– November 26, 2014

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Latest Local News

Written on 11/26/2014, 12:23 pm by Business Journal staff
The California High-Speed Rail Authority will host an industry forum in Bakersfield Dec. 5 as it seeks a design-build contractor for the third phase of...
Written on 11/26/2014, 10:22 am by Business Journal staff
Community members can play Santa this holiday season for hundreds of women and children affected by domestic violence through the Marjaree Mason Center's Trees of Hope. Four Christmas trees set up throughout the Fresno area have been decorated with ornaments attached to cards listing gifts requested by moms and kids that are utilizing the Marjaree Mason Center's services. Now, anyone can fulfill those wishes by attaching one of the ornament tags to the wrapped gift listed and delivering it to the Marjaree Mason Center at 1600 M. St. in Fresno by Dec. 15. The Trees of Hope are located at the following locations: • Blown Away, River Park Shopping Center, 70 El Camino, Fresno• Sierra Vista Mall, across from Kohl's, 1050 Shaw Ave., Clovis• Westwoods BBQ & Spice Co., 8042 N. Blackstone Ave., Fresno• White House, Black Market, Fig Garden Village, 714 W. Shaw Ave., Fresno More information about the Marjaree Mason Center's Trees of Hope can be found on the organization's Facebook page and clicking the "Events" tab. Established in 1979, the Marjaree Mason Center helps hundred of women and children affected by domestic violence in Fresno County by offering them shelter, counseling, legal assistance and education.  
Written on 11/26/2014, 9:06 am by Business Journal staff
San Joaquin Valley Veterans is currently looking to provide housing services to veterans and their families through its Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant program.  The project offers case management for veterans at risk of losing their housing, short-term assistance with utility bills, rental assistance, deposits, housing counseling and assistance. San Joaquin Valley Veterans (SJVV) is part of WestCare California and ultimately seeks to secure permanent housing for veterans.  Through the SSVF grant, SJVV provides supportive services to low-income veteran families who are either residing in permanent housing, are homeless and scheduled to become residents of permanent housing within a certain time frame, or are seeking other housing that is responsive to low-income veteran family's needs and preferences.  The project is funded by the Veterans Administration and in June, received $6 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. SJVV was given the money specifically for use in Fresno and Madera counties over the next three years.  Individuals interested in the program may call (559) 255-8838 or contact one of the three SJVV offices, including the locations in Fresno, Hanford or Stockton.
Written on 11/25/2014, 1:34 pm by Business Journal staff
Distressed home sales in the San Joaquin Valley were on their way down in October, but remained almost double the statewide figures. According to the California Association of Realtors, distressed sales, which include short sales, sales of bank-owned properties and other foreclosure sales, stood at 15 percent of all home sales in Fresno County in October. That's the same as in September but down from 27 percent in October 2013.Distressed sales were down to 21 percent in Tulare County in the month compared to 26 percent in September and 32 percent a year ago.Madera County saw its distressed sales fall from 33 percent in September to 22 percent in the latest month, still up from 19 percent in October 2013.Distressed sales in Kings County fell to 19 percent compared to 21 percent the prior month and 32 percent a year ago.Statewide, distressed sales made up 8.9 percent of all homes sales in October, down from 9.1 percent in September and 14.5 percent a year ago.The share of real estate-owned sales, including bank-owned homes, went down to 3.9 percent compared to 4 percent in September and 4.7 percent in October 2013.Short sales remained flat at 4.6 percent in the month, down from  9.3 percent a year ago.
Equity sales, or non-distressed home sales, stood at 91.9 percent in October compared to 90.9 percent the prior month and 85.5 percent last year.Housing inventory remained lackluster throughout the state in October. The unsold inventory index for real estate-owned homes, or number of months to deplete the supply of homes at the current sales rate, went from 3.1 months in September to 3.2 months in September.The index for short sales fell from 6.2 months in September to 5.7 months in October, while the index for equity sales went from 4.1 months to 3.8 months.
