Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Fowler’s Parra second to say he’ll seek Case’s Fresno Co supes seat

First was Riverdale farmer Ernest “Buddy” Mendes. Now comes Fowler Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Parra.

Less than five days after Judy Case announced she would not seek re-election to her District 4 seat on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, two people have jumped into the race.

Daniel Parra

More will certainly follow.

Mendes, 57, filed the paperwork for an exploratory committee earlier this week. On Friday, Parra, 48, announced via a news release that he would run.

Parra’s decision lagged Mendes’ by a couple of days, but the splash may be a bit bigger — it included almost 30 endorsements, most from inside the district.

Among them were five mayors: Mendota’s Robert Silva, Parlier’s Armando Lopez, Huron’s Silva Chavez, Orange Cove’s Gabriel Jimenez, and Fowler’s Dave Cardenas.

Parra also got backing from Clovis Council Member Harry Armstrong, Assembly Member Henry T. Perea and Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea.

In statement, Parra said, “I recognize that others will step forward and hope to have an honest discussion and a lively debate on the direction of our county. I will begin walking door-to-door to earn every vote possible in this election.”

Case represents District 4, which covers the southern part of Fresno County, including the towns of Sanger, Coalinga, Selma, Kingsburg, Huron, Orange Cove and Reedley, among others.

Will Valley finally achieve an ozone standard this year?

August, the partially completed column on the right, has seen fewer eight-hour exceedances than in the past.

By October, people in the San Joaquin Valley may not be carrying an extra $29 million debt for missing the old federal one-hour ozone standard.

It appears the Valley could achieve an ozone standard for the first time. This standard dates back decades. An EPA reference indicates a final decision on Feb. 8, 1979, to enforce it.

Pick the reason for the improvement: public awareness, billions of dollars spent on pollution control by businesses, landmark local air rules, cleaner fuels, cleaner cars, environmental lawsuits, good weather, better luck — all of the above.

If it happens, it will be memorable.

Until the last six or seven years, the Valley wasn’t even close to making any kind of ozone standard — federal, state, eight-hour, one-hour. The Valley still has a tough road ahead to make the federal eight-hour standard in the next decade.

This month, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a report that looked back 17 years to see the Valley’s progress with the one-hour standard.  In 1996, the Valley spent 56 days over the one-hour standard. In 2012, it was three. So far this year, it’s zero.

August has been memorable already. There have been 11 days this month when ozone didn’t exceed either federal standard — the more stringent eight-hour or the old one-hour. Dating to 1994, there hasn’t been an August with more than 10 good days.

Fresno State professor weighs in on Obama’s new higher ed plan

President Barack Obama on Thursday unveiled a plan to overhaul the yardstick used to rank public and private universities nationwide and reform the student financial aid system.

Under the proposal, colleges would be divided into peer groups and ranked based on affordability, access for low-income students and graduation rates.

The financial aid piece — which would require a green light from Congress — would tie federal aid dollars to colleges that perform best on the new scorecard.

I talked with Jeffrey Cummins, an associate professor of political science at Fresno State, about the proposal — and the likelihood that lawmakers will get on board. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

Q: The idea is to hold universities more accountable, would this plan do that?

A: Certainly they would respond and try and bring up the metrics to determine financial aid. However, would they get on board? I think there’s going to be a lot of resistance to it, especially from schools that are going to have problems with the metrics that they use. To give you an example, if you have a college or university with a lot of low-income students, or in an area where the jobs available are sparse, they are going to have a harder time measuring up to their peers.

Q: What could this mean for a university like Fresno State?

A: Fresno State has lower graduation rates than some of the other (California State University) schools and that’s because we tend to have a lot of first generation and low-income college students. And we know they tend to have lower graduation rates than middle and upper income students. So on the metric of graduation rates, we wouldn’t fare as well.

Q: Congress found a resolution on student loan interest rate legislation this summer, but lawmakers have had a tough time finding a middle ground on many other issues. Do you foresee legislators agreeing on this measure?

A: I could see some bipartisan support for this in Congress. There has been a lot of concern about rising tuition across the country, and actually, I could see more support coming from Republicans than Democrats. What we might be seeing is Obama trying to appeal to some of the Republicans in the House who have blocked other types of legislation who might be more open to these types of changes in the education system. I could see the Democrats being more resistant.

Q: Why is that?

A: Democrats are more tuned in, or more supportive, of making higher education accessible to as many people as possible … to the extent that this reduces and holds recipients of federal funding accountable, Republicans would be in favor of it.

Q: Who wins and who loses?

A: It’s hard to say if there would be winners and losers until you see how the formula is developed and which types of schools are likely to be penalized. To what extent does it make federal loans less available to students? I don’t think we would see that until it’s implemented.

Q: We’ve seen the yearly rankings from Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report. How would the new measurements stack up?

A: I have seen other rankings where they take into consideration debt coming out of colleges and affordability and the best value. This is kind of what they are moving toward, best value. I don’t necessarily think this is that entirely new.

Costa, Denham and our Michael Doyle talk immigration

This week’s Maddy Report radio talk show features Reps. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, plus Bee Washington Bureau writer Michael Doyle talking on the topic:  “Immigration Reform: What it Could Mean for California and the San Joaquin Valley.”

Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler moderates. The show airs Sundays from 9-10 a.m. on KMJ (AM 580) and often features guests from The Bee including Opinion Page Editor Bill McEwen and political beat writer John Ellis.

