A Few Letters, Sun-Star & and Mike McGuire Articles about Livingston Politics (and a few other things Worthy of Note) 2016

LIVINGSTON CALIFORNIA

HistoryNote from TheGardeningSnail. Some of the links to Merced Sun Star Articles may have “expired”: which means, you might have to request a copy from the Merced Sun Star Archives. However, those of you with access to online newspaper data bases should be able to locate a copy that way as well. Might take you a few clicks, but already having a Title and a Date Published should help out a bit.

For those links that have expired: Sometimes doing a Copy/Paste of a title into your favorite Search Engine works too. If that doesn’t work, doing a Copy/Paste of part of the paragraph in italics and dropping that whole thing into your favorite Search Engine and doing a “Search” may also work.

If you want to research even further back, there are additional pages which can give you an idea about what happened, (or has not happened) to things like Water Rate Increases, or Development Projects that have been batted back and forth for several years. The links below will take you to Headlines and snippets from the following years

  • From 2008-2009

    • City Council Members – Daniel Varela, Frank Vierra, Rodrigo Espinoza, Margarita Aguilar, Martha Nateras

    • Significant Events:

      • Water Rate Increases, Foster Farms sues twice about Water Rates, The Recall Movement Begins:

      • Recall Supporters allege that new water rates are Illegal, Unwarranted, and Unnecessary.

  • From 2010-2011

    • One Foster Farms lawsuit is dropped and another goes to the State Appeals Court

    • Recall of two City  Council Members. Recall Supporter Teresa Land elected to City Council. Recall Supporter Rodrigo Espinoza elected as Mayor, Recall Supporter Warren Urnberg appointed as Temporary Council Member.

    • Water Rates rolled back to 1995 levels. Council abandons the Appeal

    • 2010 General Election.

    • City Council: Rodrigo Espinoza (Mayor), Maragarita Aguilar (Mayor Pro-Temp) Frank Vierra, Teresa Land, Gurpal Samra.

    • New City Attorney and City Manager

    • “Utility Rates Stakeholders Committee is established to “work with the consultants” on new water rates.

      • Richie King, Vice President at Foster Farms: one of the members appointed.

      • Margarita Aguilar and Gurpal Samra: Council Liaisons.

    • California Department of Public Health warns Livingston about the consequences of failing Maximum Contaminant Levels

  • From 2012-2013

From 2014…..The Year of the Drought Declaration, the destruction of the Court Theater, and discussions about Water Rate Increases taking place during an Election Year.

And, in addition to the above, the City of Livingston is sued because of the elevated levels of Arsenic in Well #13.

MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL

  • Rodrigo Espinoza (Mayor),

  • Gurpal Samra (Mayor Pro-Temp),

  • David Mendoza (Brother of Mario Mendoza: Planning Commissioner and Treasurer of the Recall Committee)

  • Arturo Saciaros,

  • Jim Soria.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

From 2015, the year in which

And Now…on to 2016 in which

  • The search for a New City Manager Drags on

  • There are multiple emergency repairs and upgrades to City Wells.

  • An Ordinance allowing cultivation of Medical Marijuana is adopted.

  • A New Contract Public Works director is hired, but only lasts about 2 months

  • The City becomes involved in the “Parking Lot Dispute” – eventually buying the parking lot next to Fiesta Mkt. in an effort to resolve the problem.

  • There is a proposal to change the terms of one council member to two years: for the 2016 Election Year.

  • The City is sued for records of Foster Farms Water Usage

  • Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza Is Elected to the Position of District 1 County Supervisor

  • A Livingston Officer is convicted of assaulting a man in handcuffs.

  • The City Adopts an updated Housing Element which clearly indicates the City would not have enough water for the estimated growth in Residential Housing over the next 8 years.

  • The Draft Urban Water Management Plan is released

  • Parallel Parking Returns to Livingston, In November, as part of the Downtown Improvement Project

  • After the 2016 General Election, one of the Councilmen Elect resigns before even taking office: meaning once again, a replacement will be needed.

Livingston sets rules on pot growth for medical use  – Thaddeus Miller – JANUARY 6, 2016 – Medical cannabis users who have been regulated under state rules for about a decade will be restrained to two plants in Livingston after a decision from the City Council this week. – With a 3-2 vote, the council denied a Planning Commission recommendation and began the process to adopt an ordinance to ban medical marijuana sales but allow marijuana-card-carrying patients to grow two plants as long as they are outside. Councilmen Alex McCabe and Jim Soria cast the dissenting votes.

