IN THIS ISSUE:
Fresno Is Ground Zero in Labor Struggle
Are We All Socialists Now?
Baucus’ Raucous Caucus
From the Editor
Progressive News Briefs
Will Changes in Democratic Leadership Affect the Central Valley?
Rebirth of the San Joaquin River
ACLU Files (new) Lawsuit Against the City of Fresno
Fr. Louie Vitale to Speak in Fresno
Homeless Advocate = Terrorist Threat?
Homelessness in Fresno – are we on the right track?
The Goody Bag Project
Music and Arts Calendar
Peace and Social Justice Calendar of Events
The Human Right to Water Act of 2009
Opinion & Analysis from the Grassroots
Fresno Is Ground Zero in Labor Struggle
By Mike Rhodes
Local healthcare union activists charge that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is run by unelected, out-of-town bureaucrats who negotiate sweetheart deals behind closed doors with corporate CEOs. Organizers and members of the National Union for Healthcare Workers (NUHW) believe labor unions should be militant, member-driven organizations that fight for better pay and benefits for their members. They are in a David & Goliath–like struggle with SEIU (aka Goliath), which has everything money can buy, but NUHW (aka David) has a secret weapon—the support of the workers.
Fresno is ground zero in this struggle over the future of the union movement because more than 10,000 home care workers will vote this month (June 2009) to decide which union will represent them. This is the first major election in the country where workers will get to chose between NUHW and SEIU. The outcome of this election will determine whether home care workers will have a grassroots democratically elected union or one that imposes leadership from the top down.
SEIU, which is based in Washington, D.C., took over the local home care workers union in a trusteeship that took place on Jan. 27, 2009. As a result of the trusteeship, the elected leadership of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers-West (SEIU-UHW) was removed, members and their supporters were forced out of their own union hall and SEIU appointed new “leaders” for SEIU-UHW. When the takeover happened, most of the staff of SEIU-UHW left and, along with thousands of healthcare workers, formed NUHW.
Kaiser workers in Fresno and throughout the state were affected by the hostile takeover of SEIU-UHW. Within a month of the takeover, a majority of the 60,000 statewide Kaiser workers petitioned to leave SEIU-UHW and join NUHW. Kaiser members said that the new union was more democratically run and would be successful at winning better contracts at the bargaining table.
“We want to stay united in NUHW with the leaders we elected,” said Janet Shepherd, a respiratory therapist at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. “They helped us build our union and win the best healthcare contract standards in the country. Why would we want to be part of an SEIU union run by unelected staff we’ve never heard of?”
SEIU’s response to the majority of workers at Kaiser, who wanted to be represented by NUHW, might have been to support the democratic will of the workers. SEIU is currently lobbying Congress to support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would recognize workers as a collective bargaining unit if a majority of them sign a union card. The irony is that SEIU’s response to the Kaiser workers was to send in their attorneys to argue that workers did not have the right to a card check or even a democratic election to determine which union they wanted to represent them. SEIU has stalled elections at Kaiser facilities, but their legal posturing is being challenged by NUHW.
SEIU has threatened workers, saying that they can be fired from their jobs or removed as shop stewards for union activity in support of NUHW. Maria Garcia, a union steward and certified nursing assistant at Bay Point Healthcare Center in Hayward, was fired for circulating a petition to join NUHW.
“I’ve circulated union petitions for years with no problem,” Garcia said.
“But this time my boss said he was going to call SEIU Trustee Eliseo Medina and if he didn’t like the petition, I would be removed. After he called SEIU, he fired me, and now the union won’t respond when I call them for help. Union leaders should be on our side, not team up with administrators against us.”
Recently revealed papers, filed in federal court, show that SEIU ran up a $2.2 million bill with the OSO Group, which is just one of several security companies hired by SEIU to carry out the trusteeship of UHW. OSO Group deployed off-duty and retired police officers—at $110 per hour—to conduct surveillance of UHW’s offices and intimidate, photograph and videotape members and staff. SEIU directed the OSO Group to spy on meetings where UHW members discussed SEIU plans to move 65,000 workers to a new union without a democratic vote on the matter. The OSO Group has also been providing “protection services” for out-of-state SEIU brass visiting California.
|This demonstration was held in front of the Fresno SEIU office after a delegation of workers (dues paying members of SEIU) were not allowed into their own union hall. The doors were locked and SEIU staff hid behind the curtains, taking pictures of the members demonstrating on the sidewalk.
The takeover of the union happened when SEIU demanded that California’s healthcare union force home care and nursing home workers to join a separate union that would be run by SEIU staff from Washington, D.C. Home care workers’ elected local leaders said they would only comply if workers were allowed to vote on the transfer. Instead of allowing a vote, SEIU seized control of the local union in a hostile takeover.
Since then, healthcare workers have been organizing to stay united in NUHW. Nearly 100,000 workers at more than 360 facilities have petitioned to hold elections, including nearly every facility in Fresno County where workers are represented by SEIU.
Disability advocates support the caregivers’ decision to change unions.
“These caregivers have been working together for years and raising quality standards for the seniors and people with disabilities who depend on their care,” said John Wilkins, an advocate for home care services in Fresno. “But their old union was spending too much time and money fighting against them.”
When the takeover took place, most of the union staff left to work/volunteer for NUHW. SEIU responded by bringing in replacement workers to take over the union. Those replacement workers, who are being brought in from all over the country, are now pouring into Fresno and are expected to visit home care workers at their homes in groups of 4–5 to intimidate them into voting for SEIU. Reliable sources say they are bringing in 300–500 replacement workers to Fresno to work on this campaign, an indication of both their resources and the importance of this election.
The outcome of the home care workers’ election will have a profound impact both on the workers and the progressive community of Fresno. For home care workers, an NUHW victory would mean being represented by a union that is willing to fight on their behalf. For example, NUHW organized more than 100 Fresno home care workers to attend the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in April and oppose an agenda item that would reduce their wages and benefits to $9.50 an hour. But they weren’t just there to protest the wage cuts; they also pointed to the repeated failure of their union, SEIU, to support them in stopping the cuts.
“SEIU just failed to stop a different set of cuts last week,” said Flo Furlow, a home care worker. “Now the county wants to cut our wages even more, and this time SEIU isn’t even going to take it to arbitration. How many times can we let this happen?”
Providers’ wages are paid by In-Home Supportive Services, a service that saves tax dollars by allowing people with long-term medical needs to receive care in their own homes rather than in more costly nursing homes. It is funded jointly by the county, state and federal governments.
|“These caregivers have been working together for years and raising quality standards for the seniors and people with disabilities who depend on their care,” said John Wilkins, an advocate for home care services in Fresno. “But their old union was spending too much time and money fighting against them.”
Despite pleas from home care providers and their consumers, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted 3 to 2 to submit a “rate request” packet to the California Department of Social Services—an administrative step that would allow the cuts to take effect starting July 1.
When Fresno County began seeking cuts in September, home care workers and their elected union leaders successfully organized to stop the cuts from taking effect. That work ground to a halt in January, when national SEIU officials took over California’s healthcare union.
“Before SEIU took over, home care workers stood strong and protected our contract against these cuts,” said Furlow, who was a member of the elected bargaining team that negotiated the contract in 2006. “Now SEIU is throwing it all away. We’re joining NUHW to take back our union and protect our families and our home care consumers.”
The stake for the progressive community in this struggle can’t be understated. Having a union like NUHW in Fresno will mean having the resources to help elect progressive candidates to the City Council and Board of Supervisors. Progressive unions are one of the few organizations on the left that have the resources to move a political agenda, whether it is support for a candidate or lobbying for clean air and water or better public transportation.
|Flo Furlow, who was a member of the elected bargaining team that negotiated
the contract in 2006 said “before SEIU took over, home care workers stood strong
and protected our contract against these cuts. Now SEIU is throwing it all away.
We’re joining NUHW to take back our union and protect our families and our
home care consumers.”
The rank-and-file union members and staff that originally organized home care workers sent a “wake-up call” to employers throughout Fresno County when they won salary increases and secured healthcare benefits for these low-income workers. The symbolism and reality of thousands of minimum-wage earning workers uniting and joining a union to improve their working conditions sent a shiver up the spine of the bosses who enrich themselves off our labor. The bosses know that the example of what these workers accomplished goes beyond the healthcare sector. The message was clear: If low-income home care workers can unite and win, other groups of workers can do it too.
NUHW, on its Web site at www.nuhw.org, states a goal to provide “a principled and powerful, vibrant and democratic movement of healthcare workers, dedicated to the achievement of dignity and justice for all healthcare workers and quality, affordable healthcare for all.” It is the goal of providing a living wage, a democratic union and dignity to low-income workers that is driving NUHW in this David & Goliath–like struggle with SEIU. Ballots for the home care workers’ election will be mailed out on June 1. Home care workers will have until June 15 to return the ballot.
Mike Rhodes is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Help Fresno Homecare Workers Win Their Union Struggle
Healthcare workers need housing for volunteers coming in from out of town
and also help with the get out the vote effort from June 1 – June 14.
Call Pam Whalen at (559) 994-9390 if you can help.
The Community Alliance Asks the Question:
Are We All Socialists Now?
Representatives of the Republican Party said that the 2008 presidential election was a referendum on socialism. . . and Obama won! After the election, Newsweek magazine declared on its front page that “We Are All Socialists Now.” The Community Alliance newspaper asked readers what they thought. Here’s the responses:
Uhh, “Socialism”? Hmmm. How about state capitalism? The “socialism” that Newsweek et al is talking about is the kind of “socialism” they have had in Europe for the past 20 years (except for the dumbos in London who actually bought into the Thatcher-Reagan “magic of the market” nonsense. Rule #1: Magic works at Hogswarts. Harry Potter is quite adept. The rest is hogwash). It does work a tad better than the Anglo-Saxon version of capitalism (Google “burn, loot and ravage”), but the poor are still poor, the working people still struggle and exploitation still hums right along. My father went to prison during the McCarthy period because he was a “socialist.”
Now that he is dead, he has “won”? I don’t think he would have viewed it that way. I think he would have kept working for the real thing.
– Conn Hallinan
When I came to this country from England, I quickly learned that I should not say the word “socialist” when asked my political affiliation. People’s eyes popped out of their heads and eyebrows were raised. So I’m not surprised that people on the right side of the political spectrum are becoming vocal in pronouncing loudly that we are now, or will soon be, a socialist state. Such rubbish! I believe there should be a mix of private enterprise and government run institutions. The private sector should be out of the business of running vital programs like health and education. Their mission is to make a profit, not operate in the best interests of the public.
– Angela Price
Of course, capitalism has failed. The idea that an unregulated free enterprise system could lift all boats was always hogwash. But we will likely continue propping up the worst aspects of capitalism rather than refining our system into a more useful and (egads!) egalitarian European-style capitalist-socialist hybrid. Pure socialism is not the answer either, as there must be an infrastructure to reward incentive. What capitalism must do more effectively is recognize the centrality of workers to its success and reward them accordingly. Workers deliver for a company day in and day out; shareholders do not and, increasingly, managers do not.
