Valley Public Radio News

Hear local reports on the economy, government, education, health and the environment on Valley Public Radio during All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Valley Edition. 

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The contract to run concessions in Yosemite National Park - everything from gift shops to the Ahwahnee Hotel - is the largest in the National Park System. And soon, a new company could be running those amenities, with a new contract worth an estimated $2 billion. 

Last week Yosemite officials announced that Aramark has been selected to be the park's new concessionaire, replacing Delaware North, which has run operations in the park since 1993. The move sparked a flurry of discussion about what the move means for park visitors. 

Is California's Animal Welfare Law Creating Better Conditions?

Jun 22, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

In 2008, Californians passed a law by a two-thirds majority to give egg-laying hens more space to move around. Farmers have had the last seven years to comply. Proposition 2 (the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act) went into effect this January. 

Farmer Frank Hilliker was against Proposition 2 from the beginning. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to stay in business when the law passed.

But, the long time egg producer has come around.

Why The Price Of Eggs Is Skyrocketing

Jun 22, 2015
Creative Commons - Flickr user geishabot

Egg prices have soared this spring for a lot of reasons. Lesley McClurg breaks down why you’re paying more. 

The cheapest price for a dozen conventional eggs is $3.50 at Raley’s in Sacramento. 

That’s about 75 cents more than the national average – which is at a record high $2.62. 

So, what’s driving the premium on California eggs?

First, there’s the drought. John Segale is with the Association for California Egg Farmers. 

Lance Johnson / Licensed under Creative Commons from Flickr user LanceJohnson http://www.flickr.com/photos/lancejohnson/5703722259/

Talk to most education leaders about the biggest challenges and opportunities in America’s public schools and the issue of so called STEM courses is sure to come up. It’s a fancy acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. According to the US Department of Education, job growth in STEM fields is projected to outpace the rest of the economy, in some areas like software and biomedicine, by more than double.

President Obama says STEM is a big education priority, in a speech to education leaders in 2010:

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The U.S. Supreme Court is ruling in favor of a Fresno raisin farmer that it is unconstitutional for a government-backed agricultural board to claim control of a third of his crop.

The ruling is a blow against a program that authorizes growers to join together to prop up market prices.

The justices say the scheme violates the Fifth Amendment by allowing the government to take the raisins without providing just compensation. The court ruled that, just like land, raisin growers must be compensated for any product taken by the government.

Ronald Reagan's Nuanced Legacy as California Governor

Jun 19, 2015

A statue of Ronald Reagan will be unveiled in the California state Capitol rotunda on Monday. It’s funded by private donations under a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012. Much has been said of Reagan’s legacy as president – but as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, his time as California governor often goes overlooked.

Reagan in 1966 campaign video: “As of now, I am a candidate seeking the Republican nomination for governor.”

John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

A provision in the newest California budget could give the state the power to force mergers between small water providers and larger companies. A number of small central valley water utilities are facing dried up wells and dirty water due to the drought.

Many of the smallest water providers in the valley have just one well and lack the resources or customer base to continue to provide clean water.

Laurel Firestone with the Community Water Center says merging with bigger companies gives those communities a larger more durable water supply, especially during the drought.

Update: Friday June 19, 6:00 PM
The Corrine Fire has now grown to 1,000 acres is just 5 percent contained. Three outbuildings have been destroyed. Evacuations are in order for residents south of Corrin Road to Kerckoff Lake, and an advisory evacuation for residents of the community of Cascadel. Road 222 from Road 200 to Kerckhoff.

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U.S. Forest Service

A wildfire known as ‘The Sky Fire’ burning outside Oakhurst in Madera County has grown to over 500 acres.

The U.S. Forest Service says as of Friday morning that the fire is only 15% contained and likely to grow. Early projections indicate that the fire could grow to as much 600 to 1000 thousand acres.

 The most recent information on the fire is available here.

The brush fire began Thursday after a vehicle caught fire on Sky Ranch Road north of Oakhurst.

Last-Minute Budget Legislation Irks Water Agencies

Jun 18, 2015
John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

Late-emerging legislation designed to deal with the drought could be part of the budget package California lawmakers will vote on Friday. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, water agencies say the state is overstepping its authority with some of the provisions in the proposal.

