- President's Day
- County Salaries
- CR FB Public Hearing Report
- Rovics in Mendocino
- KZYX Like Letter
- KZYX Love Letter
- Inmate Lawson v. Fun Buns
- CA Third Party Exclusion
- Willits Film Festival
- Hernandez Plea Change
- NO on Tunnels
WE CELEBRATED President's Day by trying not to think about them. I can remember a series of books I read as a kid, a little kid. George Washington Grows Up. Tom Jefferson Grows Up. And on through the boys considered the Founding Fathers. I was very enthusiastic. “Wow! How about these guys! Is this a special place, or what?” Well, yes it is, but only because we've survived most of them. The series probably ended with the Adamses, because as the country grew older there was Honest Abe, and after him maybe FDR, but other than them there wasn't much to celebrate. But I thought they were all pretty much swell until the revelations of adulthood when I read about Jefferson's long evenings in the slave quarters, Wilson's favorite movie being Birth of a Nation, and so on through the sloughs of serial disillusion that is life's journey. I always had a soft spot for Jimmy Carter, though, ineffectual as he was. After him? The mere mention of their names induces mass nausea, at least in the circles I travel. Alright, on a personal level Obama is probably a Nice Person. But his policies are Bush Squared. I think we ought to limit the celebration, the annual memorial day off, to Lincoln. He's the only giant in the whole bunch.
ALL SALARIES FOR MENDOCINO COUNTY (2012) from Transparent California:
COLLEGE OF THE REDWOODS TRUSTEE BARBARA RICE WRITES: A big Thank you to the many who were able to attend the Public Hearing today, to all those who spoke, and to those who listened online. Thank you Sheriff Tom Allman, Mayor Dave Turner, the League of Women Voters, The Mendocino Coast Writer's Conference, Partnership Scholars Program, City Councilwoman Heidi Kraut, Fort Bragg Unified School District school board and superintendent Don Armstrong, Supervisors Dan Gjerde and Dan Hamburg, veteran Brian Renzi, and Congressman Jared Huffman for your support. Thanks also to the newspapers and radio stations, Occupy Mendocino, the students and faculty and staff at CR, and everyone else who helped get the word out. And an especially big THANK YOU to Mendocino TV for donating your time to record and stream the event. All went quite well and I think we made a very positive impression on the trustees. One glitch, many of the students arrived later and some of their voices were not heard due to the limited duration of the meeting. I've suggested to the students that they make a video of their statements and we'll post it online for the Board of Trustees to see. A comment...I am cautiously optimistic that there will be a positive resolution to this issue. We have a most impressive community and I am so privileged to represent you and to have had your 100% support throughout this process. An Announcement...For those able to travel to Eureka, please put March 4th on your calendar. That is the date of next Board of Trustees meeting at 1:00 p.m. when it is likely the Trustees will vote on the recommendations. I'll know one week prior what the wording of the action item will be. It may be very important that we have some presence at the meeting when the vote takes place. Also, it is not too late to send additional comments to the president and Trustees. Here are their email addresses:
And one more thing...please continue the discussion on the Discussion List, not on the Announce List.
Respectfully, and with much appreciation, Barbara Rice
FEBRUARY 4, 2014 COLLEGE OF THE REDWOODS BOARD OF TRUSTEES MEETING IN EUREKA
TOPICAL PERFORMER DAVID ROVICS in Concert Feb. 21 “David Rovics is the musical version of Democracy Now!” says Amy Goodman. He will sing and strum his funny and biting political songs Friday, February 21st, at 7 PM, at the Mendocino Community Center in Mendocino village. Cindy Sheehan called David “the peace poet and troubador for our time.” For an evening of rousing topical, political and humorous song, come enjoy David Rovics February 21st. A donation will be requested at the door, 'tho no one will be turned away. More info from Peter Sears, 964-6288.
I was disappointed to see Doug McKenty again present as if it were a fact, that there is a policy at KZYX against criticizing NPR. If one existed I would certainly have been informed of it at some point in the 13 years I have been hosting Takes on the World during which I have criticized the coverage or lack of same by NPR on some important item of the day many times, as I have also criticized Democracy Now!, although the latter less frequently, and no one there has ever said a word to me about it. I told this to Doug on the phone after he called me, following my last letter, but he prefers to believe what he wants to believe, even when it isn't true.
