Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Kaiser-Fresno surgeon recognized for volunteerism

A Kaiser Permanente-Fresno surgeon who has donated hours and hours of his time to patients in Africa is one of 14 Kaiser employees nationwide to receive the 2012 David Lawrence Community Service Award.

Dr. David Young, surgeon at Kaiser-Fresno

Dr. David Young told Kaiser that the people of Africa have “stolen my heart.”
Young provides free care in a place I, and likely many of you, have never heard of: Nebobongo, an area of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
About every 18 months, Young travels there to help the 114,000 residents. The only hospital has 100 beds and a small staff, and few supplies — bandages and used gloves have to be steam-sterilized for re-use.
He’s helped bring medical supplies to the Nebobongo hospital through a collaboration with Medical Ministries International and he told Kaiser he plans to donate the $10,000 he will receive from the community service award to that organization.
Kaiser says the above isn’t all of Young’s contributions: He also has volunteered to perform six free hernia repair surgeries at Kaiser-Fresno. The central San Joaquin Valley residents didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford to pay for the operation. The surgeries, follow-up visits and medications were paid for with a grant provided by Kaiser Permanente Fresno’s Community Benefit program.
Young told Kaiser it’s an honor to be recognized, but from his volunteer efforts he’s “fulfilled.”

Air activist Kevin Hall now with California Nurses Association

Longtime activist Kevin Hall this week left his position as director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition to become a labor representative for the California Nurses Association (CNA).

Hall, who has led the coalition since mid-2011, will remain involved with the coalition on its steering committee as well as the Healthy Air & Stable Climate action subcommittee.

“CNA is a great fit for me,” he said in an email. “The valley’s path to clean air is a political one, and the nurses of CNA are the largest, most effective union in our state. Their pro-health stands could not be better.”

Dolores Weller, associate director of the air quality coalition, has been named as interim director for the coalition.


Valley reps to lead Portuguese-American Caucus

San Joaquin Valley Reps. David Valadao, R-Hanford, and Jim Costa, D-Fresno, are sharing leadership in the newly reformed Congressional Portuguese-American Caucus.

Along with Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline, Valadao and Costa will be serving as co-chairs of the caucus that’s always a popular one among Valley lawmakers. Valadao, in a statement Thursday, said that “as a first-generation Portuguese immigrant, it is important that I do my part to represent this community while in Washington.” Valadao added that the caucus members will “raise awareness of the contributions Portuguese Americans have made and of the importance of strong bilateral ties between the two nations.”

“We will be working together to raise awareness about the contributions that the over 1 million Americans of Portuguese descent have made to our nation,” Costa added.

A past member of the caucus, former Rep. Dennis Cardoza of Merced, was presented by Portugal’s ambassador to the United States earlier this month with the title of Grand Officer of the Order of Prince Henry, the Navigator. The award honored Cardoza’s work on behalf of U.S.-Portuguese ties during his time in the House.

Real Estate: Fresno industrial market is making a move

The Fresno industrial real estate market is seeing some construction action.

A 96,000-square-foot warehouse is under construction at the 230-acre North Pointe Business Park in southwest Fresno.

And underground work is also starting on the last 30-acres of a small building subdivision on the west side of Fresno.

That’s good news for a commercial sector that hasn’t seen any speculative development in the last five years, said Ethan Smith, a broker and vice president industrial division at Grubb & Ellis Pearson Commercial, a Fresno commercial real estate firm.

Speculative building is the construction of a building without a specific use or buyer and tenant identified.

During the building boom – between 2005 and 2007 – the industrial market added several million square feet of inventory into the market, according to a fourth quarter 2012 industrial report from Grubb & Ellis.

But development came to a standstill during the recession. Rental rates also took a hit falling by up to 25% while sale prices for non-bank-owned properties fell by up to 30%.

“These are not great statistics, but they are far from the disaster predicted by many,” the report said.

Rental rates are now starting to level off and sales prices are holding steady. And Class A warehouse space is emerging as a strong spot. Class A caters to large businesses that need more than 50,000 square feet of space.

The new North Pointe warehouse, which should be ready for occupancy by mid-summer, is a Class A space. An out-of-state business whom Smith declined to identify has signed a lease and will occupy about half of the building. Smith is trying to fill the other half.

The west Fresno project is an expansion of an existing development between Valentine and Brawley avenues, south of Shaw avenue. The developer tore down an existing plant and is getting the land ready for development, Smith said.

Real Estate: Two Fresno builders receive awards based on customer ratings

Two Fresno homebuilders have received Eliant 2013 Homebuyers’ Choice Awards.

The awards are based on customer ratings conducted through more than 76,500 surveys that measured key elements of the purchase and ownership experience.