Written on 11/25/2014, 12:15 pm by Hannah Esqueda
The Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation held a press conference today denouncing the delay in drought legislation until 2015.  The group was joined by representatives from the Downtown Business Hub, Fresno County Farm Bureau, California Farm Water Coalition, California Water Alliance and several concerned community members. "We're entering a very critical time for [Fresno County]," said Ryan Jacobsen, CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. "If we don't get our act together and do something now we're going to be in the same situation as this year or a worse situation." Many of the speakers denounced Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for her recent decision to delay any drought legislation until next year. The legislation would have helped ease restrictions on movement of water in the Central Valley and relieve some of the strain Fresno County and its farming communities are facing.  That strain has become too much and Fresno County families cannot afford to wait any longer, local leaders said. Already, long lines have been seen at local food banks, farmland lies fallow and whole communities are having to rely on portable showers as their wells run dry.  "This choice of inaction is flying directly in the face of those individuals and organizations who are here today," said Aubrey Bettencourt, executive director of the California Water Alliance.  This year, farmers on both the east and west side received a 0 percent water allocation and little is expected to change in 2015, Jacobsen said. The three-year drought has already had a profound impact on the local economy and is expected to get worse as the area experiences an unprecedented fourth year of drought, said Javier Guzman, member of the Water for Land Committee. "The economic stability of our rural towns is being threatened," he said. "Children and families are being dislocated every day as people move in search of jobs." What legislators like Feinstein fail to realize, Guzman said, is that even if the area receives better rainfall this year, it will still not be enough to cure the effects of the drought.  "The drought has already lasted for three years, but we'll be feeling its effects for the next 10 to 15," he said. 
Written on 11/25/2014, 10:42 am by 
SCOTT SMITH, Associated Press
(AP) — When it comes to controlling California's flashy Las Vegas-style casinos, the stakes are enormous for tribes who own the gambling operations that collectively generate billions of dollars a year to sustain Native Americans up and down the state. With this backdrop, several tribes in the past two years have fallen into nasty, sometimes violent, power struggles pitting factions and families against one another. The most recent case, involving the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians near Yosemite National Park, climaxed in an armed raid on Oct. 9 by one faction that caused gamblers to flee, leaving their chips on the table. The National Indian Gaming Commission, which regulates Indian casinos, and a federal judge shut down the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, citing safety concerns. Charges have been filed against 15 men — two tribal council members, the tribal police chief and a hired security team that included a former sheriff's deputy and onetime Marine, and a former Navy Seal. The casino remains closed — with estimated losses in the millions each week — because rivals have yet to diffuse what U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence O'Neill of Fresno called an "explosive keg" of emotions. "It's a classic struggle over money and tribal rights and control for what everybody recognizes is a very lucrative enterprise," said Denise Runge, a gambling industry researcher at Helena College University of Montana. Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulation Act in 1988, setting the stage for sovereign Native American governments to open full-blown casinos. Indian casinos generated $28 billion last year from 449 casino operations in 28 states, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission. About 65 Indian casinos in California took in one-quarter of those earnings at nearly $7 billion. California outperformed the Las Vegas Strip, which drew $6.5 billion last year, says a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Center for Gaming Research report. Experts say this influx of money, which provides, jobs, housing and benefits to many tribal members, has helped spark friction. "All of a sudden, you've got a government with a lot of responsibility and a lot of clout that didn't develop over decades like a lot of our other government institutions," said Phil Hogen, former chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission. Simmering tensions erupted last month at