I should add that KZYX is probably the only radio station, certainly of the public variety, where I can speak without fear or hesitation about the pernicious role played by the Israel Lobby in influencing US politics. From the very beginning, station management has defended me against those devotees of Israel among KZYX's listeners and sponsors who wanted me off the air since they didn't want me telling the truth about what I gathered was their favorite country (none of whom had the courage to come on my program and challenge me when I invited them to do so.)
As for Nashville emigre, Kathryn Massey's, report on the station in Valley People, I will say that in the many years I have been at the studio, the toilet bowl has never once been stuffed up nor has it been, at any time, “next to Mr. [Rich] Culbertson's office.” Nor have I have seen anything resembling “A dead mouse's head and part of its body…stuck in an open electric socket on the wall of his office.” It's possible that the office cat may have placed it there for consumption later in the day or as a trophy of her hunting prowess, but I very much doubt it, since physically inserting any part of a mouse into wall socket would be a challenge for a human, let alone a cat.
From a single trip to the station, during a fundraising week when things tend to be hectic, Massey seems to have become an expert on public radio stations and non-profits, with a particular obsession with KZYX (or, more likely, she is fueling someone else's obsession). She wonders why no underwriters were on the air endorsing the programs they sponsor. I wonder where that question was coming from? Isn't the fact that they pay their money to support the station enough for her? Neither KQED or KALW, two Bay Area NPR affiliates who also use underwriters do so. Maybe Massey should ask them why not. Better yet, maybe she should just go back to Nashville.
Jeff Blankfort, Ukiah
KZYX BOARD WRITES LOVE LETTER TO JOHN COATE
To the Editor:
I writing to let you know that the KZYX Board of Directors recently drafted a “love letter” to KZYX General Manager, John Coate. It will soon be posted to the KZYX website. The letter is absurd, especially in light of the fact that KZYX is facing five or more challenges to the renewal of their FCC licenses.
I take the love letter to be a vote of confidence in Coate, but it borders on the obsequious. Perhaps it is a belated Valentine's Day note.
Maybe. It reads much more like a tribute to Caesar.
Eight of the nine members of the Board of Directors endorsed the letter. I sit on the Board, and I was the sole dissenting vote. Regretfully, I can't cut and paste the letter and share it with you. Why? Because that would violate the Board's obsession with secrecy.
I asked Board Chair Eliane Herring if the Board would allow me to post a short dissent to the love letter — much like the courts publish a dissenting opinion alongside majority and concurring opinions for important court decisions in the court reporter — but I never received an answer from Ms. Herring.
Silence. No answer.
No surprise. The Board, would seem not to want to air any diversity of opinion with respect to poor management decisions at the station, nor does it seem to value free speech. We've known that much four months ago when Coate canceled the station's only public forum for public comment “Open Lines,” and indefinitely suspended the show's popular host, Doug McKenty — the Board was silent then, too.
John Sakowicz, Ukiah
THE ANGER FACTORY
This is my story of how I showed up at this Hotel California on November 12, 2012. I'm not from Mendocino; let's get that fact straight. I'm from Yuba County. While I was up here visiting some kinfolk of mine, I ended up having a disagreement with a few of their friends after a steady week of partying. I ended up getting jumped by them. It was four on one, and yes, I'm the one. It was a fight for survival out there, actually self-defense. Here I am, still in jail on February 9, 2014, still fighting for my life in this bass-ackwards County Jail.
When I got to the Hotel Mendocino I sat in booking for four days waiting to be arrested for self-defense. It was past the 72 hour mark, but finally on the fifth day they made up their charges. On my fifth day I was finally housed late that night. I was put in B-mod on lockdown for approximately 30-45 days. Once they got me out of lockdown they sent me to D-mod. D-mod is better known as the prison mod, which is run with prison politics.
Once I got into D-mod the inmates gave me the rundown about how this county works. It's run with prison politics which go like this: 1. If you're white, you run with the whites; you don't eat or sit with other races. 2. You can't take any disrespect from anyone. 3. You don't let anybody call you the N-word which is another word for a black.