– Michael D. Evans
My early political awareness is European. The majority of the social democratic systems of Europe have far-reaching social contracts between government and the people. I learned that many Americans don’t have a clue about socialism. It is widely used for vitriolic name-calling. And that is of no benefit to capitalism either. But it furthers the agenda of a an emerging bureaucratic plutocracy that is near the slippery slope to the proverbial banana republic. A very wealthy relatively small wealthy upper class, a very large class of peons and no politically independent middle class, the traditional backbone of this republic, the U.S.A.
– Isabell Lawson
It would be unlikely that a capitalistic society like the USA would ever become a Socialist country. Each party has its preferences as to how public dollars should be spent. I noticed that the Republican Party as a whole (not counting the fiscal conservatives) were not raising the issue of the escalating budget deficit until after the current president was elected. However, even if a Republican president was elected, the deficit would still be increasing; our country is hurting in a big way and throwing out divisive language like “Socialism” is not helpful to anyone.
– Dave Weikel
All of the most successful nations in the world are socialist nations already. Think of Japan, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, virtually all of Scandinavia, etc. Socialist governments make sure their citizens have access to free education, health care available to all regardless of financial status, a progressive tax rate, and a mix of strong government support AND strong regulation and oversight of the business practices of their major industries. A healthier and better educated citizenry ensures a country with a healthier and stronger economy that can provide these services, and can prosper and be competitive in the global economy. Here’s one vote for socialism, a.k.a. mixed capitalism with a human face, strict regulations, and first and foremost, concern for the health and welfare of the people.
– Patrick Young
It is the province of old men to chronicle failure-their own, primarily, but also the failure they have observed in the world around them. Wikipedia says that socialism “refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equality for all individuals, with an egalitarian method of compensation.” We are as far from that, or farther, than we have been since 1929. Real wages for working people have been in decline for more than 30 years while the incomes of the wealthy have soared. Ownership of the means of production, etc., is concentrated in a few gigantic corporations, whose executives are obscenely well-compensated and insulated from the consequences of their own greedy mistakes by a government they control. Socialism is a dream, a fantasy that recedes from the few who trouble to pursue it. The debate is not whether we should adopt socialist policies, but how we should fight Republican plans to characterize the slightest progressive reform of capitalism as socialism.
– J. Purvis
The basis of Capitalism (private ownership of everything) is inherently mistaken. While the basis of Socialism is closer to reality (Earth’s resources, problems and possibilities do rightfully belong to All earthlings), it is incomplete and fails to respect individuals of a diverse society. Socialism has been successful only in societies with many shared values, perceived needs, and beliefs. Our most recent form of pseudo-Capitalism is certainly a disaster, restricting individuals while empowering corporations. It has failed most people, the environment, and society as a whole. The trouble with going towards Socialism is that in our large, heterogeneous society, what constitutes the Communal Good is not agreed upon. Many victims of our disastrous, pseudo-Capitalist economy still believe in the most destructive aspects of that system; the few at the top of this system will manipulate these victims with merciless and effective cunning. Because of this, Socialist policies will need powerful government enforcement-a very dangerous path. We must take better care of our communal needs if our society is to survive, but are “Socialist” changes the right, best, or only way to get there? That depends on a lot of variables, starting with how we define and interpret “Socialism…” but I’m already way over 100 words.
– Jan Balcom
The fact that we are even debating right now about socialism in America reveals the power of the conservatively-dominated major media to frame our nation’s world view. What can be defined as socialistic programs have been around for several generations. This is not a new topic. The hardcore right is resurrecting this in an attempt to enflame and outrage. This is another example of their media-promoted illusions that aim at shifting our nation’s attention away from the massive destruction of the global financial system by unregulated greed that was permitted, encouraged, and conducted by people and institutions in this same right-wing camp. (These also are the people who brought us the War in Iraq.) And, unfortunately, the Fourth Estate as a separate entity is nearly gone.
– David E. Roy, Ph.D.
My limited understanding of socialism is that the workers own their means of production-i.e., family farms and worker-owned factories. The regulated-in-favor-of-capitalist system we now have is a far cry from that. We can hardly be considered “Socialists Now” because Obama is President. As I read “Free Lunch” by David Cay Johnson, I find what we have is a far cry from what Adam Smith meant as “capitalism.” I suspect Karl Marx is as equally misunderstood about what he meant by “socialism.” We can probably, however, learn a lot from socialism about creating a more fair and just
– Larry Mullen
You bet your blue booties I believe that there is life in socialism today…I believe that when the smoke clears and we come to understand that Republicans and/or Newsweek don’t have a clue what Obama is about and when those on the left come to understand that they don’t understand what Obama is either, there is a chance to move more of this country to the left….that is of course unless this country takes a page out of the German 1920’s-1930’s songbook and makes a reeeeally hard right turn into a fascist country….I have the same kind of fears about all this that Noam Chompski expressed the other day on “Democracy Now.” With soooo much power in the hands of corporations and corporations into the pockets of soooo many politicians we are only a small step away from directly connecting “government” with “corporation” and if that happens we ARE a fascist nation…Not only do I hope that this country will look again seriously at socialism, I think it is this country’s only hope…This doesn’t say much about “socialism” but it expresses my hopes and fears about the subject.
– Jim Compton-Schmidt
The idea that the Obama agenda is “socialist” in any generally accepted sense is, of course, absurd. However, if one defines socialism as the public subsidizing various forms of social infrastructure, we have always had a hybrid system. We are willing to socialize infrastructure viewed as valuable by the ruling elite (think roads, police, prisons, military), but not infrastructure that would benefit common persons, such as food, housing, or health care. Obama may represent a slight shift toward socializing basic human needs, such as health care, but I would not expect any radical, structural change in the system. Meanwhile, it should be obvious that there is no impediment on the part of the new administration to continue socialism for the financial industry in the form of the recent “bailouts.” In fact, the resources poured into subsidizing the banking system could probably more than pay for a true public health, housing, food, and transportation system. That such policies are off the table for discussion should demonstrate the “socialist” priorities of U.S. society in general, and the Obama administration will not dramatically alter those policy priorities.
– Gregory P. Fletcher
When freed slaves/serfs demanded to profit from their labor instead of being forced to hand over earnings to voracious plantation or factory owners, capitalism was born. It died the minute corporate personhood, with associated mega-greed, replaced the greedy “massah.” Workers are entitled to profit from their labor without being robbed by gluttonous corporate capitalists. Workers deserve a living wage and benefits: paid time off, bonuses, health care and fair treatment. Call that socialism if you will; it’s about time workers enjoy the fruits of their labor instead of diverting them to the creation and support of even more superavaricious multibazillionaires.
– Maria Telesco
The problem that has arisen has not been with capitalism but as a result of the trend toward deregulation of industries and the misdirection of governmental priorities. Providing social programs and government services is a far cry from socialism as we know it. Capitalism works fine when there are appropriate regulations and government controls in place.
– Chuck Krugman
With 6,778,792,699 people in the world it’s about time we became social.
– Renee Potik
Experience and history have shown that both communism and capitalism are unworkable. Both systems fall victim to the same problem: human greed. Unregulated capitalism results in what we are suffering through today in the U.S. Similarly, communism sounds good in theory…from each according to his ability and to each according to his need. However, it too crumbles when human greed and self-interest are added to the mix because most people will not work hard when the reward is not based on their effort. Socialism is a middle ground between the two extremes. We should aim for a system where the government takes control of as much as is needed to ensure a decent life for its citizens, while retaining enough of the profit motive to keep people inspired to achieve. Finding that balance is the tricky part!
– Jeff Eisinger
It is hard to give names or labels to our Nation and the People. First, we have to look back and see where we have been and what we have done to arrive at this label “Socialism or Capitalism.” America did not fail us, we failed America with our creed for more and more material things. Not only did we buy things from cars, pools, video games to TVs as big as our living rooms, we had to take the material from other countries and our own forests, mountains, lands and waters to make these things. We covered the land with homes and businesses with cement while slowly killing the grasses that once gave us clean air. We built more roads only to release more smog. We are now sitting on a pile of a mess. It now seems like Socialism is giving us the only chance to recover. When we are back on our feet we can turn to start a new beginning of Capitalism with control of the CEOs and letting people understand that a little less is not really so bad after all.
– George Madrid-Dinuba
Has capitalism died? Are we suddenly socialist? Unfortunately not. The capitalists, who own both the Republicans and the Democrats, will give working stiffs just enough socialism to prevent armed insurrection. We were lots closer to socialism in the 50s and 60s when the unions were strong. Reagan and offshoring fixed that. The capitalists have become increasingly adept at controlling the message, manipulating the system, and hoodwinking the masses. Why else would anyone making less than $200,000 a year vote for George W. Bu$h in two elections? Obama a socialist? Come on! Bring back the Wobblies! Eugene Debbs for president!
– Chip Ashley
I think the country we live in should be responsible for providing an environment in which all people have equal opportunities to meet the basic needs of life. That includes housing, education, health care, food, and safety for everyone. Now, if that makes me a Socialist-so be it.
– Philip Traynor
Call it propaganda or call it advertising, but both capitalism and socialism strive to make the individual and the general mass of humanity “dream to order.” I hope, however, that there are people awake enough to realize that the capitalist who dreams only of capitalism in fact exists only to make a fortune out of other people’s misfortunes, and the socialist who dreams only of socialism in fact exists only to make a misfortune out of other people’s fortunes. To be awake is to realize that the dreams of any particular moment in history-including dreams of capitalism and/or dreams of socialism-are too stunted and simplistic to ever encompass the vast and complex dreaming that is human reality, a dreaming that can only be truly human so long as it is not “to order.”
– Howard V. Hendrix
My family migrated from Zacatecas, Mexico, to Reedley, CA, in 1960, when I was only 11 years old. In grammar school, high school and college I would get into heated discussions on the subject of communal property vs. private property. In Mexico, after the 1910 Revolution most of the private property was given back to its original owners (the people) in the form of ejidos, which is property held in common. The mountains, rivers and forested land was considered communal property. This was the Mexico I was born and raised into. In the United States, at every turn, there were posted signs of private property and no trespassing. I, and my family, felt very restrained and alienated. In the United States we were not free to have a picnic near a brook or river or at the foot of a mountain for fear of being shot at by the owner. Today at age 60, it baffles me how an individual can lay claim to a whole mountain or a portion of river bed, here in the good U.S. of European ancestors. It was on account of these marked differences in landholding in Mexico and the United States that sparked many debates in school. My school mates had no qualms about calling me a communist and told me to go back to Mexico. When almost fifty (50) since my initial experiences with both countries: Yes, land in Mexico is now more privatized, with pressures from the U.S. run IMF and WB, but it is still markedly in the hands of communal communities, like tourist resorts in Acapulco in the hands of co-ops. Whereas here in the United States private property has become more ravaging, domineering and even savage, to the point the U.S. attempts to impose its private property system on whole countries like Iraq, Iran and now Afghanistan. To people that love peace, freedom and communal living there is no better system than a socialist system, whether it be a Mexican mixed socialist economy, Russian/Chinese type or better yet a Cuban type. I must also add to the above discussion that the Native American Way of Life, from the Aleutians to Patagonia was matriarchal, strictly adhering to Communal (Socialist) modes of living. The concept of private property did not exist until the dawning of the white men from Europe.
