August 2009

August 2009


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Thirsty Down in Nobama County

By Lloyd G. Carter

Editor’s note: In part one of this two-part series, Lloyd Carter looked at the notorious international public relations firm of Burson-Marsteller, which is providing advice and guidance to the California Latino Water Coalition, headed by comedian Paul Rodriguez and a handful of local Latino leaders in the San Joaquin Valley. Part two examines the roles of the Coalition’s prominent personalities.

Act I of the California Latino Water Coalition-six months of marches, rallies, lobbying of state and federal officials, an effort to halt traffic on I-5, and a physical encounter by the Coalition leader with a dairy farmer spokesperson caught on TV cameras-is over.

Act II of the Coalition’s drive to suspend the Endangered Species Act, drain the Delta, and obtain $20 billion in publicly funded water infrastructure for San Joaquin Valley agriculture is now under way and will focus, say Coalition leaders, on comedy. That’s right, comedy. The group is headed by comedian and actor Paul Rodriguez, who owns some farmland near Orange Cove and was recruited into the 200-member Coalition more than two years ago by Orange Cove Mayor Victor P. Lopez. Coalition leaders admit Act I was a failure and contend that they are now broke. But they are fired up for Act II.

Now I personally find Rodriguez to be a funny guy-hilarious in standup-but he’s been stretching the truth a lot when he speaks out on water issues. Whether he is doing this deliberately or is being fed bad information by the people orchestrating the water campaign is unclear.

The Latino Water Coalition organized a march and rally for water at Fresno City Hall in July. Fresno City officials estimated the crowd at 3,500–4,000. Farmers, farmworkers and politicians rallied to turn on the pumps in the delta to irrigate the farms in the western Central Valley. Lloyd Carter’s article (below) explains who and what is behind this San Joaquin Valley water war.

Here is an example. On Fox Network’s Sean Hannity Show, which aired nationally on June 19, the following exchange occurred between Hannity and Rodriguez. The exchange followed a biased Fox news report implying water was being shut off to the entire San Joaquin Valley:

RODRIGUEZ: You know, we’re not going to be farmers any longer. We’re going to be selling firewood because our trees won’t last another six months without water. It’s really a sad situation that those of us who choose to farm, my mother and my family in the central San Joaquin, perhaps the most fertile soil in the world, are now just sitting there ready to go on welfare or some other kind of support because we can’t farm.

HANNITY: Paul, this is so serious, and it’s almost mind-numbing that this could happen. All right. So we showed the little Delta smelt, this little minnow fish that is now on the endangered species list. Now, they literally have shut down-you are getting and farmers are getting zero percent water. Their trees and their farms are dying. Is that right? [italics added]

RODRIGUEZ: Yes… (,2933,528113,00.html)

Now that’s a touching story, but it’s erroneous. Rodriguez’s 40 acres of oranges, lemons, persimmons and olives near Orange Cove and Dinuba on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley is definitely not going dry. Farmers in his neighborhood get their water from the San Joaquin River via the Friant-Kern Canal, or from the Kings River, with groundwater as a backup supply. He had plenty of water available this year (about 90% of normal according to federal officials).

Harvey Bailey, chairman of the Orange Cove Irrigation District and chairman of the Friant Water Users Authority, proudly said at the July 1 Fresno City Hall water rally that Rodriguez gets his irrigation supply from the Orange Cove District. In any event, Rodriguez’s property is on the opposite side of the Valley from where the major cutbacks in Delta water deliveries were occurring, that is, the Westlands Water District, which is many miles away. And only about a quarter of the Valley’s farmland is suffering significant water cutbacks, a fact Rodriguez always ignores. Normal pumping from the Delta to the West Side resumed July 1. If Rodriguez has acreage in Westlands, he hasn’t told anyone about it. He did say in a 1998 interview with the Los Angeles Times that (at that time) he owned about 800 acres. Rodriguez also developed a shopping center in Orange Cove and owns non-farmland in the area.

Comedian Paul Rodriguez, co-chair of the Latino Water Coalition, has become the spokesperson for turning on the pumps and removing environmental protections aimed at saving the delta smelt, a small fish on the threatened species list.

Rodriguez’s orchards are not dying, according to a drive-by inspection last month. Not surprisingly, Rodriguez has not invited news crews to his farm to see his “dying” trees. Surprisingly, no Valley newspaper reporters or TV news crews, to my knowledge, have even asked to see his orchards. If he’s trying to create the impression that his own farm has suffered drastic cutbacks in water, he’s not being candid. Strangely, at the July 5 Fresno meeting with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Rodriguez indicated he had to buy store nectarines for those attending the meeting because his own nectarine trees were not producing, inferably because of water cutbacks. Yet he never mentioned nectarines in a July 15 interview by KMJ’s Ray Appleton when Appleton asked him what crops he farms.

Rodriguez also joked on the Hannity show that he had never seen a killer whale on the freeway. Recent government reports have reported plummeting populations of salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and killer whales as a result of the ecological crisis in the Delta, caused in part by massive exports of freshwater from the fragile estuary. Not everyone thinks the disappearance of killer whales or salmon is funny. Especially the thousands of people in the commercial salmon industry who have been out of work for two years.

Rodriguez was on Appleton’s noon hour show on July 10 to explain why the Latino Water Coalition is going to try the new comedy tactic. Rodriguez and Appleton admitted that Act I of the two-year-old Coalition’s campaign, including the April 14-17 March for Water from Mendota to the San Luis Reservoir and the July 1 Rally for Water at Fresno City Hall (that cost the cash-strapped city $10,000 in lost parking revenue), has failed to attract the national attention they feel they need to force state and congressional lawmakers to 1) suspend the Endangered Species Act, 2) resume full water deliveries to the western San Joaquin Valley despite the concerns of Northern California and (3) spend billions of taxpayer dollars on new water storage reservoirs and a highly controversial Peripheral Canal (also called a conveyance facility) around the beleaguered Bay-Delta Estuary.

Rodriguez’s new comedy tactic, enthusiastically endorsed by Appleton, is to gather 50,000-100,000 signatures demanding that Fresno County be renamed “Nobama County” which, he believes, will generate so much national publicity it will force President Obama to visit the Valley and order the exports of water from the Delta be returned to maximum historic levels, apparently even if it causes the ecological crash of the Delta estuary. Rodriguez said the nation needed to be reminded that “Nobama County” is where “farming is illegal.” I suspect this tactic will be about as effective as the boycott of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the UC Merced graduation by the Valley’s five Congressional representatives, Democrats and Republicans. Apparently the collective thinking there was that if you want something from the President it’s a good idea to insult his wife. The Nobama County name change is equally feckless if they think the President will respond positively to personal insults. There is another reason the Coalition is changing tactics. “We’re broke,” admitted Appleton on his July 15 radio show. He then asked listeners for more donations.

Rodriguez also told Appleton on the air, “I don’t know if people want to be led by a fool. I’m no leader.” But he added that God intended the San Joaquin Valley to be farmed. Appleton agreed, saying, “We can’t depend on the politicians anymore. We’ve got to drop the serious stuff. We’ve got to go silly for awhile.” Rodriguez added the news media was only interested in “novelty and shock” and said he thought it would also be a great publicity stunt to get 5,000 people to lie on the ground and spell out the word “help.” Predicted Appleton, “The national media will jump on it.”

KMJ callers then began offering their own possible slogans: “Barack-as-field” instead of Bakersfield, said one. Another caller suggested that the camel be named the Fresno County mascot. Another suggested “Merdead County” instead of Merced County, even though much of water-rich Merced County farmland received near normal irrigation supplies this year. One caller suggested Rodriguez do a “Nobama Comedy Tour” to raise awareness of the issue. One suggested bumper stickers that read “Where ever [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi goes, nothing grows.” Then, as it frequently does on Appleton’s show, the comments from Appleton’s conservative listeners turned into trashing of Rep. Jim Costa, Democrats in general, liberals and “radical” environmentalists. Democratic members of the Coalition must be uneasy with this.

Delta Smelt: Right-wing demagogues like former mayor Alan Autry have attempted to make this a battle of “fish vs. people” suggesting that environmental justice activists are terrorists. Lloyd Carter, in his two-part series in the Community Alliance, argues that large agriculture corporations are using the water crisis to get more taxpayer-subsidized water. In Part II, Carter exposes the individuals behind this plan and reveals their audacious next step (renaming Fresno County) to accomplish their nefarious goal.

There is a certain naive Children’s Crusade character to the Latino Water Coalition campaign, which is supposed to be bipartisan. Appleton’s recent target has been Costa (who represents the Westlands Water District and has been targeted by the Republican National Committee in next year’s elections). Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia, who has screamed loud and long in Congress that the Endangered Species Act must be suspended and that “radical” environmentalists have taken over the Democratic Party, must be gleeful about the attacks on Costa, although he claims to be Costa’s friend. Costa and Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza, representing the Northern Valley, struck back in a July 15 Fresno Bee article accusing Nunes of “grandstanding” in trying repeatedly in various House committees to introduce amendments to various bills to suspend the Endangered Species Act.

“This is baloney, to be doing this sort of thing,” Cardoza told the Bee. “I have had a number of colleagues tell me they are fed up with it.” Appleton responded, on air, that Cardoza’s statement was “one of the most foolish statements I’ve ever heard.” Appleton added that “the sniping has begun,” ignoring his own persistent sniping at Costa.

The most vicious attacks, of course, are reserved for “radical” environmentalists (is there any other kind in the eyes of growers?). Former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry, who clearly misses the spotlight, went even further at the July 1 water rally and branded the Endangered Species Act as terrorism (and, inferably, environmentalists as terrorists).

Other than Mario Santoyo, the longtime employee of the Friant Water Users Authority, who is clearly knowledgeable on water issues, the Coalition is essentially composed of front men Rodriguez and Appleton, some Latino business owners in Los Angeles, water and irrigation districts, and a handful of Latino mayors or council members from small towns in the San Joaquin Valley. It is overwhelmingly male.