The P-word is another word for a man taking another man's manhood. The B-word is another word for a female dog, a rat or a snitch. If rule 2 or rule 3 is broken you can't just say sorry and hope everything is going to be cool. It's an automatic fight if it happens.
So here I was in this prison mod for 30-45 days when someone hit me with a level 2 rule infraction. It's med pass time and my door is opened. At the end of the table was an Indian and his homeboy. I am thinking, Oh crap, not good. So after I walked to the end of the gate to get my meds, the Indian got up and started jumping up and down. I thought it was kind of funny. He took a swing at me and missed so I knocked him out with one swift right hook. The other white boy with me started beating up the other Indian. Long story short, my homeboy said, “Whites run together; you are not going to get jumped.” I said, “Thank you.”
Cops in Mendocino jail only did a walk through every hour back then. So you are at the mercy of the inmates until the cops get there. So I ended up with a 10 month indeterminate Ad Seg, the hole. After the ten months I finally got to go back to general population. I was there for a week and someone got beat up and crapped and pissed all over themselves all the way down the hall. I had nothing to do with this fight but Mendocino needs someone to take the fall so of course, “Let's get the out-of-town guy.” Again, I was back in the hole for first-time self-defense, the second time as a scapegoat. So I asked why I was in the hole again with 10 write-ups. (Lucky me).
My name is Mikey, that's what people know me as. I'm also called Inmate Lawson and I have been writing the greatest paper ever, the AVA, because we can write true facts. In Volume 62, Number 5, on page 10 there was a letter called “fun buns” which was our first article. We got our AVA in the mail on the following Thursday, but this one we did not get until Friday.
I was advised by classification that she had read the letter from Inmate Lawson and me, “Mikey.” So we got cell-searched first thing 7am in the morning by Deputy Dyche, aka, “fun buns” himself. I'm not talking the normal walk-through looking for hookers and assault rifles. I'm talking the white glove treatment. Up out of bed, taking off the sheets, looking between your toes, under your nuts and spreading ass-cheeks. I got found with a broken soapdish which they said was sharp and could be used for opening doors. I told them it was for cutting up fruit or sandwiches. You put the fruit in pudding or a little kool-aid and it tastes good that way. So today, January 9, 2014, the third day after the article came out regarding “fun buns,” Mr. Fun Buns himself came back and took every soap dish from all the lockdown cells. Because I wrote a paper along with “Lawson” about this jackass backwards jail, I was written up for a broken soap dish. Oh, I forgot to mention Mr. Fun Buns had all the AVA newspapers removed from the jail because he is a little sourpuss. They can't just say that I am receiving a write-up for writing to the AVA about this swine farm.
Stuck in this bacon factory
Nolan Todd Lawson Jr.
Mendocino County Jail, Ukiah
PS. I forgot to mention that I fired my second public pretender because she told me I was bleeped. I asked why, and she hit me with this logic: “You are not from here.” So here I am thinking this was a great town until I heard that. You come here on vacation and leave on probation if you are not sentenced to prison. — Mikey from Yuba County but stuck in the sewer plant Mendocino County Jail.
PPS. The truth of a mind in lockdown and why kids become corrupt. It started with a simple rule infraction or offense in words. Or maybe just as a small scuffle or a big fight. Immediately you are taken from your general population program and thrown away into the hole. Sunlight is a must to be happy and disease-resistant but in here the walls echo when you talk and the lights never turn off. Every day 24 hours a day you should hear the screams of this place. I'm next to mentally ill inmates. They smear crap on the walls and talk about satellites, drink their own urine for some attention. People with seizures are locked away and I've seen them fall on their faces and get up if they don't choke. With a busted face they need stitches but still have to cuff up with shackles and chains. That sound rattles my brains. I get a shower once every 48 hours. These guards in with their badges sewn on their shirts abuse their powers. They couldn't cut it or make it on the streets and it's not my fault that their family life consists of an nice home but a cheating husband or wife so they become drunks and hate themselves and come here into my cell to trash, abuse and mess with me, then I freak out and get written up. That's what they get off on. It's sick. I am all alone. My mind races and tries to talk but nobody is home. I have no cellmates or a yard group. The mind with no fresh air or sun becomes stagnant like sour rum. It's sad how fast you can lose it. You start taking talking to yourself and your imaginary friends. Once they get you to this point here comes the psych doctor and it's time to pill-value you. They start asking questions like why are you mad or are you going to harm yourself?
