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. 

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

A new app is making it easier for people in California to receive STD testing within the comfort of their own home. FM89’s Diana Aguilera explains how it works.

Android and iPhone users can now download the app called Planned Parenthood Direct. For a cost of $149, users will receive a kit in the mail that tests for both chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Linda Williams with Planned Parenthood says this app makes it easier for people to get tested without feeling judged.

What’s the difference between a smiling mascot and a stern warning? More than 2. 5 million gallons of water a month in Fresno. That’s according to a social experiment the city ran to encourage greater water conservation.

Fresno used data from the city’s water meters to target people watering on non-approved days and sent each home one of two different fliers.

One is black and white and appears very serious. The other is in color and features a playful mascot.

Office of Alex Padilla

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla wants to increase the number of voters in the Golden State. That's why he is backing several new measures that would overhaul the state's election system. They include a new bill that would expand the state's "motor voter" provisions and another that would expand vote-by-mail and early voting opportunities. Padilla joined us to talk about those efforts and an overhaul of the state's voter database after he spoke at an naturalization ceremony in Fresno on Tuesday morning. 

Scott Bauer / Bioscience

Marijuana is big business in California. By some estimates pot is actually the state's top cash crop. But with the boom in marijuana cultivation, there is also a significant environmental toll. Mountain tops are being leveled, and streams are being illegally diverted threatening species already stressed by the drought. With the possibility of marijuana legalization looming in 2016, the issue of how to clean up the environmental damage caused by pot production is a big concern. 

Bill Would Allow Fire Fighters To Jam Interfering Drones

Jul 21, 2015
Twitter.com / CAL FIRE PIO Kevin Berlant / https://twitter.com/CALFIRE_PIO

First responders are growing increasingly frustrated with owners of hobbyist drones who fly them over wildfires. That’s prompting new proposals from California state lawmakers, as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento.

As the North Fire swept towards Interstate 15 in Southern California this past weekend, fire fighting aircraft rushed to slow its progress. But there were five drones hovering overhead – so the airplanes had to wait until the drones moved on. The fire leapt the freeway and burned dozens of cars.

Regulators Propose Large Penalty For Illegal Water Diversion

Jul 21, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California water regulators are taking steps to stop illegal water diversions by irrigation districts with some of the oldest water rights. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the latest action proposes the largest penalty against a district since the drought began.

proterra company website

By this time next year, two brand new all electric buses will be rolling down the streets of Porterville. The move away from diesel and hybrid buses is part of efforts to clean up the valley’s air.

For the cost of just under 1-million dollars, Porterville is replacing two of their existing buses with a new generation of clean, emission free all-electric vehicles.

Richard Tree, Porterville’s Transportation Manager, says the decision to go all electric was an easy one.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A bill that aims to deliver more water to San Joaquin Valley farms has passed the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

The Western Water and American Food Security Act would change the way the government manages both water in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and threatened species. Supporters say it would allow more water to be captured from early season storms, while still protecting the environment.

Valley Republican David Valadao authored the bill. He says existing regulations not only hurt farmers, they also aren't helping fish.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Immigrant advocates in Fresno say they’re fed up with a recent decision by the sheriff’s department to collaborate in new ways with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). As Valley Public Radio’s Diana Aguilera reports, activists are demanding a change. 

Just last week Sheriff Margaret Mims announced a new program that allows two ICE agents to be stationed inside the Fresno County Jail. Federal agents can now check if inmates are in the country legally and can look at their criminal history to determine whether they should be deported.

Apps Help Farmers With Efficiency During The Drought

Jul 16, 2015

More and more California growers are using smartphone apps to streamline their farming operations. Capital Public Radio’s Lesley McClurg has more.  

Anne Burkholder is a soil scientist. She's standing in an alfalfa field in Davis that has an unusual large dead patch in the middle of it.

Burkholder: “Basically the alfalfa is maybe five inches tall, and it's really yellow right here where we’re walking, it’s crunchy and yellow, you can kind of even hear it.”

Flickr- eyeliam

The Fresno City Council has voted to ban the display or sale of the confederate flag on city property. The vote sparked debate about where to draw the line when banning historical objects.

