Federal Government

You can come to our Valley but can you play our blue violin?

Submitted: Apr 30, 2006

Badlands owes the community an apology. We published a letter to the McClatchy board of directors last week that complained about an article in the Merced Sun-Star some Valley citizens found extremely offensive to Hispanic neighbors, friends, Mexico and Hispanic culture in general.

We seem to have brought down on the community something almost worse than that letter: a series of lectures on theories of literary interpretation, the main one called, “Column wasn’t meant to offend,” by Sun-Star editor Joe Kieta. Perhaps this new professorial tone the Sun-Star is adopting is yet another wonderful benefit of proximity to a UC campus.

Hermaneutics does Merced!

Central Valley Safe Environment Network, which made the complaint to the owners of the Sun-Star, was bombarded by instruction about satire, irony and sarcasm. The author of the article telling Alma Oseguera to get out of the Valley, Keita, a top McClatchy corporate official, Sun-Star publisher Hank Vander Veen and numerous other important people including some local Hispanic “leaders” took time patiently to explain to members of CVSEN, an old Valley grassroots organization, that its members just didn’t understand what the retired journalism professor and freelance columnist really meant.

“Shocking news events like these are tailor-made for commentary,” Kieta wrote in defense of the offensive piece. “Burke decided to write an ironic column that took the extreme opposite side in an effort to point out what he feels is the senselessness of the agency's actions.”

Later, Kieta explains patiently to Valley dumbbells, “But if the irony is missed, readers can be confused or outraged by the comments.” This is followed by the news that the author had received emails soon after publication applauding his extremist views.

We may be confused by Kieta’s superior literary erudition, but it seems like the people who wrote those praises weren’t the least bit confused. They thought they had a regular Bull White Man to speak their racism.

From there, Kieta goes on to explain that the author is a first-rate man who is neither bigoted nor insensitive, and either is Kieta, Vander Veen or the Sun-Star – and if we dummies just knew about irony, satire, sarcasm and such, this whole misunderstanding would never have occurred.

We just didn’t think it was either funny or in good taste. However, our superiors enlightened us: Valley people don’t have no taste, we can’t think so we should just shut up when a former professor employs the highly refined, esoteric tools of the literary art to tell us something that is so far beyond us we could never understand it anyway.

How could we understand these things? We come from these communities – born and raised in them, among immigrants like undocumented Mexican workers. What could they know about a law that criminalizes them?

I guess we’ll have to see. But, from an agricultural perspective, this HR-4437 looks like using gasoline instead of diesel to stoke up an orchard brush-pile fire.

But we have in the Valley our own little canons of etiquette, too, apparently unknown to The McClatchy Company or its outlets who serve most of us our daily print. One of them is that we tend to speak rather respectfully about immigrants since most of us are immigrants and because the Valley has been a settling area for immigrants – from the US as well as other nations – for a long time. We don’t find immigration is a joke. In fact, we’ve learned through the years that if you aren’t careful and joke about it in the wrong company, you will get your teeth kicked in. Of course, our little canons do not rise to the level of McClatchy literary interpretation because they lack the elegance.

The largest concentration of undocumented Mexican workers in the nation lives between Stockton and Los Angeles. Hispanic people have always lived in the Valley, in fact a number of them lived here before the arrival of the Anglos. In the last 40 years, since the termination of the Bracero Program, the beginnings of the Maquiladora system, the end of the large Anglo migrations out of Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and the increasing militarization of the US/Mexican border, the population of undocumented Mexican workers in California has radically increased. Agribusiness loves a large pool of workers, the more vulnerable to intimidation and coercion the better from its corporate point of view. In recent years illegal aliens have moved beyond agriculture and even, during the latest speculation-driven construction boom, into building trades.

These people will not be uprooted from the Valley now. They are part of our social fabric, our neighbors, friends and coworkers, and many are homeowners. We have been aware for decades that the lives of our immigrant neighbors are frequently complicated by inadequate papers. Border Patrol sweeps are hardly news in these parts. It’s an old game of harassment and intimidation the government plays whenever special interests get nervous about the workers’ emotional state. The special interests prefer the workers be afraid. Signs of courage, organizing and that sort of thing alarm special interests, who then instruct the government to “do something about the illegal alien situation.”

Actually, however, our Hispanic neighbors and friends here in the Valley have had some rudimentary literary education in recent years. A colorful fellow in Chiapas, who wears a ski mask, smokes a pipe, and controls a region of that state for the benefit of its indigenous inhabitants (mainly Mayas), has shown novel tastes in revolutionary literature. According to this subcomandante, all people really need to read is Don Quixote, with perhaps a little Shakespeare on the side, to get an adequate sense of reality in the post-NAFTA world in a nation that lacked an ideological vocabulary to describe reality.

The Badlands editorial staff – always seeking the key to understanding reality – has had an on-going Quixote study group for a dozen years. We feel it has improved our understanding of reality, but evidently not enough to grasp satire with sufficient depth to understand the refined sense of humor of the retired journalism professor or his bosses.

What we hear in these particularly brutal Border Patrol sweeps, backed by HR 4437, is an old simile from Hispanic political science: The state is like a violin, the left hand holds it but the right hand plays it.

The author of HR 4437, James Sensenbrenner, R-WI, understands this saying because his congressional district has the largest concentration of Hispanic dairy workers in Wisconsin, until 1993 (when California took the lead) the largest dairy state in the nation. He knows who holds it and who plays it.

You can bet the Grand Old Party of Global Corporations (formerly the American GOP or Republican Party) also knows who holds the fiddle and who plays it. Going down the list of the Immigration Reform Caucus Members for the 109th Congress makes interesting reading: half of the 90-plus members come from former Confederate states and the group’s rightwing fervor is “balanced” by two Democratic Party members.

HR 4437 would:

Make being undocumented a felony rather than a civil offense.

• Expand the definition of smuggling to include dealing with undocumented knowingly or with wanton neglect of their status.

• Make felony record an automatic basis to deny legal status and citizenship.

• Require employers, including union hiring halls to report all employers for federal examination of their eligibility to work.

• Have mandatory detention for suspected undocumented not from Mexico or Canada.

• Militarize the border with a wall of several hundred miles and high tech military surveillance.

• Eliminate due process from many immigration procedures.

• Deputize local and state police to enforce federal immigration laws.

Dennis Cardoza, to his great credit, voted against HR 4437.

This law makes about as much sense as Prohibition but is “good politics” for the GOP-GC because it criminalizes and terrorizes its victims into a position in which they must respond with the only political tactic they have, large public demonstrations. Since non-citizens, by definition, don’t vote, the rightwing political strategy of the year is to scare the hell out of everyone who does vote with another American alien scare, all mixed in together with the eternal war against terrorism. What else can they do? Their president lied to get us into a war we’re losing; his very election in 2000 was the result of highly organized vote rigging in the Southern state where his brother is governor; his regime has begun to spy on everyone they don’t like; he has given monstrous tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent in the nation and has stimulated a jobless economic recovery; with the largest national debt ever reached, the dollar is propped up by nervous Asian trading partners China and Japan; and the off-shoring of what is left of essential industries continues. He is so unpopular that in New York City yesterday an estimated 300,000 people braved a huge NYPD gauntlet to march against his war and all the rest of his policies. And gasoline costs more than $3 per gallon and the price is rising – a boon to the American president’s oil company constituents.

So, let’s see if we can get the “aliens” riled up, reason the Texans who rule us.

All the failures of the Bush regime must be the fault of undocumented Mexican workers, right? Nobody is certainly going to even remember, much less believe that seditious little marsupial, Pogo, who declared c. 1955: “We have found the enemy and he is us.”

Blame the undocumented Mexican worker, tack on a fat pork barrel in the form of a Israeli-style wall across the border, and pass another idiotic, unenforceable law terrorizing another in the long line of hard-working immigrant groups who have come to the United States, give the racists something to dream on and maintain control of the Congress by the GOP-GC.

The left hand holds the fiddle; the right hand plays an ugly, monotonous, malevolent tune:

· about learning more hatred;
· about more graft, corruption, oppression and police power;
· a ballad about betraying for the benefit of special interests the justice upon which we stand, without which we fall;
· and about getting more stupid by the month through denying (with help from our media corporations) the multiple dangers lying ahead instead of facing them like the relatively courageous, independently thinking people we have shown ourselves to be from time to time.

It’s not funny at all, when you come to think about it, because this authoritarian regime is above wit, rhetoric, argument, and is especially above humor. The emperor may look ridiculous without a stitch of clothing on, but if you grin, you could end up in Gitmo. This regime speaks only with power, money and force. It makes you really nostalgic for US Sen. Alan Simpson, R-WY, if, of course, you remember Simpson, which requires an inability to erase the recent history of your nation from your mind. The debate between Simpson and Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-TX, is evidence that before the present political nightmare, the US Congress was capable of thought – including analysis, argument, a very high level of rhetoric, wit, humility, humor and wisdom – even on the very difficult issue of the immigration of undocumented Mexican workers.

And, by the way, now that we’ve dispensed with its literary interpretation, does McClatchy by chance know where Alma Oseguera and her 50-plus fellow victims from our community are now? We’ll take the information in simple declarative sentences. Save the hermaneutics for the boardroom where the elites meet.

Happy May Day!

Pedro Conejo-Tonto
----------------------------------

Notes:

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12086617p-12838624c.html
MercedSunStar.com
Column wasn't meant to offend
By Joe Kieta
… For our part, the Sun-Star will be more careful in the future to make sure satirical columns are clearly labeled as such, which will eliminate any confusion. We could have labeled Burke's column accordingly, but didn't -- and for this, please accept our apologies.
Biting satire shouldn't bite back. We'll do our best to make sure this confusion doesn't happen again.

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12086617p-12838624c.html
Weekend voices: Liberty, opportunity are for Americans only
By David F. Burke
Last Updated: April 22, 2006
Get out of this valley, Alma Oseguara. Maybe after a few weeks in a Kern County jail you'll finally understand that we don't want you and your kind here in the San Joaquin Valley. … About 300 years ago, his ancestors, named Garcia, came through Texas -- well, it may have been "Tejas" then -- and up into northern New -- I mean Nuevo -- Mexico and southern Colorado.
Then, 150 years later, my ancestors picked a fight with Mexico. We first tried to get what we wanted peacefully, offering our neighbors to the south $25 million for California. But the ignorant Mexicans thought the state was worth more than that.
So, we sent two armies into Mexico and a third to California, by way of New Mexico. The silly Mexicans refused to surrender, so we captured Mexico City and "convinced" our captors to accept just $15 million for the Golden State. The vanquished Mexicans threw in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Utah - about half of their country, all told - for free.
And that, Alma, should explain why my brown-skinned son -- who was born in New Mexico -- gets to stay while you -- who were born in Old Mexico -- must leave.
It's not personal. It's the law. If you like, you can think of it as manifest destiny.
Now, get out of my country. And don't come back until you are legal.

Gadamer, Hans Georg, Truth and Method, Continuum, New York, 1994, pp. 190-192, 265-266

http://www.uwrf.edu/news_bureau/0531022.html
Hispanic Workers Impact Increasing in Wisconsin
By Khrysten Darm
UW-RF News Bureau
A recent presentation by UW-River Falls dairy science Professor Dennis Cooper reflected a new reality in Wisconsin: 10 percent of its dairy workforce speaks Spanish.
Cooper spoke at a Hispanic Dairy Labor Conference recently in Kaukauna,Wis. His presentation was titled: "?Que Pasa? What is Happening with Hispanic Workers? Nine Ideas to Improve Your Success with Hispanic Employees." … Ten percent of the workforce in Wisconsin is Hispanic, and although a high concentration is in the southeastern part of the state, there are still Hispanic workers that come to larger dairy farms in this area. "We are trying to serve dairy farmers and they need information on how to manage a multicultural workforce," Cooper said.

tancredo.house.gov/
Check out Members of Congress' Immigration Report Cards at http://www.betterimmigration.com/reportcardintro.html

www.house.gov/sensenbrenner/

http://www.hispanicbusiness.com/news/newsbyid.asp?id=34019&cat=Hispanic+PR+Wire&more=/hprw
Latino Immigrants in favor of May first economic boycott
4/27/2006
Burbank, CA--(HISPANIC PR WIRE)--April 26, 2006--The large majority of Latino immigrants will support the May first economic boycott. More than 70% of the respondents stated that they will support the “Great Latino Stop” by not attending work, buying anything, or sending their children to school, according to a study conducted by Garcia Research made public today.
“The study indicates that even with the differences in opinion that exist amongst leaders and organizations about the best manner in which to make the boycott effective, and the possible negative repercussions like sanctions and unemployment, the immigrant population has received with great enthusiasm the idea of the boycott”, said Cristina Garcia, director of El Pulso Latino, the division of Public Polling of Garcia Research …

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0604280145apr28,1,7557293.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed
dglanton@tribune.com
How immigration roils tiny Georgian town
Calhoun finds itself at the center of national debate over illegal laborers
By Dahleen Glanton
Tribune national correspondent
Published April 28, 2006
CALHOUN, Ga. -- This is carpet country, home to the largest concentration of carpeting factories in the world. It is a place of abundant jobs and affordable housing--magnets for a growing population of Latino immigrants that some longtime residents see as a threat to their way of life.
Calhoun's 13,000 people are mostly working-class whites. But now nearly one out of six residents is from another country. Some whites see immigrants, legal or not, as unfair contenders in the competition for coveted jobs they have held for generations at the carpet mills. For the most part, they have accepted the changing demographics with apprehension, much as they reluctantly took to forced integration with African-Americans in the 1960s.

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0429-01.htm
Published on Saturday, April 29, 2006 by the Associated Press
FBI Investigated 3,501 People Without Warrants
by Mark Sherman
WASHINGTON - The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday. Confirms our fear all along that National Security Letters are being used to get the records of thousands of innocent Americans without court approval.
It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge's approval or a grand jury subpoena. Friday's disclosure was mandated as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act, the administration's sweeping anti-terror law. The FBI delivered a total of 9,254 NSLs relating to 3,501 people in 2005, according to a report submitted late Friday to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In some cases, the bureau demanded information about one person from several companies. The numbers from previous years remain classified, officials said.

