Analysis: Recent California newspaper editorials

10/23/2014 12:15 PM
By Associated Press

Oct. 19:

Contra Costa Times: Giants again are giving Bay Area fall classic treat

After more than a half century of frustration in San Francisco, the Giants suddenly find themselves in their third World Series in five years.

The Giants recent pattern is beginning to look like a mirror image of the San Francisco 49ers a few decades earlier: years of frustration followed by sudden success followed by additional success.

True, the Giants have not won this series, but the mere participation in the World Series is a special achievement in and of itself. Just as they did in 2010 and 2012, this group of players has shown the value of playing as a team vs. being a collection of individuals. These players seem to play for each other and for their city.

While the team has its established stars such as Bumgarner, Posey, Pence and Sandoval, it also has its share of compelling stories such as the surprise emergence of two rookies — Joe Panik and Andrew Susac — who have contributed mightily to the Giants push toward the playoffs and, ultimately, the series.

Or how about the story of Travis Ishikawa. He was the guy nobody in the league wanted but who ended up hitting the walkoff home run to send the Giants to the series.

And, of course, let's not forget starting pitcher Jake Peavy, who was 1-9 in Boston when Giants General Manager Brian Sabean acquired him to replace injured star pitch Matt Cain. All Peavy did was turn into one of the best pitchers in the National League in the last two months of the season, going 6-4 as a member of the Giants. He went from giving up nearly five earned runs a game in Boston to giving up just over two earned runs a game in San Francisco.

But things will be a little different for the Giants this year. In 2010 and 2012, the Giants were heavy underdogs — and, in both cases, they were that year's Cinderella story. The feel-good story, if you will. But their opponents, the Kansas City Royals, will carry that title this year.

The Royals are reminiscent of the 2010 Giants. They are a team built on pitching, speed, defense and heart that somehow wins close games and hasn't been in the World Series in a long time (29 years). In fact, most of the players on the Royals weren't alive the last time Kansas City was in the fall classic.

We are always excited to cheer on any of our Bay Area teams when they excel. The Giants seem to have established a pattern of winning every other year. After more than 50 years of futility, that is a pattern we can embrace.

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Oct. 21

Marysville Appeal-Democrat: Might seem crazy to think of floods during a dry spell, but ...

For a while Monday, it looked like it could really cut loose and rain. After a few years of drought, you build hope for every cloud that moves overhead, but you maintain a healthy bit of skepticism.

Sure enough, by late afternoon, there was more blue than gray.

And here we are, being reminded often of the importance of conserving water, only to open the paper to find a news supplement titled "Flood Aware, Flood Prepare." It was a section reminding us all to be prepared for the risks of flooding throughout Yuba-Sutter and provided ideas on how to protect families, homes and businesses.

"Even as California deals with the disastrous impacts of three years of drought, and no one is certain when the drought might end, it is important to understand that droughts can end quickly, with disastrous results," the preface to the supplement read. As a for instance, it was reported, the drought of 1977 was followed by five months of above-average rainfall and killer floods. "... we are never far from a wet winter, high water, and the threat of flooding."

Information for the supplement came from local county authorities, flood and levee authorities and agencies and state and federal sources. Much of it was put together by Chuck Smith, public information officer for Sutter County.

He makes several good points ... but the best is the simple list:

. Flooding occurred in 1950 when the Yuba escaped through the Yuba Goldfields and flooded Linda, Olivehurst and Arboga.

. In 1955, a section of the west bank of the Feather River levee collapsed at Shanghai Bend, flooding 90 percent of Yuba City and most of the southern Yuba City basin. Tragically, 37 people drowned.

. In 1986, a levee on the south bank of the Yuba above Linda collapsed, and water inundated portions of Linda, Olivehurst and Arboga.

. In 1997, three people drowned when a levee on the east bank of the Feather gave way at Arboga. That year's disaster is a good example of how things can just simply fall into place for a bad time in Northern California.

Excessive rain had come in early December 1996 and reservoir operators increased flows into the Yuba, Feather and Sacramento rivers. Overflow started the second week of December. Then a major storm hit from Dec. 21-23, bringing snow to lower elevations in the mountains. Then there was a warm storm starting late in December ... with heavy rains falling New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. There were record inflows and record releases. Runoff exceeded design capability. Voluntary evacuation orders started at 11 a.m. Jan. 1. By the next day, the orders were for mandatory evacuation.

The Feather River levee collapsed at Arboga, killing people, inundating 16,000 acres and damaging 3,000 homes

Mandatory evacuation was lifted the morning of Jan. 4, but that afternoon a levee on the west bank of the Sutter Bypass collapsed, sending floodwaters into the Meridian Basin — 37,000 acres were flooded. The little town of Meridian was saved when the county, state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers threw up two levees to stave off floodwaters.

The advice given is that we should each be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days. And to:

. Plan for the need to leave. Have a family emergency plan. Keep your automobile gassed up. Plan how to take care of your pets.

. Build a disaster supplies kit — water, first aid kit, non-perishable food, etc.