Chukchansi when a security team led by former tribal leader Tex McDonald stormed the casino. They were armed with firearms and stun guns and detained security officers. Madera County Sheriff's deputies intervened. Prosecutors filed charges, including kidnapping, false imprisonment and assault against the men. Most have been arrested or have surrendered. McDonald is in jail with bail set at $2.4 million. His attorney did not respond to requests for comment. Meanwhile, Chukchansi's financial losses are unclear because Indian casinos are not required to disclose earnings. But its 1,800 slot machines could generate over $130 million annually, not including table games, hotel stays, food and drink sales, estimated Cheryl Schmit, director of Stand Up for California, which pushes for gambling laws to be properly followed. Chukchansi's turmoil isn't unique. Sheriff's deputies earlier this year headed off a standoff among armed and masked members of the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians and their hired security forces. The confrontation at the Rolling Hills Casino, north of Sacramento, emerged in a struggle for control of the business and the tribe's assets, including a $3 million jet, 162 ounces of gold and $3,300 monthly payments to adult tribal members. One faction accused the other of launching a cyberattack. In Oroville last year, a group at the Berry Creek Rancheria protesting their disenrollment barricaded themselves inside tribal headquarters next to the Gold Country Casino & Hotel. An 11-hour standoff ended when sheriff's deputies threw in a grenade and arrested 20 people. Both Northern California casinos remained opened. Tribal clashes are rooted in history, Schmit said. The U.S. government broke its promises to give Indians land, she said, and sanctioned tribal groups with members who were not affiliated. Schmit said the government sowed the seeds of conflict and hasn't helped resolve modern disputes. "Certainly, tribes in California have suffered generational trauma for it," Schmit said. O'Neill, citing concern for the casino's out-of-work employees, expressed exasperation with the leadership vacuum of the Chukchansi tribe, the Indian Gaming Commission and his court, which has limited jurisdiction over tribal affairs. The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Gaming Commission did not respond to requests seeking comment. Tribal affairs attorney Gabriel Galanda said some lawyers are exploiting casinos to run up fees. "It's all by design, lawyers and lobbyists taking advantage of a void of law and order in Indian country," said Galanda, who represented an ousted faction of the Paskenta tribe. "This is happening in too many places, too frequently. I guarantee you that Chukchansi is not the last of them."
Written on 11/25/2014, 8:17 am by Business Journal staff
Associate Dean Joan L. Voris, MD, announced recently that she will retire from the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program on Jan. 5, 2015. Voris has served as associate dean for 12 years, and has been a faculty member for 24.  "It's a pleasure and an honor to have been part of this tremendous program over the past several years," said Voris. "UCSF Fresno will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. The time is right for me to step back, enjoy more time with my family and watch with interest as UCSF Fresno enters its next phase." Voris received her bachelor's and medical degrees from Stanford University and completed her residency training in pediatrics at UCSF Fresno. She has served as pediatrician in Fresno for 36 years and joined the faculty at UCSF Fresno in 1990. Voris was appointed dean in 2002, in which role she provided leadership and oversight to residency programs in eight specialties, 17 sub-specialties, undergraduate medical education and several other medical center programs in the community.  Established in 1975, UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program plays a substantial role in providing health care services to residents of the San Joaquin Valley and is responsible for training nearly one-third of the area's physicians. Annually, UCSF Fresno trains 250 medical residents, 50 fellows and 250 medical students.  Michael Peterson, MD, will serve as interim associate dean once Voris leaves in January. Peterson received both his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Minnesota and completed his residency at the University of Wisconsin. He was recruited to UCSF Fresno in 2002 and has served as chief of medicine for the past 12 years.  "Dr. Voris has led the program through an unprecedented time of growth and change including the move to the Community Regional Medical Center campus," Peterson said. "I am honored to serve as interim associate dean and look forward to continuing the mission of recruiting and training the best and brightest."