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0430-23.htm
Published on Sunday, April 30, 2006 by the Los Angeles Times
A Day Without All-Stars?
by Dave Zirin
May day 2006 is being called the "Great American Boycott" or "A Day Without Latinos."
Across the country, Latinos and their allies say they will neither work nor shop Monday to protest what they consider anti-immigrant legislation before Congress.
Although many industries and work sites may be affected, one multibillion-dollar enterprise would be crippled by such a boycott: Major League Baseball.
Of the top 10 hitters in the National League, six are from Latin America, including Albert Pujols, last year's most valuable player. In the American League, five of the top 10 are Latinos, including batting leader and 2003 MVP Miguel Tejada.
Latinos dominate the pantheon of the game's superstars like never before. Seven of the last 10 MVPs in the American League are Latinos. The new reality was laid bare at this spring's World Baseball Classic: The U.S. team couldn't compete with its Latin American rivals, failing to even make it out of pool play … The growing Latino presence in Major League Baseball is a story of exploitation and opportunity. Club owners set up baseball academies in countries where future prospects can be signed in their early teens for pennies, then fired with little cost if they aren't good enough to play in the big leagues. As one player said to me, "The options in the Dominican Republic are jail, the army, the factory or baseball." Many talented players make it to the U.S. and play minor league ball, then stay illegally if they're dropped from a team to chase the dream of a professional baseball career. The outer boroughs of New York City are filled with semipro teams of men in their 30s still thirsting for that contract and hoping it comes before they are deported.

http://cpusa.org/article/articleview/752/1/105/
2006 Immigrant Rights Club Educational Guide …
Author: CPUSA Education Commission
First published 04/27/2006 15:25
This educational has the goal of upgrading our understanding of the struggle for immigrant rights and against repressive immigration legislation which is taking place right now throughout the country. The goal is to place in bold relief the central problems of inequality, criminalization, and the greed of US corporations. The suggested readings which are attached include the 2006 report to the National Board on immigration, the resolution on immigration passed at the 28th National Convention, and a PWW article.
The club should invite guests to participate in this educational discussion of the immigrant rights struggle and immediately distribute the educational guide with the attached reading materials to all who will be involved. A discussion leader should be selected to facilitate the discussion. At least 45 minutes to an hour should be devoted to the full educational discussion.
Discussion Questions:
1. How have corporate and governmental policies shaped changes in the immigrant population and the challenges facing the immigrant population? How have the conditions for immigrants worsened?
2. What has been and is now the contribution of organized labor to the fight for immigrant rights?
3. What are some aspects of positive immigration reform? What can your club and district do to help advance the consciousness of the working class, nationally oppressed communities, women, and youth on the issue of immigrants rights? What are some obstacles which must be overcome? What can your club and district do to participate in this struggle? …

http://usliberals.about.com/od/immigration/a/RMahony.htm
Catholic Cardinal Mahony Slams House Bill HR 4437
Liberal Politics: U.S. -- Apr 11 2006
Tells Bush That Priests Will Not Verify Legal Status
In response to an immigration bill passed in late 2005 by the US House, Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, the largest US diocese with five million Catholics, wrote this letter to President Bush, decrying the new mandate that organizations first check immigration status before providing services to any person. …

December 30, 2005
The Honorable
George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Bush:
The House of Representatives recently passed a border-security Bill (H.R. 4437) that has enormous implications and ramifications for all of us in this country.
While I am surely in favor of taking appropriate government action to protect the borders of our country, not every action step is feasible or advisable. Apparently, the recently passed House Bill will require of all personnel of Churches and of all non-profit organizations to verify the legal immigration status of every single person served through our various entities.
In effect, priests, ministers, rabbis, and others involved in various Church-related activities will be forced top become "quasi-immigration enforcement officials." The Catholic Church alone offers a vast spectrum of services for all in need, including education, health care, and social services. Our golden rule has always been to serve people in need--not to verify beforehand their immigration status.
But the Bill imposes incredibly penalties upon any person assisting others' through a Church or a social service organization. Up to five years in prison and seizure of assets would accompany serving the poor who later turn out to be here without proper legal documentation.
One could interpret this Bill to suggest that any spiritual and pastoral service given to any person requires proof of legal residence. Are we to stop every person coming to Holy Communion and first ask them to produce proof of legal residence before we can offer them the Body and Blood of Christ?
Speaking for the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, such restrictions are impossible to comply with. The underlying basis for our service to others ,especially to the poor, is the example, words, and actions of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. The 25th chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel does not simply invite us to serve others in the name of Jesus, but offers such service as a requisite to the Kingdom of God:
"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen. I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25: 31-46)
This one example in Matthew's Gospel is foundational to our discipleship of Jesus Christ, and all that we do in service to those in need is done in light of our Baptismal commitments.
It is staggering for the federal government to stifle our spiritual and pastoral outreach to the poor, and to impose penalties for doing what our faith demands of us.
Throughout your Presidency, you have encouraged Faith Based Organizations to be strong partners in meeting the needs of the those in our communities. Yet, this Bill will produce the opposite effect.
You must speak out clearly and forcefully in opposition to these repressive---and impossible--aspects of any immigration reform efforts. Your personal leadership is needed to counter such ill-advised efforts.
Thanking you for giving strong leadership in this matter, and with kindest personal regards, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
His Eminence
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Archbishop of Los Angeles

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/043006B.shtml
In Leak Cases, New Pressure on Journalists
By Adam Liptak
The New York Times
Sunday 30 April 2006
Earlier administrations have fired and prosecuted government officials who provided classified information to the press. They have also tried to force reporters to identify their sources.
But the Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws …

| »

Time out for adults

Submitted: Apr 21, 2006

Americans too young to remember the Vietnam War or those who have an iron-clad case of amnesia do not know how bad a really rotten war can get on the home front of the invader, passing over the millions of the invaded such wars kill. You are only beginning to get a taste of it. An immeasurable aid to national complacency about the Iraq Disaster is that it is being fought be other peoples’ children, almost exclusively from the nation’s less fashionable, less politically influential neighborhoods. But, eventually, the taste of this Iraq Disaster will be like rancid pork in your mouths.

Pete McCloskey, Republican, and Jerome Waldie, Democrat, were two Bay Area congressmen who were morally present for Vietnam and they didn’t blink. McCloskey fought his party’s leadership and Waldie fought his. Both demonstrated admirably that the only political course in the face of ruinous policy is determined, fierce resistance. Any other course rots your soul.

Both took their licks and kept on ticking. They had what you’d call “ethics.” Ethics were no more politically popular then and they are now. Hacks of both parties hated them, but they spoke the simple truth and eventually everything they said was proved to be very accurate. In matters like unjust wars, morality and courage are required to get at the truth, which is always buried below mountains of the best flak the rotten regime can buy.

These two congressmen cut through to the truth of things. It would have been good to have had Waldie in the 18th congressional district, running against the rear end of the Pomboza while McCloskey takes on the front end in the 11th. Perhaps we could write him in at the June primary. It’s a little more to the point than Mickey Mouse.

McCloskey and Waldie were adults way back then. Now they have that rarest quality, some wisdom and the guts to share it in this blind moment. Reading and listening to them is a constant reminder that covering politics today is like recording the minutes of a third graders' liars club.

Bill Hatch
---------------------

Contra Costa Times
Posted on Fri, Apr. 21, 2006

JEROME WALDIE

Tough old war hero seeks to clean up mess

HE IS 78 years old, a tough as nails former Marine and Korean War hero and a legendary, maverick former Republican congressman who has "had it up to here" as he so delicately puts it, with the present Republican leadership as exemplified by Tom Delay and Central Valley Republican Congressman Richard Pombo

.Pete McCloskey is, in some circles, which includes me, a national hero. He was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts for heroism in combat in Korea where he served as a Marine Rifle Platoon Leader. That is a lot of heroism.

He began an outstanding congressional career in a campaign that was of national interest. Though a decided underdog, the young war hero defeated the favorite candidate in that Republican Primary, former child movie star, Shirley Temple. That campaign brought McCloskey to national prominence.

His service in congress added luster to the reputation his military heroism in Korea and his successful campaign against Temple had begun. McCloskey was known in Congress as a highly intelligent, fiercely outspoken, hard-driving, Republican. He was held in high esteem on both sides of the partisan aisle.

I had arrived in Congress as a Democrat a few months before Republican McCloskey and was instantly attracted to his demonstrated integrity and maverick political positions. When he believed that his party leadership was in error, he courageously said so on the floor of Congress much to the chagrin of the embarrassed leadership.

My personal admiration for McCloskey was enhanced when he and I made a congressional tour of Vietnam and Laos during the war. McCloskey, as a Marine combat hero, was widely known and respected by the troops we met in Vietnam. McCloskey was adamantly convinced that the Nixon team was unable to handle this increasing tragedy.

He left Congress when he unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate against Pete Wilson several decades ago. Since then, he has been practicing law and farming near Rumsey. Our friendship has continued through the years. McCloskey, his lovely wife, Helen, and I, often went backpacking in the Sierra. And I have participated in the harvesting of olives at his farm, as well as handily defeating him in many games of horseshoes.

McCloskey is now close to 79 years of age and has become very critical at the lack of respect shown by the Republican majority in Congress for the Republican values he had so long cherished such as a balanced budget, ethical conduct and a commitment to protect the nation's natural resources.

And, very personally, he is angry over the failure of Pombo to adequately support wounded veterans from all of our past wars, including Iraq, and for his unwillingness to support efforts to properly equip our forces in Iraq with protective armor and body equipment.

When Pombo recently proposed to sell off some of our national parks to mining interests to reduce our national debt, McCloskey was outraged. He sought a more ethical Republican to run against Pombo, but was unsuccessful in that effort. Reluctantly, McCloskey announced that he would take on Pombo in the primary election.It is not easy for even a tough, old, gray-haired, combat Marine to endure the rigors of a congressional campaign. Pombo already has a huge campaign fund of hundreds of thousands received from corporate contributors and lobbyists such as the infamous, indicted Jack Abramoff. But, at this early stage, McCloskey seems to be doing well. Though he has refused any special interest contributions from lobbyists, hundreds of contributors are sending him small amounts from the district and from all over the nation.

Most importantly, 78-year-old McCloskey has been there and done that. He detests what is happening in Congress today consisting, unfortunately, of mostly the bad and the ugly. He has pledged that he would serve no more than four years. He clearly has no further political ambition to hold higher office. This tough, old Marine only seeks to clean up the terrible mess that now pollutes our nation's capital.

Jerome Waldie is a former Democratic congressman representing East County. Reach him at jeromew@innercite.com. The opinions in this column are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the newspaper.
------------

Notes:

4-21-06Merced Sun-StarUCM students vie for political seats...Corinne Reillyhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12080522p-12833519c.htmlIt's campaign season at University of California, Merced...first campus party, LEAD (Leadership, Empowerment, Achievement and Development)...second party on campus, LAID (Lyons and Duckham Advocate Improving Da school). Candidates all say they have developed strong platforms focusing on the most pressing issues...extracurricular activities and student involvement are top concerns...presidential hopefuls addressed needs for wider choices in the dining commons, more meeting space for campus clubs and better connections between students and the community. "We have pretty low student morale," said junior Mehrdad Rasolipour, the only presidential candidate living off campus. "The academics here are great and I can't say enough about the faculty. But the lack of student life on campus could be our real downfall. LEAD threw a campaign party open to all voters Thursday night

Stockton Record
Democrats help fund Pombo challenger...Hank Shaw
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060421/NEWS01/604210324/1001
SACRAMENTO - Pete McCloskey may be a Republican, but you sure can't tell by looking at his benefactors. A Record analysis of the congressional candidate's campaign finances shows that McCloskey is being bankrolled largely by Bay Area Democrats and supporters of former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry - an unusual thing for a Republican. "This whole thing with McCloskey is nothing but a Democrat drill," he said. "It's obvious he has no support in the district, and the people who are giving him money are not Republicans." Regardless of where McCloskey's cash came from, his $255,000, which includes a $50,000 loan to himself - makes him the most well-funded Republican Pombo has faced since he took office.

| »

You’d like to believe him

Submitted: Apr 21, 2006

… but you can’t.

Yes, you’d like to believe a prominent local businessman whose opinions are almost professionally written and with great authority and the appearance of logic and reason.

But, I think it would be unwise to take a recent letter in the Merced Sun-Star, “Keep to linear plan,” (April 12) at face value.

It begins, as we often do begin our analyses in the Valley, with a mythical Golden Age of universal harmony:

Editor: The city of Merced has begun its general plan update. In the 1980s the community consensus was to only allow growth north of the city. This was known as the linear city plan.

Like most such conjured moments, the myth doesn’t hold up very well under scrutiny.
The population has grown 20% from 1980-2004 . – about half of that between 2000-2006. (www.consrv.ca.gov/DLRP/fmmp/time_series_img/merced.htm - 24k - Cached -
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0646898.html).
Half the growth in 20 years, half in six. In other words, the planning horizon of the City of Merced in the 1980’s resembles Merced today about as much as it resembled north Modesto then.

The land on which the city was planning to expand – whether farm, ranch or wetland bog – was in county jurisdiction. While the city began some planning in the 1980’s, the county had to be sued to write its first general plan, in 1990, and has fought tooth-and-nail ever since against revisions, despite remarkable changes in the velocity of its growth, especially around the City of Merced. We don’t mention Los Banos. Generations of wide-eyed idealists who have asked questions – any questions – about the West Side, are told the Stories. The Big Story is how they will end up in their wretched investigative journalist car, at the bottom of either the California Aqueduct or the Delta-Mendota Canal, their skeletons waving ambiguously at the fish that ate their flesh away.

Those Westside Boys really lay it on. They get vivid on you, excite your imagination and such.

Nevertheless, let us give the businessman his sweet moment in the past: there was agreement about a direction for planning and people in Merced were a great deal more civil to one another than they are today. That’s a good enough Golden Age for me. Actually, they were a great deal more civil eight years ago than they are today. But, then, 10-percent growth in six years will irritate a lot of people, while enriching remarkably few.

With the advent of the University of California campus it (the city’s general plan) was amended to include just that land east of Lake Road, but north of Yosemite Avenue.

Perhaps, as the county found, trying to “amend” the University of California into a general plan made in and for Merced city and county is like a garter snake trying to swallow a Holstein on growth hormones. The city later broke its own ordinance about not providing sewer and water services outside its corporate limits to UC Merced. When sued, its defense boiled down to, “We’ve done it before, we can do it again, it’s UC.” Both superior and state appellate courts bought this reasoning, which amounting to the garter snake saying, “I’ve got the hoof, now I’m going for the knee.”

Apparently, the current City Council has completely abandoned the linear city plan without any public debate. The study area they designated encompasses 40,000 acres of farmland, which does not even consider developing to the north of Merced.

The reason for the linear city is to allow development on the least productive ground, which in Merced's cases lies north of town. Most cities grow in all directions like an expanding balloon. By directing growth in a responsible way, we avoid eroding the agricultural industry, which is our economic base.

Yessir, you’re undoubtedly correct on that. The shortest way between two points for a 7-member city council, four of whom are realtors, is straight out in all directions at once. But at least some of that prime farmland you are talking about is on the city-side of the Campus Parkway, anchored at the academic end by UC Merced, anchored at the financial end by Wal-Mart’s proposed distribution center, which the same council shows no political inclination to reject. Merced air quality! Love it or leave it (if you can). If you can’t, well, you really don’t amount to much, do you.

Going north of town there are eventually vernal pools. Unfortunately an unbalanced importance has been placed on protecting them. There are 1.7 million acres full of them in California so by definition, how threatened can they be? There are 30,000 acres of easements protecting them adjacent to UC Merced, which should be enough mitigation to allow development north of town.

Now, we’re getting into it. It reminds me of interviews I used to have to do of deeply ideologically twisted public officials for their local newspapers. You could get a few minutes of fairly rational conversation out of a congressman like John Doolittle or a state Senator like Dick Monteith before it was “message time,” whereupon, with nary a blink of eye, off they went into a never-never land that could make a person feel guilty for trying to think at all.

In this instance, our code words are brought to us care of the Ol’ Shrimp Slayer himself, Rep. Dennis Cardoza. In Merced political discourse, whenever that word “balance” or its negative appears, the Slayer is nigh. Then, here comes that 1.7 million acres full of vernal pools.

Folks, guys that make a living in propaganda make a good living off figures like that. However, that old reality, like the pool-table team of Old Age and Treachery against Youth and Beauty (the bull rider and his bar tenderness), is gonna beat you in 8-ball and political history, pal.

As a result of a lawsuit brought against the US Fish & Wildlife Service by the Butte Environmental Center, Defenders of Wildlife and other groups, the Service declared a critical habitat designation of 1.4 million acres in California and southern Oregon for 15 endangered and threatened species residing in vernal pools.

The Pomboza, with whom we feel our local businessman communes, was outraged because you just can’t have the federal resource agencies poking their noses into development on rangeland containing vernal pools, particularly in eastern Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

The Pomboza, for readers new to Badlands, is a one-headed beast with four outstretched, cash-grasping claws, whose domain runs contiguously from Merced County west and north through Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties to San Benito and parts of Santa Clara and Alameda counties.

It is a proud and pompous Pomboza, at once rubbing elbows and shaking down the special interests in its districts (the 11th and 18th congressional districts of California). Although mythical figures – Pombo the Buffalo Slayer (for potting a grazing buffalo in South Dakota while attending a casino shakedown to fund Democrat Tom Dacshle’s opponent), and Cardoza the Shrimp Slayer (who vows eternal vigilance for private property rights against creatures most of which don’t live more than two months a year or go more than an inch long) – they came in on the stinking wind of special interests that brings subdivisions to farmland, not harmony, not soil fertility or economic stability.

As for the famous 30,000 acres protected by easement in Merced County, 148,000 (down from 194,000 acres) are presently under the jurisdiction of the federal critical habitat designation of the Endangered Species Act. But this was no gift from the government.

When Merced received its designation of 194,000, all hell broke loose and political pressure was applied to the Fish & Wildlife Service. The Shrimp Slayer, successor to Condit (Gary, wannabe first president from Ceres), rallied eastern Merced County landowners, with a lot of help from county Supervisor Kathleen Crookham, an eastern Merced County ranch landowner, into a real foam-mouthed moment on private property rights. This hate rally in the chambers of the county Board of Supervisors was interrupted by the critical comments of one Bryant Owens of Plainsburg, in a display of courage that is honored in the underground annals of county history.

The political pressure in Washington produced fabulous results: Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties were relieved of their burden to consult with federal resource agencies regarding the tedious subject of vernal pools if projects to wipe them out involved federal funding.

