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By Eric Johnson
Published Dec 26, 2023

The Meaning of Christmas

To recap: Charlie Brown is depressed because Christmas has been trivialized and commercialized and has lost its meaning. Exasperated, he lets out a wail: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

Linus then takes the stage, calls for a spotlight, and tells the story of the shepherds, the angel and the tidings of great joy; the heavenly host singing of peace and goodwill; the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.

I believe that last piece was always my favorite part of the story. I still love the idea of the divine embodied as a child in a barnyard, even if I no longer think of the story in the way I once did. I loved and still love the story of the kings who travel to Jerusalem to kneel before this poor child. Whatever you believe or don’t believe, I hope you agree that that’s a powerful and good idea. And, humbly, I want to offer a reminder that, as the Christmas story illustrates, the central tenet of the faith in which I was raised calls for respecting and helping the poor.

I also want to wish all of you a happy holiday, regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof.

Poverty: The Root of all Evil

Most of the deepest problems we face today have a shared cause. Here are two stories about efforts to combat poverty in California.

An EPIC Mission: End Poverty in California

An EPIC listening session in Humboldt County. The organization plans to conduct similar events in all 58 California counties.
End Poverty in California, a nonprofit founded by former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, has been on a listening tour of the Golden State since early 2022.

Poverty in California

The existence of poverty in California is a policy choice, but there are other choices that could be made.
Poverty in California was reduced by record levels during the COVID pandemic, but now those economic support programs have come to an end and poverty is on the rise again.

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Chest of Hope logo Chest of Hope

Created in 2005 by friends and volunteers, Chest of Hope raises funds to support women and orphans who are suffering from domestic violence.

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Recent Local News

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• Small Businesses, Big Concerns

Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden and members of the Police Department visited businesses on Miracle Mile as part of their end-of-the year community walk event.

(12/23/2023) → Local News Matters Stockton

• Family of Man Who Saved Two Lives Sacrificing His Own Accepts Award

A posthumous award for life-saving was presented by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office to the family of a man who died this year rescuing a woman and her five-year-old daughter from the San Joaquin River.

(12/22/2023) → Stocktonia

• City of Lodi to Require Overnight Parking Permits

In an effort to deter unsightly vehicles from being left in front of businesses, the city will begin requiring overnight parking permits along North Sacramento Street.

(12/22/2023) → LodiNews

• Galt City Council OKs Housing Development at Historic Lippi Ranch

The site of Galt’s first winery will soon be home to nearly 100 new homes.

(12/21/2023) → LodiNews

• Trio of Ex-Manteca Police Chiefs Part of Pot Movement

A name that surfaced almost as often as the word “cannabis” as a Manteca City Council public hearing vetted the three applicants being allowed to pursue a permit for retail marijuana operations was that of Nick Obligacion—a retired Manteca police chief.

(12/20/2023) → Read the full Manteca Bulletin report
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Recent Statewide News

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• Happy New Year, California Workers! You Now Get More Paid Sick Days

Under a new law, employees in California are guaranteed five paid sick days a year, two days more than previously. Worker advocacy groups say the benefit is needed, but business groups warn of additional costs.

(12/26/2023) → CalMatters

• Science Doesn’t Yet Support Broad Restrictions on Teens’ Access to Social Media

In a report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, researchers instead lay out a plan for what society might do to improve adolescents’ interactions with social media.

(12/26/2023) → Santa Cruz Sentinel

• Smoke Exposure From Controlled Burns Is Raising Concerns

Prescribed burns, used to limit destructive wildfires, are growing in frequency at California State Parks. But as the smoke drifts into residential areas, it’s easy to see why many Californians are concerned about the health impacts.

(12/26/2023) → Monterey Herald

• Collisions With Buildings Are Killing Millions of Birds Nationwide

A dark-sky movement to save birds from window strikes is sweeping the San Francisco Bay Area. Several cities have passed or are drafting laws restricting light pollution while making windows easier for birds to see.

(12/26/2023) → Read the full The Mercury News report

• A Deeper Look at ‘No Kill’ Animal Control in Los Angeles

Novelist Jonathan Franzen looks at how trap-neuter-release policies in feral cat colonies have troubling consequences for city residents, local wildlife and even the felines themselves.

(12/25/2023) → The New Yorker

• California Presses Universities to Return Thousands of Native American Remains and Artifacts to Local Tribes

State audits of the University of California and the California State University found both systems have failed to comply with decades-old state and federal laws mandating the return of Native ancestral remains and cultural artifacts. Only UCLA and Cal State Long Beach have returned a majority of their collections.

(12/25/2023) → CalMatters

• New California Laws That Might Affect Your 2024

This past year, more than 1,000 bills went into effect, and most will become new laws in 2024. Plus, there are bills from previous years that are also scheduled to take effect after Jan. 1.

(12/25/2023) → CapPublicRadio

• Sierra Nevada Releases Its First Non-Alcoholic Beers

The Chico-based brewer has taken a more traditional approach to creating its non-alcoholic beer.

(12/22/2023) → San Joaquin Valley Sun

• How Gruesome Seal Deaths on the California Coast Revealed a Surprise Predator

Sarah Grimes investigates reports of dead marine mammals up and down the coast. So when she began finding the decapitated bodies of harbor seal pups just a few miles north of Fort Bragg in 2016, she was on the case. Grimes wasn’t able to pin down the culprit until last year, with the help of a UCSC student.

