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. 

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Government & Politics
3:20 pm
Tue April 28, 2015

Despite Smart & Final Setback, Swearengin Says Blackstone Vision Remains Sound

Fresno's Blackstone Avenue may be an eyesore today, but Mayor Ashley Swearengin hopes a new transit line will spark a rebirth with multi-story buildings mixing housing, retail and office uses.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Fresno's Blackstone Avenue has seen better days. A drive down the six lane strip of asphalt that stretches from downtown past ramshackle used car lots and abandoned storefronts all the way to the booming River Park area on the northside, can tell you a lot about where the city has been and where it is headed. 

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News
2:48 pm
Tue April 28, 2015

Valley Education Administrators Call For Repeal of Rainy Day Cap

A group of valley school administrators are calling on the state to repeal a law that caps how much they can keep in their rainy day reserves. School leaders say the law would hamper their ability to run their districts or weather another recession.

The law, passed last year, puts tight limits on how much schools can store up if the state puts any money in its rainy day fund.

Susan Markarian, board president of the Pacific Union Elementary School District says the cap it so low that it would prevent them from responding to even minor fluctuations or emergencies…

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Health
2:46 pm
Tue April 28, 2015

New Heat Regulations Aim To Protect California Workers

With summer approaching, the state California is implementing new rules to protect outdoor workers. Revised heat safety regulations from Cal-OSHA take effect May 1st. Among the regulations, workers must have easy access to free, cool water. And supervisors and workers must also be trained to recognize and react to signs of heat illness.

Amy Martin is Chief Counsel of Cal-OSHA. She says the rules also require that shade be made available when the temperature reaches 80 degrees, which is five degrees cooler than the previous requirement.

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Drought
12:05 pm
Tue April 28, 2015

New Brown Drought Proposals: Larger Penalties, Faster Environmental Reviews

Gov. Jerry Brown announces his latest proposals in response to the drought at the state Capitol Tuesday, after meeting with mayors of 14 California cities.
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 If you’re caught wasting water in California, the most you can be fined right now is $500. Governor Jerry Brown wants to raise the maximum penalty to 20 times that amount. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento on the governor’s latest drought response proposal.

Brown wants to raise the maximum fine to $10,000 per water violation. He also wants to give cities, counties and water agencies the authority to issue fines without going through the courts.

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Drought
11:30 am
Tue April 28, 2015

Drought: Tulare County Is “Blazing The Trail For The Rest Of California”

Maria Marquez, her two daughters and grandchildren lived without running water in home for almost a year in the Central Valley community of Okieville.
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The lack of rain has hit all of California hard, but perhaps no place more than in Tulare County home to 60 percent of the residential wells that have gone dry in the entire state. As Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports the county is creating a model for drought relief that the rest of the state can follow.

Denise England’s colleagues have a nickname for her.

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News
4:20 am
Tue April 28, 2015

Visalia Looks To Increase Hispanic Representation With Council Districts

Barber Carlos Medina

    

The valley city of Visalia will soon complete the transition from at-large elections to district elections for their city council. The change comes as a result of a voting rights lawsuit that claimed at-large elections cut the city’s substantial Latino population out of the political process. The transition is not exactly popular.

Carlos Medina has lived in Visalia for decades, He has been cutting hair at his barber shop across from Oval Park for nearly twenty years.

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Government & Politics
4:43 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Woman Arrested For Starting Blaze That Injured Fresno Fire Captain

Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis announced the arrest at the press conference at Fire Department Headquarters on Thursday.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Authorities have arrested a woman in connection with the structure fire that seriously injured Fresno Fire Captain Pete Dern last month. Valley Public Radio’s Joe Moore reports. 

Julia Harper is facing charges of unlawfully causing a fire which causes great bodily injury. Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis announced the arrest at a press conference Thursday.

Donis: “During the investigation, Harper admitted to her responsibility for starting this fire.”

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Environment
3:28 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Finally, Drought Relief For One Tulare County Community

Rick Overby says he's relieved his home will finally have access to water.
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Last July US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited the rural Tulare County community of Cameron Creek to announce drought aid. Now months later, Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports the community just got their taps turned on.

After nine months without water many of the residents of Cameron Creek are finally able to turn on their taps and have water flow out of the faucet.

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Drought
3:24 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Not Ready To Give Up Your Lawn? Landscapers Offer Drought Tips

file photo
Credit Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

If you're watering your lawn at all, there's a good chance you're watering it too much. That's the take-away at a drought workshop near Sacramento for landscaping professionals. Lesley McClurg attended the class sponsored by the Department of Water Resources.

Tom Noonan is water management specialist. He says calibrating sprinklers can be a complicated science. 

But, the bottom line is...

Noonan: "Get rid of run-off and get rid of over spray." 

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Government & Politics
3:11 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Latino Leaders Call For District Based Elections

file photo
Credit Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

Latinos make up 40 percent of California’s population, but just about 15 percent of the state’s mayors and city council members. A bill backed by the state’s legislative Latino caucus is seeking to make city governments more representative. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.

The bill would require some cities with populations of more than 100,000 to hold district-based municipal elections, instead of at-large elections. 