I wish people would understand what makes a convict not give a damn. You get no phone card to talk to your kids, family, dad or mom. If you don't fight or stand up you will surely die in here. The innocent become evil and start to prey on the weak people. The guys with multiple strikes try to get you to give up and follow their lifestyle. Many fall victim to this game and this is how a boy becomes a killer or a robber or a gang member, all because the jail and prison are corrupt and evil. Locking people away isn't the answer to anything. All the snitches get praise and a chance at rehab. But if you are a violent offender there is no rehab. Just a prison-bound bus to take you down to San Quentin. This is coming from some judge who doesn't even know you. “I think he is a monster, time to put him away.” The dope fiends get old and a slap on the wrist.
IN STATEWIDE DEBUT, TOP-TWO PRIMARY BLOCKS THIRD PARTIES FROM JUNE BALLOT
by John Hrabe, February 14, 2014
California’s top-two election system – by its very design – excludes third parties from the general election ballot. But, as the law makes its debut in statewide races, minor parties say it’s undermining their ability to even field candidates for the June primary ballot.
“I had planned to run for Secretary of State, but I did not because I could not afford the filing fee,” said C. T. Weber, a member of the Peace and Freedom Party of California’s State Executive Committee. “As a result of Top Two and its implementing legislation, I could no longer get the signatures in lieu of filing fees.”
This year, the Peace and Freedom Party only has the resources to get a few candidates on the ballot. They aren’t alone in their struggle. All of California’s “third parties” are battling new ballot qualification procedures established with the Top Two primary, and they say that it’s a fight for their very survival.
Proposition 14’s False Promise: More Participation and Increased Options in the Primary
Approved by voters four years ago, Proposition 14 ditched the traditional party primary system, where the winner of each party primary appears on the general election ballot. Under Top Two, all candidates appear on a single primary ballot. Then, only the top two vote-getters advance to the November general election, regardless of party.
According to the official ballot title and summary, Proposition 14 was written to “encourage increased participation in elections” and “give voters increased options in the primary.” The measure has had the opposite effect, making it harder and more expensive for minor party candidates to qualify for the primary election ballot. That’s because, under the new system, minor party candidates must collect a substantially higher number of signatures or pay a sizable filing fee.
Under the old system, statewide candidates could submit 150 signatures from registered party members in-lieu of a filing fee. Now, the signature-in lieu threshold for small parties has jumped from 150 party members to 10,000 signatures from all voters, a 66-fold increase.
Minor party candidates, who couldn’t afford the filing fee, now are unable to pursue the signature in-lieu route, leading to fewer candidates and, in turn, fewer choices for voters.
Michael Feinstein, a spokesperson for the Green Party of California, says that this effect was nowhere to be found in the official ballot title and summary for Proposition 14.
“I don’t believe voters would have approved of Proposition 14 had they been told about its negative impacts upon our democracy,” said Feinstein, a former mayor of Santa Monica. “This increase is having a chilling effect on democracy in California.”
Some Green Party members add that voters were hoodwinked by a misleading Prop. 14 campaign.
“California’s voters were effectively hoodwinked when they passed Proposition 14 without knowing the facts,” writes Christopher Kavanagh, a member of the Green Party of Alameda County. “Even Russia allows qualified political parties to field candidates without obstructing their access to the ballot. This situation is both shameful and brazenly anti-democratic.”
Filing Fees Prohibitive to Minor Parties
Few if any statewide candidate will qualify for the ballot by collecting 10,000 signatures. Alternatively, they can pay a filing fee, which ranges from $2,600 to $3,500. The fee is fixed by state law at “two percent of the first-year salary” of state officeholders and “one percent of the first-year salary” for members of Congress, the Board of Equalization, State Senate and State Assembly.
Minor parties say that high filing fee is forcing them to pick and choose statewide candidates. For the June 2014 primary, it will cost parties $235,000 to field a candidate for every state and federal office. Last year, the Green Party of California raised $14,153, according to its most recent campaign finance report.