The Butte Environmental Council, Defenders of Wildlife and the California Native Plant Society, however, struck again in court. While the case lurched along, Cardoza the Shrimp Slayer, introduced two bills to strike down the critical habitat designation of the ESA. Failing twice, about the time of the ruling on the case, the Pomboza introduced the Gut-the-ESA bill, now languishing in the US Senate. One of that bill’s strongest parts is the utter destruction of the critical habitat designation for endangered and threatened wildlife species. The federal court decision restored 148,000 of the entirely lost 194,000 acres of vernal pools in Merced County that require federal resource agency oversight if federal funds are involved in projects to develop it. At least that is apparently what the designation and the ruling imply for the regulatory agencies, which would probably function more efficiently without a rightwing radical one-party House of Representatives harassing them constantly.

By not developing onto the foothills and off of the Valley floor, precious farmland will
continue to be paved over until there isn't enough left for packing sheds and processors to
stay in business. We need to be able to feed our own people. Depending on other countries for our food is suicide. Being at the mercy of the Middle East for our oil is bearable; going without food is impossible.

Lord, I love a pitch for agriculture in the spring around Easter, when rains and mists still bathe the fecund soil. But I have this strange, perverse tic in my mind: the rains and mists I see are extending the season of the dry pasture land on both edges of the Valley. I see all those calves and their mamas out there in that high, rich grass, and I wonder what the hell a cattleman has to do to qualify as an agriculturalist in this Valley. Presumably, the prominent local businessman is concerned primarily with vegetarians who take dairy products and has momentarily forgotten beefeaters. Ah, Swami Businessman, such purity! You are a credit to the Ashram of the Invisible Hand.

By not developing onto the foothills and off of the Valley floor, precious farmland will
continue to be paved over until there isn't enough left for packing sheds and processors to
stay in business. We need to be able to feed our own people. Depending on other countries for our food is suicide. Being at the mercy of the Middle East for our oil is bearable; going without food is impossible.

Also, California has the safest food in the world because it is the most regulated. With the
world's population growing exponentially, taking the best farmland out of production is
irresponsible.

It makes better business sense to retain our market share in the state's number one industry than to keep eroding it. The San Joaquin Valley's farmland should be preserved because it is the main source for the world's food supply; it should not be used simply for cheap housing.

As a great swami of the invisible hand of the free, free, free market, you give us beautifully consistent mythology, for which we, the bewildered, should be eternally grateful.

Ah, precious farmland! Yes! I believe! I see The Way!

But,Swami, I have doubts. May I discuss them?

(Hearing no answer, I will express them.)

We are so at the mercy from the Middle East for our oil, I don’t know how it can possibly end. Could we, with Israeli help, do unto Arabs as we did unto Native Americans and they are experimenting with doing unto the Palestinians, and call it something else but genocide? We are rich in propaganda resources. We can surely find new language to describe what it is we are doing to the ragheads and camel jockeys. Surely we can find a story so powerful, so good, that it will forever obliterate our conscience about, well, all those dead people over there, lying “on top of a pool of oil,” as a Catholic priest from Baghdad said just before the invasion, on pretenses that, frankly, Swami my Swami, look thinner by the day).

But, Swami, I have doubts. I used to live on an Indian reservation. They weren’t all dead. If you don’t kill every one of them, they keep talking, you see.

Also, California has the safest food in the world because it is the most regulated.

Now, Swami, I know that as your humble student of reality that you just throw that out for me to object to and that -- even if you don’t show it in your cruel, Swami way -- you will be proud of your humble student for his doubts.

The Shrimp Slayer just got finished voting for the National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005. From a people’s point of view, this thing was a real meadow muffin, brought to us by a combination of special interests irresistible (at least to the Shrimp Slayer) including the biotechnology industry, the pesticide industry, your public research universities and agribusiness, to wipe out local and states’ rights on food labeling.

It’s what you call a “pro-active special interest” bill (lots of money to be made on it by an enterprising young shrimp slayer).

But our Shrimp Slayer, the One and Only, distinguished himself even further as a moderate, “balanced” proponent of the measure. He introduced an amendment, the Shrimp Slayer’s amendment to the National Uniformity of Food Act of 2005.

Beginning with the humility that is his calling card, the Slayer said on the floor of the House:

Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume to offer my amendment to H.R. 4167, the National Uniformity for Food Act.

The vagueness of the time element was to be the key to the amendment. Ostensibly, an amendment that would allow states to petition to the Federal Drug Administration sooner than the bill’s leisurely time frame of four months, if a food danger were immanent, our Slayer suggested language that would allow states to petition the FDA to approve a national standard for new food labeling requirements, or to exempt a State from certain requirements of national uniformity – in a timely manner.

Yet, under questions from the floor, the timeliness of the manner disappeared up the spout of Pombozoism.

Ms. ESHOO. So maximum is 120 days?

Mr. CARDOZA. And this allows the FDA to act even quicker; in fact, mandates it.

Ms. ESHOO. But they have up to 4 months?

Mr. CARDOZA. In the underlying bill.

Ms. ESHOO. But that is your amendment, not the underlying bill.

Mr. CARDOZA. No, the underlying bill is 120 days.

Ms. ESHOO. And what does your amendment do?

Mr. CARDOZA. It says that it must be the quickest possible.

Ms. ESHOO. But without any specificity?

Mr. CARDOZA. Correct.

Oh, Shrimp Slayer, my Shrimp Slayer, pompous though you be, surely you are such a creep you embarrass the continuing if oppressed intelligence of your district.

Swami, you really shouldn’t listen to the Slayer. You should not borrow his lingo for letters to the editor. He is bad for your mind and for ours. But, many times, we have seen the like of the Shrimp Slayer, although usually at county fairs, down there with the games of chance, the bearded ladies and the drunken, two-fisted carnies.

It’s quaint, but is it real politics?

These are the questions you must answer, my Swami. These are my doubts. You are my teacher. Help me in my bewilderment.

It makes better business sense to retain our market share in the state's number one industry than to keep eroding it. The San Joaquin Valley's farmland should be preserved because it is the main source for the world's food supply; it should not be used simply for cheap housing.

The highest and best use for farmland is for producing food. The situation that vernal pool areas cannot be developed on must be challenged. This confines development to farmland on the Valley floor. Our starving descendants won't understand how our generation made such shortsighted idiotic choices as to pave over their safe dependable food supply in order to protect a minute percentage of the fairy shrimp.

There are dire long-term consequences to our decisions. I strongly encourage you to immediately contact the City Council and convince them to adhere to the linear city plan, which was adopted by a consensus of the community.

DANIEL F. MCNAMARA

“Our starving descendants won’t understand ….”?

Help me with my doubts, oh my Swami of economics, my main reality man.

So, the Bank of America gets into 20-25-percent loans in Latin America and Eastern Europe. They start pulling the plug on San Joaquin Valley packers. The bank – oh well – the bank is now owned by something in North Carolina. The growers? Some went to Latin America.

Where was the loyalty, Swami my economic guru? Where was the solidarity when the bank figured it could make back its principal in five years on 20-percent interest in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina or Poland, when a lowly Valley packer couldn’t pay anything like that?

Where was the sanity in the bank when they dispatched MBAs wet behind the ears but full of serious, malevolent intent, to the Pink House in Las Lomas in Mexico City, back then, in the moment when it all mattered very much, and you were selling Major League baseball caps and not thinking about much else at all, and even the shrimp slayer, was as yet unmanifested then in that long-gone Golden Age, at the time a mere impresario of lady mud-wrestling at a low-life bowling alley.

Do you know Las Lomas and Pedrigal, Swami, my Swami? Do you know the mountains of Michocan, Swami my Swami? Do you know Coahilla? Do you know the border towns? Have you ever seen the wall or the fence? Entiendes Jaripo o Rancho San Miguel?

I look left, oh my Swami. I look right. Wherever I look, I cannot find any economic system – especially in agriculture – that had any stability. But this is because of my doubt, Swami, my Swami, of which I hope you can relieve me.

Swami, my Almond-Cotton-Vegetable Munchkin Swami, save me from my doubt!

I keep thinking – it must have been some old book I once read in an unguarded moment – that economic systems require that justice run through the relations of the participants or else they collapse some day. And on that day, it doesn’t matter how good the land is. It is definitely in the wrong hands. I know that you, my Swami, never read old books in unguarded moments, so you must know the truth.

Teach me. I have doubts.

Bill Hatch
----------------

Notes:

Your Views: Letters to the Editor: Keep to linear plan
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12045268p-12801495c.html
Last Updated: April 12, 2006, 02:01:03 AM PDT

4-18-06
Merced Sun-Star
Merced leaders look at possibly updating the city's charter...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12067545p-12822084c.html
City charter, Merced's guiding document...29-page charter was established in 1949, and has been amended several times. Changes include the direct election of mayor (the council used to appoint the mayor) and term limits (two four-year terms for council members and two two-year terms for the mayor)... it can establish unique criteria for city office, doesn't face salary ceilings, can establish its own election dates and is not required to comply with competitive bidding statutes, gives city leaders more authority over land use. City Council discussed the need to revise the charter, and to include the public in the review process

http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/r1/455D1EAE-2FD6-4048-850C7613CBF17849.html

Service Designates Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Vernal Pool Species News Releases Home Page Search the News ReleasesU.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Home

ContactsJim Nickles, Sacramento FWO (916) 414-6572 The U.S. Fish and

http://www.becnet.org/nodes/issues/vernalpools/en_2005_critical_habitat_designated.htm
Home : Issues and Activism : Vernal Pools : Critical Habitat Designated
Critical Habitat Designated
Editor’s Note: This important story has received incredible press across the state.

The Interior Department (Interior) released their second, final Vernal Pool Critical Habitat (VPCH) Rule for 15 vernal pool species found in California and southern Oregon. This Rule (www.becnet.org) is a result of litigation filed by Butte Environmental Council, the California Native Plant Society, and Defenders of Wildlife over the elimination of more than one million acres of VPCH in 2003 for the 15 endangered and threatened vernal pool plants and animals.

In this Rule, some acreage was restored to counties indiscriminately omitted in the 2003 rule. For example:
“We are pleased that Interior was able to include some lands in counties previously excluded in the 2003 rule, yet their analysis leaves them vulnerable to further legal challenges,” stated Barbara Vlamis, Executive Director of Butte Environmental Council.

http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/local/states/california/14341553.htm
Today in the Times
Posted on Fri, Apr. 14, 2006email thisprint this
White House reduces size of habitat set aside for frog
By Michael Doyle
McCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration on Thursday dramatically shrunk the land deemed crucial for survival of the California red-legged frog, a threatened amphibian paddling at the center of a national debate.

City sued over homes approval...Loretta Kalb
http://www.sacbee.com/content/community_news/elk_grove_laguna/v-print/story/14245198p-15063462c.html
A group of Elk Grove homeowners and a state agency each have sued the city of Elk Grove over its approval of a 670-home project that one lawsuit claims will "pave over.. vernal pools and wetlands." One suit, filed March 24 by a group of homeowners at Quail Ranch Estates, adjacent to the planned Vintara Park project, says the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it declared that an environmental impact report was not needed for the site...the city declared that the environmental effects of the project by Centex Homes would not be significant. The lawsuit filed by the Quail Ranch Homeowners Association said the effects of the project would be significant, and that the project "will pave over significant areas of vernal pools and wetlands." The other suit was filed by the California Department of Transportation on March 27 and contends the city violated CEQA by failing to study the project's impacts on the state highway system. The Quail Ranch suit cited Centex Homes and Sacramento County Sanitation District 1, which owns the land and has as one of its board members City Councilwoman Sophia Scherman, as having a stake in the issue. The homeowners' attorney, Donald B. Mooney of Davis, said the next step is a mandatory settlement meeting, which should be scheduled later this month or in early May.

Bill would block housing inside 200-year floodplains...Jim Sanders
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/v-print/story/14245560p-15063711c.html
Assembly Bill 1899..."It asks local governments to make responsible decisions when approving new homes behind levees in the Central Valley," said Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who crafted the measure...bill would require cities and counties, before approving new subdivisions, to receive clearance from the state Reclamation Board that the houses would be outside the 200-year floodplain within five years of approval. "We think it's an anti-growth bill," said Michael Webb of the California Building Industry Association. Valerie Nera, representing the California Chamber of Commerce, said AB 1899 could slow construction of much-needed affordable housing. Countered Wolk: "I believe that affordable housing that's under 10 feet of water no longer is affordable." AB 1899's next stop is the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

Democrats, GOP at odds over proposed food safety bill...Dogen Hannah
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/email/news/14385396.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
At issue is a bill the House passed last month that opponents contend would do away with stringent food safety standards that many states, including legislative trend-setter California, have had in place for years...bill would pre-empt much of California's 20-year-old Proposition 65, which requires food containing chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects to bear warning labels, contend opponents. Feinstein. If the bill becomes law, "the precautions that now exist in California and dozens of other states would be dumbed-down." Opponents counter that states' attempt to set their own standards or to push for tougher national standards would be subject to a Byzantine and open-ended approval process. The bill's proponents, including Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, contend that uniform, national standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would protect people in every state and bolster consumer confidence."He believes that consumer protection throughout the country is paramount," said Pombo spokeswoman Nicole Philbin. "This law is important because it protects citizens equally."

http://www.vote-smart.org/speech_detail.php?speech_id=158791&keyword=&phrase=&contain=

Public Statements

Speaker: Representative Dennis A. Cardoza (CA)
Title: National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005
Location: Washington, DC
Date: 03/08/2006

NATIONAL UNIFORMITY FOR FOOD ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - March 08, 2006)

Bill would block housing inside 200-year floodplains; Assembly panel clears proposal that critics say will stifle Valley growth
Sacramento Bee – 4/20/06
By Jim Sanders, staff writer

Large swaths of Central Valley floodplain could be barred from future housing construction under a proposed state law that cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.
Assembly Bill 1899 would not allow new Central Valley subdivisions on levee-protected lands likely to be inundated by a severe flood with a one-in-200 chance of occurring in any given year.

"It asks local governments to make responsible decisions when approving new homes behind levees in the Central Valley," said Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who crafted the measure.

| »

Winter storms drive Killer whales up Delta to Capitol

Submitted: Apr 07, 2006

Facing the peril of potential flooding of many new subdivisions built on flood plains, Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, introduced a bill to make it mandatory for homeowners to buy federal flood insurance for homes built where there is an annual one-in-200 chance of flooding. Presently, the state is on the hook for flood damage. Jones' bill required mortgage lenders to make certain homebuyers had flood insurance.

Mortgage banking lobbyists defeated the bill's enforcement provision in the Assembly Insurance Committee Wednesday. They argued that, as a result of Katrina, the federal flood insurance program was probably bankrupt so why buy federal flood insurance.

It's an absurd argument but lobbyists at public meetings have to come up with something to conceal the deal going down in private. Evidently, bankers believe they have a right to profits from their "creative" mortgages and to an endless speculative housing boom, more of it inevitably encroaching on flood plains in the Central Valley.

While developer sharks circle the Legislature daily, we don't often see the killer whales come up the river and dance on their tails. Jones, regardless of the fate of his bill, should be thanked for flushing out a bit of the financial system behind CalGrowth, Inc, which rules this state today in an absolute style not seen since the days of The Railroad.

Nine of the 10 members of the committee are from Southern California. They watched safely from the riverbank as Jones' bill and political reason were devoured by greed. While this is a perfectly normal spectacle at the state Capitol, some interest was added by the rising level of the river in which the lobbyist feeding frenzy occurred.

Seal count:

How they voted against the critical enforcement provision of AB 1898.

Yes

Ron Calderon, D-Montibello
Dario Frommer, D-Los Angeles
Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach
Sally Lieber, D-Santa Clara
Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara
Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana

No

John Benoit, R-Riverside (vice chair)
Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont
Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia

Abstained

Juan Vargas, D-San Diego (chair)

------------

Meanwhile, the local whining industry goes on per usual. Local government permits building on flood plains and goes whining to state and federal governments for "relief" when flood plains flood. Poor little Merced, whose city and county governments constantly raise the salaries and benefits for, at least, their "top" employees -- it just can't buy protection from floods, no matter how much money its public officials are investing in real estate.

