Opinion and Analysis From the Grassroots

Opinion and Analysis From the Grassroots
Image by Ron Mader via Flickr Creative Commons

Planet Earth Volunteers
By George Madrid

Well my friends of the Keep it Green World, how was your April Volunteer and Flower Walk month? The flowers on the foothills and places like Carrizo Plain, Wind Wolves and Bitterwater Road all have put on a rainbow of colors only seen every wet year.

I will provide dates for volunteering the time you wish to give to land conservancies and other green initiatives. Not only do you create something from your free labor but you also improve your physical condition. May is the last month for some volunteer work as the weather could change to 100 degrees plus making it unsuitable to work in the hot sun. Soon, I will have information on trips you can take in the summer months.

May (all month)-Bakersfield
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is looking for volunteers to work at Carrizo Plain National Monument. You will be restoring and planting native plants. Associating with this great caretaker (BLM) will let you in places that are prohibited to the public. And they always have BBQ after a workday. You camp out where there are toilets available and make lasting friends. Sit around the campfire and have a glass of Kool-Aid while the skies offer a view of the heavens. For more info, contact Kenneth Hock at khock@ca.blm.gov or 661-391-6144. Carrizo Plain is about 3.5 hours from Fresno. While there, visit the San Andreas Fault line. You can actually climb down the crack. Good luck.

The following three events are part of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust. For more info, e-mail sparks@riverparkway.org or call 559-248-8480 ext. 107. They will let you know when the next river cleanup day is. There is a small fee for some of the events. All monies go to the River Fund.

May 2-Fresno
From 8:30 a.m. to noon, wade up to your knees learning what a clean river that is full of life means to us. Dr. Bert Tribbey, biology professor at Fresno State, and his wife Edith, a docent for our education team, will be our show and tell. Learn about what makes a living river a habitat for nature’s gift to us. Space is limited so call early.

May 15-Fresno
From 8:30 a.m. to noon. Learn how people of long ago survived with what food and plants were available back then. This interesting talk will be by Dr. John Pryor, professor of archeology at Fresno State, who will also lead the walk. Sign up early.

May 15-Fresno
Join us on a canoe ride to Rank Island at 8:30 a.m. There will be a walk for 2-3 miles exploring the wonders of this beautiful island. Sign up early.

May 29-Visalia
Sequoia Riverlands Trust. The friends of this land conservancy will hold “Go Native!,” its third annual Native American cultural celebration. Come see the regalia of the native dancers and meet the people whose grandfathers walked these lands with the deer. They are looking for docents and volunteers year-round. They will train you to lead groups of kids with all the plant life and little creatures that make up the preserve. Kids and parents love it. Get those kids away from the video games. E-mail laura@sequoiariverlands.org for directions and the time of the event.

May 15-Bakersfield (Old Hwy. 166)
Wind Wolves will have its last Volunteer Day. Come Friday night (May 14) and camp out. Meet at 9 a.m. for the wildlands preserve manager to provide instructions for the day. You will then do fencing or plant oak trees. Come see land undisturbed by public use. You may see the herds of elk that graze the open grass fields. For more info, e-mail geodrid@sbcglobal.net.


George Madrid can be reached at geodrid@sbcglobal.net or 559-623-3233.

Eulogizing Ronald Reagan
By Bill Warner

The California Senate has voted to create a Ronald Reagan Day, despite the ongoing debate as to who was the worst president in U.S. history: James Buchanan, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. My first exposure to Reagan was when he became governor of California and immediately cut the education budget by 15%. Then there was the year that he, a millionaire, paid zero income tax while I, a poor teacher, paid thousands. Was this guy really a friend of labor?

Reaganomics, aka supply-side economics, pretends you can keep cutting taxes and spending more than you take in. This philosophy was continued throughout what has been called the Reagan/Bush years and has bankrupted America. Reagan maxed out our great grandchildren’s credit cards. Back when I was a Republican, we used to believe that the government should be like a household and not spend more than it takes in. Giving the rich tax breaks was supposed to give them more money to invest in America, build factories and create jobs. They used it, all right—to export jobs to countries where the workers can be paid two bits an hour.

Under Reagan, we fought an undeclared and illegal war against the people of Central America. American-trained and supplied terrorists in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua were called by Reagan “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.” The Reaganites lied to Congress, which had cut off funds for these activities, and got the money for these operations in questionable and illicit ways.

The United States was convicted in the World Court in the Hague for illegally mining Nicaragua’s harbors. We were not at war with Nicaragua; Reagan just didn’t like their government, which was not friendly to U.S. business interests. This idea of an Imperial Presidency, which rules rather than governs, was taken to new heights under George W. Bush, can be traced back to our smiling actor-president (emphasis on actor).

Reagan supported Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Read your history. When 50 American hostages were held in Iran due to American support for their hated shah, who we had installed, Reagan made a point of saying one should never give in to kidnappers. The very day he became president, he did just that, and traded arms for the hostages, who were released.

His bravery in yanking the Marines out of Lebanon after a disastrous attack on their barracks killed a lot of them will long be remembered. Maybe they had no business there in the first place?