– Aurelio De Los Santos
I am one who sees Socialism at work here in the valley with the large farmers. I am one of 3 boys, raised here in the Central Valley. I have 3 sisters as well. But the girls did not have much of a chance on the farms in the 60’s. We were raised to believe their job was mostly to get married. My dad was a small, 100-acre farmer and I have to admit my 2 older brothers worked hard and also became farmers. In the old days in the early 70’s and 80’s they would farm and not get much in subsidies, but it seem later on in the 80’s they got into what was called “paper farming” and got a lot of money in subsidies. With this extra money they were able to buy more land, save money, send their kids to Fresno State to get their degrees. This is fine, but I believe that every kid should have the same chance their kids had. Myself, I am a retired factory worker who raised 3 daughters but none of my daughters graduated from college. Some should have and probably would have if we had a decent system that would have given them the right mind set and also the financial mindset to go to school. I do understand that it is also up to the parents to grow that mindset into their kids. I had a tough job working in one of our local slaughterhouses, and with some of these types of jobs one comes home from work so tired and in pain that you really aren’t in the right mindset to help your kids the way you should. Luckily my daughters have made it fine so far in life; most are married to hardworking husbands. I have to admit that even today, if my brothers’ kids need help financially, like buying their kids homes or cars, they even have enough money to send their now growing grandchildren to college. There are even some of their kids that don’t even work, who stay home and live off their daddies’ subsidies. I am really a firm believer in correcting a lot of the mistakes we now have in our current capitalist system. When I talk about the farmers’ kids living off subsidies, that’s really “little socialism.” They are really a drop in the bucket when you compare the big boy corporations like defense corporations and others. If the common person really sees how these people’s standard of living is, the common person really might become unglued.
– Ken Neves
One thing the philosophers seem to agree on is that man is a social being. Therefore, I would prefer to be aligned with an “ism” that is social rather than capital, just on the face of it. Capitalism has failed us in the sense that this “ism” represents an unchecked profit motive, fully bent on consuming all that it can, be it power or product. On a psychological level, capitalism and corporate ideology represent the unrestrained ego: the source of war and many other assaults on collective freedom. Thus far, it appears the only mechanism akin to conscience we have devised to counter that is government, especially the judiciary. Until we establish a profit-making system that recognizes the pursuit of social justice is an essential component of human profit as well, I feel very comfortable with the preeminence of government acting as mediator.
– Steve Malm
There is plenty of room for capitalism and socialism together. As a society, we must ensure that people all have free or low cost education, health care, housing, and food. However, we should also provide incentives to people who want to work harder. But the days of wealth without work should be over. Executives should no longer get their bonuses guaranteed by government bailouts. Sports and recreation should be for all people and not just an elite group of players who are highly skilled or can afford the equipment or a place to play. The government should also strive to provide more access to increased community resources such as parks, schools and the University. If you need to arrange for a neighborhood meeting or party, the school would be a logical meeting place. Anyone should be able to check out books and equipment at the offices.
– Glenn DeVoogd
I am a socialist and have lived under a socialist government. As soon as I got my first job I paid 12% of the gross towards medical, drug. old age pension, and social security. After that my national tax began at 15%. Everyone in a socialist society is expected to contribute as soon as they can-you can’t join after 10 quarters. You have to pay when you can and you draw out what you need. Transport was under national direction and there were standards for sewerage as well. Every child was educated to the best of its ability and for tertiary education most of us worked during the day and studied at night. I got four degrees that way. Only 20 scholarships were given to the best and sex, race, socioeconomic levels were not part of a decision. If you were handicapped or poor you worked extra hard and were not given handouts. I was a fatherless child whose mother cleaned other people’s houses. Every morning before she left on her bicycle to work I got a hot breakfast. A good flogging to some very lazy mothers would work wonders here. My teachers did not think that a boy in my circumstances would attain anything so I wasn’t given my papers for high school. My mother, who began as a Fabian recruiter and progressed to socialism, got mad and soon I was at high school. What exists in this country is bad socialism that ensures the rich keep their status. After paying many more taxes here than I would have paid in the country of my birth I still have medical insurance to face. Capitalism is your way of spelling bad socialism. As socialists we did our best out of pride and never claimed that we couldn’t be replaced. Read the book by Naomi Klein and the first page will stun you. Single payment can be done if the government wants to and people stop living on other peoples’ backs.
– Ivan Rowe
When has there been a time in this country that it has lived without an actual or supposed enemy? When no real enemy in sight, the powers, who had and have their own interests at heart, used their influence of money and power to vilify anything that might appear to negatively influence their status. And so it has been with particular ways of thinking and with words. Shocking that the word “humanist” has been made a dangerous thing. “Socialism” has been on the chopping block for a long time. Who in this country knows truly what “Fascism” is-though we have been on the brink several times without popular recognition of what we were heading into. Unless we can counteract the damage that is being done to understanding what socialism is rather than what the opinion buyers proclaim it to be, there can hardly be a rational discussion or movement involving the majority of the population in this country. In addition to creating a better understanding, more than anything, we need to get back to a social conscience. Rather than giving lip service to being one’s brother’s keeper (while chopping other’s heads off by whatever excuse) we need to develop among all of us the sense that how we treat others is a reflection of ourselves. We may not get there totally, but I firmly believe that if we do not work very hard at this, and as quickly as possible, we shall again get what we deserve-or worse.
Berlin, 1914: between 150,000 and 200,000 organized socialist workers assembled. “Moving at a solemn military pace and in an orderly fashion, the procession advanced . . . towards the Tiergarten.” Military police on horseback dispersed them, and World War I ensued. I have fond memories and deep respect for the great socialist movements that led millions of poor and working people throughout the world to struggle against superior forces for that dream, always just beyond their reach, indeed, their comprehension. One must read “The Essential Works of Marks and Engels,” perhaps the analytical treatment by the Mexican satirist Rius, and the writings of Latin American and other revolutionaries to barely scratch the surface of the movements that carried millions to revolution. Todo mi respeto es por ellos.
Are we Socialists now? Not by a longshot! Should we be socialists? Socialist or Capitalist makes little difference since both can and have resulted in despotic rule by the few. Perhaps well-regulated capitalism, with its encouragement of competition, can lead to greater progress in society. But, no matter the system, the important thing is a commitment to government for the Common Good, not to the good of just a few. For that to happen we need a secure system of checks and balances between the branches of government and between the various segments of society. The important check is the participation of every citizen in the dialogue.
– Bill Simon
Baucus’ Raucous Caucus
By Amy Goodman
|Amy Goodman’s radio show Democracy Now! is heard daily (M-F) on KFCF 88.1 FM at 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.
Barack Obama appeared last month (May 2009) with health-industry bigwigs, proclaiming light at the end of the healthcare tunnel. Among those gathered were executives from HMO giants Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Health Net Inc., and the health-insurance lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans; from the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association; from medical-
device companies; and from the pharmaceutical industry, including the president and CEO of Merck and former Rep. Billy Tauzin, now president and CEO of PhRMA, the massive industry lobbying group. They have pledged to voluntarily shave some $2 trillion off of U.S. health-care costs over 10 years. But these groups, which are heavily invested in the U.S. healthcare status quo, have little incentive to actually make good on their promises.
This is beginning to look like a replay of the failed 1993 health-care reform efforts led by then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Back then, the business interests took a hard line and waged a PR campaign, headlined by a fictitious middle-class couple, Harry and Louise, who feared a government-run healthcare bureaucracy.
Still absent from the debate are advocates for single-payer, often referred to as the “Canadian-style” health care. Single-payer healthcare is not “socialized medicine.” According to Physicians for a National Health Program, single-payer means “the government pays for care that is delivered in the private (mostly not-for-profit) sector.”
A February CBS News poll found that 59% in the U.S. say the government should provide national health insurance.
Single-payer advocates have been protesting in Senate Finance Committee hearings, chaired by Democratic Montana Sen. Max Baucus. Last week, at a committee hearing with 15 industry speakers, not one represented the single-payer perspective. A group of single-payer advocates, including doctors and lawyers, filled the hearing room and, one by one, interrupted the proceedings.
Protester Adam Schneider yelled: “We need to have single-payer at the table. I have friends who have died, who don’t have health care, whose health care did not withstand their personal health emergencies. … Single-payer now!”
Baucus gaveled for order, guffawing, “We need more police.” The single-payer movement has taken his words as a rallying cry. At a hearing Tuesday, five more were arrested. They call themselves the “Baucus 13.”
One of the Baucus 13, Kevin Zeese, recently summarized Baucus’ career campaign contributions:
“From the insurance industry: $1,170,313; health professionals: $1,016,276; pharmaceuticals/health-products industry: $734,605; hospitals/nursing homes: $541,891; health services/HMOs: $439,700.”
That’s almost $4 million from the very industries that have the most to gain or lose from healthcare reform.
Another of the Baucus 13, Russell Mokhiber, co-founder of SinglePayerAction.org, has been charged with “disruption of Congress.”
He was quick to respond: “I charge Baucus with disrupting Congress. It once was a democratic institution; now it’s corrupt, because of people like him. He takes money from the industry and does their bidding. He won’t even diffuse the situation by seating a single-payer advocate at the table.”
As I traveled through Montana recently, from Missoula to Helena to Bozeman, healthcare activists kept referring to Baucus as the “money man.” Montana state Sen. Christine Kaufmann sponsored an amendment to the Montana Constitution, granting everyone in Montana “the right to quality health care regardless of ability to pay,” or health care as a human right. It died in committee.
Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, a single-payer advocate, said his position will not likely prevail in Washington: “I don’t think there’s any possibility that that will come out of this Congress.” That’s if things remain business as usual.
Mario Savio led the Free Speech Movement on the UC Berkeley campus. In 1964, he said: “There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”
“Unless you’re free,” the Baucus 13 might add, “to speak.” The current official debate has locked single-payer options out of the discussion, but also escalated the movement-from Healthcare-NOW! to Single Payer Action-to shut down the orderly functioning of the debate, until single-payer gets a seat at the table.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour heard locally on KFCF 88.1 FM at 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. (Monday-Friday). Democracy now can also be seen on local TV Channel 49 (Comcast Channel 9) at 6 p.m. (Monday-Friday).
From the Editor
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at the Unitarian Universalist Church to tell them about the importance of alternative independent media. I gave the talk as this nation and the world was heading deeper into what is probably the most difficult economic times we have ever seen. These are hard times, not just for you and me, but for mainstream media. Last year when I spoke at the UU church I told them about the dangers of media consolidation and how that made it more difficult for the voices for peace, social, and economic justice to be heard. But now, I’m not so sure media consolidation is the No. 1 problem media faces.
