It was such an honor to present Fresno Hispanic Foundation President/CEO Dora Westerlund with the 2017 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for Fostering Entrepreneurship. The award includes a $200,000 grant to further the Foundation’s work.
Dora’s deep passion for giving back to the community, supporting small business and enriching the local economy is well known throughout the Central Valley.
One of the most critical issues facing the Central Valley is how to create jobs in a region with one of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the state and nation.
Under Dora’s visionary leadership, the Foundation received a $1.7 million grant to create the only bilingual business incubator in the Western United States located in Fresno.
She was instrumental in establishing the Foundation’s innovative microloan program, which has awarded 150 loans totaling $3 million.
Her tireless commitment to job creation also includes offering bilingual start-up training and business plan development workshops for thousands of new small business owners.
Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to Dora for making a powerful contribution to the prosperity of the Central Valley and California.
When it Rains…
It’s heart-breaking to see so much precious water flushed out to sea rather than captured in much-needed – but yet-to-be-built – above-ground storage.
While some folks up north are declaring the end of the drought, we in the Valley know there’s a long way to go before that’s the case here.
If there was ever a case to build Temperance Flat, it sure is now!
Store the rain. Stop the train!
Andy has introduced several bills this legislative session, including two measures that target High-Speed Rail (Senate Bill 414 and Senate Bill 415), a bill to help fund three rural police departments (Senate Bill 453) and legislation to help improve the living conditions of seasonal farmworkers (Senate Bill 530).
SB 414 – High-Speed Rail (HSR) Revote/ Reallocation of Bonds
This measure would allow voters to decide on the June 2018 Ballot if the state should continue to sell $8 billion in remaining bonds to fund HSR or instead re-direct that money to expand and fix state highways and local roads.
“High-Speed Rail is a failure and an embarrassment on several fronts, including (but not limited to) massive cost overruns, constant construction delays, zero private-sector money and loss of federal funding,” said Andy. “Voters deserve a revote on this boondoggle.”
Today’s proposed High-Speed Rail breaks virtually every promise made to voters in 2008: it won’t maintain high speeds, it’s not being built along existing corridors, it’s likely to cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and it’s doubtful it will ever be completed.
SB 415 – High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA): Excess Property ’Use it or Lose it’
This bill would require the High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) to either use or sell abandoned property the HSRA originally said it needed to build the HSR project.
Properties the state has taken for HSR sit abandoned and unused. The HSRA has said it needs nearly 1,300 properties to complete the 118-mile route from Madera to Bakersfield. The route changes more often than the seasons, leaving blight in its wake throughout the Central Valley.
The HSRA has been given similar rights-of-way as Caltrans. A 2012 state audit revealed that Caltrans wasted millions of dollars annually mismanaging properties it acquired for the decades-long, failed State Route 710 expansion project in the Pasadena area.
SB 415 will put the HSRA on a three-year timeline, requiring the authority to either use property or sell it before the state loses millions more in mismanagement costs.
“It’s wrong to waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on abandoned, blight-ridden properties,” said Vidak. “SB 415 gives the High-Speed Rail Authority the time to either use it or lose it,” said Andy.
SB 453 – Local Law Enforcement Funding
This measure would provide Orange Cove, Parlier and Woodlake police departments with $4 million each to construct, update or remodel their facilities. The $12 million is a one-time appropriation.
“Senator Vidak’s measure will enable Orange Cove to replace an outdated and unsafe police department. As mayor of Orange Cove, the safety of our residents is of the utmost importance,” said Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez.
Existing law establishes minimum standards for local correctional facilities, however many small and rural police departments don’t have enough money to keep up with the ever-evolving requirements. As a result, many small and rural city police departments are chronically underfunded.
“SB 453 will provide critical funding to keep up with the public safety needs of the Parlier community that have been crippled due to a rise in gang activity,” said Parlier Mayor Alma Beltran.
“As the Mayor of Woodlake, a small rural community within Senator Andy Vidak’s district, I am proud to have his support as we look to improve our local public safety services,” said Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza. “This proposal will make a significant impact towards the protection of lives and property, the safety of our police force, and the enforcement of laws within our community."
Similar measures in past years have included funds for rural police departments in the Central Valley, including SB 97 (Budget Committee) in 2015, and SB 1307 (Cannella) and SB 826 (Leno) in 2016.
“We need to think of the safety of these small, disadvantaged communities, the safety of the officers they employ, and the safety of those in custody,” said Andy. “SB 453 will give these police departments the flexibility to repair and replace equipment and facilities, which is urgently needed, instead of forcing rural cities to choose between public safety and infrastructure.”