Feinstein says that fundraising has improved and the party now has about $40,000 in the bank. Nevertheless, at its current fundraising pace, it’d take the Green Party of California more than 16 years to raise enough money to pay the filing fee for all of its candidates in a single election cycle.
Again, that’s just to get their candidates on the ballot and doesn’t include the cost of an actual campaign. To include a ballot statement in the California Voter Guide, it costs candidates $25 per word, or $6,250 for a full 250 word statement. Most minor party candidates cannot afford a full ballot statement, especially with the new, more expensive filing fee.
“Because of this unreasonable deterrent, the public is robbed of basic information they are entitled to, about the candidates that are able to be on the ballot,” Feinstein said. “This tilts the system in favor of those with money, at the expense of the public’s right to know.”
Top 2: From Bad to Worse for Small Parties
For the state’s long-standing smaller parties, the Top Two has taken things from bad to worse. Since 1992, small parties have averaged a combined 133 candidates on the ballot in California. In 2012, they cumulatively only ran 21 candidates, the lowest minor party total since 1966 – when no minor parties were on the ballot.
To add insult to injury, the legislature eliminated general election write-in candidates as part of its Top Two implementation, a right Californians have enjoyed since statehood in 1850.
The new system makes it impossible for a candidate like Weber, who wants to campaign on the issue of money in politics, from getting on the ballot.
“Currently, our election system gives the illusion of democracy but election laws, money and the corporate media stands in the way of fair representation for all of serious convictions,” Weber said. “Our elections are rigged, legally rigged.”
Vicious Cycle: No Candidates, No Ballot Statement, No Voters, No Donors
It all leads to a vicious cycle for minor parties. Without statewide candidates or ballot statements, minor parties can’t attract voters. Without voters, they can’t attract donors. Without money, the parties are back at the start: they can’t run statewide candidates.
In just a few years, this cycle will make it harder for small parties to remain in existence. In California, there are two ways for parties to retain their ballot status. The first is to receive two percent of the vote in the general election for a statewide office, which is de facto ended by top-two. In 2012, no Green Party, Libertarian Party or American Independent Party candidate qualified for the November ballot. Three Peace and Freedom candidate made it to the general election, all of whom ran as write-in candidates in the primary.*
The other option for parties to remain in existence is to meet a voter registration test, equal to one percent of the number of people who voted for governor in the last general election. This threshold has been difficult for the smaller parties to consistently maintain. The Greens, Libertarians and Peace and Freedom are all in danger of falling off the ballot because of it by 2015.
Non-partisan cooperation against Top 2
Proponents of the Proposition 14 promised that it would increase cooperation.
“Non-partisan measures like Proposition 14 will push our elected officials to begin working together for the common good,” Prop. 14 proponents wrote in the official ballot argument for the measure. “It’s time to end the bickering and gridlock and fix the system.”
It has: The Green Party, Libertarian Party and Peace and Freedom Party have joined forces in Rubin vs. Bowen, a lawsuit seeking to overturn Top Two. They’ve also prepared a joint position paper on the problems facing small parties. Then again, minor parties have been working together for decades.
“It is very common for all the minor parties to work together on common election law problems,” said Richard Winger, a spokesman for the Libertarian Party of California and publisher of Ballot Access News, which tracks ballot access developments across the United States.
“We smaller parties are on the short end of democracy in California,” said Feinstein. “Instead of being treated as unfortunate yet unavoidable road kill from the Top Two, we should be seen as canaries in the coal mine, warning of the deeply unrepresentative and undemocratic nature of our electoral system.”
