Public Health and Safety

Regarding sheds

Submitted: Feb 18, 2008

A number of years ago a state forester was interviewed concerning changes in the culture of his agency following the passage of the Endangered Species Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, and kindred legislation regarding the forests. He said, "I knew I was in a different world when bureaucrats started talking about 'viewsheds.'"

The term 'viewshed' indicated that the public had made the aesthetic pleasure of looking at a stretch of forest unblemished by clearcuts a value in the resource bureaucracy by the late 1970's, not just a conservationist howl to the moon. The term, 'watershed,' is older:

"line separating waters flowing into different rivers," 1803, from water + shed. A loan-translation of Ger. Wasser-scheide. Fig. sense is attested from 1878. Meaning "ground of a river system" is from 1878.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=watershed

Yesterday, in a meeting in Los Banos concerning funding for local management efforts in the state's many watersheds, an interesting conversation broke out regarding the state of San Joaquin Valley agriculture and its future. The vision put forth by a Merced County planning commissioner favored organic agriculture (the commissioner owns an organic farm) and local food system (the commissioner is also a boardmember of organizations advancing this vision).

A member of the group without vision put forth the view that the Valley could probably feed itself on about a third of the farmland now in cultivation but that the problem a planning commissioner ought to be "envisioning" is what will happen to the remaining two-thirds of the farm and ranch land, the economy of which -- as is certainly the case with the county's almond industry -- is based on large-scale exportation. Export-led growth, to eastern US markets and expanding to international markets has been the basis for the Valley's agricultural economy since the early years of the last century and the cropping pattern remains largely the same, although the populations of county seats and some of the other hamlets of that period have swollen enormously. The visionless viewpoint was also advanced that if the same amount of acreage in production today in the same crops, in the same concentration, attracting the same swarms of pests specific to those crops, were converted to organic orchards and rowcrops, it would do very little but destroy the organic market and many of the growers engaged in it. One also wondered silently how long it would be before "organic" pesticide regulations were relaxed to include pesticides perhaps not quite as organic as they were purported by their manufacturers to be.

The vision quest for consensus-based environmental reform through analyses that change from year to year, mirroring environmental disintegration, seems to some to be not a very serious enterprise.

At this point, the planning commissioner, demonstrating leadership skills, put a new term on the table, 'foodshed.' The purpose of this bit of jargon du moment seemed to be to return the conversation to watersheds, and grants for watershed coordinators, another of which the commissioner is writing to fund her valuable political work of going to more meetings where she will learn yet more vital analytical tools like the term, foodshed.

Fleeing the mindless Jargon Monster, another participant tried to address the problem of how to treat the land retired from farming so that the Valley will only grow enough food to feed itself -- and organically! Will it all go to housing?

Or should much of the retired land be preserved as open space, restored to wildlife habitat, provide better and cleaner groundwater recharge? it was asked. Later, it was recalled that on the west side at least, there are hundreds of thousands of acres of land that should be retired because they are full of toxic heavy metals as the result of totally reckless, resource-destroying irrigation, and that it would be hard to restore it to livable wildlife habitat. Facilitators returned the meeting to the topic of watersheds and whether the state should reinvest in watershed coordinator programs on the Merced River watershed.

Some in the room advanced the idea that the state agencies ought to spend the money on their own staffs to inventory and map the amount of land already in state easements through the State Lands Commission among other agencies and enforce existing laws and regulations rather than fund watershed coordinators who broker rather than share information concerning the Merced River watershed for their own financial gain. In other words, the evidence is in that these Reaganesque localizing, privatizing programs merely induce an annual grant-writing feeding frenzy inherently corrupting in local publics because the regulation of natural resources is properly and adequately only as a state function. Local publics ought to be monitoring state and federal governments to do their job in their areas. If it is necessary to go around elected officials in the pockets of finance, insurance and real estate special interests who pressure resource agencies, then it should be done. That is a function the public can do better than it can manage watersheds under the legal jurisdiction of state and federal resource agencies and the mandate of the Public Trust Doctrine.

Driving home from the meeting, through field after field in early preparation for another crop of cotton, participants realized they were driving through a 'fibershed,'interrupted occasionally by various 'cowsheds,' 'poultrysheds' and possibly one 'goatshed.'

Returning the next day to the problem -- What would happen to all the farm and ranch land retired if the Valley should swing away from export-led growth to a local food supply? -- another idea occurred to participants of the stimulating meeting in Los Banos: Why not speciessheds?