Assemblymembers Juan Arambula (D-Fresno) and Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) are co-authors of this bipartisan measure.
SB 530 – Farmworker Housing
This bill would help improve the living conditions of seasonal farmworkers. A shortage of affordable housing has forced many farmworker families into unsafe and unhealthy living conditions. There are entire families living in one room who are sharing an apartment with several other families. Many seasonal workers are sleeping in closets and outdoor utility sheds without access to running water or electricity.
“The hardworking folks that help grow the world’s food shouldn’t have to choose between putting a roof over their family’s heads and feeding their children,” said Andy.
Many farmers have the land and want to build housing for their seasonal employees, but zoning ordinances often prevent them from doing so.
SB 530, which is sponsored by UnitedAG, solves this problem by allowing owners of agricultural land to build housing for their seasonal employees if they follow health and safety codes, and building safety standards.
“On behalf of UnitedAg’s members and our Board of Directors, I want to thank Senator Vidak for authoring this much needed farmworker housing legislation,” said UnitedAg President and CEO Kirti Mutatkar. “If enacted, this legislation will lead to safer and healthier housing on-site where the farmworker is employed. Hundreds of employer growers have wanted to build on-site housing but local land use restrictions in many circumstances have created next to impossible roadblocks.”
Similar legislation has been in effect since 1995 in Washington State, which also has a surge of seasonal employees.
“By passing legislation that allows farmers to build housing on their own farms for their own employees with more zoning flexibility, thousands of badly needed additional beds were added to the inventory of licensed farmworker housing in Washington State," said Washington Growers League Executive Director Mike Gempler, who was instrumental in helping pass the Washington law.
Following are short descriptions of some of the other measures that Andy has authored this year:
Senate Joint Resolution 1 (SJR) – Immigration Reform
Requests Congress and the president to work together to reform the United States’ broken immigration system.
SB 391 – Labor Commissioner Reporting
Requires the labor commissioner to post monthly the amount of money received, and employees found, under the piece-rate law.
SB 524 – Good Faith Bill
Immunizes employers from fines and penalties if the employer relied in good faith on specified written advice from the Division of Labor.
SB 586 – Assault: Federal Officer
Increases the penalty for assaulting an on-duty federal agent working in California to the same penalty for assaulting a California Peace Officer.
SB 609 – Right to Vote
Prevents government agencies from arbitrarily blocking certified local initiatives from making it on the ballot.
Mobile District Office hours are an opportunity for Senate District 14 residents to meet locally with a Team Vidak representative to hear more about Andy’s work in Sacramento and the Central Valley, have their questions answered or get help with specific state-related issues, including:
- Unemployment benefits
- Issues with state agencies, such as the DMV and Franchise Tax Board
- Small business assistance
- Worker’s compensation
- State legislation and
- Other state-related matters
Team Vidak district representatives will be offering Mobile District Office Hours in the following communities in March:
Tue., March 7
10 a.m. – Noon
Reedley Branch Library
1027 E St., Reedley
Wed., March 8
10 a.m. – Noon
12646 Ave. 416, Orosi
Wed., March 8
4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Kettleman City Branch Library
104 Becky Pease St., Kettleman City
Wed., March 22
Noon – 2 p.m.
Lamont Family Resource Center
7839 Burgundy Ave., Lamont
Wed., March 22
10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Shafter City Hall
336 Pacific Ave., Shafter
Thurs., March 23
2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Porterville City Hall
291 N. Main St., Porterville
For more information, please contact Team Vidak’s Claudia Salinas (559) 585-7161 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends that you ask your doctor about Valley Fever if you’ve had a cough, fever or painful breathing for more than two weeks.
Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis or “cocci”) is caused by a fungus that lives in soil or dirt in some areas of California. You can get it by breathing in dust where the fungus grows.
ANYONE can get Valley Fever. People who spend time in dirt or dusty areas where the Valley Fever Fungus grows may be more at risk of getting infected. Some groups of people have more risk of needing to be hospitalized if they get Valley Fever, including:
- adults 60 years or older;
- pregnant women;
- people with weak immune systems;
- diabetics; and
- African Americans, Filipinos and Hispanics.
For more information on Valley Fever from the CDPH, click here.
Click on the photos below to read more about what’s happening at the Capitol and in our Communities.
McFarland Middle School is a ‘School to Watch’
Corcoran Chamber’s Annual Awards Banquet
Reedley Dialysis Center Grand Opening
California Athletic Trainers Association
Fresno’s Golden Restaurant Celebrates 50 Years
Shafter’s Richland Jr. High Visits the Capitol
Lemoore’s Nicholas Kennedy – Eagle Scout
CHP Bakersfield Office Grand Opening
Do you know a child with special needs?
