Kathryn Forbes

Opinion and Analysis from the Grassroots

Bottom Line
By Javier Aguirre

Javier Aguirre

In Fresno, the war on the homeless has escalated. Aggressive efforts to eliminate homeless encampments seem to have been approved (and encouraged) at the highest levels of city government and local law enforcement. Reports are that the former Ventura and F Street encampment has now been fenced off. When encampments are allowed to exist for any length of time, the city fails to provide even basic human services (e.g., sanitation) for the unfortunate residents. And now the City Council has gone straight for one of the few sources of income available to the homeless by depriving them of the opportunity to solicit funds on roadway medians.

In Washington, D.C., the president talks in terms of trillion-dollar deficits-speaking Greek to the farmworkers. In California, nonprofits funded to create new jobs in 2009 are failing in their task, blaming it on the economy and the bad times instead of taking responsibility for their failure.

A nonprofit for which I recently worked has chosen to “fluff” its performance reports to cover mismanagement of a grant totaling more than one-half million dollars. The sad part is that this malfeasance goes unrecognized, or unacknowledged, by the so-called stewards-executive directors, district city council members, county supervisors-mandated to ensure that communities in their districts are raised, not plundered, by these same nonprofits. Add to this the fact that federal program evaluators swallowed the garbage and walked away instead of enforcing the program guidelines.

Just as the Native Americans were beguiled and cheated over their land, the middle-class and poverty populations are being misled through a language they don’t understand and fiscal figures they cannot even begin to imagine. A trillion dollars? What’s that? People are having a hard enough time dealing with a $5,000 mortgage debt as they try to save their homes.

The public continually hears the terms vows, swears and promises as legislators unveil a fa‡ade of commitment to improve the conditions under which Americans live. How na‹ve of the legislators to believe that these words have substance in a society that has been raped due to lack of ethics, plundered by a plutocracy that eats dinner in the White House and beguiled by sleight-of-hand tricks at the legislative level.

Dignity, Honor, Truth and Shame are practices that were lost in America with the confinement of Native Americans on reservations, the confinement of the Japanese-Americans solely on the basis of the fold of their eyelids and the relegation of farmworkers to jobs where benefits are unknown. The debilitation of America has been a historical process prompted by decisions based on race, color, wealth and gun power. Even simple farmworkers standing around a log fire can see that; how can supposedly educated, wealthy, egomaniacal plutocrats not see the same thing?

A February 1, 2010, MSN story reported that President Obama and his cronies hold that “once the recession is history, the government will turn its attention to attacking the deficits.” Even a novice study of economics would tell you that the recession IS history! The news media coverage encourages the populace to think in terms that this recession is a result of a quick bubble burst, instead of a process that came to term as a result of long years of bad governmental decisions. State and county legislators promote this idea because it tends to minimize their role in this failure.

Tax hikes may help-some. Agency cutbacks may help-some. New job programs may help-some. However, it does not matter how often the strategy and infrastructure changes if the behavior and thinking of the population does not change. Lessening spending will not improve matters if the current spending activity remains faulty. Reductions in agency funding will not matter if the enforcement requirements are not enforced. Increasing the number of graduates from our schools will not matter if the greater number is still as illiterate and ignorant as the current number of graduates. Increasing the number of “skilled workers” through training programs won’t matter if the trained welders or nurse assistants or machinists have to go back to work at retail stores because there are no jobs in their field of training.

President Obama claims that he would rather be an effective one-term president than a failed two-term president. Noble, but short-sighted. Campesinos, the unemployed and unskilled, and the non-English-speaking communities that are such an integral part of our “melting pot” are suffering tsunamis of hunger, earthquakes of disease, tornadoes of poverty that rip out our very being and hurricanes of legislative incompetence. The need is for proactive, aggressive action, not nobility.

Subsidized funding for new job programs should be aggressively monitored and enforced, and nonprofit boards and administrators should be penalized for failing to satisfy their performance objectives. The objective should no longer be funding for placement, but rather funding for job retention over five months, which allows a person to earn social equity in terms of unemployment insurance and not have to return to public assistance. This requires a subsidized program to actually work at meeting goals.

The measurement of schools should be based on academic excellence over four years of attendance instead of promoting the ideal that a 2.0 GPA (practically a failure in today’s society) is acceptable. Simply increasing the number of graduates who function at the same low level of academic performance is ludicrous.

As an aside, it always astonishes me when a school or facility is named after a famous personality in the belief that this measure honors the person. I can only imagine that those individuals for whom schools are named (Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Sitting Bull and Mandela) must be turning in their graves as these institutions produce some of the most ignorant students on the planet, with attendant high rates of crime, poverty and related social ills. The sad thing is that somewhere someone is claiming these schools to be “All American Schools” or part of an “All American City.” Mediocrity is the norm in today’s American
society.

