Letters to the Editor – December 2013

Once Upon a Time

Ruth Gadebusch’s November column regarding the tearing down of the Fulton Mall so that cars can be driven on it once again was right on the mark. She hit every important point clearly, concisely and eloquently. I hope Mayor [Ashley] Swearengin read it carefully. I was laboring over an overly long, obtuse, piece that tried to say what Ruth did, with several times more verbiage, thankfully hers came out first. I can throw mine where it belongs and pin hers up on the bulletin board. Good work!

Norman Lambert
Fresno

Fulton Mall Targeted by City Hall

First, I do not support the mayor’s vision for the [Fulton] Mall. However, it needs to be said the mall is something the City of Fresno no longer wants to be responsible for.

There’s another narrative playing out for the future of downtown: the concept of near total abandonment. As pointed out, major retail left a long time and will never return. There are those in the community who favor decentralizing the government offices now in downtown and moving as many as possible to north Fresno, or shall we say the City of Woodward Lake.

Dan Waterhouse
Fresno

From a Staff Person at the Downtown Fresno Partnership

I recently read the latest issue of Community Alliance, and I am confused at the strong stance of keeping the Fulton Mall. I consider myself progressive, and while I generally appreciate your paper this one felt a little contrived.

The Fulton Mall was an experiment (Fulton was only the second one in the country) of placing a suburban shopping model into an urban area, which seemed like it could be pedestrian friendly, but it ended up cutting off access to the city’s main street, making pedestrians park further away, cutting off access to businesses and literally hiding what that corridor had to offer (including art and business). The only successful pedestrian malls in the U.S. are either by an ocean/beach town, attached to a university, in a major tourist destination (e.g., Las Vegas), in populations under 100,000 (the majority of pedestrian malls are in small towns/cities), are just 1-2 blocks long or have a transit component. Fresno has none of these indicators of success.

Furthermore, studies show that once a main street is reintroduced (restoring what was originally there), pedestrian activity increases and so does investment.

I agree the area should be pedestrian and bicycle friendly, with an emphasis on local retail and restaurants. So do the planners, designers, engineers, property owners and community members engaged on the project. The new design plans (which just had multiple rounds of community meetings) will include restoring artwork and trees, while creating wide sidewalks for outdoor cafes, creating crosswalks, bike lanes or sharrows, adding benches, lighting, etc. It is not like a transportation corridor is going in like Van Ness, but rather it will be a traffic-calmed main street.

It will cost millions of dollars to repair and restore Fulton Mall (money that does not exist). I think the past 50 years have proven the mall is a failure with high vacancies and lack of investment (along with the national trend of failures). Developers are only interested in buying and investing in properties along Fulton now because they know a main street will likely be put there. They have actually said that. Now, we actually have money to complete a main street restoration with the TIGER grant. And because we have this investment, the decaying historical buildings now have a chance at getting restored.

The planners working on this project have done extensive research, community outreach, analysis, environmental review, etc. I understand government distrust on some level, but on another, not everyone working for government is evil! On a personal note, I’ve lived in several cities with pedestrian malls (Denver, New Orleans, Minneapolis, New York). The pedestrian malls in these cities are huge tourist traps that do not feel organic in any way. I ended up avoiding them at all costs.

I just spent the past year living in Downtown Fresno, and the same thing happened. Also, the most successful pedestrian malls are often run by one organization in that area (for streamlined maintenance, operation, marketing), adding to that inauthentic feel. I am surprised a progressive newspaper is advocating for a suburban shopping center model that does not offer an organic city feel.

Despite my thoughts on the issue, I am most disturbed that such an incredibly one-sided view was presented in your newspaper that left out many key facts. It felt like propaganda. Progressive media is valuable, and I believe so strongly that our country needs it. However, these media outlets, too, should research the whole a story before waxing poetic about what is frankly, ideology.

Thank you for your time.

Cole E. Judge
Fresno

GMOs Are Not Healthy for People and Other Living Things

I would like to add a little clarification that somehow got missed in the article. Not only did Raquel Duke organize the March Against Monsanto Fresno event at Woodward Park on Oct. 6, which included the screening of the Jeffrey Smith film Genetic Roulette, as well as some speakers, but she also organized the actual march on Blackstone Avenue on Oct. 12, known as the March Against Monsanto Fresno-Actual March. It has its own page on Facebook. The photo of Raquel in this article was taken at the Oct. 6 event at Woodward Park.

Richard Iyall
Fresno

Love Ya Bro

Almost nine years ago, a very good friend of mine suggested I send some of my articles to the Community Alliance in Fresno. “It’s a progressive paper, a great paper,” she told me. That woman is Maria Telesco. Maria said the editor would probably consider publishing some of my observations and experiences within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). That editor is Mike Rhodes.

In 2005, I wrote an article about the death penalty just before the state-sanctioned murder of Stanley “Tookie” Williams on San Quentin’s Death Row. That article was my first contribution to the Community Alliance, beginning a long association with this very important purveyor of real, uncensored, non-politically-corrected news. My book, Inside the Broken California Prison System, is a compilation of articles published over the years in the Community Alliance.

Mike has allowed me to voice my opinion and report on all things prison that were not only relevant (hot topics) in the news, but occurrences and circumstances “mainstream” newspapers would distort, tidy up or ignore. It’s tough to put into words how thankful I am to be a part of this cultural phenomenon called the Community Alliance and a member of its family as well.

Since becoming a Community Alliance writer/contributor, I have been falsely accused of breaking prison rules, subjected to having my personal property confiscated or destroyed, placed in an isolation cell (“The Hole”), illicitly transferred from prison to prison and the list is long. I wear those incidents and episodes as a badge of honor. Truth be known, I found an editor with the intestinal fortitude to print the truth about what really goes on in some of California’s 34 state prisons. Everything I’ve had published in the Community Alliance about the CDCR is factual and verifiable.

In 2009, after (once again) being thrown in a filthy, cold isolation cell, one of the first people to speak out against my segregation was Mike Rhodes. He ran a series of articles about the illegality of me being punished for my journalistic activities. I was eventually released from the Security Housing Unit (SHU) back into general population. I am convinced the light, inquisition and public attention the Community Alliance generated on my situation prevented further retaliation against me. No doubt whatsoever. I’ll be forever grateful to Mike.

The recent news about Mike stepping down as editor of the Community Alliance left a sour feeling in my stomach. I didn’t know how to comprehend it. To many of us, Mike Rhodes is synonymous with the paper. A man of the community, a man with great integrity.

After reading Mike’s explanation and intentions in his October editorial, and briefly speaking with him on the phone, I realized Mike has complete faith in the Community Alliance’s staff and incoming editor to continue its important contribution to the Fresno region and to those around the state and country who read it on line. I learned Mike has important personal ambitions to achieve, which we are anxious to read about in the near future.

It’s always been hard for me to put into words about someone as important to me as Mike Rhodes is. To say it’s been an honor writing under the auspices of Mike for going on a decade would be an understatement. What I will say is, I am proud to be a small part of the Community Alliance and its family. Mike Rhodes has had my back and I’m grateful.

Good luck Mike—love ya bro. Thank you.

Boston Woodard
San Quentin

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

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