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Letters to the Editor

 

Remembering George “Elfie” Ballis

I just got to the mailbox yesterday and saw the final result of the feature article you did on George. It is a relief to have the scope of his/our work described in more detail and the best tribute to George that anyone has done so far. Please save a few copies for our archives. CSUF Madden Library recently got funded to archive the NLP [National Land for People] documents we gave them many years ago. I will be meeting with them soon regarding a separate archive on all George’s work, and I want to start his file with your article.

It has been a comfort to know that George used his life so well, and he was very ready to leave his body. And even when his physical energy was used up, his remains were donated to medical research and still of service to humanity.

Deep gratitude for your work my friends,

Bittersweet smiles,

Maia Prather

******

Now Is the Time for Clean Air in the Valley

I grew up in Fresno, and like so many people living in California’s San Joaquin Valley, I have asthma. For as long as I can remember, the air here has been killing people. Pollution from cars, trucks, field burning and agricultural equipment mixes with gases from oil production, pesticides and the valley’s hundreds of mega-dairies to form ozone—more commonly known as smog.

Many people don’t realize that California is still home to the worst air pollution in the country. L.A.’s smoggy skyline is infamous. And anyone who has driven through the Central Valley has seen (and probably smelled) the thick, brown haze that hangs over the mostly rural region I call home.

For us, the reality of living in this polluted air is terrifying. It is losing sleep as we sit up all night with children struggling to breathe. It is skyrocketing medical bills for prescription medicines and for emergency room visits when the rescue inhalers and nebulizers are not enough. It is being too tired or sick to go to work, but having to go anyway for fear of losing a job and the health insurance that may come with it. It is our children falling behind in school because of too many missed days. And it is watching helplessly as our grandparents suffocate from recurring bronchitis or pulmonary disease exacerbated by high levels of ozone pollution.

In 1990, Congress passed the Clean Air Act Amendments and promised us that even the worst-polluted areas of the country would meet the federal air pollution limit for ozone by no later than November 15, 2010.

But the air in the San Joaquin Valley is still so dirty that schools and government buildings have to fly color-coded flags warning us to keep our children inside. Today, we aren’t even close to meeting the ozone limit EPA adopted over 30 years ago.

This is largely because the agencies in charge of protecting us—such as the local air district and the Environmental Protection Agency—have repeatedly failed to do what was necessary to clean things up. Since Congress amended the Clean Air Act, the San Joaquin Valley has seen 20 years of excuses, delays and acquiescing to the status quo. These agencies have failed us. And now, on the day when we were promised clean air at last, it looks like the EPA will once again turn its back on us.

They tell us that meeting the ozone limit today isn’t worth their time and resources. They tell us that we should wait 14 more years—another whole generation—until the deadline for meeting the next ozone standard comes to pass.

I say: We are literally sick of waiting. I want my babies to breathe clean air now. I refuse to hand them inhalers and ask them to wait until they are in high school to breathe easy. By then it may be too late.

Fresno Metro Ministry, along with many others from throughout the San Joaquin Valley, has submitted an official plea to the EPA in San Francisco, which is responsible for air quality in the valley. We are asking them not to turn a blind eye to our suffering.

We ask you to please contact EPA Region IX staffer Idalia Perez, who is the environmental justice liaison to the San Joaquin Valley, at perez.idalia@epa.gov or 415-947-4155, and let her know why clean air now is important to you and your family. To get more involved in the clean air movement, join the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition www.calcleanair.org.

Sarah Sharpe
Fresno

*****

A Progressively Real and True Paper

Thank you for sending the Community Alliance newspaper. It is an awesome paper packed with truth and realness. It was an honor to read it for the first time. Also, please send my brother Boston Woodard my respect and thank you for the incredible article/review he wrote. Both Jim Carlson and Judith have seen it and loved it.

Thank you for putting out such a progressively real and true paper! It is needed bread for the world. I’m with you and look forward to reading more of your fine paper!

Keep up the spirited struggle. In realness,

Spoon Jackson
San Quentin

*****

Special Thanks

This is a special thank you for all the help you have given us all, out here on “the sacred path.” That means those of us at Ventura and E, F and G streets—some of Fresno’s homeless encampments.

We the people of the Golden State “E” street off ramp, entry/exit to Chinatown and Fresno’s Civic Center (I know this because there is a sign that says so), which is, by the way, embedded in a plot of dirt full of weeds, oh my—human beings, and trash! It is only a few yards away from a big trash pile (the photo was in last month’s Community Alliance newspaper) that overflows onto the street connecting our off ramp to our “entry” roadway to Fresno.

I always carry extra copies of the Community Alliance whenever I venture out of my area, because I find bus drivers, small store owners, nonprofit groups I visit, regular people on the bus, people with vehicles I sometimes get in conversation with—which covers a lot of potential readers, because everyone likes to keep up on the real happenings of real Fresno people.

Sharen Aletha Bobbitt
(Big Sue)
Fresno

P.S. Most especially I want to thank you for the historical account of women “earning” the right to vote—and I remember those women as I cast my ballot at Kearney’s Chandler Airport.

Community Organizing Project Defends Voter Rights

We did it! The Communities for a New California (CNC), Fresno-Tulare, campaigns for Brown, Baines, Rouch and the initiatives were a huge success. And we could not have done it without you. What’s more, CNC activists strengthened underrepresented voices in all Fresno County races by winning mobile early voting sites for the Saturday before Election Day.

After a month of nonstop phone banking and precinct walking in Fresno and Tulare’s forgotten communities, 100 staff and volunteers hit the streets for the last four days of the election. Together with our partners in the Central Valley Coalition of the California Alliance, we knocked on 10,000 doors and spoke to 4,000 voters about important ballot initiatives, about Brian Rouch, or about Jerry Brown and Oliver Baines.

On Election Night, we celebrated our work as Baines won with an amazing 61% of the votes in the District 3 City Council election. In the gubernatorial race, our impact for Jerry Brown was also clear. Brown even received a larger share of the county’s vote than former Governor Gray Davis received when he was elected in 2002. In Tulare County, Rouch is within a handful of votes of an upset victory against Supervisor Steve Worthley, a top ally of big polluters.

In downtown and southwest Fresno, CNC coordinated rides on Tuesday for voters who lived miles from their polling place and lacked bus access. We took two young women to Chandler Airport, one of two polling sites in all of West Fresno. They used borrowed car seats for their two small children. Had it not been for CNC volunteers, these ladies could not have voted.

At Fresno Westside Adventist Church, registered voters were left off of the new voter rolls and then turned away by elections officials who should have offered them provisional ballots. But despite long lines, confusion and all this mess, our voters and activists from the community mobilized to make sure their voice was heard.

This is only the beginning for Communities for a New California. Activists are still fighting to make sure every vote is counted in Rouch’s close Tulare race. In Fresno, we can’t stop advocating until the county reopens all the polling places for our next election. And with CNC’s success in the news, dozens of activists in underrepresented communities have told us they want to grow CNC in Fresno as well as beyond the Valley.

We hope you’ll join us to build this movement for good jobs, quality education and safer, healthier communities in California. Soon, you’ll be able to use our Web site to stay involved, see news coverage of the campaign, and learn the latest about CNC. Check it out at www.anewcalifornia.org.

Finally, thanks for everything you did.

Sabina Gonzalez-Eraña
Daniela Simunovic
Fresno-Tulare.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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