If there are changes happening in our society, it is not the result of legislative action. It is nothing more than the inexorable forward movement of a glacier that will not be stopped and for which legislators attempt to take credit. New spending programs, tax hikes, committees and subcomittees will not affect change until standards of accountability are enforced. Until that is done, our gente are nothing more than prostitutes upon which the poverty pimps continue to make their fortune.

Perhaps it is time to see where money can be saved and redistributed before looking to areas that need more nonexistent funding. It is accountability and ethical enforcement of current policies and programs at the federal level that will, perhaps in a decade, pull those families living on the riverbanks in 2010 into decent housing and provide them with affordable healthcare.

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Javier Aguirre is a regular contributor to Hispanic Link NewsService and may be reached at aguirrejavier@msn.com.

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Green Politics in Fresno
By Richard Gomez

Richard Gomez
Richard Gomez

The last day to take out papers to run for partisan political office in 2010 is 5 p.m., Friday, March 12. Offices such as governor, senator and more plus local ones like City Council, the Board of Supervisors and the State Assembly are on the ballot this year.

Already, the California Green Party has candidates for each statewide office, including two candidates for governor and one for the U.S. Senate. The Green Party is also fielding candidates for Assembly seats and various local offices throughout the state. However, the Fresno Greens have only a few candidates running for local seats and are looking for more potential candidates.

The California Green Party policy is for each active county to choose members to represent them and their local concerns. These County Council members are elected every two years and officially function as facilitators and organizers for meetings as well as spokespersons who represent the 1,500 or so Greens in Fresno County.

In Fresno, working within our 10 Key Values system, we have Green members involved in various issues regarding the city, county, state and country. One of our 10 Key Values is grassroots democracy. We have to ask ourselves how we can develop systems that allow and encourage us to control the decisions that affect our lives and ensure that our representatives will be fully accountable to the Greens. And how can we develop planning mechanisms that will allow citizens to develop and implement their own preferences for policies and spending priorities?

The solutions to these questions will come from the experiences and knowledge of members and of their personal friends and professional colleagues. These valuable assets can help create the political clout to make the Greens a force in the county.

The California Greens will release a recommendation regarding the propositions on the June ballot after the first weekend in March. E-mail voting from each county to take a position on the propositions is underway and will be finalized at the next plenary in San Jose. Fresno County Green members who wish to voice their opinions are welcome to contact me as soon as possible.

The final recommendation on the propositions by the California Greens will be based on the support or lack of support from each county and how the propositions stack up against the Green Party’s 10 Key Values.

A report on the San Jose plenary and other issues will be given at our next Green Party meeting. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on March 11 in downtown Fresno.

We encourage Greens of all kinds in the county to run or to participate in a campaign to make the Central Valley better. The requirement is simple: Be a member of the Fresno County Green Party in good standing. Contact us and get involved.

For more information about the California Green Party, visit www.cagreens.org.

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Richard Gomez is active in the Fresno County Green Party. Contact him at 559-269-3828 or nate136_66@yahoo.com.

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Haze versus Costa: The Future of the 20th
Congressional District and the San Joaquin Valley

Steve Haze
Steve Haze

Why would I, Steve Haze, a Democrat, run against Jim Costa, the incumbent Democratic representative of the 20th Congressional District who has more than 30 years of political experience? Well, there are many reasons why I should…

Keep this in mind: If you like how things are going, then stay the course and vote Costa. However, if you don’t, then vote for Haze so we can work together to chart a new course for a better future.

Only you as the voter will make the ultimate decision on Tuesday, June 8.

During those same 30 years that Costa has been a career politician, I have worked in private industry with small and large businesses. And for nearly 10 years I have also worked on water and economic issues facing the San Joaquin Valley. During this time, I have worked hard to empower community-based organizations as relates to jobs, education and improving the overall quality of life for everyone. To me, this is tangible experience and real leadership that can help people improve people’s lives.

Did you know that based on a comprehensive socioeconomic study performed by Congress in 2005, the 20th Congressional District, which makes up most of the agricultural lands in Fresno, Kings and Kern counties in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, ranks 435th-or dead last? That is based on a number of key measurements such as jobs, poverty, health, environmental problems, teen pregnancy and education. The area has been described as the new Appalachia. And this has been going on for decades-not just based on the recent perception of drought and water shortages!

The California Economic Development Department’s (EDD) latest figures show that the unemployment rate as of December 2009 was 24.9%-which equates to 75,000 people out of jobs in the district! Then add those underemployed or who have stopped seeking work, and you may have more than a third of the workforce severely affected-let alone those who worry everyday about losing their jobs.