While the “human face” of the coalition (this is the astroturfing tactic proposed by the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, which was discussed in part one) is supposed to be the downtrodden farmworkers, the actual field hands participating in the marches and rallies are often either paid or threatened with job loss if they don’t participate. The Associated Press reported on the July 1 Fresno City Hall rally that one female farmworker admitted being paid to attend and another was told if she didn’t attend she would lose her job.

It seems to matter little to Rodriguez and Appleton that Obama cannot unilaterally void a federal court order, restructure the California water rights priority list and suspend the Endangered Species Act. Nor do they ever discuss the plight of Delta farmers who are farming 500,000 acres, Trinity River Indians, commercial and recreational salmon fishermen or the fact that the water they want restored to the western San Joaquin Valley must come from the people of Northern California. They stick to the simple-minded slogan “Fish versus People.”

Orange Cove mayor Victor Lopez gave a passionate speech at Fresno City Hall, mostly in Spanish, about why the pumps must be turned on in this battle between “fish and people.”

It is useful to take a brief look at the major characters in Act II of the Latino Water Coalition.

Paul Rodriguez

Rodriguez, son of immigrant farmworkers, who went on to fame and fortune as a standup comedian and actor, calls himself the “poster boy” of the California Latino Water Coalition, an ethnic group funded by agribusiness groups in the San Joaquin Valley. As chairperson of the Coalition, he is not entirely comfortable with the role and he freely admits his shortcomings in the Byzantine maneuvering of California water politics.

Rodriguez was born in Sinaloa, Culiacan, Mexico, in January 1955, the youngest of 10 children, and came to America with his family in 1957, he told the Los Angeles Times in a 1998 interview. They were migrant farmworkers, picking cotton in Texas, sugar beets in Minnesota, apples in Washington and grapes in the San Joaquin Valley. In the mid-1960s, Rodriguez’s father broke his back in a tractor accident and the family moved to San Pedro. Rodriguez said his mother cleaned fish at Terminal Island but later lost her job because of phlebitis. They then moved in with an aunt in Compton, and Paul attended Dominguez High School in Compton, graduating about 1973. (In a posting on the Coalition Web site,, Rodriguez said he grew up in Orange Cove.)

He attended community college near his home, enrolled at Cal State University, Long Beach, and then joined the Air Force. In 1979, he became a doorman at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles and got to fill in onstage when a comedian called in sick or failed to show up. He quickly became popular and by 1984 had his own network sitcom, A.K.A Pablo, the first TV show in America about a Mexican-American family, which lasted six episodes.

He has done a lot of charity and benefit shows, from USO tours with Bob Hope to performances at San Quentin Prison. He has done lots of fund-raisers for many Democrats who he feels have turned their backs on him when he needed their help. He says former Assembly Speaker Fabi n N£¤ez rebuffed him and told him to keep his day job when Rodriguez asked for help on the water issue.

In the 1998 LA Times interview, Rodriguez admitted that he voted for a controversial statewide ballot initiative that year to prohibit bilingual education in California, angering some of his Latino friends. He said his parents influenced his decision to vote for the measure, which many considered anti-immigrant.

“My father actually took the time to go to the school and insist that none of his children have bilingual education, which is not a popular view among Hispanics,” Rodriguez told the Times. “My father said, ‘You’re not going to get a job in this country because you know Spanish. You’re going to get a job because you know English.’ From my point of view, the hearts of Hispanic leaders are in the right place, but in terms of practicality, bilingual education does not work.”

This independent streak extends to the Latino Water Coalition. In one of his first appearances on Ray Appleton’s radio show, he said he was uncomfortable with the word Latino in the Coalition name and thought it should be just the California Water Coalition. He also has refused to permit Mexican flags or symbols in any of the Coalition events in which he has participated.

Rodriguez, although a lifelong Democrat, has been flirting with the idea of becoming a Republican. In a May 3 speech before the Bakersfield convention of the California Republican Assembly, a very conservative GOP organization, he said he was thinking about switching parties. The audience was almost entirely white and when Rodriguez saw a Latina waitress in the room he joked that he felt he should be working the tables too.

Regarding the delicate question of why there should even be a race-based water lobbying group, Rodriguez told the Republican conservatives gathered in Bakersfield:

“When I say Latino Water Coalition a lot of you automatically say, ‘Why Latino? Doesn’t everyone need water, Paul? Why just you Latinos, and as a Caucasian person I take offense to that, why does everything have to be segregated?’ I don’t know. I don’t know but we’re using this. We’re using this race card in a positive manner, a cloak. You know everybody’s welcome to this. The reason why we call it the Latino Water Coalition [is] because it gives them a pause. ‘Better not attack these Latinos, we don’t know.’ If we call it the Caucasian Coalition, you bet they would already be attacking us. Because Caucasians, sadly to say, who is defending you? I am. You know, just to put that to rest, there’s no division.”

In his speech to the Republicans, Rodriguez said he had been friends with Cesar Chavez and had hosted the labor leader on his Spanish-language television show, which was, Rodriguez said, later cancelled when grocery chains complained about Chavez’s appearance. Rodriguez added he had been disappointed that the United Farm Workers Union had not joined the Coalition to help the growers get more water.

“When I was a young man I was indoctrinated with the belief of the evil, incarnate evil white farmer who mistreated his workers and cared more about his John Deere than Juan,” Rodriguez told the Bakersfield crowd. “Although I never met that person, although if we ever received kindness it was from a farmer, who treated us decently with respect. That’s what I can remember. I never heard my father complain. I’m not defending or kissing up or becoming a coconut or whatever label you want to put [on] me. I’m simply telling you as I, and what happened to me. I’m not speaking for the other 40 people in my house [crowd laughs].”

He closed his remarks to the Republicans (without revealing whether he had joined the GOP; Ray Appleton says Rodriguez is still a Democrat) by saying: “I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I’m going to do something because I’m not going to sit there and see a canal with plenty of water go right by my property and my property has no water. I’m not gonna sit there and see my family suffer needlessly. And if it’s illegal for me to take a backhoe and open up and make a canal, then I’ve already been accused of being illegal once before.”

Again, Rodriguez doesn’t need to worry about a canal carrying water by his farm while his trees die. The current problem involves the West Side of the Valley, not the East Side where his farm is. It was a good story but not true.

Ray Appleton

Appleton, in addition to being on the air from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., is the host of a two-hour weekday show from noon to 2 p.m. on KMJ, Fresno’s most popular AM radio station. KMJ General Manager Patty Hixson farms several hundred acres in Fresno County and is clearly sympathetic to growers. In addition, KMJ is flooded with pesticide commercials during Appleton’s morning and noon shows, so there is also an economic reason to champion the cause of the West Side growers.

The KMJ Web site section on Appleton shows pictures of him taken earlier this year purportedly sneaking into the Delta export pumps and turning them on. While no doubt intended as a humorous stunt, if Appleton actually did this it would be a criminal act, probably a felony. Some of his grower callers are threatening civil disobedience.

His erratic behavior on the show, raging one day, confident and predicting victory the next, is typified by a July 10 posting in his blog on the Web site: “Many of you ask me how I can handle all the pressure from the Water War. I get this all the time. I’m surprised that many of you feel that I am pressured. Yes, I know I’ve have had my moments on the air where I have been a bit out of control. Yeah, that’s always a lovely ‘bit’ for live radio when it’s real and I assure you this, for me, has never been more real.”

Here is a sampling of Appleton’s inflammatory comments on the air in recent weeks:

On July 7, the House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment by Rep. Nunes to suspend the Endangered Species Act and restore water exports from the Delta at “historic maximum levels.” Appleton, on his show the next day, excoriated the Democrats on the committee and said Rep. Sam Farr (D-Monterey) was “a weasel.” He has called Rep. Costa a “traitor” on the air. He told listeners that Congress was “terrified” of Rodriguez and that, as Act II gets under way, “we are now deferring everything to him [Rodriguez]. From now on, he’s going to be calling all the shots [for the Coalition].”

Appleton has called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “the Antichrist” and slandered Rep. George Miller (D-Contra Costa) in similar terms. Appleton claimed that “law enforcement” had estimated the July 1 City Hall water rally crowd at 11,000 people, without naming which law enforcement agency or officer had made this alleged estimate. In contrast, the Fresno Bee and the local TV stations said Fresno police had estimated the crowd at 4,000.

Appleton has called the United Farm Workers Union the “enemy” of farmworkers and claimed if Cesar Chavez were alive he would be in the radio booth with Appleton advocating for more water for growers.

Appleton continues to claim that the Delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) is not indigenous to the Delta, that it is only on the Endangered Species Act Threatened List and that smelt are plentiful throughout much of America. He is right that the Delta smelt is only on the Threatened List but wrong about it occurring elsewhere in the United States. The Delta smelt are members of the Osmeridae family (smelts) and, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Delta smelt is found only from Suisan Bay upstream through the Delta in several counties. Once abundant, their numbers have plunged in recent years, in large part due to reductions in freshwater outflow (i.e., water exports), and being ground up (“entrained”) at the massive Delta export pumps near Tracy. Other causes in the population decline include pollutants, competition and predation from non-native fish. There are other species of smelt in the Osmeridae family in other parts of America (some grow to eight inches in length), but they are not Delta smelt. Using Appleton’s logic here, the analogy would be that it is okay if polar bears go extinct because there are eight species of bear (black and brown bears for starters) in the bear family (Ursidae) and because if you’ve seen one bear you’ve seen them all, right?

Appleton takes considerable pride in being the “new best friend” of Rodriguez and loves to entice his listeners with tidbits about Rodriguez but says he cannot say everything he knows. He told listeners recently that Rodriguez had recently been fired from the movie Family Wedding starring America Ferrera, even after Rodriguez had completed shooting for his part, but said he couldn’t talk about it on advice of both Rodriguez’s lawyers and KMJ’s lawyers. The inference was that Rodriguez was fired because of his political activism for the Coalition. When Rodriguez came on Appleton’s show a few days later, Appleton never asked him if he was fired from the movie. If Rodriguez was, in fact, fired for exercising his free speech rights, that was wrong.

