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Local
City talks possible cannabis changes

HANFORD — With the ever-changing landscape of cannabis regulations and laws across the state, the Hanford City Council is moving forward with some possible changes to the city’s own ordinances.

At the Hanford City Council meeting Tuesday evening, members gave consensus to look into changing some of the city’s previously established ordinances and maybe even allow dispensaries.

In 2017, Council adopted an ordinance that established cannabis regulations and zoning for any cannabis businesses that would locate in the city. At that time, Council also limited the type of cannabis to medical only and prohibited dispensaries from locating within city limits.

Community Development Director Darlene Mata said Hanford’s current ordinance has inconsistencies with state regulations that became effective on Jan. 1 of this year. She asked if Council if they would like to make minor language changes in the municipal code to be consistent with the state’s changes, which they were in favor of.

After opening up for applications and going through a thorough review process in late 2017, the Council awarded 26 cannabis permits to three different companies — Caliva, Genezen and Premium Extracts.

Since that time, Mata said both Caliva and Premium Extracts obtained conditional use permits for their respective sites in Hanford’s Industrial Park.

However, Mata said Caliva is the only business that has moved on to get a building permit and has been issued cannabis permits for manufacturing and distribution. She said Premium Extract’s conditional use permit will expire this year if they do not move forward with a building permit, and Genezen has pulled out.

Mata said she continues to receive calls from cannabis business owners asking if the city would consider opening up the application process again.

“There is room for us to open up and have additional cannabis business,” she said.

Another issue brought up was that even though Hanford does not allow dispensaries to locate in the city, state laws allow for cannabis deliveries to be made anywhere.

A benefit of having a dispensary locally would be tax dollars staying in Hanford. Dispensaries can be storefront or non-storefront dispensaries.

Rand Martin, a representative of Caliva, was in attendance at the meeting and told Council they are proposing a non-storefront dispensary out of their location in Hanford to do deliveries. He said all of the sales would generate tax revenue back to Hanford, no matter where the deliveries go.

Councilman Francisco Ramirez was in favor of not only amending the ordinance to allow recreational cannabis, but also possibly allowing dispensaries to locate in the Industrial Park.

Mata said if that was something the Council wanted to pursue, the city would have to establish a zone to allow dispensaries and change regulations to address dispensaries and how they would operate, since right now they are not allowed in the city.

The dispensary in Woodlake, which has been open for less than a year, generated $229,000 for that city. Mata has visited that dispensary and said it was a very professional establishment.

Police Chief Parker Sever said he has spoken to other agencies and also visited dispensary sites and noted that they are not problematic for law enforcement. He said they are highly secure and have great surveillance systems.

After all was said and done, there was a general consensus from Council for staff to look into changing the ordinance language to be consistent with the state and possibly allowing recreational cannabis production; opening up the cannabis permit application period again; adopting regulations for cannabis deliveries; and looking into allowing dispensaries.

Mata said she would begin working with professional consultants to make sure all the city’s cannabis ordinance language and content is consistent with the state and look into options as far as types of dispensaries are concerned.

She said she would come back to the Council in a couple months with all the new changes and information.


Local
Hanford H.S. shows off brand new deck of cards

HANFORD — The Tony Award-winning “Guys and Dolls” may have run for 1,200 performances on Broadway, but to see it on stage at Hanford High School, you’ll have to see it this weekend or miss out.

Opening tonight at 7 p.m. at the Stratton L. Tarvin Presentation Center, the Hanford High School drama department will bring the iconic and beloved musical to life. Three more performances are scheduled throughout the weekend.

“This is the show I wanted to bring in for this year. I think it’s important to bring in some of the classic, more well-known shows that allow for some quality family fun. Everyone from your grandfather down to your baby sister can enjoy this,” said Hanford High School’s new drama teacher, Dana Hamilton.

This will be Hamilton’s first production in Hanford, having previously been the director of theater arts at San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno.

The Rat Pack-friendly story involved a couple of gamblers who hope to come up lucky in craps — and in love.

Senior Jaden Sanchez plays Sky Masterson, who hopes to land a virtuous on a date to win a bet.

“I take Ally Ryan’s character, Sarah Brown, to Havana and fall in love with her. Usually [my character] is  the kind of guy who thinks girls are just whatever, so this is the first girl he’s ever fallen in love with. Throughout the play, you really see him evolve,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez describes his character as a successful gambler who doesn’t show the outside world his softer, more sensitive side.

“Everyone just thinks he’s this rich dude who wins every time,” he said.

Throughout his four years on stage with the Hanford High School drama department, his roles have gone from singing and dancing in “Seussical” as freshman to filling the shoes of the “Guys and Dolls” character played by Marlon Brando in the 1955 film version.

