Valley news of the week -- March 21-27

March 27, 2010 

FRESNOBEE.COM

The national debate about health insurance dominated the news last week — as well as discussion among online readers of The Bee.

Most readers on all sides of the question offered thoughtful comments and questions about the package of bills approved by Congress.

And then there were the more dramatic voices.

“It’s kind of looking like we need a second American revolution to take back our country from these liberal tax-and-spend monsters,” wrote “rebelmountainman” in one post. “Our freedoms are going down the drain.”

Another reader, nicknamed “tcmp375,” offered a similar sentiment: “It’s not just a slippery slope; it’s a mud-slide straight into Marxism. Right now we still have freedom of speech; we had better use it to oppose the Obama administration before even that is taken from us.”

While all that shouting was going on, however, a number of significant local stories also drew attention from readers. Here are the top stories of the past week, along with selected comments posted by readers on fresnobee.com.

PG&E rate plan

What happened: Pacific Gas & Electric Co., under fire for rates that penalize residents of hot-weather areas like in the San Joaquin Valley, proposed a new rate structure that would cut bills for households that use the most power by 25% or more.

What it means: If approved by the state Public Utilities commission, however, the three-tier plan would raise bills for moderate power users. The average Valley household would see costs go up by more than $9 a month.

What readers said:

“This new proposal from PG&E will not go into effect until the year 2011, and that is only if the PUC approves. Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.”

— sanjoaquinsam

“The PUC and PG&E must think we’re idiots — why in the world would we want to let them RAISE OUR RATES YET AGAIN!?!?!?”

— MollybyGolly


Pension worries

What happened: The Fresno County grand jury on Tuesday declared the county’s pension plan unsustainable just as county supervisors learned they face deep cuts next year, driven in part by soaring pension costs.

What it means: The report offered little new information about the pension problem, which has been looming for years. But it offered a painful reminder as supervisors learned they face a $23 million shortfall next budget year.

What readers said:

“The county employs 7000 people. That means the private sector could do the same job with half as many, and wouldn’t need to pay for gold plated pension and benefits.”

— monkeyboy1

“The supervisors are fully responsible for all of this. You can blame the unions, but it is the supervisors who wouldn’t force the issue when they should have.”

— Mikie


Rivers converge

What happened: San Joaquin River waters reached the Merced River — a milestone in a massive river restoration project that aims to restore salmon to the Valley.

What it means: It has been decades since the river flowed continuously to the ocean year-round. A key test ahead: Keeping the river connected during the hot summer months.

What readers said:

“I’m still a little fuzzy on why we have to have salmon in the river. Next thing they will want to do is restore dinosaur habitat so we can have that ‘nature’ back.”

— matto235

“Man is the invasive species and has done enough damage. Make it right and let the river flow.”

— Michimama


Project approved

What happened: The Fresno City Council on Thursday approved a development agreement for Fancher Creek Town Center, a massive retail-residential project in southeast Fresno that its backers say will rival north Fresno’s River Park shopping complex.

What it means: Developers told the council that the project will be built in phases. Construction of roads and utilities could begin by the end of the year.

What readers said:

“This is a needed project for SE Fresno. Why should North Fresno have all the best shopping areas and convenience while the SE has little?”

— sparkyracer100

“Why didn’t the city council work on having this team build a project in downtown Fresno? Instead of voting to spread Fresno out they should be working harder on our central core. This project isn’t needed on the east side of town.”

— Neucom


Bulldogs QB leaves

What happened: Fresno State football coach Pat Hill announced Thursday that Ebahn Feathers, an all-state quarterback at Washington High, is no longer on the team.

What it means: Once seen as a potential starting quarterback, Feathers didn’t meet expectations last season. And he has stopped returning calls from coaches and teammates, Hill said.

What readers said:

“I always thought the recruitment of Feathers was odd, a square peg in a round hole. ”

— BulldogArmy

“I am not too surprised; I was worried that Feathers would leave once he did not get the starting QB job last year.”

— Trowa


Twist of the week

What happened: A 48-year-old man was arrested Sunday after he burglarized a house and attempted to attack a woman with a Samurai sword. The woman was not injured.

Catching Up is compiled by Bee managing editor Jack Robinson.

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