What about a vernalpoolshed? A San Joaquinkitfoxshed? A Californiatigersalamandershed? Why not a mangycoyoteshed? Despite a great deal of government policy to the contrary, empirical evidence suggests that wildlife species require wildlife habitat, in fact a good description of a speciesshed would be the natural habitat required by that species in order to live, have a home in the world.

So, now when one looks at a field of seasonal pasture containing vernal pools, cows, coyotes and other wildlife species, one knows he is actually looking at a multi-speciesshed, not a cattle ranch. And as the urban resident gazes across the street from his door, he realizes that he is observing an 'alleycatshed.' Downtown, one realizes he is looking at a 'decayingurbancentershed.' When observing the many half-finished new subdivisions that ring this town, one realizes he is looking at 'foreclosuresheds.'

Leaders like the planning commissioner, superbly trained by the Great Valley Center/UC Merced leadership programs, are constantly bringing us valuable new analytical tools like this, language that will permit our vision to soar and transcend reality, the present, the past and the future. so that we, too, may glide far above this 'littlebluemarbleshed' in a beautiful "Bullship."

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Clean air vigil at the Air Board, Tuesday, Dec. 18

Submitted: Dec 17, 2007

Be there or be square!

For Immediate Release:
December 17, 2007

Contact: Melissa Kelly-Ortega, (209) 261-7109, Lisa Kayser-Grant (209) 769-2233

MEDIA ADVISORY***MEDIA ADVISORY***

Community Leaders to Hold Clean Air Vigil

Advocates Will Urge Air District to Plan for Attainment of State Health Based PM 2.5 standards At Tuesday Workshop

Fresno, CA — On Tuesday, December 18, 2007, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will be holding the first of a series of workshops to discuss their proposed State Implementation Plan. This Plan serves as the roadmap for attaining federal standards governing fine particulate matter pollution. The standards used in the plan, however, are no longer considered adequate to protect public health by either the federal Environmental Protection Agency or the California Air Resources Board. Community leaders will be urging the air district to amend the proposed plan to include a strategy for reducing fine particulate pollution to the levels currently considered to be protective of public health.

Community members will hold a vigil in remembrance of all those who have died and those who still suffer from the effects of breathing dirty wintertime air - PM 2.5. According to the Institute for Economic and Environmental Studies, the cost of air pollution averages $1,000 per person per year, and represents the following:

460 premature deaths among those age 30 and older
23,300 asthma attacks
188,000 days of school absences
3,230 cases of acute bronchitis in children
3,000 lost work days
325 new cases of chronic bronchitis
188,400 days of reduced activity in adults
260 hospital admissions
More than 17,000 days of respiratory symptoms in children

What: Vigil with community members

When: Media Availability: Tuesday, December 18 at 5:30 p.m. and throughout the workshop.
Air District Workshop: 6:30pm

Where: In front of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District:
Central Region Office, 1990 E. Gettysburg Ave., Fresno

#####

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Growth boom in national debt

Submitted: Dec 03, 2007

National debt grows $1 million a minute
By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071203/ap_on_go_ot/nation_in_debt

WASHINGTON - Like a ticking time bomb, the national debt is an explosion waiting to happen. It's expanding by about $1.4 billion a day — or nearly $1 million a minute.

What's that mean to you?

It means almost $30,000 in debt for each man, woman, child and infant in the United States.

Even if you've escaped the recent housing and credit crunches and are coping with rising fuel prices, you may still be headed for economic misery, along with the rest of the country. That's because the government is fast straining resources needed to meet interest payments on the national debt, which stands at a mind-numbing $9.13 trillion.

And like homeowners who took out adjustable-rate mortgages, the government faces the prospect of seeing this debt — now at relatively low interest rates — rolling over to higher rates, multiplying the financial pain.

So long as somebody is willing to keep loaning the U.S. government money, the debt is largely out of sight, out of mind.

But the interest payments keep compounding, and could in time squeeze out most other government spending — leading to sharply higher taxes or a cut in basic services like Social Security and other government benefit programs. Or all of the above.

A major economic slowdown, as some economists suggest may be looming, could hasten the day of reckoning.

The national debt — the total accumulation of annual budget deficits — is up from $5.7 trillion when President Bush took office in January 2001 and it will top $10 trillion sometime right before or right after he leaves in January 2009.