“Deregulation” was always one of Reagan’s big ideas. Letting big business and banks do whatever they wanted to without government oversight was supposed to benefit everyone. It didn’t. Over time, this policy brought us to the brink of economic collapse. It opened the door to wholesale abuse and outright robbery of middle-class Americans, by banks, savings and loan associations, war contractors and corporations.

Vis-a-vis protecting the environment, Reagan was a disaster. His appointments were akin to putting the foxes in charge of the chicken coop. Goodbye forests, clean air, etc. He said, “How many redwoods do you want to see?” and “Trees cause pollution.” Did the American people really deserve the lumber industry being put in charge of our national forests?

Reagan was anti-labor. Remember when he broke the air traffic controllers (PATCO) strike, which was focused on safety issues, by firing the experienced controllers and bringing in learners?

And how many needy Americans were denied help by Reagan selling the American people on the false image of the poor as “welfare queens”?

Reagan’s policies, which were later embraced by George W. Bush (whose father had called them “voodoo economics”), have brought us to a place that the communists never could have. In the name of patriotism, they have attacked American ideals like truth and fairness and presided over economic, environmental and moral destruction. Our jobs are gone. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and we are now the largest debtor nation in the world. The damage done by Reagan’s supply-side economics is irreparable. The Constitution is in tatters as well.

Reagan’s getting credit for bringing down the Soviet Union by forcing them into an expensive arms race that bankrupted them (and us) is a dubious accomplishment as well, especially in light of the CIA studies before Reagan that showed Russia would have imploded anyway.

If our legislators are intent on honoring Reagan, I think that he should be immortalized by replacing Lincoln on the penny, which now costs more to make that it can purchase.


Bill Warner is a retired history teacher, a recovering Republican and a contributor to progressivewritersbloc.com.

Two CA Green Party candidates for Governor
By Richard Gomez

Richard Gomez
Richard Gomez

Two people of diverse background but sharing a common dream: to become Governor of California and give her people the opportunity to get better.  Never before has an opportunity to kick out the old system been so present in California.  These are candidates whose goals are to solve California’s problems without resorting to the failed politics of desperation, gamesmanship and fear that have landed us where we are today.  Greens are proud to have two gubernatorial primary candidates, Laura Wells and Deacon Alexander, whose differences lie not in substance but in their priorities. A party with candidates who put the rights of the least of us first is one that can proudly represent us all.

Laura Wells is a 30 year resident of California with a broad background in finance, management and political innovation. She has participated in five international delegations to Canada and South America to study improvements in democracy and new constitutions. Laura learned that local businesses are the ones that create jobs and strong communities, and she has made it a priority to support them ever since.

“Proposition 13, I love you, but honey, you’ve got to change,” according to Laura Wells:

Candidates from the Titanic (Democratic and Republican) Parties will not talk straight about Proposition 13. I will and it’s time to fix the money in California, so we need to keep the good and fix the bad of Prop 13. Voters approved it in 1978 to keep people, especially seniors, in their homes, but, like a bad pharmaceutical, the side effects of the tax policies have been disastrous, especially to our youth. I received more than 400,000 votes, the highest vote total of any Green Party partisan statewide race in California, when I ran as a candidate for state controller with the message to “follow the money.” As a Green Governor, I would institute a State Bank for California where we would invest in California, not Wall Street. We can have great schools, health care, a wonderful environment, and golden job opportunities, if we concentrate on the state and local.

I no longer use the term “third party”; the Green Party is an independent party. We are independent because we are free from the corrupting influence of corporate contributions. Perhaps best
described as political investments, since they exact a high return in favorable legislation, sweetheart contracts, and big bailouts. Our independence is what makes it possible for us to govern well when we do get elected. My values are the ones Californians share: optimism about the possibilities of the future — a safe and inspiring natural environment, affordable access to health care, a fair and world-class education system at all levels; and a belief that California can be a world leader in innovative solutions to complex problems in business, finance and infrastructure. We can surround ourselves with intelligent, competent people with great values rather than lobbyists with great big pocketbooks. This is our year, not four more years of status quo. There are solutions for our systems of education, health care, and the environment, and job opportunities if we shift course and go Green Party.

The Laura Wells Green Party Campaign for Governor has printed 10,000 copies of a newsletter leaflet listing the “13 Ways Prop 13 has been Unlucky for California” on one side and, on the reverse, “FAQs: State Bank for California.” We are distributing them at rallies and meetings all over the state. Information about Prop 13, the State Bank and more is available on my Web site’s platform section, www.LauraWells.org, or call 510-225-4005.

Deacon Alexander is a 64-year-old retired union carpenter whose ideas for a better society come from his father, a bricklayer’s assistant and political activist. As a long-time social advocate and former Black Panther, Deacon Alexander in 1972 worked to see Angela Davis acquitted of all charges against her, and in 2005 joined Latino immigrants to fight for Los Angeles’ South Central Farm.

“I run for Governor because Californians must do better,” according to Deacon Alexander:

We must educate, not incarcerate. Growing affordable housing and local business are in my plan to invest in basic infrastructure. Abolish the death penalty, the prison industrial complex, racism against immigrants and all people of color. I support jobs which empower our youth, rebuild inner cities, and reduce global warning. I support rights for all California working people.