Eliant, a customer experience management company based in San Clemente, distributed the surveys to more than 148 major homebuilders across the U.S. and in Canada.

Here are the results:

McCaffrey Homes

  • Third Place – Design Selection Experience
  • Third Place – First-Year Customer Service Experience
  • Second Place – Overall First-Year Quality
  • First Place – Highest Percent of Sales from Referrals
  • Second Place – Overall Home Purchase & Ownership Experience

Wathen Castanos Hybrid Homes

  • Honorable Mention – Homebuyers’ Ratings of The Purchase Experience
  • Honorable Mention – Design Selection Experience
  • Third Place – Construction Experience
  • Second Place – Highest Percent of Sales from Referrals
  • Honorable Mention – Overall Home Purchase & Ownership Experience

State water board recommends farm fertilizer fee for water cleanup

A farm fertilizer fee is at the top of the suggestion list released Wednesday in a state report focused on widespread contamination of drinking water, especially in rural San Joaquin Valley towns.

The state needs to come up with $36 million a year to address the Valley problems from nitrates, which come from fertilizers and animal waste.

The contamination threatens drinking water for 250,000 people from Fresno to Bakersfield, according to a study released last year by the University of California at Davis.

Many people in small towns such as Seville in Tulare County have been drinking bottled water for years as they await a state solution. A Fresno Bee series of stories in 2011 highlighted the problems.

Grants and loans through the state have not panned out for  some towns that can’t afford to pay back loans or maintain treatment facilities.

Another funding source is needed, say leaders of the State Water Resources Control Board, which did the report.

“There just isn’t a stable, long-term funding source,” said Jonathan Bishop, chief deputy director of the water resources board in Sacramento.

Bishop said the recommendations are among the steps required by SBX2-1 in 2008. It’s up to the Legislature to settle on how to get funding.

Other ideas to raise money include a tax on farm commodities and a water-use fee.

Activists led by the Community Water Center in Visalia say rural residents have been stuck with the bill for bottled water long enough.

“The state has known for 40 years that applying too much fertilizer on crops contaminates drinking water,” said Maria Herrera of the water center, which represents many towns.

“The problem is getting worse for communities and taxpayers throughout California. We need action now.”

Fresno resident Valdez looks to be state GOP’s next region vice chair

Fresno resident Marcelino Valdez appears all but certain to be the California Republican Party’s next Central Valley Region vice chair. After all, he’s running unopposed.

Still, the 33-year-old insurance agent is taking no chances.

“I’m running like I have an opponent,” Valdez says. “I want to make sure I earn everybody’s support, or at least talk to them to let them know who I am.”

Valdez’s lone announced opponent, Ruth Crone, dropped out of the race.

Marcelino Valdez

Crone, who lives in Sacramento County, had the support of outgoing central region vice chair Prudence Eiland, who lives in Hanford. It could have been an interesting race.

But Valdez points out that an opponent can emerge at any time, right up until the vote is scheduled at next week’s state Republican convention in Sacramento. Voting is slated for the morning of March 2.

As such, Valdez is running a campaign that looks very much like one for public office. He’s got a fancy campaign logo, a Facebook page, and is releasing endorsements, not all at once, but at a steady clip.

Among those backing his campaign are Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Assembly Member (and former mayor) Jim Patterson, congressmen David Valadao, R-Hanford, and Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, and Tulare County Republican activist Laura Gadke, a former central region vice chair.

Valdez — who lost a 2010  Fresno City Council bid to Clint Olivier — is the kind of Republican that many in the party say they want to highlight. He’s Hispanic. He didn’t even learn to speak English until he was six or seven years old. He’s a self-employed insurance agent.

Eiland said he “fits that mold” of a successful minority — especially Hispanic — who has chosen to be a Republican.

Valdez grew up in Kerman in a non-political household, but as an 18-year-old, worked with conservatives and found he shared their political values and perspectives. He registered as a Republican.

He’s been heavily involved in the local Republican political scene since 2008, but decided to seek the vice-chair position after the state GOP got another drubbing in last November’s election.

“I was very depressed after the November election,” Valdez says. “We’d just given the two-thirds majority (in the state Assembly and state Senate) to the Democrats. I believe in the balance of power. There has to be some balance there.”

Around Christmas, he found out that as a regional vice chair, he could have influence over party issues he feels are important — registering more Republican voters is tops, but also raising money and recruiting quality candidates.

He decided to run.

As for Eiland, the longtime Kings County GOP activist will stay active has head of the county party, but the job of a region vice chair was too much.

The GOP’s Central Valley region covers 11 counties from Kern to Sacramento.

“I had to ride both horses the last two years, and it wore me out,” she says. “It’s more than I want to handle at this time.”