There was no shortage of news in the CapRadio newsroom in 2015 -- from raging wildfires to embattled Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s decision to not seek re-election.
As California entered its fourth year of drought, an El Niño weather system brought some hope, and relief, to parts of the state. Last summer, three locals were hailed as heroes around the world for helping thwart a terrorist attack in Europe.
We take a look back at the stories that mattered to our listeners this past year.
In 2015, California experienced two of most damaging wildfires in the state's history. The Valley Fire in Lake, Napa and Sonoma Counties burned more than 76,000 acres and destroyed nearly 2,000 structures. The Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras Counties burned about 70,000 acres and destoyed more than 800 homes. CapRadio kept its listeners and readers up-to-date with the latest fire information during both incidents. Articles about the two fires garnered tens of thousands of views on CapRadio.org.
The year started on a good note for Mayor Kevin Johnson. Construction of the Downtown Arena was underway and a documentary about the Sacramento Kings featuring Johnson was set to release later in the year. But several media organizations questioned his use of a private email account to conduct public business, especially during negotiations with the Sacramento Kings.
In April, the city announced that a sex harassment complaint had been filed against Johnson. But, the city also said that claim was found to be without merit. Later in the year, a 1995 sexual assault case against Johnson resurfaced. The sports website Deadspin interviewed the woman who accused Johnson of sexually molesting her when she was a teen. ESPN pulled the plug on the national broadcast of the documentary and on Oct. 20, Johnson announced that he would not be running for re-election.
Talk of an El Niño year brought hope to parched California, in its fourth year of drought. Even with predictions of a 'Godzilla' El Niño, many experts stressed that the weather phenomenon will not be enough to break the drought. However, El Niño is expected to bring some relief in the form of much-needed rain and snow during the winter.
In 2015, California continued into its fourth year of drought. The lack of rain and shrinking water reserves continued to impact the state. Capital Public Radio reporters talked with farmers about how they're dealing with the drought and water conservation. In November, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order that would prepare the state for a fifth year of drought in 2016.
In August, three men from Sacramento thwarted a terrorist attack on a train traveling to France. The three friends, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos, were touring Europe when an armed gunman burst into their train car. The three were able to subdue the attacker, possibly preventing casualties. The men were honored by French President Francois Hollande. Then, hundreds cheered them on in a parade through Downtown Sacramento. In early October, Stone made headlines again after being stabbed outside of a club in Midtown. He's since recovered and police arrested one suspect in the stabbing.
Downtown Arena And More Development
Development projects in Downtown Sacramento began as crews continued work on the arena. Construction started on the Downtown Commons, which will include a 250-room Kimpton Hotel, a 128,000-square-foot office space and a 300,000-square-foot retail space.
A deadly shooting near campus shocked students and staff at Sacramento City College in September. The incident left one person dead and caused a lockdown at the school. School officials were criticized for being slow in sending out alerts about the incident. Two people, both allegedly in a gang, have been arrested in connection to the shooting.
SB 277 was one of the most controversial bills to hit the Capitol this year. The bill essentially mandated vaccines for school kids, though personal medical exemptions are still allowed. The controversial bill brought supporters and opponents alike to numerous committee hearings. After the bill passed, opponents immediately filed a measure to repeal the law. In September, organizers say they did not have enough votes to move forward with the referendum.
Another controversial bill that passed in 2015 was the End Of Life Act. The legislation passed in September when it was re-introduced during a special legislative session after previously stalling in an Assembly committee. The bill was inspired by Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Bay Area woman with terminal brain cancer. She moved to Oregon in 2014 to legally end her life under that state's law. It was unclear whether Gov. Jerry Brown would sign the bill, he kept quiet while lawmakers debated the issue. On Oct. 5, Brown signed the bill into law and released a message stating," "I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others."
In June, Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers announced a budget deal. Brown was able to keep his conservative revenue estimates and Democrats received some money for their top priorities. The deal also called for two special sessions to discuss transportation and Medi-Cal.
SB 350 raises the state's clean energy mandate to 50 percent by 2030. It was a rough road to this bill's passage. Along the way, lawmakers removed a provision in the bill that would mandate 50 percent reduction in vehicle petroleum. The provision was at the heart of Brown's climate change agenda. But lawmakers said there wasn't enough support. Business groups fiercely opposed the provision. After delays, lawmakers passed a scaled-back version of the bill in September. Brown signed the bill in October.
Capital Public Radio Series
Capital Public Radio News is devoting a year to examining one of the most important and polarizing issues of our time -- undocumented immigration. Read stories from this series and listen to a documentary profiling an undocumented student and her experience.
StoryCorps, the national organization dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing stories of American life came to Sacramento in the fall of 2015. Capital Public Radio aired a series of interviews collected during that time. One interview highlights the immigration stories of two of Sacramento's most well-known sports figures -- former Sacramento Kings center and current general manager Vlade Divac and the team's majority owner Vivek Ranadive. Another interview features the story of two men who were serving life sentences in prison and how they found healing and friendship through meditation.
PolitiFact California is a partnership between Capital Public Radio and PolitiFact.com, a Pulitzer Prize-winning website dedicated to helping find the truth in politics. CapRadio's PolitiFact Reporter Chris Nichols examines statements made by California elected officials and rates the accuracy of that statement.
Hundreds of new California laws take effect on Jan. 1. Capital Public Radio takes a deeper look at some of the laws that will have real impacts on the lives of Californians.