Fresno

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There are roughly 1,000 fewer people in Fresno County who are on Felony probation. The County Probation Chief says that is due to changes brought about by Proposition 47.

By turning some felonies, especially drug convictions, into misdemeanors there are now only about 8,000 people under county supervision compared to 9,000 a year ago according to Probation Chief Rick Chavez.

Chavez says it is not necessarily a bad thing that fewer people are on probation as long as people who are now convicted of misdemeanors access treatment for addiction.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

For the second time in five years, a Fresno poet has received the nation’s highest honor for his field. Former Fresno State professor Juan Felipe Herrera is the new Poet Laureate of the United States. Herrera grew up in the San Joaquin Valley and was influenced by both the beat poets and the Chicano movement of the 1960’s. He joins the late Philip Levine as the only Fresno residents to hold the national honor.  

In this interview Valley Public Radio's Ezra David Romero chats with Herrera about his life, poetry and future. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Forty years ago the Hmong people began seeking refuge in the United States after the CIA recruited a guerrilla army of Hmong people to fight the North Vietnamese in Laos in what’s known as the Secret War. Before coming to the US they spent years in refugee camps in Thailand. Thousands of those refugees made it to America where their lives changed forever. FM89’s Ezra David Romero speaks with a Hmong family who made the journey and has no desire to return to their homeland. 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

School districts across the valley are trying to figure out what to do with new money intended to help their most vulnerable students. But a letter from the State Department of Education raises questions about whether some of their spending on things like teacher raises is allowed. The interpretations of the new funding formula vary, based on who you ask.

The special funding, known as supplemental and concentration funds, is a big funding boost for schools to help the neediest kids, such as poor students, non-English speakers, and foster kids.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Fresno’s Fig Garden Village Shopping Center has a new owner today. New York-based Rouse Properties has announced that it has purchased the outdoor mall for just over $106 million.

In a prepared statement company CEO Andrew Silberfein said the corporation sees  “significant value creation opportunities” at the center and plans to add “more powerful and productive retailers” in the future.

Ezra David Romero

After the City of Fresno rejected a proposed bus ad about the lack of parks in South Fresno last week, the controversy over the issue  has only grown. The ad from the group Building Healthy Communities cited city data that shows North Fresno residents have over four times the amount of park space per capita as those who live south of Shaw Avenue. 

Google Maps

A local organization is asking the City of Fresno to build a new park for residents in an older part of town.

Jose Leon-Barazza with the Southeast Fresno Community Economic Development Association will ask the city council on Thursday to spend $200,000 to do preliminary work to turn a largely vacant 48-acre parcel on South Peach Avenue into a park and soccer fields.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

A new Fresno organization has joined forces with one of the state’s organic food pioneers to launch a new food box program for the valley. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

The project known as “Out of Our Own Backyards” or Ooooby, is from the nonprofit Fresno Food Commons. Kiel Schmidt is with the group that is launching the new community supported agriculture box, also known as a CSA. 

Building Healthy Communities

An ad that a local non-profit group wants to run on city buses is the center of controversy, after Fresno officials say it’s too political. As FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports the group wants more parkland in older parts of town.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition Reporter Jeffrey Hess reports on how Fresno is leveraging big data to improve city functions. Later, Reporter Ezra David Romero goes on a Central Valley tour to find the ugly food that'll be found in a CSA-style home delivered box.

Jeffrey Hess / Valley Public Radio

There is a growing movement in Fresno to leverage the power of big data to improve a wide variety of city services from water conservation, to street lights, to police and more. Powerful computers are now able to crunch billions of data points to provide a clearer picture of what works and what doesn’t. The city is increasingly seeing data and information as a two-way street.

I am standing on Shaw Avenue in Fresno.

This heavily traveled street sees tens of thousands of cars a day.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno Police Department is moving forward with a plan to purchase 300 new body cameras for officers. The city council approved the $2.5 million purchase today which also includes 400 TASER devices. The cameras are in addition to 100 purchased earlier this year after the city received an anonymous $500,000 donation. 

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

A state appeals court has delivered a legal victory to a Fresno-based fruit grower in a decades old fight with the state’s ag labor relations board and the UFW. But as FM89’s Joe Moore reports, it’s likely not the final ruling.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

For the second time in two months the Fresno City Council has voted down a proposal to start a farmland preservation program. FM89’s Joe Moore reports. 

Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s administration had wanted to apply for a $100,000 state grant to help start the effort, which is a key part of the city’s new general plan. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

A new statewide program using cap-and-trade money to fund solar panels for low-income residents launched this week  in Fresno. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports.

Salvador Mendoza and his family are one of the first 1,780 households in the state to receive rooftop solar panels through California’s Low-Income Weatherization Program.

Mendoza has lung disease and lives in one of the most economically impoverished parts of Fresno.

Brooke Ashjian

Local schools have a lot on their plate, preparing students for life, a job and the possibility of a college education. But what about students who likely won't attend college? The answer used to be in vocational education classes, things like auto shop and wood shop. But increasingly those classes have disappeared from schools with the emphasis on standardized testing and college readiness.

Gallup

A new national survey indicates three Central Valley communities are among the worst in the nation when it comes to resident’s perception of safety.

A Gallup poll recently released shows that Fresno residents say they are the least likely to feel safe and secure in their neighborhoods. The Stockton-Lodi region and Bakersfield ranked second and third.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno City Council has voted to move forward with an ordinance that aims to crack down on vacant blighted properties throughout the city. FM89’s Joe Moore reports backers hope the effort will improve struggling neighborhoods. 

No more boarded up windows. A new five person city “blight team” to assess the problem and daily fines for continued violations. Those are some of the measures of the new anti-blight ordinance that passed its first vote Thursday. 

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: California going back to the drawing board to deal with their drought.

Faith in Community

In many of Fresno’s older neighborhoods, blighted properties and boarded up homes are a big problem. FM89’s Joe Moore reports a proposed new law aims to crack down on those property owners.

Residents say abandoned, boarded up buildings drive down property values and often attract  illegal activity. That’s why the Fresno City Council is set to vote on a new ordinance tomorrow to crack down on vacant blighted buildings throughout the city.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin:

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