That's $10,000,000,000,000.00, or one digit more than an odometer-style "national debt clock" near New York's Times Square can handle. When the privately owned automated clock was activated in 1989, the national debt was $2.7 trillion.

It only gets worse.

Over the next 25 years, the number of Americans aged 65 and up is expected to almost double. The work population will shrink and more and more baby boomers will be drawing Social Security and Medicare benefits, putting new demands on the government's resources.

These guaranteed retirement and health benefit programs now make up the largest component of federal spending. Defense is next. And moving up fast in third place is interest on the national debt, which totaled $430 billion last year.

Aggravating the debt picture: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates could cost $2.4 trillion over the next decade

Despite vows in both parties to restrain federal spending, the national debt as a percentage of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product has grown from about 35 percent in 1975 to around 65 percent today. By historical standards, it's not proportionately as high as during World War II — when it briefly rose to 120 percent of GDP, but it's a big chunk of liability.

"The problem is going forward," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard and Poors, a major credit-rating agency.

"Our estimate is that the national debt will hit 350 percent of the GDP by 2050 under unchanged policy. Something has to change, because if you look at what's going to happen to expenditures for entitlement programs after us baby boomers start to retire, at the current tax rates, it doesn't work," Wyss said.

With national elections approaching, candidates of both parties are talking about fiscal discipline and reducing the deficit and accusing the other of irresponsible spending. But the national debt itself — a legacy of overspending dating back to the American Revolution — receives only occasional mention.

Who is loaning Washington all this money?

Ordinary investors who buy Treasury bills, notes and U.S. savings bonds, for one. Also it is banks, pension funds, mutual fund companies and state, local and increasingly foreign governments. This accounts for about $5.1 trillion of the total and is called the "publicly held" debt. The remaining $4 trillion is owed to Social Security and other government accounts, according to the Treasury Department, which keeps figures on the national debt down to the penny on its Web site.

Some economists liken the government's plight to consumers who spent like there was no tomorrow — only to find themselves maxed out on credit cards and having a hard time keeping up with rising interest payments.

"The government is in the same predicament as the average homeowner who took out an adjustable mortgage," said Stanley Collender, a former congressional budget analyst and now managing director at Qorvis Communications, a business consulting firm.

Much of the recent borrowing has been accomplished through the selling of shorter-term Treasury bills. If these loans roll over to higher rates, interest payments on the national debt could soar. Furthermore, the decline of the dollar against other major currencies is making Treasury securities less attractive to foreigners — even if they remain one of the world's safest investments.

For now, large U.S. trade deficits with much of the rest of the world work in favor of continued foreign investment in Treasuries and dollar-denominated securities. After all, the vast sums Americans pay — in dollars — for imported goods has to go somewhere. But that dynamic could change.

"The first day the Chinese or the Japanese or the Saudis say, `we've bought enough of your paper,' then the debt — whatever level it is at that point — becomes unmanageable," said Collender.

A recent comment by a Chinese lawmaker suggesting the country should buy more euros instead of dollars helped send the Dow Jones plunging more than 300 points.

The dollar is down about 35 percent since the end of 2001 against a basket of major currencies.

Foreign governments and investors now hold some $2.23 trillion — or about 44 percent — of all publicly held U.S. debt. That's up 9.5 percent from a year earlier.

Japan is first with $586 billion, followed by China ($400 billion) and Britain ($244 billion). Saudi Arabia and other oil-exporting countries account for $123 billion, according to the Treasury.

"Borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars from China and OPEC puts not only our future economy, but also our national security, at risk. It is critical that we ensure that countries that control our debt do not control our future," said Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, a Republican budget hawk.

Of all federal budget categories, interest on the national debt is the one the president and Congress have the least control over. Cutting payments would amount to default, something Washington has never done.

Congress must from time to time raise the debt limit — sort of like a credit card maximum — or the government would be unable to borrow any further to keep it operating and to pay additional debt obligations.

The Democratic-led Congress recently did just that, raising the ceiling to $9.82 trillion as the former $8.97 trillion maximum was about to be exceeded. It was the fifth debt-ceiling increase since Bush became president in 2001.

Democrats are blaming the runup in deficit spending on Bush and his Republican allies who controlled Congress for the first six years of his presidency. They criticize him for resisting improvements in health care, education and other vital areas while seeking nearly $200 billion in new Iraq and Afghanistan war spending.

"We pay in interest four times more than we spend on education and four times what it will cost to cover 10 million children with health insurance for five years," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "That's fiscal irresponsibility."

