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Recent state data that had raised the alarm on opioid overdose deaths turns out to have been inaccurate. 

In late May, new data from the California Department of Public Health had pointed to an alarming trend: The number of Californians who died of overdoses due to the street drug fentanyl had tripled between 2016 and 2017. We reported on the problem here, as did other news outlets.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

As summer tourism heats up at Yosemite National Park, officials there are reopening one of the park’s most popular destinations. On Thursday, the park unveiled the newly restored Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

The ceremony on Thursday marked the reopening of the stand of over 500 giant sequoias. The grove of 300-foot-tall trees had been closed to the public for three years while the park carried out its biggest ever restoration project. The goal: Reduce the human impacts on the trees while still keeping them accessible to visitors.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno City Council voted 5-1 today to put a tax on marijuana dispensaries and related business before voters this November.

The tax proposal comes at the same time that the city is studying a change to zoning laws to allow a limited number of medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer says he’d like to use some of the money from the tax to step up the city’s enforcement of illegal marijuana dispensaries, other drug dealers and human traffickers.

Marc Benjamin / Valley Public Radio

Clovis has a reputation for good schools, walking trails, parks and upscale neighborhoods. It’s also one of California’s faster growing cities. People want to live there. So as the city grows, pressure is growing for developers to add new houses, often converting farmland to subdivisions.  So how do rural residents there coexist with new development while keeping their country way of life? Reporter Marc Benjamin explains how one neighborhood is adapting to change.

On this week’s Valley Edition we hear reports about how idle oil and gas wells are drawing new scrutiny from Sacramento regulators, and how residents in a rural part of Clovis struck a compromise with the city and developers to protect their way of life. Plus we talk with Jim Boren of Fresno State’s new Institute for Media and Public Trust. Later in the show we are joined by USC professor Kathleen Wilber to talk about the growing problem of elder abuse and why most instances go unreported.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

California is the fourth largest oil producer in the country. As we speak, almost 81,000 wells across the state are churning out oil and gas or being used to inject wastewater back into the ground. For every three of those wells, however, there’s another one well that’s not doing any of those things—and yet they, too, can deteriorate and contaminate the air and water over time. Now, a new state law aims to prevent those hazards.

Fresno State News

Amid talk of fake news and alternative facts, Fresno State has launched a new Institute for Media and Public Trust. Led by former Fresno Bee executive editor Jim Boren, the institute aims to bring together media professionals, academics and the public to bridge understanding about the way journalists work. Boren joined us on Valley Edition to talk about the work of the new project, and how the public's relationship with the news media has changed over the years. 

Steve Yarbrough

The Central Valley has a rich literary tradition spanning generations. From Saroyan to Levine to Arax – journalists, poets, novelists and essayists have all found great inspiration in the valley’s soil, its people and the elements - good and bad - that make the region unique. The connection often extends even after a writer leaves the valley – as is the case with acclaimed novelist Steve Yarbrough.

Garry Knight / Creative Commons Flickr

California’s population is projected to age rapidly in the coming decades. By the year 2030, adults over 65 will outnumber children under 18, according to data from the state’s department of finance. Today, seniors over 65 make up 14 percent of the population, but that number will increase to 23 percent over the next 11 years. And as the population ages, issues like elder abuse are becoming more common.

Courtesy of Brett Lebin

Voters in Fresno could have the opportunity in November to vote on taxing medical marijuana businesses. But first, the Fresno City Council would have to approve the measure to go on the ballot next week. 

On Thursday the Fresno City Council is expected to decide if people can vote on November 6 to add a tax to medical cannabis businesses.

The legislation is sponsored by three council members and needs at least five votes to pass. Clint Olivier representing District 7 is a sponsor of the measure and is confident the vote will pass.

Valley Public Radio has welcomed a new member to the station’s news team – reporter Monica Velez. Monica started out as a print reporter covering health issues in Merced County at the Merced Sun-Star. At Valley Public Radio, she’ll be covering issues from immigration to poverty and health, with a focus on the valley’s rural communities, as well as other news stories.

Selma Arts Center

In the last 20 years, arts organizations in the San Joaquin Valley have seen major changes. Some big organizations have closed down, while other upstarts have forged new paths. Major funding streams have also come and gone. As the valley continues to grow and audiences and donors change, what does this mean for local arts organizations? Those issues will be the subject of a Be Public Live forum at Valley Public Radio's Broadcast Center in Clovis at 6:00 PM on Wednesday July 18th. The event will feature three guest panelists from organizations of different sizes and backgrounds.

Longtime Valley Public Radio host Franz Weinschenk died last week at age 92. From 1992 through 2016 he hosted the popular program Valley Writers Read on Valley Public Radio. The program featured short stories from local writers, both professionals and amateurs, and showcased the valley’s rich literary traditions.

Today on Valley Edition, we learn how residents in the Kern County community of Lamont are excited about something many of us take for granted: sidewalks. We also learn about a new Buszzfeed investigation into a hit man with roots - and many victims - in the San Joaquin Valley. Plus we explore the problems of the recycling industry, and talk with Fresno author Tim Z. Hernandez about his new book "All They Will Call You."

Kerry Klein / Julia Lyu Mears

The United States' recycling industry is facing a growing crisis. China earlier this year announced policy changes that restrict its imports of the U.S.’s recyclables—changes with tremendous implications, since a third of the U.S.’s recycling exports have historically gone to China. We explored those policy changes in May, speaking with recycling companies and policy experts about what’s changed, and how to find new markets for all that plastic and paper we can no longer ship overseas.

University of Arizona Press

Five years ago, Valley Public Radio brought you the story of one man’s search for names that it seemed had been lost to history. Fresno author Tim Z. Hernandez was searching for the families of the 28 passengers who died in a plane crash in western Fresno County in 1948. The passengers on the U.S. Immigration Service flight were Mexican nationals en route from Oakland to El Centro.

Christina Lopez / Valley Public Radio

On the outskirts of Kern County lies the community of Lamont. It is an unincorporated area 10 miles southeast of Bakersfield home to over 15,000 people. This corner of the county is made up of migrant farm workers, small business owners, and immigrant families, majority Hispanic. 

This week on Valley Edition we learn why the operators of food pantries in the valley say they are facing a new problem - hostility towards Spanish speakers. We also learn how growers, packers and retailers are new technology like blockchain to improve the tracking of food as it flows through the supply chain. It's all part of an effort to reduce the severity of foodborne illness outbreaks like the one that recently tainted romaine lettuce. We also speak with journalist Amanda Fortini about her new piece in the California Sunday Magazine about the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting.

Monica Velez

While the governor’s race heats up one top candidate made another visit to the San Joaquin Valley, where he met with locals and received endorsements from law enforcement officials.  

USGS photo

The recent images from Hawaii of the eruption of the Kilauea volcano have been captivating.  But closer to home, a much larger eruption once took place not that far from Fresno. Some 765,000 years ago - the blink of an eye in geologic time - a volcanic eruption created the Long Valley Caldera near present day Mammoth Lakes and forever transformed the eastern Sierra landscape. It's just 76 miles from Fresno, and it created a caldera 20 miles long and ten miles wide. While no eruptions are anticipated in the area anytime soon, Mammoth is still a hotbed for geologic activity.

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