He told listeners on July 7 that Rodriguez had become so disheartened over the Fourth of July weekend he was thinking of quitting the Coalition but later changed his mind. Appleton also told listeners Rodriguez was feuding with his agents. “Well, Paul is having a little bit of a crisis with his agent right now, so he’s got that on his back as well because the agents are having a cow because he’s not fulfilling some of his commitments,” Appleton said. “Paul is getting it from all sides, and I’m trying to be protective of him.”

Appleton appears unconcerned that blabbing to listeners that Rodriguez is not keeping his business commitments might be a bad idea. Appleton later told listeners Rodriguez had fired his agents and retained new representation. When Rodriguez was next on the show, Appleton never mentioned any of this.

Mario Santoyo

Mario Santoyo is the assistant general manager of the Friant Water Users Authority and one of the highest ranking Latinos in California’s water world. He is probably more responsible for the creation of the California Latino Water Coalition than anyone else. According to a February 27, 2009, article in the Fresno Bee, the Coalition was formed in 2006 after Santoyo and other Valley Latino leaders met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and asked what they could do to help increase agriculture’s water supply. Santoyo said the governor “encouraged us to put together a coalition and spread the word” focusing on pleading their case to the legislature’s Latino members.

The incorporation papers for the nonprofit Latino Water Coalition were filed on December 29, 2008 (two years after the organization was formed), by Sacramento lobbyist and attorney George H. Soares, who owns a dairy farm in Hanford. Ruben Guerra of Rosemead, head of the Los Angeles-based Latin Business Association, is listed as the chief executive officer of the Coalition and spoke at the July 1 City Hall rally. Curiously, Paul Rodriguez and Mario Santoyo are not listed as officers or named anywhere in the incorporation documents.

Santoyo admitted in the February 27 Bee article that there are few Latinos in positions of influence in California’s water world, either in government or agribusiness, lamenting “the water world has not been a world where there’s been a great diversity of people. There’s only a few Latinos in that world. I always felt kind of lonely.”

However, the United Farm Workers and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, among others, have complained that the Coalition has focused on getting irrigation water for agriculture while ignoring the campaign for clean drinking water and decent housing for farmworkers, who are the poorest working people in America. The Coalition has yet to speak out on farmworker health, safety and drinking water issues.

Orange Cove Mayor Victor P. Lopez

Lopez is credited with luring Rodriguez to head the Latino Water Coalition two years ago. He had brought Rodriguez to Orange Cove in 1990 to help raise funds because of a freeze that damaged much of the citrus crop and threw the town’s predominantly farmworker population out of work.

Lopez has been a controversial figure in the small farm town of Orange Cove, 40 miles southeast of Fresno, for more than three decades. When he was elected to a fifth four-year term as mayor in 2006, his opponents claimed he had disgraced the city by hiring relatives and traveling the world on city funds, ostensibly on “official business.”

A November 8, 2006, Fresno Bee article said Lopez’s critics and opponents accused him of squandering $174,000 in city funds on travel to China, South Korea, Mexico and elsewhere in the five years previous to the 2006 election. Lopez brushed off his critics by claiming they were merely jealous of him and noted he had brought tens of millions of dollars of state and federal grant money to Orange Cove.

Fifteen years ago, Lopez called a community meeting to discuss graffiti, vandalism and gang problems. “It’s a major issue,” Lopez told the Fresno Bee in a January 27, 1994, article. “We have complaints about gang activity, graffiti, vandalism, and we have to deal with it.” Lopez said then that there were four gangs in Orange Cove, and officials wanted to find the root of the problem. “We will do whatever has to be done to remedy the situation,” Lopez predicted.

The 66-year-old Lopez is still mired in controversy. On May 24 of this year, the Fresno Bee ran a front-page story saying a BMX bike park in Orange Cove, which was supposed to be financed by a $490,000 state grant from the California State Parks Department, had run into serious financial problems. The grant application listed gang problems as one of the reasons a bike park was needed.

State auditors say the city spent lavishly for the park but funds were unaccounted for. The Bee investigation discovered the city had put Lopez’s son in charge of overseeing the project in a no bid contract even though the son had no engineering experience. A Lopez grandson was given a security guard job at the bike park. Odilon Ortiz, the city’s former finance manager who challenged Lopez for the mayor’s job in the 2006 election, said Lopez wanted the project completed before the election and classified the project as an emergency and instructed staff to ignore normal contract bidding rules.

Lopez is also the only mayor in Fresno County paid by the county Economic Opportunities Commission. Since 1971, he has drawn a $43,000 a year salary from the EOC as a “rural development specialist.”

State Parks officials say Orange Cove, with a meager budget of $1.7 million, may be forced to cover the bike park construction costs if the $490,000 state grant is withheld. Local officials also admit the bike park is rarely used. Lopez told the Bee, “I have been here for 30 years and can hold my head high. We’ve done nothing wrong.”
In what may be a coincidence, the Fresno County Council of Governments (COG), comprised of Fresno City and 15 smaller cities in the county, approved a May 21 letter to the governor on an emergency basis (the item had not been on the agenda) recommending that Mario Santoyo be appointed to the State Parks and Recreation Commission, which sets policy for the State Parks Department. The letter identified Santoyo as the founder and president of the Latino Water Coalition. Santoyo and Lopez have worked closely together in the Latino Water Coalition. Lopez sits on the COG board.

Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson

Larson is the 75-year-old Fresno County supervisor who represents the Westlands area. He is a former pesticide/fertilizer salesperson, farmer and former head of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. After he spoke at the July 1 Fresno City Hall water rally and was leaving the podium, Rodriguez, acting as MC, wisecracked, “there goes a walking sex scandal.” After Victor Lopez gave a near-shouted speech in Spanish, Rodriguez joked he should run for president of Honduras. Like I said, Rodriguez is a funny guy.

Larson has offered his county office and secretarial services to the Latino Water Coalition, a private nonprofit group, raising questions about the appropriateness of the use of his office as a fund-raising mechanism for the private organization.

Larson frequently states in TV interviews that the avowed purpose of environmentalists is to end farming in the San Joaquin Valley. Of course, he never names a single environmentalist who actually holds this view. It is clear, however, that he’s looking out for the interests of the big growers as well as the small family farms.

On March 1 of this year, there was a special session of the Fresno City Council called by member Cynthia Sterling. Visiting Fresno was California Rep. Adam Schiff, who is considered to have clout in Congress about where federal economic revitalization funds might be spent. Sterling was hoping some of that federal stimulus money would flow to Fresno. According to Stephen Smith, a member of the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee, who attended the special session and took notes, Supervisor Larson showed up and wanted to know if the Obama administration’s announced intention to limit farm subsidies to farms or farm companies producing under $500,000 worth of crops a year was set in stone. Larson said he had a friend and a nephew who both easily exceeded the $500,000 figure in gross annual farm receipts, which Larson considered a low figure. In essence, Smith said, Larson was asking Schiff to go back to Washington and lobby for more subsidy money for big farms. Schiff made no commitment to do so. Smith said he was astounded by Larson’s comments.

KMJ Commentator Inga Barks

Barks, who hosts a daytime radio talk show in Bakersfield and a similar evening show on KMJ radio in Fresno, is a conservative who loves to bash Democrats, liberals and environmentalists, who she labels as “humaphobes,” a term she coined for me, according to her blog on the KMJ Web site. She knows little about water issues but that doesn’t stop her from blathering the agribusiness party line of the moment, oblivious to the fact Big Ag is awash in subsidy programs that, as a conservative, she should despise.

She doesn’t have anything to do with the Latino Water Coalition as far as I can tell. However she has viciously attacked me on the air several times (as a typical environmentalist) and thus I include her here. Shortly after my controversial televised remarks about the pathology of farmworker culture in early February she posted the following comment, in part, on the Internet: “I am convinced that Mr. Carter is not a racist, but an elitist. He doesn’t care about the laborer because he doesn’t care about the farmer. He doesn’t care about the farmer because he believes the bread basket of the world (Central California Valley) should be a desert where the blunt[-]nosed leopard lizard runs free. Regardless [of] race, he hates you, your car, your farm and your water faucet.”

Come now Inga, I hate water faucets? And stop calling the Valley a breadbasket because grains, which bread is made from, are mostly grown in the Midwest. You can call the San Joaquin Valley the Fruit Basket of the Nation, or the Lettuce Bowl of the Nation, but not the breadbasket.

But, hey, it’s right-wing talk radio, right?

As Barks herself put it in an April column in the Bakersfield Californian: “Talk radio also gives a voice to people who actually believe in God without harassing them like they are some kind of uneducated, back-water, snake-handling, NASCAR-watching, country music-listening, intermarrying, group of bumpkins/possible terrorists. We have a groundswell of populism every day on my show.” How about a groundswell of accurate facts?

Participants in the July 1 march in downtown Fresno carried signs saying “Fish Don’t Vote” and “President Obama, Help Us!”

Others in the Latino Water Coalition or Supporting the Cause

Although Paul Rodriguez is listed as the chair of the Latino Water Coalition, the organization, according to its Web site, has three co-chairs including Orange Cove Mayor Victor P. Lopez, Ruben Guerra of the Latin Business Association and Tony Estremera, a director of the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Lopez and Guerra have spoken at Latino Water Coalition events along with Piedad Ayala, a farm labor contractor who has provided farmworkers to West Side agribusiness for nearly 20 years and was reportedly in charge of busing in paid and unpaid farmworkers to Coalition events.

Last of all is the Congressional point person of the Coalition, which is clearly Rep. Nunes. Nunes has taken to posting videos on YouTube of his regular diatribes on the floor of Congress, a popular astroturfing tactic employed by the big public relations firms. He is likely the person who connected the Friant Water Users and/or the Latino Water Coalition with Burson-Marsteller. After part one of my article was printed, a B-M official told a Fresno television station it was advising the Coalition but insisted the firm was donating its services. Please note, however, that Burson-Marsteller has not said no one is paying the high-priced firm. They have been advising the Friant Unit growers for three years, and they are surely being paid consulting fees for that.

