Jerry Dyer (on left and holding a noose) wants to be the next mayor of Fresno.

Progressive News Briefs

Fresno Police Violate Federal Court Order Protecting the Homeless

In January of this year, the City of Fresno violated the settlement agreement protecting homeless people from having their property taken and immediately destroyed. A City of Fresno employee working at Roeding Park took the personal belongings of four homeless men, which included sleeping bags, cooking gear and similar personal property. Then, under the direction of Fresno Police Department (FPD) Officer Kurt Smith, the park employee put the property in a City of Fresno truck. The City hauled it away and destroyed it without notice.

The next day, Al Williams, who is one of the men who had his property taken, spoke with a Roeding Park supervisor. He was trying to figure out what had happened to his property because there had been no notice of any “cleanup” and no indication of where his property was or how to recover it. The park supervisor handed Williams a business card from FPD Officer Smith and told him that Officer Smith had instructed the City of Fresno employee to throw the property into a City of Fresno truck to be hauled away (and destroyed).

The park employee complied with Officer Smith’s order, and the property was destroyed. No notice was given prior to this seizure and destruction. No opportunity to recover the property was provided. This act was a direct violation of a federal court order issued in 2008 that restrained the City of Fresno from this type of attack against the homeless.

A complaint was filed with the City of Fresno by the attorneys in the original lawsuit, and an agreement was reached to compensate the homeless from these unprovoked attacks against them. Williams, in an interview with the Community Alliance newspaper, said he was satisfied with the compensation but asked why the district attorney had not charged Officer Smith with the theft of his property. “If I robbed a bank and got caught I don’t think the district attorney would be satisfied if I simply agreed to give the money back,” Williams said. “Why should it be any different when the police commit a crime?”

If you are homeless and the police (or anyone else) take your property, the Community Alliance wants to know about it. Report violations of the federal court order to us by phone at 559-978-4502, e-mail at allianceeditor@comcast.net or mail at P.O. Box 5077, Fresno, CA 93755.

A Chowchilla Christmas

The holiday season is sneaking up on us, and donations for Christmas Goodie Bags for the women at Chowchilla Prison (CCWF) are not keeping pace. Urgently needed are small-sized soaps, lotions and shampoos you might have saved from hotel stays, along with small pocket-sized packages of facial tissues, combs (no “rat tails”) and all kinds of greeting cards in both English and Spanish. Everything has to be ready to transport to the prison by December 1. Money donations are also urgently needed. For additional information or a complete wish list, contact Maria Telesco at 559-255-9492 or maria.telesco@sbcglobal.net.

Smart Meter Investigation Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

The Utility Reform Network (TURN) announced in September that a report on smart meters released by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) failed to answer many of the questions consumers have about the accuracy, effectiveness and safety of PG&E’s smart meters. Hundreds of consumers have contacted TURN to complain about their PG&E meters, and thousands more have complained to the CPUC. Despite the release of the report, many of those complaints have not been resolved.

The report concluded that high rates rather than defective meters caused a spike in electric bills experienced by customers after smart meters had been installed. TURN Executive Director Mark Toney said that conclusion raises more questions than it answers. “Is this a case of mass hysteria, or has PG&E not only failed to educate customers about the meters but failed to educate them about how high PG&E’s rates are as well?”

According to a summary of the report, the biggest problem with PG&E’s smart meter program is poor customer service, and consumers have confused high rates with defective
meters.

Toney said, “Customers have been given the run-around so far, and mistrust of both PG&E and the CPUC is at an all-time high.” He added that TURN had not yet had time to review the entire report, but that at first glance it did not appear that all of the consumer complaints about the meters had been investigated. “Absent a more thorough investigation,” Toney said, “customer concerns about the health effects of the meters, interference with other electrical devices and the safety and security of the data are unlikely to be put to rest.”

Learn more at the TURN Website: www.turn.org/.

