Update, 12/26/17:  a quote from Gov. Jerry Brown’s press office is now included below.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced a series of Superior Court appointments up and down the Golden State last week, including one in the Valley.

Valerie Chrissakis will serve as a judge in the Kings County system. She is a graduate of the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific.

She fills the vacancy created by the retirement of James LaPorte. A judge earns $200,042 a year.

According to the governor’s news release, Chrissakis is registered without a party preference. Of the 33 judges appointed statewide in the governor’s announcement, none is a registered Republican.

In a video last week regarding the tax cuts approved by Congress, Brown said “It’s never good to have one party vote one way and another party vote 100% the other way. That’s dividing America in a time we need unity.”

Asked for comment, Brown’s press office told GV Wire: “As with all appointments, our office selects the best, most qualified candidates from a diverse pool of applicants.”

Beal Hopes to Appeal Planning Commission Liquor Verdict

Whether to approve an alcohol license came before the Fresno Planning Commission on Wednesday (Dec. 20). And for the third time in recent months, George Beal and his Johnny Quik Stores were the applicants, this time for a location at Belmont and Van Ness avenues. The project includes a Chevron gas station and a Subway restaurant.

Five residents spoke out, all opposing the approval of an alcohol license. Perhaps sensing the mood of the commission, Beal said he would be willing to move forward without the license.

That was enough to satisfy the appointed body. Commissioners said they were uncomfortable about the license for several reasons: too many other liquor stores in the area, a nearby methadone clinic, and objections from neighbors.

The commission unanimously approved the project without the alcohol license.

Beal told GV Wire he hopes to appeal the decision. He said he relented during the meeting just so he could get the rest of the project approved.

For the Fresno City Council to discuss the issue, it would need to be brought up by Mayor Lee Brand or the councilman for the district of the project, Oliver Baines.

Beal said that the number of employees he hires may be cut from 18 to 8 if the store can’t sell alcohol.

“It’s become a real complicated process. There is nothing easy doing business with (the city),” Beal said.

He is also upset with what he sees as inconsistency from city planning staff. He said other liquor sales applications have been green-lighted in areas saturated with liquor stores.

“They are speaking out of both sides of their mouth,” Beal said.

Herndon Avenue Project Gets OK

The commission unanimously approved a commercial development at Herndon and Blythe avenues that calls for a fast-food restaurant, tire store and hotel. Originally, the Ginder Development plan included apartments. But the latter was scrapped over objection from homeowners in the Sierra Sky Park area. Neighbors expressed concern that more residents could jeopardize airport operations.

Commissioner Peter Vang commended the parties for working out a compromise.

Large Industrial Project Moves Along

The commission also unanimously approved a 2-million square foot industrial development at Central and Cedar avenues.

The project pitted two members of the State Center Community College District Board of Trustees against each other. The developer is trustee Richard Caglia. Naturally, he spoke in favor of approval.

His board colleague, Eric Payne, spoke in opposition. He wanted to discuss community-benefit agreements and make sure the project complied with environmental laws.

Ashley Werner, with the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, read a long list of elements she wanted addressed. These included more information on water usage and the amount of traffic the project would generate. Other speakers raised concerns about environmental impacts to traffic, water and air.

Larry Westerlund, representing City Hall, said this was a priority project for Mayor Lee Brand.

Approval of the project now moves to the city council.

McClintock Favors Presidential Commutation

The White House announced this week that President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of the nation’s largest kosher meat processor. Among the 30-plus bipartisan members to express support for shortening Sholom Rubashkin’s sentence was Valley congressman Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove).

According to a New York Times story, federal agents raided an Iowa facility run by Rubashkin in 2008. Agents discovered hundreds of unauthorized immigrants, including children, working there illegally. A Judge sentenced Rubashkin to 27 years in prison for bank fraud.

Many in the Jewish community felt that sentence to be out of line, “perhaps even anti-Semitic,” the Times wrote.

Famed attorney and Constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz worked on Rubashkin’s case. The lawyer appealed to both Trump and previously Barack Obama to shorten the sentence.

Others signing letters of support included three former attorneys general, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

The publication reported in 2010 that McClintock wrote a letter to then-attorney general Eric Holder questioning the fairness of the trial:

“A group of constituents whom I trust and respect, recently brought this case to my attention and expressed concerns regarding allegations of misconduct by federal authorities in the prosecution of this case. Specifically, they are seeking assurance that the judge in this case was absolutely impartial and had no unauthorized or inappropriate contact with federal investigators or prosecutors before, during, or after the trial.”

From Top Cop to Weed Dealer?

The Los Angeles Times reports that former state attorney general Bill Lockyer is getting into the marijuana trade.

He has formed a firm “that will distribute packaged marijuana concentrates and edibles to stores in Los Angeles,” the story said.

Lockyer said that company profits would help with his kids’ tuition. Recreational marijuana becomes legal in California on Jan. 1.

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