Our leadership, in an economy fatted on every kind of government funding from cotton subsidies to UC Merced that still cannot produce enough work for its citizens, is adamantly against any government intervention except one kind: when state or federal funds flow into local coffers like Mariposa runoff.

The flood game is going to get worse due to the number of acres uphill and upstream from Merced that have been paved over and roofed over by the UC Merced-induced building boom.

Local leadership's first play in the flood game is to try to convince itself and the
remaining speculators that they are trying to do something and that floods will never,never happen again in Merced.

Its second play is going to be to blame environmentalists and natural resource agencies for floods. About the only people dumb enough to buy this are going to be real estate speculators still in this market, going nuts losing money. But a lot of them work for the county so this fable has a good start. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Vernal Pool Shrimp Slayer-Merced, is going to be whining to the leaden heavens as the rain comes down that flood damage is anyone's -- absolutely anyone's -- fault but his, beginning with railroading the UC campus through without proper environmental protection.

Local leadership is going to disappear behind its pointing fingers. You'll see a strange creature, something like a Sea urchin, rolling in and out of the county administration building, all fingers, no faces, no names. Or perhaps you'll see it floating down an MID canal, because MID isn't a flood control agency.

Absolutely the only thing real about this farce is flood water.

Bill Hatch
-------------------

Merced Sun-Star
Estimates at $9.72M for flood damages...Doane Yawger
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12026735p-12784522c.html
First estimates from flooding earlier this week in Merced peg damage at $9.72 million...total is certain to go up as more homes, farms, businesses and public facilities are assessed.

County still awaiting disaster relief from governor's office. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, told Schwarzenegger that flooding was overwhelming local response capabilities...state assistance is needed and warranted. Ted Selb said the MID's canals sustained considerable damage...city crews were cleaning out culverts and removing obstructions from pipes to open up waterways, cleaning mud and debris off streets...water rose into streets and into some yards this week...crews Thursday morning cut a 40-foot swath in Sandy Mush Road to let water
drain on wetlands and nonproductive farmland.

Builders, schools can't reach deal...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12026741p-12784550c.html
On Tuesday, four school districts and the 26-member Building Industry Association of Central California walked away from the negotiation table again without a deal. In recent months, every major housing project before the city and county have been met with calls from educators to impose building moratoriums. March 10 offer by builders to pay the Merced City School District $3.55 per square foot for new developments. State law requires at least $2.48
per square foot...district made a counteroffer of $4.39, which was turned down by the BIA. In the meantime, construction and land costs have climbed substantially, and the buying power of funds collected for new schools has diminished...district says it will face an $88 million shortfall needed to build new facilities in the next 10 years if fees aren't increased.

We can prevent floods in future...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12026750p-12784512c.html
We have a sense that the finger-pointing has just begun. Merced Irrigation District officials and County Supervisor Deidre Kelsey say the disaster could have been avoided if the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers had finished water control projects. It's clear that a flood like Tuesday's can be avoided if the right people get together and make important decisions. Next time, a flood could be more catastrophic and cause injuries and even deaths. Our leaders must find a way to make sure there isn't another "next time."

http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/story/14240239p-15060058c.html
Editorial: Banking on clear skies
Mortgage industry weakens key flood bill
Sacramento Bee -- April 7, 2006

Mortgage banking in California is a multibillion-dollar business. It has thrived with the state's real estate boom and the proliferation of homes built in the low-priced floodplains of the Central Valley.

This industry also is enormously exposed. If and when a major flood occurs, the banking industry will be saddled with waterlogged, worthless homes. As in New Orleans, foreclosures will be rampant. Someone will be left holding a very soggy bag.

You might think that mortgage banks would support - or at least want to discuss - a measure to require flood insurance on vulnerable properties. Instead, the industry is using the same deceptive tactics it employs to sell questionable products (such as zero down payment, interest-only loans) to kill a bill by Assemblyman Dave Jones of Sacramento.

Before Wednesday, Jones' AB 1898 made federal flood insurance a condition of obtaining a mortgage in areas with a one-in-200 chance of flooding in any given year. Jones' bill would have required mortgage lenders to enforce the provision, which made sense because lenders have as much to lose as homeowners.

Unfortunately, the banking industry seems more concerned about short-term profits than long-term survivability. Mortgage bankers worry that an insurance requirement would scare off prospective home buyers. They used some highly deceptive arguments to effectively gut AB 1898 ...
---------------

GOP lawmakers revive Auburn Dam debate; SAVING SACRAMENTO DURING FLOOD AT ISSUE
San Jose Mercury-News – 4/7/06
By Erica Werner, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Key Republican lawmakers said Thursday that building a dam on the American River

at Auburn is the only way to protect Sacramento against catastrophic flooding that might occur once every 500 years.

But the head of the California Department of Water Resources cautioned against losing focus on flood-control projects now under way that are meant to give 200-year protection to the region.

Sacramento is now protected at only the 100-year level -- the lowest of any large urban area in the nation.

``Our focus right now in the state is that we need to be sure we get these improvements and not get distracted by the next debate over Auburn Dam,'' Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow testified at a hearing of the House Resources Committee's subcommittee on energy and water.

``The debate in the past has actually delayed investment in flood improvements in the region,'' Snow said.

Before Snow spoke, committee chair Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Stockton, and subcommittee chair Rep. George Radanovich, R-Fresno, both spoke in favor of an Auburn Dam, underscoring growing congressional interest in reviving the controversial project years after it seemed to be abandoned for good ...
----------------

San Joaquin River Continues To Rise; Mossdale Mobile Home Park Evacuated
KCRA Channel 3 (Sacramento) – 4/7/06

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Heavy runoff from recent storms is expected to tax the San Joaquin River in the coming days, state water officials said Thursday.

The river near Vernalis west of Modesto will likely reach flood stage within about five days or so, said Gary Bardini of the state Department of Water Resources.

At the Mossdale Moblie Home Park, near Manteca, a residents are packing up their belongings and moving out as the river continues to rise. A mandatory evacuation is in effect for the area.

"We've got good weather and that's going to make people wait as long as possible ... sometimes you have to get your feet a little bit damp before it's time to move," Lathrop-Manteca Fire spokesman Jim Monty said.

Reservoirs that feed the San Joaquin are nearing capacity in many cases, making significant water releases necessary. ..

"Our goal is to try to maintain flows at a level that the flood control system should perform adequately," said Bardini, noting that officials are most concerned about the San Joaquin.

But officials are also expecting more wet weather. Another storm will hit the region late Friday, with rain lasting off and on over the weekend.

Longer-range forecasts show more rain in the coming week as well.

"The good news, of course, is that we are in a break right now," said Elizabeth Morse of the National Weather Service. "The bad news is that it ends tomorrow."

Morse said the coming storm will hit hardest in Central California south of Interstate 80.

Thunderstorms are possible, posing a problem for some areas that are already saturated.

"The problem with showers and thunderstorms is that you can drop quite a bit of precipitation in a short period of time," Morse said. "Half an inch of rain in 30 minutes is going to be a real problem in some of the areas where we already have standing water."

Snow levels from this cold storm in the Sierra will remain relatively low, so officials do not expect the problem of huge runoff caused by rain falling on snow.

"Overall, this is a much more gentle system," Morse added. "Unfortunately, it's coming right on the heels of a pretty potent system."

In Calaveras County, those evacuated from about 100 houses in the La Contenta subdivision earier in the week were allowed to return home on Thursday.

A small dam at La Contenta, located near Valley Springs, threatened to fail on Tuesday. Crews have reinforced the dam with sandbags and plastic sheeting.

Thanks to calm weather Wednesday night, the Tuolumne River crested below flood stage in Stanislaus County Thursday morning.

People in the area were particularly worried about the area where Cry Creek meets the Tuolumne. The water, which surpassed levels seen during huge January storms, rose to within feet of a few homes.

In the Sierra, resorts reported a heavy blanket of new snow. At Mammoth Mountain in Mono County, the resort reported 23 inches of fresh snow, resulting in total depths of up to 264 inches in some places. #

http://www.kcra.com/money/8511490/detail.html

| »

Muir in Stockton

Submitted: Mar 20, 2006

"When we contemplate the whole Globe as one great dewdrop," Muir wrote, "striped and dotted with islands and continents, flying through space with all the other stars, all singing and shining together as one, the whole Universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty" ...

"Muir said the fight we are fighting has no end," White said. "The real Muir was kind of dangerous." -- Stockton Record, March 19, 206
---------------

It has been fashionable in American intellectual circles to talk about the "end of history" since the conclusion of the Cold War. (Now, when was that, exactly?) An American empire would control the world through the genius of globalcorporate domination backed by US nuclear weapons, so why bother with history -- was how the argument went.

This propaganda, made to persuade public opinion that America, the super power, is lord and master of the Great Game of Empire, has resulted in a general trashing of the whole subject of history. Without it, conservatives have become as rootless and exploitive as the environmental gutting Pomboza (representatives RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy and Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced).

Merced proudly calls itself "Gateway to Yosemite," an overcrowded, polluted and
river-polluting concession stand that fills up that great valley in the high Sierras. It is unimaginable today, except through paintings from the turn of the last century, to grasp what John Muir and President Teddy Roosevelt saw in Yosemite when they camped there, discussing the establishment of the national park system the Pomboza would like to sell off to miners and loggers, as if miners and loggers did not exist in the 1890s.

Muir himself may be unimaginable except to those who had relatives born in California before Muir died and heard the stories of Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy and Muir and grew up with the conservation ethic and a feeling for the high Sierras.

When, stepping ever so briefly out of the Era of the Pomboza, some remind themselves of the impact John Muir had on our elders, this region, this state, this nation and the world, they wonder what Muir might have thought of the present moment. Something harsh stirs in the wind.

Muir inspired and informed the greatest spirit and vision California ever had. It was tied to the beauty and grandeur of our environment; and it would be foolish to deny its impact on the great literary tradition forming here as he fought to preserve Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy -- Frank Norris, Mary Austin, Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair, Ambrose Bierce, Joaquin Miller, Josiah Royce.

But, says the rear end of the Pomboza, we now have UC Merced and its fabulous Sierra Nevada Research Institute, represented in the following UC Bobcat Flak, so we don't need history.

http://www.ucmerced.edu/research/snri.asp

Sierra Nevada Research Institute

The SNRI is creating new knowledge on questions of national and international scope through the prism of the natural laboratory that is UC Merced's home – the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada region. It is carrying out research on the critical issues that affect humankind's ability to live in an environmentally sustainable way such as:

population growth and development
water and watersheds
air quality
fire ecology
biodiversity
climate change
transportation
resource management and policy
public recreation
These issues are especially vital to sustaining the unparalleled agricultural resources and magnificent natural landscapes of the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada.

The Sierra Nevada Research Institute will draw in the natural sciences, engineering and policy sciences.

UC Merced, described by prominent critics as both a boondoggle and a pork barrel for Valley developers, has created an academic boondoggle and pork barrel with its SNRI. An anchor tenant of corruptly planned, purely destructive urban growth in one of the worst air quality basins in the nation, sitting at the feet of the Sierras and Yosemite, the SNRI is just another aspect of the big real estate deal behind the establishment of this campus.

Muir might have wondered: How can this public/private conglomerate university, inventor of the atomic bomb and designer of every subsequent advance in the technology of nuclear mass destruction including an on-going competition between its two national laboratories on the next generation of nuclear weapons, walk these trails in these mountains, and learn or teach
anything about the conservation of anything?

It's a matter of ethics, he might have said -- not the ethics of destroying environmental law, regulation and agencies for the benefit of developers, family and political contributors; not the ethics of scientific grant whoring for a ecological disaster your institution is creating by the day.

Neither the University of California nor the Pomboza are known for ethics. They are known for aggression against the environment.

Perhaps there is a connection between the wholesale corruption of the era and the disdain for history. History provides examples of heroes like Muir and bums like the Pomboza. History asks the most difficult questions, like: How did California evolve into a society of 36 million people distracted to the point of near political idiocy by the abundance of their neighbors and the limits of their natural resources? How did California politicians go from the pockets of the Railroad through a prolonged period of progressive, clean government to
the pockets of the developers? Why do developers have to pay so much to buy votes, bills and laws for their benefit?

Although scholars may meet at University of the Pacific in Stockton at the end of the month over Muir's papers, it is the challenge of the story of his life to the story of our lives that is the point of the meeting, as far as the public is concerned. What do you want, the vision of John Muir or the vision of the Pomboza? Muir's medicine stings like hell, the Pomboza's is as soothing as cool lard. Which one is good for you?

Sometimes, the story that revives is too close to see -- like a backyard weed instead of a prescription drug.

Bill Hatch
-----------------------

Conservation pioneer
Pacific event to examine the legacy of John Muir

PAULA SHEIL
Record Staff Writer
Published Sunday, Mar 19, 2006
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060319/ENT/603190302/1001/NEWS01

STOCKTON - The life of John Muir inspires poets, botanists, rock climbers and cloud watchers.

He died on Christmas Eve in 1914, but he's alive today in the hearts of millions of tourists and trekkers to scenic lands around the world.

He founded the Sierra Club in 1892 with the hope of influencing generations to preserve wild places from development. After a three-day camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, Muir secured the protection of Yosemite, one of the United States' grandest natural wonders, for posterity and helped establish our national parks system.

Muir scholars and those drawn to him will meet March 30-April 1 at University of the Pacific for a three-day conference titled "John Muir in Global Perspective." Its speakers include author Robert Righter, who will give the keynote address on Hetch Hetchy. The place prompted some of Muir's most eloquent prose and spurred the growth of the environmental movement when the sister valley to Yosemite was dammed and flooded to produce a water supply for San
Francisco in 1923.

Other conference speakers include Bonnie Gisel, author of "Kindred and Related Spirits" (University of Utah Press, 2001), who was interested in the relationships that influenced Muir's ideas.

Muir was a self-taught inventor and displayed some of his contraptions, including a bed that would toss the sleeper upright, at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1860. Jeanne Carr, the wife of a university professor, met him and from then on guided his career, Gisel said. Carr suggested books, encouraged his writing and thinking, and sent men such as Ralph Waldo Emerson to meet him after he had sequestered himself in Yosemite. She even had a hand in his marriage to Louie Wanda Strentzel, an educated woman who recognized Muir's worth to the world
and let him wander the globe while she raised their two daughters.

Gisel spends six months of her year in a tent and curates the La Conte Memorial Lodge, an environmental education center in Yosemite. She will be talking about Muir the botanist at the conference.

Muir's vision of Earth as an interdependent biosphere predated the dumbfounded gaze of astronauts who looked down at the planet from space.

"When we contemplate the whole Globe as one great dewdrop," Muir wrote, "striped and dotted with islands and continents, flying through space with all the other stars, all singing and shining together as one, the whole Universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty."

Today, however, the protective regulations that have been put in place are being eroded.

To fund a federal program that sends money to rural counties, the Bush administration is proposing to sell 200,000 acres of national forest across the United States, including up to 3,300 acres of the Stanislaus National Forest in Calaveras County. Environmentalists wonder if national parks are next.

"I think the selling of national forests is robbing future generations for a few bucks today that won't make a dent in the budget," said Bill Muir Hanna, Muir's great-grandson. "One of the most important points that John Muir observed very early on is (everything) ... is hitched to everything else in the universe."

However, the conference focuses on history, not activism, said Bill Swaggerty, the conference coordinator and director of the John Muir Center at Pacific. Its value is to expand Muir's message further afield and find out what other countries are doing as a result of his being and writing.

Pacific is home to the John Muir Center, and in the basement of the library, in the
Holt-Atherton Collections, are his thousands of letters and documents, 27 notebooks, 84 journals and sketchbooks, 300 drawings and related photographs, and papers of those who knew him and influenced his thinking. The bulk of Muir's work resides at Pacific because Muir Hanna, a Pacific alumnus, suggested the university for its commitment to undergraduate education and its small size, he said.

Other scholars include Graham White, a fellow Scotsman, who will talk about Muir's return trip to his homeland in 1893. Muir's seaside ancestral home in Dunbar, Scotland, is developed with subdivisions similar to those crawling across the Golden State's landscape.

"Muir said the fight we are fighting has no end," White said. "The real Muir was kind of dangerous."

