water buyers, has been fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for “misrepresentations and omissions” in a 2012 bond sale. Turns out the country’s largest water district has decided it can’t afford to pay for its share of the Delta tunnels project. The SEC decision says Westlands misled buyers with inaccurate representations of debt ratios. Read more here.
Stapley opens door on water sale
It didn’t take Modesto Bee reporter Garth Stapley long to ferret out a few more details on the Oakdale Irrigation District’s (OID) secret water sale. Stapley also got some reactions and comments from local farmers and political leaders, none of whom were pleased about the water district’s back room deal. Read Garth Stapley’s report here.
Update on OID water sale
The Manteca Bulletin has the most complete story yet available on the Oakdale Irrigation District and South San Joaquin water sale. The sale is being touted as a boon to fish and farmers in the southern San Joaquin Valley. One issue that is sure to arise is the secrecy of the sale and whether it violated the Brown Act. The article says more water was available than the districts had estimated, but local farmers have insisted they knew OID had the water all the time. More here.
Worst water giveaway yet?
Westlands Water District has long held special status in the complex water rights hierarchy. No matter how junior its water rights, it somehow manages to acquire massive amounts of water even during droughts. Now the federal government has made yet another deal that amounts to a giveaway of a priceless public resource to private enterprise for even more environmental degradation. Read C-WIN’s summary here.
Westlands in secret water deal?
Friends of the River (FoR) has notified the Department of Justice and other federal agencies that it believes Westlands Water District has entered into a secret agreement in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. According to FoR, a new, “water supply to Westlands would be permanent and also arbitrarily receive a much higher water delivery priority.” Is it just a coincidence that Westlands hired Devin Nunes’ longtime Chief of Staff May 1? Do we have yet another case of political chicanery out of Westlands? Wouldn’t surprise anyone who’s familiar with San Joaquin Valley water politics. The letter from FoR is scathing and credible. The entire letter is here.
On the Public Record strikes again
One of our favorite sites is On the Public Record. It’s a gathering place for water insiders for a good reason: the writing is trenchant, informative, current, and lively. This is one of those sites where the comments add facets and dimensions to the issues even while they carry them forward. Check out this latest post, including some extended commentary on Trinitas, Stanislaus County’s new ag giant. Read “Turning the tables on almonds” here.
All about the Delta
Chris Austin, better known as “Maven,” may be the most knowledgeable water authority in the state. Her “Maven’s Notebook” aggregates California water news and is read by virtually everyone with an interest in western water issues. Maven has just posted a superb photo essay about the San Joaquin Delta. This is a concise but comprehensive review of one of the most important ecosystems in the west. See Maven’s great work here.
Must read on water and the Delta
No matter how perilous our water situation gets, most people don’t react until the well runs dry. Pat Mulroy has the credentials, the experience, and the authority to communicate just exactly how dire our water crisis really is and how important the Delta is to our water future. Her keynote address at the March 19 Water Policy Conference is a MUST READ. The ever-reliable Maven has the entire text and commentary here.
Pretty much says it all
In an open letter to Supervisor Jim DeMartini, former City Councilwoman of Hughson Barbara Swier says all that needs to be said about mining water in the foothills of eastern Stanislaus County. While the Stanislaus Water Advisory Committee has spent over a year doing things like parsing the definition of “sustainable,” Stanislaus County Supervisors’ lack of action has gone from puzzling to infuriating. Swier’s not the only one who’s had enough. Read her letter here.
It’s official: California is living on “paper water”
For over a quarter century, insiders have referred to “paper water” when talking about the discrepancy between allotments of water from the state and actual water available. Now, a study by UC Davis has made it official: California promises five times more surface water than it can deliver. That’s right. The discrepancy amounts to a factor of five. Read the full study here.
Wanna know why Big Ag headed for the hills?
The pressure has been on corporate farming of almonds for years now as more and more people realize how Big Ag rigged the water game to transform junior water rights into a perpetual revenue stream. With water drying up and their markers called in, the profiteers have headed for the last good aquifers in the foothills, where they plan to drain them dry. For some concise background, read Carolee Krieger’s excellent summary here. Then you’ll know why Big Ag headed for the hills—time’s running out on their long lease on Valley water.
The really big water scandal
Ever hear of the Monterey Amendments? Most people haven’t. But if you really want to know what’s wrong with water allotments in California, the Monterey Amendments are a good place to begin. The people at the California Water Impact Network are doing a series that will explain the covert activities of the biggest players in the water game and how they have fixed the system to serve themselves at public expense. First installment is here.
Judge: Groundwater Affects Surface Water
In a historic ruling that will reverberate around the state and especially in the San Joaquin Valley, a judge has ruled that the Public Trust Doctrine applies to groundwater. Pumping groundwater has demonstrable effects on surface water and thus it affects public water. Now a Superior Court judge has ruled that harm done to a river by pumping groundwater violates the Public Trust Doctrine. Full story here.
Water rights? The state rules
Political opportunists never let a crisis go to waste. That’s why so many San Joaquin Valley politicians are using the drought as an excuse to grandstand about water rights. Probably the most absurd statements are coming from those who claim there’s no data to support the state’s claims of severe shortages. Absurdity aside, there’s never been any doubt that the state has full authority to restrict water use; that’s because water belongs to the people. A California Court of Appeal recently reaffirmed what most everyone should know anyway: The state has full authority over water rights and can define “reasonable use.” Legal Planet has the full story here.
Want well? Got $1,000,000?
It’s hard to know what’s more shocking, the price or the depth. Maybe both are incredible. Down in Fresno County, owners of a new orchard are paying a million bucks for a well that will be 2500 feet deep. The drilling frenzy has gotten even crazier than the last housing frenzy, and we know what happened when that bubble burst. Well drillers are busy twenty-four hours a day, and still can’t keep up. Read about the ultimate craziness here.
Valley citizens support San Joaquin River in a big way
Anyone who thinks Valley citizens don’t love their rivers needs to check in with Stanislaus Audubon Society. The local chapter of the National Audubon Society participated in a statewide campaign to broaden public support for restoration of the San Joaquin River, which has been so overused that it runs dry for a sixty mile portion of its length. Stanislaus Audubon gathered cards and signatures throughout the second half of 2012 and wound up gathering the most of any Audubon Chapter. Working with Audubon rep Meghan Hertel, Stanislaus Audubon President Sal Salerno led the group in campaign which resulted in over 1000 cards mailed to Senators Boxer and Feinstein. Bravo.
Do fish really need water?
Opponents of increased flows along our rivers, including former Modesto Irrigation District General Manager Allen Short, continue to argue that declines in fish populations can’t be attributed to lack of water. Science says otherwise. Many northern California fish populations recorded all-time low numbers in 2012, and almost every scientist attributes the plunge in fish numbers to lack of water. At least one scientist actually predicted the precipitous drop in numbers. So who do we believe, hired mouthpieces or science? Read more from Dan Bacher here.
They’re back—salmon return to the San Joaquin River
In what will go down as one of the more dramatic chapters of California natural history, salmon have returned to the San Joaquin River. Monty Schmitt, Senior Scientist and San Joaquin River Project Manager, reports that the monumental project to restore salmon runs to the San Joaquin River has begun auspiciously. Once numbering over 50,000 fish, the salmon run disappeared when excess diversion for agriculture literally dried up the river. After almost two decades of litigation, courts ordered the salmon runs restored in 2006. Read Schmitt’s riveting report here.