MENDOCINO FILM FESTIVAL RETURNS TO WILLITS February 22! MFF “auditioned” Willits last year and the event was SOLD OUT. In 2014, MFF becomes a countywide film festival, appearing in all four cities plus Anderson Valley and the village of Mendocino. Spotlight on Willits features 3 great films at the Noyo Theatre, “Horse Boy,” 9 short films (2 won Academy Awards), and “This Ain't No Mouse Music.” There is also a reception catered by Adam's Restaurant with a performance by local favorites, “Schindig.” “Horse Boy” tracks an autistic boy and family seeking equine therapy. The 9 shorts are thought-provoking, hilarious and highly original works. “Mouse Music” documents Chris Strachwitz' quest to capture American music in its natural habitat, eventually becoming the legendary Arhoolie Records. As a bonus, Joell Dunlap of the Square Peg Foundation and our own Erin Livingston of T.R.A.I.L.S. will host a Q&A about “Horse Boy” at the Brickhouse following the movie. And recording engineer David Silberberg from Arhoolie Records will host a Q&A at the Noyo Theatre following “Mouse Music.” Event Sponsor is Sparetime Supply and film sponsors are Willits Pet Care, Main St. Music & Video, and Wagenet Enterprises. Beer at the reception will be provided by North Coast Brewery and served by Shanachie Pub. Tickets are online at BrownPaperTickets.com (keyword = Spotlight on Willits) and at the Noyo Theatre box office. Such a deal at only $11/film plus $9 upgrade to include reception!!It is wise to purchase tickets early, since the events will likely sell out rapidly. For more info visit: www.MendocinoFilmFestival.com Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=285696541581118&set=a.112360985581342.21239.100004223233760&type=1&theater
JERRED HERNANDEZ at 1:30pm Tuesday is scheduled to withdraw a not guilty plea by reason of insanity in the 2000 murder of Michael Williamson of Ukiah. Hernandez, who fled to Mexico but was apprehended and returned to the U.S. 13 years later, is to enter guilty pleas to 1st degree murder, arson and other case related charges as part of an agreement that will see him serve 32 years to life in prison. Public Defender Linda Thompson is representing Hernandez. The plea change is scheduled to become before Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman in Courtroom A.
BACKGROUND: SUSPECT IN UKIAH MURDER ARRESTED IN MEXICO
A man suspected of killing his neighbor in Ukiah and fleeing to Mexico nearly 13 years ago is in custody after being arrested in Mexico, the Ukiah Police Department reported. According to the UPD, Jerred R. Hernandez, 32, was arrested in Ensenada by Mexican Police and later booked into the San Diego County Jail for the murder of Michael Williamson in 2000. The suspected homicide was discovered Aug. 2, 2000, when UPD officers and firefighters from the Ukiah Fire Department responded to the 100 block of Carolyn Street for a report of smoke. After extinguishing the fire, firefighters discovered the body of Michael E. Williamson, 44, in a bedroom of the house, which was owned by his parents, who were out of town at the time. Investigators determined Williamson had suffered “severe blunt trauma to his head,” and that the fire had been set in an attempt to conceal evidence. Several items were also stolen from the residence, including jewelry, credit cards and personal checks belonging to the victim's parents. After collecting evidence and witnesses statements, investigators identified Hernandez, then 19, as the suspect. According to the UPD, Williamson was a recovering drug addict and had been mentoring other addicts, including Hernandez, who lived on the same street. The UPD reports that following Williamson's homicide, Hernandez fled to Santa Rosa after using his brother Nicolas' name to withdraw money from his brother's bank account. Hernandez then reportedly went to Southern California and finally to Mexico, where he has relatives. Law enforcement, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, continued searching for Hernandez, who was featured on the television show America's Most Wanted last year. On Monday, UPD detectives Rick Pintane and Sgt. David McQueary interviewed Hernandez in the San Diego County Jail in connection with the charges of murder, arson, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary, and arranged for his transportation back to Ukiah. “We are extremely fortunate to have located and arrested Hernandez,” UPD Chief Chris Dewey said. “This was one of our department's most lengthy and complex investigations and I am glad to bring into custody a person we suspect of committing such horrific crimes.” Dewey said Hernandez will be brought up to Ukiah in the next couple of days, likely by bus. His arrest was a result of a collaboration between the UPD, the FBI and the Border Liaison Program, the FBI Legal Attaché Mexico City, US Customs and Border Protection, the US Attorney's Office and the Baja California State Police. (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
DELTA ADVOCATES, WINNEMEM CALL ON OBAMA TO NOT SUPPORT TUNNELS
by Dan Bacher
Advocates for the restoration of Central Valley salmon and the Delta rallied with colorful signs and banners at an intersection surrounded by fields on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley 12 miles west of the town of Firebaugh on Friday, February 14, urging President Obama to not support Governor Jerry Brown’s peripheral tunnel plan.