Written on 11/24/2014, 2:28 pm by Business Journal staff
Helped by its knowledge of water and agriculture, the San Joaquin Valley has become a driving leader in the clean economy, according to a new report by Next 10. The report, Clean Valley: San Joaquin Valley Leveraging Natural Resources to Grown the Clean Economy, showed that the San Joaquin Valley contributed 10,566 jobs to the clean economy in 2014. Of those, 2,500 were involved in renewable energy development, followed by nearly 2,400 in the recycling and waste sector, more than 1,700 in air and environmental fields and around 1,200 in clean transportation. But the Valleys' real mark on the clean economy, according to the report, comes by way of its industry partnerships to drive water innovation. As a national center for agriculture and with increasing water concerns due to the statewide drought, the report said the San Joaquin Valley has positioned itself as a "leader in developing and implementing water-saving technologies." The region's industry-led water cluster, first organized in 2001, now includes more than 200 companies including technology businesses, farmers, researchers to academic institutions sharing ideas about developing water technology and preparing a skilled workforce. In 2011, the nickname Blue Tech Valley was coined to market the region as a hub for collaboration, testing and implementation of water technologies against the backdrop of its thriving agricultural industry, the report stated. Much of the activity takes place at Center for Irrigation Technology located at Fresno State, a certified testing laboratory that has been conducting research and independent testing of pumps and other equipment at its facility since 1980. The International Center for Water Technology, also based at Fresno State, focuses on water use efficiency through education, research and policy development, while the Water and Energy Technology Center, built in 2007, provides office space and resources for dozens of start-up companies to innovate and grow. In 2013, the WET center’s member companies raised $7 million in capital and created 26 jobs in one year alone. Commercialization potential has shown, as San Joaquin Valley inventors registered 13 water patents from 2012 to 2013. Farmers and food processing companies in the region are also adopting technologies that conserve water and reuse resources, the report said, mentioning leading food companies like E&J Gallo, Hilmar Cheese and Grimmway Farms. Aside from water, the report also remarked on the San Joaquin Valley's growing involvement in the renewable energy sector. Besides having nearly 65 megawatts in rooftop solar installations, the region also accounts for 42 percent of the cumulative solar and wind capacity under California's Renewable Portfolio Standard, with projects producing 7,726 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year. Kern County, in particular, was singled out for its incentives and streamlined processed to increase installations and capacity. As of September 2014, the county has permitted over 8,750 megawatts of renewable energy projects, more than any other county in the state and close to its renewable energy goal of 10,000 megawatts in production by 2015. Alternative fuels was another niche mentioned in the report, with facilities coming online to make biofuel out of agricultural waste or sugar beets.
Written on 11/24/2014, 11:45 am by Business Journal staff
The Fresno County Office of Education hosted the annual Educator of the Year awards Friday, recognizing a school employee, administrator and teacher for 2014. The following winners were chosen in each category, according to a news release:  School Employee of the Year • Selena Rico, Fresno Unified School District – Rico is a Child Welfare and Attendance Specialist in the Department of Prevention and Intervention for Fresno Unified School District. She has been in education for 14 years. “In my job I’m able to express my passion for identifying and helping families who are struggling and disadvantaged,” she said. Administrator of the Year • Hank Gutierrez, Fowler Unified School District – Gutierrez is the principal of Fowler High School. He has been in education for 20 years. “I owe everything to the people of Fowler who had a positive influence in my life,” he said. “I will be that positive role model for your child, upholding the rich ethics and values that my mother, family and this community instilled in me.” Teacher of the Year • Magdalene Bowman, Washington Unified School District – Bowman is a teacher at West Fresno Elementary School. She has been in education for 20 years. “Teaching is my passion and I think that is reflected in my love for my students,” she said. “In my class, there’s always a buzzing environment of collaborating, moving, learning through fun activities, communicating, laughter, creating and reflective questions.”
Written on 11/24/2014, 11:34 am by Business Journal staff
Visalia-based Family HealthCare Network has donated $5,000 to Self-Help Enterprises to aid in local drought relief efforts. The funds will be used to help some of the thousands of residents in the South Valley without water to drink, cook, clean or shower, according to a news release from Family HealthCare Network (FHCN). “As a health care provider, we know that the drought has had serious effects on many families in Tulare County, with a direct impact on their health and quality of life,” said Kerry Hydash, president and CEO of FHCN. "The holidays can be a struggle for many families and FHCN wanted to do its part to provide some relief for families in need.”

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