The Tulare County Office of Education has launched the Child Find Project to help ensure all children who may be in need of special education services get connected with available programs.
Free special education services and programs are available from birth to age 21 in Tulare County for children with disabilities, including:
- blindness or vision impairments;
- deafness or hearing impairments;
- speech/language difficulties;
- physical or orthopedic disabilities;
- learning disabilities;
- behavior disorders;
- intellectual disabilities; or
- other health impairments.
Child Find accepts referrals and screens children who may have a disability. The child is then referred to an appropriate educational program for evaluation and/or services. Assessments are provided at no cost to parents. Information is confidential and the privacy of children and parents is protected.
If you know of a child in Tulare County with a disability who is not receiving services, please call Child Find at 559-730-2910, extension 5120, or contact your local school.
The California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee’s (Cal-JAC) Commission to Recruit Women for the Fire Service is holding its Annual Firefighter Career Expo in March. The expos are free, and will be held at Cal-JAC Firefighter Candidate Testing Centers (FCTC) on the following dates:
Saturday, March 11
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
526 Commerce Way
Livermore, CA 94551
Saturday, March 25
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
2560 River Plaza Drive
Sacramento, CA 95833
These one-day expos provide an opportunity for prospective candidates to interact with fire departments from across the state and learn more about the challenges and rewards that come with a career in the fire service.
Expo participants will have the opportunity to:
- meet one-on-one with fire department recruiters;
- try out the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT);
- get hands on experience with Mechanical Reasoning Props;
- learn what to expect on the Written Test;
- take an up-close look at fire apparatus displays; and
- enjoy a free barbeque and refreshments.
Please visit the Cal-JAC website at www.CFFJAC.org to preregister and for more information.
Left: Kari Wilterding with her dog, Gideon, from Dinuba FFA
Right: Marybeth Hearn with her dog, Data, from Lemoore FFA
Valley Representatives of Future Farmers of America (FFA) recently visited Andy’s Capitol office to share about FFA’s Guide Dogs for the Blind Puppy Raising Project.
Guide Dogs for the Blind provide FFA students who volunteer for the program 8- to 10-week-old Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers or Lab/Golden Retriever crosses to raise and socialize for 14 to 16 months.
Puppy socialization includes going shopping, riding public transit, and being taken to school, movies, restaurants, concerts, plays and meetings – any activity that a visually-impaired person might encounter in his or her day-to-day routine or life.
“The FFA students that are raising the pups have no idea what the lifestyle of the dog’s future partner may be, so it is very important that the pups have as many different life experiences as possible,” said Lemoore FFA Guide Dogs for the Blind Puppy Raising Project representative Marybeth Hearn.
Once the FFA program is complete, the dogs go back to Guide Dogs for the Blind for additional training and placement with a partner who is blind.
Guide Dogs for the Blind is a non- profit organization that provides dogs free of charge (this includes training, veterinary costs and travel to the campus for training) to the blind individual.
Members of Lemoore FFA Guide Dog Puppy Raisers Project picking up new pups from
Guide Dogs for the Blind’s campus in San Rafael, California.
The FFA Guide Dog Puppy Raising Project started at Lemoore High School in 1989. Lemoore FFA students championed the project, and as a result, the National FFA Association made the project an official FFA program two years ago. Since then, there are over 250 FFA students in 10 western states raising guide dog puppies as FFA projects. Lemoore FFA students are currently raising 11 puppies.
“This has been such a great journey developing this program and seeing if finally come to fruition,” said Marybeth.
3/6 Senate Floor Session – State Capitol
3/7 Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water Hearing – State Capitol
3/8 Senate Committee on Education Hearing – State Capitol
3/9 Senate Floor Session – State Capitol
3/13 Senate Floor Session – State Capitol
3/14 Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water Hearing – State Capitol
3/14 Senate Committee on Governmental Organization Hearing– State Capitol
3/15 Senate Committee on Education Hearing – State Capitol
3/16 Senate Floor Session – State Capitol
3/20 Senate Floor Session – State Capitol
3/23 Senate Floor Session – State Capitol
3/27 Senate Floor Session – State Capitol
3/28 Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water Hearing (Tentative) – State Capitol
3/28 Senate Committee on Governmental Organization Hearing (Tentative) – State Capitol
3/30 Senate Floor Session – State Capitol
3/31 Cesar Chavez Day Observed