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
10:45 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Judge Rules In Favor of Current Death Penalty Ballot Language

California voters won’t see much change in the language of Proposition 34. A judge sided with those who want to repeal the death penalty that the November ballot language is not misleading.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley upheld his previous decisions on the death penalty ballot measure. He ruled that the ballot’s title and summary written by the state’s attorney general is not misleading. But he did order one slight change in the ballot’s arguments about savings that would result from eliminating the death penalty.

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Food
9:53 am
Mon August 13, 2012

GMO Food Labeling Initiative Could Affect Natural Foods Too

California’s Proposition 37 would require foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. But a part of the initiative regarding what foods can be labeled "natural" has sparked controversy.

The fuss is over the language that supporters say aims to ban genetically engineered foods from being labeled "natural."

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Developing: Fire Watch
6:43 pm
Sat August 11, 2012

Fire Threatens Community of Meadow Lakes

UPDATE: Sunday 6:30 p.m. The Lanes Fire is now 80 percent contained. CalFire reports that 11 firefighters have been injured.
UPDATE: Sunday 7:30 a.m.
CalFire officials now say that the Lanes Fire has consumed only 138 acres and is 30 percent contained. Over 500 firefighters are at work battling the blaze. 
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Residents in the Fresno County mountain community of Meadow Lakes are being advised to evacuate their homes today due to a brush fire burning near the "four lane" section of Highway 168. 

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Reporting on Health
2:58 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

State Hospital Infection Rate Drops, Many Valley Hospitals Above Average

Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

California hospitals experienced a 10 percent drop in the number of serious infections over the past year, but a number of San Joaquin Valley hospitals are still above the state average, when compared with similar hospitals elsewhere in the state.

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Energy
12:49 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Cal ISO Calls Statewide Flex Alert For This Weekend

file photo
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

People use more energy when it’s hot, and California’s power grid operator has issued a Flex Alert because of the current heat wave.

Cal-ISO is the state’s Independent System Operator. When the forecast for demand gets close to the state’s power generating capacity, the operator calls a Flex Alert. Stephanie McCorkle with Cal-ISO says it’s most important to conserve during the peak usage hours between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

"Electricity is not something you can bottle up and store on a shelf. It is basically consumed the instant it is produced.”

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Forest Fires
8:01 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Lightning Caused Fires Continue to Burn in Mountains

The Bear Fire continues to burn in the rugged Sierra National Forest east of Fresno.
Sierra National Forest

Fires sparked by lightning on Saturday  continue to burn today in rugged terrain in the Sierra Nevada mountains, nearly a week after they began. In the Sierra National Forest east of Fresno the Bear Fire has consumed over 700 acres of timber between Edison and Florence Lake.

Ten smoke jumpers, four helicopters and four fixed wing aircraft are battling the blaze, which is in terrain ranging from 7,500 to 9,000 feet in elevation. The fire is currently 50 percent contained. No structures are threatened. 

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Government & Politics
6:25 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

California Lawmakers Hold First Special Funds Hearing

The Chair of a California Assembly committee looking into the state’s special funds accounts called the parks department scandal “shameful” today. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, lawmakers asked finance officials for assurances that there are no more hidden assets.

At issue is how $54 million in surplus Parks department funds could remain hidden for 12 years. An audit last week also found discrepancies in other state special funds accounts. Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield chairs the oversight committee.

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Health
6:18 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

California Lawmakers Call for Audit of Mental Health Services Act

Some California lawmakers are calling for a closer look into a state fund for county mental health programs.

The Mental Health Services Act has brought in more than $8 billion since it was enacted in 2004. Republican State Assemblyman Dan Logue says he requested an audit of the funds after he heard reports of money spent on activities not clearly connected to mental health.

“If the basics are being sacrificed for programs that have proven and have shown no benefit whatsoever, then there needs to be a reevaluation of where these funds go.”

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Environment
4:45 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Planning Commission Approves Carmelita Mining Project

A photo from the environmental impact report for the proposed Carmelita Project mine depicts the orchards currently on the site.
Fresno County Dept Public Works & Planning / Librun Corp

The Fresno County Planning Commission approved a controversial proposal for a gravel mining project near the Kings River north of Reedley today on a 6-1 vote.

The Carmelita Project is a planned 886 acre gravel mine between Reed Avenue and the Kings River.  The project will be divided into 22 mining "cells" each of them 40 acres in size and up to 50 feet deep. Over the next 100 years, the mine will produce as much as 1.25 million tons of sand and rock each year. The land is owned by Fresno based Gerawan Farming, and is currently home to fruit orchards.