Riverdale farmer Mendes looking at Fresno Co. supervisor run

On Monday, Fresno County Supervisor Judy Case said she wouldn’t seek re-election next year. In less than a day, rumors began swirling about those who were thinking about running for the seat.

By Wednesday, the rumor mill had churned out close to a dozen names. But so far, only one person had taken the first official step toward a run — Riverdale farmer Ernest “Buddy” Mendes.

He’s already formed an official exploratory committee. The paperwork is on file with the Fresno County Elections office.

Mendes, 57, said he’s thinking about running because he feels he can give the county effective representation.

He farms cotton, wheat, alfalfa, corn and pistachios and has land on both the Valley’s east and west sides. He also has a long history of public service, including the Riverdale Unified School Board (since 1993), the Southwest Transportation Agency Board (since 1996), and the Riverdale Public Utility District (since 1994). In 2011, he also served on the county’s Redistricting Task Force.

Mendes, however, says running for county supervisor is a big step up from those posts, one that would include significant campaigning and fundraising.

Case represents District 4, which covers the southern part of Fresno County, including the towns of Sanger, Coalinga, Selma, Kingsburg, Huron, Orange Cove and Reedley, among others.

Patterson, Bigelow shot down on high-speed rail audit request

David Siders of The Sacramento Bee reports:

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee declined a request by two Republican lawmakers Wednesday to audit how the state is acquiring private land for California’s high-speed rail project.

Republican Assembly Members Jim Patterson of Fresno, left, and Frank Bigelow of O’Neals

Assembly Members Jim Patterson of Fresno and Frank Bigelow of O’Neals said they feared Central Valley landowners were being treated unfairly as the California High-Speed Rail Authority moves to acquire land for the project.

Their request failed on a party-line vote. Democratic lawmakers said an audit is unnecessary because information about land acquisition can be obtained directly from the rail authority.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said an audit would have taken about six months. The state auditor has examined elements of the high-speed rail project twice before, first in 2010 and again in 2012.

Rail officials plan to begin construction of the $68 billion system this year with the first section from Fresno to Madera. The project has been a source of controversy at the Capitol for years, and opponents are seeking to block its construction in court.

Fresno was not warmest city in nation from January to July

Someone mentioned a story about Fresno being the hottest place in the country between January and July, according to NOAA.

But read the NOAA web site closely. That’s not at all what the federal government is saying.

Fresno is in bright red with the word “warmest” under the January-to-July ranking. It just means this is the warmest January-to-July ranking for Fresno in the last 66 years.

There are much warmer cities in the United States. Click the up-and-down button on the 2013 ranking. You’ll see there were about 25 other cities that were warmer.

Even so, it’s a pretty interesting statistic for Fresno.

But there is one unanswered question I have about this climate ranking. Why does NOAA look at only 66 years of record?

Fresno’s records go back more than a century. I’ve seen National Weather Service statistics on warm months that included months from 1906.

There are plausible reasons — perhaps the monitoring station was moved to its present site 66 years ago. NOAA hints at that by saying these are long-term monitoring stations.

Real Estate: Silver Lake Apartments in SE Fresno sold

(Photo courtesy of Hendricks-Berkadia. Silver Lake Apartments, 5425 E. Belmont Ave., Fresno, was sold to a Beverly Hills company.)

Silver Lake Apartments, a 252-unit complex, in southeast Fresno has been sold to a Beverly Hills company.

East Belmont Avenue Apartments, LLC, of Irvine, sold the apartment community on Belmont Avenue, near Clovis Avenue, to Omninet Silver Lake LP for an undisclosed amount, the Fresno office of Hendricks-Berkadia reported late Monday afternoon.

“This transaction represents the largest multi-family sale in Fresno County since 2010,” said Robin Kane, senior vice president for Hendricks. “It serves as further evidence of the desirable conditions found in the Central Valley – limited new construction, low vacancy, steady rent increases and lower per-unit prices – especially when compared with overheated core markets.”

Kane and Gordon J. Larkin of Hendricks negotiated the sale.

Silver Lake is a two-story apartment complex built in 1985 with two- to three-bedroom floor plans.

An unexpected 110 degrees — what happened?

Low pressure spinning off coast of California was the culprit on Monday.

Fresno spiked 110 degrees on Monday, the hottest day of the year. It broke a 121-year-old record and surprised a lot of folks who had seen forecasts of about 100.

What happened? It was sunnier than expected in the morning, and the San Joaquin Valley got a wind-blown taste of the southwest desert. Then the lightning and thunder show started in the evening.

The culprit was low pressure spinning in a counterclockwise direction in the Pacific Ocean, said meteorologist Paul Iniguez of the National Weather Service in Hanford.

“The counterclockwise spin brought a flow of air up from the desert,” he said. “It was hotter in the Valley than many desert locations. In eastern Kern County desert, the temperatures were in the 90s.”

Meteorologists call this kind of low pressure a “cutoff low,” because it is separated from the jet stream — the high elevation blast of wind coming across the Pacific eastward into the West Coast.

Without the jet stream to move it along, the low could sit in one place and spin winds into California.

The high temperature in Fresno was reported at 109, but it actually climbed to 110 after 5 p.m., Iniguez said.

The flow of air coming from the east continued into the evening and thunderstorms began to appear. There were power outages and fires. In Kern County, there were 1,600 lightning strikes, Iniguez said.

“There were probably more people who saw lightning than people who saw rain,” Iniguez said. “I wouldn’t call this weather unusual in August, but it’s not typical.”