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Fresno

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

On January 17th, 1994 before the sun even rose, the peace of a Los Angeles morning was broken when the ground began to quake. The 6.6 magnitude quake would soon become known as the Northridge Earthquake.

When the dust settled, 57 people were dead and tens of billions of dollars in damage occurred. Among the most important buildings crippled were 11 hospitals that were either damaged or rendered inoperable because of the quake.

The Fresno City Council has passed a ban on recreational marijuana sales and public use in the city. It passed on a 4-3 vote. The ban also extends a prohibition on outdoor cultivation of cannabis. The push for the ban was led by councilmember Garry Bredefeld who represents District 6.

Bredefeld: “Having recreational dispensaries is a problem because it sends a message to our youth that this is ok. And it isn’t ok. I don’t think it’s ok. I don’t think Prop 64 is ok.”

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Thanks to the rapidly melting snowpack, Pine Flat Reservoir on the Kings River east of Fresno is now expected to exceed 100% of its capacity. But water managers aren’t too worried.

Due in part to the extreme heat, estimates of the snowmelt flowing into the Pine Flat Lake were off by about 200,000 acre feet. As of Friday afternoon, the reservoir is just a few inches away from being completely full.

But with more water coming in from the High Sierra, dam engineers have a backup plan.

Fresno Chamber of Commerce

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand focused on job creation as he delivered his first state of the city speech today at the Fresno Convention Center. Brand says he wants to build upon this year’s announcements of new fulfillment centers for retail giants Amazon and Ulta Beauty, which are both now under construction.

The plan is to create 10,000 new jobs in the city in the next 10 years with similar operations, and another 10,000 spillover jobs in other sectors.  

BRAND: “The goal is to make Fresno the e-commerce capital of the west coast.”

A new non-profit group launched last week that has a goal to help guide the future of the Fresno Unified School District. Go Public Schools Fresno is the local branch of an Oakland-based education advocacy group. Led by Diego Arambula, the Fresno group says it hopes to build a constituency around making changes that will improve the quality of education in the district. So what does that mean, and what sorts of changes would that include? Arambula joined us on Valley Edition to talk about his background and vision.

ZDoggMD

At the intersection of popular culture and health care innovation is a man the internet knows as ZDoggMD. Thanks to his forward thinking ideas about what he calls Health 3.0, he’s been featured in The Atlantic, Forbes,

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

City of Fresno officials are calling it the crown jewel of a growing industrial park in south central Fresno. E-commerce giant Amazon officially began work on a new internet fulfillment center Monday to the delight of elected officials and business leaders who gathered at the site.

With a few short words, Amazon’s West Coast Operations Director Kelvin Downs opened the ground breaking ceremony of an 855,000 square foot internet fulfillment center.

“It’s official. Amazon is coming to Fresno,” Downs says.

Office of Congressman Jeff Denham

The expansion of Medi-Cal in the Central Valley under the Affordable Care Act has been key to slashing the area’s uninsured rate in half in recent years. Hundreds of thousands of people signed up, and in most valley counties, about half of the population is on Medi-Cal. But according to some, having more people on the program has compounded the problem of low reimbursement rates for physicians and the area’s long-running doctor shortage.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand says he has a vision to create 10,000 new jobs in Fresno and drop the unemployment rate to 5%. That would be a significant accomplishment for a city where the unemployment number is routinely above the state average. One major piece of that vision fell into place last week with the announcement that Amazon will build a fulfillment center in Fresno. Valley Public Radio spoke with the mayor about how he plans to achieve his jobs goal and the first steps already taking place. This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.

Todd Rosenberg / Courtesy The Fresno Philharmonic

The Fresno Philharmonic has announced that conductor Rei Hotoda will be the orchestra's next music director. Hotoda is the first woman and the first Asian-American to hold the position, and is just the eighth music director in the orchestra's history.

Hotoda is currently the Associate Conductor of the Utah Symphony Orchestra, and has held assistant conductor roles at orchestras in Dallas and Winnipeg. She says she is excited about the opportunity to lead the Philharmonic as its next conductor. 

Scripps National Spelling Bee Facebook

Fresno’s Ananya Vinay is the top speller in the nation. The 12 year-old student at Fugman Elementary won the Scripps National Spelling Bee last week in Maryland. She joined us on Valley Public Radio to tell us what it’s like to go from a sixth grade classroom into the national spotlight.

Jeffrey Hess / Valley Public Radio

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein used a visit to the Central Valley Thursday to criticize President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. Valley Public Radio’s Jeffrey Hess caught up with the senator at a farm in western Fresno County.

Standing beside a freshly irrigated olive orchard, Feinstein warned that leaving the international climate change initiative could make the Central Valley un-farmable.

Ezra David Romero
Valley Public Radio

Understanding the information on a voting ballot can be tough even for English speakers. For many second language learners the voting process can be so intimidating that they don’t vote, in part because of the lack of materials in their own language.

Now a group of Punjabi people in Fresno want to change that experience.

Almost every afternoon older Indian-American men from the province of Punjab gather under the shade and play cards in Victoria West Community Park in West Fresno. Deep Singh says it’s a chance to get out of the house.

The Fresno Art Museum often features works by acclaimed modern artists from around the world. But with a set of new exhibits opening this week, the museum is turning its attention to local artists. The museum's director Michele Ellis Pracy joins us on Valley Edition to talk about the exhibits by Nancy Youdelman, Leslie Batty and Maurice Cohen. Youdelman has long been an important feminist artist in the valley, inspired by the legacy of Judy Chicago during her tenure at Fresno State.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Nearly 1,000 people in the Central Valley are now officially new U.S. citizens. And for many, they say the recent Presidential election played a big role.

975 people from 57 countries took the oath of citizenship at the Fresno Convention Center Tuesday, the final step in their process of moving from immigrant to citizen.

Among them was 35-year old Norma Minjares, who was brought to the country by his parents as an infant.  

She, like many in the crowd, say last fall’s election pushed her to finally seek citizenship.

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