In the final analysis, the biggest problem the Latino Water Coalition may face in the next year is not finances, a coherent message that resonates nationally or being pulled apart by partisan political bickering. An El Niú¤o weather pattern is forming in the Pacific Ocean, and forecasters predict we may be heading into a wet winter. It’s hard to cry drought, even regulatory drought, when California’s rivers are running full. Rodriguez better come up with some good jokes for that scenario.

Lloyd Carter has been writing about Valley water issues for 40 years. His Web site is

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Lethal Injection

By Donald Ray Young

Donald Ray Young, who is alive on death row, has a solution to the budget crisis.

We had strange fruit for breakfast today…a death row prisoner committed suicide at San Quentin in East Block. But I can’t worry about that guy. I must dialectically eradicate the proposed amendment to Section 3349 and the adoption of 22 sections under Subchapter 4, Article 7.5, of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 15, Crime Prevention & Corrections, to incorporate into the CCR provisions concerning the lethal injection process. The lethal injection morass…without constitutionality, legality, or morality. Wait! how can I not think of the suicide in this very building-his family, his loved ones? What if he was innocent? Do I know him? How many other people on death row have contemplated killing themselves to escape this madness? I believe that when one dies-a part of all of us dies.

How many innocent men will California execute because of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA)? The courts and the attorney general misuse this law in order to bar newly discovered evidence and/or evidence of actual innocence.

Donald Ray Young I AM: I am Troy Davis…I am Kevin Cooper…I am Rodney Reed…I am Reginald Clemons…I am Oscar Grant III…I am Stanley Williams…I am Emmett Till…I am the future-present and past. I am innocent on California’s death row-don’t rush to execute me…I must prove my innocence. When will the justice system rush to justice and fairness? How many have been exonerated from death row? How many innocent people on death row have been put through a state-sponsored, premeditated, torturous murder? State-sponsored, taxpayer-funded, barbaric, draconian, torturous murder equates to the lethal injection process. We all see how much the system will spend on death but how much will the system spend on life? Life is education. Life is shelter. Life is food. Life is clothing. Life is employment. Life is clean water. Life is freedom.

Fiscal impact statement.
Mathew Cate, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, disingenuously claims that the fiscal impact is non-existent. There is a fiscal impact on local agencies, school districts, state agencies and federal funding to the state due to the process of lethal injection. Billions of taxpayers dollars are being wasted to murder death row prisoners in California. Where is that money taken from? Local agencies and school districts know that the funds are being stolen from them. Every time a teacher receives a pink slip-that’s the fiscal impact of the lethal injection process. School budget slashed…overcrowded classrooms…college tuition out of reach-that’s the fiscal impact of the lethal injection process. $650 million taken from California community colleges in a failed underhanded attempt to cover the fiscal impact of the lethal injection process. When your local and state hospitals shut down along with health clinics-that’s the fiscal impact of the lethal injection process. 200 California state parks set to close due to the fiscal impact of the lethal injection process. California cities going bankrupt like Vallejo-that’s the fiscal impact of the lethal injection process. $70 billion a year lost on corrections. California has a $24 billion budget deficit due to the fiscal impact of the lethal injection process. $25 million per execution versus. $1 million to incarcerate for life.

Effect on housing costs.
The fiscal impact of the lethal injection process is devastating on housing costs. The California housing crisis and the massive foreclosures that lessen the value of homes are due to the misplaced priorities of the state-taxpayer dollars are going toward the lethal injection process. Take away the lethal injection process and housing costs will stabilize, foreclosures will drop and credit will flow again, allowing purchases of new homes. This would increase the value of homes as opposed to the horrendous effects on housing costs that the lethal injection process has.

Cause and effect.
Because of the price tag associated with the lethal injection process; the effect is a California housing crisis.

Significant statewide adverse economic impact on business.
Everyone and every business in California is impacted by the state of the economy; the prison budget is out of control and unsustainable. Employees receiving unpaid days off due to the fiscal impact of the lethal injection process. The higher taxes to pay for the lethal injection process have a significant statewide adverse economic impact on business. The lethal injection process forces many businesses to move out of state because they cannot compete with businesses in other states with lower taxes. Oakland has more than a $100 million budget deficit. Business cannot thrive juxtaposed to the lethal injection process, therefore businesses statewide are required to downsize and cut jobs. The state of California has a $24 billion budget deficit in and of itself caused by the lethal injection process. California is actually in an economic depression that foregoing the lethal injection process would correct.

Effect on small business.
If a person’s foot is cut off, it’s not just the foot that suffers; the entire body is painfully involved. So it is with the state-sponsored, taxpayer- funded lethal injection process; all agencies suffer, all businesses suffer, all people suffer. The fiscal impact of the lethal injection process means many small businesses will not have a chance to start. Small businesses can’t get loans or credit to survive, or even government aid, because the funds are going to the lethal injection process.

Consideration of alternatives.
Stop the lethal injection process. The reasonable alternative would be to stop the government-sponsored, taxpayer-financed torture and murder of California death row prisoners. This would be more effective and less burdensome to affected private persons.

Deficiencies with the proposed lethal injection process.
The lack of media access is in violation of the First Amendment. The new procedures are invalid because they are not made part of the public record, thus denying the public the right to know. It is a Hippocratic oath violation.

Discriminates against inmate witnesses.

Violates the clergy penitent relationship.

Violates the Eighth Amendment.

I would like to hear from you. Strength of mind and peace of heart.

Donald Ray Young
PO Box E-78474
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974

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ZIP GUN II: A Likely Story

By Boston Woodard

Once again Solano State Prison in Vacaville California orchestrated a deceptive shakedown (search) of the institution for an imaginary zip gun. In March 2008, Solano’s prison staff circulated a “Program Status Report/Plan of Operation Notification” claiming a zip gun was on prison grounds. The source of their information was an anonymous note. The lockdown and subsequent search and confiscation of prisoners’ personal property yielded no zip gun. Countless grievances and staff complaints were filed at the expense of, you guessed it, California taxpayers.

On February 19, 2009, Solano Prison Building #23 was searched utilizing all available institution staff including Administrative Segregation and Central Services personnel. Such an amassing of prison staff generates exorbitant amounts of overtime that is placed squarely on the back of an already broke California. The latest zip gun claim was written in a February 19, 2009, prison Status Report.

Prison administrators and public information officers (PIOs) are quick to inform the citizens of this state that the ‘lock downs” and “searches” are compulsory. They blurt that institutional searches are “emergencies” and are conducted for “public safety.” Lockdowns are “extremely volatile and dangerous” situations and must be carried out with the “utmost professionalism and alertness,” said one staff member when asked. “We have the safety and security of staff and inmates alike on our minds during these circumstances,” he concluded.

This same “correctional professional” failed to mention the safety and security of the 20 or so schoolchildren who were brought into Solano State Prison during the height of the latest zip gun ruse. That’s right, a gaggle of very nervous-looking children involved with the Regional Occupation Program (ROP) from Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, were walked straight into the eye of the zip gun storm. There was no security with those young kids-only the prison’s PIA and the community partnership manager (CPM).

Not only were these young kids brought into the prison during a massive lockdown and search for a gun but they were also walked through the very yard where approximately 300 zip gun suspects were walking freely about. The hundreds of convicts were forced to strip naked inside the housing unit and then ordered to dress outside on the yard after being gone over with hand-held metal detectors (“wands”).

The children were allowed to walk through the convicts into the very building where the intense search was under way for a gun. Where was the concern for the safety and security of these kids? Several of the prisoners yelled out: “Hey! get them kids out of here!” and “What the hell are you thinking?’ Prisoners witness inexpert and incompetent behavior by prison staff at times, but touring a group of extremely vulnerable, defenseless kids into this type of situation is inexcusable negligence that screams for an investigation. At the end of the all-day affair, the 300 zip gun suspects were again stripped and wanded. So much for thinking it was safe for the kiddy tour.

After speaking with dozens of prisoners about the search, the general colloquy was that the zip gun stratagem was a vindictive and retaliatory act by prison staff. It was also felt that it was more of a designed overtime scheme than anything else. The first red flag that it was all bullshit was when staff from Receiving and Release (R&R) entered Building #23 with a cart load of prisoners’ personal property cards. It’s a safe bet to conclude that they were not looking for a zip gun listed on the property card of a prisoner. More tell-tale signs this was retaliatory and/or overtime ruse were the rest of the prisoners throughout the prison were allowed to go to their work assignments (many having direct access to the 300 zip gun suspects); there was no gunner (armed guard in a strategic location); extra staff were not assigned (not one) in Building #23 that was under suspicion until the day of the search; Building #20 (where the lockdown report alleged that .22 cal. bullets were
located) was never searched; a large group of schoolchildren were walked into a possible volatile circumstance that could have gone violent quickly, and the list goes on.

The reasons and events framing this whole zip gun scheme of February 19, 2009, smacks of being more than spurious. In March 2008, for example, an overtime cap was placed on the guards by the legislature. Also in March 2008, prison staff were no longer allowed more than 80 hours of overtime per month. Within days, a Zip Gun Program Status Report claiming there was a gun on prison grounds was distributed. No zip gun or anything resembling one was ever located. This lockdown and search stretched into nearly two months. How much money went toward lining the pockets of the guards and other staff involved during that time? Did something mirroring the events of March 2008 prompt this year’s zip gun claim?

Simple math and an (outside) investigation would surely uncover that these convenient “zip gun” and “bullet” anonymous notes are nothing more than vindictive, retaliatory, self-serving events concocted by those staff involved and in charge. Did the prison’s press release to the public depicting the details of a possible zip gun search on February 19, 2009, tell everything? Was a press release even offered to the public about this? Someone needs to be held responsible for these outrageous, concocted wasteful events.

Did the unsuspecting families of the children carelessly shuffled through the mine field of convicts know of all this? Would the parents of these kids allow them to tour Solano State Prison on the annual zip gun shakedown day? I doubt it. Solano is a state prison, not a state park.

Boston Woodard is a prisoner/journalist serving his sentence in Solano State Prison. Boston has written for The San Quentin News, The Soledad Star and edited The Communicator.