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Fish & Game
6:53 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

California's Top Wildlife Official Replaced After Cougar Killing

California’s top wildlife official lost that job today seven months after he shot a mountain lion in Idaho. As KPCC’s Julie Small reports, the state Fish and Game Commission voted him out of office.

It wasn’t illegal for commission president Dan Richards to kill the cougar, or to pose with his prey for a photograph that later circulated online.

California banned mountain lion hunts decades ago - but Idaho and many other states allow them.

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Government & Politics
6:47 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

California Democrat Pushes Pension Plan for Private Sector Employees

A bill that would create a retirement plan for California private sector workers who have no pensions or 401-K’s is facing intense opposition from business groups. The bill was heard today by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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Education
6:38 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

Group Announces Effort to Recall FUSD's Vang

Javier Guzman, Rev. Floyd D. Harris Jr, and Mai Summer Vue speak at a news conference announcing the recall effort
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

A coalition of teachers and education activists gathered today to announce an effort to recall Fresno Unified school board member Tony Vang. 

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Government & Politics
4:11 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

Study Shows California Tribal Gaming Casinos Have Big Economic Impact

A new study shows that tribal gaming casinos have a $7.5 billion impact on California’s economy.

The report comes as Governor Jerry Brown considers whether to approve two new tribal casinos that would add to the 60 already in the state.

Beacon Economics conducted the study. It shows tribal gaming has helped create 52-thousand jobs in industries throughout the state.

Steve Stallings is with the California Nations Indian Gaming Association which commissioned the study. He says the report also shows their casinos generate significant tax revenue.

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Pension Reform
7:14 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

California Democratic Leaders Say It's Time for Pension Reform

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has decided that now is not the time to change California’s newly-approved process for cities and counties to enter into bankruptcy.

He’s decided to kill the legislation authored by a Democratic Assembly member. The bill would have loosened deadlines on negotiations with creditors and labor groups. But Steinberg says it’s time now for the legislature to focus elsewhere.

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November Election
7:09 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

California Ballot Measures Committees Raise $84 Million

A new analysis shows that campaign committees already are spending millions of dollars on propositions for California’s November’s ballot. The analysis, by the Fair Political Practices Commission, shows by the end of June, committees had raised more than $84 million to fight or support the 11 ballot measures.

The Commission’s report looked at donors who gave $10,000 or more. While the state limits what an individual donor can give state candidates, there are no limits on the amount of money committees can contribute to ballot measures.

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Environment
6:57 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

California Air Resources Board Maps Air Polluters

A screenshot of the new greenhouse gas emissions Google map from the California Air Resources Board
California Air Resources Board

The California Air Resources Board has created a map that shows the state’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. It is a significant step in the development of California’s Cap and Trade program.

On the new Google Earth map are 625 facilities that each produce more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually. The map breaks down facilities by industry, zip code and emissions. But, Stanley Young with the Air Resources Board says state-to-state comparisons aren’t yet available.

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Business & Economy
4:45 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Kern County Leads Nation in Employment Gains

Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

Employment in California’s largest counties rose between December of 2010 and December of 2011, but paychecks got smaller in most large counties. 24 of the 26 large counties in California saw employment increase. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines large counties as those with employment of 75,000 or more.

Kern County posted a 5.3 percent increase, followed by San Francisco County at 3.3 percent. Kern County’s increase was not only the largest increase in the state but in the country as well. Los Angeles County has the highest number of employed at more than 3.9 million.

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Business & Economy
4:39 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Suit Filed Against Valley Farm Labor Contractor

California Labor Commissioner Julie Su has filed a lawsuit against a Valley farm labor contractor for unpaid wages. The case filed in Fresno Superior Court on Monday alleges Javier Diaz of Diaz Contracting committed multiple violations, including failure to provide minimum wage and overtime to employees. The lawsuit seeks over $600,000 in unpaid wages, penalties and damages affecting 129 workers.

Sacramento
3:47 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

California's Senate Democratic Leader Responds to Park Scandal and Pay Raises

California’s Senate President Pro Tem is responding to criticisms of legislative pay raises and the hidden assets found at the parks department. The issues are giving ammunition to opponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative.

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Government & Politics
12:38 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Study Highlights High Incarceration Rate in Valley Counties

A map from the California Sentencing Institute details the number of inmates counties sent to state prison in 2010
California Sentencing Institute / Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice

A new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice shows that Valley Counties on average send more people to jail and state prison than the rest of the state. Kings County topped the list with the state's highest per capita population in state prison, over 1,500 adults for every 100,000 people. Tulare and Kern counties weren't far behind.

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