Corporate media and in particular daily newspapers are in danger of extinction. Our own Fresno Bee recently announced massive cutbacks and several daily papers around the country have gone out of business. It is entirely possible that the Bee will have further cutbacks. Some media analysts think that papers like the Bee will be cutting back and print just 3 or 4 days a week.
Print media is in crisis. But, the good news is, as I told the members of the UU church, that the Community Alliance is doing great. Our ability to tell the stories of people in this community working for peace, social, and economic justice is well received and we are growing. In fact, in May we increased our circulation from 10,000 to 12,000 copies and this month we are printing 15,000.
The purpose of the CA newspaper, our stated goal, is to build a progressive movement for social justice-that includes immigrant rights, LGBTQ equal rights, environmental justice, peace and economic justice. We have recently added more local music, arts, and entertainment, our peace and social justice calendar links the many progressive groups in this area, and our news stories give you the information unavailable in the corporate media. Our long-term goal is to some day become a weekly, printing 75,000-100,000 copies. Now that would give progressives quite a voice in this community.
How can you help make news about peace, social and economic justice more readily available to the residents of Fresno/Clovis? You can ensure this message gets out by subscribing to the Community Alliance newspaper. See the subscription form on page 15.
Progressive News Briefs
By Mike Rhodes
Will the Victim of a Police Beating Be Sent to a Gulag?
Glen Beaty, the homeless man beaten by a Fresno police officer, is still in jail. The beating incident, which took place on February 9, was caught on video by a passerby. For the last several months, Beaty has been in a crowded cell in the Fresno County jail where he told me he is given one hour a week to get out and exercise on the roof. He is being held on a no bail felony for assaulting a police officer.
The officers involved in the beating incident have not been charged with a crime, and the Fresno Police Department will not release their names. This paper, individuals and other community groups have requested the officers’ names so they can see if the officers have been involved in other excessive force incidents. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit to force the release of the names. See page 7 for details.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer, at a February 12 press conference, assured the community that this incident would be fully investigated, an independent investigation by the District Attorney’s office would take place and that report would be reviewed by the California Attorney General. When this paper contacted the DA’s office in mid-May about the investigation, they said they would look into it. Word came through a City Council member’s office that the investigation was not yet complete. Beaty, in a jailhouse interview, said that the DA’s office has never interviewed him about the incident.
Rather than conducting a transparent independent investigation of this apparent excessive force incident, local government, the police and the criminal justice system have held Beaty in Jail, had him declared mentally incompetent to assist in his own defense and is in the process of having him shipped to a state mental institution. While this sounds like something that might have happened in the Soviet Union (shipping political dissidents and people who know inconvenient truths to Siberia), it is business as usual in Fresno. Beaty should not be sent to a U.S. Gulag where he may never be heard from again.
The Community Alliance demands that the truth be told about this incident, that Beaty is not further victimized and that more transparency is used in the affairs of this city’s government.
Fresno Gulag (Part 2)
While researching the story on page 9, about how a homeless advocate came to the attention of the Fresno Police Department’s Terrorism Liaison Office, I stumbled upon a secret Homeland Security detention facility in downtown Fresno. A local TV news reporter told me that the building at L and Inyo was being used by Homeland Security to detain suspected terrorists.
I immediately sent an e-mail to Sgt. Ronald Grimm, the FPD’s Terrorism Liaison Officer, asking him for a tour. He wrote back “We cannot confirm or deny the presence of a jail or detention facility located in that area. OK, that was just a little humor. The only detention facility I am aware of is at the old immigration facility on the Fulton Mall.”
Not to be detoured in bringing readers of the Community Alliance news about a Homeland Security Gulag right in downtown Fresno, I and a group of intrepid investigators made our way down to 733 L Street and we tried to go inside. The door was, to nobody’s surprise, locked. But a helpful plainclothes officer who identified himself as Mr. Rios confirmed that this was indeed a Federal facility. He said if we needed more information than that, we would have to talk to their Western Regional Communications Director/Spokesperson, Virginia Kice.
After several e-mails back and forth, Kice wrote “We have personnel housed in two different office buildings near the intersection you mentioned. If you are specifically referencing the office located at 733 L Street, that facility is home to the ICE Detention and Removal Operations personnel assigned to our Criminal Alien Program and transportation division.”
I have requested a tour of this Homeland Security detention facility. If I disappear and the next issue of the Community Alliance is not on time, you know where to begin the missing person search.
Fresno Demonstration against the Death Penalty
About 20 anti-death penalty demonstrators gathered in front of St. John’s Cathedral in Fresno on Tuesday, May 19. They joined human rights activists throughout the world in a Global Day of Action for Troy Anthony Davis, a Georgia man condemned to die for the 1989 murder of a police officer – a crime of which Davis may be factually innocent. The purpose of the demonstration was to influence the State of Georgia and the federal courts to reconsider Davis’s case.
|This anti-death penalty demonstration was held at Saint John’s Cathedral in downtown Fresno.
Speaking at the demonstration, Bryan Jessup of the Unitarian Church, said “whether a person supports capital punishment or not, there is no doubt that capital punishment is always associated with tragedy. Somebody has already lost a life, family and friends all around have already been stricken with grief. Whether related to the victim of the crime or the accused criminal-by the time the family and friends get to the execution point, the emotional pain is so intense, it defies description. But, there is no relief for anyone, if in carrying out a death sentence another crime is committed by the state and an innocent human being is slaughtered. That police officer, Mark MacPhail who was killed in 1989 in Savannah Georgia, is indeed a tragedy. But, 20 years later, to kill Troy Davis without a fair trial-to kill Troy Davis who was convicted by forced testimony from supposed eyewitnesses, seven of whom later recanted their stories-to kill Troy Davis will bring no comfort to officer MacPhail’s family and will certainly not bring justice. Neither the state of Georgia, or any state or any nation, should kill first and ask questions later. Amnesty International, Pope Benedict the 16th, Congressman John Lewis and former FBI. director William Sessions, among others, have all called for a stay of execution and a new trial to ensure that the state of Georgia does not kill an innocent man.”
The Fresno demonstration was supported by local chapters of Death Penalty Focus, the Fresno Center for Nonviolence Prison Ministry and others. For more information, contact: Maria Telesco at 559-255-9492 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vote for P.E.D.R.O.
A progressive slate of candidates running for election at CSUF was disqualified for allegedly violating campaign rules. Some of the disqualified candidates and their supporters believe the slate’s removal was politically motivated.
All 10 candidates of the P.E.D.R.O. slate were disqualified on April 23 for minor campaign infractions. One of the campaign violations involved putting posters up on a dry-erase board, which was alleged by opponents to be a wall. The election code prohibits posters on walls. Tom Boroujeni, a member of the P.E.D.R.O. slate, said that as soon as he was told about the posters, members and supporters of the slate took them down. The next day, the posters were back up and Boroujeni says that nobody in his group did it. Quoted in the Daily Collegian, Boroujeni said “It just smells like sabotage to me.”
The second violation involved John Thompson, a write-in candidate for senator, who opponents say was campaigning within 100 feet from a voting booth. P.E.D.R.O. supporters tell the Community Alliance that Thompson was walking to class with two friends when he was photographed by the campaign manager of one of the opposing candidates who then filed a complaint with the elections commission.
Is the CSUF student government playing into the hands of a right-wing political group who has taken a page directly out of the Karl Rove playbook of dirty tricks? Perhaps not. The disqualification of seven of the 10 P.E.D.R.O. candidates was overturned in May by the university administration. Pedro Ramirez, Amy Wilson, Luis Sanchez, John Thompson, Jamie A. San Andres and Alexandro Garcia-P.E.D.R.O. slate members-are now elected members of the senate of the Associated Students Inc.
Fresno Women in Black Members Threatened with Arrest
On Wednesday, May 6, several Women in Black members were holding signs of peace in the breezeway of the Fresno County Courthouse when they were confronted by armed sheriff’s deputies and threatened with arrest. One of the shotgun-toting guards was quoted as saying “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
The group, Women in Black, has been holding a silent protest at the County Courthouse for seven years, without any incidents. Jean Hays, one of the participants with WIB, said “a woman deputy came out of the Courthouse and told us we had to leave until we obtained a permit because the Courthouse was now under the jurisdiction of the state.”
WIB members did not move out of the breezeway, and a deputy called for backup. Within minutes, there were 10 armed deputies facing down the peaceful protestors. A representative from WIB was told that they lacked the required permit to protest in the breezeway. When asked where one could obtain the permit, the deputies admitted that they did not know.
Hays says a deputy asked for all of the protestors’ IDs and her Social Security number. Another deputy brought out a video camera and filmed the WIB members. Hays took a photo of the deputy and his camera.
You can join the next Women in Black vigil, which will be held in the breezeway of the Fresno County Courthouse from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3.
Back to Top
Will Changes in Democratic Leadership Affect the Central Valley?
By Michael D. Evans
At its annual convention in late April, the California Democratic Party (CDP) elected new leadership—officers for the CDP itself and for the various caucuses within the party. John Burton was elected chair of the CDP, replacing the retiring chair Art Torres, who had served three four-year terms. One of the largest and most influential caucuses is the Progressive Caucus, and Karen Bernal was elected chair of that group.
Burton, who resides in San Francisco, is a longtime leader within the party having previously served as CDP chair, as well as in the U.S. Congress, the California State Senate and the California State Assembly. He defeated Chris Fennie of Santa Cruz to become chair.
Also elected officers of the CDP were Eric Bauman of Los Angeles as male vice chair, Alexandra “Alex” Gallardo-Rooker of Los Angeles as female vice chair, Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr., of Los Angeles as secretary and Hilary Crosby of El Cerrito as controller. Crosby, who made a number of campaign appearances in Fresno, defeated an incumbent, and her victory was seen as a positive sign for grassroots activists within the CDP. (Learn more about the newly elected officers at www.cadem.org.)
A key caucus within the CDP is the Progressive Caucus (www.progressivecaucuscdp.org), which was formed four years ago to provide “a unified, progressive voice within the existing State Democratic Party structure.” The caucus emphasizes action and lobbies for progressive legislation and supports the legislators who promote such bills. The caucus also works with other progressive groups to educate Californians about such legislation.
Bernal, a former labor organizer from Sacramento, ran a strong campaign to head the Progressive Caucus and won handily. She also appeared a number of times in Fresno. Bernal co-authored an Iraq War withdrawal plan that was presented to the CDP and widely embraced by party activists. She is also the Northern California State Coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America.
What do these changes in leadership mean for the Central Valley and Fresno, in particular, with regard to progressive issues and Democratic politics?
|“The party’s got to be built from the bottom up, not the top down…[We want] to empower some local people to do the work because they’re the ones that are best able to do it.”