Boston Woodard, B-88207
CSP-Solano, 23-F-1-L
P.O. Box 4000
Vacaville, CA 95696-4000

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Water: Think Food Security

By Philip Erro

Amid the present controversy about whether the west side of the San Joaquin Valley should receive Northern California water pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, few voices have addressed domestic food security.

California has an enormous federal water project called the Central Valley Project (CVP) that transports Northern California water south. As conceived and built, the CVP allocated 85% of its water to agriculture and 15% to urban uses. That held true until the passage of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992 authored by U.S. Rep. George Miller and Sen. Bill Bradley (presidential candidate in 2000). That law addressed the environmental damage caused by the CVP diversions of the Trinity and Sacramento river flows from their natural river channels primarily to farms by allocating 11% of CVP water to fisheries and wildlife habitat. The 11% of CVP water was taken from agriculture, with virtually no effect on the Firebaugh area and western Sacramento Valley agricultural water users but a huge impact on western San Joaquin Valley farms.

From 1968 until 1992, the Westlands Water District in western Fresno County received 100% of its federal water allocation, with the exception of three severe drought years. From 1993 to the present, the Westlands Water District has received an average of 68% of its contracted water allocation. This year, its allocation has dropped to 10%, amounting to 2.2 inches of water.

I do not have a quarrel with salmon and other wildlife getting back some of the water nature once gave them. I do not believe humans can survive without sharing water with other species. My complaint is how it was determined which agricultural water users would bear the environmental burden. That “decision” was left to California water law, which holds that the oldest water rights are the firmest. The rationale has been that if a water district or municipality constructed a dam and canals, its investment would be safeguarded against some other entity claiming the water it had developed.

The most reliable water rights in California are those established before 1914. People who owned land next to rivers were entitled to river water for their homesteads and small farms. Those rights are called riparian water rights. Other people devised ways to convey river water in canals or aqueducts to their distant farms or cities. These are called appropriative water rights.

Appropriative water rights seekers became increasingly bold and clever. In the late 1800s, Henry Miller and Charles Lux acquired enough appropriative water rights to irrigate 750,000 acres of dry plains in the San Joaquin Valley. In 1913, the City of Los Angeles appropriated water from the Owens Valley on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to supply its growing urban population. In the same year, the City of San Francisco appropriated water from the Tuolumne River in Yosemite.

Subsequently, the California legislature perceived the need to regulate these appropriative water rights and passed the California Water Commission Act of 1913 to authorize the right to divert surface water for use on land that does not abut a surface stream or river. To assure the passage of the California Water Commission Act, the legislature wrote into the law that people and entities that had established their riparian and appropriative water rights prior to enactment of the law would be guaranteed the highest water use priority. Hence, the people with pre-1914 water rights in California have the most reliable water rights.

In the Firebaugh area, many farmers had riparian and/or appropriative water rights long established before the Department of Interior completed the construction of Friant Dam in 1944. That dam diverts San Joaquin River water north to Madera County and south to eastern Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties, taking San Joaquin River water from Firebaugh area farmers. Faced with this appropriation of their river water, these farmers demanded and obtained high priority “exchange rights” through which they were placed first in line to get Northern California water pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through the Delta-Mendota Canal to their area.

Based on the amount of water Firebaugh area farmers received before Friant Dam was built, they receive 41 inches of water (like 41 inches of rainfall) from the Delta in “normal” years and 31 inches of water in drought years. With an average of 7 inches of rainfall, Firebaugh farmers have an average 48 inches of combined surface and rainwater in normal rainfall years and 38 inches of combined surface and rainwater in drought years like this year.

North of the Delta in the western Sacramento Valley, farmers established their surface water rights before 1914 and have extremely reliable CVP surface water allocations, valley-wide averaging 12.5 inches in normal rainfall years and 9 inches in drought years. This year, they are receiving 12.5 inches of water. Rainfall in the Sacramento Valley averages from 16 inches in Sacramento to 30 inches in Redding. Using the lower end of the rainfall scale, western Sacramento Valley farmers receive an average of at least 28.5 inches of combined CVP surface and rainwater in normal years and 25.5 inches of combined CVP surface and rainwater in drought years. They actually have more surface water than the Federal Central Valley Project provides because of locally developed surface water serving Glen, Colusa and Yolo counties.

The Delta is not getting enough freshwater from Northern California this year to supply fish and other life forms because the amount of water needed to flood 2,200,000 football fields one foot deep is being delivered north of the Delta to western Sacramento Valley farmers. In addition, of the little freshwater being exported from the Delta this year, Firebaugh area farms are getting 630,000 football fields one foot deep of water because of their high priority water rights. These water allocations are prejudicial to the Delta environment, Delta farmers and other Delta water users, Bay Area water users, Southern Californians and particularly the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

The western Sacramento Valley grows primarily rice for export, some almonds and walnuts, some oil seed crops like sunflowers, little tree fruit, little lettuce and other fresh produce, and virtually no citrus. Similarly, the Firebaugh area grows little if any citrus, hardly any lettuce and other fresh produce, little tree fruit, some melons, some almonds and cotton. By contrast, the west side of Fresno and Kings counties grows winter and summer lettuce, fresh corn and peppers, almonds at a 50% higher yield per acre than western Sacramento Valley orchards, pistachio nuts, blueberries, cherries and clementine oranges.

There are two factors that account for this contrast in regional food variety and production. The soils of the 300,000 acres along I-5 in western Fresno and Kings counties to which I refer allow water and roots to move easily between soil particles on the one hand but retain moisture and nutrients on the other. These soils are well suited for growing lettuce and other fresh produce; nut, fruit, and citrus trees; grape vines; berries; beans; and grains like wheat. The other factor that makes this area so productive is the micro-climate. There are fewer winter freezes of shorter duration than in the Sacramento Valley and the eastern San Joaquin Valley. There is little winter and spring fog that blocks sunshine and allows fungal damage to occur. And there are fewer spring rains that reduce the pollination of almonds, greatly boosting almond yields in this area.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to take 600,000 football fields one foot deep of water from the combined 2,830,000 football fields one foot deep of the western Sacramento Valley and Firebaugh allocation to grow the rich variety of foods that are grown in western Fresno and Kings counties than to stick with the rigid water rights? This would deliver 24 inches of CVP water to 300,000 acres of premium soils located in a prime Mediterranean climate instead of this year’s 2.2 inches of CVP water. With 24 inches of water, a west-side almond farmer would have enough water to grow 100 acres of almonds for every 200 acres he had, leaving 100 acres fallow; a lettuce farmer could grow two lettuce crops on the same parcel, provided he had at least 6 inches of winter rainfall.

And do not forget the fish. We could repatriate 400,000 football fields one foot deep of Sacramento and Firebaugh water to the Trinity River to boost salmon production. High-yielding fisheries can provide protein and high-quality fats for our diet.

If we are serious about domestic food security in the United States, we will allocate surface water where the best soils and climates are and to the rivers that grow the most edible fish. We need to think more like President Franklin Roosevelt did when he envisioned the Central Valley Project. He delivered water where it would grow food for the entire nation.

Sources: Introduction to Water in California, David Carle, University of California Press; California Water Institute, Fresno State University; San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority; and Westlands Water District.

Philip Erro isÿan advocate for peace, clean air, solar energy, the homeless and sound water policy. A native of Fresno and son of a sheep rancher, Phil and his wife have planted almonds on a 300-acre familyÿfarm on I-5 in western Fresno County.

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Grassroots Profile

By Richard Stone

Dr. Jean Kennedy is another of our grassroots activists whose way of working is one-of-a-kind, finding her way into projects serendipitously, through personal connection and observation. While she has a conventional doctorate in organizational development, she applies her knowledge in a unique way-by detecting gaps in human services where new organization is needed.

Over the years, she has found herself involved with projects as diverse as providing water to a homeless encampment, running a client services program for people with HIV and hosting a radio show on community health issues. Sensitivity to “what’s not there” in a situation and advocating for the unarticulated needs comes naturally to Jean.

Born in Jamaica (West Indies), raised in the United Kingdom and now a 35-year resident of the United States, Jean does not fit neatly into any box on the Census form. To the eye, she may appear to be African American, and she has often been advised to accept the fact that to Euro-Americans that is what she will be. But her words come out in an accent halfway between West Indian and British, and in her formative years she was acculturated to a European rather than American perspective. So it is not surprising that she has walked a path determined by opportunity rather than group affiliation.

Jean says it has taken her a long while to consolidate her own identity. I remember meeting her maybe 10 years ago and feeling like she was struggling to translate her ideas into a foreign language, searching for a conceptual framework in common with her auditors. But in our interview for this article, I found that uneasiness gone. Jean spoke cogently and confidently, even when questioning the institutional structures she works within.

One thread that ties much of her work together has been her commitment to helping the HIV-affected population. She says she fell into this work soon after completing her master’s degree. Looking for a way to utilize her skills and bolster her resume, she responded to a friend’s pleas to help with a service program for HIV clients in Merced that was facing organizational and economic problems. The situation turned out to be complex and sticky, but, even without compensation, Jean kept the program alive. She has been active in HIV/AIDS advocacy ever since.

Although she left that program after a year, having transferred it to other hands, one lasting result for Jean was insight into how programs often wind up serving the convenience of administrators without true commitment to the clientele. “When the money gets tight, the service disappears…but not the people in need.”

From this experience, Jean has chosen to do her AIDS work without taking on a salaried position in any of the funded organizations that she assists. Looking instead for unmet needs, she noted the rising AIDS population among African Americans (especially women) and began agitating about the disconnect between where need is the greatest and where the money goes. “Agencies use the growing number of AIDS cases in West Fresno to bolster their grants. So why is there no service facility in the 93706 zip code?”

And in the faith community, where she is a steadfast church member, she has found herself often a solitary voice asking why AIDS is not spoken of and its sufferers not attended to. “I’ve been advocating for health ministries in our churches to go where the bureaucracies don’t.”

