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Opinion and Analysis from the Grassroots

Beyond Mortgaging the Future: Bankruptcy

By Ruth Gadebusch

“Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die” appears to be the prevailing attitude. Except, there isn’t much merriment for ordinary citizens these days. We have turned our society over to the wealthy corporations and their greed of no amount is enough for them.

No one wants to pay for the services we want, or even those we need. There seems little concept of being in this together. How much can the rich really use? We reduce taxes at the top while imposing all manner of fees on others. There will be an especially high price to pay for our decimation of public education.

Across the nation public education is taking a beating. On my soapbox again, I emphasize that public funds are used for education because the society needs educated citizens. Granted, the individual also benefits but that is secondary to the fate of the nation. Ever have we been on a quest for the perfect system but almost always wanting to do it on the cheap.

We have staggered from all boys and no girls to some equity, from near exclusive vocational education to near exclusive college prep, from ignoring special education needs to giving it the front seat, from just the basics to “basket weaving”-in general, from one extreme to another, but always expecting to do it with great frugality, never recognizing its full value. And then we wonder why it is not succeeding to a greater degree.

I argue that it is succeeding to a greater degree than we recognize. No place in the world has a greater proportion of its population had educational opportunity. We see the cream of the crop from other nations and fail to see the price was leaving so many others behind. We dream of the good old days in our country and fail to see the challenges of today faced by educators. The truth be known, those days were not as successful as we like to think. The benefits went to the cream of the crop.

“No child left behind” is a terrific slogan and a wonderful goal, but simple measures won’t accomplish great end results in this complex world. Nor does the problem belong only to educators. It is a societal one, not as easy a solution as society seems to think. We must change the conditions of the larger society. Educators alone cannot overcome the obstacles the children encounter outside the school.

At this juncture, we are on a downhill wreck devastating our resources, thus endangering what success we have had. We do not want to pay the taxes necessary to sustain the system at a time when it is needier than ever. Reductions are being made in an already inadequately financed system. More, much more, is needed. There are students of special needs-be they limited language, physical or emotional problems, or just plain food and housing-being put into ever larger classes. All this is at a time when families are less able to provide for themselves. What can we be thinking?

Then there is California’s vaunted higher education system once available to all. Both the UC and the CSU systems are turning students away and increasing fees at an astounding rate. Graduation is being dragged out because required courses are offered at such limited time.

This leaves us expecting citizens with less education to solve greater problems created by our shortsightedness. How do we expect that to work? What makes us think that uneducated citizens can sustain this democracy? What makes us think they will look back fondly on us who squandered the resources after taking care of ourselves? Is this the legacy we want?

Allowing community, and particularly the public education system, to go to rack and ruin is not in our best interest, much less that of our progeny. It isn’t just mortgaging the future. It is bankrupting it.

*****

Ruth Gadebusch is a former naval officer, a Fresno Unified School District Trustee for 13 year and a community activist.

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A Green Dilemma: “Why can’t we just choose from all the candidates?”

By Richard Gomez

An exasperated voter wanted to know why she couldn’t just choose any candidate she liked instead of from one political party in the June Primary. She left me with the impression that her political choices should be no different than choosing peanut butter or toilet paper at the grocery store. To her it seemed to be about convenience but to me it is about our future. But she’s not the first person to be unhappy with our political process.

This last primary election, we had less than 1 out of every 4 registered voters bothering to vote. Many people believe that elections give them no say in political decisions. Well, you’re right if you just sit on your ass and pout. At least that lady showed up and complained about the options she faced. At least that’s a start. Twenty years ago, people decided that California needed a political change and formed the state Green Party, and they did it by getting people who agreed that a different direction was needed. Then they had to decide where that direction would lead.

The California Green Party and most political parties are formed when people voluntarily choose to support a particular set of ideals, hopes and dreams. The Green Party has our 10 Key Values of Respect for Diversity, Ecological Wisdom, Nonviolence, Social Justice, Grassroots Democracy, Decentralization, Community-Based Economics, Feminism, Personal & Global Responsibility and Sustainability (at www.cagreens.org/platform/10k.shtml) as our guiding principles. It wasn’t or hasn’t been easy because we chose not to accept big corporate money or play the games the major parties engaged in. But it’s not about being different but about charting a new way to our future and being open to what lies ahead even in rough times.

Currently, the California Green Party and other political parties are expected to legally challenge Proposition 14, which threatens to eliminate their right to participate in the General Election. Sadly, this measure didn’t include an Instant Run-Off voting system, whereby voters would choose their preference for all candidates from all parties on the primary ballot and the candidate receiving the majority (50%+1) of the vote would win. No need for another election, but in this proposition, primary candidates would be competing for the most corporate and special interest monies instead for ideas or hopes for the future.