You can get all sorts of advice, and sign up for emergency warnings through your mobile device by going to wwww.bepreparedyuba.org or www.bepreparedsutter.org.

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Oct. 21

The Fresno Bee: Judge Petrucelli's conduct is major ethics breach

It didn't take long for the lawyer representing Fresno County Superior Judge Court James M. Petrucelli to try to set limits on how the California Commission on Judicial Performance deals with her client.

Petrucelli "admits that he made a mistake and is willing to accept discipline short of the loss of his job," San Francisco attorney Kathleen Ewins told Fresno Bee courts reporter Pablo Lopez in an email last week.

If the judge were new to the bench, a veteran judge with a sterling record or had made a minor ethical mistake, then it might be appropriate for the commission to tilt toward leniency for Petrucelli.

But the action that got Petrucelli into hot water — using his position to get a friend of a friend accused of domestic violence released from Fresno County Jail before he was even booked on July 13, 2013 — is a serious breach of the public's trust and a stain on the court's reputation.

Nor is this the first time that Petrucelli's conduct has drawn the attention of the independent state agency responsible for investigating complaints about judicial misconduct and disciplining judges.

During Petrucelli's 16 years as a judge, he has been reprimanded or advised by the commission to shape up three times: for being rude to those who appear before him, for yelling at county employees and for infringing on attorneys' rights.

This pattern of behavior and his pulling of legal strings for an acquaintance are clear indications that Petrucelli is a serial offender of Canon 1 of the California Code of Ethics: "An independent, impartial, and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing high standards of conduct, and shall personally observe those standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be preserved.

"The irony of Petrucelli's most-recent violation is that he presents himself as a no-nonsense, tough-on-crime judge. And yet Ewins already is spinning a narrative that the judge "did not engage in willful misconduct.

"The juxtaposition of Petrucelli's actions versus the type of justice he dispenses gives us reason to wonder how many times he has told a defendant that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Furthermore, what is the public supposed to believe? That the judge wasn't using the powers of his office when he called the jailer to let loose Fresno restaurant owner Jay Ghazal without Ghazal having to post bail? And that Petrucelli just happened to forget to notify the Fresno County District Attorney's Office that he was springing Ghazal — a friend of Fresno lawyer Jonathan Netzer, who is Petrucelli's buddy?Then, according to the commission report, he went to a fundraiser also attended by Ghazal and Netzer the very night of Ghazal's release. Topping it off, Ghazal asked Petrucelli for advice about a lawyer, the report says.

Petrucelli didn't simply make a mistake. He made a whole series of serious mistakes.

Petrucelli's lawyer wants the public and the commission to believe that the judge didn't do anything wrong on purpose.

It's a defense that doesn't hold water. In dealing with Petrucelli's gross ethical misconduct, the commission should consider all discipline options — including removal from the bench.

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Oct. 21

Los Angeles Times: Sowing the seeds of an illogical crop ban

Last year's half-baked and unsuccessful proposal to ban genetically engineered crops in Los Angeles has not improved with time. Yet here it is before the City Council again, complete with wild statements about bioengineered food, chock full of inconsistent logic and, just like last year, rendered virtually meaningless because there are no such crops in the city and no plans to grow them.

The motion, brought to the council Tuesday by Councilmen Paul Koretz and Mitch O'Farrell, cites concern by consumers that genetically engineered food might be unsafe to eat, a position that is not backed by years of scientific study. The councilmen point out in support of their proposal that 52 percent of county voters favored a failed 2012 statewide proposition that would have required that labels be put on foods with bioengineered ingredients — ignoring the fact that labeling a product and banning the process that created it are entirely different things.

The councilmen also complain about the herbicides used on bioengineered crops, and those complaints are partly justified. But linking that to a ban makes for foolish policy. It is true that plants have often been engineered to resist herbicides, which are then sprayed on the plants intensively and repeatedly over time. That, in turn, has given rise to herbicide-resistant weeds, which can be very difficult to eradicate in fields of conventionally grown crops. But the problem is not the genetically engineered plants, it is the heavy application of the herbicides. Conventional lawns are also heavily treated with herbicides and other chemicals that aren't good for the environment. The proper response is a regulation on pesticide and herbicide use, not a ban on the crops.

And not all genetic engineering of crops is designed to build resistance to pesticides. Scientists have, for instance, developed a form of rice that contains significant amounts of vitamin A, an innovation that could prevent blindness and death for millions of people in Asia and Africa. Scientists are at work on oranges they hope will resist citrus greening, a disease that threatens to wipe out orange groves throughout the U.S. What if future projects included drought-tolerant crops that could survive the kind of prolonged dry spell California has been experiencing? Why would we want to ban such products without any scientific indication that they're unhealthy or unsafe?

That's not to say all bioengineered plants are keepers. Herbicide-resistant turf grass is undergoing product testing. But because grasses spread easily, there should be concern that the engineered products could take over neighbors' lawns and become omnipresent pests even in the wilderness areas that surround the city.

In other words, making sound policy requires lawmakers to rise above irrational fears and easy generalizations and to become informed about science.