IDENTITY BOX Name: Jean Kennedy Birthplace: Jamaica, West Indies Ethnic Identity: Black Religious affiliation: Christian Political affiliation: Democrat Most frequented part of Fresno: The Tower District Inspirations: Marcus Garvey, Winston Churchill (as a voice of courage), Obama (for his willingness “to step up”) Motto: “If you get lemons, make lemonade.” Nonprofessional interests: Travel Unlikely pleasure: Old comedy films and shows

In the spring of 2008, “Sister Jean” discovered that a group of homeless women whose diagnoses had led to court-mandated medication were unable to get water at their encampment to take their pills. Unsuccessful in getting the City of Fresno to provide a water line, she has created a network of folks who have been delivering bottled water for more than a year.

Jean also took an opportunity afforded by acquaintances to host a monthly radio show, “Health Comes at a Premium,” on KFCF-FM (88.1), which airs 8 p.m.-10 p.m. the third Monday of each month as part of the weekly Valley Black Talk series. Her show deals with a variety of community health issues, giving guests the chance to “testify” about situations that concern them and services they provide-with ongoing attention to AIDS/HIV.

Meanwhile, Jean has a professional life, too, as an instructor of women’s studies and counseling at three Central Valley colleges: Fresno State, Fresno City College and West Hills College in Coalinga. No matter which school she is at or which subject she is teaching, her intentions remain constant. “In this society, and especially in social science classes, we have to deal with issues of diversity, of differing values and perspective. Anyway, the minute I open my mouth, my background becomes an issue.”

She also tries to induce students to go beyond their textbooks: “I want students’ experiences in the classroom to become the basis of discussion and learning; and I want students to become involved in community development work as part of the curriculum.”

Another constant in her work is dealing with the narrow brand of individualism so many Americans are taught to accept as their birthright. “I repeatedly have people tell me that there’s no room for discussion-what someone believes is all they need to know. And if I don’t like it, I can go back to where I came from. Just to be open to hearing another’s point of view, even if only in kindness, is viewed as weakness. I ask myself, ‘Is adopting this attitude what assimilation means, and if so, do I really belong here?’ Thirty-five years is a long time to be asking this.”

But Jean says she feels blessed in having found a support system that has steadied her when all she had were questions without answers. “I want to especially thank Ellie Bluestein, who has been like my American mother. She has always been there for advice and consolation. And my two very American children, DeAndre and Cherene, are my continuing inspiration.”

Jean uses her summers to travel, often back to Jamaica, or to Atlanta where she has family. “I really appreciate the change of perspective, to be exposed to international points of view and get some validation for remaining true to myself. But come August, I guess I’ll be back here trying to hold together this crazy life of mine.”

Jean can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 559-270-1023.

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Organizational Profile: Local Motion

Local Motion is an organization that seeks to offer and utilize alternative and viable modes of transport to support community members, create closed cycles and provide local solutions promoting sustainability, according to its mission statement.

Local Motion runs a “Scraps to Soil” project in which food waste is collected from local restaurants and turned into compost. Scraps are taken by bicycles with trailers to the Tower District community garden, backyard gardens, Studio Itz, Fresno City College and The Homestead in downtown Fresno. “Scraps to Soil” was born out of a desire to mitigate unsustainable patterns of waste in local restaurants and create a closed cycle in which said waste is utilized to cultivate nutritious food for the community. “Scraps to Soil” endeavors to mimic natural systems in which waste and inefficiencies are virtually nonexistent.

Local Motion currently has three collection routes: the Tower District, Shaw Avenue and downtown Fresno. Although Local Motion eventually hopes to expand and begin a bicycle-powered grocery delivery service from local farmers markets to people’s kitchens and propagate plants and worms for backyard gardens, it is currently focusing on perfecting current efforts and ensuring high quality.

Ashley Boujikian, working at the Mariposa and B Street property (referred to in this article as the “Homestead”). The 1/3 acre is now the site of a composting project that will revitalize the soil and establish a community garden that will provide fresh fruit and vegetables for the neighborhood.

How long has Local Motion been in existence?

Local Motion is off to a promising start having been started two months ago.

Who runs the show?

Although she shies away from titles, Ashley Boujikian, a Fresno City College student, is the main organizer and a founder of Local Motion. Currently in her fifth semester at City College, Boujikian hopes to transfer to Fresno State soon to pursue a degree in art or another creative field.

Boujikian was inspired to begin this effort as a result of an apprenticeship with a cob home (homes made out of sand, clay and straw) builder and an agroforestry and permaculture internship in Belize, which enlightened her about similar efforts by groups across the country and gave her a new perspective on the challenges inherent in starting community projects.

Aside from Boujikian, Local Motion comprises primarily Fresno City College students but is open to any interested community members.

Who else is involved?

Fresno City College history instructor Paul Gilmore is a faculty adviser to Local Motion, and the Fresno Center for Nonviolence acts as the group’s fiscal agent.

How can I help?

Local Motion needs the following items:

  • Buckets and containers (for transporting compost)
  • Individuals with metalworking skills who can help build bike trailers
  • Bike gear
  • Sun protection (e.g., hats, bandanas)
  • Volunteers to run routes

All donations are tax-deductible and can be dropped off at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence (1584 N. Van Ness Ave.). Checks can be made payable to the FCNV with Local Motion in the memo line.

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Dr. Paul Dale Bush Receives the 2009 Veblen-Commons Award

By Alex Vavoulis

On January 3, 2009, Dale Bush received the annual Veblen-Commons Award in San Francisco during the annual meeting of the Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA). All of the major professional economics associations are members of the ASSA. The award is sponsored by the Association for Evolutionary Economics and is given to a scholar in recognition of his/her contributions to the field of evolutionary institutional economics. This prestigious award is named after two of the early American pioneers of institutional economics, Thorstein B. Veblen and John R. Commons. Past recipients of the award have been such luminaries as Gunnar Myrdal (Nobel Laureate in Economics), John Kenneth Galbraith, Rexford G. Tugwell (a former member of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “brain trust”), Robert Heilbroner and Marc R. Tool (internationally renowned institutional economist and long-time editor of the Journal of Economic Issues), among others.

Dr. Janice Peterson, a member of the economics faculty at California State University, Fresno, and one of Bush’s former students, introduced him at the awards ceremony. After commenting on Bush’s many contributions to the field of institutional economics, she ended with praise of him as a professor, a teacher and a mentor.

“We students were cautioned about accepting a particular set of theories as reality without careful consideration of the philosophical preconceptions and framework within which the different microeconomic worldviews could be identified and analyzed. This framework not only provided the opportunity for a historical and critical analysis of the economic models, but also made them fascinating to study. Instead of merely being abstract mathematical problems, microeconomic models became key players in an intellectual contest over the meaning of reality.”

At the outset of his teaching career, Dale Bush’s professional work as a scholar was delayed by several years during which he was immersed in the academic freedom wars of the California State University (CSU) system during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He earned an odious reputation in the eyes of the university administration for his advocacy of the rights to academic freedom and due process of CSU students and faculty. When he was not in the classroom, his time was spent in grievance and disciplinary action hearings throughout the state in which he represented faculty and students whom the administration had charged with engaging in actions and public utterances offensive to the powers that be. In the late 1960s, he served as the president of the Association of California State College Professors (ACSCP), a position that brought him to the disapproving attention of the Reagan administration in Sacramento. In that capacity, Bush publicly attacked Reagan’s destructive budgets for higher education and criticized State College President S. I. Hayakawa’s introduction of a police state at San Francisco State College. Amid these outrages, Bush was a leader in bringing collective bargaining to higher education in the State of California.

In 1968, Dale Bush and four other professors at the Fresno campus established the Fresno Free College Foundation to support the poet Robert Mezey, who was fired by the Fresno State College administration without cause. Since the Mezey case, the Fresno Free College Foundation has sought to protect other professors and students from administrative tyrannies and to serve as an instrument for highlighting the need
for the protection of academic freedom and due process on university campuses.


Alex Vavoulis is on the Board of Directors of the Fresno Free College Foundation, which owns and operates KFCF 88.1 FM.

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Farmers Markets in Fresno
Buy Local-Buy Fresh!

Cherry Avenue Farmers Market
4640 S. Cherry Ave.
6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday

Fresno Farmers Market
1612 Fulton St.
7 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

Kaiser Permanente Fresno Farmers Market
Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center
7300 N. Fresno St.
8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

River Park Farmers Market
River Park Shopping Center
Blackstone and Nees Aves.
5 p.m.-9 p.m.

Tower Farmers Produce Market
1501 N. Van Ness Ave.
8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday

The Vineyard
NW corner of Shaw and Blackstone Aves.
3 p.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday
7 a.m.-noon Saturday

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Is The CSU College Door Closing?

By Dan Waterhouse

As fall semester nears at Fresno State, students, faculty and staff are all staring budgetary ruin square in the face. The CSU system is teetering on the edge of financial disaster.

Student Board of Trustee member Russel Statham held a town hall meeting on July 15. He sat down with a group of students from several campuses, including Cal State Long Beach, San Francisco State, Cal State Stanislaus, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Fresno State upstairs in the Student Union to brief them on the crisis and get their feedback. Statham, along with the rest of the board, met in Long Beach on July 21.

The four main goals of CSU budget planning this coming academic year centered on serving as many students as possible with quality instruction and related services, protecting as many jobs as possible, maintaining the university’s financial integrity and planning beyond the 2009/2010 fiscal year.

Statham explained that, in looking at the $26 billion deficit in the overall California budget (which translates to 25% of thetotal general fund), the Board “knows the (budget) situation will get worse.” He said that, even if enough adjustments can be made to erase this year’s shortfall, there will be one next year. He acknowledged that there will be continuing deficits in the years to come.

He added that, because of both the deficit and the cash crisis-tax revenues not matching predictions, the CSU has been paying its bills out of reserve funds. At some point this fall, Statham said, the system will run out of money and won’t be able to pay faculty and staff, or vendors. He called the situation “extremely grim.”

Statham told the group that CSU has a deficit right now of $584 million. He said that equals having 20% fewer students, faculty and staff, and at least two fewer campuses. He said the $584 million total does not reflect the $66.3 million in permanent cuts made last February nor the $40.5 million in new mandatory costs. He concluded that planning had to take into account a long economic recovery and the expiration of several temporary taxes in July 2011.

