Michael D. Evans

From the Editor

Community Alliance Editor Mike Rhodes took a well-deserved vacation in the weeks leading up to the publication of this month’s issue. In his stead, Michael Evans, a member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board, served as the guest editor for this issue. This month’s “From the Editor” commentary is therefore from Evans.

Michael D. Evans

Nothing makes those of us working on a progressive publication happier than seeing a populist movement spread throughout the country, indeed the world, at a breakneck pace. Occupy Wall Street, and the accompanying Occupy Everywhere demonstrations, have become the outlet for which may of us had been searching.

We are fortunate to include on these pages coverage of Occupy Fresno and Occupy Merced activities. Moreover, we have coverage from four Peace Fresno members who traveled to Washington, D.C., for October2011: Stop the Machine. Although planned long before Occupy Wall Street, the Stop the Machine activities dovetailed nicely with the Occupy events. We include a perspective of the D.C. activities from each of our four cross-country travelers.

In the mainstream media effort to disparage the protestors, we have seen a focus on such questions as “What do they want?” “What are their demands?” “Where is the focus?” Funny, those concerns didn’t seem to bother the media much when the Tea Party was complaining about any number of things.

I don’t pretend to speak for the movement, but I believe it would be fair to say that central to the concerns of those involved are that the system is broken and must be fixed, the undue influence of monied interests is at the core of our national woes, and peace, social and economic justice should be central tenets of our society.

The Occupy activities also happened to coincide with Strengthening Our Voices—a forum coordinated by a coalition of local progressive groups designed to create synergies among progressive organizations in our community to help us better achieve our common goals. A coordinating council is being formed to continue that effort. Perhaps we’re a step ahead of Occupy outcomes elsewhere.

Now that the battle is well under way, we must be vigilant and persistent. Winning, in this case, will bring about a better society for us all.

*****

With everything going on at the national and state levels, not only with the Occupy movement but also with budget slashing and legislative initiatives, it is easy to lose sight of what is happening locally. But now is not the time for us to lose focus of our local concerns.

A sampling of current issues:

  • Public hearings are currently under way regarding the City of Fresno General Plan and Development Code Update.
  • Mayor Ashley Swearingen has released a proposal for the Fulton Mall redevelopment.
  • The Fresno City Charter is under review by a committee tasked with identifying “efficiencies and best practices.”
  • Walmart is looking to expand its Pinedale store and extend it to 24-hour operation.
  • By the time you read this, City Council Member Lee Brand will likely have succeeded in passing legislation to allow residents of the City of Fresno to carry concealed weapons.
  • Although largely resolved for U.S. Congress, State Senate, State Assembly, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and the Fresno City Council, district reapportionment is still being addressed by the Fresno Unified School District and the State Center Community College District.

Public input on all of these issues is essential. On many issues before these local governmental bodies, our representatives may hear from only one or two people. Without proper questioning from the community, these elected officials will rely far too often on the preferences of those parties with a vested interest in the outcome.

Symptomatic of what we’re up against is the city’s Charter Review Committee. It consists of nine members—no women, no Latinos. It doesn’t look at all like our city, and the outcomes will not reflect the community’s interests unless we speak up. Let’s make our voices heard.

*****

On a lighter side, I was thrilled last month to have seen three musical legends—Merle Haggard, Dave Alvin and Tom Russell—all in Fresno. With the addition of attractive, well-run venues like Fulton 55 and the continuing support of organizations like the Fresno Folklore Society, the Central Valley Blues Society and JazzFresno, it is no longer necessary to travel three hours to the Bay Area to hear excellent touring artists.

 

  • Mike Rhodes is the executive director of theCommunity Alliance newspaper and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. www.mikerhodes.us is his website. Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

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