The diverse group of over 60 people, including fishermen, Delta farmers and Tribal leaders, also called on Obama to let federal science officials to their jobs regarding the protection of salmon and Delta fish populations without interference – and to support sustainable water policies that balance the needs of fish, wildlife and people. Many of the group traveled from Stockton via a chartered bus and car pools that morning that ended up at the intersection Althea and Oxford roads.
The signs included slogans such as “Fish Need Flows,” “Something Is Fishy About BDCP,” “Thank You For Not Supporting HR 3924,” “Save the Delta, Stop the Tunnels,” “Don’t Let BDCP Muck Up the Delta,” “Dear Obama, Please No Tunnels – Yours Truly the Delta,” and “Unsustainable Mega Growers Want California Water.”
The Delta advocates, organized by Restore the Delta, and a dozen press vans were waiting for the presidential motorcade to go by to send their message to Obama, but the President instead decided to fly by helicopter to a closed door meeting with a select group of corporate agribusiness interests, state and government officials and local leaders.
Obama, accompanied by Senators Barbara Boxer and Diana Feinstein and Congressman Jim Costa, met with Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Birmingham, General Manager of the Westlands Water District, Jose and Maria Del Bosque, west side agribusiness owners, Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farmworkers Union, and other officials to discuss drought relief.
Obama unveiled a $183 million drought aid package, including $100 million in livestock disaster assistance for California producers; $15 million in targeted conservation assistance for the most extreme and exceptional drought areas; and $5 million in targeted Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program assistance to the most drought impacted areas of California to protect vulnerable soils. The package also contains $60 million for food banks to help families that may be economically impacted by the drought and $3 million in Emergency Water Assistance Grants for rural communities experiencing water shortages.
The President didn’t invite any Delta residents, leaders of California Indian Tribes, Sacramento Valley or Delta farmers, commercial fishermen and recreational anglers, who have been also dramatically impacted by California’s unprecedented drought, to the meeting. However, Restore the Delta and local activists did their best to get their message out to the national, regional and local media gathered there – and were very successful conveying their message to a variety outlets, ranging from NBC News, to the Washington Post, to Pacifica News.
“It’s extremely significant that President Obama is willing to meet with the people down here on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, but not with people on the Delta,” said Javier Padilla, the Latino outreach director of Restore the Delta. “I believe that he came here because there are a lot of big money interests here and John Boehner, the House Majority Leader came down to the west side recently.”
Michael Tuiimyali, Winnemem Wintu Member and a recent U.C. Berkeley graduate, noted that members of his Tribe and other California Indian Tribes weren’t invited to Obama's meeting and tour. He emphasized the importance of salmon and the Delta to the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, a strong opponent of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels.
“The collapse of salmon and the Delta is a threat to our cultural survival,” he said. “Our prophecies say that if the salmon go extinct, so will the Winnemem Wintu people. We don’t take this prophecy too lightly.”
He said the raising of Shasta Dam, a federal plan designed to provide more water to agribusiness interests in conjunction with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels, would “flood our our culture.” The widely opposed plan would inundate many of the remaining sites on the McCloud River that weren’t flooded when Shasta Dam was completed in the 1940s.
“The dam raise would flood over 30 of our most important sites, including Puberty Rock, the Dance Grounds, Sucker Pool, Childrens’ Rock and Wishing Rock,” he said. “The dam raise would flooded the old campground where we do our ceremony that is located on the site of an old Winnemem village. There are still lots of artifacts in this area.”
He added that the winter-run Chinook salmon native to the McCloud River is an indicator of the entire Delta ecosystem – and without the restoration of the salmon, the whole ecosystem will collapse.
In the morning, Restore the Delta (RTD) held a press conference at the Holiday Inn in Fresno. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, RTD Executive Director, said that President Obama “should not be misled” that the peripheral tunnels are of any value in meeting California’s water challenges highlighted by the record drought conditions.
“We implore him not to support this boondoggle that mainly benefits a handful of mega-growers,” she said. “The President needs to know where our water is going in order to decide whether to spend billions to continue feeding water buffaloes, or to change direction. Westlands Water District uses the current water scarcity to push the Peripheral Tunnels, but that is the wrong answer. We ask the president to meet with Delta farmers and community leaders as well.”