Faced with the land-grabbing, the timber-hauling and the cattle-ranging, "a lesser man would say nothing could be done," White said. "Today, it takes the same courage to stand up and be counted. We have no equivalent organization in our country."

| »

Midnight government in Merced County

Submitted: Mar 17, 2006

During the second annual national Sunshine Week, to underscore the need for more open government and the protection of California’s Public Records and Brown acts and other open government statutes, we are publishing for the first time the 2002 petition for San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and Protect Our Water for relief from three years of stonewalling by Merced County regarding public record documents on the UC Merced project.

Petitioners won this suit. The results of the victory were ambiguous, however.

The local Superior Court judge, William Ivey, reduced attorneys’ fees and costs by half to petitioners’ winning attorneys, as warning to all attorneys suing in Merced County on public process or environmental law, that they would be punished by the local court for daring to do so. Although Ivey has retired, his policy lives on.

Although Merced County was forced to make these documents available to petitioners, much of the work reflected in the numerous studies remains yet to be done four years later, proving that UC Merced was built on a series of plans-to-make-plans to mitigate for its environmental impacts, with the enthusiastic collaboration of Merced County, the local land-use jurisdiction.

During the planning of UC Merced, the county was so eager to comply with UC demands that it formed a wholly separate planning department just for the UC Merced project, with separate offices and staff, placing the former county planning director and county CAO in charge, while the county promoted two subordinates to the positions of county CAO and county planning director.

In a March 13, 2006 Modesto Bee article http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11926478p-12693374c.html,
Greg Wellman reflected on this suit. Wellman was the Merced County CAO who became CEO of the UC Planning Department, said,
“I think a large amount of what she’s asking for is just a reflection of our democratic process,” he said. “I might personally feel some of the issues raised are not consequential, but those are personal feelings. She has a right to public information — pure and simple.”

Back then, though, Wellman said handing over some of the information felt as if it were inviting a costly lawsuit.

“Back then,” a whole lot of costly lawsuits could have been avoided if the county, the local land-use authority, had not done everything in its power to conceal the UC Merced planning process from its local public, the people now impacted by the anticipated UC Merced-induced rapid growth, speculative housing boom, the wholesale destruction of natural resources, wildlife habitat and agricultural land by developers who figure if UC got away with it, they can, too. “Back then,” UC Merced was promoted by a small, powerful group of special interests: local legislators, large landowners, developers, financial institutions, realtors, and local businesses. They are now taking their profits. The citizens, who were sold out by corrupt county officials like Wellman and his top planner at the UC Planning Department, Bob Smith, now get the traffic, the deteriorated air quality, water of uncertain quantity and quality, and the endless stream of Bobcat Flak from UC Merced in the local newspaper.

The citizens will be stuck with $200 million costs for roads alone from the UC Merced project, as was stated by a UC attorney in a letter to the state Supreme Court in support of a suit that would release state agencies from any obligation to pay for off-site environmental impacts from their construction projects. (Marina, City of v. Board of Trustees, Case S117816, Supreme Court of California)

Labeled at the time by then President Pro Tem of the state Senate, John Burton, as a “boondoggle,” and by senior Sacramento Bee state Capitol columnist, Dan Walters, as “a barrel of pork,” UC Merced, we predict, will go down in the annals of California history of the “Catch Me If You Can” Era, as a legal and environmental scandal; and there will be a special place of notoriety reserved for county, state and federal legislators, state and federal resource agencies and national environmental non-profit corporations like The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society. It began as a political payoff by an ambitious governor, Gray Davis, to Valley politicians. We know what happened to Davis. The growth it is stimulating today the rapid destruction of natural resources, is ruining farming and ranching in the region, and is contributing daily to increased smog in the worst air basin in the US.

Since elected in 2002, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, has occupied offices on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building. Today, Cardoza is the leading anti-environmental Democrat in the House of Representatives, having authored two unsuccessful bills to destroy the critical habitat designation, and co-authored a third, with Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, to gut the Endangered Species Act.

Merced County will never become a responsible local land-use authority and planning agency as long as the Shrimp Slayer is squatting on the third floor.

Bill Hatch

Even today, Merced County does not comply with Public Records Act requests or environmental law and regulation. They are still orchestrating backroom deals, for example, this, Feb. 3, 2006 communication from a prominent developer and a county supervisor:

Feb. 3, 2006:

Hostetler, thinking he is making a call to Supervisor Kathleen Crookham, leaves a message on someone else’s answering machine:

Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you!
-----------------------------------------------

BRUCE A. OWDOM - 077670
PETER G. FASHING - 195756
DIETRICH, GLASRUD, MALLEK & AUNE
An Association Including Law Corporations
5250 North Palm Avenue, Suite 402
Fresno, California 93704
(559) 435-5250
(559) 435-8776 [fax]

Attorneys for Petitioners San Joaquin Raptor Rescue
Center, Protect Our Water (POW),
Lydia M. Miller and Steve Burke

SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA

COUNTY OF MERCED

SAN JOAQUIN RAPTOR RESCUE CENTER, a California nonprofit corporation, PROTECT OUR WATER (POW), an unincorporated organization, LYDIA M. MILLER, an individual, and STEVE BURKE, an individual,

Petitioners,

-vs-

COUNTY OF MERCED, COUNTY OF MERCED BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, and DOES 1 through 25, inclusive,

Respondents.
__________________________________________

CASE NO.

PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE PURSUANT TO CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RECORDS ACT

[Government Code Section 6258]

1. The San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center (“SJRRC”), a California nonprofit corporation, whose mission includes the protection of environmental resources,habitats and wildlife, is a beneficially interested party. SJRRC is charged with the protection of various species of wildlife and with ensuring that commercial, industrial and suburban development is undertaken in a responsible manner and that the public is sufficiently informed as to such matters. SJRRC serves an important public function by observing and disseminating information to the general public about the conduct of government agencies and officials, public figures, as well as private entities, in their promotion of such development.

2. Protect Our Water (“POW”) is an unincorporated organization whose mission includes the protection of environmental resources, habitats and wildlife and is a beneficially interested party. Petitioner POW is charged with ensuring that commercial, industrial, and suburban development is undertaken in a responsible manner and that the public is sufficiently informed as to such matters. Petitioner POW serves an important public function by observing and disseminating information to the general public about the conduct of government agencies and officials, public figures, and private entities, in their promotion of such development.

3. Lydia M. Miller, a private citizen, is a resident of Merced County and is a beneficially interested party. Ms. Miller shares many of the same goals as SJRRC and POW and is concerned that the level and manner of public outreach that has occurred in connection with the development of the new University of California Merced campus (“U.C. Merced Project”) is insufficient to inform the public adequately as to (a) the decision-making process of those responsible for development of the campus; (b) the allocation of public funds in connection with the project; and (c) the impact of the project on the environment. Ms. Miller also serves as president of the SJRRC.

4. Steve Burke, a private citizen, is a beneficially interested party. Mr. Burke, like Ms. Miller, shares many of the same goals as SJRRC and POW and is concerned that the level and manner of public outreach that has occurred in connection with the U.C. Merced Project is insufficient to adequately inform the public as to (a) the decision-making process of those responsible for development of the campus; (b) the allocation of funds in connection with the project; and (c) the impact of the project on the environment. Mr. Burke also serves as spokesperson for POW.

5. SJRRC, POW, Ms. Miller and Mr. Burke also have standing as members of the public at large to enforce rights of public access to information and records that reflect the actions taken by governmental agencies and employees in their official capacities.

6. The County of Merced (“County”) was, and is at all times herein mentioned, a body corporate and politic, duly created and existing as a county under and by virtue of the Constitution and laws of the State of California.

7. The County of Merced Board of Supervisors (“Board of Supervisors”) is the governing body of the County of Merced, whose members are duly elected under and by virtue of the laws of the State of California.

8. Petitioners are informed and believe and thereon allege that respondents identified herein as Does 1 through 25 are public agencies, or their agents, representatives, or employees, as defined in Government Code section 6252(a), (b) and (d), and that each is also, in some manner, responsible for refusing petitioners’ requests for access to and copies of certain public records that petitioners have requested. Petitioners will seek leave to amend this petition when the names and capacities of these Doe respondents have been ascertained.

9. Petitioners seek relief against each respondent because respondents County and the Board of Supervisors have refused to disclose certain public records which petitioners have requested as more fully alleged below.

10. Petitioners are informed and believe and thereon allege that in or about 1995, the Board of Regents of the University of California (“Regents” or “U.C.” as the context may require) selected certain land located in the County as the site of its tenth campus. Following the selection of the university site, the County made certain amendments to its General Plan to accommodate the construction of the new campus and to establish area objectives with respect to the U.C. Merced Project, including, but not limited to, resource and wetland conservation, low impact urban development, and timely construction of the campus. The U.C. Merced Project has involved the interaction of several federal, state and local agencies, private entities and consultants in addition to community involvement.

11. On November 22, 1999, petitioner Lydia M. Miller sent a letter to Robert Smith, planning director for the Merced County U.C. Development Office, which is in charge of coordinating the activities of various departments and consultants working on the U.C. Merced Project. The November 22, 1999, letter requested that 24 separate, itemized documents and studies related to the U.C. Merced Project be produced. See exhibit A attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

12. On February 12, 2001, Ms. Miller and Steve Burke of POW sent a second request addressed to Robert Smith and then County Administrative Officer (“CAO”), Gregory B. Wellman, requesting public records pursuant to the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”). This second request sought documents related to County General, Community and Specific plans officially adopted by Merced County, including the plans themselves as last officially amended and adopted. The request also sought correspondence between the County and various departments and agencies concerning the County’s implementation and compliance with various laws and the County’s strategies related to population growth projections. The request likewise sought records relating to specific action taken by the Board of Supervisors on February 6, 2001. See exhibit B attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

13. On May 25, 2001, Ms. Miller and Mr. Burke sent a third request to then CAO Gregory B. Wellman and planning director Robert Smith requesting certain documents pursuant to the CPRA. The May 25, 2001, letter requested public records pertaining to reimbursement and funding issues, planning, land use, easements, environmental impact mitigation, consulting contracts and correspondence as it related to three areas: (1) the Merced County Integrated Plan, (2) $30 million set aside for acquisition of habitats, and (3) the Joint Statement of the County of Merced and the University of California Regarding Conservation Planning and Permitting in Eastern Merced County in connection with the U.C. Merced Project. See exhibit C attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

14. On or about June 7, 2001, Fernanda A. Saude, Assistant County Counsel, on behalf of Dennis L. Myers, Merced County Counsel, responded to the May 25, 2001, request. The response stated, in relevant part, as follows:

Your request is not specific enough for us to discern exactly what you are asking for. The County in the past has provided you with the following documents:

* The Joint Statement of the County of Merced and University
of California for Conservation Planning and Permitting in
Eastern Merced County[,]

* The Merced County Integrated Plan (MCIP)[,]

* County consulting contracts, excepting those with attorneys
that are confidential or otherwise privileged.

See exhibit D attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

15. On August 6, 2001, Ms. Miller and Mr. Burke requested that Messrs. Wellman and Smith reconsider the response provided by Assistant County Counsel Saude. Ms. Miller and Mr. Burke noted that despite the County’s contention that the request did not reasonably describe records, all of the other five public agencies to whom similar requests had been made fully complied. In addition, petitioners noted that from their review of the other agencies’ responses, that responsive documents such as correspondence, notes, memoranda, staff reports, meeting minutes, and the like, exist. Petitioners asked that compliance occur promptly given that the public period on the environmental review was fast approaching. See exhibit E attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

16. On August 21, 2001, petitioners advised the County, planning director Smith and then CAO Wellman that serious problems were being encountered by those members of the public who desired to participate in the environmental review process as provided in the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). Included among these problems was the lack of availability of documents which were the subject of the various CPRA requests at issue herein. See exhibit F attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

17. On August 22, 2001,a fourth request was made to Robert Smith and members of the Regents Committee on Grounds and Buildings. The request sought public records related to the Long Range Development Plan (“LRDP”) and U.C. Merced Project alternatives. In this regard, Ms. Miller and Mr. Burke requested documents related to the findings of the Regents in 1995 which led to the certification of the “Site Selection EIR” as referred to in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (“DEIR”) for the LRDP. See exhibit G attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

18. Also on August 22, 2001, a fifth CPRA request was made. This fifth request was addressed to Messrs. Wellman and Smith as well as to the Board of Supervisors and sought public records relating to contract work performed by consultants in connection with the U.C. Merced Project. See exhibit H attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

19. On August 27, 2001, Ms. Miller and Mr. Burke made a sixth request pursuant to the CPRA. This sixth request was addressed to then CAO Wellman as well as the members of the Regents Committee on Grounds and Buildings and requested 13 categories of documents all related to or necessary for an evaluation of the U.C.’s LRDP and the DEIR for the proposed campus in eastern Merced County. See exhibit I attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

20. On or about August 30, 2001, Assistant County Counsel Saude wrote petitioners again contending that the petitioners’ request was too general for the County to comply. Ms. Saude also wrote that certain information (e.g., information communicated between consulting contractors and their subcontractors and findings referenced in the DEIR for the LRDP) were not “retained or controlled” by the County. See exhibit J attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

21. On August 31, 2001, attorneys for petitioners wrote to Messrs. Wellman and Smith and contended that, contrary to Assistant County Counsel Saude’s letter of June 7, 2001, the May 25, 2001, CPRA request contained sufficient specificity and that all other agencies to whom the same requests were made were able to comply. Petitioners’ attorneys requested that the County reconsider its insistence on further clarification and asked that the County provide a definitive response to the request. The August 31, 2001, letter further requested that, in the event the County contended certain requested documents were exempt, the remainder be released and its refusal to disclose withheld documents be justified. See exhibit K attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

22. On September 10, 2001, Assistant County Counsel Saude responded to counsel for petitioners’ August 31, 2001, letter stating categorically that the petitioners’ requests of May 25, 2001, and August 22, 2001, are denied. Ms. Saude reiterated the County’s continuing position that the requests were of insufficient specificity under the CPRA. Ms. Saude countered petitioners’ statement that all other agencies found the requests sufficiently specific with the following statement:

So that there is no uncertainty on the part of you or your clients, the County has denied your clients’request as previously stated until such time as your clients are able to reasonably identify the documents which they are requesting to inspect. . . .

. . . Moreover, how other public agencies may respond to your clients’ request is neither relevant to nor binding upon the County of Merced.

See exhibit L attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference. Petitioners allege that contrary to Ms. Saude’s contention, the fact that other public agencies had no difficulty in complying with the request based upon the same descriptors is relevant to the sufficiency of the descriptions. Petitioners further contend that respondents’ failure to comply is unjustified and in violation of the CPRA, Government Code section 6258 et seq.

23. On October 29, 2001, petitioners’ attorney again wrote to the County. This letter was addressed to Assistant County Counsel, Fernanda A. Saude who, to that date, had undertaken responses on behalf of respondents to petitioners’ CPRA requests. The letter set forth a detailed description of the six prior requests made by petitioners as alleged above, attached copies thereof, and reiterated that each of the requests were being made pursuant to the CPRA. Specifically, Ms. Saude was informed that (1) no response was received in connection with the November 22, 1999, February 12, 2001, and August 27, 2001, CPRA requests; and (2) that as to the May 25, 2001, and August 22, 2001, requests, the County’s denial of the requests on the basis they did not reasonably identify documents was in error. To illustrate the error, counsel’s correspondence cited case law which held that CPRA requests need only describe the content of documents due to the requestor’s lack of access to agency files and the resulting inability of the requestor to identify precisely the documents. The letter asked that the County reconsider its denial of the May 25, 2001, and August 22, 2001, requests. The letter also specifically requested a response to the unacknowledged November 22, 1999, February 12, 2001 and August 27, 2001, requests. See exhibit M attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

24. On September 14, 2001, attorney Donald B. Mooney, on behalf of the petitioners, wrote then CAO Mr. Wellman advising that the County had violated CEQA and CEQA guidelines. The letter highlighted deficiencies in the County’s public notice procedures relating to the availability of environmental documents for public review. The letter requested a re-noticed review period and remedies related to errors in circulation of the Draft Environmental Impact Report. See exhibit N attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.

25. To date, no response has been received from respondents to petitioners’ attorney’s October 29, 2001, letter. Similarly, the November 22, 1999, February 12, 2001, and August 27, 2001, CPRA requests (even though re-requested by the October 29, 2001, letter complete with copies thereof) remain unacknowledged and without response. As to the May 25, 2001, and August 22, 2001, requests, respondents persist in their denial of the requests despite the adequacy of the content descriptions and petitioners’ inability to provide greater detail.