— John Burton, newly elected chair of the California Democratic Party
|“Fresno has been one of those places that has been not only ignored [by the CDP] but ignored to the point where it’s just simply not reasonable. That, I think, is going to end.”
— Karen Bernal, newly elected chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party
Burton says that his overall strategy for the CDP is “to register Democratic voters to fill a strong grass-roots operation in all of the counties” and win elections. He intends to focus initially on three issues: a majority-vote budget, “opposition to the Republican Louisiana-style primary” and marriage equality.
He supports the CDP’s 58-county strategy, which is modeled on Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy for the Democratic National Committee. “I’m working with the people from Take Back Red California,” notes Burton, “and we’re on a track to get some stuff done.”
Bernal has a more pressing concern for the Progressive Caucus. “Immediately, we are going to be concerned with how to build an effective organization. Unfortunately, it’s not as sexy as delving right into issues.”
“We need to switch from fighting an administration and a power presence [the Bush administration],” states Bernal, to addressing “policy accountability and trying to actually realize a democracy, if you will, within the Democratic Party.”
“We’ve got to move beyond passion and rhetoric and just talking to one another,” says Bernal. “I mean, it’s not enough anymore to say, ‘Hey, did you go see that great speech that so and so gave? Have you read this paper? Did you read that article? I’d like to speak.’ We’ve got to go to build an organization that’s going to make sure those things are manifested. I’m talking about real bottom-up democracy.”
The Progressive Caucus will always be an issue-focused organization, and a short list of concerns includes the economy, single-payer healthcare, foreign policy and the death penalty. However, Bernal says that “any of the issues the activists care about enough to make the rest of notice will be addressed.” She is pleased with the track record of the Progressive Caucus in being responsive to issues that people care about.
Water is an issue critical to the Central Valley, but Burton notes that it is “a very complex issue that once you really understand it and all the permutations it just doesn’t seem right for the party to get involved.” He suggested that the CDP might have an educational role by hosting a seminar to address the various viewpoints.
Burton does see a role for the party in other local areas. “We’re very concerned about the high foreclosure rate down there,” he notes. “The highest unemployment in the country is in Mendota.” He says that the CDP can bring attention to that and members of the local party could help organize food banks and other avenues of assistance for people. “That’s not for political purposes; that’s for humane purposes.”
Burton spoke to the Fresno-based San Joaquin Valley Democratic Club in January of this year, and he encountered a number of questions regarding support for area Democratic candidates and a physical presence in the area by the CDP.
“If candidates want to run,” says Burton, “they’ve got to show their ability to sign up volunteers and to raise money themselves.” Having done that, he notes, the CDP could “help with technical assistance and hopefully a little bit of financial assistance depending on what funds we have.”
“I think the county committees have to strengthen themselves,” Burton said referring to the local structure of the party. (Each political party within a county has a central committee that is outlined in the California Election Code.) “It’s not the role of the state party to just take over the county committees and do their work for them. The party’s got to be built from the bottom up, not the top down.”
Many Fresnans had lobbied the candidates for CDP offices to commit to putting a CDP office in Fresno. “My thing was why pick out Fresno,” says Burton. “Why not have an organizer that’s down there going all the way from Kern County up to Stanislaus, kind of like a circuit rider helping the various counties as opposed to having a presence in one county in the Central Valley?”
“An office and a presence is not what you need, it’s people to do work,” says Burton. “What we want to do is to empower some local people to do the work because they’re the ones that are best able to do it.”
Bernal understands these local concerns. “We’re not going to have people from LA, for instance, come up and talk to people in Fresno and tell them…what progressivism is and how we can build a movement,” she notes. “The people in Fresno already know what progressivism is. They have their own history about it.”
“Fresno has been one of those places that has been not only ignored [by the CDP] but ignored to the point where it’s just simply not reasonable,” notes Bernal. “That, I think, is going to end.”
Many of the caucuses have a leadership structure that includes a North officer (typically from the Bay Area) and a South officer (typically from Los Angeles). Bernal believes that the party must look at the North-South approach differently. She suggests that a Central-North-South model might be more appropriate. Bernal really wants to address the larger issue, which is “changing the structure from the bottom up.”
Bernal is pleased with what the progressive movement within the party has been able to achieve. “The progressive grassroots has reached a level of ascendancy now that is more powerful,” she says. “That Hilary Crosby won as controller was completely due to the fact that the party’s delegates recognized that the grassroots activists had been neglected [and] the 58-county plan had been neglected.”
Bernal says that choosing “to work outside the party and to be part of a social movement is still a good thing and very necessary for those of us inside the party.” Furthermore, she contends that the party must be “seen as responsive to the people on the outside.”
Nevertheless, Bernal expresses concern about the capacity for the Democratic Party to change. “I think that because we’re operating within the concept of an oligarchy in our society…there are forces that have nothing to do with being a Democrat or a Republican that are playing out and members of both parties respond to those.”
“I’ve also come to accept the fact that I’m not going to find a party that’s perfect and join it, because it doesn’t exist,” notes Bernal. “Instead, you have to find a party [through which] you can effect some changes and try to make it better.”
“This is called the Democratic Party,” she notes.”Now let’s make it democratic.”
Bernal sees the Progressive Caucus as a leader for enhanced activism within the party. “I think that’s the biggest difference between the Progressive Caucus and a lot of the other caucuses,” she says. “We probably embrace the credo of activism more than others.”
“We’re done with the talk,” states Bernal. “We want action now.”
Michael D. Evans conducted an extensive interview with Karen Bernal. That interview can be read in its entirety at www.fresnoalliance.com/bernal.htm.
Michael D. Evans is a political activist, editor and writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
|Making Your Voice Heard through the Democratic Party
|To get involved locally:
Fresno County Democratic Central Committee
Gary Alford, Chair
To get involved with the caucuses of the
California Democratic Party:
Darren W. Parker, Chair
Basim Elkarra, Chair
Asian/Pacific Islander Caucus
Mike Fong, Chair
Business & Professional Caucus
Alyson L. Abramowitz, Chair
Mickie Solorio Luna, Chair
Judy Jacobs, Chair
|Computer & Internet Caucus
Brigette Hunley, Chair
www.cdpic.org Disabilities Caucus
August Longo, Chair
Luke Breit, Chair
Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal, Chair
Thomas Patrick O’Shaughnessy, Chair
Tim Paulson, Chair
Laurie McBride, Chair (North)
Jess Durfee, Chair (South)
firstname.lastname@example.org Native-American Caucus
Helen L. Doherty, Chair
Karen Bernal, Chair
Jamie Beutler, Chair
Kess Kessler, Chair
Bob Handy, Chair
Karen Weinstein, Chair
Rebirth of the San Joaquin River
By Vic Bedoian
The San Joaquin River is California’s second longest, and most forlorn. Its water has been diverted for agriculture for 70 years and fought over in federal courts for two decades. Now the San Joaquin will flow again thanks to a landmark legal settlement that will make the San Joaquin a living river ecosystem and restore salmon migration by 2013. That settlement was the result of years of hard work by the Natural Resources Defense Council and upheld the age old principle that you can’t simply kill a river and get away with it.
Walt Shubin intimately knows the San Joaquin River. He grew up farming next to it and spent many years exploring it and working to protect what was left. He has seen it swarming with salmon and he has seen it bone dry. After the Bureau of Reclamation built Friant Dam and its associated canal system in the 1940s, the river slowed to a trickle and an 80-mile segment dried up in the summer months. Up to 75%t of the San Joaquin flows north to Madera County farms and as far south as Kern County, where it currently slakes the thirst of numerous mega-farms. The mighty San Joaquin was no longer a real river.
Shubin says a restored river will help farmers. “It used to be one of the most beautiful rivers in the world but they’ve destroyed it, and it’s a disaster. Turn the water loose and let it go. It’s been flowing for millions of years without any help from taxpayers. It might flood some properties and in the end I think a lot more good will come out of it than damage to any crops, and if the taxpayers can help compensate farmers they’ll be happy, everybody will be happy.”
Restoring the San Joaquin will be a complex undertaking involving multiple state and federal agencies with stakeholders from the environmental and farming sectors. It is the most ambitious river restoration project yet undertaken in American history. Chris Acree is executive director of Revive the San Joaquin, a Fresno-based stewardship group working in many venues to protect the river. He looks toward the future.
“When restoration takes hold we are going to have 180 miles of new habitat of flood plains and riparian forests that are going to start. I think in a hundred years it will start to look like the old natural river again, but until then there will be a lot of changes. The existing forests will change their location as the new stream course develops. It’s going to be a different river. It’s going to be a lot bigger.”
From Lloyd Carter’s perspective, the fundamental problem in California is that the state has promised a lot more water than actually exists, not just in normal water years but even in a high water year. This has created unrealistic expectations for thirsty water districts and growing cities. He has studied, written and lectured about California water politics for 30 years. Few understand as well the complicated machinery
of allocating the state’s increasingly tenuous water supply.
“Former State Senator Phil Isenberg, who heads the state commission on the Delta, reported in February 2009 that the State Water Resources Control Board (the agency that oversees the distribution of water in California) has for decades issued permits for 8.4 times as much water as actually exists in a normal year. This is largely paper water.”
The San Francisco Bay-Delta sits in the middle of California’s water web, gathering distant mountain waters into a vast estuary. But it now faces biological peril-a victim of plumbing. The pumps that pour that life-giving water from the Delta into the California Aqueduct for use by farms and cities to the south also grind up millions of smelt. These small and threatened species are at the base of the Delta’s food web. Last year a federal court ordered severe restrictions on pumping water south in order to save the Delta’s fragile ecosystem. Enraged Central Valley farmers decried the action as putting the lives of fish over the needs of people. But Shubin thinks the San Joaquin of the future will benefit everyone.
“When we have a restored river flow it’s going to put water back into our aquifer. This is what the farmers who oppose restoration don’t understand. They keep using the misinformation and diversion tactics of ‘fish versus food’ and all the things that you’ve heard. They don’t realize that the water table has been going down like a falling off a cliff, and putting water back in the river is going to put some of that water back into our aquifer.”
Looking around at the junction of the old San Joaquin riverbed and the bypass channels as they thread through manicured farmland all the way to the horizon, it is hard to visualize what the reconstructed river will look like. Acree is taking the long view.
“I think the biggest tasks of restoration are the structural improvements that will need to happen. The channel size has become so restricted, the only riparian forests we have are right next to the river channel. But if you have a bigger river in here, you will start, over time, getting a more mature riparian forest on the edges and the river will evolve a natural succession over time.”
The new river will not simply take the course of the San Joaquin of old. That river has been fractured and constrained by land use over the decades. Acree acknowledges that restoration will be a give-and-take process of trying to optimize the situation for farmers while creating a thriving riparian ecosystem. Breathing new life into the San Joaquin River-after all, the namesake and lifeblood of this place we call home-will take hard work, cooperation and patience. Yet somehow 2013 does not seem all that far off.
