Valley news of the week-- Dec. 25 - 31

December 31, 2011 

The week between Christmas and New Year's is typically a slow news period -- but not this year. State and federal judges grabbed headlines with major rulings. Readers were fired up about pension costs -- and the foul air shrouding the Valley this winter.

Here are the top stories of the past week, along with selected comments posted by readers at fresnobee.com.

Redevelopment takes a hit

What happened: The California Supreme Court ruled the state can eliminate local agencies that subsidize construction in blighted areas.

What it means: The decision strengthens the state's ability to take funds from redevelopment agencies. Fresno city officials warned the ruling could undercut efforts to revitalize deteriorating neighborhoods -- including downtown Fresno.

What readers said:

"It's amazing to me that many of the people who supported the redevelopment agencies were the "small government" type people, but I guess it's all different when the government welfare falls into the hands of developers instead of poor people. ... We need to spend redevelopment money on basic public services. Schools and firefighters must come first."

--djkc

"Amen. Redeveloment schemelopment. Waste of money. Get rid of them and their bloated salaries."

-- Pupioso

Setback for landmark law

What happened: A Fresno federal judge on Thursday dealt a setback to California's landmark global warming law, ruling a key part is unconstitutional.

What it means: It was clear Thursday that U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill's ruling would be appealed. But what will happen to the state's greenhouse gas law wasn't clear -- representatives of both sides of the debate were still digesting O'Neill's complicated ruling.

What readers said:

"All trucking companies and owner operators need to take their trucks, their income tax revenue, their sales tax revenue, their payroll tax revenue, the jobs they provide, their DMV fee revenue, the money they spend on fuel, tires, parts, etc and set up shop in more business friendly states. Let the environmentalists get their goods by rail."

--califcowgirl

"Its funny how one of the only wastelands in California is the Central California area.. If you go anywhere else, it tends to be nice, clean, inviting for tourism..Oddly enough, much of the rest of the state supports laws like AB32."

--Hippyfromomega

Sooty air month

What happened: Nature and the economy have created a perfect storm of dirty air -- the worst December bout for the Fresno-Clovis area in more than a decade.

What it means: Despite daily no-burn orders from air authorities, people are lighting wood in their fireplaces, some saying they can't afford high utility bills. There have been no storms to clean out the San Joaquin Valley in December. The result: The air is unhealthy for children, the elderly and people with lung and heart problems -- and at times, even unsafe for healthy adults.

What readers said:

"The air seems a lot worse this year than last. ... I live south of Fresno by some distance and it is almost as bad as Fresno. Rainfall isn't the total answer to clean air but it does mitigate the particulates in the air."

--Bobolink

"I was down in Fresno yesterday and it was bad. What a thick, nasty haze. I'm sorry you're cold, really. But that doesn't give you license to gunk up our shared resources."

--Nick D

Pension pain

What happened: Fresno County's retirement costs are expected to hit $184 million next year. After debt payments are factored in, that could account for as much as a record 14% of the county government's annual budget.

What it means: The county already is stretched thin -- jail floors have been closed, parks go without maintenance and library operations have been scaled back. With no clear recovery in sight, financing the retirement system next year all but guarantees more cuts to public programs and possibly positions, too.

What readers said:

"These unions look at the public tax payers as cash cows ready to get milked again."

--Wondering

"Average retiree receives 35,000.00 per year. 100k are the 2%, print facts not fiction."

--mrivanko

Catching Up is compiled by Bee editors. Go to fresnobee.com/catchingup/ to comment or learn more about these stories.

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