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Hanford moves forward with awarding cannabis permits

HANFORD — The Hanford City Council moved forward in the process of approving permits for several medical cannabis companies at Tuesday night’s meeting, possibly leaving the door open for more.

Back in July, Council agreed to limit the number of cannabis permits to eight freestanding facilities and two cannabis campus permits with eight individual permits each; a total of 26 permits.

The city received 27 permit applications from five companies in October and city staff completed a three-phase review process on each of the applications.

Council discussed awarding 21 cannabis permits to three different medical cannabis companies, including:

  • Caliva  - one cultivation permit, one manufacturing permit and one distribution permit
  • Genezen - one cannabis campus permit, 14 cultivation permits, one manufacturing permit and one distribution permit
  • Premium Extracts - one manufacturing permit

All five companies that applied passed the first two phases of the review process, but only Caliva, Genezen and Premium Extracts passed the third and final phase. The third phase included an interview with Community Development Director Darlene Mata, Police Chief Parker Sever and consultants from HdL Companies.

The two companies that applied for a permit but were not recommended to council were Essential Farms and Bridge the Gap. Essential Farms applied for one cultivation permit, one manufacturing permit and one distribution permit, while Bridge the Gap applied for one cultivation permit.

Councilman Justin Mendes asked Mata why the two companies were denied in the third phase if they passed the first two phases. He said not being able to talk well during an interview shouldn’t matter as much as having a good business plan.

Mata and Sever said the interview process was a way to make sure the owners of the companies knew their business plans and were familiar with what they were trying to accomplish.

“We have a lot riding on this, and it was important for us to try to select the best companies,” Sever said.

Mendes said he was fine awarding permits for the recommended businesses, but also suggested setting up some sort of appeals process for the businesses that weren’t recommended. His idea was supported by both Councilman Francisco Ramirez and Councilman Martin Devine.

Council voted unanimously to award the recommended number of permits to Caliva, Genezen and Premium Extracts, but the decision will not be final until there is a public hearing on the matter during the next regular Council meeting on Nov. 21.

Council also gave Mata direction to look into an appeals process so Bridge the Gap or Essential Farms can have another shot at obtaining permits.

Randi Knott, spokeswoman for Genezen, told council she was pleased with their decision and thanked Mata and Sever for all their hard work.

“There are just so many opportunities from doing this and we’re so very excited,” Knott said.

Rand Martin, who was at the meeting on behalf of Caliva, told council the company was excited to become part of the “Hanford family” and said it was “one of the more enjoyable experiences” he had working with city staff.

“We found Hanford welcoming us with open arms,” Martin said. “We’re very excited about working with you to make sure that this industry really does deliver all the things that we anticipate it to.”

Jose Rivas, founder of Premium Extracts, thanked the city for all its hard work, especially Mata and Sever, and said he was looking forward to locating in Hanford.

After the public hearing, the next steps for the cannabis companies would be to obtain conditional use permits and undergo an environmental analysis.

Contributed by Dana Hodson 

On Nov. 4, Hanford West High School's AP English Literature students journeyed to California State University, Fresno to watch Thomas-Whit Ellis’s play “Native Son,” based on Richard Wright’s novel. Teacher Kristy Sahagun said her class enjoyed the enriching and educational opportunity and the class plans to watch another play in their final months as seniors. Student Dana Hodson said "the book/play is one the corrupt society can benefit from due to its enlightening perspectives on controversial issues.”  After watching the play, student Parker Sommers was “ecstatic to view this adaptation from the original novel.”  "I absolutely loved this play," said student Carlos Osorio. "The book itself was powerful, so seeing an equally impactful play really amplified the deeper meanings for me." 

Gleeful Democrats see political wave; GOP says not so fast

NEW YORK — Jubilant Democrats across America are declaring their big election victories in Virginia and New Jersey — their first of the young Trump era — mark the beginning of an anti-Trump surge that could re-shape the balance of power in Congress in 2018. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says he can "smell a wave coming."

Not so fast, Republicans said Wednesday. But they acknowledged that setbacks in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere on Tuesday created new urgency for the GOP to fulfill its list of campaign promises before voters head back to the polls next year. They, along with President Donald Trump, have failed to demolish "Obamacare" and now are straining to approve a far-reaching tax overhaul despite controlling the White House and both houses of Congress.

"If anything, this just puts more pressure on making sure we follow through," House Speaker Paul Ryan said at an event hosted by the Washington Examiner. He added, "I think it simply means we've got to deliver."