What has been driving the unemployment rate: Water cutbacks because of the Delta smelt based on an economic study from UC Davis? Or because of the construction industry plummeting based on a study from the University of the Pacific? And ask this question: Who should get the best water in the San Joaquin Valley-crops grown for profit or the people?

Then add to what the future may bring when it comes to education. There are arguments as to how to measure what the real numbers are of those who do not complete their high school education, which ranges from 25% to nearly 50%. In some of the most impoverished rural communities, it may be even higher. However, even one student not completing high school with a GED or on a vocational career path is unacceptable.

These are chronic challenges that must be confronted honestly-and with a sense of urgency. It seems that the 20th District is known not just for its bounty as an agricultural powerhouse but also for things that are shameful and should not be tolerated. Economically and socially, it is sadly known for the wrong “four C’s”-Correctional Facilities, Cartels, Casinos and just the plain Crud that is dumped in this valley. The district should be better known for the values of Curriculum, Careers, Congregations and Community.

Environmental and economic justice and equality should be the common principles that become the foundation for a better, brighter and more secured future for everyone.

Then there is the world at large and how it affects most of us here at home-with two major undeclared wars, the exporting of our jobs, reliance on oil from unfriendly nations, a domestic economy that is being hollowed out and, finally, massive amounts of red ink flowing endlessly draining the nation’s treasury and our future as a people. The 20th Congressional District is a barometer of how well we are treating the people that matter the most-and where we stand as a nation within the world community.

With all of these massive challenges facing the 20th Congressional District and the San Joaquin Valley, should we stay the course or chart a new one based on real experience and leadership?

Finally, with everything that confronts us-why would I, Steve Haze, not run for Congress in the 20th District?

To make a difference visit www.HazeForCongress.us

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Do We Really Believe in Equality?
By Ruth Gadebusch

Ruth Gadebusch
Ruth Gadebusch

February brought us Black History Month, and March has been designated as Women’s History Month. It is all well and good to highlight the contributions of these two groups, but true equality will have been achieved only when such attention is no longer needed. True equality means that the history of these two groups is included as a matter of course with the nation’s general history.

Until that time comes, I will use the occasion to highlight some of the struggles of women. It was the mid-19th century when women began in earnest the long quest for the vote in this nation. Little did they know that it would take a near half of a century to achieve something that seemed so right. This year on August 26, we will celebrate the 90th anniversary of that occasion when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution became effective.

At this stage, we women hold only 16% of the seats in Congress and about 25% in elective bodies overall. Are we keeping the faith with those women, and a few men, who worked so hard for our participation in the political process? Do we take advantage of the opportunities that we have?

To be sure, we in California have two female newcomers this year. Both are prepared to buy their way into government-starting at the top, of course-with one running for governor and the other for senator. Both have business experience, some of which can be transferred to governance, but haven’t we had enough of that with men who did not think they needed government experience before running for the top offices? Of particular concern to those of us who feel we have a responsibility to take advantage of what our foremothers/fathers worked so hard for is that one of these candidates did not even bother to vote for many years.

This “Johnny come lately” to political interest is not the kind of equality that we progressive women seek. At least, I hope it isn’t. The other aspect is the idea that one can buy one’s way into office. Unfortunately, that just may be true, particularly with the
Supreme Court’s recent ruling expanding the ability of corporations to use their money to affect the outcome of political campaigns.

Meanwhile, we as a nation tend to act so holier than thou regarding nations that have actually allowed women a much larger role than in this nation. Although Nancy Pelosi, our highest ranking woman, ranks behind the vice president, Great Britain has had a female prime minister. Liberia has had a woman president. Turkey has had a woman prime minister. Germany’s current leader is female. This list is far from complete with many other currently serving or having served.

It is rather ironic that just when women in America thought that they could grab the golden ring, it was a black man who actually got it. It was somewhat reminiscent of the passage of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when women found that it applied only to black men and not women. What a shame that these two underrepresented groups should be pitted against each other. However, we can hardly begrudge this man the office. The goal is that both be accepted for their experience and their ensuing ability to contribute, not race or gender, just as individuals.

To be sure, there are studies that indicate attitudes are slowly but surely changing. Doors have been opened. Still women lag behind. Women of color lag even more. It will be April 20, 2010, four months into this year, before the average woman’s salary reaches that of what a man made in 2009.

There are nations in the world where women seemingly have made greater progress in the political world, but the truly sad part is that there are ever so many more where the life of females is daily torture. Arguably, about as bad as it can get is the life of women in the Congo. There, rape continues to be a daily threat with marauding troops returning time after time to wreak their damage leaving the women with lifelong physical disabilities, to say nothing of the psychological trauma.