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News
2:45 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

High Speed Rail To Use Local Product To Control Dust Pollution

 On this Earth Day, California’s High-Speed Rail Authority is demonstrating steps it is taking to minimize environmental damage from the construction of the rail.

Rail construction workers will spray a biodegradable solution made of processed wood chips that holds down dust pollution. 

Elizabeth Jonnason with the High-Speed Rail Authority says the spray helps them meet California’s environmental standards.

“To control the ground, and make sure whatever is in the ground does not end up in our air or in our water,” Jonnason said.

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Community
1:17 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Fresno Armenian Community To Mark Genocide Centennial

An architect's rendering the Fresno State Armenian Genocide Monument by Paul Halajian Architects.
Credit Paul Halajian, AIA

One hundred years ago this week, authorities of the Ottoman Empire rounded up hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and political leaders in Constantinople and executed them. One and a half million would eventually die in what we today know as the Armenian Genocide.

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Labor
1:14 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Farmworkers In Limbo As California Ag Labor Battle Heats Up

Farm workers take swings at a box that represents the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, using it as a pinata outside the Fifth District Court of Appeal on April 14, 2015 in Fresno.
Diana Aguilera Valley Public Radio

Every summer and fall, PRIMA brand peaches and grapes from Fresno-based Gerawan Farming can be found in supermarkets across the country. But the workers who pick that fruit are currently at the center of one of California’s biggest labor conflicts. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports that the stakes for both the company and the United Farm Workers are high.

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Environment
11:36 am
Tue April 21, 2015

Delta Smelt Collapse Part Of Drought's Toll On California

Delta smelt (file photo)
Credit Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

The latest survey of California's endangered Delta Smelt has turned up just one fish. While the population has been in decline for years, UC Davis biologist Peter Moyle says the drought has stressed the species to the brink of extinction. 

Moyle: "I've been tracking these fish for years including in my own surveys, and we've been seeing this long term decline, but still I was quite startled."

He blames a number of factors for the almost complete collapse, but says the drought is a big factor.

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News
9:44 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

Fresno's Not Ferguson: Why Are Police Shootings and Complaints Down?

Police Chief Jerry Dyer (Center)

After years of community complaints about the Fresno Police Department, the numbers of complaints and officer-involved shootings are trending down. It has been roughly six months since there was an officer involved shooting in the city. Both police and community activists say a shift in the national mood about law enforcement is driving the change but question whether the change will last.

Fresno Police used to average one officer involved shooting every month and log dozens of complaints of excessive force and racial profiling among other concerns.

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Community
6:04 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Gas Pipeline Blast In Fresno Injures Nearly A Dozen People

A natural gas pipeline explosion near Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue in Fresno injured over a dozen people on Friday afternoon at a local shooting range.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

UPDATE: Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims has confirmed that two Fresno County Sheriff's Deputies were also injured, and has revised the injury total to 11 people.

ORIGINAL POST:

A natural gas explosion at the peace officers gun range in Fresno has left 14 injured, three critically. FM89's Joe Moore reports. 

A gas pipeline at the range ignited at around 2:30 PM this afternoon, shooting a massive wall of flames into the sky and shutting down traffic on Highway 99 near Herndon Avenue. 

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Health Care
7:11 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Undocumented Immigrant Health Care Bill Moves Forward

file photo
Credit Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

The California Legislature has taken a key step toward extending health insurance to more than a million undocumented immigrants. As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the bill passed its first committee vote Wednesday.

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Government & Politics
7:05 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Slow Progress In Congressional Water Talks

When it comes to California drought relief legislation, it’s been a dry year so far on Capitol Hill. Central Valley politicians and farm interests have been in Congress this week to remind lawmakers about the dire situation back home. (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

When it comes to California drought relief legislation, it’s been a dry year so far on Capitol Hill. As Kitty Felde reports from Washington, Central Valley politicians and farm interests have been in Congress this week to remind lawmakers about the dire situation back home.

Drought relief legislation this year has gotten off to a slow start on Capitol Hill - unlike last year, when bills were floated in both the House and the Senate.

Mendota Mayor Robert Silva, who spent the week meeting with members of Congress, says things are moving…underground. 

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News
9:26 am
Wed April 15, 2015

Fresno Leaders React To Keith Foster Report

Rick Rasmussen, police auditor

  Fresno’s Police auditor is recommending seven changes at the department to prevent criminal behavior among their officers. The changes are being made in the wake of the arrest of a Deputy Chief on drug trafficking charges.

Former Deputy Chief Keith Foster is one of seven people accused in a scheme to traffic heroin, oxycodone, and marijuana.

The auditor’s seven recommendations are intended to prevent any more incidents like it.

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News
9:45 am
Tue April 14, 2015

Working On The Railroad: High-Speed Rail Sparks New Career Interest

Pre-apprenticeship students working on electrical skills

    

With work on California’s High-Speed rail about to take off, interest in the trades that the rail will need appears to be increasing. That’s according to groups that run pre-apprenticeship programs that teach people the skills necessary to work on building the train. Talk of the project is driving interest in programs intended to train the men and women that will be needed to build it.

One of those programs is the five week high-speed rail pre-apprenticeship run by Chuck Riojas with the union Building Trades.

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