Whether the president's party delivers or not, there is clear cause for concern for a Republican Party that would lose its House majority if Democrats gained 24 seats next fall.

Tuesday's results left little doubt that Trump's dismal approval ratings can drag down Republican allies, particularly those serving in states he lost last November. And even if his ratings show signs of improvement, history suggests that the first midterm elections for any new president often lead to major gains for the opposing party.

An early string of Republican retirement announcements in competitive districts across Florida, New Jersey and Arizona adds to the GOP's challenge.

"We're taking our country back from Donald Trump one election at a time," Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in a Wednesday conference call. "This is not just one night. It is a trend."

Added Schumer, the New York Democrat: "Our Republican friends better look out."

Trump declared that the blame for Tuesday's losses was not his.

"Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for," the president tweeted as he toured Asia.

Actually, Gillespie, a mainstream Republican who lost the Virginia governor's race, had taken up Trump-like positions on such issues as Confederate monuments, NFL players' national anthem demonstrations and the dangers of Hispanic gangs. Trump endorsed him but was not invited to campaign in the state in recent weeks.

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel had a different view from Trump's.

"I absolutely think any candidate should be embracing the president," she said, "and I think Ed did."

As for Tuesday's longer-term significance for the Democrats, both parties' leaders know that much can change in the year before voters decide the 2018 midterm elections. And Republicans enjoy a redistricting advantage that limits the number of truly competitive House races, thanks in large part to GOP routs during Barack Obama's eight years in office.

Also, Democrats wrestle with their own party strife, pitting the Bernie Sanders' wing against the more mainstream section of the party.

The liberal group Democracy for America had abandoned Virginia's gubernatorial candidate, Ralph Northam, over immigration policy, then celebrated his win days later. "The plus of a tidal wave like this is it washes away the stains of all the campaigns," Charles Chamberlain, DFA's executive director, said in an interview.

Republican Party leaders also expect their political outlook to improve dramatically once the GOP-led Congress takes action on taxes or health care.

Based on Tuesday's results, they need to act quickly.

Governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey — where Phil Murphy will replace Republican Chris Christie — were perhaps the most consequential, but Democrats also celebrated victories in Maine, where voters slapped the state's Republican governor, a Trump ally, by backing a measure to expand Medicaid coverage under Obama's health care law. Manchester, New Hampshire, elected its first Democratic mayor in more than a decade. And Virginia voters sent a large and diverse group of new Democrats to the statehouse, including a transgender heavy metal singer, a member of Democratic Socialists of America and a former news anchor whose journalist girlfriend was fatally shot while on-air in 2015.

The results were particularly troubling for Republicans serving in suburban districts in states Trump lost last fall.

Schumer singled out by name one of the most vulnerable House Republicans in the nation: Rep. Barbara Comstock, whose northern Virginia district lies just west of Washington.

Roughly two of three voters in the counties that primarily make up Comstock's district backed the Democrat in this week's governor's race. Sensing opportunity, more than a half dozen Democrats have already lined up to challenge her.

A spokesman for Comstock said that Democrats have regularly underestimated the two-term congresswoman. "Barbara has always over-performed and that won't change in 2018," said political director Ken Nunnenkamp.

Trump's team concedes the Republican Party's suburban challenges but predicts voters will bounce back once Congress begins to enact his agenda. Embedded in that diagnosis, however, is a warning for Republican lawmakers that continued inaction could be disastrous.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina acknowledged the urgency for his party to produce results.

"We've got to be RINOs," he said, "Republicans in Need of Outcomes."

Trump says he and Xi can solve 'probably all' world problems

BEIJING — President Donald Trump emerged from a lengthy meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping today to declare that he believed he and Xi together can solve "probably all" the world's problems.

"I look forward to many years of success and friendship working together to solve not only our problems, but world problems, and problems of great danger and security," Trump said between meetings at the Great Hall of the People. "I believe we can solve almost all of them, and probably all of them."

Trump and Xi were discussing a series of thorny issues during Trump's second day in China, including China's willingness to put the squeeze on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, and the U.S.-China trade relationship.

Trump projected confidence on both fronts. He said both he and Xi believe "a solution" exists on North Korea. And he said the countries' trade relationship — which he complained had gotten "so far out of kilter" — would be made "fair and it'll be tremendous for both of us."