Livingston hires interim public works chief -Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun – FEBRUARY 3, 2016 – The Livingston City Council has agreed to hire an interim public works director, a position that has been empty since December 2013. – Gabriel Gonzalez, who has been a city manager in Mendota and Rohnert Park, was approved for the role Tuesday

Merced close to new attorney; manager searches ongoing in Los Banos, Livingston -  Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – FEBRUARY 23, 2016 – Santa Cruz’s William Avery and Associates is supposed to take a second go at finding a Livingston city manager, Samra said. The firm helped the city find Eddie Duque, who left $140,000-salary job in December after two months as the top administrator

Gilroy Gets New City Administrator – Brad Kava – Gilroy Dispatch – March 2, 2016 – The Gilroy City Council will vote on hiring Gabriel Gonzalez as the new city administrator on Monday, giving him a salary of $210,000 a year and a car allowance of $4,200 a year.

Los Banos, Livingston not on regional list for transportation projects – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – MARCH 2, 2016 -  A proposal to raise Merced County’s sales tax by a half-cent is drawing skepticism from Los Banos and Livingston officials who say their cities would see no benefit from the regional transportation projects the new tax would fund.

Livingston police given statewide recognition – Sun Star Staff – The Merced Sun Star – MARCH 16, 2016 – The Livingston Police Department has been honored with the 2016 James Q. Wilson Award for Excellence in Community Policing, a statewide award. – Livingston was selected over departments from Long Beach and Menlo Park by the Regional Community Policing Institute, which offers training and technical assistance to law enforcement professionals and others. The award was presented to Chief Ruben Chavez at a luncheon Monday in Ontario.

Judge dismisses one of three charges against Livingston police office – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – MARCH 10, 2016 – A judge granted a motion Thursday to dismiss one of three charges against a Livingston police officer accused of assaulting a man during a supervised child exchange, a reversal of another judge’s earlier decision. – Judge Bobby W. McNatt dismissed a misdemeanor charge of battery against Officer Tyson Perry, 38. Perry still faces felony charges of battery with serious bodily injury and assault by a peace officer in connection with the 2012 incident. – Perry’s criminal trial is set to begin June 7.

Merced County Districts 1, 2 have their final candidates – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – March 11, 2016 – The filing period for candidates for two Merced County Board of Supervisors seats closed Friday, revealing the list of people who will face off in the June 7 primary.

Where to find Livingston, California information online: Part 1 – Michael McGuire – Examiner.com – March 31, 2016 -  There are few reasons to mourn the death of the newspaper industry. With the development of new technology, no one owns the news anymore. No one controls the information that reaches the public. Information is everywhere, representing facts never before so available, and a larger variety of opinions about what is going on than ever before. Newspapers took pride in being the watchdogs for communities; but today there are more eyes on current events than ever before. – The information revolution enriches even smaller communities like Livingston, California. The purpose of this series of articles is to help you find the information that is meaningful to you and members of your family.

Where to find Livingston, California information online: Part 2 – Michael McGuire – Examiner.com – March 31, 2016 – It’s easier than ever to get the heck out of Livingston, California. A combination of private services and public transportation will get you where you want to go and when you need to get there. It’s fairly simple to get a ride to go shopping; connect with buses, trains and aircraft; or simply find a way to visit Auntie Sue.

Where to find Livingston, California information online: Part 3 – Michael McGuire – Examiner.com – April 02, 2016 – Law enforcement agencies not only patrol our neighborhoods and highways, they offer information about potential safety hazards, traffic problems and convicted felons. There are 14 registered sex offenders in Livingston, California, according to the official database maintained by the state Department of Justice. The list includes photographs of 15 of the registered offenders. Addresses are included for most, but not all offenders are required to have their resident addresses made public. State law requires registered sex offenders to report to the authorities every year, have their pictures retaken and to disclose their current addresses. According to the database, five of the 15 offenders are not in compliance with the law. In addition to disclosing convicted offenders, the site offers information on how to keep children safe from sexual predators, as well as take precautionary measures to help assure adults are not victimized

Where to find Livingston, California information online: Part 4 – Michael McGuire – Examiner.com – April 02, 2016 – Many people in Livingston, California devote much of their time to helping others and supporting causes important to them. If you are someone who would like to do the same, there are a variety of sites devoted to helping you keep up to date with what is happening, and offering opportunities for you to become more involved.