Republicans insist congressional Democrats are the irresponsible ones. Bush has reinforced his call for deficit reduction with vetoes and veto threats and cites a looming "train wreck" if entitlement programs are not reined in.

Yet his efforts two years ago to overhaul Social Security had little support, even among fellow Republicans.

The deficit only reflects the gap between government spending and tax revenues for one year. Not exactly how a family or a business keeps its books.

Even during the four most recent years when there was a budget surplus, 1998-2001, the national debt ranged between $5.5 trillion and $5.8 trillion.

As in trying to pay off a large credit-card balance by only making minimum payments, the overall debt might be next to impossible to chisel down appreciably, regardless of who is in the White House or which party controls Congress, without major spending cuts, tax increases or both.

"The basic facts are a matter of arithmetic, not ideology," said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group that advocates eliminating federal deficits.

There's little dispute that current fiscal policies are unsustainable, he said. "Yet too few of our elected leaders in Washington are willing to acknowledge the seriousness of the long-term fiscal problem and even fewer are willing to put it on the political agenda."

Polls show people don't like the idea of saddling future generations with debt, but proposing to pay down the national debt itself doesn't move the needle much.

"People have a tendency to put some of these longer term problems out of their minds because they're so pressed with more imminent worries, such as wages and jobs and income inequality," said pollster Andrew Kohut of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

Texas billionaire Ross Perot made paying down the national debt a central element of his quixotic third-party presidential bid in 1992. The national debt then stood at $4 trillion and Perot displayed charts showing it would soar to $8 trillion by 2007 if left unchecked. He was about a trillion low.

Not long ago, it actually looked like the national debt could be paid off — in full. In the late 1990s, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office projected a surplus of a $5.6 trillion over ten years — and calculated the debt would be paid off as early as 2006.

Former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan recently wrote that he was "stunned" and even troubled by such a prospect. Among other things, he worried about where the government would park its surplus if Treasury bonds went out of existence because they were no longer needed.

Not to worry. That surplus quickly evaporated.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, said he's more concerned that interest on the national debt will become unsustainable than he is that foreign countries will dump their dollar holdings — something that would undermine the value of their own vast holdings. "We're going to have to shell out a lot of resources to make those interest payments. There's a very strong argument as to why it's vital that we address our budget issues before they get measurably worse," Zandi said.

"Of course, that's not going to happen until after the next president is in the White House," he added.

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The brutal sentimentality of Ol' Shrimp Slayer and other municipal discontent

Submitted: Dec 01, 2007

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20071130_conservative_or_just_plain_corrupt/

Constituents of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, received on Friday a newsletter titled "Foreclosure Event," announcing a foreclosure-counseling session in Stockton for Saturday, co-hosted by Rep. Jerry "HighTek" McNerney, Pombo's Replacement-Pleasanton. On the surface, this is one more episode in the Denny Show in which the ol' slayer demonstrates his compassion for constituents (on one day's notice).

If only it were so. Some of the Shrimp Slayer's constituents, however, found an article on the Blue Dog Coalition published the same day, "Blue Dog Democrats: Conservative, Or Just Plain Corrupt?" by David Sirota. Cardoza is a co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democrats that votes with Republicans most of the time. He is one of three congressmen who lead the coalition. As Sirota explains, the Blue Dog opposition to H.R. 3609, the Emergency Ownership and Mortgage Equity Protection Act, reeks of one more Blue Dog sellout to finance, insurance and real estate special interests. Cardoza, one of the most mindless pro-growth congressmen in the nation during the real estate bubble, represents a district that now contains the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. In the backroom, he sells out to special interests; in public he twists the knife into the victims of mortgage fraud that has caused a global credit crisis by offering "counseling." McNerney trots along as liberal window dressing.

The juxtaposition of the Cardoza flak and the article on Blue Dog corruption reveals the pattern of behavior we have come to expect from the Shrimp Slayer. Cardoza always claimed to be in favor of the Endangered Species Act at the same time as he introduced three bills to gut it. Presumably, even now he is working behind the scenes on the latest, administrative, attempt to accomplish what Congress refused to do. Whoever is vulnerable -- from victim of predatory lending to little beastie -- you can be sure to find Cardoza nearly weeping in public and stomping in the backroom. This combination of sentimentality and brutality is the essence of this politician's corrupt career. Whenever the Denny Show comes to town oozing compassion, look in the backroom for what he's covering up. This is a guy who acts as if he believes the US Congress exists solely to enhance his personal power and wealth. He does not appear to have any other goal or any shame at all.