My gubernatorial campaign is simple. We will go Poor-to-Poor, up and down the State of California. My first act as candidate was on Skid Row in LA with the homeless, the disenfranchised, and the down and out. These people have been excluded, denied and rejected for far too long. I pledge to bring them into my campaign for Governor, register them as Greens, and fight for their rights.

Campaign Contact Person: Sandy Stiassni,
Interim Campaign Director
E-mail: DADCAB@sbcglobal.net
Web site: www.deaconforgov.com
Address: 5319 University Drive #126, Irvine, CA 92612
Phone: 714-269-7225

One of these two will represent the California Green Party in the November election for governor. Other Green Party candidates
are running unopposed for their respective statewide offices.
Remember, only voters registered in the Green Party may vote for Laura Wells or Deacon Alexander in the primary election on June 8. The last day to register to vote in the upcoming primary is Monday, May 24.  So if you wish to vote for one of these candidates, you must register Green Party or change your registration to the Green Party before the deadline. Of course, any and all registered voters in California may vote for the winner of the June primary in the November general election. I encourage all to learn more about them, and if you’re interested in supporting the local Green Party, please contact me at 559-269-3828 or nate136_66@yahoo.com.

From the Greenhouse
by Franz Weinschenk

On Again, Off Again, and Finally On Again

Franz Weinschenk
Franz Weinschenk

Back in 2007, I was really hot to get the city of Fresno to join the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. The “Agreement” is a group of cities originally organized by Mayor Greg Nickels of Seattle shortly after 147 nations signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The idea was that when cities joined, they would voluntarily challenge themselves to try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 7% below 1990 levels by the year 2012.

At the time, Fresno City Council Member Brian Calhoun twice introduced a motion to support the Agreement, and the City Council passed it both times. However, then-Mayor Alan Autry did not want us to join. The reason he gave was that, though he liked some of what the Agreement was proposing, he wasn’t going to sign it  because, as he stated, “It was a swipe at President Bush.” So he did nothing — neither signed nor vetoed the resolution. In other words, he treated it like a pocket veto.

What he didn’t realize was that Fresno’s charter has a provision in it that says that if the mayor neither signs nor vetoes a resolution sent to him by the City Council, after 10 business days it automatically becomes law. And so, thinking that the thing had been automatically approved, somebody in city government sent the Agreement people a message stating that Fresno had joined. Lo and behold, a couple of weeks later, when I looked at the list of California cities that were members, sure enough there we were — right in between “Fremont” and “Galt.” I was so tickled I wrote out a congratulatory speech and was all set to run down to city hall to commend the council, when, for no discernible reason — blam — we were off the list again. Back to square one.

So because of people like me complaining, the city attorney was brought in. In a tortured opinion, he essentially said that while the council can’t force the mayor to sign something he doesn’t want to sign because that would interfere with his “leadership” mandate, the city’s administrative staff could send our name up to the Agreement. What wasn’t clear was if that would be enough to get us our actual membership.

At the time I figured that if even two “yes” votes by the City Council couldn’t get the mayor to do something, I sure as heck couldn’t either. So I wrote a letter to Bill McEwen, the Fresno Bee columnist, explaining what had happened, and he wrote a very snappy column about the matter. In his column, he told his readers that the mayor had told him that while he supported efforts to curtail global warming, he believed the Agreement was politically motivated. So if he felt that way, McEwen asked him, why didn’t he veto the thing? “I guess I am trying to have it both ways,” he replied. “I thought we were going to be on the list of supporters. Now that we’re not, I’m willing to revisit it.”

A little later, McEwen asked then-City Manager Andy Souza about the matter and was told that everything had been settled and that Fresno was “good to go.” And, it’s true — we went.  In just about a month after the column appeared, I personally saw us back on the list — right there in between Fremont and Galt.  I figured it was Bill McEwen’s column that did it, and I thanked him

Well now, two years have passed, and the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement has grown substantially. More than 1,000 cities, including 121 from California, representing more than 80 million Americans, have joined. But when I looked at the actual list, guess what? Once again, Fresno was missing.

Must be a mistake, I thought. So I e-mailed the Agreement office, but they told me that currently, Fresno is not a member. I also wrote to Mayor Ashley Swearengin asking her if she could explain.

What a Contrast

Where Mayor Autry completely ignored my letters, Mayor Swearengin sent me a positive reply. First, she told me that the reason Fresno wasn’t on the list was that her predecessor had not signed on, but that she would be pleased to sign the agreement.  Not only that, but we now have a mayor who is well versed in what Fresno has to do to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. As a matter of fact, for the first time ever, I saw an exact accounting of how many tons of carbon dioxide Fresno actually emits, and what we have to do to reduce those emissions in order to meet the Agreement’s voluntary guidelines.

This time, I hope we stay on the list. By joining and involving ourselves with literally hundreds of other “green” cities, we can learn from what they have done and are doing to reduce their carbon footprints: what’s effective, what saves money and what gets your city some recognition (something Fresno could surely use).


The author can be reached at franzie@SCCCD.org.


  • Community Alliance

    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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