Vic Bedoian is an independent journalist living and working in the San Joaquin Bioregion. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
By Richard Stone
Jason Scott may not be the face of the gay marriage campaign in Fresno, but he well could be called its right hand. Ever since the appearance in 2000 of Prop 22 (the “between a man and a woman” number), Scott has been chief organizer and bottle washer in the name of marriage equality. “I’d just entered a relationship that I felt would be permanent, and I took the repudiation of our legitimacy personally.” When that proposition passed by a 60%+ majority, Scott says he felt energized to make a change and establish his rights.
Scott describes himself as a behind-the-scenes kind of guy and is grateful that others like his close ally Robin McGehee are willing to make the speeches and do the interviews. But Scott has been the key Fresnan on this issue from day one, and his tireless work continues. He currently serves as chapter leader for Fresno County’s branch of Marriage Equality U.S.A. and as president of Gay Central Valley, an umbrella for several Web sites serving the LGBT community with information about local events and campaigns.
As for Prop 8, Scott says he and his partner had taken advantage of the brief “golden period” to get legally married and will not rest while their status is jeopardized-even though taxes are a pain in the rear. “The IRS makes us file separately but the state makes us fill out another federal form as married in order to file jointly in California.” Talk about discrimination!
Although naturally disappointed by the outcome of Prop 8, Scott was very encouraged by the results of the organizing effort in Fresno County. “We had no substantive help from the state-wide campaign [which chose to focus on major urban areas-Ed.] yet through our canvassing and lobbying we were able to move the figures 9 points from polling to election-more than any other part of the state.” He remains optimistic that-even if the Supreme Court hasn’t overturned Prop 8 by the time this is printed-the path laid out by the Courage Campaign, of having “out” LGBT’ers tell their stories wherever they can, will eventually turn the tide.
Asked about how his participation in the campaign impacts his personal life, Scott says, “My family is generally supportive, although my mother would love to see me on TV for some other reason. R. J. [Gray] and I have regarded each other as husbands since 1999, and we went to San Francisco when Gavin Newsome was issuing marriage certificates even before the Court ruling. But being officially married doesn’t change much for us personally. The difference is in the public recognition. To say ‘He’s my partner’ is ambiguous; ‘marriage’ has the legitimacy of no other word.”
Scott cites as main allies (besides Robin) Molly McKay of Marriage Equality U.S.A., Jeff Robinson of Community Link, and-after the election-two straight colleagues, Jaymi Morgan and Kevin Moss. “It was a revelation to feel support from a non-gay source,” he says. But, he adds, it remains difficult to find people as passionate as he is about the issue. “Big numbers at rallies haven’t translated into volunteers.” He is also disappointed about the absence of support from the big state-wide and national organizations. “Marriage Equality has just hired a local organizer, but I want to reserve judgment on what will come from that. Collaboration is not always easy.”
The other big obstacle has been, of course, the money and power of the fundamentalist churches. “But.” Scott says, “I’ve met with [one of the most visible local fundamentalist ministers] and it’s been confusing. Face-to-face he’s been respectful, even friendly. Maybe the brimstone is mostly about money and membership rather than belief.”
While marriage equality is Jason’s focus for now, he sees it as really just a step toward social justice and legitimacy for all. “Whatever the Court decision, the next few months should be intense. I only hope that the result will be tolerance rather than discord.”
Scott can be reached at 559-862-4559 or firstname.lastname@example.org. From readers, he would welcome contributions of time, money and/or items for raffles. The organization is also looking for bilingual associates for media outreach. “But above all,” he adds, “talk to your family.”
|IDENTITY BOX Name: Jason Scott Birthplace: Fresno Ethnic identity: Caucasian Political affiliation: Democratic Habituee of Clovis Motto: “respect, empower, include”(from Courage Campaign) Non-political activity: the Second Friday
social group Unexpected pleasure: Reality TV shows
(The Apprentice, The Amazing Race)
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Files (new) Lawsuit Against the City of Fresno
By Bill Simon
On May 19, 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California and William Simon filed suit in the Fresno County Superior Court against the City of Fresno and Jerry Dyer, Chief of Police of the City of Fresno. The suit was filed to require the City of Fresno to comply with the California Public Records Act (PRA). The City has a policy of refusing to release the names of police officers who are involved in publicized incidents involving possible police misconduct within the time limits mandated by the PRA. Instead, the City withholds these records until it has completed its internal investigation of the incidents, a practice that in the Glen Beaty case has resulted in a delay of more than three months. This practice is unlawful.
On February 24, 2009, the ACLU-NC and Simon faxed and sent by U.S. mail a request to Chief Dyer to release the names of the two officers involved in the Glen Beaty incident, which was videotaped by a passerby on February 9.
On April 3, 2009 the Fresno Police Department had not yet responded to the Public Records Act Request. The ACLU-NC therefore faxed and sent by U.S. mail a second letter to the Police Department. Almost immediately after the Police Department received the fax of the second letter on April 3, a member of the City Attorney’s Office called me and explained that the City’s policy was not to release the names of police officers involved in an incident until after the investigation was completed but that the investigation would be concluded soon. I told the attorney that she should call Michael Risher at the affiliate to discuss the law. She did and told Risher the same thing. Forty-six days later the names were still not released, and the suit was filed.
|Bill Simon (left), chairperson of the local ACLU chapter, watches a police cadet as he monitors
video surveillance cameras at the Fresno Police Department. The ACLU is concerned about the
intrusiveness of video surveillance in Fresno and the impact this has on our civil liberties.
The Fresno Area Chapter also continues to be busy in other areas. We continue to monitor the homeless situation in Fresno. On April 22, three of us went to monitor the city’s cleanup of the homeless on Mariposa Mall. Then we went to try to find where the cleanup crew took the homeless people’s property. When one of us took a few pictures at the City’s corporation yard, that led to an e-mail from the FPD’s Homeland Security liaison questioning whether this activity involved terrorism. That led to someone telling us there was a Homeland Security “Terrorist Prison” at 733 L St. Four of us went to check out that Homeland Security facility on May 14. We couldn’t get in, but we’ve been assured that it’s only a short term, less than 12 hour, detention facility because the prison is in Bakersfield. We’re still trying to find out what that’s all about.
On April 30, we joined with Californians for Justice to kick off a campaign to deal with the Fresno schools dropout issue, or entirely too often what seems to be a “pushout” issue. On May 11, the ACLU Video Surveillance Committee checked out the city’s video surveillance program. It was an impressive demonstration and impressively demonstrated the city’s ability to violate our first and fourth amendment rights. It might also help a little bit to catch crooks, although most cameras seem aimed at areas known for narcotics violations and prostitution. May 15 was a workshop on students’ rights for the seniors at Orange Cove High School. It’s heartbreaking to realize how many really good young people in this country and right here in Fresno County wake up every morning wondering if this is the day that an ICE raid will catch them and deport them and/or their parents. We have invested a great deal in educating these students. They are well poised to make great contributions to our state and our country. If they came here as babies, they don’t remember ever living anywhere else and might only speak English. And we are ready to blow our investment in them by kicking them out of the country!
By the time this article goes to print, the Chapter’s Prison Issues Committee will have held its workshop on May 23 to help families of prisoners learn how to negotiate the prison system. All of our committees will have met again on May 19. If you would like to get involved in the work of the local ACLU chapter or have an issue you want to bring to the board, contact email@example.com. Meanwhile, we hope to see you at the Gay Pride Parade on June 6.
FR. LOUIE VITALE TO SPEAK IN FRESNO
Fr. Louie Vitale of Pace e Bene will speak at the Islamic Cultural Center on Friday, June 26, at 7 p.m. His topic will be “No To Torture!” but he will also show pictures and talk about his trip to Iran this past March with a Fellowship of Reconciliation Citizen Peace delegation and his arrest with Kathy Kelly and others on April 9 in Arizona for protesting the use of drones in Afghanistan. The event is free, but Pace e Bene will have various articles available for purchase.
Fr. Vitale’s appearance in Fresno is cosponsored by the Islamic Cultural Center, the Newman Center Peace and Justice Ministry, Peace Fresno, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno Social Justice Committee, Bishop John Steinbock, The Jesuit House in Fresno, the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Interfaith Social Justice Collaborative and the Interfaith Alliance of Central California.
Fr. Vitale served as an Air Force officer during the Korean War. He was ordained as a Franciscan priest in 1963 and has since devoted his life to peace, working tirelessly for the dignity and well-being of people everywhere. When he was pastor of St. Boniface Church in San Francisco, he turned the church into a sanctuary for the homeless. Fr. Vitale participated in the United Farm Workers Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, counseled draft resisters during the Vietnam War and worked on a nationwide welfare rights campaign.
In addition, Fr. Vitale is co-founder of Nevada Desert Experience, a faith-based anti-nuclear group, and a member of Religious Witness with the Homeless. He participated in human rights delegations in the 1980s in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. In 1989, he co-founded Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, which fosters a more peaceful and just world through nonviolence education, community building and action. He currently serves as the organization’s nonviolent action advocate.
Fr. Vitale has served jail time twice for advocating shutting down the School of the Americas at Fort Benning , Ga., and once for protesting the training of Army intelligence officers in advanced interrogation techniques (torture) at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. He has lost count of how many times he has been arrested.
Fr. Vitale has received numerous peace and human rights awards and has written many articles and books. He has been a leader in the movement for peace and justice for more than four decades and an inspiration for all. Many will remember the Pace e Bene workshop at the Islamic Cultural Center last year. This will be an event well worth attending because it will encourage each of us to redouble our own efforts for peace and justice.
2009 Gay Pride Almost Upon Fresno
By Dan Waterhouse
Fresno’s Rainbow Pride celebration will be headlined by rapper Julie Fucking Potter, also known as JFP. She is teaming up with violinist Caroline Dream-CNOTE-to promote love, equality, and the power within!
JFP’s latest track “Never Disappear” confronts the marriage equality debate head on and is a commanding reminder that the LGBT community and its allies will never disappear. Her music is definitely in keeping with this year’s theme, inspired by the bitter struggle over Proposition 8: “Love Is Greater Than Hate.”
California native, JFP is currently working on her second release, YES PLEASE! to follow up, the underground success of her debut album EXODUS. JFP was an original member of the Homorevolution Tour, the first out LGBT hip hop tour in the nation, which received media attention from Rollingstone.com, The BBC and CNN. She has also been featured in the Advocate and Curve Magazine for both her rap and comedic accomplishments.
This Year’s Pride Parade is on Saturday, June 6
This year’s parade is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. It will wind its way down Olive Avenue through the heart of the Tower District. The festival gates will open immediately after the conclusion of the parade. The festival will end around 3 p.m. The festival will be on Fulton Street just south of Olive Avenue.
|This year’s Rainbow Pride Parade will be held on Saturday, June 6, in the Tower District.
The photo above is from the 2008 parade.
