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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Agriculture
5:00 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

What Drought? California Table Grape Growers Have Record Crop

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Despite the worst drought in recent memory, Central California's table grape growers enjoyed a record crop in 2014.

According to numbers released Friday by the California Table Grape Commission, last year's crop was worth $1.76 billion, an all time value record. In terms of volume, it was the second largest crop in history, at 110 million boxes.

In a press release, Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission said exports topped 44.5 million boxes.

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News
3:52 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

Indicted Deputy Chief Foster Appears In Court

Left to Right: City Manager Bruce Rudd, Police Chief Jerry Dyer, and Mayor Ashley Swearengin

  Indicted Fresno deputy Police chief Keith Foster is being released on his own recognizance prior to his trial on drug-related charges.

Foster was one of six people who appeared in federal court today on accusation of distributing heroine, Oxycodone, and marijuana.

The cities top three leaders all say that they were unaware of Foster’s alleged illegal activity but that they are sure that it does not extend further into the department.

Ashley Swearengin is Mayor of Fresno.

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Government & Politics
7:11 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Fresno Deputy Police Chief Arrested For Dealing Drugs

Fresno Deputy Police Chief Keith Foster (file photo)
Credit Fresno Police Department

One of Fresno's highest ranking law enforcement officers was arrested Thursday on drug charges. Fresno Deputy Police Chief Keith Foster is charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, marijuana and oxycodone.

Five other Fresno residents were also charged in the case, including two men the FBI believes are related to Foster. 

Foster has been placed on administrative leave by the department. The arrests are part of an on-going, year-long investigation by the FBI and ATF.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin says the arrest is totally unexpected...

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Government & Politics
6:58 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Fresno City Council Votes To Loosen Tough Marijuana Law

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno City Council is moving forward with a plan to modify the city's medical marijuana law. But as FM89's Joe Moore reports, the change could be short lived. 

The new law would amend another passed last year by the council that banned all marijuana cultivation in the city. If the new proposal becomes law, residents would be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants indoors, for their personal medicinal use.

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Government & Politics
12:27 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Fresno City Council Hears Call For "ShotSpotter" System, Says Yes

Fresno City Hall (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno City Council has approved a request by Police  Chief Jerry Dyer for funding to install gunshot detecting microphones in a three square mile section of the city.

The system, called ShotSpotter, uses the microphones to triangulate the location of gunshots so police can respond. 

Company CEO  Ralph Clark says the system greatly improves a department’s ability to respond to gunshots.

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Health
11:48 am
Thu March 26, 2015

'Right-To-Die' Proposal Sparks Tears, Impassioned Testimony at California Capitol

The committee heard video testimony from Brittany Maynard, recorded before her death.

People lined up inside the California Capitol Wednesday to testify during an emotional hearing about the End-of-Life Option Act. As Capital Public Radio's Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone explains, the bill cleared its first committee test.

Terminally-ill Californians would be able to receive prescription medication to hasten their death under the proposal. 

Deborah Ziegler  is Brittany Maynard's mother. Maynard moved to Oregon to obtain a life-ending prescription when she was dying of brain cancer.

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Drought
11:26 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Poll: Californians Say Their Neighbors Need To Do More In Drought

Credit Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

A new poll shows deep concern among Californians over the state’s drought and future water supply. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

The Public Policy Institute of California survey shows two-thirds of adults believe the water supply in their region is a big problem. The same percentage also say people where they live aren’t doing enough to respond to the drought. And Californians are just as likely to name the drought as the state’s most urgent issue as they are to cite the economy.

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Valley Edition
1:35 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

On Valley Edition: New Fresno Art Museum Director Michele Ellis Pracy

Fresno Art Museum (file photo)
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

The Fresno Art Museum is one of the valley's cultural gems, with exhibits and educational programs at its facility in Fresno's Radio Park. For the past year however, the museum was without an executive director. The museum also has faced hard times in recent years with a declining economy and an aging facility. 

Now the museum has a new executive director, Michele Ellis Pracy, who joined us on Valley Edition to talk about her background in museums, and her vision for one of Fresno's most vital cultural institutions. 

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Health Care
12:49 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Protestant Group Supports Physician Assisted Suicide Bill

California lawmakers will hear a bill Wednesday that would allow physicians to prescribe medications that would speed the dying process for terminally-ill patients. As Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, a group of over a million California Protestants says it now supports the bill.

We all face death, some of us more often than others.

Pastor Holmes: Donna how you feeling? Good!

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My Valley, My Story
10:27 am
Wed March 25, 2015

My Valley, My Story: What It's Like To Get Sick In London, California

FM89's series My Valley, My Story features first person stories from people throughout the San Joaquin Valley. This week KVPR's Diana Aguilera visits London, an unincorporated town in rural  Tulare County with a population of nearly 2,000 people, to find out what it’s like to get sick when the nearest hospital is about 30 minutes away. 

