Image screen captured from Reuters article by Hannah Brandt.

From the Incoming Editor – December 2013

By Chip Ashley

Chip Ashley (left) is the new Community Alliance newspaper editor. Mike Rhodes (right), who has been the editor of this paper since June 1998, is moving on to explore new opportunities (like writing books, traveling and spending more time with his wife Pam). Photo by Richard Stone
Chip Ashley (left) is the new Community Alliance newspaper editor. Mike Rhodes (right), who has been the editor of this paper since June 1998, is moving on to explore new opportunities (like writing books, traveling and spending more time with his wife Pam). Photo by Richard Iyall

Mike Rhodes has edited the Community Alliance newspaper since 1998, and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for the help and encouragement he has freely given me.

I have no plans for major changes to the paper. Rhodes has built a strong team, which remains in place with a renewed commitment to making this newspaper the best in the Fresno area. I am a member of this team and will continue to listen to the other members in making editorial decisions.

As the name Community Alliance implies, this newspaper is all about an alliance of like-minded groups and individuals in Fresno, Fresno County and the San Joaquin Valley region.

But the Community Alliance “team” is more than the editorial and managing boards and writers who work hard each month to produce this unique newspaper. The larger team is the community itself, and for the paper to continue to grow and serve, the community has to renew its commitment to the paper and to the community alliance (small “c” and “a”) it serves.

The paper has continued to grow during Rhodes’ tenure as editor. It now has around 400 subscribers and many sustainers who contribute financial support. I want to thank these generous folks for their continued support. But the paper clearly has many more than 400 readers—thousands of them. We distribute at least 10,000 papers each month to libraries and businesses throughout the area. Imagine what we could accomplish if 2,000, 5,000 or 10,000 people subscribed!

Earlier this year, progressive groups, including local labor unions, organized to prevent Mayor Ashley Sweaienein from selling off Fresno’s award-winning solid waste agency. With the defeat of Measure G and privatization of a public service earlier this year, the community served by this monthly passed an important milestone and began to feel the strength it wields when everyone in the progressive community finds common cause and works together. The community has begun to realize, as a collective, that local issues are really more important to our community than state or national issues—that it really all starts with local issues. The Community Alliance newspaper played a vital role in this victory, with stories like Michael D. Evans’ “Measure G Outcome Depends on You.”

The community got together behind the City of Fresno’s General Plan update in 2012 and forced the Fresno City Council to pass a truly progressive plan based on building a healthy community. We were able to usurp power from the powerful developers who have almost always controlled the planning process. Lots of us worked hard to keep the citizens of Fresno coming to meetings and making their feelings known. I helped celebrate the victory with my story in the May 2012 edition, “The City General Plan: Can Fresno Grow Up?”

We have to keep the pressure on the City Council and the mayor to make sure they stay on track with the requirements of the new General Plan. This will take the constant attention of citizens, and the Community Alliance will keep them informed.

The community of Calwa proved that local organizing can bring change when they were able to defeat two corrupt members of the Park and Recreation District and replace them with activists Sandra Celedon and Felicia Salcido, who raised community awareness and achieved an electoral victory. The Community Alliance published Celedon’s article, “Let’s Take Back Calwa Park: A Story of Corruption and Gross Mismanagement,” in our July 2013 edition.

The Community Alliance is part of the soul of Fresno. Its job is to champion those neglected by the power structure. Rhodes has worked tirelessly keeping the community aware of the heartless dispersing of the homeless from the streets of Fresno. Friends closely associated with the Community Alliance are working to show the city how it can grow a heart and treat the homeless with dignity, kindness and generosity. They have created a model community, the Dakota Eco Garden.

Fresno is as diverse a community as can be found anywhere. The Community Alliance has celebrated this diversity with stories on the many ethnic groups in Fresno and Fresno County. We regularly publish stories on the LGBTQ community, on immigration and immigration reform, police reform, jail and prison conditions and reform, social and environmental justice, education and more. Admittedly, I have not done justice to these issues in this short editorial, but I promise to do so in coming editions of the Community Alliance.

“While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Since 1996, the Community Alliance has breathed life into Eugene Debs’ words, and as editor I am going to endeavor to continue the tradition.

I have been greatly encouraged by victories won by the people of this city, county and region. We will press on, organize and win more and more. The Community Alliance newspaper will continue to be the voice of the progressive movement in Fresno.

*****

Chip Ashley is a local environmental activist, a member of the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club and the new editor of the Community Alliance. Contact him at 559-855-6376 or wattsvalleypreservation@gmail.com.

  • 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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