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Bitwise Industries announced Wednesday it will use $50 million in public and private funding to build facilities and expand job training for tech workers in the Valley. 

Much of the money will go towards the company’s Digital New Deal, an initiative to grow its tech apprenticeship program, by including people from diverse backgrounds. Thilani Grubel, vice president of Bitwise Fresno, says she wants to open up the tech field to underserved communities and people who may have never considered it as a career.

 

At Clovis North High School, parents dropped off their kids on campus Tuesday for the first time in months. Students with pom poms cheered on as cars entered the parking lot. 

For those returning to this hybrid model of online and in-school instruction, Clovis Unified Chief Communications Officer Kelly Avants says student days offline look a lot different now.

“When they get to school, they’ll go through a health check, health screening. Get that wrist bracelet or ticket to show that they have passed that first test of the day,” she says.

Soreath Hok / Valley Public Radio

Along Fern Avenue in the Tower District, businesses are boarded up, some lined with graffiti. There’s trash piled in the doorways.

But on this sunny Saturday afternoon, volunteers move brooms along the sidewalk and sweep the debris into boxes. There’s an upbeat feeling about their work. 

 

 

One of the cleaning crew is Kacey Auston. She grew up in the Tower and is now leasing the former Bank of America building on this street. It’s still empty but she plans on opening a marijuana dispensary called Cookies Fresno. 

 

The Fresno City Council will vote Thursday on a plan to suspend bus fares throughout the city. Councilmembers Tyler Maxwell, Esmeralda Soria and Nelson Esparza are sponsoring the Zero Fare Clean Up Act. Maxwell says it addresses equity issues in Fresno, when it comes to reliable transportation. He believes the city is already way behind.

Two electric lifts move alongside a freshly painted mural on 7th street in downtown Sanger.  

Painters are doing touch-ups on the piece created by Valley artist Omar “Super” Huerta. 

In the center of the mural is Tom Flores. On either side of him, two football players in Raider colors. 

 

“I think it’s because of him I became a Raider fan. Because I knew from my family telling me, ‘hey that guy is from Sanger.’ And it’s like ‘OK, I’m a Raider fan now,’” says former Sanger Mayor, Frank Gonzalez. 

 

 

This year’s theme at the World Ag Expo: Ag is Essential. Presentations will center on how the industry has pivoted to continue operating during a pandemic. 

Jennifer Fawkes, marketing manager for the World Ag Expo, hopes the event will help people better understand how food is grown and transported during the pandemic. Many exhibits will focus on tools and technological innovations in the ag industry.

Dora Garza, 82, walks out of the Madera County Health Department on a windy day in February. She’s just received her first dose of the vaccine and she says the shot was quick and painless.

“It didn’t hurt and I would like everybody to get it that you know, needs to have it,” she says.

Garza says she got the vaccine because she has a younger sister who’s been hospitalized with COVID-19 for the past two months. 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: Restaurants have had to ride the wave of pandemic shutdowns and reopenings for the past ten months. We look at how one business in Madera is surviving and what’s happening to its employees.

 

Plus, when a local newspaper closes shop, how does that affect voting behaviors and political corruption? 

 

And we’ve got another segment of StoryCorps San Joaquin. A grandson remembers his  pioneering grandmother who spent her summers living and working in a fire lookout station.

 

It’s just before the 5 p.m. dinner hour and tickets are starting to print out in The Vineyard’s kitchen. 

Customer Robert Fischer waits to pick up his dinner order at the dining room entrance. 

“Oh we’ve got the special tonight. We’ve got the calzone, so I can’t wait to get home to dig into that,” he says.

 

He says he orders takeout twice a week to support Madera restaurants. He’s been coming to the Vineyard for 15 years and wants to make sure it stays. 

 

Dympna Ugwu-Oju, Jonathan Mehta Stein, PEN America and Paul Myers

When a local newspaper is forced to reduce its reporting staff or shut down altogether, research shows there’s a huge impact on the community it serves. Often, voter participation goes down, while government borrowing goes up.

In the past few weeks, Fresno police have been called to break up anti-mask protests at businesses like Trader Joe’s and Sprouts. At a news conference Monday, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer spoke about a weekend protest at Sprouts, which resulted in one person being cited.

He says officers can only intervene by issuing a citation for trespassing. After that, violators who refuse to cooperate will be arrested. 

UC Merced

When wildfires burn in our national parks, we naturally worry about the forest. But what about the photographs, maps and documents that tell the stories of our parks? How do we keep those important archives safe?

FM89’s Alice Daniel spoke with Emily Lin, librarian and head of digital curation at the University of California Merced about moving records from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to the university during last September's intense wildfires.

On a Thursday afternoon in mid-January, Woodland Elementary School’s cafeteria is transformed into a vaccine center. The room is sectioned off into check-in points with nursing staff and a waiting area for newly-vaccinated staff members. 

 

 

Bill Peterson, 78, is greeted by a nurse as he walks in. He holds onto his health information packet as he walks up to the cafeteria stage, behind the curtain. Nurses are stationed there with vaccines. Peterson sits down, joking with them before he rolls up his sleeve. 

 

Fresno Police are on heightened alert on Inauguration Day, watching for any potential threats with protests. Speaking in front of City Hall Tuesday afternoon, Police Chief Paco Balderrama said the department hasn’t received anything credible to investigate, but teams remain in contact with the FBI to monitor intelligence. Balderrama said street closures are in effect Wednesday with officers concentrated in the downtown area. 

 

A COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Fresno County Fairgrounds is now equipped to administer 1,500 shots per day, according to county officials during a press conference on Tuesday.

The clinic, which began operating at reduced capacity on January 6, is open to healthcare workers in Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination schedule, as well as individuals 75 years or older. Appointments are required.

Aminah Elster is the policy coordinator at the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and a formerly incarcerated person. She says the women inside the Chowchilla facility continue to tell her about unsafe living conditions even after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported the highest number of positive cases, 512, at the facility on Jan. 3. 

 

“The conditions are filthy. There’s dust everywhere, torn mattress, rusted bunks,” Elster says. “There’s little to no access to cleaning supplies.” 

 

 

A Sierra Unified School District board trustee who was at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday refused calls for him to step down during a Monday night board meeting.

 

James Hoak listened to two hours of public comments that were split in support of and against him keeping his seat on the board. More than 400 people attended the virtual meeting. He responded directly when asked if he would resign.

 

“I can answer that real quick for you. I will be here until 2024, and I’ll see you at the polls,” he said.

 

Hye Quality Bakery in downtown Fresno closed at the end of December after 63 years in business. In this audio postcard, Sammy and Paula Ganimian tell FM89’s Soreath Hok about the role this iconic business has played in the Armenian community.

 

 

After a ceremonial swearing-in at City Hall, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer laid out his first priorities in office. He said his first order of business is an initiative to house those experiencing homelessness. 

Dyer emphasized helping people who have made encampments along the city’s  freeways.

“I’ve been working over the last several months with the governor’s office, as well as Caltrans and CHP,” he said. “And we’re going to be relocating those individuals from the freeway into housing beginning this month.”

Valley Congressman Jim Costa called the insurrection at the United States Capitol Wednesday an act of treason. He said he defends every American’s right to peacefully protest. 

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