However, on Nov 15, 2007, Cardoza voted for H.R. 3915: Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007. All Democrats who voted voted for H.R. 3915, joined by 64 Republicans. Everything about this bill looks good except the date. It should have been the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2004. But there is just nothing like Congress for slamming doors shut on empty barns. And for that you can't blame Cardoza. It's the company he keeps. The Associated Press-Ipsos poll showed Congress got a 25-percent approval rating on November 5--eight points lower than the president.

Finally, Mercedians received an editorial from Sonny Star, Mama McClatchy's local gigolo press, complaining about the dangers to the community of foreclosed, empty houses, "Foreclosure is not a superficial problem -- it creates unsafe and unhealthy conditions in our community...Our View." Sonny Star never saw a development it didn't like, including the Riverside Motorsports Park project (until after it was approved by the board of supervisors). Sonny suggests an "emergency law" to deal with the growing problem.

Badlands Journal suggests that those responsible for this growing problem, the members of the Merced City Council and the Merced County Board of Supervisors, be held personally liable because -- as the local land-use authorities -- they approved the projects that are now stinking up the town. Five of the seven city council members were realtors when these projects were approved and they profited from them. They knew the game and have absolutely no claim of innocence. Developers and large landowners dictated every land-use decision the supervisors made throughout the speculative real estate boom. Personal liability, in our view, would include sending out the elected officials who made the land-use decisions in work crews in color-coded overalls to maintain those empty houses. The idea that those who made such stupid decisions, driven by such open greed, should now open the public trough with an "emergency law" to maintain homes built for a speculator-driven bubble, is vintage Sonny Star. It works on the principle that if the public is dumb enough to pay to clean up a mess made by the land-use authorities elected to serve the public and by the gigolo press, another boom will start and real estate advertising revenues are sure to return to the coffers of McClatchy Co.'s local outlet.

Badlands Journal editorial board
-------------------------

Vision Credit Education, Inc.
Emergency Ownership and Mortgage Equity Protection Act--11-1-07

http://blog.stopccdebt.com/emergency-ownership-and-mortgage-equity-protection-act/
Congress may soon vote on H.R. 3609, which is titled the Emergency Ownership and Mortgage Equity Protection Act. The idea is to provide bankruptcy judges the authority to modify mortgage loans to help families afford the payments.
The bill proposes allowing distressed homeowners to include their mortgage in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. There are some other important proposed changes also.
H.R. 3609 would eliminate the credit counseling requirement that was put in place by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. A distressed homeowner would merely have to prove to the court that a foreclosure action has commenced. It is unknown if this provision will remain in the final version of the bill.
These are the major points of the bill:
Eliminates taxpayer bailout of subprime mortgage industry
Helps some families avoid foreclosure
Helps surrounding property values by reducing overall foreclosure rates
Lenders could avoid expensive foreclosure costs
Eliminates requirement for credit counseling to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy (assume foreclosure action has commenced)...
DSNews.com
MBA Not Fond of Proposed Bankruptcy Legislation...Kerri Panchuk...10-5-07

http://www.dsnews.com/view_story.cfm?id=1612
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released a statement this week signaling its concerns about proposed legislation that, if passed, would allow bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of a mortgage contract during bankruptcy proceedings. The house bill, HR 3609, passed the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law by a 5-4 vote.
“Giving judges free rein to rewrite the terms of a mortgage would further destabilize the mortgage backed securities market and will exacerbate the serious credit crunch that is currently hindering the ability of thousands of Americans to get an affordable mortgage,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, senior vice president for government affairs and public policy at the MBA. “The current legislation gives no guidance as to the proper parameters for judges to modify existing loan contracts.”
Pfotenhauer says judges with more authority to decrease a loan's value also have the ability to hit all consumers in the pocketbook.
“The reason you only pay six percent on a mortgage loan, where another type of consumer loan may cost ten percent or more, is that the mortgage loan is secured by an asset—the home,” explained Pfotenhauer. “When a judge can unilaterally reduce the amount that the lender can get when the home is sold, it devalues the asset securing the loan and the lender and investor will either not fund a loan, or will increase the cost of the loan. Either way, consumers are the ones who pay the price.”
Truthdig.com
11-30-07
Blue Dog Democrats: Conservative, Or Just Plain Corrupt?...David Sirota

