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This week on Valley Edition, we learn why the valley endured some of the worst air quality in decades, and why more wasn't done to prevent it. We also talk about the weather with meteorologist Sean Boyd. Later in the show we hear about the pros and cons of the proposed new route for high-speed rail through Bakersfield, and we talk with Merced Sun Star reporter Monica Velez about the closure of a network of health clinics last year in the north valley. Finally, we talk with folk singer John McCutcheon ahead of a concert in Fresno Thursday night. 

San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

If you spent time in the San Joaquin Valley over the holidays, the recent rain probably has you breathing a sigh of relief—not just because it’s bringing much needed rain and snow, but also because it’s the first time in weeks you can safely breathe. This story looks back at one of the most severe periods of smoggy air in decades.

When James Collins isn’t studying social work at Fresno State, he drives for the rideshare company Lyft. He sees a lot of open sky and bright sun.

National Weather Service

The recent rains mark the first big storm to hit Central California this rainy season. But are they enough to hold off the dreaded "d-word" of drought? We ask Fresno-based meteorologist Sean Boyd about the short and long-term outlook, and about the recent two week stretch that left valley residents breathing some of the worst air in twenty years. 

John McCutcheon

Veteran singer, songwriter and instrumentalist John McCutcheon has earned the right to be considered a titan in the field of folk music. But as he prepares to release his 39th album Ghost Light, and embarks on a west coast tour that includes a stop Thursday at Fresno's Unitarian Universalist Church, he still speaks reverently of those who came before him, like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. And much like those artists, his new songs speak of both American traditions and contemporary politics.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

On Monday, the Trump Administration announced that natives of El Salvador will soon lose their temporary protected status in the U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security says that in September of 2019, 200,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. will lose protection from deportation. That status was originally designated in 2001, under President George W. Bush. At the time, many Salvadorans had already fled to the U.S to escape earthquakes in their home country.

California High-Speed Rail Authority

If the leaders of California’s High-Speed Rail Authority are to be believed, by 2029 Bakersfield residents will be able to hop on a bullet train bound for LA’s Union Station or San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal. That’s if all goes according to plan, for a project that still doesn’t have enough funding to finish the job.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Earlier this year, Kern High School District settled a lawsuit that alleged its schools were using discriminatory disciplinary practices to suspend and expel students of color at a higher rate than white students. As a provision of their settlement, they agreed to reduce suspensions and expulsions and incorporate more restorative justice into their discipline.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Now that the storm front earlier this week cleaned up the air for much of the San Joaquin Valley, many residents may be looking forward to lighting up their wood-burning fireplaces. However, you might be surprised to learn that some burning was allowed even as air pollution reached dangerously unhealthy levels.

This week on Valley Edition we revisit three interviews from 2017. We talk with Michael Kodas author of the new book "Megafire" and learn why wildfire behavior is changing. We also look at local history in two different interviews. Stephen Provost joins us to talk about his new book "Highway 99: The History of California's Main Street" and Heather David is on the program to talk about her new book "Motel California."

This week on Valley Edition, we talk to Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims about her thoughts as the county begins to implement SB 54, California's "Sanctuary State" bill. Mims was one of the bill's biggest critics when it made its way through the legislature, and she was worked closely with federal immigration officials in the past. We also talk with Bakersfield City Councilmember Bob Smith about the city's budget gap and about the idea of putting a tax increase in front of voters.

New Season Of Invisibilia Coming In Early 2018

Dec 25, 2017
John Poole / NPR

NPR’s Invisibilia returns to the Valley Public Radio airwaves in 2018 with a new season beginning in March, and a set of re-broadcasts from last summer’s Season 3. The schedule begins Saturday February 3rd with weekly broadcasts of the four episodes from last season, where the program asks the question “How Real Is Reality?” Beginning Saturday March 3rd, the series will continue with three new episodes from Season 4.

nickchapman / Flickr - Creative Commons

While the stock market is up, many cities in the valley are still struggling. Bakersfield perhaps faces the biggest cash crunch, as rising costs tied to health care and retirement expenses have coincided with a countywide economy that is struggling due to a decline in activity in the oil industry. One city projection indicates the city could face a $5 million deficit next year, growing to around $15 million in five years. Now the city council is considering what to do about the shortfall, and that could include a tax increase.

Faraday Future

After a turbulent 2017 electric automaker Faraday Future could get a much needed infusion of around $1 billion, according to a new report from The Verge. The company's top investor, Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting is also now reportedly taking over as CEO of the firm.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Scientific research has demonstrated that, in general, the richer a person is, the healthier he or she is likely to be. Likewise, those with private insurance tend to be healthier than those on Medi-Cal. A new study, however, suggests neighborhood-level poverty may be even more important.

If you’re a child on Medi-Cal, you’re worse off living in a poor community than an affluent one. That is one of the findings in a new study out this week in the research publication Journal of Asthma.

Laura Tsutsui / KVPR

The San Joaquin River is the second largest in California. Last year, it was listed by an environmental group as the second most endangered river in America. Recent years of drought haven’t taken their toll, but an exceptionally wet 2017 spelled optimism for many involved in the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. While significant obstacles to bring back the river’s salmon remain, there’s also progress swimming right below the surface.

Nearly 40 years ago, back when Peter Moyle was a professor at Fresno State, the San Joaquin River was different. 

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