She also said California needs alternatives to the current, failed water policies, which” treat water as though it were a limitless resource.”
“California needs to reduce the demand for water, and reduce reliance on the Delta,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “The combination of these demand reduction actions, plus reinforcement of Delta levees, improvement of south Delta fish screens and salvage operations, elimination of harmful water transfers through the Delta, and numerous fish protections, preclude the need for the BDCP twin tunnels.”
Jerry Cadagan, Tuolumne County sustainable water policy advocate, told the press conference that west side San Joaquin Valley agribusiness is not the only industry impacted by the drought – that all Californians, including the recreational and fishing industry that depends on healthy Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations, are suffering from record lack of precipitation.
“As the President focuses on the problems of the agricultural industry, we must remember that almost all Californians are in a world of hurt due to the drought,” he said. “My county of Tuolumne will run out of water by July for essentials like drinking water if we don’t get some relief. Just as the farmers in the Valley provide us with food, so do the fishermen on the coast.”
Cadagan stated, “The fishing industry has the same employment and economic problems as the growers of fruits and nuts. There needs to be a better balance in how we allocate our water and relief dollars.”
The Delta farm industry contributes $5.2 billion per year to California’s economy, while the salmon, crab and other fishing operations that depend upon the health of the Delta contributed another $1.5 billion per year, according to Barrigan-Parrilla. The Delta recreation industry, led by recreational fishing and boating, also provides $750,000 per year to the economy.
Corporate agribusiness on the Valley's west side only contributes less than 3/10 of 1 percent to the state’s economy, said Barrigan-Parrilla.
Jay Hubbel, an organizer of Fresnans Against Fracking, highlighted the institutional poverty that corporate agribusiness has perpetuated on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, an area where unemployment averages around 20 percent even in wet years.
“If big agribusiness could bring jobs and prosperity to the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, they would have done so already,” said Hubble. “My family has been in Fresno since 1959 and the west side has always been synonymous with poverty.”
The west side is no doubt a region characterized by institutional poverty. Debra Lopez of Dos Palos, who runs the clothing project for the local Methodist Church, came to the rally to talk to Delta advocates and the media about what the drought will mean to local farmworker families, many of who expect to be unemployed this year if the drought persists.
“Our food bank that gives out food to local families can barely handle the people that it helps now,” she pointed out.
Delta resident Rogene Reynolds, the descendent of pioneer Delta farming families, summed up that the construction of tunnels of the tunnels under the BDCP will amount to a “massive transfer of wealth” from the public to corporate interests.”
“As we know, in California water is wealth,” she said. “The peripheral tunnels are a massive transfer of that wealth from all of the rest of us to Westlands and Kern billionaires who are growing permanent crops for export.”
“The excuse of revitalizing the Delta (under the BDCP) is just political cover for that transfer. The losers in this process will be the California taxpayers, who will fund a massive project to satisfy the greed of a few,” Reynolds concluded.
Restore the Delta's solutions to California's water needs:
At the press conference, Restore the Delta urged the governor to adopt these sustainable water policies:
1. Expand and fund statewide water efficiency, recycling, storm water reuse, and demand reduction programs beyond the scale of the current 20/20 program. Make the program mandatory for urban and agricultural users.
2. Retire agricultural land in the San Joaquin Valley that is drainage impaired. These lands are mostly in the Westlands Water District.
3. Reduce exports from the Delta during dry and critically dry water years to the level that will support public health and safety. In normal and above normal water years, limit exports from the Delta to 3 million acre-feet; which provide adequate outflows – in accordance with SWRCB guidelines – and help restore Delta habitat and fisheries.
4. Maintain water quality standards in the estuary and in impaired rivers.
5. Monitor and report statewide groundwater usage.
6. Return the Kern Water Bank to state control, restore the Article 18 urban preference, and restore the original intent of Article 21 surplus water in SWP contracts.
7. Preserve the provisions of state and federal Endangered Species Act, Wild and Scenic River protections, San Joaquin River Settlement, and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.
8. Revise water rights and contract levels to align with water that is actually available. The State has granted five times the amount of water that is available in a typical year. Rein in “paper water” that now exists.