Xi, meanwhile, said U.S.-China relations were at a "new historic starting point." He said China was willing to work with the U.S. "with mutual respect, seeking mutual benefits, to focus on cooperation and control our differences."

Before the meetings, China rolled out the red carpet for Trump, treating him to an elaborate welcome ceremony on the plaza outside the Great Hall of the People before the leaders turned to their private talks.

Trump looked on approvingly as a Chinese honor guard played the national anthems of both countries, cannons boomed and soldiers marched. He clapped and smiled as children waving U.S. and Chinese flags and flowers screamed and jumped wildly.

Before arriving in China, Trump had delivered a stern message to Beijing, using an address to the National Assembly in South Korea to call on nations to confront the North.

"All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea," Trump said. "You cannot support, you cannot supply, you cannot accept."

He called on "every nation, including China and Russia," to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea enforcing sanctions aimed at depriving its government of revenue for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The latest measure, adopted after a September atomic test explosion, the North's largest yet, banned imports of its textiles and prohibited new work permits for overseas North Korean laborers. It also restricted exports of some petroleum products.

Trump's words drew a caustic response from North Korean state media, which issued a statement Wednesday saying the U.S. should "oust the lunatic old man from power" and withdraw its "hostile policy" toward Pyongyang "in order to get rid of the abyss of doom."

White House officials said Trump would underscore his public messages about North Korea during his private talks with Xi. China is North Korea's largest trading partner, and Trump is expected to demand that the nation curtail its dealings with Pyongyang and expel North Korean workers from its borders. Trump has praised China for taking some steps against Pyongyang, but he wants them to do more.

China is increasingly disenchanted with North Korea over its nuclear weapons development but remains wary of using its full economic leverage over its traditional ally. It fears triggering a collapse of the North's totalitarian regime that could cause an influx of refugees into northeastern China and culminate in a U.S.-allied unified Korea on its border.

China also poured on the pomp and pageantry for Trump's arrival Wednesday. The president and first lady Melania Trump were greeted at the airport by dozens of jumping children who waved U.S. and Chinese flags. The couple spent the first hours of their visit on a private tour of the Forbidden City, Beijing's ancient imperial palace. It's usually teeming with tourists but was closed to the public for the presidential visit.

The Trumps walked alongside Xi and his wife through the historic site and admired artifacts from centuries' past. Trump posed for photos and, with a wave of his hand, joked to Xi about the reporters watching. And he laughed and clapped along during an outdoor opera featuring colorful costumes, martial arts and atonal music.

The president also is expected to showcase a round of business deals, including those signed Wednesday by Chinese and U.S. companies that the two sides say are valued at $9 billion.

Among them: a pledge by China's biggest online retailer to buy $1.2 billion of American beef and pork. Such contract signings are a fixture of visits by foreign leaders to China and are aimed at blunting criticism of Beijing's trade practices.

It's "a way of distracting from the fact that there's been no progress in China on structural reform, market access or the big issues that the president has tried to make progress on with regard to China," said Elizabeth Economy, the director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Trump has made narrowing the multibillion-dollar U.S. trade deficit with China a priority for his administration. During his campaign, he accused China of "raping our country" on trade and pledged to minimize the countries' trade imbalance.

China's trade surplus with the United States in October widened by 12.2 percent from a year earlier, to $26.6 billion, according to Chinese customs data released Wednesday. The total surplus with the United States for the first 10 months of the year rose to $223 billion.

Man arrested after stealing elderly woman's wallet

HANFORD — A man was arrested Tuesday after allegedly stealing an elderly woman’s wallet as she was getting change to give to him, police said.

Hanford Police officers said 35-year-old Gabriel Lopez asked the woman for spare change and as she opened her purse to get some money out of her wallet, Lopez grabbed the wallet out of her purse.

Police said Lopez and the woman struggled over the wallet, but Lopez was eventually able to rip the wallet from the woman’s hands and ran away.

Officials said officers were called to the area of 225 W. Seventh St. at around 10 a.m.

Witnesses in the area followed Lopez and attempted to corner him while waiting for law enforcement, police said. They said a witness in the area also video recorded part of the incident with their cell phone.

When officers arrived, they said Lopez was still in possession of the stolen wallet and they took him into custody.

Officials said Lopez is on parole and was also in possession of a dagger when arrested.

Authorities said Lopez was booked into the Kings County Jail on suspicion of robbery, elder abuse, possession of dagger and parole hold.