Then there are nations where women do it to other women. Here I speak of so-called female circumcision. This is largely a religious custom performed by female family members and elders of the community at the expectation of the men of the tribe.

And sex trade continues worldwide. This is not limited to females but children of all ages. Nor is our own nation immune from such. Yes, there are women who choose prostitution but the point is they choose it, although it is highly doubtful that many find it to be all that they expected. Many more were enticed into the life with false promises of other more appealing jobs. Most are then held in virtual servitude.

Then there is domestic violence, which generally leaves more women than men as the victims. With women no longer considered as property, there are more resources for escaping this violence.

Much progress has been made, but there are still miles to go. Progress did not just happen. It came about because caring men and women made it happen. Now it is our turn.

Let us take Women’s History Month and particularly March 8, International Woman’s Day, to consider just what responsibility we have to mitigate these dire conditions. Are we using our vote sufficiently? Are we political activists? Can we do more to make a difference? Do we really doubt that equality for all would make a better world?

The challenge is ours.

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

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From the Greenhouse: Cap and Trade for California
By Franz Weinschenk

Franz Weinschenk
Franz Weinschenk

Despite some of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political views and actions, we’ve got to give him credit for his determination to make our state a leader in the green revolution. First, he pushed to get better gas mileage for California’s cars, then he went to Copenhagen and lobbied for “sub-national” officeholders such as governors, provincial leaders and mayors to do their own thing when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and not wait for national and international agreements. And now, along with California’s Air Resources Board headed by Mary Nichols and a group of western states and Canadian provinces called the Western Climate Initiative, he’s promoting a broad-based cap-and-trade program, Assembly Bill 32, for California. Hey, given that California is the eighth largest economy in the world, the things we do could certainly have an impact.

Schwarzenegger strongly supports and promotes what California’s Air Resources Board is trying to accomplish. He puts it this way, “We have seen our green economy grow along with California’s green initiatives, and I have no doubt the nation’s first cap-and-trade program will also drive innovation and generate green jobs.” Of course, before any law that proposes to radically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by power plants, factories and vehicles using fossil fuels is going to get on the books, you just know there’s going to be a huge debate and probably an even bigger fight in the legislature. Already, such groups as the California Manufacturers & Technology Association are proclaiming their opposition to AB 32.

The cap-and-trade program proposed by the governor and the Air Resources Board is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and ultimately realize an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. Last year, the House of Representatives passed a similar bill, which is scheduled to be debated in the Senate this year. If federal legislation were ever to pass (and that’s a big “if”), whatever California legislation is able to accomplish would likely be combined with the Congressional version of cap and trade.

Most of the unwanted CO2 and methane emissions in California come from about 600 power companies, oil refineries, cement plants and other manufacturing facilities. What this new legislation will be trying to do is to “cap” or limit those emissions. So far, agriculture is not included.

Here is how it works: First, the state will calculate what the limit of greenhouse gases emitted by California industry should be in
order to meet our nation’s and the planet’s goals-that’s the “cap.” Permits or allowance certificates are then doled out to users with the proviso that they cannot exceed the amount stated on their permits. If they find a way to power their operation with some form of renewable energy such as solar, wind or bio-fuel, they can sell their excess shares to companies that want to emit more carbon than they were initially allotted. That’s called a “trade.” The system rewards going green because companies that do so can make a profit by selling their excess permits. As time passes, the “cap” is decreased until we meet our goals as a state, a nation and a planet.

The system encourages everybody in the economy to become more efficient by rewarding those who reduce their use of fossil fuels. It motivates industry to use clean renewable energy by allowing those that reduce their toxic emissions to make money by selling their surplus permits. Of course, it’s still not clear how the permits will be awarded to begin with. In some systems, the government just gives them away; in others, permits are bought from the government at a set price; and in still others, permits are auctioned off. If the latter two were employed in California, our state could realize substantial revenue.

When drafting any cap-and-trade system, lawmakers need to be aware of the mistakes most analysts acknowledge the Europeans made when they set up their systems. First, they handed out too many permits for free. Even though utility companies got them for nothing, they still charged higher electricity prices to consumers. Furthermore, because there was an overabundance of permits, in a short time the price of the permits plummeted. Power plants and industries could buy them for practically nothing, which in turn allowed them to emit far too many greenhouse gases.

To be successful, the system has to make absolutely sure from the beginning that the combined number of permits represents the absolute maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions permitted, and then reduce that limit over time. Yes, it’s complicated and controversial, but it’s working in Europe, and it can work here.

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Franz Weinschenk has been a teacher and school administrator in Fresno for more than 50 years. E-mail him 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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