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20071130_conservative_or_just_plain_corrupt/
Through their ethics scandals, Republicans in Washington long ago began making the word “conservative” synonymous with the term “corrupt.” Surprisingly, though, it is a group of Democrats that is cementing this definitional conversion for good.
In the midst of the housing crisis, a cadre of self-described “conservative” Democrats called the Blue Dog Coalition is demanding congressional leaders delay legislation designed to help people trapped in high-interest loans stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure. The bill, House Resolution 3609, allows judges to ameliorate the terms of abusive “subprime” mortgages. Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., is championing it-a gutsy move for a lawmaker whose state domiciles major lenders.
The Blue Dogs say they oppose Miller’s initiative out of concern for the integrity of the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill-a telling justification. Under that odious law, millionaires can shield their mansions from creditors, and corporate executives (think: Enron guys) can prevent ripped-off shareholders and employees from seizing their holdings. Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren notes that the law also “permits people with vacation homes and investment property to rework their mortgages in bankruptcy.”
But regular homeowners? Sorry-without Miller’s legislation, judges are barred from defending you against the vultures.
Blue Dog Democrats cite the social conservatism of their rural and exurban districts as the reason for such high-profile stands against their party. Somehow, we are expected to believe that their constituents’ anti-abortion or pro-gun views mean those same constituents want Congress to help banks throw people out of their homes. But since when did any voters-conservative or otherwise-support that kind of thing?
Since never, of course. “Conservatism” is being used as the cover for corruption.
As National Journal reports, corporate lobbyists “knew exactly who to go to in order to stop the [foreclosure relief] bill in its tracks: the Blue Dog Coalition.” These lawmakers are the mercenaries’ go-to crew not because of any principled ideology, but because they have been big recipients of campaign cash from the finance and real estate industries.
Of course, this is only the most recent example of pay-to-play shenanigans on banking issues.
In 2005, 20 “New” Democrats-another group billed as “conservative”-signed a letter demanding the passage of the original Bankruptcy Bill. Those Democrats had pocketed a combined $750,000 from the financial industry.
That same year, the Senate cast a “conservative” vote defeating a bill limiting credit card interest rates to a whopping 30 percent-a modest measure to say the least. Eighteen Republican and Democratic lawmakers voting against the measure had previously voted for a tougher interest cap. What changed? They received about $2 million from the credit card and banking industries in the interim.
Still, this new Blue Dog letter takes the cake for sheer brazenness. Why? Because the current mortgage crisis is especially hitting the kinds of exurban and rural districts these “conservative” Democrats purport to speak for.
The Atlantic Monthly’s Matthew Yglesias recently reviewed foreclosure data and found that “the hardest-hit areas are the high-growth fringes of vibrant metro areas”-the exurbs that Blue Dog signatories like Illinois Rep. Melissa Bean (D) represent.
Real Estate magazine reports, “In 500 rural counties, one-third or more of mortgage originations involved high-interest loans.” That could spell trouble for districts like the one represented by Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga.-another signer. His state has almost 30,000 homes financed by subprime loans.
So, will these faux “conservatives” win? Maybe in this battle over mortgage reform, and in some other upcoming skirmishes like the brouhaha over taxes. National Journal reports that this same group of Democrats is intent on “limiting the scope” of proposals to close the loophole letting billionaire hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than the janitors who clean their offices. Apparently, the Blue Dogs would have us believe conservative, working-class constituents are insisting their congressional representatives not only support bank foreclosures, but also help Wall Street barons rob the federal treasury.
Nonetheless, over the long term, those like the Blue Dogs will have an increasingly difficult time succeeding-both legislatively and electorally. The more they attach their “conservative” label to such obscene corruption, the more that label will be indelibly tarnished. Aiding loan sharks and tax cheats may elicit campaign donations and smiles in Washington, but it is no way to win hearts and minds in the rest of America.
David Sirota is the bestselling author of “Hostile Takeover” (Crown, 2006). He is a senior fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network-both nonpartisan research organizations. His daily blog can be found at www.credoaction.com/sirota.Foreclosure Event‏
From: Dennis Cardoza (dennis.cardoza@congressnewsletter.net)
Sent: Fri 11/30/07 10:36 AM
Dear Bill ,
We all know from news reports and personal experiences that the foreclosure crisis sweeping the country is having a particularly severe effect here in the Valley. My last e-newsletter addressed this issue and included a survey asking you to tell me how the foreclosure crisis has affected you personally. The responses that I received were overwhelming; almost 70% of those answering were affected by the crisis in some way.
In response I, along with my colleague Congressman Jerry McNerney, have organized a comprehensive foreclosure workshop at 10am on Saturday December 1st to offer free, confidential advice to families facing foreclosure or worried about making their mortgage payments. Counselors will be available from government agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the California Housing Finance Authority, and the Stockton Housing Department, as well as non-profits such as NeighborWorks and Consumer Credit Counseling. To make the most of the time with counselors, participants are asked to bring all relevant mortgage and financial paperwork. Details on the event are below. I strongly encourage anyone facing foreclosure problems to attend this workshop.
Please RSVP so we can ensure there are enough counselors on hand to offer assistance. To RSVP, or to ask any other questions you may have, please call Erica Rodriguez at (209) 476-8552 or email McNerney.RSVP@mail.house.gov.
What:
Foreclosure workshop – free, confidential counseling for families facing or concerned about facing foreclosure.
When:
Saturday, December 1, 2007
10 a.m. to Noon
Note: this event is workshop format so those seeking help are encouraged to stop by at any point during the event.
Where:
Stockton Arena Conference Room
248 West Fremont St.
Stockton, CA