The young actor said he’s enjoying the chance to flex his acting muscles a bit.

“I think this is the best story out of all the shows I’ve been in,” he said. “It has life lessons.”

Juniors Joey Vandecaveye and Victoria Medeiros (playing Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide, respectively) are also enjoying the chance to take center stage and take on the responsibility of bringing such an iconic story to life, they said.

“[Hamilton] expects a lot from us and she wants us to do well,” Vandecaveye said.

Vandecaveye will take on the role of a gambler with cold feet, once played by Frank Sinatra in the movie version of the story.

“My character is a gambler, actually, he’s addicted to gambling and he’s been engaged for 14 years and that’s supposed to be a funny thing,” Vandecaveye said. “She’s trying to get me to marry her but I’m too focused on gambling.”

The impatient bride-to-be is played by Medeiros. “Guys and Dolls” will make the first time that Medeiros has been cast in a role with “real lines,” she said, as she’ll be stepping out of the chorus for the starring role.

“It’s nerve-wracking for sure, but it makes you feel really good and it makes you feel really good to be up there and see the reactions of people, watching them enjoy something you’ve made happen,” she said.


Business
AP
Some workers still unpaid after shutdown

Nearly two weeks after the end of the longest government shutdown in U.S history, many federal workers still have not received their back pay or have only gotten a fraction of what they are owed as government agencies struggle with payroll glitches and other delays.

And even as they scramble to catch up on unpaid bills and to repay unemployment benefits, the prospect of another shutdown looms next week.

"President Trump stood in the Rose Garden at the end of the shutdown and said, 'We will make sure that you guys are paid immediately.' ... And here it is, it's almost two weeks later," said Michael Walter, who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety inspection service in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and only got his paycheck Wednesday. He said two co-workers told him they still had received nothing.

The government has been short on details about how many people are still waiting to be paid.

Bradley Bishop, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, said the Trump administration had taken "unprecedented steps to ensure federal employees impacted by the shutdown received back pay within a week."

"Much opposite of 'slow and chaotic,' an overwhelming majority of employees received their pay by Jan. 31," he said, though he didn't respond to questions about how many people still hadn't been paid.

The USDA said in a statement that pay was its top priority, but also did not respond to questions about how many workers were still awaiting paychecks. Asked to confirm that some people hadn't been paid, USDA spokeswoman Amanda Heitkamp replied, "I'm not sure."

Donna Zelina's husband works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in South Dakota. He has received only a portion of his back pay, and does not expect to be fully paid until Feb. 12. The couple had to drain their savings shortly before the shutdown when both his parents died, leaving them in a precarious financial position.

Zelina said she called her creditors, but they wouldn't work with her. Her husband's car loan went into forbearance, causing them to rack up fees.

"I don't think people really understand what people do in government and just assume that everybody ... makes millions of dollars," she said.

A spokesman for the Department of Interior, which handles payroll for more than five dozen government offices, did not answer when asked how many workers were due back pay, but said a "small group of employees" had not received anything. Spokesman Russell Newell said others received "interim payments of back pay" that would be made up in the next pay period.

The Census Bureau acknowledged Wednesday that about 850 employees nationwide have yet to receive back pay or have only gotten a fraction of what they're owed. A spokesman said they expected most of those workers to be paid by Friday.

Other affected agencies include the Federal Aviation Administration, where two unions representing FAA workers said their members had not yet received all of their back pay.

Doug Church of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said members who worked during the shutdown had not gotten overtime, which he said was a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They also had not received the extra pay they were due for working nights and holidays, he said.

In addition to the pay delays, workers are struggling with issues like navigating the bureaucracy of paying back unemployment benefits and the looming question of whether there would be another shutdown after Feb. 15.

Trish Binkley, a tax examiner at the Internal Revenue Service in Kansas City, Missouri, is setting aside money, including her tax refund and an emergency loan she got from her credit union, in case of another shutdown.

She received two unemployment checks of $288 each during the shutdown before getting a letter informing her she was ineligible for the benefits — even though she had been told she qualified. Binkley has paid the money back, but worries about another shutdown.

She and others have grown increasingly frustrated at seeing social media posts that downplayed the impact of the shutdown.

"This was not a vacation. Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing. You have money to go do fun things or whatever. This was one of the most stressful periods of my life," Binkley said.

Among the groups hardest hit by the shutdown are contract workers who were kept home and who are not entitled to back pay.

The shutdown affected about 2,000 people with disabilities who got their government contract jobs with help from the nonprofit SourceAmerica, according to John Kelly, its vice president of government affairs and public policy.

Nearly 60 percent still had not been called back to their jobs as of Wednesday.

The shutdown has also damaged some workers' credit scores.

