governance

Audit of State's Hidden Surplus Money Due Next Week

Jul 27, 2012
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

We should learn next week whether there’s any more hidden surplus money in California state special funds. The state's Finance Department plans to release its audit of those accounts after $54 million dollars in surplus money was found in two parks funds.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition, we talk with the UC Merced scientist behind a new study of the Valley's environment, and find out where we're making progress and where we're still falling behind in cleaning up our air and water. We also examine the fiasco involving the State of California's Department of Parks and Recreation, which last week discovered over $50 million in an account that had gone unreported for a decade, all happening at the same time that many parks have been threatened by closure.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Randy Bolt has a passion for rocks. Well, not just rocks, but gems and minerals too. He's a historic guide at California's Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa. 

He can tell you about the state's official gemstone, "which most people have never even heard of, which is actually one of the rarest  gems in the world, it's called Benitoite, named after San Benito Creek."

Or he can tell you about the history of the world-famous nugget from the California Gold Rush that is nearly the size of a basketball.

Joe Moore - Valley Public Radio

California’s budget problems have put a strain on all state departments - including local county courts. Valley Public Radio's Gabriela Ornelas tells us how Fresno County residents may find getting to a courtroom much more difficult in the coming weeks.

When you look up the origins of word “pension” in the dictionary, you’ll see that it comes from the Latin verb, pendo, which means to pay or value, and to weigh or hang. It’s actually the same root that gives us nouns like pendant. And back here in the 21st century, the costs of providing a defined benefit retirement programs are increasingly weighing down budget across the state.

According to some estimates, California's three largest statewide pension systems, CalPERS, CalSTRS and the UC Retirement System could have a combined shortfall of as much as $500 billion.

Prop 28 Would Change Term Limits

May 7, 2012

Currently, California lawmakers can serve a total of fourteen years: six in the Assembly, and eight in the Senate. Nick Schroeder from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says Prop 28 would allow a legislator to serve up to twelve years.

“Fundamentally, what this measure does is it allows a person to serve more years in one house, either in the Assembly or Senate but fewer total years in the legislature…”

This week on Valley Edition we talk about the City of Fresno's new "fiscal sustainability plan," and find out what city leaders are doing to avoid bankruptcy. We also hear about efforts to bring solar power to Valley homes, and a new program that aims to help disadvantaged kids and share with them the joy of cycling.

Valley Edition for March 27, 2012:

This week on Valley Edition we talk about the recent resurgence of an old idea, splitting up the Golden State, with the authors of a new book called "California Crackup." We'll also talk about the continuing effort to revitalize downtown Fresno.

This week on Valley Edition we talk about how political gridlock in Washington D.C. has created an unprecedented backlog at the Federal Courthouse in Fresno. Recently retired justice Oliver Wanger joins us for this special report. We also look at a new study that links spikes in air pollution with stays at local hospitals.

This week on Valley Edition, we talk about the job creation potential of California's planned high speed rail system with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin. We also learn about plans to train the Valley's workforce to be ready for the hundreds of construction jobs that the project will create. Also on this week's program we look at the 100th anniversary of California's revolutionary experiment with direct democracy by looking ahead to the next century of reforms.

On this Valley Edition, we look at the big problems facing the small Kern County city of Maricopa, we examine the controversial issue of racial profiling, and find out about an upcoming soul food festival at Fresno's African American Historical and Cultural Museum.

CA Citizens Redistricting Commission Redraws the Lines

Jul 22, 2011

While it doesn't get nearly as much attention as the state's on-going budget debate, behind the scenes, work is underway on a set of maps that could dramatically alter California politics for a decade to come. The State's 14 member Citizens Redistricting Commission is currently at work on redrawing the lines of the state's assembly, state senate and congressional districts. And in a state where major decisions such as the budget and big social issues often are decided by just one or two votes, the stakes for all those involved are high.

Segment 1: Valley Professionals Struggle to Find Work - Among the groups hit the hardest in the economic downturn are business professionals. From April 2010 to April 2011 the business and professional sectors in Fresno County lost 1,800 jobs. Host Juanita Stevenson reports on how some Valley professionals are looking to re-enter the workforce and having success finding work. Guests include Ginny Burdick, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Community Hospitals of Central California; Cathy Frost, President, Bennett Frost Personnel Services and Dr.

Segment 1: California's long running budget battle entered a new chapter last week, when Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a budget sent to him by the Democratic controlled Legislature. On this edition of Quality of Life, we talk with Democrat Assembly member Henry T. Perea of Fresno, and Republican Assembly Leader Connie Conway of Tulare about what's next in the budget debate. We also get political analysis on the budget from Professor Jeff Cummins of Fresno State and Nathan W. Monroe of UC Merced.

Part I: National Parks - Central California's National Parks are known worldwide and attract millions of visitors each year. In 2010, over 4 million people visited Yosemite National Park, just short of breaking the park's all-time record. But those visitors bring big city problems with them, from traffic jams, to pollution and safety concerns. This week on Quality of Life, we examine the difficult task of balancing public access with preservation of natural resources, in Yosemite and beyond.

Segment I - Redistricting - While it doesn't get nearly as much attention as the state's on-going budget debate, behind the scenes, work is underway on a set of maps that could dramatically alter California politics for a decade to come. The State's 14 member Citizens Redistricting Commission is currently at work on redrawing the lines of the state's assembly, state senate and congressional districts. And in a state where major decisions such as the budget and big social issues often are decided by just one or two votes, the stakes for all those are high.

California's cities have been hit hard in recent years. The housing bust, the economic downturn, and perennial state budget crises are just a few of the factors that have helped batter the balance sheets of municipalities up and down the Golden state. Valley cities are no exception, especially given the region’s perennially high levels of unemployment, even in so called "good" times. Many large cities, like Fresno have been forced to make drastic cuts to city services, and have been forced to lay off hundreds of employees.

Segment 1: Last month, Forbes magazine released its ranking of the nation’s ten "most toxic" cities, and Bakersfield and Fresno were ranked #2 and #3. While concerns about the Valley's air and water quality are nothing new, this report brings new national attention to the efforts to deal with these problems. In this segment, we examine the efforts to clean up the air with Sayed Sadredin, Executive Director and Air Pollution Control Officer for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Part I: Prop 13 - Thirty three years ago, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13 into law, ushering in a new era of California politics and forever changing state and local government. Not only did the constitutional amendment cut property taxes nearly in half, its implementation also ushered in a major change in the way government services are provided, in the Golden State, centralizing more power in Sacramento.

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