Sincerely,
Dennis Cardoza
Member of Congress

From:Opensecrets.org
Dennis Cardoza

http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.asp?cid=N00024874
Cardoza has received $43,395 from the finance, insurance and real estate sector in the 2007-2008 campaign cycle. This is second only to his contributions from agribusiness, which total $117,440 in a Farm Bill year. In this period Cardoza has received:
$5,000 from American Bankers Association
$5,000 from National Association of Home Builders
$4,000 from Granite Construction
$4,000 from Farm Credit Council
$3,300 from Financial Center credit uNION
$2,000 from Fannie Mae
$1,000 from Mortgage Bankers Association
Merced Sun-Star
12-2-07
Foreclosure is not a superficial problem -- it creates unsafe and unhealthy conditions in our community...Our View

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/177/story/86660.html
Take a stroll through some of the relatively new subdivisions in Merced and you'll notice something ugly: There are a lot of foreclosed homes descending into neglect.
The telltale signs begin in the front yards, where an overgrown, weed-infested mess of a lawn signals to everyone: This property has been foreclosed!
In extreme cases, some of the homes have been broken into, and others are infested with pigeons or other vermin. We're talking about dwellings that are in some instances less than a year old.
These eyesores are smack in the middle of some of the city's nicest addresses. They're a black eye for all of us...
We think the council's best option is to pass an emergency law to deal with the blight.
Doing so may send shivers up the city attorney's spine (he'd have to help craft something that doesn't trample on the rights of property owners), but it likely would be the most proactive measure the city could take because it actually would have teeth.
The city's code currently requires a lengthy review process prior to inserting itself to fix blighted properties. This process routinely takes months -- and that's just too long.
An emergency law could shorten that review process to a more responsive level -- say, a month or less...
That may be an extreme step -- but at least something gets done.

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Growth robs water from existing residents

Submitted: Sep 11, 2007
Until our water authorities base their new commitments on an actual -- legally sound -- surplus we will continue to subsidize new development while we experience rationing, reduced use forced by rate increases, cost-prohibitive landscaping and a gradual decline in agriculture.-- Glenn Carroll, North County Times, Sept. 11, 2006

9/11/07

North County Times

Guest Column: Is conserved water fueling overgrowth?...Glenn Carroll, Fallbrook resident
Glenn Carroll was a director for the Tuolumne Utilities District for four years
http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/09/11/opinion/commentary/22_18_199_10_07.txt

Water authorities tell us to conserve due to shortages while they continue making commitments to serve new development. Some agricultural users face 30 percent cutbacks in January, yet growth marches on. Water derived from cutbacks is apparently considered "surplus" for growth. If additional supplies are not developed, each new house added increases the point at which we will face future cutbacks.

Growers are already impacted by heavy price competition from foreign imports, like avocados from Mexico. It is no wonder the San Diego County Water Authority's water management plan projects a 42 percent reduction in agriculture by 2030 "primarily due to conversion to housing."

Reservoirs were supposedly built to provide emergency backup for existing customers during droughts, plus some capacity for growth. But during shortages the question arises how they separate the backup water from that designated for development.

Theoretically, existing customers should not have to cut back in dry years -- unless their water is used for new customers.