Pearl Fraley, of Greenville, North Carolina, who works for the food safety inspection service, had to work unpaid through the shutdown and used credit cards to get by. Fraley asked her landlord to waive the late fees on her rent, but has not heard back. She said her car's heater broke during the shutdown, and she hasn't had the money to get it fixed.

She's dreading another possible shutdown.

"I don't know if we can do this a second time," she said.


Washington
AP
Analysis: Trump revs up base, tries to reach beyond it

WASHINGTON — It was an awkward match of man and mission: President Donald Trump aspired to be a unifying political leader Tuesday night in his second State of the Union address, but he was also a candidate for re-election in 2020 whose campaign almost surely will set records for division.

In his 1 hour, 22 minute speech to a joint session of Congress — one of the longest on record — Trump addressed two audiences and tried to accomplish two goals at odds with each other.

Even as he exhorted members of Congress to come together on an agenda of shared legislative interests, he provoked Democrats on immigration, abortion and investigations of his administration.

The pomp and grandeur of the speech gave Trump an opportunity to relish the trappings of traditional power, honoring heroes invited to listen from the House gallery, waxing nostalgic about past examples of American unity in World War II and laying out a long list of proposals, few of which he devoted much time to defending or explaining.

But at the same time, "this is a campaign kickoff speech," said Scott Jennings, a Republican consultant in Kentucky and former political adviser to President George W. Bush.

It was barely 15 minutes into the address when Trump pivoted from unity to confrontation, attacking "ridiculous partisan investigations" of his administration and saying that the country must choose "peace and legislation" or "war and investigation."

Immigration was the one topic on which he delivered a sustained argument, but he offered no concessions on his hard-line policies or his demand for a wall along the southern border.

"I will get it built," he pledged. "Walls work, and walls save lives."

Judging by the effect of Trump's past speeches, this address probably did more to inspire his allies than to win converts. Democrats and even some Republicans were skeptical of the call for unity from a polarizing leader who built his political career by provoking adversaries on Twitter and in raucous political rallies.

"He has no credibility on this issue," said Democrat Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans who is considering a possible run for president in 2020. "He hasn't walked one step in the direction of national unity. Most everything President Trump has done has been purposely divisive."

Even some of Trump's supporters acknowledge that his pugilistic approach can interfere with calls for unity on his part. Andy Surabian, a GOP strategist and former Trump White House official, said that sometimes the president's personality gets in the way of people seeing potential for cooperation.

"Sometimes because of his style, people forget as a matter of policy there are a lot of areas where Trump can find bipartisanship," Surabian said.

Tuesday morning, for example, even as the White House was billing the speech as a call for conciliation and cooperation, the president was tweeting criticism of Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and issuing an urgent bulletin about the need for a wall — the signature Trump campaign promise that led last month to the longest partial government shutdown in history.

"Tremendous numbers of people are coming up through Mexico in the hopes of flooding our Southern Border. We have sent additional military. We will build a Human Wall if necessary. If we had a real Wall, this would be a non-event!" he said in a morning tweet.

In November's midterm elections, Republicans suffered widespread defeats and lost their majority in the House.

"At this point, the recognition has occurred in the White House that the Republican base is not large enough to win an election," said GOP pollster David Winston.

Trump was elected with less than a majority of the popular vote in 2016, and has not made a concerted effort to expand his base in the two years since. He is the first president in modern political history to never crack 50 percent job approval during the first two years of his presidency.

The 2018 midterm elections sent the GOP a blunt message about the limits of the Trump coalition. According to exit polls, Republicans lost among female voters by 19 points and among independents by 12 in congressional balloting.

As he prepared the speech, Trump was still absorbing the implications of his party's losses. Since then, the Republican position has worsened as Trump absorbs the lion's share of the public's dismay over the shutdown.

Trump lost two power struggles with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who insisted the government be reopened before negotiating over border policy, and who denied Trump access to the House chamber for his State of the Union address until the government reopened.

In what may have been an oversight, but could also have been a deliberate slight at the beginning of the speech, Trump did not give Pelosi the traditional opportunity to introduce him to the chamber.

The high-profile speech, which Trump agreed to postpone in order to deliver it with all the traditional pomp of the House chamber, gave Trump a chance to regain momentum and to address a broad audience about his agenda for perhaps the last time before the campaign to unseat him in 2020 overtakes the political scene.

One year from now, Iowa Democrats will have held the first presidential caucuses, and California's ballots will be in the mail to Democrats in advance of the state's March 3 primary.

The speech was surrounded by Democratic presidential buzz. Sen. Kamala Harris of California gave a response to Trump's speech via Facebook before he delivered it.

"We're in store not for a speech that will seek to draw us together as Americans, but one that seeks to score political points by driving us apart," she predicted.

In the end, the speech contained a little of both, but with different levels of intensity.