So if all elections are going to be nothing more than flashy expensive commercials that advocate short empty phrases, then the Green Party and any hope for the future of humankind will die. Thus a need for a Green Party success in the November General Election becomes more important than ever.

A victory can continue the fight for changes like a real immigration policy that respects the rights of those residing in the United States or a real single-payer healthcare system that helps all of our people. Although some goals will be implemented right away and some will take time and some compromises need to be made, we know this world is going to change and our 10 Key Values will speak to how the Green Party can change our world.

*****

Richard Gomez is a County Council member of the Fresno County Green Party and can be reached at 559-269-3828 or nate136_66@yahoo.com.

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What Might “We” Do To Help Homeless, Fellow Humans Here In Fresno?

By J.D. McCubbin

What we choose to do about “The Homeless” will reflect how we view ourselves, and our actions will define who we really are. Are we going to be humane toward our fellows? Are we kind or cruel, good or bad, helpful or hurtful? Will we be ethical? Will we use history’s “Golden Rule” as our precept? Are we empathetic? Most of all, are we factual, realistic, honest, purposeful, rational, capable of learning from past shortfalls and successes, our own or others’ experience, and cognizant of the constraints and possibilities of the governmental, economic and political contexts?

Beyond ourselves, we must realize that each homeless person is impelled to attempt to satisfy his/her basic human needs–space, safety, hygiene, sleep, nourishment, society and self-
expression–each and every day. That is not “just an eight-to-five” job, only five days a week, and excepting legal holidays. If “we” as a society frustrate, prevent, prohibit and punish the meeting of basic human needs, then our culture/society/governments/economy will continue to expand the “problem of homelessness.” We might declare and/or define away “homelessness,” but the “condition of homeless” won’t be ended by fiat. And homelessness has been the inevitable (if unintended?) consequence of much governmental activity.

We must be realistic about how many “homeless people” there are in Greater Fresno. Using U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) methodology, one would estimate an average of about 2% of a jurisdiction’s population to be “homeless,” that is, without a place to sleep. For Greater Fresno, that is about 20,000 homeless persons, about 10,000 in the City of Fresno and nearly the same 10,000 in the other county cities and unincorporated county areas.

This is probably a low number because Fresno is at the bottom of economic and employment measures. If one defines homeless as “being without a legally recognized and protected right of occupancy for a term certain in a code compliance habitation,” then a truer number of Greater Fresno’s homeless would easily exceed 50,000 and might be as many as 100,000 persons.

Appreciating the real number of Fresno’s homeless, the following should be obvious: We can’t end homelessness by criminal enforcement actions when Fresno’s jails are releasing inmates under court order. We can’t afford Housing First costs when this city, other county cities, and the county are all dealing with deficits and cutting essential services from their budgets. We can’t practically “counsel, shelter, service and socialize” all of the homeless when using the past “care model” approach hasn’t worked.

And what if the current economic-political conditions continue for a decade or more and we get to 2020 with the same or worse prospects? What if this is a permanent condition of our economy/society? We don’t have enough money and time to perpetuate homelessness using past unsuccessful approaches.

So what can be done to help “The Homeless” end their own homelessness?

We can stop making their condition worse by stopping the harassing and policing them as they just try to exist in public common spaces and places, for example, the notorious destruction of camps at both H and Santa Clara streets and at G and Ventura streets.

We can stop criminalizing attempts by the homeless to provide for themselves, for example, Fresno’s recent “no median begging” ordinance.

We could stop making participation in society more difficult by reducing the barriers to positive economic participation with the multitude of ever more costs, fees, charges, prerequisites, formal requirements, prior authorizations, permits, approvals, fees, etc.

We should provide for the public health, safety and society of all by providing police protection, safe communal space and public health services for the homeless too.

More imaginably and helpfully, we could quickly, easily and cheaply legalize the homeless’ demonstrated answer, that is, homeless camps. We could approve and build 10 legal public “camp-parks,” each designed and equipped to accommodate 3,000 persons, putting at least one camp-park in each of the seven Fresno City Council districts, and one more in each of the county supervisorial districts. The Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, the National Guard, the Army Reserve “summer camps,” relief agencies and UN agencies have repeatedly demonstrated the usefulness of this solution. This would be a feasible low-cost step up for 30,000 people to help themselves find their way out of homelessness, off the streets and into a legal alternative way and place to live.

*****

J.D. McCubbin, Retired back to Fresno after 26 years of federal service, including time as an Air Force officer, acting district counsel in the Corps of Engineers and attorney-advisor in the Department of the Air Force, as coordinator of its “Superfund (Third-Party Liabilities) Program.”

  • 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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