The solutions the Board of Trustees are pursuing, according to Statham, include a system wide reduction of $200 million; furloughs and layoffs, with a $275 million savings; student fee increases; and policy changes. He said the systemwide reduction is based on the number of fulltime equivalent students, and how cuts are made is being left to each campus to decide. Fresno State is looking at a reduction campuswide of $18 million-$20 million.

CSU student trustee Russel Statham (left) is joined by current Fresno State student president Jessica Sweeten as he speaks at the town hall

At Fresno State, 1,637 course sections were cancelled on July 14 for fall semester. That translated into a 25% reduction in classes over last fall semester. The next day, four of the unions representing Fresno State staff (not faculty) voted in favor of two-day a month furloughs. The vote at Fresno State was 231 in favor of ratification and 42 against, said Nancy Kobata, the Fresno Chapter 309 president. Fresno State staffers are members of four statewide bargaining units of the California State University Employees Union, SEIU Local 2579, which represent administrative staff, librarians, plant operations workers, office workers, technicians and other employees. However, even with furloughs, the funding gap at Fresno State would remain at $18 million-$20 million, according to school officials.

One of the students at the meeting told me she had been hired as a part-time lecturer in her department at the end of spring semester. She said all part-time faculty have been laid off at Fresno State.

The trustees were to consider a 22% increase in fees, in addition to the 10% approved a few months ago, for fall semester. Virtually all the students urged Statham to vote no on the latest increase, and several pressed him for a commitment that he would vote no. Statham replied that he had “not made a decision, My role is to analyze information and do the best thing for students. At the end of the day, I have to ask myself: Will things be worse for students if we don’t pass a fee increase?”

Aaron, a San Francisco State student, told Statham he feels this (the cuts and fee hikes) is “an experiment in how much shit we’re willing to take” and urged him to vote no. Statham replied that “without a fee increase, we are looking at massive amounts (tens of thousands) of students who won’t get in or will be forced out of the university.”

A policy change the trustees were to vote on at the July 21 meeting was to allow the campus presidents to authorize the filing “on the student’s behalf” for graduation, once degree requirements were fulfilled. This is planned to be one of the tools to reduce enrollment. The CSU also closed enrollment for spring 2010 semester in mid-July, which will cut an approximated 2,000 students. The system has to reduce enrollment by an additional 32,000 for the 2010-2011 academic year.

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Reviewing the Office of Independent Review

By Jay Hubbell

After a decade or more of local progressive activists under the aegis of the Central California Criminal Justice Committee pushing to have the City of Fresno create a position that most cities call an independent police auditor (IPA), the mayor and the City Council of Fresno have created a department they have titled “The Office of Independent Review.”

Amy Guerra, Esq., a local defense attorney, is a member of the mayor’s eight-person panel that is tasked with reviewing applications for the person who will head up the new office. She was the guest speaker at the July 8 meeting of Fresno Stonewall Democrats. The following is a sampling of some of her presentation and the
Q & A from those present.

Besides Guerra, the hiring review panel includes Police Chief Jerry Dyer, Jackie Parks of the Fresno Police Officers Association, Mayor Ashley Swearingen, City Council Member Cynthia Sterling, City Manager Andrew Souza, a professor from CSUF with a background in auditing data and statistics, and another defense attorney. Guerra and the other community members were drawn from the mayor’s larger community advisory group.

The resumes are referred from a head hunter company hired by the city. Guerra seemed impressed by both the quality and quantity of applicants who are from the IPA “industry.” The resumes will go through some process of winnowing until those left will have personal interviews. The hiring panel will then make a recommendation to the city manager who will then do the actual hiring of the reviewer who will report to him.

The reviewer’s main function will be to accumulate data and statistics to see if there are patterns of conduct within the police department that can be remedied. The Office of Independent Review will have an annual budget of $360,000 to spend, and the reviewer will have two aides: one to investigate and a community outreach person who will liaison with various communities in Fresno.

According to Guerra, it is not expected that the OIR will be activated until July 2010. The formative intention of creating this office is to give it a five-year life span after which it will be evaluated for renewal or dissolution.

Some of the hanging questions raised included: (Ray Ensher) “What about complaint procedures? What kind of time frame can we expect and will complaints continue to go through the police department’s internal affairs or will they go to the reviewer? (Dan Martin, Esq.) “Police use ‘148s’ charging people with resisting arrest after the fact. It is important to track which officers are abusing their authority.” Others asked if the data will be made public and how often the data will be released. There was a question about how officers are trained at the police academy. Victor Kral pointed out that Fresno police are among the highest paid in the nation and that we should expect more for what we are paying.

Guerra admitted that quantifying the data as valid makes the assumption that the data is actually a fair representation of what is actually happening. This was in response to Ensher’s skepticism that this will actually be an independent look at the problems with police behavior.

Martin brought up what is called “The Hawthorne Effect” where problems with police that are highlighted tend to get better for that reason alone.

Ms. Guevara summarized that the goal is to increase transparency.

Regardless of the choice of reviewer, we still have a long wait to see if the long-awaited office will have any positive effect on Fresno’s police accountability problems.


Jay Hubbell is the founder of the Fresno Stonewall Democrats and is active in the peace and social justice community. He may be reached at

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From the Greenhouse

By Franz Weinschenk

Currently Available: Tax Credits and Rebates. You have probably heard about these two “biggies.” If you invest in a solar system for your home, besides qualifying for a federal tax credit of 30% of the purchase price, you also receive a hefty rebate from the State of California. Bottom line: You will probably get better than 40% of your solar system paid for, and you can use the monthly savings of about 80% of your current electric bill to pay off the remainder.

Then there is the “Cash for Clunkers” program that Congress just passed. You get a $4,500 stipend if you trade in your old car and buy a new one that gets 10 mpg better mileage than your old car and $3,500 if the new car gets 4 mpg better mileage. In either case, your new car must get at least 22 mpg.

And there is more. From now until the end of 2010, you can get a federal tax credit of 30% of the cost-up to $1,500-when you purchase any of the following (singly or in combination): home insulation, double-paned windows, insulated doors, approved heating or cooling systems or approved water heaters. Depending on the model, you might even qualify for a larger tax credit when purchasing a hybrid or plug-in hybrid car.

Insulation. You can qualify for a tax credit if you buy insulation to be used in your attic and/or exterior walls to keep the cold out in winter and the heat out in summer. There are probably few homes in the Central Valley that do not have at least some insulation, but if yours does not have much, or what you have is old and compacted, you will likely increase your home’s energy efficiency by adding to what you have. Check with an insulation specialist before having paper covered rolls or vats of insulation installed because in some instances the backing may lead to water condensation that in turn might generate mold. Besides insulating your attic and outside walls, have someone check all the seals of outside doors and windows as well as all your ductwork for leaks. A well-insulated house is more comfortable to live in and costs less to heat and cool.

Double-paned windows and outside doors. If you do not already have these, now might be a good time to consider installing them because of the availability of the tax write-off. Once installed, you will notice that they will insulate your interior living space from outside temperatures and consequently save you in heating and cooling costs. They also soften outside noise thus making your home more livable. As with insulation, you can write off 30% of your cost up to $1,500.

Water heaters. The same tax credit applies to new water heaters-gas, electric, tank-less or solar-as long as the heater you select is marked “Energy Star.” In all cases, this label means that the product has been tested and approved for energy efficiency by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Cars. This program is separate from the “Cash for Clunkers” program. Here, we are talking mainly about hybrid gasoline-electric, diesel-battery-electric or other alternative fuel vehicles. The amount of tax credit you receive is based on a formula determined by the weight, technology and fuel economy compared to base-year models. Once a company sells 60,000 of these kinds of vehicles, the amount of tax credits you get from that manufacturer goes down. Because both Toyota and Honda have sold their quota, the tax credits you get for purchasing their models is limited. However, credits are still available for Ford, GM and Nissan models. To find out how much you can get on the car of your choice, visit

Although not all that much money, PG&E is providing rebates that are well worth looking into. You can get $400 for having a technician come out and “duct seal” your home. When leaky ducts blow heated or cooled air into non-living spaces like your attic, it is a complete waste of energy and money. You can also qualify for a $300 rebate if you replace a furnace more than 15 years old with a new approved one.

Here are four more: If you buy an approved whole-house fan, you qualify for a $100 rebate, a new clothes washer gets you $75 and a new dishwasher or room air-conditioner gets you $50 each. With any of these incentives, be sure to check with PG&E that the product you buy is approved; also make sure that the folks you hire to make repairs are qualified.

If you are interested in any of the above, check out the tax credits and rebates for which you are eligible. You will save on the purchase price and on your monthly energy bills. Best of all, you will lower the amount of greenhouse gases you emit into the atmosphere.


Franz Weinschenk has been a teacher and school administrator in Fresno for more than 50 years. E-mail him at

Is This War Necessary?

By Ruth Gadebusch

Thinking people have long concluded that the war in Iraq should not have been, but can we say that the same conclusion has been reached about the war in Afghanistan? Is Osama bin Laden worth the carnage to us and to the Afghans?

Our withdrawal from Iraq is supposedly under way, even if ever so slightly, but we are escalating matters in Afghanistan. One can only wonder why. We cannot even trust those Afghans who are supposedly on our side. With the increased number of deaths of their people, the British, our major ally, are getting restless. For centuries, no Western country has been able to prevail in the Afghan topography with the presence of fiercely independent tribes.

Most assuredly, our high-technology instruments of war make us more enemies than friends even among those whom we count on to work with us. After all, bombs are not discretionary. They kill the good (civilians) with the bad (the targeted enemy).

It is time for us to give up policing the world. I do not mean isolation. That is not possible. With available technology, oceans and distance no longer allow such. I am thinking of using our resources for peaceful means. While draining our own resources, we are not helping others by using those dollars to continue to develop the greatest military power the world has ever known.

As a side note, let me caution that we not blame the military. After all, the mark of a democracy is civilian control of the military. It is the industrial complex profiting from weapons expenditures that we should fear. Profits are gained from supplying our military and others-some our sworn enemies-around the world.

Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, has compiled a list of more than 40 incidents involving our military since World War II. Korea and Vietnam are well known, but there are ever so many more of lesser consequences. We also remember the invasion of Grenada and the blockade of Cuba (mighty powers of the Caribbean?) and our current actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but how often do we think of our various actions in the Balkans, Somalia and Libya, to name but a few? Some may have produced good results in the short term but did not serve us well in the long run.

Part of our current troubles in the Mideast arise from the troops we had stationed in Saudi Arabia where lives were lost in a bombing of a barracks as well as other confrontations. Then there were the Marines who lost their lives in Lebanon. The list is long. The question is in just how many of those encounters should we have been involved. Were they worth the price to us or to the civilians of those locales? Are we really improving matters with our interference?

And then there is the Israel-Palestine conflict. Whose side are we on there? It may not have been military, but we insisted on an election that produced Hamas as winner, results not to our liking, leading us to become involved ever more deeply.

It is not as if we are in such good shape in this nation that we have the expertise to tell-demand?-others how to operate their nations. Our democracy did not sell well in Iraq, leaving our intention to set a model for the rest of the area in disarray. There are times when we are left with no choice but to go to war, and we should be prepared for such occasions. However, we have been the instigator all too often in recent years. Oh, we do not look on ourselves as the instigator but rather as rescuers. But our rescue is frequently not welcome, and the results are not always what we wanted.

I am not such a Pollyanna that I expect peace to suddenly break out all over the planet, but I do think our nation’s role needs to be reassessed. I leave you with this thought: Think how many more monuments there are to war than to peace. Think what we are spending on war currently. Yet, we claim to be a peace loving people. Admittedly, not everybody claims to be for peace for there are those who see no way to solve differences other than violently. They might not think of themselves as warmongers, although many more than we like to think qualify for just such a name. Are we allowing the voices of this latter group to speak louder than those of us who believe there is a better way?

Is this what we really want our nation to be? I believe it was Mahatma Gandhi who insisted that the world had enough resources for life, just not for greed. It all depends on how we use that wealth.


Ruth Gadebusch is a former naval officer, a Fresno Unified School District Trustee for 13 years, vice president of the Center for Civic Education and a community activist.

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Progressive Religion…Is Not an Oxymoron

Brief Notes

By David E. Roy

In the process-relational vision we are once again invited, beckoned, to see and to feel, what we have been called to see and feel by other great visions of life-our personal relatedness to all creatures and the moral obligations and challenges that relatedness calls forth. We are called to care for the common good, to work intelligently and lovingly for social and economic justice, sustainable economic and environmental practices, religious teachings and practices that nurture harmony rather than hatred, and political structures that empower rather than coerce and impoverish.

– C. Robert Mesle,
Process-Relational Philosophy:
Introduction to Alfred North Whitehead (p. 90)

[Unlike the past,]…virtually every town in America [today] is living space for a variety of religions. Hindu temples are raised, Buddhists meet in sanghas, Muslims build mosques…[P]ersons from religions other than one’s own are now neighbors…How do Christians deal with that phenomenon? Our Christian past has traditionally taught us there is only one way to God, and that is through Christ. But we are uneasy. Our neighborliness teaches us that these others are good and decent people, good neighbors, or loved family members! Surely God is with them as well as with us.

– Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki,
Divinity & Diversity (pp. 9-10)

Many very intelligent people are still operating out of a simplistic view of faith. Too many have been led to assume that faith is incompatible with intellectual challenge and integrity. They have stopped expecting the church to ask this of them.

– John B. Cobb Jr.,
Becoming a Thinking Christian (p. 7)

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By Ingrid Carmean

This spring, the local cockroaches relished the intense rains and intermittent warmth. Their populations increased tremendously. So you see more of them, but do you need to hire someone to treat your house?

There are five species of cockroaches common in the Fresno area. The one we worry about, the German, or “New York City,” cockroach and four others: Field, Oriental, American and, recently, Turkestan.

Field cockroaches are common in this area. They are frequently confused with German cockroaches. Field cockroaches live outside and occasionally wander inside. Once inside, they will die within a few days because our homes are so much drier than the areas in which these cockroaches live.

Usually, field cockroaches do not appear in our homes until the fall, however, this spring I received several calls from clients who thought they had German cockroach problems but instead they had field cockroaches. Just a few (or more) field cockroaches happened to wander into their homes. These field cockroaches have less impact on our lives than crickets.

The field cockroaches look very much like German, but if you look closely, and maybe you need a magnifying glass to do so, they have a distinct dark line down the middle of the face; the German cockroach does not have this line. Note the picture below.

There are other differences, but this is the easiest to observe. A field cockroach problem rarely needs a chemical treatment, but the German cockroach, because of its association with asthma and filth, usually does need a chemical treatment.

Cockroaches live on very little and very diverse food items. After using the primary control methods of sanitation, vacuuming and removal of habitat, if you still have German cockroaches (and most will), then the use of gel baits or bait stations is recommended. As with most chemical controls for pests how it is used is more significant than what brand or kind of chemical you use.

The three other types of cockroaches (Oriental, American and Turkestan) will be covered in a future article.


Ingrid Carmean is a peace activist and an entomologist with Carmean Pest Management.

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Kettleman City Residents Demand Environmental Justice Now!

By Mike Rhodes

One of the young participants at the march and rally. Photos by Mike Rhodes

Kettleman City is a small town in the southwestern San Joaquin Valley. The city is next to I-5 and is the site of the largest toxic waste dump in the western United States. About 200 residents held a march and rally on July 18 to protest a cluster of birth defects that have recently been exposed. Maricela Mares-Alatorre is a mother and has lived in Kettleman City for 31 years. She also helped organize the march. Mares-Alatorre said that “in the past we have fought a lot of issues with our local toxic landfill, which is the largest in California. Currently, they are in the process of an expansion, but what we are asking for is a moratorium on all of those permits until there is an investigation as to why there are so many children being born with a cleft palate. We have had a cluster here; in a 14-month period from 2007 to 2008 five children have been born with a cleft palate. We just found out this morning that there is another woman who is pregnant who will also have a child with a cleft palate, and we believe that until that is investigated and they know why it is happening that there shouldn’t be any more permits issued.”

Maura Alatorre is one of the mothers whose child was born with a cleft palate. Alatorre said she was at the rally because “it is in honor of the children that were born with these deformities, and thanks to the attention that everybody is putting into this rally there will be attention put to the problem in Kettleman City and that will help.”

On July 17, Kings County health officials said they were on a fast track to investigate the high incidence of birth defects in Kettleman City. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also released a statement on Friday saying that it will be working with the county and the state to determine if the incidents are related to environmental factors.

But Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, chief medical officer for Waste Management, the corporation that runs the toxic waste dump in Kettleman City, said, “I’ll make a guess that you’ll not find that cluster, that it does not exist.” Bradley Angel, the executive director for Green Action for Health and Environmental Justice, one of the groups that helped organize the march, responded to Hoffman’s statement by saying “this so-called medical spokesperson had the outrageous nerve to say there is no cluster of birth defects and dead kids here. This is outrageous. It is so outrageous that this morning a number of the parents, some of whose children had died, confronted the local Chem Waste representative. She was shocked and told the parents and myself that her own company statement was insulting to Kettleman City. We are demanding a retraction.”

A march and rally was held in Kettleman City on Saturday, July 18, to protest a cluster of birth defects that participants say is probably connected to pesticide used on nearby farms or a toxic dump site located just outside of town. Five children out of 20, born in Kettleman City in the last 18 months had birth defects. Three of them died. The photo above is Maura Alatorre and her child, who was affected by the cluster of birth defects in Kettleman City.Maricela Mares-Alatorre is a mother and has lived in Kettleman City for 31 years. She also helped organize the march.  

After the rally, marchers headed for the main business district in Kettleman City, many of them holding signs demanding environmental justice and green flags from the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, another group that helped organized the march and rally. Bradley Angel said they were there to end environmental racism. He said that “this rally here today is to oppose the expansion of the largest hazardous waste dump in the western United States, run by Chem Waste, to oppose the proposed Avenal Power Plant, which would be the second biggest air polluter in the southern San Joaquin Valley, and oppose the environmental racism that is associated with this. We are also here to plea for the government agencies to stop the dumping on this community due to all of the dead kids we have in Kettleman City, all of these kids with birth defects. Enough is enough!”

The march went through the “business district” where Highway 41 meets I-5.Bradley Angel, the executive director for Green Action for Health and Environmental Justice, one of the groups who helped organize the march.

Groups like Green Action and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment have joined strategic alliances with residents in rural San Joaquin Valley communities to improve water and air quality, as well as confront problems such as this cluster of birth defects. Together, they are demanding that no new expansions take place at the toxic waste site until it is determined what is causing the birth defects.

For more information about environmental justice issues in the San Joaquin Valley, see and

There were about 200 people at the rally and march.

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  • Mike Rhodes

    Mike Rhodes is the executive director of the Community Alliance, was the editor of this newspaper from 1998 to 2014 and the author of several books. Contact him at

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  • David Roy

    David E. Roy, a recently retired psychotherapist after 45 years, moved to Fresno in 1987. His Ph.D. combined psychotherapy, philosophy and theology. He’s worked as a journalist in Tucson, was on Fresno’s Human Relations Commission and was the first marriage and family therapist hired by Fresno County. He’s currently working on a coherent theory about the roots of our species’ current trend toward domination and violence. He oversees 12 rescued cats.

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  • Ruth Gadebusch

    Ruth Gadebusch, a former naval officer, was recently recognized by the League of Women Voters with its Lipton Award for volunteer work in various community endeavors. She was elected four times to the Fresno Unified School District Board, appointed by Governor George Deukmejian to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and is an emeritus member of the Board of the Center for Civic Education.

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  • Boston Woodard

    Boston Woodard is a freelance journalist who spent 38 years in prison. He has been a contributing writer for the Community Alliance since 2005. Boston is the author of Inside the Broken California Prison System.

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