Victory: Pressure Forces Chem Waste to Reduce Toxic Dumping in Kettleman City

Due to the powerful campaign by Greenaction, Kettleman City community groups and their allies to block expansion of a dump, Chemical Waste Management Inc. (Chem Waste) is running out of room. As a result, it recently announced that shipments of hazardous waste are being cut in half. Organizers are asking for your help to close Chem Waste before it receives a permit to further expand. Kettleman City is already a highly contaminated community and must not be further harmed by more toxic dumping.

What can you do? E-mail Jared Blumenfeld (blumenfeld.jared@epa.gov), Region IX administrator, and demand that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deny permits for Chem Waste to expand its dump in Kettleman City.

Greenaction Leads Fight to Stop Proposed Avenal Fossil Fuel Power Plant

Despite concerns from residents throughout the Central Valley, Avenal Power Center LLC continues to push for this proposed power plant that would emit particulates, air toxins and climate change pollutants into the air of this heavily polluted area near Kettleman City, Avenal and Huron. The Valley does not need a new pollution source.

What can you do? E-mail Seyed Sadredin (seyed.sadredin@valleyair.org), air pollution control officer, and urge the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to deny the proposed Determination of Compliance for this fossil fuel project. We need the power of the sun and wind, not fossil fuels that poison people and are destroying our planet.

For more information, visit www.greenaction.org.

Central Valley Parents and Teachers Denounce Carly Fiorina for Rewarding Companies That Ship Jobs Overseas Rather Than California Students

At a news conference in September held at the Bullard Talent Elementary and Middle School, Central Valley parents and teachers criticized Carly Fiorina for opposing a new jobs bill that will save more than 2,700 education jobs in Central Valley public schools and is fully paid for by closing a tax break for companies that ship jobs overseas. The bill will save 16,500 education jobs in California.

“Carly Fiorina laid off 33,000 Hewlett-Packard employees and now she is offering pink slips to more than 2,700 educators in the Central Valley who help our students learn in the classroom. Carly Fiorina may declare the jobs bill ‘disgraceful,’ but the real disgrace is that she is willing to reward companies that ship jobs overseas rather than California students,” said Ana Correa, a retired teacher from the Madera Unified School District.

“It’s not surprising that Carly Fiorina wants to protect tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. When she was at Hewlett-Packard, she sent thousands of American jobs overseas, and boasted about it, calling it ‘right-shoring,’” said Patricia Brown, a parent of a 14-year-old student in the Fresno Unified School District.

On August 10, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, a bill that gives urgent fiscal relief to enable 160,000 teachers to keep their jobs. In California, 16,500 educators will keep their jobs. According to the Los Angeles Times, “The bill is fully paid for mainly by ending some tax breaks for companies operating overseas.” On August 6, Republican Senate candidate Fiorina announced her opposition to the bill. According to the Associated Press, Fiorina called the bill “disgraceful.”

The National Education Association estimates that this law will save 2,776 educator jobs in the San Joaquin Valley, including 545 jobs in Congressional District 18 (incumbent: Rep. Dennis Cardoza), 351 jobs in Congressional District 19 (Rep. George Radanovich), 915 jobs in Congressional District 20 (Rep. Jim Costa), 642 jobs in Congressional District 21 (Rep. Devin Nunes) and 323 jobs in Congressional District 22 (Kevin McCarthy).

Project Censored Releases New Book

Project Censored’s Censored 2011: The Top Censored Stories of 2009–2010 is now available. This year’s volume is truly Media Democracy in Action. Not only does it cover the most underreported stories the corporate media ignore, but this year’s book includes stories about Junk Food News and News Abuse, Signs of Health and FAIR’s 10th anniversary of Fear and Favor in the News Room.

A full Truth Emergency section debuts this year in Censored 2011 to address State Crimes Against Democracy, as well as analysis of the corporate media spin that led to the Iraq War and continues to hide U.S. allied atrocities in the Middle East. Former director Peter Phillips and new director Mickey Huff describe the new directions of the Project and research methodology plus an update from Dave Mathison on Being the Media, London’s Index on Censorship and much, much more. For more information, visit www.projectcensored.org/.

  • 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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