Where to find Livingston, California information online: Part 5 – Michael McGuire – Examiner.com – April 02, 2016 – Journalists like to believe their prose kept newspapers alive for so long, but the lifeblood of the print industry consisted of grocery store ads and other paid notices that helped people comparison shop for items they needed or wanted. Today, when we think of shopping online we think of nationally known outlets that ship everywhere. Several local businesses are online now, however, and there are bargains to be found in Livingston, California. Shopping locally not only can save you money; it helps keep your friends and neighbors employed. Everyone wins.

Where to find Livingston, California information online: Part 6 – Michael McGuire – Examiner.com – April 03, 2016 – One of the best sources of both general and specific information about Livingston, California is the website operated by City Hall. The city, after all, has oversight over local law enforcement, water, public recreation programs, sanitation services, approval or disapproval of building plans, parks, street lighting and a variety of other services.

Where to find Livingston, California information online: Part 7 – Michael McGuire – Examiner.com – April 03, 2016 – In this final review of Livingston, California’s presence on the Internet, we’ll take a quick look at how Livingstonians are using social media outlets. There is an argument that the Internet has caused social isolation, but my experience is it has increased the possibilities and reality of people being in touch more than before

Merced candidates call public safety top priority – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – April 12, 2016 – Four of the five county supervisor candidates invited to a forum this week in Merced said public safety is a top priority during a debate that also touched on tax sharing and a new transportation measure.

Candidates say Merced County should rethink budget priorities – Brianna Calix – The Merced Sun Star – April 19, 2016 – Candidates running for the District 4 seat on the Board of Supervisors seemed to be in consensus that Merced County needs to rethink its budget priorities and focus on public safety and infrastructure, though views vary on what policies to implement.

Livingston upgrades police department essentials – Michael McGuire – Examiner.com – April 21, 2016 – The purchase of a new police department vehicle and upgrades to mobile radio units were approved Tuesday by the Livingston City Council. Chief of Police Ruben Chavez contended the purchases are need to keep the department up to standards for law enforcement operations within the city

Livingston residents to be honored by board of supervisors – Michael McGuire – Examiner.com – April 22, 2016 – Three Livingston residents will be honored Tuesday by the Merced County Board of Supervisors for their service to the community and Merced County as a whole, according to the board agenda released Friday. – Veteran Livingston firefighter David Bates will be recognized as Livingston’s Firefighter of the Year. Bates has served for several decades as a local firefighter, including many years as chief. He was honored on April 13 at a celebration in Livingston.

Collisions prompt additional stop signs near Livingston – Michael McGuire – Examiner.com – April 22, 2016 – Three traffic collisions near Livingston, California are prompting the Merced County Board of Supervisors to install additional stop signs at what has become a dangerous intersection, according to the board agenda released Friday. Construction of a Highway 99 interchange has resulted in Sultana Drive becoming a major collector roadway, according to a county report, resulting in a dramatic increase in vehicular traffic

John Pedozo, Merced County District 1 incumbent –http://www.mercedsunstar.com/news/politics-government/election/local-election/article80444192.html

Rodrigo Espinoza, Merced County District 1 candidate – http://www.mercedsunstar.com/news/politics-government/election/article77238892.html

Merced-area leaders say water conservation efforts aren’t going away – June 01/2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – The state has lifted its mandated water conservation targets, but Merced-area leaders are predicting local water restrictions won’t loosen as they look to be stewards of the water supply.

Livingston officer convicted of assaulting man in handcuffs – June 24, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – A Merced County jury decided Friday that a Livingston police officer acted outside the law when he handcuffed a man during a child custody exchange before throwing him to the ground and shoving the man’s face into a concrete porch. — The jury found Officer Tyson Perry, 38, guilty of felony assault by a public officer. The second felony faced by the officer, battery with serious bodily injury, was reduced to the lesser misdemeanor count of simple battery. Prosecutors said Perry used too much force on Dwight Larks, 39, a real estate agent, for a custody exchange on May 21, 2012. — The jury deliberated for two full days before handing down their verdict before Judge David W. Moranda.