Rainbow Pride has been hard hit by the economic downturn. The event’s largest sponsor, Comcast, is closing its local production studio and, as a result, its sponsorship worth well over $3,000 has been lost. “The Pride commercial that they produced and ran over 250 times on their cable channels, as well as their coverage and airing of the annual event is lost as well,” Rainbow Pride coordinator Jeffrey Robinson said. “This is a massive blow to Fresno Rainbow Pride’s publicity and visibility,” he added. He said several other large sponsors, including AAA, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart, as well as some smaller business sponsors, have had to scale back or cancel their support this year. However, Pet ER and Barefoot Wines have joined the Pride family of sponsors.
Donations can be made to Rainbow Pride. Checks should be made payable to Community Link and sent to Community Link’s Fresno Rainbow Pride, P.O. Box 4959, Fresno, CA 93744, or made online via Paypal at www.fresnorainbowpride.com. All donations are tax-deductible.
Other entertainmenters scheduled for the festival include R&B artist Alifah Ali, glam electronic punk band Ejector and sister band Fans of Jimmy Century, and the Fresno Gay Men’s Chorus.
Homeless Advocate = Terrorist Threat?
By Mike Rhodes
A Fresno homeless advocate has been sent a letter from Homeland Security, informing him that his attempts to help the homeless have been “brought to the attention of the Police Department’s Terrorism Liaison Officers.” The unwanted attention of the Homeland Security antiterrorism group followed a City of Fresno “cleanup” of a homeless encampment on the Mariposa Mall in downtown Fresno.
Several homeless advocates monitored the “cleanup” and removal of homeless people’s property on the morning of April 22, 2009, by Community Sanitation workers. “Cleanups” at the Mariposa Mall site, just west of Fresno City Hall, are conducted about once a month. Community Sanitation puts up signs announcing the date of the cleanup; most of the homeless people move out shortly before they arrive and move back later in the day. Advocates say it is a meaningless game of cat and mouse that is not intended to help the homeless or make their life better in any way. As a result of this constant harassment, sometimes the homeless lose their property. This happens if they are gone for a few days visiting a friend or family member when the city “cleans up” this encampment.
|The Mariposa Mall, where the “cleanup” took place.
The signs announced the start of the “cleanup” as 8 a.m., but on April 22 Community Sanitation started early. Bill Simon, chairperson of the local ACLU and one of the advocates onsite that day, wrote that “Phil Connelly arrived at the cleanup site at 7:20. Georgia [Williams] and I arrived about 7:40. All three of us had cameras. Phil said the cleanup started just after he got there. One homeless woman was there talking to Phil when I arrived and no other homeless were in sight. She was all packed up and left as I arrived.”
Connelly left the Mariposa Mall “cleanup” and went to the City of Fresno Corporation Yard (2101 G St.) in an attempt to see where the confiscated property was taken. It has been city policy to store property at that location for 90 days or until it is reclaimed. Connelly says he spoke with Phillip Weathers at the Community Sanitation office. “I saw Weathers at the event today and at a previous clean up on H St. He supervised both events. He told me the confiscated items were not brought to the City of Fresno Corporation Yard (the large complex at the N/W corner of G and El Dorado Streets),” Connelly wrote in an e-mail.
|Property in the back of a city truck.
Thanks to Phil Connelly and Georgia Williams for the photos.
Connelly says Weathers told him “the persons who own the confiscated property are expected to call his office at the number listed on the posted notices (even though his name is not on the notice). Weathers said that if the owner can provide a description of their confiscated property; Weathers or a staff member will take the property to a location where the owner wants to reclaim it, or the property will be retrieved from its current storage location and the owner can come to the Community Sanitation office to claim the confiscated property.”
The policy of storing homeless people’s property for 90 days is the result of a lawsuit against the City of Fresno. The homeless won a class action lawsuit against the city because Community Sanitation was taking and immediately destroying homeless people’s property. The homeless received a $2.3 million settlement in the case-the largest settlement of its kind in the country.
A few days after his visit to the City of Fresno Corporation Yard, Connelly was contacted by Sgt. Ronald Grimm, Homeland Security coordinator for the Fresno Police Department. Here is the correspondence he received:
This e-mail is in regards to your visit to the City of Fresno Corporate Yard (2101 G Street) on April 22 of this year. This facility is considered a Key Resource to the City of Fresno, and is critical to the continuity of government for our area. Inasmuch, issues regarding the security (or breeches of security) at this facility fall within the investigative responsibility of the Fresno Police Dept. Your actions during your visit to this facility (primarily the photographing of specific sites on the premises and the contact you had with City personnel) caused concern among several City employees and was brought to the attention of the Police Department’s Terrorism Liaison Officers.
|“Cleanup” Crews in Action
While we assume your visit to the premises was related to an ongoing investigation, I would like to ask for your cooperation for any future visits. If possible, could you please inform City employees at the facility as to the nature of your visit and the particular public areas you would like to visit. Also, if you could inform these same employees that you will be taking photographs in public-access areas it would probably prevent the issue from becoming a concern of the Terrorism Liaison Officer unit.
Thank you for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly.
Sgt. Ronald Grimm
Homeland Security Coordinator
Fresno Police Department
Is being an advocate for homeless rights a legitimate reason for being investigated by Homeland Security and coming under the scrutiny of the Police Department’s terrorism liaison officers? Will Connelly and other advocates be on a Homeland Security watch list of domestic terrorists? Perhaps Connelly is destined to be whisked off the street, sent to Guantanamo Bay and tortured until he confesses his nefarious actions in support of homeless people in this community?
For a list of articles and documents about the struggle for civil liberties of homeless people in Fresno, see www.fresnoalliance.com/home/homelessness.htm.
Homelessness in Fresno – are we on the right track?
By Mike Rhodes
There was hope and optimism when the City of Fresno stopped bulldozing homeless encampments, agreed to implement Housing First, and hired Gregory Barfield to coordinate ending homelessness. Barfield is officially called the City of Fresno Homeless Prevention Manager but many people refer to him as the Homeless Czar.
The city, which never had a coordinated plan to work on homelessness, established the Homeless Prevention Manager position to develop a strategy to end homelessness. The Housing First model argues that if you provide housing for the homeless it will be more successful and less expensive than the shelter system.
Barfield has been working, since he started his job over four months ago, to implement a Housing First voucher plan that would get people off the streets and into decent housing. His efforts have centered on the H street encampment (in downtown Fresno, south of Ventura) where several hundred homeless people live. The first phase of this project would assist 70-80 homeless people, but for numerous reasons, not one person has received a housing voucher yet.
What has happened in the last four months is that the Union Pacific railroad, which owns the land where the H street encampment is located, has fenced the area and are getting ready to evict all of the residents. An eviction, without the city providing residents with housing vouchers, will flood the streets with hundreds of homeless people with nowhere to go.
|Tents on Santa Clara street, in front of the Poverello House. Is this the best we can do for the
homeless in Fresno?
One encampment that has grown dramatically in recent weeks is Santa Clara and F street, in front of the Poverello House. That new tent city is now starting to wrap around F onto Ventura. An influx of H street encampment homeless people will likely mean that homelessness will be even more visible, in a city that is already known around the country for having the highest concentration of poverty in the nation.
An important demand that homeless advocates have made to Barfield is for the City of Fresno to provide basic public services at the homeless encampments. If the city established campgrounds that provided a safe and dignified place for homeless people to live, which included drinking water, trash pick up, and portable toilets it would improve the lives of both the homeless and nearby residents and businesses. Barfield disagrees with this strategy, saying “we need to focus on housing first and that is our first and primary effort. . . I don’t know if there is the political will to go backwards and I think if we do go backwards into the campgrounds we are going to loose the momentum on the Housing First side of it.”
The city’s most optimistic view of ending homeless is articulated in its Ten Year Plan to end homelessness, but there is no guarantee that all or even most homeless people will be housed in that time frame. If that is true, and just about everyone agrees it is, then there has to be short, medium, and long term goals to improve the lives of the homeless and get them into housing.
The city, unfortunately continues to raid homeless encampments (see story on page 9), refuses to provide even the most basic public services (like water), and has yet (as of May 25, 2009) to provide decent housing (no, putting them in tool sheds does not count) for one homeless person.
With hundreds of abandoned buildings, thousands of vacant rentals, and thousands of foreclosed houses in Fresno, the problem is not that we don’t have enough housing for the homeless. What we lack is the political will and an economic system that makes people’s basic needs for housing, water, and survival a priority. Ending homelessness is not that complicated – you make it a priority to put people in the available housing. While that transition is taking place, the City of Fresno needs to establish safe campgrounds, so the homeless have a decent, dignified place to stay.
The Goody Bag Project
We are already collecting for the Christmas Goody Bags for the women incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. We hope to gather 70,000 individual items, so that each of the 4,400 women will receive about 15 or 16 little gifts. So we are starting now.
When you head for your summer vacation, please remember the women. Collect those little shampoos, soaps and all the rest, and send them to me. Please.
c/o Fresno Center for Nonviolence
1584 N. Van Ness Ave.
Fresno, CA 93728
We need money, too, for the things we don’t get enough of and have to buy. In addition, we have to purchase from a moving company brand new cardboard boxes each year-the prison will reject anything in a pre-used box-they say that’s to minimize the likelihood of contraband (e.g., drugs, weapons) concealed in the cardboard. The prison bosses dictate the size and source of the boxes. Regarding contraband, the prisoners joke, “Yeah, what they’re really looking for is helicopter parts.”
Checks can be made to FCNV Prison Ministry, with “Chowchilla” in the “memo” space and mailed to the above address. Don’t forget-the Center is a 501.c.3 nonprofit organization, and everything is tax deductible. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Edited by Richard Stone
Rita Hughes is a first-time contributor. A native of Oakland, she says she “sought refuge from an arduous upbringing through poetry.” She has just graduated from CSUF with a BS in IHRS Pre-Physical Therapy. Congratulations on the degree and the poetry.
Manifestations, politic puppeteering at its best,
strings are pulled to keep us all distressed, and
spineless, unable to stand erect,
hopelessness occurs when the light becomes dim at the tunnel’s exit,
no education is given, in our school systems, teachers are paid to show up,
take attendance, look us in the face and dismiss us,
with closed eyes, you’ll still have visual revelations,
it’s not hard to tell our social placement, at the bottom of the totem pole,
is where they’ll keep you, if you let ’em, if.you.let.them.
We need a change,
mental revamping, spiritual cleansing, soul rebuilding,
’cause grandmas can’t raise all of daughter’s children,
it’s going to take more than electing Obama to redirect our race
into a positive bearing, with a mannered mentality,
to all our people, from all our youth,
the time is now, to retain our roots,
so let’s change.
The Human Right to Water Act of 2009
By Nancy Price
California’s real water crisis is the tragedy of millions exposed to unsafe water for drinking and personal and domestic use because of widespread water contamination and crumbling water infrastructure and septic systems. The lack of safe water effects the health of the most vulnerable among us-the very young, the elderly and the poor. It also means that many families must pay extra for bottled water when their tap water is unsafe. And, unlike energy and the phone service, there is no statewide lifeline water rate for seniors on fixed income, the unemployed and low-income families. If they cannot pay their water bill, they are at the mercy of their service provider and often face shut-offs or eviction.