(12/22/2023) → Monterey Herald

• Single Delta Tunnel Wins Approval from State

The California Department of Water Resources has approved building a tunnel between the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The approval could signal a new wave of legal challenges to the long-running and controversial project.

(12/21/2023) → Sacramento Bee

• Tribe Acquires Vast Land in Northern California, Will Remove Dams

The Hoopa Valley Tribe announced it is acquiring about 10,000 acres of land in Northern California for $14.1 million. As part of this, the tribe will remove dams along the Klamath River and restore salmon runs.

(12/21/2023) → SFGate

• He Says He Was Abused in ICE Detention Even Though He is a Legal Resident of California. Now He’s Suing for $1 Million

The 33-year old Mexican-born man—who from toddler age has been a permanent legal resident of California—has reported abuse, unsanitary conditions and threats of force-feeding before his release from immigration detention in April.

(12/21/2023) → CalMatters

• California Boosting Minimum Wage for Fast Food and Health Care Workers. Who’s Next For a Raise?

California fast-food workers will earn a $20 minimum wage in April. Other employers might have to raise their pay floor to recruit and retain staff.

(12/20/2023) → CalMatters

• CSU Faculty to Strike Jan. 22-26

The California Faculty Association has announced it will strike in January at the state’s 23 CSU campuses. It’s part of an ongoing effort by the group to obtain a 12% raise for the 29,000 professors and lecturers it represents.

(12/20/2023) → EdSource

• Coordinated Effort Aims to Secure Aircraft for CalFire

An effort spearheaded by the Newsom administration and congressional leaders resulted in Congress authorizing and accelerating the transfer of seven C-130 aircraft from the U.S. Coast Guard to CalFire, expanding California’s firefighting fleet.

(12/19/2023) → Read the full Escalon Times report

• Domestic Violence Shelters Play a Key Role in Fighting Homelessness. Now They Face Deep Funding Cuts

Federal funding for domestic violence shelters and housing programs is declining. Advocates want the state to step in, but with a record projected deficit new spending is unlikely.

(12/19/2023) → CalMatters

• Google to Pay $700 Million in Antitrust Lawsuit

Google has agreed to pay $700 million and will make changes to its app store it has resisted for years in order to resolve a lawsuit over whether its app store is an illegal monopoly.

(12/19/2023) → CapPublicRadio
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Government Announcements

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Image of United States seal. United States   (12/22/2023)

Scanga Meat Company Recalls Ground Beef Products Due to Possible E. Coli O103 Contamination

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2023 - Scanga Meat Company, a Salida, Colorado establishment, is recalling approximately 563 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103, the...
Image of United States seal. United States   (12/21/2023)

Tampa Bay Fisheries, Inc. Dover, Florida is Voluntarily Recalling 1 Lot of 365 Whole Foods Market Beer Battered Pollock Fillets and 2 Lots of 365 Beer Battered Cod Fillet Due to an Undeclared Soy Allergen

Image of State of California seal. State of California   (12/21/2023)

Damon Connolly California Assembly 12:
Press Conference on E-Bike Safety & Regulations

Press Conference on E-Bike Safety & Regulations robbee Thu, 12/21/2023 - 10:01 Friday, December 22, 2023
Image of United States seal. United States   (12/20/2023)

Astor Chocolate Corporation Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Coconut in Burnt Caramel Bars

Astor Chocolate Corporation of Lakewood, New Jersey is recalling 1,092 Burnt Caramel Candy Bars, because it may contain undeclared coconut. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to coconut run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. The Th
Image of City of Tracy seal. City of Tracy   (12/20/2023)

2024-25 Community Development Block Grant and Home Investment Partnership Program Application Period Now Open

Tracy, Calif. - The City of Tracy’s annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnership Program (HOME) application period is now open for projects beginning July 1, 2024! A pre-application informational meeting will be...
Image of United States seal. United States   (12/19/2023)

Houdini, Inc. Recalls Gift Baskets with Quaker Oats Chewy Granola Bars Because of Possible Health Risk

Wine Country Gift Baskets / Houdini Inc. of Fullerton, CA is taking precautionary measures of voluntarily recalling all gift baskets produced with Quaker Chewy Granola bars due to a recall by the Quaker Oats company because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which c
Image of United States seal. United States   (12/18/2023)

RDK Corp (DBA Racine Danish Kringles) Issues Allergy Alert on Potential for Undeclared Pecans in 14oz Raspberry Kringle

Racine Danish Kringles of Racine, Wisconsin is recalling 960 units of Raspberry Kringle 14oz with lot code 23299 sold in select ALDI retail stores because the item may contain undeclared pecans. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to pecans run the risk of serious or life- threatening a
Image of City of Lodi seal. City of Lodi   (12/18/2023)

Join us in Shaping Our City's Future: Your Input Matters!

We're excited to invite you to take part in a unique and interactive online budget simulation, hosted by the City of Lodi. This is your chance to have a say in how we allocate our resources and prioritize various programs and services.
Image of City of Tracy seal. City of Tracy   (12/13/2023)

City of Tracy 2023-2024 Winter Weather Resources

Tracy, Calif. – In preparation for the cold, wet, and windy weather we experience during the winter season in Tracy, the following resources are available to help protect homes, businesses, the environment, and each other: Monitor the forecast:...
Image of City of Tracy seal. City of Tracy   (12/12/2023)

2024-25 Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnership Program Application Period Now Open

Pre-Application Informational Meeting: January 9, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. Application Deadline: 5:00 p.m. on January 22, 2024 Tracy, Calif. - The City of Tracy’s annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnership...