THE CITY OF UKIAH'S own appraisal some years ago concluded that restoration of the Palace Hotel was not feasible, that no investor could expect a return large enough to recover the money he'd have to put into rehabbing the 19th century edifice. The present owner, Ms. Eladia Laines of Marin County, has strung along the present Ukiah City Council for years, assuring the Council that she's just about to move rehab of the former queen structure of Central Ukiah into high gear. If she had the dough to do that the site would have been teeming with workers years ago, shortly after she picked up the property at auction for $115,000. She says she's since put a quarter mil into clean-up and site prep, although as of last week she hadn't even managed to cover the leaking roof with a protective sheeting of plastic.
EVEN IF MS. LAINES had the capital to once again make the Palace habitable, her condo-dreams are unrealistic — silly fantasies of the Council aside — that the condos would quickly be occupied by really, really cool people (like them). It's unlikely that the minority of our fellow citizens who can afford million dollar accommodations would choose to live in Ukiah. The rich might settle on the West Side where they could swap NPR excitements with Little Benj and Miss Rodin, and they might even get invited to intimate fundraisers featuring Wes Chesbro and Congressman See Through. But if you've got the dough for a Ukiah condo you're unlikely to buy one in the 100 block of North State Street.
IN FACT, Ukiah has a Palace prob. They should simply concede and move on to what they're really good at — screwing up the rest of the town. Laines is their only hope. Give her another thousand years and $10 mil and the Palace will be humming by 2085. Ukiah doesn't have the money for demolition, besides which a ghostly old three-story brick building is more aesthetically pleasing than an endlessly empty lot. Let it crumble, a symbol of a time when Americans, even outback Americans, still knew how to do things, and small town money still had the civic pride to make their communities look good.
FOR TWO DECADES we’ve repeatedly brought up the County’s complete lack of management reporting. Any organization bigger than a two-man pizza parlor needs regular reports to management on staffing, budgeting, ongoing projects, and anticipated problems. But Mendo has no regular departmental reporting system even though the basics are simple and would give the Executive Office and the Board the ability to understand how their departments operate and to make better informed decisions, especially in this time of “doing more with less.”
A typical departmental report would simply graph the department’s actual versus budgeted expense which, in government, are primarily personnel since that’s where most of the County's budget goes. The budget/actual chart would also track the particular cost drivers for each department against the budget and actual expenses. (E.g., inmates for the jail. Services calls and arrests for the Sheriff’s patrol unit. Misdemeanor and felony charges and trials for the DA. Vehicles and mileage for the motor pool. Square footage and calls for repairs/backlog for facilities maintenance. Clients and referrals for social services (by category), building permits applied for, approved and completed for Planning and Building. Etc. A Personnel chart based on timecards would show a breakdown of how time was spent by percentage in each department: productive time, time off, lost time, training time, etc., along with number of positions, vacancies and recruitment status. The third chart would be a summary of current major projects and current or upcoming problems or changes which would affect budget or staffing. These three basic charts would give the Board of Supervisors not only a useful snapshot of current operations, but would give the board an opportunity to avoid problems that may be approaching and, over time, would produce an historical record for future reference to compare previous reports to current situations or issues, and as a basis for new executives or board members to come up to speed about the county’s operation. Without these reports the Board is too dependent on what staff chooses to tell them and when, rather than having the essential ongoing information necessary to manage an organization of over 1,000 people. It wouldn’t take much work to set the system up and the benefits of better management would produce immediate and tangible results (and none of it should be continued if it doesn’t produce tangible results). Unfortunately, not one person in the County’s executive or board staff has any experience managing a large organization and so, to be charitable, they apparently don’t realize how important and useful such foundational reports can be. To be uncharitable, however, since such reports are so basic to the running of any large organization, it’s just as likely that the Board and executive staff actually don’t want to know what’s going on in their own departments and prefer to be uninformed so that they can claim ignorance and retain deniability, and not have to take action until they’re forced to when the problems have grown to where they’re much harder and more costly to deal with.
THE CALIFORNIA THREE SECOND RULE. Count to three before leaving the relative safety of the sidewalk to cross a street and, if driving, wait at least that long before beginning to proceed through an intersection.
WE ALL HAVE A PRIVATE PAST, a store of thoughts, feelings, sensations, disappointments that nobody else will ever unearth. That's just life. But in Miss Saraswati's case, it seemed to me, there was something more deliberately hidden. Areas cordoned off. I suppose it was only natural. So much is kept off limits these days. There are things we don't speak of, things we not only don't remember but carefully forget, places we do not stray into, memories we bury or reshape. That is the way we live nowadays: driving along a road between hallucination and amnesia. — Romesh Gunesekera, Roadkill
ADD TO MENDOCINO COUNTY'S ever-expanding roster of international rogues, the name of Mr. Gianluca Murroni of Sardinia and Willits.
Willits? Willits. Murronia was arrested in Willits on the 23rd for drunk driving and is also being held on an immigration hold for deportation as an illegal alien.
Sardinia is an island off Italy, just south of Corsica, birthplace of Napoleon.
HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE CONTINUES NAMESAKE'S SPIRIT
Giving and receiving at the Grace Hudson
by Roberta Werdinger
On Saturday, December 7th, from 10am to 3pm, the Grace Hudson Museum will host its annual Holiday Open House, complete with crafts fair, music, Santa Claus and refreshments. This important marker of the holidays allows visitors to extend their round of giving and receiving to the wider community, an activity which likely would have been approved by Grace Hudson, the Mendocino County artist whose life and artwork give the museum its name.
Nearly a century ago, Grace and her husband, John, designed and built the unique redwood Craftsman-style bungalow, the Sun House, which is adjacent to the Museum. Currently surrounded by construction fencing while the Museum's grounds begin a renovation process, the Sun House is still very much alive and open for business this season. It will be specially decorated for the holidays, featuring a roast goose Christmas dinner laid out on the dining room table, a Christmas tree with vintage decorations and clip-on tree candles, live bay leaf wreaths and swags courtesy of Potter Valley's McFadden Farms, and Santa holding court in the dining room, ready to greet visitors of all ages.
A crafts fair featuring talented local artisans will be held in the Museum's meeting room—the perfect place to shop for Christmas gifts. The fair includes Wax and Bing Pottery from Anderson Valley, McFadden Farm's bay leaf wreaths and garlic braids, Lolli Jacobsen's Mendocino Textiles, Laura Buckner's Happy Woman Jewelry, Whispering Winds Nursery's trees, plants and bulbs for the holidays, and Adriane Nicolaisen's painted silk scarves. The Grace Hudson Museum's gift shop, another great place for holiday buying, offers a 15% off sale on everything in the store for that day only.
For the young, or the young at heart, the Museum will be hosting periodic puppet shows in the gallery, thanks to puppeteer Gigi Brown. And the women from Ukiah Valley Madrigal Singers will be giving the gift of music, with live performances throughout the day in both the Museum and the Sun House.
Visitors can also view the Museum’s current exhibition, "Frank Lloyd Wright: Architecture of the Interior," an exhibition of high-quality reproduction drawings and photographs of interiors, furnishings and household objects which offer a view into architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s creative conception of the space within his houses.
Holiday revelers can go on to the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree in downtown Ukiah that evening, along with the Truckers Light Parade.
The Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House is at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah and is part of the city of Ukiah’s Community Services Department. For more information please go to www.gracehudsonmuseum.org or call 467-2836.
From the Tar Pits of Alberta to the Blasted Hills of Appalachia to the Stump-strewn Mountains of Oregon
by Michael Donnelly
“I will say it again: the marketing of hope and change Obama is THE most brilliant ad campaign ever perpetrated on USians. And, like in many other ‘campaigns,’ desperate people cling to an illusion…cuz the reality is so seriously effed up that ‘seeing’ it demands either total melt down or revolution.”
— Martha Odom
Green Eggs and Spam
Alberta tar sands extraction zone.
Not a day goes by without revelations of some new environmental rollback out of the Obama administration; all of them chickens-coming-home-to-roost results of the last few decades of what Michael Colby labeled Activist Malpractice back in 1994. The term has come into common use and recently was used by Dr. Guy McPherson to describe what has become the business-as-usual reality in the elite, Corporate Foundation-fed/pro-Democrat “green” circles. McPherson took Bill McKibben, James Hansen and other “climate campaigners” (indeed, the entire Climate movement) to task for the all-eggs-in-one-basket absurdity of 350.org’s “Stop the Keystone Pipeline.”
If a doctor determines that you have a deadly disease and fails to fully inform you, that’s Medical Malpractice. If a green activist knows full well the seriousness of an issue and fails to address it head on and instead comes up with a plan that diverts movement energy to useless efforts that merely prop up bad politicians instead of noting, much less seriously challenging, the underlying causes of the eco-threats — all the while cashing substantial foundation grants and selling books — that’s Activist Malpractice.
“Bucket list item checked off: share a paddy wagon with Julian Bond. This is a broad movement,” Bill McKibben tweeted after his misdemeanor arrest for protesting the Keystone Pipeline outside the White House, February 13, 2013
While wasting the past few critical years spewing massive amounts of carbon traveling around the planet; collecting mailing lists; engaging in vanity protests ; sending out narcissistic tweets; endlessly spamming inboxes with “the sky is falling/send us money” missives; and, most importantly, never bringing up Northern Hemisphere consumption levels or challenging the true bad actors (especially, if Democrats), McKibben et al. intentionally avoided any mention, much less protested, Obama’s decision a week before reelection, to approve the construction of the Southern leg of the Keystone from Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas. That Obama also delayed any decision on the alternative, new Northern leg was all that mattered; keeping alive the true intent of the entire 350 campaign — to provide the Democrats with an election year “victory” when Obama cancels the Northern leg which is now made unnecessary given that the Southern link is complete and Tar Sands bitumen will flow all the way from Alberta to Texas any day now.
Given this, it was no surprise to me yesterday when Obama approved another major pipeline from Texas to Alberta’s Mordor-like landscape Tar Sands extraction zone. This pipeline will ship fracked natural gas to the pits-of-hell there as the gas will be mixed with the goo, and called “dilbit — diluted bitumen, which makes it more amenable to flowing thru pipes.
Climate Ground Zero
Mountain-top removal coal mining zone.
It’s heartening that many folks are finally catching on to the Foundation/Dem/Big Green Keystone scam. As a result of this awareness, the hollow KXL “victory” next year will likely do little to burnish the tarnished Democrat green credibility. And speaking of green cred, Big Green has been conspicuously AWOL in one of the most important climate/carbon/public health issues of all — Mountaintop Removal (MTR) coal extraction. That monumental insult has been left to be challenged by an underfunded grassroots collection of front-line (dragline?) Appalachian activists themselves.
A few years ago, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices and other green groups signed on and sent staff to help the locals win what they called the “iconic placed-based Coal River Campaign” to end MTR. They spent $50,000 on a meeting where they literally sang Kumbaya! Suddenly without telling anyone local, they simply packed up and left. They now have no offices or staff in the area. Yet, they continue to raise funds based on their “successful” MTR campaign while providing no funds whatsoever to send the under-siege “hillbilly” locals to lobby in DC. They continue to pump money and efforts into a clean water bill that doesn’t even end MTR!
As if blasting mountains away, extracting the coal and dumping the “overburden” waste into nearby streams killing species and poisoning the entire state isn’t criminal enough, the entire operation has led to massive cancer, asthma and other sickness. Climate Ground Zero (CGZ) teamed up with locals Bo Webb and Maria Gunnoe to push for and organize the first public health studies on the impacts of breathing the blasting dust below MTR sites on Cumberland Plateau. The results showed that this area has the highest mortality rate in the USA. Counties that don’t have MTR mines don’t have anywhere near the birth defects, lung disease, cancer and a host of other diseases, including the highest rates of mental depression in America.
CGZ and others have taken the studies’ results and responded to the public health catastrophe by pushing for the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act or ACHE which was introduced in Congress by the heroic Rep. John A. Yarmuth (D-KY). The ACHE would require the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to conduct or support comprehensive studies on the health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining on individuals in the surrounding communities.
In support of ACHE and an end to MTR, CGZ has mounted a vigil/fast at the West Virginia Capitol. Legendary activist Mike Roselle, co-founder of Earth First!, RAN and The Ruckus Society, who lives in Rock Creek, WV (Ground Zero) and another local, James Guin McGuiness have bundled up, dumped toxic coal blasting dust on the Capitol steps and vowed to remain on the Capitol steps until the issue is addressed - a moratorium on the blasting and investigation of the Health Emergency being the essential demand . (Send monetary support to CGZ.)
Chainsaw Déjà Vu
If these green derelictions weren’t enough, in addition, it is another Democrat eco-assault that was trotted out yesterday on the steps of another Capitol; one that clearly shows that all the Administration’s talk Climate and Carbon is just that — “talk” and one that should put an end to that Big Green/Democrat myth once and for all.
The renewed assault on our Northwest Ancient Forests announced yesterday at the Oregon Capitol by Democrat Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley is the ultimate chickens-home-to-roost. The Oregon and California Land Grant Act of 2013 would double the cut on 1.6 million acres of O & C public-owned forest managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM — bovines, minerals and logs) over the next 20 years. It also purports to “permanently preserve 1 million acres” of O & C lands (though there are only 2.4 million acres total). The 1.6 million acres would be put in a Timber Trust (can’t make up) run by timber interests (maybe with a token or two pliable “greens,” of course) under the terms of Oregon’s shoddy Forest Practices Act, rather than the applicable more stringent Federal laws.
Roosting chickens? Well, the reality is that we were told by the Big Greens that Clinton “permanently preserved” these same acres back in 1993, when, in reality, he resumed old growth logging on NW Public forests which had been completely stopped by an Injunction during the Pappy Bush era. Big Greens crowed “our greatest victory;” cashed their grants checks and left it to the local grassroots folks who had raised the issue to national prominence in the first place to fight off the resulting decades of new timber sales in old growth habitat and quickly went on to setting up the next Democrat Greenwash — the 2000 election-year Roadless Rule scam. (How many times can the same forests be “saved?”)
And, now even the minimal protections of Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan are shown to be the mirage they always were. The plan is commonly known as Option 9, as the scientists who developed the plan first came up with eight options and none of them was rapacious enough, so Clinton sequestered them all in a Portland hotel until they came up with Options 9 and 10 which allowed for far more stumps.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has also introduced similar legislation to Wyden’s in the House. DeFazio’s bill, which Obama has vowed to veto (right!), cuts even more. DeFazio, the Congress’ weakest/phoniest “progressive” was first elected 26 years ago with overwhelming environmentalist support. He even told a DC paper that he owed his election to forest activists! — (mainly the Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC). It didn’t take long for him to calculate that the biggest industry in his District was Big Timber and so he flipped. His predecessor, Jim Weaver, was never intimidated by Big Timber and challenged their hegemony all the time, introducing Wilderness bills I hios own District and generally calling them out on their self-serving lies all the time. DeFazio, on the other hand, has never gotten a single acre of designated Wilderness in his District and he even first opposed efforts to create the magnificent Opal Creek Wilderness Area. In exchange for his until now under-the-radar support, Big Timber does the usual corporate shadow dance a la the Right and Obama — savage DeFazio publicly, while regularly running an unelectable GOP nitwit against him.
Eugene, Oregon, the central town in DeFazio’s District, is famous as an activist hot-bed. Yet all the blow-hard Defazio has been able to bring home in 26 years is a foot bridge named after…himself. (Rep. Mike Kopetski from the adjacent District was in office but four years and he is the person most responsible for ending Nuclear Testing and he garnered Wilderness protection for nearby Opal Creek’s magnificent Ancient Forest watershed.) The continual free pass given DeFazio by Eugene residents amounts to Community-wide Activist Malpractice.
Wyden. DeFazio, Merkley et al. are all on board with the increased logging, as they note that southern Oregon counties that once wallowed in federal money from past massive, unsustainable timber cuts are now broke and forced to cut public services. They also claim that it’s, of course, a “jobs issue” as timber industry jobs have declined precipitously over time. The trend started long before any (temporary) logging rollbacks due to environmental protections. Automation and raw, unprocessed log exports have the largest hand in the job losses.
Big Timber cares about jobs so much that they are now behind an effort to roll back Public employee unions in the state. Rob Freres, heir of Freres Brothers Logging and the guy who vowed “to cut Opal Creek” sent $30,000 to the anti-union effort and astoundingly said, “I believe that if Oregon is going to be a place where our children and grandchildren can get a good education, it’s important that the public employees’ unions do not dominate the politics of this state.”
If Freres really cared about our children and grandchildren’s education, then he’d pay his taxes on an equitable basis with all other Oregon residents. The reality is that Big Timber always has and continues to “dominate the politics of this state.”
Passing the Bucks
Therein lays the truth here: the southern Oregon counties that are “broke” all are dominated by their largest land-owners — Big Timber. Big Timber has thus used their considerable clout to carve out preferential tax rates — the average tax rate in those counties is around $.70 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation (which itself is pegged at only around 60% of Real Market Value). In Eugene, Salem and Portland, the rate is closer to $2.00. On top of that, almost 100% of logs cut on Big Timber’s severely-undertaxed lands are exported unprocessed to Asia…again with little in the way of tax or tariff.
So, the Oregon Democrats (and we have had one-party rule here for decades) first hit up the Federal Treasury for billions over the past 20 years to the counties to make up for loss of timber revenue from Federal forests, while the counties systematically rejected any attempts to bring their tax rates into anything resembling equitable.
Finally, the rest of the country’s Representatives caught on and ended the subsidies. So, this latest logging scheme is the Democrats’ attempt to stick it to the federal ecosystems, as the Treasury is no longer in play. And why? Well, if said counties do go broke, the State has an obligation to step in and provide essential services, which means that the Democrats’ base in the Willamette Valley cities would end up seeing their taxes go up to pay for it all and that might shine a long-overdue light on it all. Oregon Governor-for-life John Kitzhaber, another corporate Democrat, has also pushed for and succeeded in upping the cut on State Forests for all the same false reasons.
Since the Democrats don’t have the backbone to take on Big Timber; end the ridiculous pro-timber tax rates or challenge raw log exports, they have calculated that the best way for them to deal with it is to up the cut rather than risk alienating their urban base, pure and simple. Since the foundation-dependent “greens” don’t have the courage to call out bad Democrats and are paid to not call them out, this is the result.
Where do we go from here?
“We fund reform; not revolution,” — Tom Wathan, Pew Charitable Trusts
Many of the same players who greenwashed Clinton’s Option 9 and cashed handsome six-figure foundation grants as their pay-off are still at it. They, directed — like McKibben — by what their Big Oil-based Foundation handlers (Pew, Rockefeller, et al.) demand, are seeking to merely minimize the damage of Wyden’s plan; instead of calling for complete rejection of it and mounting challenges to all of the proponents’ reelections. In fact, professional greens have been all in favor of the Democrat-produced many massive “thinning” projects and Biomass schemes that are already supposedly providing jobs, logs for local mills and “clean, renewable energy” to the grid. Wyden also has a green-blessed plan to thin over 7 million acres of Oregon’s dry eastside forests for Biomass for electricity generation, under the guise of creating/d fire-proofing “Healthy Forests” with chainsaws.
McKibben et al. are already on board for the Democrats’ 2104 campaigns; demanding that the entire 350 cabal never speak the truth about Obama; never speaking the truth about the many other pipelines, nor about Warren Buffett’s recent purchase of thousands of new rail tank cars to ship the tar sands crud across the continent.
Roselle, McGuiness and their allies have the right response to such threats: bring the fight to the centers of power and mount Direct Action campaigns at the Tar Pits, blasted mountains and the Stump Fields. No more mindless sycophantic indulging in the Hopium of the Democrats. No more sucking up to Big Oil foundations. No more narcissists self-selecting as representatives of the grassroots and cutting deals. Climate Ground Zero , the grassroots Tar Sands Blockade and local forest protection groups like the Cascadia Forest Defenders are leading the way.
The carbon from coal and Tar Sands must stay in the ground. The trees must remain standing; sequestering carbon. Northern hemisphere CONSUMPTION must drastically lower — already, sans the Keystone northern leg, 90% of all retail gasoline in the Midwest comes from Alberta’s tar sands. 100% of all jet fuel likewise comes from the same toxic source. “Renewables” are yet another dose of hopium. We could run the grid on unicorn farts, but if consumption levels remain the same, Gaia will still lose the ability to support many species, including hominids.
The Democrats must get on board or support for them must end. The Big Green cabal of ineffective narcissists must be replaced or the entire Green lobby must go. Kick the Hopium. There are enough points on the data line. Us clever apes and numerous innocent species’ very survival is on the line. It’s now or never.
Michael Donnelly is one of the grassroots co-founders of the Ancient Forest movement and former VP of the Oregon National Resources Council. He was appalled when other activists proposed to trade off 55,000 acres of Ancient Forest for logging in exchange for protection of Opal Creek. He and others resisted the sell-out. But in the end, 5,000 acres of stumps were the cost of Opal Creek’s 35,000 acres of protection. He, unlike those who self-selectively brokered to the deal, visited the now clearcut 5,000 acres. He can be reached at Pahtoo@aol.com.)
CRAIG STEHR REPORTS FROM NEW ORLEANS:
NOLA Multi-Purpose Community Center in Formation.
The Mississippi River rolls on by, effortlessly detached and still an integral part of everything in the New Orleans bioregion. It is the perfect example of how to be on earth properly. Receiving everything, giving everything, and asking for nothing. On the banks, the American experiment of freedom and democracy continues, eight years after the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina altered the patterns of daily life. Residents of several generations describe living here now as being different and yet the same; different because the storm changed everything, and the same because the soul of the place endures. Anarchists created the Common Ground Health Clinic; its mission was to serve everyone in acute need, regardless of their social factors. Today, the clinic has become exclusionary in terms of patients who cannot afford its services, and tension exists between the original founding members and the current administration. This type of political disagreement is part of the overall effort to create social life from the aftermath of the devastation and flooding, and tension between radical, liberal, and conservative social groups exists without any process or forum for resolution. And other groups who do not identify as being politically oriented are also part of the equation. Various religious organizations are relevant, particularly southern Christian denominations. And then there is the percentage of the population which is illiterate and living in poverty. Sitting around Nellie's kitchen table with Swamprat Jack and Bork, with Nellie's family members representing three generations circulating about the three house compound, while a truck engine was being hoisted out,(and they didn't need to remove the hood), in the back yard, the extent of Nellie's extended family in the region became clear. The discussion was about establishing a multi- purpose community center to serve both elderly and children, while hosting necessary concerts and events which will bring in the entire local community. Most important is to draft a statement which permanently defines the identity of the center, so that cooptation is not possible. Whereas reclaiming the health clinic appears to be not doable, averting such a problem now with the proposed community center is a first priority. This is all secondary in importance to the necessity of the people who will most benefit form the creation of center taking full responsibility for its administration, growth, and permanent establishment in the Algiers neighborhood on the west bank of the Mississippi River. To be involved, please contact: Jamie "Bork" Loughner, Telephone: (504)302-9951, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Snail Mail: 333 Socrates Street, New Orleans, LA 70114.
WALMARTING THE RIVERS AND OCEANS
Walton Family Foundation dumped $91.4 million into greenwashing in 2012
by Dan Bacher
Walmart has been in the headlines in recent weeks after the retailer announced plans to keep its stores open this Thanksgiving, forcing Walmart employees to cancel many of their holiday plans.
Numerous blogs and alternative media outlets have also reported on the 1500 protests planned by Walmart workers and community allies on Black Friday across the country, in one of the largest mobilizations of working families in American history.
“Workers are calling for an end to illegal retaliation, and for Walmart to publicly commit to improving labor standards, such as providing workers with more full time work and $25,000 a year,” according to a statement from OUR Walmart. (http://forrespect.org/ 2013/11/21/walmart-workers-community-allies-to-hold-1500-protests- across-country-on-black-friday/ )
“Black Friday 2013 will mark a turning point in American history,” said Dorian Warren, associate professor at Columbia University. “Fifteen hundred protests against Walmart is unprecedented. Working families are fighting back like never before — and have the support of America behind them.
However, less well-known to the public is Walmart’s ambitious campaign of corporate greenwashing in recent years.
Walmart, the country’s largest retailer and employer, makes more than $17 billion in profits annually, so it has a lot of money to dump into "environmental" groups that serve its agenda of privatization of the public trust. The wealth of the Walton family totals over $144.7 billion — equal to that of 42% of Americans.
The Walton Family Foundation reported “investments” totaling more than $91.4 million in “environmental initiatives” in 2012, including contributions to corporate “environmental” NGOs pushing ocean privatization through the “catch shares” programs and so-called “marine protected areas” like those created under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, as well as to groups supporting the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels.
According to a press release from the Walmart Headquarters in Bentonville Arkansas, “the foundation awarded grants of more than $91 million to groups and programs that create benefits for local economies and communities through lasting conservation solutions for oceans and rivers.”
The foundation directed an overwhelming majority of the grants toward its two core environmental initiatives — “Freshwater Conservation” and Marine Conservation.”
“Our work is rooted in our belief that the conservation solutions that last are the ones that make economic sense,” gushed Scott Burns, director of the foundation’s Environment Focus Area. “The foundation and our grantees embrace ‘conservationomics’ — the idea that conservation efforts can and should bring economic prosperity to local communities.”
The foundation donated $38,648,952 to "Marine Conservation," $29,367,340 to "Freshwater Conservation" and $23,683,286 for “Other Environment Grants” in 2012.
Conservation International, the top recipient of Walmart money, got a total of $22,650,774, including $5,725,000 for the Bird's Head Seascape, $4,214,881 for the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape and 12,718,763 for “Other Environmental Grants.”
The Environmental Defense Fund, the second largest recipient, received a total of $12,943,017, including $7,800,000 for catch shares, $1,881,652 for the Colorado River, $3,032,300 for the Mississippi River, $20,000 for the Gulf Of Mexico and $209,065 for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Ocean Conservancy, a strong supporter of the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act Initiative to create “marine protected areas” in California, received the third largest chunk of money from the foundation in 2012, $5,447,354, including $2,112,500 for “Marine Conservation” in the Gulf of Mexico and $3,334,854 for the oil spill in the Gulf.
Nature Conservancy, Inc. received $4,509,616, the fourth largest amount of money, including $1,700,000 for the Colorado River, $725,557 for the Mississippi River, $553,148 for the Bird’s Head Seascape, $21,000 for Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape, $350,000 for Gulf of Mexico projects, $400,825 for catch shares and $759,086 for "other conservation grants."
Other recipients of Walton Foundation money in 2012 include American Rivers, the Center for American Progress, Environmental Working Group, Marine Stewardship Council, National Audubon Society, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Geographic Society, Oxfam America, Inc., Resources Legacy Fund, World Wildlife Fund and many other NGOs.
A complete list of Walton Family Foundation recipients is available at: http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/about/2012-grant- report#environment.
Conservation International features Walton and Stewart Resnick on Board
Conservation International, the top recipient at $22,650,774, is an organization noted for its top-down approach to conservation and involvement with corporate greenwashing.
A Walton Foundation press release claimed that, “Conservation International continued to implement a three-year program to empower local communities to manage and conserve fishing resources on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.”
However, the group’s board features some of the most controversial corporate leaders on the planet, including Rob Walton and Stewart Resnick.
Rob Walton, Walmart Chairman, serves as the Chairman of the Executive Committee of Conservation International. Serving with him on Conservation International’s Board of Directors is Stewart Resnick, the owner of Paramount Farms.
Resnick has been instrumental in campaigns to build the peripheral tunnels to increase water exports to corporate agribusiness, developers and oil companies, to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt and to eradicate striped bass in California. The Center for Investigative Reporting describes Resnick as a “Corporate Farming Billionaire and One-Man Environmental Wrecking Crew.”
Resnick is notorious for buying subsidized Delta water and then selling it back to the public for a big profit, as revealed in an article by the late Mike Taugher in the Contra Costa Times on May 23, 2009. (http://www.revivethesanjoaquin.org/content/pumping-water-and- cash-delta)
“As the West Coast’s largest estuary plunged to the brink of collapse from 2000 to 2007, state water officials pumped unprecedented amounts of water out of the Delta only to effectively buy some of it back at taxpayer expense for a failed environmental protection plan, a MediaNews investigation has found,” said Taugher.
Taugher said the “environmental water account” set up in 2000 to “improve” the Delta ecosystem spent nearly $200 million mostly to benefit water users while also creating a “cash stream for private landowners and water agencies in the Bakersfield area.”
“No one appears to have benefited more than companies owned or controlled by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire, philanthropist and major political donor whose companies, including Paramount Farms, own more than 115,000 acres in Kern County,” Taugher stated. “Resnick’s water and farm companies collected about 20 cents of every dollar spent by the program.”
Likewise, the Nature Conservancy, a group that received the fourth largest amount, $4,509,616, from the Walton Family Foundation in 2012, is also known for its strong support of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels that Resnick and other corporate agribusiness interests so avidly support.
A broad coalition of fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmentalists, family farmers and elected officials opposes the construction of the tunnels because they would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other species.
Environmental Defense Fund’s drive to privatize fisheries
Environmental Defense Fund, with the second highest donation at $12,943,017, is known for its market-based approach to conservation and its push for “catch shares” that essentially privatize the oceans. The relationship between the group and the retail giant is so close that it operates an office in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered.
“Environmental Defense Fund released its ‘Catch Shares Design Manual: A Guide for Fishermen and Managers’ to provide a roadmap to catch share design, which is a focus of our Marine Conservation initiative,” according to the Walton Family Foundation.
A catch share, also known as an individual fishing quota, is a transferable voucher that gives individuals or businesses the ability to access a fixed percentage of the total authorized catch of a particular species.
“Fishery management systems based on catch shares turn a public resource into private property and have lead to socioeconomic and environmental problems. Contrary to arguments by catch share proponents — namely large commercial fishing interests — this management system has exacerbated unsustainable fishing practices,” according to the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch.
True to form, Sam Rawlings Walton, the grandson of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, serves on the Board of Trustees of EDF.
Times articles put spotlight on Walmart
Two New York Times articles in April 2012 put Walmart and the Walton family’s “dirty laundry” in the international spotlight, leading to a renewed call by the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) for the public to support their boycott of Walmart, a campaign that began in August 2011. (http://myemail.constantcontact.com/RFA-Encourages- Continued-National-Boycott-of-Wal-Mart-Stores-.html? soid=1102181706823&aid=itF-3JDXPa4)
The Times articles covered Walton family support for anti-fishing, pro-privatization efforts in North America, followed by the publication’s exposure of alleged $24 million worth of bribes in Central America to speed up the chain’s expansion into Mexico.
“The headlines prove that Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation are no friends of local communities anywhere, and their ongoing efforts to destroy coastal fishing businesses through support of arbitrary marine reserves and privatization of fish stocks nationwide should not be supported by anglers,” said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio. “We’re asking coastal fishermen who support open access, under the law, to healthy and sustainable fish stocks to send a clear message to this arrogant corporation that we’ve had enough of their greenwashing and grafting efforts.
Donofrio noted that Walmart made world headlines following a New York Times story that charges the Bentonville, Arkansas company and its leaders of squashing an internal investigation into suspected payments of over $24 million in bribes to obtain permits to build in Mexico.
Reporter’s lapse shows complicity of corporate media
The bribery scandal was exposed on the same day that the Gloucester Times of Massachusetts exposed a reporting lapse in another recent New York Times article about the relationship between Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Walmart partnering together for “more enlightened and sustainable operations.” (http:// www.gloucestertimes.com/local/x1774445793/EDF-Wal-Mart-Walton-ties- get-major-media-brush)
The New York Times had earlier reported that EDF “does not accept contributions from Wal-Mart or other corporations it works for.”
However, when confronted on the fact that the $1.3 billion Walton Family Foundation (started in 1987 by Wal-Mart’s founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and directed presently by the Walton family) has been underwriting EDF’s successful effort to replace the nation’s mostly small-business, owner-operated fishing industry with “a catch shares model designed to cap the number of active fishermen by trading away ownership of the resource to those with the deepest pockets,” the author of the New York Times report conceded by email that in her rush to meet deadlines, she had not considered the relationship between the Walton family and Wal-Mart, according to Donofrio.
“I didn’t think to check the EDF board for Walton family members, or Walton Family Foundation donations,” said reporter Stephanie Clifford, adding “None of the third parties I’d spoken to had mentioned that connection, which isn’t an excuse — I should have thought of it myself, but didn’t.
RFA is hoping that saltwater anglers and fishing business owners help send Walmart stocks tumbling by refusing to shop at the corporate giant any longer.
“The Walton family uses their fortune to buy off friends who’ll cover for their despicable business practices, whether it’s corporate greenwashing with EDF, rebranding efforts through national trade association campaigns, or apparently by way of directed bribes to local officials in other countries,” Donofrio said. “Don’t just stop buying fishing tackle at Wal-Mart — stop supporting this company altogether and let’s quit supporting complete buyouts and takeovers of local communities.”
Commercial fishermen support Walmart boycott
Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), supports RFA’s boycott of Walmart.
“People who are concerned about our environment or labor rights should all be boycotting Walmart,” said Grader. “Their polices are clearly intended to commodify our natural resources and put them under the control of large corporations.”
“The Walton Family Foundation is funding the Environmental Defense Fund, which wants to commodify water through water marketing and privatize our fish through catch shares program,” said Grader. “These are tools used by corporations to further the growing disparity between 1 percent and the rest of us."
“I’ve been boycotting Walmart for decades and it’s absolutely great that recreational and commercial fishermen are together on this,” concluded Grader.