Now, Assembly Member Ira Ruskin (D-21st District) has introduced AB 1242, the Human Right to Water Act of 2009, that would establish that it is state policy that every human being has the right to clean, affordable and accessible water on an equitable basis, that is adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and family. The bill also instructs state agencies to conform their practices and policies to this policy.
According to the Community Water Center in Visalia, drinking water quality in the San Joaquin Valley is the worst in California, due to the pollution of groundwater sources from decades of intensive fertilizer and pesticide application as well as the massive influx of animal factories in this regions. Recent studies showed that nitrates exceeded legal limits in 40% of the private wells, and 20%-30% of the public water supply samples.
Statewide, from 1997 through 2001, nitrates were detected above regulatory standards in the drinking water supplies of more than 11.2 million Californians, while the drinking water of 8.5 million Californians was subjected to five or more violations of the standard.
AB 1242 will pave the way to ensure that every Californian will someday have safe water.
Take Action Now
This bill will be voted on by the full Assembly in late May or early June. Please call your local Assembly Member(s) to ask for a “yes” vote on this path-breaking bill that is the cornerstone to providing every Californian with safe water for drinking and personal and domestic use.
Progressive Religion…Is Not An Oxymoron
By David E. Roy
The format for the column is being modified to every other month as a way to better balance the need for space in the slimmer, trimmer Community Alliance. In the off month, in order to prevent any tendency toward regression, I will offer just a brief note. This month’s note is focused on the contrast between the long-standing Christian tradition of referring to the “Kingdom” of God, with all its power and hierarchical connotations, with a very different perspective:
The Greek term, “basileia theou” is at the center of Jesus’ message. It is usually translated “Kingdom” of God, as in the Lord’s Prayer, when we pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” But the Lord’s Prayer is not addressed to our “King” who is in heaven, but to the “Father,” whom Jesus typically addressed as “Abba,” which is better translated as “Papa.” Jesus’ accounts of the “basileia theou” do not emphasize divine sovereignty. He points instead to an inclusive table fellowship as a foretaste of the “basileia.” We understand Jesus better when we drop the monarchical language that later became so prominent in the church. Perhaps “divine commonwealth,” a strong contrast with the imperial power of Rome, would better express what Jesus proclaimed.
– Theologian John B. Cobb, Jr.
Opinion & Analysis from the Grassroots
The Wisdom to Know the Difference
By Jose Luis Barraza
Every evening on the off ramp of 41 and Shields a homeless man stands holding a small sign that reads “Not a Beggar, Will Work for Money or Food!” And I’ve heard stories about him from those who seem to have knowledge about his homelessness.
“He looks homeless but in truth he lives down the street in a house and dresses quite well.”
“He stands out there during the rush hours and makes more money than I do!” “And I work for a living!”
“I offered him work one day for some food and he turned me down because he preferred I’d just give him money.”
“I’ve seen him and he changes his sign daily, some state; “I’m a veteran,” “Hard times can you help me,” “Why Lie I need a Drink!” “Boy does he have some nerve and I thought I had heard it all!”
Well one day I sat there in my vehicle near the intersection and watched the homeless guy, and in those three hours I saw perhaps three people hand out some pocket change to him and he would then flip his sign that said “Thank You!” I decided to offer him some work for food and drove up and asked him and he accepted and got into the car. We introduced ourselves and off we went to my house where I put him to work on the yard, and while he cut the grass I made him something to eat. After he finished the chore we sat down in the patio and as he ate, we talked. I then gave him a lift back near where I had picked him up and I gave him $20 and he was taken by the gesture and he assured me that he was thankful just for the food and company I had given him.
It was a short period of time, but I learned a great deal about this man, and all the negative opinions I had heard had diminished based on his actions and honesty. And I came to realize just how easy homelessness can happen to anyone and how framed thoughts create our fears and doubts that hamper our spirit of helping another follow human being. We ourselves easily create mistrust because we don’t take the time to know a person’s plight.
Today, you won’t be find John standing on that off ramp at 41 and Shields because of a full-time job and volunteering service he gives in his off hours at the Veterans Hospital. He’s busy helping other veterans overcome their own homelessness.
Equality Is the Point
By Ruth Gadebusch
At this writing, we warily await the California Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8 of last fall’s election. No matter the result, Fresno is slated to be the center for a rally, either with great joy or deep sadness.
At least for once the Central Valley will be on the map. This area, so often ignored because we don’t have political clout in Washington or Sacramento, has been chosen for the rally for equal justice as the midpoint in the state. That usually works against us since the southern Californians think of us as North and the northerners think of us as South, leaving us forgotten. But I digress. My real concern is the mistreatment of a large segment of our population.
I cannot understand why this has to be such a battle. The easy solution would be to do as the Europeans have done for years. That would be for the government to be involved only in civil union-for all-and leave churches to do as their faith directs. Let us not get bogged down over the use of the word “marriage.” Alas, there are those who feel they must legislate their religious beliefs for all of us. They are entitled to hold their views, just not to force them on everyone else. Even the much publicized beauty queen is entitled to her opinion, but the point is missed. It wasn’t what she said against gay marriage but how poorly she said it, when the pageant’s promoters like to ballyhoo that the pageant is about intellect as much as physical beauty.
Regardless of whether being gay is a personal choice or a genetic matter, it is no one else’s business. Both by its presence throughout history and more recent scientific data, there is rather convincing evidence that sexual orientation is genetic, not a choice, but so what if it were chosen? Just as we have come to disavow laws prohibiting miscegenation, voting prohibitions for women and African Americans and other such limitations of individual rights we will-sooner or later-come to realize that every person should have the right to choose his or her own life partner. Let us hope it is sooner rather than later.
Not all will change their attitude overnight, but the legal right is the most basic step and offers a protection like no other. Nice as it would be, instant equality will not happen. After all, we still have those who do not recognize other racial groups as equal to their own or do not support women holding public office; however, change has to start at some point and we are long overdue for unions of choice. After all, the heterosexuals haven’t done such a good job of marriage that they should hold it as their exclusive province.
The question of gays in the military will be left to another time except to say that gays are just as discriminating and use just as good judgment as heterosexuals in selecting whom to approach. Much as they have attempted to keep it quiet, the military doesn’t exactly have a shining record in how the straight males have treated females in the military-or, for that matter, their own wives in the domestic setting.
We progressives did learn a political lesson from last fall’s election results. We thought our cause was so just, with polls indicating that most agreed with us, that we became complacent. The religious zealots who would have all of us live by their code seized the opportunity. I hope we won’t make that mistake again.
The goal is justice for all. During that brief period when California had marriage equality, one minister stated at the wedding of two women, “We gather in hope. May their love ripple out and join with other waves to create an ocean of marriage equality.” It isn’t happening in our state at this moment but it will at some point. When that point will be is in the hands of the court now and may once again be in the hands of the voters.
The wedding was closed with a message that, if heeded, would make for a better world for all. “Now, in the eyes of family and friends, we recognize your permanent and tender relationship. So now I do acknowledge and proclaim by the authority vested in me as a minister of the United Church of Christ, and the power vested in me by the state of California, and declare that you are now Beloveds for Life, in the sight of God and this company. I pronounce you married. Those whom God has joined together, let no one, no state, no person, no church put asunder.”
What a beautiful portrait of human relations, a model for all of us.
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.
From the Greenhouse
By Franz Weinschenk
Nobody enjoys having to take their car in to have it smogged. At best it costs a little time and a few bucks; at worst it takes forever and puts you out hundreds. But we do it because it’s the right thing to do. We do it because we don’t want the vehicles we drive to pollute the air that others have to breathe. Not so the diesel trucking industry which for years has resisted cleaning up its act.
But, now, after an eight-year struggle, things have turned around. As of last December, the California State Air Resources Board won out over a strong trucking company lobby and has put in place the nation’s most restrictive rules on diesel engines. Older, dirtier trucks are scheduled to be phased out in 12 years so that by 2023 every truck on the road, even those registered in other states but operating in California, will have to meet California’s emissions standards.
So what does all this have to do with you and me? Well, every once in a while, some buddies of mine and I bike up to Millerton Lake, and when you get right on top of the dam and look out over the Valley following the San Joaquin River and then turn to the left looking toward Fresno, it seems like you can always see a layer of murky smog coming off Highway 99 as it intersects the horizon from north to south. No matter what time of day or what season of the year that gloomy shroud persists-and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where it’s coming from-the continuous 24-hour procession of heavy-duty diesel trucks pounding in both directions on old 99, many of them discharging copious amounts of the exhaust fumes that daily bathe Fresno and the Valley with their toxins. Let’s hope the new rules will change all that.
Right now, California has the nation’s most polluted air, and diesel trucks are one of the main reasons. Although diesel engines have been getting cleaner, they’re just not improving fast enough. The American Lung Association estimates that diesel-related diseases account for 3,700 deaths annually. They report that it’s the microscopic particles in the diesel soot that many of these trucks discharge into the air which contributes to asthma, cancer and heart disease. As a matter of fact, studies in the LA area have concluded that people living near freeways are more susceptible to asthma than the rest of us. What the Air Resources Board is trying to do is to reduce soot pollution by 85% in order to reduce smog and thus save many lives as well as an estimated $48 billion in healthcare costs in the next 15 years.
Beginning January 1, 2011, the diesel truck and bus rules make it mandatory for owners to install diesel exhaust filters on their vehicles. This means that all vehicles have to be upgraded by 2014. Owners must also replace engines older than the 2010 model year according to a staggered implementation schedule that extends from 2012 to 2022. Finally, efficient tires and aerodynamic devices on trailers which lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel efficiency must be installed. It is estimated that these rules will apply to 400,000 heavy-duty in-state diesel trucks, 500,000 out-of-state trucks that travel on California highways, and 500,000 trailers. School buses are subject to only reducing diesel particulate matter; engines don’t have to be replaced.
Also new is an anti-idling regulation that makes truck owners subject to a $300 fine for the first offense if caught idling over 5 minutes. “Turning these engines off should be second nature,” said ARB chairman Mary Nichols. “It saves money, reduces pollution and protects the health of the driver.”
Other states often piggyback on California environmental laws as they did when California instituted catalytic converter rules in the 1970s and as we are currently doing in the fight to raise the miles per gallon (CAFE standards) for cars.
Because of the current recession, the trucking industry believes right now is a bad time to ask them to put out so much money to clean up their trucks. To this, the state counters that doing nothing would mean losing billions of dollars in federal aid. Furthermore, the state is willing to help offset the estimated $5 billion in costs to the truckers by offering $1 billion in loans and grants. But even with this contribution, the trucking industry is expected to go to court to stop the new rules from going into effect.
Franz Weinschenk has been a teacher and school administrator in Fresno for more than 50 years. He can be contacted by e-mail at franzie@SCCCD.org.
The Community Alliance Newspaper
PO Box 5077
Fresno Ca 93755
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