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Oct. 22

Imperial Valley Press: Cattle Call queen competition is important to tradition

Although the Cattle Call Rodeo has grown immeasurably over the years in importance and attendance, the Cattle Call queen competition has unfortunately not kept pace, and that is a shame.

In terms of traditions, they are inextricably linked. For many in the community, the queen and her companion court are every bit as important as the rodeo itself, because it helps to up the pageantry and give that regal air to an event steeped in the grit of a way of life born of the necessity of westward expansion.

For every cowboy and cowgirl holding on for dear life against beasts, sometimes thousands of pounds larger and infinitely more dangerous, the queen and her court help show the softer side. It's often by displaying similar horsemanship skills as some of the most seasoned rodeo competitors, but with the beauty and grace to represent an entire rodeo culture and tradition while drawing in new fans.

The queen and her court are integral to the rodeo itself, in kicking it off with a ceremonial jaunt around the arena, in spreading its gospel at community events and schools, in bringing that dazzling touch of class to a dusty sport and hard-scrabble way of life.

With all that said, it's difficult to understand how the queen competition struggles to get competitors year in and year out for several years now. It's been a problem the queen committee and the Brawley Chamber of Commerce have struggled with, and so far, neither has found the magic bullet.

While the popularity of the rodeo itself seems to have never been better, finding the girls and young women to represent it to a wider audience is fewer and fewer.

We do think the Brawley Chamber and queen committee is on the right track in streamlining some of the requirements and trying to communicate ways that costs can be reduced or shared through a number of ways. That is key to the competition's survival, but right now it is not a competition.

The truth is the times they are changing. The interests of teenage girls and young ladies are pulled in so many directions, the long-held traditions need some updating and a way to make them relevant at a time where choices are limitless. Cost is key; so is inclusiveness. The queen competition has definitely tried to break down those walls over the years, but more education to young women in the Valley is needed and maybe some continued easing of expectations and financial burdens.

The rodeo itself is strong, viable for a long future. Little needs to be changed to insure its future. That does not seem to be the case with the queen competition. Yet much like the people of the Valley who fought against naysayers and conditions to make Cattle Call what it is today, those in charge of the queen competition are up to the task.

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Oct. 22

Orange County Register: Light not yet green for bullet train

The California Supreme Court declined last week to hear a case concerning the financing of California's planned high-speed rail system.

In so doing, the justices let stand a state appellate court decision in July directing Sacramento Superior Court judge Michael Kenny to vacate a decision he made in November 2013 blocking the state from selling $8.6 billion in bonds to start construction on the biggest public works project in California history.

The state High-Speed Rail authority was almost palpably relieved by the state high court's nonintervention. "This decision," said Jeff Morales, the rail authority's CEO, "removes the cloud regarding allegations that we weren't doing things properly."

Well, not exactly.

The overarching legal issue concerning the planned high-speed rail system is whether the project, as envisioned today by the rail authority, complies with the requirements of Proposition 1A, the 2008 ballot measure that authorized nearly $10 billion in bonds to help finance the bullet train.

The state appellate court did not address that issue in its July decision, stating that the "scope of our decision is narrow."

And, indeed, the lower court's decision to overturn Judge Kenny was based, it said, on such "time-honored," albeit esoteric, "principles of statutory construction, separation of powers, and the availability of extraordinary writ relief."

In his November 2013 decision, Judge Kenny ruled — properly we continue to believe — that the rail authority's so-called "preliminary funding plan" for the $68 billion bullet train failed to identify the "sources of all funds to be invested in the corridor or usable segment thereof," as required by Proposition 1A.

The appellate court decided that Judge Kenny substituted his judgment for that of the Legislature, which had determined that the preliminary funding plan submitted by the rail authority was compliant with Proposition 1A, and which appropriated bonds on that basis.

That, the appellate court suggested — wrongly so, we maintain — constituted a violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine.

That the state Supreme Court let stand the appellate court ruling in no way means that the legal cloud, of which Mr. Morales spoke, overhanging the state's planned high-speed rail system has lifted for good.

Indeed, the appellate court itself declared, "Substantial legal questions loom in the trial court as to whether the high-speed rail project the California High-Speed Rail Authority seeks to build is the project approved by voters in 2008."

Those questions were not before the state appellate court, it noted in its July decision, but they will be front and center beginning early next year when a lawsuit goes to trial in Sacramento asserting that the rail authority's business plan violates four Proposition 1A requirements.

It will not carry passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2 hours, 40 minutes, as required under the law. It adopts a so-called "blended system" in which high-speed trains would share track with regular commuter trains, which will slow down high-speed trains.

The planned 800-mile system will require taxpayer subsidies, which is unlawful under by Proposition 1A. And it's highly improbable that the system will be financially, not to mention physically, viable.

So while the signal light for the state's planned high-speed rail system bullet train is no longer red, in the wake of the state Supreme Court's non-action last week, it's still a long way from green.


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10/25/2014 | Last Updated: 5:45 PM