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Water
10:26 am
Wed March 25, 2015

New State Office Could Help Poor Valley Communities Get Clean Drinking Water

Credit Valley Public Radio

The emergency drought relief bill that California lawmakers will begin voting on Wednesday would create a new state office. That might sound fairly mundane. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, supporters say it could help disadvantaged communities.

Clean water advocates will tell you that it can sometimes take decades for small or poor communities to get clean drinking water. Laurel Firestone is with the Community Water Center.

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Government & Politics
5:36 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Visalia On The Way To District Elections For City Council

Visalia City Hall (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

 he city of Visalia is getting closer to altering how they elect their city council. As FM 89's Jeffrey Hess reports, it's a move that some hope will increase diversity in city government.

The city is planning a series of public hearings, beginning in early April, to finalize the five new districts that will each elect one council representative. 

Visalia spokeswomen Nancy Loliva says the city is drawing districts for the first time to settle a voting rights lawsuit over the current system where all council members are elected at-large.

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Government & Politics
6:55 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Fulton Mall Project To Become Reality?

Craig Scharton, owner of Peeves

After years of delays, and ongoing lawsuits, officials with the city of Fresno say they are finally going to turn the Fulton mall back into a street. The question of what to do with the aging pedestrian walking area in the center of downtown Fresno has been a sore spot in the city for years. City and business leaders say all signs point to the project breaking ground as soon as this fall.

A piano player picks out a tune on the piano in the corner of the popular downtown bar Peeve’s.

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Government & Politics
10:27 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

More Money For Drought Aid, But No Mandatory Conservation

Gov. Jerry Brown discusses new emergency drought legislation at a Capitol news conference Thursday, joined by Democratic and Republican leaders.
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders aren’t calling for any mandatory water conservation in this fourth year of drought. Instead, they’re offering emergency drought aid for a second straight year. As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the state has yet to spend nearly half of last year’s emergency drought money.

The governor did not announce any new water conservation rules. But he hinted that day might come soon if the rain does not.

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News
3:24 pm
Wed March 18, 2015

Kern County Considering Privatizing More Services

Kern County is now considering turning to private companies to run county services as one way to help cover a big decline in tax revenue.

While many cheer low oil prices for declining gas, it is costing Kern County in a major way. The lower cost of oil means the county is bringing in less in property taxes; As much as 60-million dollars less next year.

County Supervisor Mick Gleason says the county board voted this week to prioritize forming partnerships with private companies to run county services, potentially saving money.

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Government & Politics
11:00 am
Wed March 18, 2015

New Scrutiny For Brown's Retiree Health Care Proposal As Labor Talks Begin

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

A new report from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office criticizes California Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed overhaul of state worker retiree health care benefits – just as labor negotiations are getting under way. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento. California faces more than $70 billion in unfunded retiree health care for state workers – and the governor says it’s time to act. Here’s Brown in January on NPR. 

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Environment
10:43 am
Wed March 18, 2015

Study: Drought Reduces Hydropower, Increases Greenhouse Gas Emissions in California

Friant Dam near Fresno (file photo)
Credit San Joaquin River Restoration Program

A new study says the drought in California has forced an increased use of natural gas to produce electricity, as dwindling river flows have reduced hydropower generation. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The Pacific Institute says less hydroelectricity means more expensive electricity.

Peter Gleick: "We get a lot of electricity normally from hydropower, which is relatively inexpensive and relatively clean. And during a drought we don't have the water and we don't get the power."

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Health Care
2:58 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

California 'Safety-Net' Hospitals at Risk Amidst Health System Changes

file photo
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Throughout California, many hospitals that serve mostly low-income patients face financial strains. And as Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone in Sacramento found, changes in the health care system are making the problems even worse.

Safety-net hospitals serve a higher percentage of the uninsured, and low-income patients who have Medi-Cal. Jan Emerson-Shea with the California Hospital Association says these hospitals often don't have enough patients with higher-paying commercial insurance to offset losses.

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Government & Politics
11:25 pm
Mon March 16, 2015

Kern County Could Explore Privatizing Public Libraries

The Beale Memorial Library in downtown Bakersfield (file photo)
Credit Kern County Public Library

In Kern County, the state’s leader when it comes to oil production, the industry not only drives the local economy, it also helps drive the county’s general fund.

That’s because the county’s assessor puts a value on all of the oil that remains deep underground, and uses that figure when it comes time to collect property taxes. When the price of oil goes up, county revenues soar. But when the price of oil goes down, officials are left scrambling to cover the shortfall.

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Environment
8:42 pm
Mon March 16, 2015

Endangered Delta Smelt May Be Extinct

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

A small endangered fish that plays a pivotal role in California’s water wars may well be on its way out. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, populations of the Delta smelt have plummeted to their lowest levels ever.

Prepare for the extinction of the Delta smelt in the wild. That’s what UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle told a group of scientists with the Delta Stewardship Council. He says the latest state trawl survey found very few fish in areas of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where smelt normally gather.

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