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. 

Genre: 

Pages

Government & Politics
3:41 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

Fresno, Bus Driver Union At Odds Over Work Rules, Pay Cut

A Fresno Area Express bus at Roeding Park (file photo)
Credit Federal Transit Administration

Drivers who operate the city of Fresno’s bus service, known as Fresno Area Express will tell you that despite that some may thing, theirs is not a cushy job.

"It’s the equipment, it’s riding in a seat. You’re constantly bouncing up and down, you’re constantly turning the steering wheel. There’s a number of knee problems, shoulder problems, hand problems, by repetitive motion,"  says Rick Steitz, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1027.

Read more
Government & Politics
12:42 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

Fresno Home Trash Service Supporters, Opponents Wait For Outsourcing Decision

Marina Magdaleno and other outsourcing opponents rallied in front of Fresno City Hall Friday Jan. 18 to turn in just under 40,000 petitions to put the decision of outsourcing in the hands of voters.
Credit Ezra Romero / Valley Public Radio

The waiting game has just begun for both sides in the battle over the outsourcing of Fresno’s residential trash service.

For the past month opponents of Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s plan to outsource the city’s home trash service have hustled to collect signatures in order to meet a January 18 deadline to put the decision in the hands of voters.

More than 50 people escorted around 35,000 signatures in seven sealed white boxes into the City Clerk’s Office on Friday.

Read more
Environment
11:06 am
Tue January 22, 2013

Kettleman City Residents Work to Reduce Diesel Pollution

Maria Saucedo, left, and Anna Martinez, both community organizers with Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, monitor diesel idling "hot spots" in Kettleman City.
Rebecca Plevin Valley Public Radio

Anna Martinez was standing on a street corner in the tiny farmworker community of Kettleman City when she heard the familiar sound of a truck engine roaring to life.

She pointed to a diesel truck parked on a lot next to three others. The lot was just one block from State Route 41, and another block or so from a huge agricultural field.

“We’ll see how long he’s going to idle,” said Martinez, a community organizer with Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. “He’s just now starting his truck - see all the emissions and black smoke.”

Read more
Government & Politics
5:40 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

New Audit Reveals California PUC Misrepresented Funds

California’s Public Utilities Commission has a math problem: Its budget staff has been misreporting the balance in special funds the agency manages.  That’s the finding of a new state audit that blamed the mistakes on “general confusion and lack of knowledge.”  

The Public Utilities Commission manages 14 special funds that use monthly fees from consumers to pay for special programs like the Universal Lifeline telephone service for low-income Californians.   It turns out that in 2011, agency staff miscalculated how much those funds held.

Read more
Air Quality
5:35 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

NASA Flights Over Fresno, Bakersfield Hope to Predict Air Quality From Space

A NASA P3-B aircraft flys over Porterville on Wednesday as part of project to learn more about air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley
Penn State / NASA

NASA scientists and aircraft took to the skies above Fresno and Bakersfield today. It's part of a project that one day hopes to predict and air quality from space.

Two aircraft, including a converted Navy P3-B flew repeated loops over various valley cities today, one of them as low as 1,000 feet, to gather air samples. It's part of a program NASA calls DISCOVER-AQ which aims to better understand pollution spikes and how pollutants react with sunlight throughout the day. 

Read more
High Speed Rail
4:12 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

High Speed Rail Systems Team Up to Pursue Trains

A computer rendering of California's planned high speed train system.
Credit California High Speed Rail Authority

The California High Speed Rail Authority will work with Amtrak to seek out manufacturers of high speed trains. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the two systems hope by teaming up they can lower costs.

 Amtrak and the California High Speed Rail Authority say by working together they hope to advance high speed projects on both the east and west coast.

Amtrak is looking to eventually purchase 32 trains for its east coast system, and California is hoping to acquire 27 trains that operate 220 miles per hour. California

Read more
Health
3:57 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Feds Give California Health Insurance Exchange $674 Million

The federal government has awarded California $674 million to develop an online health insurance marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The two-year grant for the exchange known as Covered California is less than the $706 million requested. But Executive Director Peter Lee says he believes the grant will give the state all the resources it needs.

Read more
Environment
1:07 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

EPA: Valley Facilities Top Statewide List of Toxic Chemical Releases

Kettleman City, in rural Kings County is home to one of the state's leading sources of toxic chemical releases. (file photo)
Credit California Department of Public Health

Two hazardous waste facilities in the San Joaquin Valley led the state in toxic chemical releases in 2011, according to a report released today by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Clean Harbors landfill in Buttonwillow in western Kern County ranked number one in the state in toxic releases, with nearly 10 million pounds in 2011. In Kings County, Chemical Waste Management’s Kettleman City disposal facility released nearly four million pounds in 2011, which ranked third in the state.

Read more
Health
9:07 am
Tue January 15, 2013

Valley Counties Move Slowly Toward Health Reform

Dr. Rogelio Fernandez of the United Health Centers clinic in Parlier performs minor surgery on Yesenia Campuzano of Reedley. (file photo)
Credit Shellie Branco / Valley Public Radio

In less than one year, the federal health care law will take effect. When that happens, an estimated 1.4 million low-income, uninsured adults in California will become eligible for Medicaid. That’s a huge number of people who will suddenly be eligible for health benefits and better access to health care.