While the city is not currently displaying or selling the flag, the ordinance approved by the council today makes it clear that it cannot.

Council president Oliver Baines wrote the ordinance and says in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina church massacre, it’s time to make a statement against what many consider to be a sign of racist hate.

California Moves To Limit New Lawns

Jul 16, 2015
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

New California homes and businesses may have less grass in the future. The state Water Commission passed a model ordinance Wednesday restricting the amount of turf that can be used in new developments with at least 500 square feet of landscaping. Grass can only make up 25 percent of residential yards. It will essentially be prohibited at non-residential buildings.

There have been previous versions of the model ordinance. But Commissioner Paula Daniels says this version better reflects California’s needs in the drought.

Flickr- eyeliam

The Fresno City Council could vote Thursday to ban the city from displaying the confederate flag on all city owned property.

The ordinance, proposed by council president Oliver Baines, would prohibit the city from displaying or selling of the Battle Flag of the Confederacy, often known as the confederate flag.

It would also ban the sale of items that bear the flag unless it is in a book or city museum that serves an educational or historical purpose.

The ordinance says the flag now represents a symbol of racism and hatred to many people.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A new study from the UCLA Health Policy Institute indicates that the access gap between Medi-Cal recipients and those with private, employer-sponsored coverage continues to grow. And those with Medi-Cal benefits in the Central Valley do even worse, facing even greater challenges in finding and retaining a doctor than those with the same benefits in wealthier parts of the state. 

VINOTHCHANDAR VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

  African-American infants in Fresno County are three times more likely to die within their first year than white infants, largely because of premature birth, low birth weight or birth defects.

The alarming rates of African-American infants dying in their first year in the county are prompting public health officials to dig deeper.

“Over the last few years ever since 2008 Fresno has experienced a dramatic growth in infant mortality rates particularly for African-American women,” says Dr. John Capitman, executive director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute.

KNITTYMARIE VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Fresno County continues to be plagued with high teen pregnancy rates and even higher STD rates in some cases among the worst in the state. With that in mind  local health leaders are urging one Valley school district to bring back sex education to the classrooms. As FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports even former students are speaking up.

Antonio Jauregui, 18, says his freshman year at Fresno’s Duncan Polytechnical High School was all about growing up. It’s also when he had his first romantic relationship and that left him turning to the classroom for information about sex.

Valley Fever Cases Down Since Drought Began

Jul 14, 2015
Craig Kohlruss / Just One Breath - Reporting On Health Collaborative / The Fresno Bee

California health experts are surprised that the incidence of Valley Fever has gone down during the drought. The fungal infection is commonly spread in arid, dusty conditions. But, even though the state is drier, the number of cases continues to drop. Capital Public Radio's Lesley McClurg has the story.

Valley Fever peaked in 2011 with more than 5,000 cases in California. Last year there were fewer than half that. Dr. James Watt is the Chief of the Division of Communicable Diseases for the California Department of Public Health.

Sanctuary Cities Draw Scrutiny In California

Jul 14, 2015
Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

The alleged murder of a San Francisco woman by an undocumented immigrant with a criminal history has revived a debate in the state Capitol over "sanctuary cities." Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.    

San Francisco is one of several California sanctuary cities which generally have a policy of not informing federal authorities about undocumented immigrants in their areas. The suspect had been in San Francisco custody in April, but was released.

'Wild' Draws Huge Crowds To The Pacific Crest Trail

Jul 14, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

The Pacific Crest Trail runs two-thousand-six-hundred-fifty miles from Mexico to Canada. Usually a few hundred hardy souls make the trek every year. But, this year about ten times that number are attempting the arduous journey. Lesley McClurg hiked a section of the trail to find out what’s driving its popularity.

The Tuolumne Meadows post office in Yosemite National Park is packed. Ragged hikers wait in a long twisting line outside. 

The Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno website

Local religious, education and law enforcement leaders recently gathered in Fresno for a talk about ISIS and Islam. Hosted by the Islamic Cultural Center, the event sought to dispel myths about the local Muslim community. Two guests from the panel joined us on Valley Edition to talk about concerns over homegrown extremist groups, efforts to work with law enforcement, and interfaith relations.

Guests:

Imam Seyed Ali Ghazvini, Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno

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