Valley Public Radio FM89 - Live Audio

Laura Tsutsui

Reporter & Producer

Laura Tsutsui is a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She first joined the station as a news intern, and now covers local issues for KVPR and produces the weekly program Valley Edition. 

A Fresno native, Laura graduated in the spring of 2017 from California State University, Fresno as a member of the Smittcamp Family Honors College. She studied journalism, with a focus in multimedia. While attending Fresno State, Tsutsui was an intern for California State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon through the Maddy Institute and an intern for Congressman Sam Farr in Washington, D.C. through the Panetta Institute. In 2015 Laura won an Associated Press Television and Radio Association award for her audio documentary, "Netflix and Chill." 

Jeffrey Hess / Valley Public Radio

After taking the lead in the New Hampshire Primary, Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will make his second campaign trip to the Central Valley, this time in an effort to ensure eligible citizens cast their ballots in California's March 3 primary.

Still Image from "Norman Mineta And His Legacy: An American Story" / Mineta Legacy Project

Next Wednesday, February 19, is Day of Remembrance. It’s the 78th anniversary of when President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which sent West Coast Japanese Americans to concentration camps. A note on terminology: These were not Nazi death camps in Europe, but they were spaces that Japanese Americans were forced to live in. 

On this week's Valley Edition: There's only one proposition on the ballot this year, Proposition 13. Some say it will deepen state debt, while others think it’s the fix for California’s aging schools.

Plus: We’ll speak to a California native who served in two presidential cabinets. Secretary Norman Mineta was pivotal in convincing the U.S. government to formally apologize to Japanese Americans after their internment during World War II. 

 

Jeffrey Hess / Valley Public Radio

A White House Official has confirmed to Valley Public Radio that President Donald Trump will be in Bakersfield on Wednesday. This will be Trump’s first visit to the San Joaquin Valley since his election campaign in 2016.

According to the White House, Trump will visit Kern County with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to give remarks to farmers about water supply and delivery in California and other Western states.

https://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-denshopd-i226-00044-1/ / Densho Encyclopedia

This year is the 78th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. That’s the order that sent Japanese Americans to internment camps in 1942. Many Japanese Americans in Fresno County were sent to the Gila River Indian Community in the Arizona desert, including local baseball legend Kenichi Zenimura. Reporter Laura Tsutsui traveled to the former site of the camp to report on Zenimura’s legacy. 

 

Listen to the interview above to hear more about the connection between Japanese Americans from the San Joaquin Valley and the camps.

Ansel Adams / Library of Congress

Back in 1927, baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig came to Fresno to play exhibition matches, sometimes playing with all Japanese-American teams. One of those players was Kenichi Zenimura, an immigrant from Japan.

 

In a 1999 documentary film about him, “Diamonds In The Rough,” narrator and actor Noriyuki “Pat” Morita says that, “He’ll always be remembered as Zeni, ‘Dean of the Diamond.’” 

Those words, “Dean of the Diamond,” are memorialized on his gravestone. 

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: The valley’s rich cultural diversity is an asset, but what if you’re a farmer, and important safety videos aren’t made in a language you understand? We hear from a team of educators producing a series of training videos in Hmong. 

Plus, the legacy of a Fresno resident who used baseball to break down barriers, even when he was interned during World War II. Now he’s been nominated for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Also, we’ll hear from more candidates running for mayor of Fresno. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

On the same day as the Iowa Caucuses, presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg took a different tactic and instead, campaigned in the Golden State. The former New York City mayor told a modest crowd at Fresno City College  that he would do a better job than President Donald Trump representing the San Joaquin Valley’s prominent Latino community. 

“A president who demonizes immigrants from Mexico and Central America, it's just unacceptable,” said Bloomberg. “The Central Valley issues are Latino issues, and Latino issues are American issues.”

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

The 2020 Census count in California starts in April and outreach has already begun around the San Joaquin Valley to ensure a complete count. However, some census advocates say the survey isn’t specific enough.