Sheriff blasts Merced College president over contract dispute – June 27, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – The Merced County Sheriff’s Department’s contract to oversee campus police at Merced College is set to expire this week, with a dispute over control of the officers standing in the way of an agreement, according to both sides. — Sheriff Vern Warnke told the Sun-Star on Monday that acting President Susan Walsh has tried to use the department as her personal “strong arm” for “political” reasons, a charge college spokesman Robin Shepard dismissed as unfounded. — Under a contract set to expire Thursday, the Sheriff’s Department assigns a sergeant to the campus to oversee the sworn officers. Merced College leaders want a say in who that sergeant is, and Warnke said Walsh has shown she can’t be trusted with that power. — “It’s my full belief that under their current administration, they were going to try to use this police department as a – I’m going to call it a political tool,” Warnke told the Sun-Star. “I don’t work that way. I explained that to her immediately that I don’t play politics with the police department.” — Walsh declined to speak to the Sun-Star.

Merced College president denies she ordered police to make arrest – June 28, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – Merced College officials on Tuesday denied allegations that acting President Susan Walsh tried to have a member of the board of trustees arrested in April. — Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke on Monday told the Sun-Star that Walsh had tried to use the campus police department as a “political tool.” The sheriff’s office oversees campus police. — Walsh, through college spokesman Robin Shepard, refused a Sun-Star request for an interview. Shepard told the Sun-Star that Walsh denies the allegations raised by the sheriff and would have no further comment on the matter. — He also said that Walsh would not discuss the allegations with reporters because she “has no reason to at this point.”

Deputy: Merced College president pushed him to arrest board member, investigate staff – June 29, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star -  The sheriff’s sergeant at the center of a fight between Merced College and the Merced County Sheriff’s Office said President Susan Walsh pressured him to arrest a school board member and also to investigate college faculty members. — Merced County sheriff’s Sgt. Vince Gallagher, who is the campus’s police chief, said Walsh and other staff wanted his department to collect fingerprints from nine copies of an anonymous letter addressed to members of the Merced College Board of Trustees and others on the night in February when the board appointed Walsh as acting president. — When he refused, Gallagher said, Walsh considered hiring a private investigator to identify the letter’s author and specifically to find whether any college staff members were connected to it.

Merced College to cut ties with sheriff’s office – July 1, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – The Merced County Sheriff’s Office began moving out of Merced College on Friday, soon after being informed that its contract for law enforcement would not be extended by the school, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said Friday. — Warnke told the Sun-Star he received a fax Friday from interim college President Susan Walsh saying the contract that gives his office oversight of campus police had expired as of the end of Thursday. — The college and the Sheriff’s Office have been in a dispute over the contract renewal, which added a new caveat giving the sheriff full decision-making power over the campus police chief. Warnke added that language, he said, after Walsh tried to pressure sheriff’s Sgt. Vince Gallagher, the campus chief, to arrest a board member and to investigate faculty. — Campus leaders have denied those claims.

Merced College names retired police captain as new chief – July 5 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – Merced College said Tuesday a retired Merced police captain has been tapped to become the new campus chief of police, a move that follows the school’s decision to end its 16-year relationship with the county sheriff’s office. — Tom Trindad, who retired in December from the Merced Police Department, will serve as the temporary police chief while the college continues negotiations with city officials, the school said in a statement sent by email. A contract between the college and the city’s police department would need to be approved by the Merced City Council. — College officials announced last week they allowed the old contract with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office to expire because the college and sheriff’s officials could not agree on terms for a contract renewal. The dispute centered on the sheriff’s insistence on having the sole authority to decide which officer was assigned to lead the campus security team.

Merced County supervisor incumbents fall short of challengers – July 05, 2016 – Briana Calix – The Merced Sun Star – With all votes counted from last month’s primary, two challengers finished ahead of incumbents in the Board of Supervisors balloting, according to Merced County election numbers that also showed an unusually high rate of turnout. — The Merced County Elections Office posted updated numbers on its website Friday that included all the mail-in and provisional ballots. The office plans to certify the tally from the June 7 primary on Wednesday, said Barbara Levey, Merced County registrar of voters…..In the Board of Supervisors voting, the updated results show Livingston Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza beating incumbent District 1 Supervisor John Pedrozo by more than 550 votes, making this Pedrozo’s third and final term as a supervisor…..Turnout in District 1 was the lowest of the three supervisor races with 35.3 percent of registered voters casting ballots, but that number still was much higher than in 2012, when it was just about 20 percent, Levey said.