26. Petitioners contend the documents requested in all six CPRA requests are public records subject to disclosure. The documents requested by the November 22, 1999, request include the following reports and studies: Fresh Water Crustacean Report by EIP; Water Supply Plan by Hill; GIS maps; Vernal Pool Study; LRDP Plan; Habitat Planning; Campus Parkway Express Plan; CPAC Meeting Notification; East Merced Draft Report; Community Plan for U.C.; Draft Report of Soils, Habitat and Rare Species Associated; Draft Report on Soils Report; Merced River Study, Stake Holders and TAC; Concept Report; Regional Transportation Plan (MCAG); University Community Concept (EIP); California Central Economics (PG&E); Water Study by East Merced Resource Conservation District; Sierra Nevada Research Institute; University Wide Academic Senate Task Force on U.C. Merced; Task Force on U.C. Merced; U.C. Merced Research Advisory Committee; Campus Alignment Study; Financial accounting of incoming and outgoing funds associated to the proposed U.C. Campus and Community Plan and associated studies. The County has refused to even acknowledge this request. As with the other CPRA requests at issue, there is no justification for non-disclosure.

27. The documents requested by the February 12, 2001, request include, but are not limited to, the following: the County General, Community, Specific and Specific Urban Development plans (“SUDP”), the County’s General Plan Land Use, Circulation, Housing, Conservation, Noise, and Open Space Elements, including all incorporated diagrams, maps, policies and texts; officially adopted resolutions and ordinances adopting the SUDP; written policies, correspondence, reports and studies of County boards, commissions and planning committees relating to the SUDP and General Plan Land Use, Circulation, Housing, Conservation, Noise and Open Space Elements; legislative history re: ordinances or resolutions adopting the 1996 General Plan Text Amendments which adopted Land Use Policy Goal No. 11 and amendments to the Land Use Policy Diagram; information relating to pending General Plan Text Amendments; information relating to General Plan map or text amendment applications since 1990; correspondence between the County and the California Department of Housing re: compliance with Housing Element law; correspondence between the County and California Division of Mines and Geology re: compliance with mining and reclamation ordinances and related reports and studies; correspondence between the County and the California Department of Finance regarding population growth and related reports and studies; and agendas, notices, and minutes related to Board of Supervisor’s action on February 6, 2001.

28. The May 25, 2001, CPRA request seeks documents pertaining to planning, reimbursement, funding, land use, easements, environmental impact mitigation, consulting contracts and correspondence related to the following three areas: the Merced County Integrated Plan; a $30 million acquisition of sensitive habitats, and the Joint Statement of the County and U.C. re: conservation planning and permitting.

29. Two separate CPRA requests, dated August 22, 2001, seek documents pertaining to contract work performed since 1985 by EIP Associates, Economic and Planning Systems, Fehr & Peers Associates, and Nolte & Associates in connection with the U.C. Merced Project. The first request included items such as “emails, meeting minutes and agendas, internal memos, etc.” The second request made that same date seeks public records pertaining to the LRDP and the U.C. Merced Project alternatives. In that regard, petitioners specifically sought the “Regent’s findings made in 1995 in connection with certifying . . . the ‘Site Selection EIR[]’”as well as other documents such as staff reports, resolutions and ordinances supporting or setting forth the 1995 certification.

30. The August 27, 2001, CPRA request sets forth thirteen specific subject areas for which public records are sought. These areas include documents relating to (1) the standards to be applied by the Committee on Grounds and Buildings (“Committee”) when choosing among alternative sites and design alternatives; (2) the U.C.’s decision to select among alternatives discussed in the March 2001 Comprehensive Alternatives Analysis of the U.C. Merced and Community Project (“CAA”); (3) the Committee’s deliberations or decisions regarding alternative U.C. sites; (4) the U.C.’s policies and procedures in implementing CEQA; (5) the U.C.’s environmental policies and procedures in choosing campus sites, facilities and improvements; (6) the U.C.’s policies and procedures in drafting and distributing long range development plans; (7) the legal authority relating to drafting long range development plans; (8) the U.C.’s policies and procedures re: conducting taxpayer/U.C. economic analyses in connection with campus site selection; (9) the U.C.’s legal and/or equitable ownership or leasing of Fresno County properties; (10) alternative offers of other property owners to provide land for the proposed campus; (11) reasons why the single campus as proposed in County are preferable to other alternatives; and (12) the 85 potential campus site alternatives. An additional thirteenth category seeks documents related to the U.C. Merced Project which were authored by or on behalf of Representative Gary Condit, Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, Senator Dick Monteith, Governor Gray Davis, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, Resources Secretary Mary Nichols and other elected officials or agency members.

31. Petitioners allege that the documents requested in all six CPRA requests are public records as that term is used in the CPRA. The requested documents relate to the conduct of the public’s business in developing a tenth campus in the University of California educational system. Substantial public funds are being expended in developing the campus and in undertaking all the various environmental, fiscal, educational, commercial and suburban studies and reports related to the U.C. Merced Project. The requested information is necessary for the public to analyze and evaluate the performance of the County and other government agencies in developing the campus. The documents will allow the public to understand whether its significant financial contribution to the U.C. Merced Project is being wisely spent and whether the County is proceeding in accordance with applicable laws and regulations for a project of this magnitude.

32. Petitioners allege disclosure will also shed light on whether appropriate and/or inappropriate considerations have been involved in the decision making processes of the various governmental agencies and officials involved, including, but not limited to, the County and its duly elected officials.

33. Petitioners allege that the public has a right to know how its funds, including tax revenues, are being spent and whether its duly elected officials are undertaking the U.C. Merced Project in a fiscally and environmentally sound manner. The documents sought are necessary to such determinations. Furthermore, petitioners allege that CEQA requires the respondents to ensure that the public can obtain and review all documents upon which the agency relies in making environmental decisions and therefore constitutes another basis for disclosure. The shared expertise of petitioners and others who desire to review requested documents will serve to ensure that elected and other officials make sound decisions related to the U.C. Merced Project.

34. Each of the six CPRA requests at issue have reasonably described identifiable records as required under California Government Code section 6253(b). In violation of the CPRA, respondents have simply ignored three of the petitioners’ CPRA requests. As to the remaining three CPRA requests, respondents have avoided and ignored their responsibilities by making frivolous contentions that each of the categories of requested documents does not sufficiently describe the records sought. Respondents have violated the CPRA by not making said records available to petitioners for inspection. Furthermore, respondents have failed to identify any exemption (except for attorney-client privilege) upon which they might rely to justify non-disclosure. Respondents have made no effort to comply with the CPRA and instead choose to either ignore petitioners’ CPRA requests outright or to feign an inability to discern the records requested. By way of this petition for writ of mandate, petitioners seek a writ commanding disclosure of the requested documents.

35. Petitioners have no plain, speedy and adequate remedy at law, other than the relief sought in this petition, pursuant to Government Code section 6258.

WHEREFORE, San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, Lydia M. Miller and Steve Burke pray for relief as follows:

1. That the court grant the petition and issue a peremptory writ commanding respondents, and each of them, including respondents’ agents and employees, to disclose immediately to petitioners originals or complete, unredacted copies of each and every document described in petitioners’ requests of November 22, 1999, February 12, 2001, May 25, 2001, August 22, 2001 (two letters), and August 27, 2001, all documents related to those specifically requested in the same requests;

2. Alternatively, that the court order respondents, and each of them, to show cause why respondents should not be required to disclose immediately to petitioners original or complete, unredacted copies of each and every document described in petitioners’ requests of November 22, 1999, February 12, 2001, May 25, 2001, August 22, 2001 (two letters), and August 27, 2001, and all documents related to those specifically requested in the same requests;

3. For costs and attorneys’ fees as provided by the California Public Records Act; and

4. For such other and further relief as the court deems just and proper.

DATED: May ____, 2002.
DIETRICH, GLASRUD, MALLEK & AUNE

BY:________________________________
BRUCE A. OWDOM
PETER G. FASHING
Attorneys for Petitioners San Joaquin Raptor
Rescue Center, Protect Our Water (POW)
Lydia M. Miller and Steve Burke

| »

Sun shines on government in Modesto, but not in Merced

Submitted: Mar 16, 2006

Badlands Journal appreciates the Modesto Bee’s emphasis this week on the second annual, national Sunshine Week. We note, however, that it remains overcast in Merced. There is no excuse for this except the “independence” of the local Sun-Star publisher. The Sun-Star is a McClatchy paper, like the Modesto Bee. However, the Sun-Star appears as a matter of editorial policy to be against protecting and promoting open government for all citizens. That’s a rotten definition of journalistic independence, in the opinion of Badlands Journal.

Bill Hatch
------------------------------

Secrecy on the March:
Making the Case for Sunshine Week

… Sunshine Week is not about journalists, it's not about partisan politics, it's about the public and the importance of protecting and promoting open government. Sunshine Week is not about protecting journalists' rights, it's about the right of all citizens to know what their government is doing—and why. -- http://www.sunshineweek.org/
------------------------------------

Message from Bee Editor and Senior Vice President Mark S. Vasché

Modesto Bee -- March 12, 2006
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690450c.html

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Sunshine Week.

Over the course of the week, we’ll be shining a light on open government, with stories, editorials and columns designed to help you understand the importance of public access to government proceedings and records – and the growing attempts to limit that access.

We’ll help you understand that open government is an issue that affects every citizen, not just journalists.

We’ll help you understand your rights as a citizen, show you how to file a public records request and tell you what to do if your request is denied.

We’ll tell you what happened when we went out and asked 21 local agencies for public documents. We’ll tell you what happened when a First Amendment group made the same request of 31 state agencies. And, we’ll tell you what’s happening in Washington, D.C., and across the country.

We’re not alone in doing this. Newspapers, magazines, broadcast outlets and Web sites throughout the nation are joining The Bee in observing Sunshine Week.

Why? Because a government that ceases to be open and accessible to its citizens ceases to be a government of, by and for the people. And, we never want that to happen.

Mark S. Vasché

Editor and Senior Vice President
-----------------------

Paper Trails

Modesto Bee -- March 12, 2006
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690451c.html

Here are some records to which people have access:

Jail logs -- You can see who's in jail, their ages, hometowns and the offenses for which they were arrested.

Elected officials' statements of financial interest -- Called Form 700, the California Fair Political Practices Commission says each elected and appointed official and certain public employees must file one annually. City hall is required to keep them on file.

Property records -- You can learn the assessed value of the homes in your neighborhood, see who has owned them and what they paid and sold them for, find out zoning and get other information at the county assessor's office.

Restaurant inspection reports -- The county health department issues reports on every restaurant in town. Find out if your favorite restaurant meets cleanliness standards.

Bankruptcies and divorces, civil and criminal court files -- Most court cases in California are open to the public, though judges can choose portions to be sealed, such as search warrants. The only real exception is juvenile court -- all records are closed.

Employment contracts of public officials -- You can compare your city manager's contract with those in similar towns, or find out how your school district superintendent's salary and benefits stack up against others.

Voter registration -- An Internet database allows people to look up the names, addresses and phone numbers of all registered voters (though some people choose not to have their numbers listed).

The city budget -- You can see how your city spends the money that comes in. You can even look at the monthly bills.

Development agreements -- These allow someone to see whether developers follow through on their commitments.

City or county staff reports -- What proposals do staffers generate and how do they justify the costs?
-----------------------------------

Tips on making a request for a public document

Modesto Bee -- March 12, 2006
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690452c.html

Preparing your request

1. Identify the record you want. Knowing the specific document type – a birth certificate or a building permit, for example – will make it easier to direct your request.

2. Identify the agency that has it. Government operates at several levels, so be sure to ask the county for county records, the city for city records, and so forth.

3. Check the agency's Web site to see if the information is available online. More and more, government agencies are posting documents online, so Web sites are worth a look.

4. Find out when the agency is open and its location. You'll save a lot of time and
frustration by knowing the hours of operation.

5. Plan your visit. Expect delays. Go early enough in the morning or afternoon so clerks have time to fulfill your request before lunch or closing time. Park where you won't have to worry about feeding a meter. If you plan to photocopy documents, make sure you have enough money to cover the cost.

At the agency

1. You do not have to prove or even state a "need to know" to justify access.

2. You don't need to explain why you want the record.

3. Your request need not be in writing.

4. You don't need to identify yourself, with a few exceptions. The law requires

identification only when you seek information about pesticides or the addresses of people arrested or crime victims.

5. You have the right to inspect records, but the agency need not compile lists or write reports. For instance, the county assessor's office could produce records of home sales on your block but would not be required to compute the median sales prices or otherwise analyze the data for you.

6. You may be charged a fee for copying records, but not for looking at them.

Overcoming obstacles

1. The agency is obligated to do its best to help you find what you want. Your request should be reasonably clear, but if you need help describing exactly what you need, don't be afraid to ask for help.

2. You should expect prompt access to the records. Delay is allowed only to resolve good-faith doubts on whether all or part of a record is accessible by the public.

3. If there is a dispute over whether a record is open to inspection, the agency has 10 days in which to produce it or provide a written reason for denial. That 10-day delay applies only when there is a dispute over whether the document is exempt from inspection. Otherwise, the document must be produced promptly – which generally should be the day you ask.

4. Occasionally, documents may not be immediately available. For example, old records may be stored at a different location. If you'd like, you may leave your name and contact information so the agency can alert you when the record is ready. But you do not have to identify yourself and always have the option of returning to the agency later.

5. If the agency declines your request, it must justify doing so by citing the law, either a statute or a case interpreting a statute. Write down that information or ask the clerk to do so for you. And get the name of the person who told you.

6. If your request is denied, you have the right to appeal. You may send a letter of appeal, or go to Superior Court. For a sample appeal letter, go to www.modbee.com/sunshine. If you go to court and a judge rules that the agency improperly denied you access, you may be able to recover court and attorney fees.
---------------------------------

Sample letter: how to appeal if your public record request has been denied
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690453c.html
Last Updated: March 12, 2006, 05:34:56 AM PST

Date
Name and Title (of the official with custody of the records) Name of Agency Address

RE: Public Records Act Request

Dear ________________,

Pursuant to my rights under the California Public Records Act (Government Code Section 6250 et seq.) and the California Constitution, as amended by passage of Prop 59 on November 3, 2004, I am writing to request a copy of the following records, which I understand to be in the possession of your agency:

(Describe the record(s) as precisely as possible, including the designation of any forms or
reports with titles, the date or dates if relevant, the author and addressee if the item is a letter or memo, etc. If the record is referred to in another document or published report and it will help to attach a copy of that reference, do so.)

I ask for a determination on this request within 10 days of your receipt of it, and an even earlier reply if you can make that determination without having to review the record(s) in question.

(Use the following if applicable:)

I would not ordinarily trouble you with this written request, but when I first made it informally I was told by __________________ that your agency considers the information to be exempt from disclosure because ________________________________. I respectfully suggest that this position, if I understand it correctly, is wrong. It is wrong because

___________________________________________________________________________.

If you determine that any or all or the information is exempt from disclosure, I ask that you reconsider that determination in view of Prop 59, which has amended the state Constitution to require that all exemptions be "narrowly construed." Prop 59 may modify or overturn authorities on which you have relied in the past.

If you nonetheless determine that the requested records are subject to a still-valid exemption, I would further request that: (1) you exercise your discretion to disclose some or all of the records notwithstanding the exemption; and (2) that, with respect to records containing both exempt and non-exempt content, you redact the exempt content and disclose the rest.

Finally, should you deny part or all of this request, you are required to provide a written response describing the legal authority or authorities on which you rely. Please also address the question whether Prop 59 requires disclosure even though authorities predating Prop 59 may appear to support your exemption claim.

If I can provide any clarification that will help expedite your attention to this request, please contact me at (provide phone or fax number, pager number, etc.). I ask that you notify me of any duplication costs exceeding $xx so that I may decide which records I want copied.

(Use the following as applicable:)

I am sending a copy of this letter to your legal advisor to help encourage a speedy determination, and I would likewise be happy to discuss my request with (him/her) at any time.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
---------------------------------

Merced woman guards public projects process
Lawsuits force the county, UC to toe the legal line

By ADAM ASHTON
BEE STAFF WRITER
Modesto Bee -- March 13, 2006
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11926478p-12693374c.html

For some in Merced County, Lydia Miller's name prompts the same reaction: Why is she suing me now?

Miller, the county's foremost environmentalist, positions herself at the front of often impassioned debates on the spread of subdivisions and the footprint of the University of California at Merced.

