Thumbs down to former state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter. Florez agreed to pay a record $60,000 in penalties to the state Fair Political Practices Commission for spending campaign contributions for personal use and failing to return election donations after he quit his run for lieutenant governor in 2010. During his time in the state Senate, Florez built a persona as a fearless, high-profile crusader who demanded accountability of others. This settlement with the FPPC is a major hit to his reputation and political future.
Thumbs up to Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson. He was named "Agriculturist of the Year" on Oct. 9 by the Fresno County Chamber of Commerce for his advocacy on behalf of farming. Then, at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, he voted against a motion that would have required fellow Supervisor Henry R. Perea to vote down First 5 Fresno County's long-planned downtown headquarters and child-care center. Said Larson: "This is America and I'm not going to tell anyone how to vote." Larson also quashed talk of bringing First 5 under direct county control by saying he was against it.
Thumbs up to state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, for authoring the resolution that named Highway 152 the William S. "Bill" Whitehurst Memorial Highway. Whitehurst, a Valley businessman who died last year, served on the state Highway Commission and spearheaded a drive during the 1960s to revamp 152, which at the time was a dangerous two-land road notoriously called "blood alley."