More changes at Merced College ruffle feathers – July 26, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – Merced College and its faculty union are at an impasse over how faculty members can schedule their time, a matter that now will go to binding arbitration, the college announced Tuesday. — At issue is a change in teaching obligations that came down from administrators in the spring, according to Patrick Mitchell, president of the Merced College Faculty Association….Mitchell said the change by the college has already affected class schedules and students. He said he knew of at least three online business courses, which could serve about 150 students, that have been canceled since the change….He said online courses, which have continued to grow in popularity, are taught voluntarily but professors are less likely to teach them if they can’t be used to satisfy on-campus requirements. He noted the change is among the shakeups that have come since Walsh moved into the interim role.

Trustees haven’t seen contract with Merced police, president says – July 21, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – Merced College trustees were introduced to the new campus police chief Wednesday, though none of the board members have voted on or even seen the temporary contract with the city police department, according to the board president. – Retired Merced police Capt. Tom Trindad spoke to the board briefly during a special meeting filled with arguments and bickering among board members. Board President Dennis Jordan confirmed the contract has never been presented to the trustees. Merced sheriff’s rejected amedment, College Contract Extension – signed, College Police Mgmt Contract – Signed, MCCD Agreement for Police Services 

Merced College paid private investigator August 01, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – After a Merced County sheriff’s deputy declined to collect fingerprints to trace a letter disparaging of Merced College administrators, the college hired a private investigator to do so, according to documents obtained by the Sun-Star through a public records request.—An invoice released to the Sun-Star, and posted at the bottom of this story, shows Cen Cal Investigations, a Merced-based private investigation firm, conducted a “latent fingerprint” search on March 31. The search took place weeks after the college asked campus police to collect fingerprints from nine copies of an anonymous letter on Feb. 1 that was addressed to members of the Merced College Board of Trustees.—Merced County sheriff’s Sgt. Vince Gallagher, who was the campus’ police chief until the end of June, told the Sun-Star the request came from Susan Walsh, who was appointed the college’s acting president on Feb. 1.—The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Sun-Star, demanded that the board of trustees reinstate President Ron Taylor, who had been placed on leave without explanation. The letter was signed by “Concerned students.”

Merced College president defends fingerprint investigation – August 02, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – Merced College President Susan Walsh broke her silence Tuesday to address an investigation on campus with an email sent to staff and faculty. – The email discussed the college’s decision to hire a private investigator in March to dust for the fingerprints of faculty, a move the Sun-Star confirmed by obtaining an invoice through a public records request…….The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Sun-Star, demanded that the board of trustees reinstate President Ron Taylor, who had been placed on leave without explanation. The letter was signed by “Concerned students.” – Walsh noted the letter included the photo of a nude male student. The copy obtained by the Sun-Star includes a photo of a young man who is wearing a shirt but no pants as he appears to photograph himself in a mirror.

Livingston denies claim on death of pedestrian – August 07, 2016 – Briana Calix – The Merced Sun Star – The Livingston City Council denied a claim for damages last week from the family of Bagicha Singh, who was hit and killed by a truck near Hammatt Avenue in December. – The claim was on the council’s consent calendar, which is voted on in one action typically without discussion. – Singh was hit while crossing Hammatt Avenue near Walnut Avenue the evening of Dec. 9, 2015.

Merced College leader addresses letter, nude photo controversy – August 08, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – A Merced College administrator, in a campuswide message, attempted to shed some light on a controversial and somewhat mysterious issue about which school officials previously have been mum. – An email written by Chris Vitelli, the vice president of student services, shared with campus employees some information about an anonymous letter and its ramifications. The letter first came to light publicly in an article published in the Merced Sun-Star. – The letter in question criticized how Vitelli handled the discipline of a student whose partially nude photo was circulated through an online educational platform to dozens of classmates in spring 2015.