One example is that the Census does not identify those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speak American Sign Language. 

“We wish it did,” said Susan Coulter. She’s the Educational Services Director at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center in Fresno. Coulter added that there’s also a language barrier. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: It’s been two and a half months since the mass shooting in a Fresno backyard that killed four members of the Hmong American community. We speak to mental health providers helping family members heal. 

Christina Lopez / Valley Public Radio

A new lawsuit has been filed in Fresno County Superior Court against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno and two of its churches for negligence and sexual battery. Although the plaintiff reported abuse in 2002 and the priest was acquitted, a law that took effect this year means she can still seek damages.

The plaintiff is now 34 years old, and referred to as Jane Doe, since the alleged abuse took place when she was a minor. She says that Father Miguel Flores raped and threatened her in 2001 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church in Hanford where she worked. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Even as Fresno County is in the middle of the point-in-time count to assess the scope of homelessness, Fresno City leaders announced a pilot program today that will provide part-time employment and support services to a small group of homeless individuals. 

Speaking outside the Poverello House in Downtown Fresno, Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias said this program is different from past efforts to address homelessness.

California has moved its primary election earlier in the year. Instead of June, voters will now cast their ballots in March. For Fresno and Mariposa Counties, there are other changes intended to update voting technology and increase voter turnout. Fresno and Mariposa have adopted the new Voter's Choice Act Model, which means voting centers have replaced polling places, and every voter is mailed a ballot. Madera County adopted the model in 2018. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Chronic absence plagues most school districts in the San Joaquin Valley. We know that students who can’t make it to school miss out on learning, and research shows that missing even three days a month over time can put students a year or more behind their peers. Thursday, the Fresno County Office of Education hosted a conference looking at ways to reduce chronic absenteeism. 

This week on Valley Edition: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. We talk to people on the front lines tackling this complex problem. 

Plus, elections are changing in Fresno County as it adopts the Voters Choice Model. Madera County is also using that model, so ahead of this year’s primary, we ask the county clerks what local voters need to know.

And later, we hear from one of the nation’s leading researchers on chronic absence in schools.  

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Kern County Fire Department Twitter

The Kern County Sheriff's Office recommended evacuation Wednesday afternoon for those within a 6-mile radius of Taft Manufacturing Co. at 19705 South Lake Road in Taft after reports of a chemical leak. Members of the Kern County Fire Department were able to stop the leak early in the afternoon, a spokesman said, but they still have to neutralize and clean up the spilled substance which leaked for at least two hours.

 

On this week's Valley Edition: Doctors find an unconventional way to treat severe valley fever - it's the extraordinary story of a 4-year-old boy and a medical mystery. 

And writer Lisa Lee Herrick tells us how the Hmong New Year has evolved from a traditional harvest celebration to something much bigger - and why Fresno’s festivities continue to draw huge international crowds. We also hear from Fresno mayoral candidate Andrew Janz.

  

We know the San Joaquin Valley is home to diverse communities and cultures, and this year we’re bringing you audio postcards from some of the families who settled here a little more recently. Today we’re going to hear from Amanprit Singh Dhatt at his home in Kerman. The city is home to a large population of Punjabi speakers, including Amanprit. He came to California in 2005, after marrying his wife, Rupinder Kaur in India. Rupinder sponsored Amanprit to come to the U.S., and they've raised their daughter to embrace both Indian and American culture.

 

 

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: We visit the Tulare County City of Woodlake where business is booming - specifically the recreational cannabis business. In just two years, the city has raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue.

We also introduce our new show host, Kathleen Schock, who you’ve already heard moderating insightful discussions on this show over the last year. 

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

Fresno County has settled with a family of pistachio growers over unpermitted building on what the family contends will be the largest pistachio plant in the world. 

The County issued permits back in September to Ventana South, LLC and Touchstone PIstachio, LLC for the construction of 49 siloes in Cantua Creek. Both companies are owned by the Assemi family of Fresno. 

Pages