Read more
Agriculture
6:21 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

Possible Hard Freeze Threatens Citrus Industry, Mandarins At Risk

Citrus groves near Orange Cove will endure as many as 12 hours of below freezing temperatures tonight, according to weather forecasters. (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Update: Saturday, 8:45 AM: Unexpected cloud cover late Friday and early Saturday kept temperatures slightly higher than forecast, enough to prevent damage to most commercially grown fruit. Lows in most places were in the upper 20's. Forecasts call for more extreme cold over the weekend.  ORIGINAL REPORT:

Valley citrus growers are in for a long night tonight, as what is expected to be the coldest evening of the year threatens to damage the region's citrus crop, with the most popular new variety, the mandarin orange,  most at risk.

Read more
Government & Politics
10:55 am
Fri January 11, 2013

Brown Budget Proposal Marks New Era at Capitol

California Governor Jerry Brown speaks to reporters as he unveils his proposed budget.
Pauline Bartolone Capital Public Radio Network

Governor Jerry Brown’s new California budget proposal marks an end to the crippling deficits that have plagued California for years.  It’s also an attempt to make major policy changes – without big increases in spending.  But the governor’s message of fiscal restraint could find a warmer reception from Republicans than from his fellow Democrats.  Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler and Amy Quinton bring us this two-part report from Sacramento.

-----

Read more
Government & Politics
7:19 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

New Council Members Take Oath, Mayor Hits Back At Union Critics

New Fresno City Council member Steve Brandau was sworn in today at City Hall
Credit City of Fresno

Today was swearing-in day for a new crop of elected officials at Fresno City Hall. Two new council members, Paul Capgriolio representing District 4 and Steve Brandau representing District 2, were sworn in for the first time, as well as Lee Brand who was reelected to represent District 6.

Read more
Government & Politics
4:52 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

California Lawmakers Respond To Budget With Some Relief

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

Most California lawmakers say they agree with Governor Jerry Brown that now is the time for fiscal discipline in light of a balanced budget.

But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Democratic lawmakers have not ruled out restoring some cuts.

Legislative Democratic leaders expressed relief at the announcement of a balanced budget. They say the extra $2.7 billion in education funding is also a step in the right direction.

Senate Budget Chair Mark Leno says lawmakers are now in a position to talk about policy rather than cuts.

Read more
Government & Politics
12:30 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

Governor Unveils Budget With No Deficit and Changes To Education Funding

California Governor Jerry Brown (file photo)
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown says the state no longer has a budget deficit. He called it a breakthough, but says the state still faces uncertainty in costs from federal health care reform.

Brown’s spending plan calls for small increases in education funding.

And he called for a new funding formula for K-through-12 schools that gives money based on a school’s percentage of low-income students and English-language learners.

“Our future depends not on across the board funding but in disproportionately funding those schools that have disproportionate challenges.”

Read more
Breaking
10:55 am
Thu January 10, 2013

Shooting At Taft Union High School in Kern County

Taft Union High School (file photo)
Credit Kevin Krejci / Flickr / Creative Commons

Less than a month after the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the Kern County community of Taft was rocked by a school shooting of its own.

This morning, a 16-year-old student at Taft Union High School walked into his first period classroom and shot another student with a 12 gauge shotgun. The victim is in critical but stable condition, according to Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.

“The student that is in critical condition we believe was an intended target, one intended target, of this suspect,”  Youngblood said.

Read more
Government & Politics
4:39 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Brown to Propose New Budget, Including Changes to Education Funding System

California Governor Jerry Brown (file photo)
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The annual California budget cycle begins anew tomorrow as Governor Jerry Brown unveils his proposed spending plan.

As part of his budget, the governor is expected to propose major changes to the state’s education funding system. 

They include removing state spending requirements so districts have more flexibility, and introducing a weighted funding formula that gives more money to schools in poorer areas.

Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell  says he could support that proposal with some adjustments – such as making sure all schools get a minimum amount of money.

Read more
Business & Economy
12:06 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Fresno's Guarantee Real Estate Acquired By Berkshire Hathaway Company

A company controlled by billionaire investor Warren Buffett announced today it has acquired Fresno-based brokerage firm Guarantee Real Estate. The terms of the deal were not released.

Guarantee will now be a division of Minneapolis-based Home Services of America, Inc., which is affiliated with Buffet's firm Berkshire Hathaway.

Guarantee was one of Central California's largest real estate brokerage firms, with over 400 employees in 13 offices. In 2011, the company handled transactions for over 3,700 units, totaling over $600 million.

Read more
Health Care
10:52 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Insurance Commissioner Says Anthem Rate Increase Unreasonable

Anthem Blue Cross of California is proposing an increase in health insurance rates for small employers. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the state’s Insurance Commissioner says the increase is unreasonable.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says the rate increase proposed by Anthem Blue Cross would amount to 10.6 percent a year and ultimately affect more than a quarter of a million Californians. But Anthem’s Darrell Ng says it amounts to a 7.5 percent increase and would initially affect 52,000 members.

Read more
Prisons
10:11 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Brown Demands Relief from Federal Court Order on Prisons

Gov. Jerry Brown announces an end to the state of emergency in California's prison system at a Capitol news conference Tuesday in Sacramento.
Credit Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A defiant Governor Jerry Brown is proclaiming an end to the state of emergency in California prisons and demanding that the federal courts let the state run its own corrections system again.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, there’s no guarantee the courts will do as he asks.

Read more
Yosemite
6:06 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Yosemite Releases Draft Merced River Plan

Yosemite Falls (File Photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

It has taken more than a decade, but Yosemite National Park finally released today its draft plans to protect and restore the Merced River corridor for the next 20 years.

The plans, which include six different alternatives, are intended to preserve the river, and provide visitors with opportunities to enjoy the river, according to Kathleen Morse, chief of planning at Yosemite National Park.

“It’s a dual purpose plan: One to protect the resources, and two, to provide access to them,” Morse said.

Read more

Pages