Image by Rich Johnstone

THE MANY AND VARIED FRESNOS

By Ruth Gadebusch

The map may indicate Fresno as one place but for those of us who live in and observe the area we know there are many segments. All too often these different areas, and their sets of people, hardly seem related to each other, much less to be one group working together. The City of Fresno is the hub but many divisions are reflected within its boundaries.

With the approaching election for a mayor of Fresno, it becomes all too evident that a large physical area, with a substantial part of the population, is not within the city limits. By all accounts this area is urban and anyone looking at a map would expect all of it to be incorporated as one city. As a purely practical matter, all segments are affected by the city government. Why the reluctance to join together?

One thing people in all parts of town do is complain about taxes and how effectively the “powers that be” use those taxes. Yet one of the more obvious ways to obtain government efficiency would be combining forces. That may not be mean a fully integrated city-county government like San Francisco, but surely all these county islands within the immediate area (often surrounded by city land) should be part of the city. What are those who resist thinking? It is a complete denial of reality to fail to recognize that we are urban, like it, or not. After all these years it is still such a hot potato issue that not one candidate dares to advocate unification.

Shall I once again point out the most drastic division of North and South that was so graphically illustrated in the mayoral election of 2008? Let us hope that the citizens of the South can and will exercise their right to vote in this coming election just as those on the North end of town do.

The recent extreme drought has once again put water into the forefront – mostly as the political rhetoric rises about who gets what. With the various promises through the years, there are still communities throughout the area that do not have drinking water, much less bathing water. All too often those who can least afford it are caught in the dire circumstances. Rural people who thought they were not affected have had their wells go dry as we reach deeper and deeper into the earth for this necessity. Urbanites complain about conservation orders.

We have been forced to work together to improve our air, where there are no boundaries, but have more difficulty in realizing that water likewise has no boundaries. In both cases all too often we fail to appreciate how the actions of humankind exacerbate the limitations that nature has given us.

What we humans do have within our control is housing. One group lives in splendor seemingly unaware of those at the opposite end of the economic scale. Out of sight, out of mind does not excuse the extreme conditions created by slumlords. Yes, there are tenants who treat the property less than ideally but that is no reason to turn a blind eye to the horrible conditions they are forced to live in more often than we like to admit.

I was going to say worse yet are the homeless but I am not sure they are worse off than those living in vermin-infested places. We see the homeless with their meager possessions tucked away in bushes or other little semi-protected spots but largely do not consider them our responsibility. We know they exist but when we only see it in bits and pieces we fail to understand how widespread homelessness is. Mike Rhodes’ recent book with its collection of articles from years back puts it all together in one massive picture. Can’t we find a solution? Possibilities lie in resources such as treatment for the mentally ill, job training, reasonably priced housing, etc…

One column can only touch on the situation. Regardless which of the separate groups or conditions to which we are referring, we must accept that we share our valley. Granted some are more productive than others, but even the self-driven had a bit of luck and help in their success. Any one of us can appreciate “There but for the grace of God go I.”

None of us – I repeat, None – of us are as self –made as we like to think. It is time to truly address our togetherness. Ask our mayoral, and other political candidates how they would use the Fresno sphere of influence to address these needs. It is for our own good as individuals and community.

After all is said and done, we belong together. We share for better or worse.

*****

Ruth Gadebusch is a veteran and a community activist, a former member of the Fresno Unified School Board and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.

  • 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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