Part of the legislation would give state water regulators the ability to force local water agencies to consolidate. Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, says the intent is to help communities without access to safe drinking water.

From Oranges to Grapes, California Drought Changes What's Grown

Jun 18, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Water scarcity is driving farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable -- less thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Nowhere is this more true than San Diego County where the water prices are some of the highest in the state.

Billowing orange and grapefruit trees shade Triple B Ranches winery and vineyard near Escondido. The rural setting is quaint and bucolic. The tasting room is a converted kitchen festooned with country knickknacks.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown has appointed a new person to head the regulatory agency in charge of oil and gas extraction in California. David Bunn will head the Department of Conservation, replacing former director Mark Nechodom who resigned earlier this month.

The department has been at the center of intense scrutiny over its regulatory oversight on everything from fracking to the illegal injection of oilfield wastewater water into federally protected aquifers.

17th Place Townhomes

Downtown Bakersfield is about to get another new housing development. Officials including Mayor Harvey Hall are celebrating the groundbreaking of the 17th Place Townhomes. 

Project manager Austin Smith says the 3 story,  44-unit complex is the first market rate luxury housing development in downtown Bakersfield in years. 

Audit Finds Problems With Medi-Cal System

Jun 18, 2015
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

An audit of the department that oversees Medi-Cal found inaccurate health plan information, thousands of unanswered calls and a lack of oversight. From Sacramento, Katie Orr reports on the report out Tuesday.

The California State Auditor examined how the Department of Health Care Services is monitoring health insurance plans that accept Medi-Cal patients. Of the more than 12 million people enrolled in Medi-Cal, more than 75 percent are enrolled in a health plan.

Ellie Koleen - elliekoleenphotography.com / Ampersand Ice Cream

The valley’s restaurant scene is bustling with new ventures all hoping to be the next big hit. The Fresno Bee's Bethany Clough recently joined us on Valley Edition to talk about new trends and restaurant openings in the area. From new gourmet ice cream in the Fresno High neighborhood to wine tasting and craft beer in Clovis, Bethany tells us what look for in local food trends, as well as one delicacy at a local restaurant that has people all over the valley talking.

"Redskins" Bill Advances In California Legislature

Jun 17, 2015
Tulare Union High School website

Sports teams using the nickname “Redskins” are coming under increased pressure nationally to abandon the name. As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, a bill at the state Capitol would make California the first state to ban public schools from using “Redskins” as their nickname or mascot.

The NFL’s Washington Redskins are the most prominent sports team with the nickname that Native Americans say is offensive. But they’re not alone. Public schools in many states have Redskins mascots. All face growing pressure to change their names.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

For years, the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust has worked to preserve the river bottom from development between Friant Dam and Highway 99. While the parkway, and its partner agency, the San Joaquin River Conservancy have amassed thousands of acres of land along the river, much of that land isn't regularly open to the public. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The National Park Service announced Wednesday that Yosemite Hospitality, LLC, a subsidiary of Aramark, will receive a 15-year contract for visitor services in the park. Park officials say the deal is valued at $2 billion in gross revenues over the life of the contract. 

Park spokesperson Scott Gediman says while changes in concessions are common in other national parks, this deal is unique.

Gediman: "This is the largest single concession operation in the National Park System."

Mercy for Animals

An animal welfare group has released what it claims is disturbing video of mistreatment of animals at a central valley slaughter house and chicken farm.

The group, Mercy for Animals, used undercover investigators to film the treatment of chickens at two Foster Farms chicken farms and a slaughterhouse in Fresno County.

What they found, says Matt Rice with Mercy for Animals, is horrific abuse of the chickens at both the farm and the slaughter house.

Brown, California Lawmakers Reach Budget Deal

Jun 16, 2015
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

California Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders have reached a state budget deal.

The $115 billion general fund spending plan relies on the governor’s conservative revenue estimates. But it also includes money for some of lawmakers’ top priorities, including child care and higher education.

The governor called negotiations “strenuous” but says the budget is sound.

Brown: “All in all, I’d say it’s been difficult but very productive, and certainly I’m glad that we got this far.” 

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