She crafts her arguments using the state's Public Records Act to ensure local governments adhere to laws protecting the environment.

"Public process is the only tool in ensuring integrity of a project," said Miller, 48, who leads the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center. "When the process is compromised, then the project is compromised. We see very few projects that follow good process."

One of the biggest of 19 lawsuits Miller's group has filed against local agencies forced Merced County to turn over thousands of pages of documents regarding its interactions with the University of California before the system placed its newest campus there.

Miller believed the county was treating the campus as if it were a done deal and speeding through the approval process.

That case, which ended in 2002 with a judge's order to open the records, provided the groundwork for a lawsuit Miller filed in late 2004 seeking to halt plans on an 11,600-home community that would border the campus.

Her opponent in the three-year push to open the county's UC records was Greg Wellman, the county's former chief executive who now works as Atwater's city manager.

He said Miller had a right to most of the information she requested, even if it gave him headaches at the time.

"I think a large amount of what she's asking for is just a reflection of our democratic process," he said. "I might personally feel some of the issues raised are not consequential, but those are personal feelings. She has a right to public information — pure and simple."

Back then, though, Wellman said handing over some of the information felt as if it were inviting a costly lawsuit.

"You don't want to give up your defense strategy resulting in a higher award or any other such thing," he said.

Bruce Owdom, Miller's lawyer on the open records lawsuit, said agencies sometimes are too quick to deny a request like hers, giving an impression that a "culture of secrecy" prevails in their offices.

"They sometimes have an attitude like it's our domain here and the public doesn't have a right to these things," he said.

Miller says that attitude prevails in many government offices. She said the county should start keeping running files on controversial projects so people could drop by and check out a proposal's progress.

Merced County Supervisor Jerry O'Banion said that recommendation might run afoul of privacy protections for some applicants.

He also said the county shouldn't hand over information while it's being sued unless it's ordered to do so. The Public Records Act has an exemption for documents under litigation.

"There's client-privileged information that may help in regards to giving guidance to a project that shouldn't be part of a public document that anyone could see," he said.

Nonetheless, he said, the public should be able to see all the information that leads to supervisors' decisions.

Miller says the information her group obtains helps it ensure agencies follow through on mitigation plans, and support projects with sufficient resources.

Her group recently filed a public records request with Livingston and Merced County seeking information about plans for a sewer line that would make it easier for a developer to build a subdivision outside the city limit.

The City Council approved Ranchwood Homes' pitch to lay the sewer line in late 2004, but Miller argues the county would have had to sign off on it because it's in unincorporated land. She's waiting for the documents.

"We participate in the process," she said. "We can't sue on emotion; the only thing we can sue on is to make sure the process was adhered to rightly."
---------------------------

Judge rules against county
Merced Sun-Star – July 23, 2002
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/news/281651491740333.shtml

That was the good news. The bad news came five months later, when Merced County Superior Court Judge William Ivey ruled on attorney’s fees and costs. Attorney for the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Bruce Owdom, spent $42,000 on the case. Judge Ivey, forced to rule in favor of the Center on the merits of the case, slammed the plaintiff and its attorney on costs and fees to which they were entitled, as if to say to the Merced public and the bar: We may give the case, but you will not get costs and fees in Merced County.

And that has been largely true.
--------------------------

Records suit costs county $22,000
Court orders reimbursement for group’s court costs
By Cheri Carlson
Merced Sun-Star – Nov. 25, 2002

“Everybody thinks that we make money from the lawsuit. We don’t. – Lydia Miller, San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center

Two local environmental groups that successfully sued Merced County earlier this year have won more than their right to view public records. In fact, they won nearly $22,000.

Superior Court Judge William T. Ivey on Friday awarded the groups their court costs, which must be paid for by the county.

Neither of the organizations – the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and Protect Our Water – nor the individuals involved in the suit – Lydia Miller and Steve Burke – will actually see the money. It will go straight to their attorney, Bruce Owdom.

Owdom said Friday that when he took the public records case it was on a full contingency basis, which means if they lost, his firm wouldn’t get paid.

But they won, and now Merced County – and taxpayers – must foot the bill.

Not the entire bill, however.

Owdom said he was disappointed that the court decided to award only about half the amount he had requested.

He had sought about $42,000 in fees, but the judged awarded $21,796 instead, stating that the issues involved were not complex. He added that the $42,000 figure was based on the 222 hours he said his firm worked on the case.

Miller, Burke and their organizations filed a lawsuit in May claiming the county had repeatedly ignored or denied requests for information related to the University of California, Merced.

Mille said at the time that the information the groups had requested was “a pretty substantial file” of information that they felt the community needed to review, and the county had said, “No, we’re not giving it to you.”

The county argued that some of the requests were denied because the documents had already been provided. Other requests, according to the county, were vague and the requesting parties couldn’t clarify them.

In June, Ivey ruled in favor of the environmental groups and ordered the county to respond to the requests and to produce any of the public records that the county may have.

Owdon said Friday that since Ivey issued that order, the county has complied and produced more than 100 separately identified documents that hadn’t previously been made available to his clients.

Awarding court costs is necessary, according to Owdom, so public interest groups can find lawyers who’ll take these types of cases.

“Attorneys are only willing to take these cases if they have some assurance of getting fees awarded,” he said. “Nonprofit (groups) can’t afford to pay attorneys’ fees.”

Dennis Myers, the county’s attorney, said Friday that the judge’s order for the county to pay the environmental groups’ court costs adhered to state law.

Court costs and reasonable attorney fees are awarded to the plaintiff if they prevail in litigation regarding public record compliance, according to California code. The fees are paid by the public agency.

The code also states that if the court finds that the plaintiff’s case “is clearly frivolous,” it should award court costs and reasonable attorney fees to the public agency.

According to Myers, which account within the county’s funds will provide the money has not been decided since more than one department was involved.

Miller said Friday that she and Burke took their case to court “on behalf of the public,” and one of the benefits is that the court awarded them their attorney’s fees.

“Everybody thinks that we make money from the lawsuit,” she said. “We don’t.”
------------------------------

Central Valley Shines
With a few exceptions, open records provided in informal Bee survey

By ADAM ASHTON
BEE STAFF WRITER
Modesto Bee -- March 13, 2006
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11926477p-12693365c.html

… Merced County, which charged 10 cents for copies of financial disclosure forms, charged the highest fee in the area for copies of other documents. It wanted 50 cents apace, a sum it set in 1990 to recoup some processing costs.

Three agencies — Livingston's building department, Manteca's building department and Tuolumne County's community development department — wanted to charge research fees for requests they deemed burdensome.

Bee representatives did not pay those fees; they reduced their requests from broad attempts to gain several months' worth of inspections to queries for a handful of specific documents.

Outside records firm a wrinkle

The Public Records Act says agencies cannot charge fees for researching or processing, unless the agency has to create a document to meet the request.

Nathan Barankin, spokesman for the state Attorney General's office, said that under the act, an agency may charge a retrieval or research fee for staff time on nonelectronic documents only if the public entity contracts with a private company to keep the records. The fees come through the company's bill.

Livingston's building department is run by a private company and could meet that exception.

City Manager Richard Warne said the department would charge extra fees only for requests that take several hours of staff time.

Its research fee was $46 an hour, city Building Official Rex Wyatt told a reporter.

"If it's a document off the shelf, we just give it to people. If it involves several hours of research, we might charge, but we haven't run into that problem," Warne said …

Bruce Owdom, a Fresno attorney who has worked for The Fresno Bee, said the amount of work that could go into satisfying a public records request is not a sufficient excuse not to comply with the law, or to charge fees beyond what the Public Records Act allows.

"They might say some other department has those records and we don't have those records. Or it would be too difficult to compile," he said. "My recollection is that there's not an exception to the Public Records Act for that type of situation."

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said research fees violate the Public Records Act.

"In general, you can't be charged for the time, the effort or the money of conducting a search that responds to an individual's request — not for the search time, not for the consultation with lawyers, not for any discussions about the request.

"None of that represents the cost that may be passed on to the requester," Scheer said.
---------------------------

Notes:

3-12-06
Modesto Bee
Now open to the public...Lorena Anderson
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690527c.html
Sunshine Week...Your right to know. Anyone can request public records any time, without providing a reason or even identification, and it is up to the government to explain why a document can't be released.Assemblyman Bill Bagley, who represented Marin and Sonoma counties from 1961 to 1974 and wrote the California Public Records Act, said he intended the government to operate in an "atmosphere of openness." ...agencies must prove that withholding a document has more public benefit than releasing it; nothing in the act is to be construed as preventing an agency from releasing records.

Message from Bee Editor and Senior Vice President Mark S. Vasche
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690450c.html
Over the course of the week, we’ll be shining a light on open government, with stories, editorials and columns designed to help you understand the importance of public access to government proceedings and records – and the growing attempts to limit that access. Why? Because a government that ceases to be open and accessible to its citizens ceases to be a government of, by and for the people.

Government watchdog follows the money trail...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690518c.html
Documents let him verify what officials are saying

Paper Trails...
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690451c.html
Here are some records to which people have access

Tips on making a request for a public document...
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690452c.html
Preparing your request... At the agency... Overcoming obstacles...
1. You do not have to prove or even state a "need to know" to justify access.
2. You don't need to explain why you want the record.
3. Your request need not be in writing.
4. You don't need to identify yourself, with a few exceptions. The law requires identification only when you seek information about pesticides or the addresses of people arrested or crime victims.
5. You have the right to inspect records, but the agency need not compile lists or write reports. For instance, the county assessor's office could produce records of home sales on your block but would not be required to compute the median sales prices or otherwise analyze the data for you.
6. You may be charged a fee for copying records, but not for looking at them.

Sample letter: how to appeal if your public record request has been denied...
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690453c.html

3-13-06
Modesto Bee
Merced woman guards public projects process...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11926478p-12693374c.html
For some in Merced County, Lydia Miller's name prompts the same reaction: Why is she suing me now? Miller, the county's foremost environmentalist, positions herself at the front of often impassioned debates on the spread of subdivisions and the footprint of the University of California at Merced. She crafts her arguments using the state's Public Records Act to ensure local governments adhere to laws protecting the environment. "Public process is the only tool in ensuring integrity of a project," said Miller who leads the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center. "When the process is compromised, then the project is compromised. Greg Wellman, the county's former chief executive who now works as Atwater's city manager...Back then, though, handing over some of the information felt as if it were inviting a costly lawsuit. Merced County Supervisor Jerry O'Banion..."There's client-privileged information that may help in regards to giving guidance to a project that shouldn't be part of a public document that anyone could see,"...Nonetheless, he said, the public should be able to see all the information that leads to supervisors' decisions. "We participate in the process," Miller said. "We can't sue on emotion; the only thing we can sue on is to make sure the process was adhered to rightly."

Central Valley Shines...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11926477p-12693365c.html
Bee survey-The Bee informally assessed compliance with open government laws at 17 cities and four counties over the past two weeks by visiting government offices and asking forbasic rec-ords — financial disclosure forms for officials,executive contracts, building permits and restaurant inspections. Most agencies, such as the cities of Modesto, Sonora and Ceres, had the information on hand and disclosed it immediately. Others, such as Riverbank, Turlock and Merced County, wanted written requests. Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, called the level of compliance documented by The Bee "unusual." Californians Aware, another open government advocacy group, is scheduled to release an audit Tuesday indicating that more than half of the state agencies it checked failed to comply with the Public Records Act. Bruce Owdom, a Fresno attorney who has worked for The Fresno Bee, said the amount of work that could go into satisfying a public records request is not a sufficient excuse not to comply with the law, or to charge fees beyond what the Public Records Act allows. Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said research fees violate the Public Records Act.

| »

Merced County Development Rodeo: Ranchwood Event

Submitted: Mar 10, 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and other members of the concerned public always wondered how developers in Merced County rode roughshod over local, state and federal environmental laws, regulations, agencies and its own public. But, rarely have they been granted the insight provided by this telephone message, recorded on Feb. 3, 2006.

Badlands has blocked out the last two numbers of the telephones the developer left for return calls from the supervisor he thought he'd called as a courtesy to the developer.

Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county ... everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff -- this is my opinion -- causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you!

End of message…to erase this message press 7, to save it press 9, to hear more options press 0. To replay this message press 4, to get envelope information about this message press 5. To…. Sent February 3rd, at 11:48 am from phone number 704-13** duration 1 minute 14 seconds. To erase this message press 7. To save it press 9. This message will be saved for 21 days. End of messages.

On Feb. 9, City of Livingston Mayor Brandon Friesen wrote San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and members of the public, accusing them of “conducting a documented pursuit and vendetta against Ranchwood Homes.” The mayor said public questions raised and public requests for documentation on this project have "placed our City in the middle of mud slinging and we will not stand for it.”

· The 42-inch sewer trunk line from the City of Livingston: Mr. Hostetler, who does business as Ranchwood Homes, is referring to a mile-long sewer trunk line he built from the corner of the Livingston wastewater treatment plant to a few yards away from where he plans to build a subdivision. The trunk line is built entirely outside the jurisdiction of the City of Livingston in land under county jurisdiction. On Feb. 16, when the project was still incomplete, County Counsel Ruben Castillo wrote a letter to the city attorney of Livingston instructing him in the number of laws the city had broken by "approving" this project beyond its jurisdiction. However, by Feb. 28, the project was completed and the 42-inch, mile-long sewer pipeline was covered over. The public has been granted access to neither city, county nor LAFCO files on this project, despite requests to county CEO Dee Tatum, county Counsel Ruben Castillo, county Director of Planning and Economic Development Robert Lewis, Local Agency Formation Commission Director John LeVan, and the county Board of Supervisors. A request for a meeting with CEO Tatum and department heads has also gone unanswered. The County has taken no action.

· 1,000 acres in North Merced: Ranchwood cleared approximately 1,000 acres of pasture bounded by G Street, La Paloma, Merced Country Club and Old Lake Road, north of Merced. The field crossed Fahrens Creek. Ranchwood put in field roads crossing the creek at two locations, tore out all vegetation along the creek and pushed freshly disked dirt into the stream. The land contains wetlands, is probably habitat for federal and state protected species. There are probable violations of the federal Endangered Species and the Clean Water Act. The public filed a request for code enforcement with Merced County. The County took no action.

· 300 acres near Le Grand: Ranchwood disked and deep-ripped a portion of a 300-acre field on the corner of White Rock and Le Grand roads in county jurisdiction. The land contains wetlands, is probably habitat for federal and state protected species. There are probable violations of the federal ESA and CWA. The public filed a request for code enforcement with Merced County. The County took no action.

· 1,100 acres near Le Grand: Ranchwood deep-ripped, leveled and disked approximately 1,100 acres of seasonal pasture land on the SE intersection of Buchanan Hollow and White Rock roads, also near Le Grand. The pastures contained small streams, wetlands, vernal pools and federal and state protected species. The public filed a request for code enforcement with Merced County. The County took no action.

These are significant conversions of land. Merced County should have directed Ranchwood to do proper environmental review before proceeding. Instead Merced County turned a blind eye to these significant conversions.

State and federal agencies were notified and are expected to uphold regulatory compliance on these projects.

· Franklin County Sewer District: Ranchwood excavated two additional percolation ponds in a field west of Santa Fe Road north of Highway 59 to service a subdivision Ranchwood is building in the Franklin-Beachwood area. The public has requested documentation on this project.

· Land swaps in Planada:

On April 22, 2003, J&J Family Trust sold a parcel of approximately 20 acres on Gerard Road to the Central Valley Coalition for Affordable Housing for $300,000 (approximating from the tax assessment of 1 percent).

On October 10, 2003, CVCAH sold the parcel to the Merced County Housing Authority for $300,000 (according to what MCHA official Nick Benjamin told members of the Planada public).

On Dec. 2, 2004, a complex land swap took place in Planada.

A. MCHA sold the same parcel (APN# 053-145-024) to the Pacific Holt Corp. for $550,000 (according to the tax assessment).

B. A.K. Karmangar, a Planada farmer, sells two parcels (approximately 20 acres) to the MCHA for $550,000 (according to the tax assessment).

C. Pacific Holt sells parcel APN# 053-145-024 to Mr. And Mrs. D. Tatum (CEO Merced County) for $269,500.00 (according to the tax assessment). This is apparently a savings of $280,500.00 to the Tatums for a piece of property Pacific Holt bought the same day for approximately twice as much as they sold it to the Tatums.