 

Los Banos school board terminates contract at the center of criminal probe – August 31, 2016 – Rob Parsons – The Merced Sun Star – Hours after Los Banos Unified school board trustee Tommy Jones was released on bond Wednesday, the board voted 5-0 to cancel a hotly disputed construction contract at the center of a criminal investigation into alleged payoffs involving him and the contractor who was awarded the project last month.——-Jones and construction manager Greg Opinski have been accused of paying off at least one board member to vote in favor of awarding Opinski’s company, OP Development Inc., the contract to add 15 classrooms to Mercey Springs Elementary School.——-Opinski, who is a member of the Merced Union High School District board of trustees, was arrested Monday, the same day the Merced County District Attorney’s Office announced its investigation into alleged bribery and corruption

Likely mayor has a controversial past – September 7, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – …A councilman since 2012, Soria was a Dos Palos police officer when he lied to sheriff’s deputies in 2006 during a criminal investigation, according to public records….He told the Sun-Star on Wednesday that he’s taken “a lot of arrows” over what he did a decade ago. “Over 10 years you have difficult experiences and it makes you stronger,” he said. “I made a mistake, and you move on from it.”…Soria’s colleagues on the Livingston City Council spoke in support of his mayoral run. Councilman Gurpal Samra, who has served the last four years with Soria, described Livingston’s likely mayor as “a great guy” who is dedicated to the community…Councilman Alex McCabe, who was appointed to a vacant seat more than a year ago, also backed Soria. He described Soria as a “fair and honest guy” and said he’s confident Soria will be a “strong” mayor despite his past.

Livingston reveals potential new logos – September 7, 2016 – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – The city of Livingston has released a few options for a new city seal that would put sweet potatoes front and center, but will look for more input from local students before making a final decision, officials confirmed Wednesday – The Livingston City Council decided about a year ago to say goodbye to the old city motto “The Last Stop,” a reference to a long-ago traffic signal that once stopped motorists on Highway 99.

(Since we are on the subject of “The Last Stop” – you can find out more by going to the following articleInfamous Blood Alley to Disappear / New bypass around Highway 99 stoplight – Peter Fimrite, SFGate Chronicle Staff Writer Published 4:00 am, Monday, November 4, 1996)

Los Banos school official arrested in corruption case declines to resign – BY VIKAAS SHANKER – Los Banos Enterprise – September 8, 2016 – …Several residents Thursday called on Jones to resign after an alleged corruption plot was revealed following a 10-month investigation by the Merced County District Attorney’s Office. Jones is accused of bribing a public official to secure a vote in July on a controversial school construction contract….Prosecutors said Merced-area construction magnate Opinski and Jones paid Falasco to vote in favor of awarding a $541,000 contract to Opinski’s company to build new classrooms at Mercey Springs Elementary School. Authorities said Falasco was cooperating with investigators when he joined Jones and two other trustees to support the contract July 26.

High school board to consider censure of Opinski – BY BRIANNA CALIX – The Merced Sun Star – September 9, 2016 – Opinski, owner of OP Development and Opinski Construction, in 2012 filed a lawsuit against the district after he was sued by a subcontractor on the stadium project. Opinski argues in his lawsuit that the district should pay the subcontractor and the attorney fees he incurred fighting the case, which claims the subcontractor was not paid for the work. – During the meeting with Olson, Opinski brought along a man he said was good with technology, asking for access to the email server. When Olson denied him access, Opinski became angry, cursing and saying he was entitled to the information under the California Public Records Act, the resolution says. – Olson said he believes Opinski wanted access to the server to obtain communication between lawyers and former administrators regarding another case in which Opinski sued the district for $1.3 million in connection to a Livingston High project, the resolution shows. The case still is active.

Attorney takes issue with how district responded to Opinski – BY BRIANNA CALIX – The Merced Sun Star – September 18, 2016 – …The MUHSD governing board censured Opinski last week following an Aug. 25 meeting in which district administrators denied email access to Opinski, who became irate. Opinski apologized for and defended his actions at Wednesday’s board meeting. Opinski has filed two lawsuits against the district he represents in connection with projects his construction company worked on for the district. The first case, involving Livingston High School, went to arbitration where the district offered Opinski a settlement, listed in the censure resolution. The second case, involving a subcontractor and Golden Valley High project, is ongoing. The attorney defended Opinski and said his request for email access was not for personal self-interest, as the district alleged in its censure resolution. “The attribution of self-dealing motives on the part of Mr. Opinski could not be further from the truth,” Tucker said.

