Joe Moore, KVPR

With the implementation of Proposition 47 central valley law enforcement leaders warned about its potential to drive crime up. They argued that fewer people facing felonies gives people less chance to recover from addiction and change their life, while leaving them on the street to re-offend. But now even some in law enforcement are questioning if that is the case.

Valley Public Radio took a close look at the data from Fresno city and County to see if, six months into the experiment, the warnings are coming true.

Same-sex marriage supporters in the Central Valley are celebrating today after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry nationwide.

Gay and lesbians already have the right to marry in 36 states, including California, and the District of Columbia. But the court’s 5-4 ruling strikes down bans on same sex marriage in 14 states in the south and Midwest.

Jason Scott with Gay Fresno has been advocating in the Central Valley for this ruling for more than 10 years.

KVPR/Jeffrey Hess

A free public science education center is officially open in Northwest Fresno. The Highway City Science Center is moving into a community center that has been closed for 5 years since deep Recession era budget cuts.

The center is moving into one of the most underserved areas of Fresno off highway 99 in an area known as Highway City.

It will host science programing for children and adults, such as a fully assembled whale skeleton and electrical workshop.

Manuel Hernandez with the Fresno Parks Department says the center is a huge boost to the area.

Ezra David Romero

Historical movements, wars and disasters around the globe have created signature sounds in music. Think freedom songs like “We Shall Overcome,” Prince’s “Baltimore” and even Beyonce’s song “Halo” after Haiti was rocked by an earthquake. The Golden State is in its fourth year of drought and songs about a drying California are now emerging. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports on drought for the station. He joins Valley Edition Host Joe Moore to talk about what he calls drought music. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The U.S. Supreme Court is ruling in favor of a Fresno raisin farmer that it is unconstitutional for a government-backed agricultural board to claim control of a third of his crop.

The ruling is a blow against a program that authorizes growers to join together to prop up market prices.

The justices say the scheme violates the Fifth Amendment by allowing the government to take the raisins without providing just compensation. The court ruled that, just like land, raisin growers must be compensated for any product taken by the government.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

For years, the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust has worked to preserve the river bottom from development between Friant Dam and Highway 99. While the parkway, and its partner agency, the San Joaquin River Conservancy have amassed thousands of acres of land along the river, much of that land isn't regularly open to the public. 

Mercy for Animals

An animal welfare group has released what it claims is disturbing video of mistreatment of animals at a central valley slaughter house and chicken farm.

The group, Mercy for Animals, used undercover investigators to film the treatment of chickens at two Foster Farms chicken farms and a slaughterhouse in Fresno County.

What they found, says Matt Rice with Mercy for Animals, is horrific abuse of the chickens at both the farm and the slaughter house.

Joe Moore/ Valley Public Radio

On the final day of budget negotiations, the Fresno City Council has an additional $4 million to spend.

The city is getting the additional money from a one-time fund from the state.

The city council voted to spend it on a variety of projects such as updating the parks master plan, re-painting the art museum, and putting one million away in reserve.

During discussion of the budget, Council president Oliver Baines said it is refreshing to have a stable growing revenue.

File Photo

The Chief of the Fresno Police department is asking for more help to fight a rising rate of some crimes in the city. Fresno Police chief Jerry Dyer says it is increasingly difficult to attract people to law enforcement.

Fresno Police Chief Dyer is asking for a bigger budget to hire up to forty more police officers to patrol the city’s streets.

The department may also double the signing bonus to $10,000 to lure more recruits.

Dyer says it has becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified officers citing a national mood against police officers. /

The Hmong are a resilient people. Forty years after many of them were outed from Laos they have scattered across the globe as refugees. In America the two largest populations of Hmong people are in the Central Valley and in Twin Cities, Minnesota.

In this interview KVPR’S Ezra David Romero chats with Fresno State Anthropologist Kao-Ly Yang who’s studied the Hmong people for decades. She says each of these communities mirrors the man who helped establish the Hmong people in each region.

Flikr-Victor, Creative Commons

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.