On Sept. 29, 2005, Hostetler Investment, LLC filed a memorandum of right of option to Pacific Holt Corp to purchase 50 percent of any or all Wallace and Karmangar property actually acquired by Hostetler, and at the actual gross per-acre price. “For instance, if, as expected, Hostetler actually acquires the entirety of the Karmangar Property containing 410+/- gross acres, the Option would apply to 205 +/- acres. The purchase price for both the Wallace Property and the Karmangar Property shall be the actual gross per acre price paid by Hostetler to purchase the Wallace Property and the Karmangar Property which shall be payable in cash on or before the close of escrow.”

On Dec. 23, 2005, a new entity, Pacific Holt Residential Communities, filed for a county General Plan Amendment for residential construction as the owner of 1,390 acres to be added to the Planada SUDP and to be known as the Village of Geneva at Planada. The acreage is composed of Karmangar and Wallace contiguous parcels.

Pacific Holt Residential Communities consists of Hostetler Investments LLC, Pacific Holt Corp., Premiere Partners III of Illinois, Bear Creek Ranch Inc. and local land holders, Bud Wallace, Inc, Opie and Elizabeth Wallace, Partners, and Hare &Sessions Development, Seattle WA.

The County approved the 2003 Planada Community Plan Update to the Merced County General Plan. The PHR Communities property lies outside of the Planada SUDP except for a 20-acre parcel. The Planada Community Plan has been legally challenged and the case is now in state appellate court.

This is by no means all the Ranchwood Homes projects, even in Merced County alone. It’s just a few examples the public has been able to collect from the east side of the county.

Could county CEO, Dee Tatum, fill in the public (after he’s explained it to Supervisor Crookham) on leapfrog, chaotic, unplanned development – the low, cowboy standards of Merced County planning with an out-dated General Plan, speculation-driven development and a new, incompetent planning director? Why does the County routinely disregards proper public process, the protection of public resources? Why has it shown neither the political will nor the ability to plan coherently in the midst of a speculative real estate boom that began before UC Merced was a “done deal”?

Would CEO Tatum explain why he hired a planning director from Nevada who is incompetent in California environmental law or public processes like the Public Records Act?

Could Supervisor Kathleen Crookham illuminate the public on her special relationship with Ranchwood Homes? Would Supervisor Jerry O’Banion of Los Banos explain how Ranchwood Homes does business, since O’Banion knows all things that occur on the west-side turf he shares with Ranchwood?

The Merced County public should ask how county government can do anything but build a reputation as the most corrupt local land-use authority in the state when the top Democrat opponent of environmental law and regulation in the House of Representatives and one of the key fixers behind UC Merced, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, is welcome to sit on the third floor of the county administration building.

The University of California, aided by Cardoza, former Rep.Gary Condit, Blue Dog-Ceres, the Condit children, Gov.Gray Davis and compliant state resource agency heads, railroaded (the term “fast-tracked” was substituted) UC Merced through environmental law, regulation and took local land-use authority, set the cowboy standards for development in Merced County. UC also acquainted local land-use jurisdictions with the magic of legal indemnification against legal challenges brought to protect Merced County natural resources, air, water, agricultural land, infrastructure, public health and safety, and endangered species as well as protecting proper public process.

Bill Hatch

| »

Support the ESA: Call senators Feinstein and Boxer today

Submitted: Mar 09, 2006

This is a pass-along post from the national Endangered Species Coalition urging you to call your U.S. Senator today to oppose the gutting of the ESA by legislation shamefully cooked up in the two adjoining districts of representatives RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced.

Talk to your senators' staff today. Numbers below.

Bill Hatch
------------------------------------------------

National Endangered Species Act Call-in Day: Thursday, March 9th

Please Call Your Senators Today!

We need your help to make sure the Senate supports the Endangered Species Act. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee may take action on an Endangered Species Act bill in the next few weeks. Please call your Senators today!

For over thirty years, the Endangered Species Act has been a safety net for wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction. It has been successful in preventing the extinction of the American Bald Eagle, the gray wolf, the Pacific salmon and many other species.

However, the Endangered Species Act is under threat from special interests, and the politicians they give money to. The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would significantly weaken protections for endangered species and habitat. It is now up to the U.S. Senate to save the Endangered Species Act!

It is critically important that your Senators hear from their constituents that Americans support the Endangered Species Act. Please join the Endangered Species Coalition, other organizations and thousands of Americans across the country by calling your Senators on Thursday, March 9th. Please ask your friends, relatives and colleagues to join you in calling. It only takes about 3 minutes of your time, but the results could last a lifetime.

Thank you for your help in ensuring the Endangered Species Act continues to protect our nation’s most imperiled fish, plants and wildlife so that future generations are able to enjoy their beauty!

Sincerely,

The staff of the Endangered Species Coalition
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ACTION: On Thursday, March 9th , call your Senators in support of a strong Endangered Species Act and urge them to oppose any efforts to change the Act.

PHONE NUMBERS FOR CALIFORNIA U.S. SENATORS

Sen. Barbara Boxer: (202) 224-3553
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (202) 224-3841
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

BACKGROUND:

The House of Representatives passed a bill in September of 2005 that would significantly weaken protections for endangered species and habitat. If Representative Pombo’s bill (HR 3824) becomes law, it would eliminate habitat protection, abandon the commitment to recovering species on the brink of extinction, repeal protections against hazardous pesticides, and politicize the scientific decision-making process. In addition, it would set up an unprecedented entitlement program that would require the federal government to use taxpayers dollars to pay developers for complying with the Endangered Species Act’s prohibition against killing or injuring endangered species.

Pombo's top Democrat supporter and first co-author is Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced. Calls from Pombo and Cardoza districts should carry special weight. - Bill

It is now up to the Senate to save the Endangered Species Act. Senators need to stand up and support the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act is a successful law. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, over 99% of species given the Act’s protection are still with us today; their extinction has been prevented. In addition, the American public supports the Endangered Species Act. A poll by Decision Research illustrated that 86% of American voters support the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act is a safety net for wildlife, plants and fish that are on the brink of extinction. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to be good stewards of the environment and leave behind a legacy of protecting endangered species and the special places they call home.

For more information, visit the Endangered Species Coalition's webpage.

| »

Merced Wal-Mart distribution center

Submitted: Mar 08, 2006

Rev. Jesse Jackson used to describe development in rural US counties: "First you get your prison, then you get your WalMart."

In Merced, first we got UC, now we'll probably get a 1.1-million square foot Wal-Mart distribution center at the UC Merced off-ramp. This will set a new basement for county wages and Local Business is wildly enthusiastic about it. The representative of the Alia Corp. and the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce, two of the three authors of a recent Sun-Star guest commentary accused "outside organizers" of obstructing the project, claimed to represent best the interests of the local community. Alia actually represents two global corporations, McDonalds and Chevron, while numerous national and international corporations have memberships in the GMCC, including Wal-Mart.

Rebecca Solnit describes how Wal-Mart heiress, Alice Walton, is spending some of the corporation's unpaid wages and benefits.

The Wal-Mart Biennale
By Rebecca Solnit
TomDispatch.com -- Feb. 16, 2006

It isn't that, when Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton purchased Asher B. Durand's 1849 painting Kindred Spirits last year, she got the state of Arkansas to pass legislation specifically to save her taxes -- in this case, about $3 million on a purchase price of $35 million. It isn't that the world's second richest woman and ninth richest person (according to a Forbes magazine 2005 estimate) scooped the painting out from under the National Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which had banded together to try to keep it in a public collection when the New York Public Library decided to sell it off. It isn't that Walton will eventually stick this talisman of New England cultural life and a lot of other old American paintings in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Walton family museum she's building in Bentonville, Arkansas, the site of Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters -- after all people in the middle of the country should get to see some good art too. It might not even be, as Wal-MartWatch.com points out, that the price of the painting equals what the state of Arkansas spends every two years providing for Wal-Mart's 3,971 employees on public assistance; or that the average Wal-Mart cashier makes $7.92 an hour and, since Wal Mart likes to keep people on less than full-time schedules, works only 29 hours a week for an annual income of $11,948--so a Wal-Mart cashier would have to work a little under 3,000 years to earn the price of the painting without taking any salary out for food, housing, or other expenses (and a few hundred more years to pay the taxes, if the state legislature didn't exempt our semi-immortal worker).

The trouble lies in what the painting means and what Alice Walton and her $18 billion mean. Art patronage has always been a kind of money-laundering, a pretty public face for fortunes made in uglier ways. The superb Rockefeller folk art collections in several American museums don't include paintings of the 1914 Ludlow Massacre of miners in Colorado, carried out by Rockefeller goons, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles doesn't say a thing about oil. But something about Wal-Mart and Kindred Spirits is more peculiar than all the robber barons and their chapels, galleries, and collections ever were, perhaps because, more than most works of art, Durand's painting is a touchstone for a set of American ideals that Wal-Mart has been savaging.

It may be true that, in an era when oil companies regularly take out advertisements proclaiming their commitment to environmentalism, halting global warming, promoting petroleum alternatives, and conservation measures, while many of them also fund arguments against climate change's very existence, nothing is too contrary to embrace. But Kindred Spirits is older, more idealistic, and more openly at odds with this age than most hostages to multinational image-making.

Kindred Spirits portrays Durand's friend, the great American landscape painter Thomas Cole, with his friend, the poet and editor William Cullen Bryant. The two stand on a projecting rock above a cataract in the Catskills, bathed like all the trees and air around them in golden light. The painting is about friendship freely given, including a sense of friendship, even passion, for the American landscape itself. In the work of Cole, Durand, and Bryant, as in the writing of Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, you can see an emerging belief that the love of nature, beauty, truth, and freedom are naturally allied, a romantic vision that still lingers as one of the most idealistic versions of what it might mean to be an American.

Cole was almost the first American painter to see the possibilities in American landscapes, to see that meaning could grow rather than lessen in a place not yet full of ruins and historical associations, and so he became an advocate for wilderness nearly half a century before California rhapsodist and eventual Sierra Club cofounder John Muir took up the calling. Bryant had gained a reputation as a poet before he became editor-in-chief of the New York Evening Post and thereby a pivotal figure in the culture of the day. He defended a group of striking tailors in 1836, long before there was a union movement, and was ever after a champion of freedom and human rights, turning his newspaper into an antislavery mouthpiece and eventually becoming a founder of the Republican Party (back when that was the more progressive and less beholden of the two parties). He was an early supporter of Abraham Lincoln and of the projects that resulted in New York's Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum -- of a democratic urban culture that believed in the uplifting power of nature and of free access. Maybe the mutation of the Republican Party from Bryant's to Walton's time is measure enough of American weirdness; or maybe the details matter, of what the painting is and what Wal-Mart and its heiress are.

Kindred Spirits was commissioned by the wealthy dry-goods merchant Jonathan Sturges as a gift for Bryant in commemoration of his beautiful eulogy for Cole, who died suddenly in 1848. Bryant left it to his daughter Julia, who gave it in 1904 to what became the New York Public Library. It was never a commodity exchanged between strangers until the Library, claiming financial need, put it and other works of art up for sale. So now a portrait of antislavery and wilderness advocates belongs to a woman whose profits came from degrading working conditions in the U.S. and abroad and from ravaging the North American landscape.

Maybe the problem is that the Crystal Bridges museum seems like a false front for Wal-Mart, a made-in-America handicrafted artifact of idealism for a corporation that is none of the above. The museum will, as such institutions do, attempt to associate the Wal-Mart billionaires with high culture, American history, beautifully crafted objects -- a host of ideals and pleasures a long way from what you find inside the blank, slabby box of a Wal-Mart. One of the privileges of wealth is buying yourself out of the situation you help to make, so that the wealthy, who advocate for deregulation, install water purifiers and stock up on cases of Perrier, or advocate for small government and then hire their own security forces and educators.

Walton, it seems safe to assume, lives surrounded by nicer objects, likely made under nicer conditions, than she sells the rest of us. I have always believed that museums love artists the way taxidermists love deer. Perhaps Alice Walton is, in some sense, stuffing and mounting what is best about American culture -- best and fading. Perhaps Crystal Bridges will become one of the places we can go to revisit the long history that precedes industrialization and globalization, when creation and execution were not so savagely sundered, when you might know the maker of your everyday goods, and making was a skilled and meaningful act. One of the pleasures of most visual art is exactly that linkage between mind and hand, lost elsewhere as acts of making are divided among many and broken down into multiple repetitive tasks.

Perhaps she could build us the Museum of When Americans Made Stuff Locally by Hand for People They Knew or perhaps that's what Crystal Bridges, along with the rest of such institutions, will become. Or Walton could just plan to open the Museum of When Americans Made Stuff at some more distant date, though less than half of what's in Wal-Mart, sources inform me, is still actually made here -- for now. The world's richest woman, however, seems more interested in archaic images of America than in the artisanry behind them.

Walton has already scooped up a portrait of George Washington by Charles Wilson Peale and paintings by Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper for her museum. That museum, reports say, will feature many, many nineteenth-century portraits of Native Americans -- but it would be hard to see her as a champion of the indigenous history of the Americas. The Wal-Mart that opened last November in Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, is built so close to the Aztec's Pyramid of the Sun that many consider the site desecrated. The Wal-Mart parking lot actually eradicated the site of a smaller temple. "This is the flag of conquest by global interests, the symbol of the destruction of our culture," said a local schoolteacher. Thanks to free-trade measures like NAFTA, Wal-Mart has become Mexico's biggest retailer and private-sector employer.

Imagine if Walton were more like Sturges, supporting the art of her time. Imagine if she were supporting artists who actually had something to say about Wal-Mart and America (and Mexico, and China). Imagine if, in the mode of the Venice Biennale or the Sao Paolo Biennale, there was a Wal-Mart biennale. After all, Wal-Mart is itself China's seventh-largest trading partner, ahead of Germany and Russia and Italy; if it were a nation, it would be the world's nineteenth biggest economy. If it's on the same scale as those countries, why shouldn't it have its own contemporary art shows? But what would the Wal-Mart nation and its artists look like?

Rather than the open, luminous, intelligent architecture Moshe Safde will probably bestow on Bentonville, Arkansas, imagine a shuttered Wal-Mart big box (of which there are so many, often shut down simply to stop employees from unionizing) turned into a MOCA, a museum of contemporary art, or better yet a MOCWA, a Museum of Contemporary Wal-Mart Art. Or Wal-Art. After all, Los Angeles's MOCA was originally sited in a defunct warehouse. You could set the artists free to make art entirely out of materials available at Wal-Mart, or to make art about the global politics of Wal-Mart in our time -- poverty, consumerism, sprawl, racism, gender discrimination, exploitation of undocumented workers.

Imagine a contemporary artist, maybe with Adobe Photoshop, reworking Kindred Spirits again and again. Imagine that Cole and Bryant are, this time, standing not on a rocky outcropping but in, say, one of the puzzle and art-supply aisles of a Wal-Mart somewhere in the Catskills, dazed and depressed. Or imagine instead that it's some sweatshop workers, a little hunched and hungry, on that magnificent perch amid the foliage and the golden light, invited at last into some sense of democratic community. Imagine paintings of Edward Hopper's old downtowns, boarded up because all the sad and lonely people are shopping at Wal-Mart and even having their coffee and hot dogs there. Imagine video-portraits of the people who actually make the stuff you can buy at Wal-Mart, or of the African-American truck-drivers suing the corporation for racism or of the women who are lead plaintiffs in the nation's largest class-action suit for discrimination. Against Wal-Mart, naturally.

Imagine if Alice Walton decided to follow the route of Target with architect Michael Graves and commissioned some cutting-edge contemporary art about these issues: videos and DVDs you could buy, prints for your walls, performance art in the aisles, art that maybe even her workers could afford. Imagine if Wal-Mart would acknowledge what Wal-Mart is rather than turning hallowed American art into a fig leaf to paste over naked greed and raw exploitation. But really, it's up to the rest of us to make the Museum of Wal-Mart, one way or another, in our heads, on our websites, or in our reading of everyday life everywhere.

Rebecca Solnit's Tomdispatch-generated Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities is out in a new and expanded edition. Her other recent books include A Field Guide to Getting Lost and, with Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, Yosemite in Time: Ice Ages, Tree Clocks, Ghost Rivers.

Copyright 2005 Rebecca Solnit

| »


To manage site Login