Council to vote on police contract for Merced College – BY BRIANNA CALIX – The Merced Sun Star – September 18, 2016 – The Merced City Council on Monday will consider a contract to provide police services to Merced College in exchange for use of the college’s pool and classrooms for training exercises, the agenda shows….The agreement gives police Chief Norm Andrade authority to choose who to appoint to the position, though the college president will be allowed input. The agreement also notes the captain will work closely with the college president, who will provide supervision on response to and the needs of campus facilities. – The agreement also gives the Police and Fire departments access to the college campus for training or neighborhood watch meetings.

MCAG settles lawsuit to update transportation plan, Sierra Club says – Merced Sun Star Staff – Sun Star Staff – November 18, 2016 – The Merced County Association of Governments has reached a settlement with the Sierra Club in a lawsuit challenging its 2014 Regional Transportation Plan. – The lawsuit argued that the transportation plan did not meet air quality requirements to reduce greenhouse gases and instead prioritized highway investments. In the settlement, MCAG agreed to amend the plan so it increases investments in public transportation and protects agricultural land.

As more Merced County ballots are tallied, contenders claim stronger leads – Brianna Calix – The Merced Sun Star – November 22, 2016 – The Merced County Elections Office tallied more than 17,000 mail-in ballots on Monday, and newly released results showed widening leads for many candidates in county races. – The new results include mail-in ballots received on Election Day or soon after. The Elections Office is working to count ballots from mail-only precincts and provisional ballots before the state mandated deadline on Dec. 6. So far, about 66 percent of registered voters’ ballots have been counted. With remaining provisional and miscellaneous ballots left to be tallied, Merced County turnout could reach 71 percent.

Livingston council race in limbo – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – December 01, 2016 – The City Council election in Livingston remains a cliffhanger that may not come to a head until the last moment, when the election is certified. – Preliminary results show Wapinder Kang, a Livingston police officer, still in second in the race for three open council seats. The top three finishers in the seven-candidate race will win the seats, but state law appears to prevent Kang from being both a councilman and an officer in the same city. – According to preliminary results, the 30-year-old is in line for a seat with 18.4 percent of the vote. He trails Juan Aguilar Jr., who has 25 percent of the vote, and is ahead of incumbent Arturo Sicairos, who has 14.8 percent of the vote. – Approximately 5,000 to 6,000 mail-in and provisional ballots from across Merced County are yet to be counted as the Merced County Registrar of Voters Office checks the signatures on them.

Livingston first banned commercial cannabis — now it’s looking at diving in – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun Star – December 07, 2016 – With the electorate ushering in recreational cannabis use in the state, Livingston’s leaders are taking a second look at their policies related to the plants. – The city passed an ordinance in January that allows medical marijuana patients to grow two plants outdoors. With the approval of Proposition 64, all Californians are allowed to grow six plants indoors for recreational use. – The city’s ordinance and the new state law set up a scenario where Livingston residents could grow a total of eight plants, with six inside and two outside, according to Jose Sanchez, Livingston’s city attorney.

The election is over, but there’s still an open seat on the Livingston City Council  – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun star – December 07, 2016 -  The Livingston City Council held off on swearing in new members Tuesday, saying the city staff did not get certified election numbers in time. – The council voted unanimously to bump welcoming new members to the Dec. 20 meeting, when the process also will begin to fill a vacant council seat for the city of about 13,500 residents. – Wapinder Kang, who won the second-most votes last month in the race for three council seats, vacated his seat before he ever took it. As a police officer in the city, he is prohibited from accepting one of the open seats, according to the state elections code.

Advocates hope Merced will become ‘sanctuary’ for undocumented – Brianna Calix – The Merced Sun Star – December 15, 2016 – The Merced Organizing Project and its partners are floating the idea of approaching city and county officials for potential resolutions to become a “regional sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants following the election of Donald Trump as president…(Sherriff)Warnke said if an undocumented person commits a crime investigated by his deputies, that person may be subject to deportation by federal authorities. But he also said sheriff’s deputies don’t actively seek out undocumented people…Livingston Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra said he’s conflicted about designated sanctuary cities. He doesn’t believe families should be split up or want longtime residents deported. He understands that attaining citizenship can take up to a decade and believes the laws should be changed….Councilman Alex McCabe said he would like more information before the issues is put to a vote, but in general he supports undocumented people in the community.

With so much less water, we all will suffer – Editorial – The Merced Sun Star – December 17, 2016 – …The state’s SED outlines how the state water board intends to “save” threatened fish species by letting more water flow past us to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. That means we’ll have less water to grow crops, create jobs and power our economy. Never mind the billions of dollars we’ve invested in dams, canals, fish hatcheries, homes and farms – investments predicated on 150 years of carefully using the water.

In that same time, California has been altering and transforming the Delta into a system of rip-rap clad channels funneling water toward pumps that send it to millions of people hundreds of miles away. Most of that water, 80 percent, comes from the Sacramento River; only 20 percent is provided by the San Joaquin’s tributaries, the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus. Yet, it is water from our rivers the state has targeted first.

Yes, 100 years ago the estuary teemed with Delta smelt and thousands of salmon came up the San Joaquin and down the Sacramento before migrating to the ocean. But that estuary no longer exists. It’s been “channelized” to facilitate faster flows; it’s native plants are long gone. Now, 95 percent of the juvenile salmon arriving in the Delta are devoured by non-native striped bass, who also are now moving into our rivers. The Delta smelt is virtually extinct.

The state’s remedy? Add water. Our water.

But if the state wants to “save” the Delta, why not start in the Delta? Haul away the rip-rap, breach the levees and allow nature to recreate an estuary of vast mudflats and thick marsh grasses where smelt can thrive and juvenile salmon can evade predators. That such an obvious plan is well down the state’s to-do list shows what’s really going on.

Already, 20 percent of the Merced and Tuolumne rivers and 30 percent of the Stanislaus flow unimpaired to the Bay. Now the state wants 40 percent from each, but is threatening to take 50 percent if improvements on the rivers don’t help.

That’s not all. The state also wants to control the “cold pools” deep behind our dams – amounting to roughly 35 percent of reservoir capacity and giving the state control of nearly four times more water than it demands now.

Who wants to be a Livingston council member? City’s staff to find out  – Thaddeus Miller – The Merced Sun-Star – December 21, 2016 – In one of their first acts as a new board, Livingston City Council members took steps this week toward filling a seat left vacant after an election winner resigned this month. – Mayor Jim Soria, who ran unopposed, and Councilmen Juan Aguilar Jr. and Arturo Sicairos took their oaths of office in Livingston on Tuesday. Aguilar and Sicairos were the first- and third-highest vote-winners, respectively, for the three-seat race. – Sicairos, a real estate agent, is in his second term and Aguilar, a Stanislaus County social worker, is a newcomer to the council. – The council voted 4-0 to speak with the other four candidates on the November ballot to gauge their interest in serving in the open fifth seat. Sicairos suggested the seat should be given to the next-highest vote-winner willing to serve.

Taking the water could cost the state – Mike Dunbar – The Modesto Bee – December 24, 2016 – Lots of angry words were billowing about during the momentous state water board hearings in Stockton, Merced and Modesto. There were vows to fight, to resist and not to accept the second-class-citizen status the state’s proposed rules would impose. One threatened to “unleash the dogs of war.”

Through most of it, board members sat stoically, letting it roll off their backs. They expected anger. But there was one word that probably made board members nervous.

“Taking.”

Bill Lyons, the former California Secretary of Agriculture, said it first: “I call this a water taking by the state.”

It came up again during the Merced Irrigation District panel discussion. “This is an illegal taking of storage space on Lake McClure,” said general counsel Phil McMurray.

Coincidentally, the same word was being heard in the courtroom of federal Judge Marian Blank Horn some 2,400 miles away. Ruling in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, she told farmers in northern California and southern Oregion they could sue the Bureau of Reclamation for damages after the Bureau refused to live up to its water contracts on the Klamath River. That happened in 2001, when the Bureau decided fish needed the water more than the farmers who had relied on it for 90 years.

Judge Horn ruled the farmers’ losses were from a “physical” taking of their rights, not a “regulatory” taking – which government can do with impunity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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