Why not ration new development along with everyone else? Some water officials respond that denying new hookups at this time would be unfair to the plans of developers since the present shortage is considered temporary. Indications are, however, the opposite is true: The Colorado River is in its eighth year of drought. The Sierra snowpack is only 40 percent of normal and has been diminishing for years. Environmental problems plague our northern delivery system. Climate change is now taken seriously. This area is experiencing a historic drought. Another water official says, "This could be the beginning of a long-term shift" in water resources.

Plans to develop additional water like desalination are uncertain and far in the future. A proposed new canal from the north to increase supplies would take more than 20 years to complete -- if the bond passes (it was defeated once). Same story for new reservoirs.

Metropolitan Water District -- our major supplier -- was hit in 2003 with a 50 percent cutback in its Colorado River allotment due to states upriver exercising seniority rights. California's share was reduced from 1,212,000 acre-feet per year to 606,000 acre-feet per year. The San Diego County Water Authority signed subsequent contracts for an additional 277,700 acre-feet per year, but California still ends up 328,300 acre-feet per year short of its original allotment. (An acre-foot serves two homes/eight people.)

Metropolitan also receives water from the State Water Project. However, our San Diego County Water Authority has been routinely overdrawing its 15.8 percent legal entitlement from this source (25 percent in 2004), but since there are districts in the Los Angeles area that have not yet reached full build-out, this has not been an issue. It's something for future generations to deal with.

Until our water authorities base their new commitments on an actual -- legally sound -- surplus we will continue to subsidize new development while we experience rationing, reduced use forced by rate increases, cost-prohibitive landscaping and a gradual decline in agriculture.

Growth clearly has priority over existing residents.

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Behind the curve

Submitted: Sep 07, 2007

Politics attracts all sorts. In fact the personalities in politics are probably as complicated as a number of the systems in nature. However, politics never resembled a Sunday school class.

One of the many rough distinctions one can make about people in politics is between those who read and those who don't.

The other day I happened to be in a meeting in a distant town in which a small disagreement broke out between someone who reads and someone who doesn't. The one who doesn't read was talking about his long friendly chats with a local land-use official. The fellow who reads documents countered, saying that documents indicate the land-use official has been lying in his teeth for months.

"You're just ahead of the curve," the jawboner replied, dismissively.

The north San Joaquin Valley is now the most notorious region in the nation for foreclosures stemming from our red-hot speculative real estate boom. The nation itself is notorious for having started a world-wide credit crisis, stemming from bad subprime loans. North San Joaquin Valley land-use authorities, cities and counties, were enabling partners in this global scam all the way. If it hadn't been for a few lawsuits, they would have done more.

A whole lot of fine print went unread. But the people who wrote it knew what they were doing.

Now, city, county and state officials, probably under panicked pressure from bankers, plan to do something about it. They are behind the curve. They didn't read the documents. They were told by a number of people who do read documents -- which would not include their newspapers -- that this was going to happen. They were told. They were warned. They arrogantly dismissed all the warnings because they didn't come from the developer bought-and-sold McClatchy Chain.

Now, from so far behind the curve they hope you will not be able to see who they are, they gently nudge the barn door, which will be stuck wide open at least until these individuals are thrown out, some into cells if wheels of justice still grind here.

We are supposed to applaud their responsible reforms? They prey upon the public's belief in government, which is a good belief. They follow the Bush line that any criticism of politicians and policies of the existing government is unpatriotic and anti-government and, of course against "our sacred American Way of Life."

The American Way of Life is not this corrupt, it is not this irresponsible. It does not depend on urban sprawl or even NASCAR. Our government has not always lied to us like this much. Corrupt public officials have been sent to prison. The government did not fall. In fact, it got better. But, government around here is beginning to look like a pork barrel full of bad apples.

Now these same elected officials and "planners," who have profited from the boom, expect the people to believe they can "reform"? What contempt they have for the public they have injured on behalf of a small group of finance, insurance and real estate special interests in these northern San Joaquin Valley counties.

Is it deserved? Perhaps. Even now, groups of the usual suspects representing the usual groups of official citizens, refuse to read documents and continue to allow themselves to be flattered by politicians and planners that meeting and talking makes all the difference, when in fact it has never made any difference in land-use planning around here. These are the professional citizens who live in mortal fear that if they get close enough to "the curve" waves will appear. In this, they are abetted every step of the way by the McClatchy Chain. How can a story involving a policy on commercial development fees to be submitted to a city council five of seven of whose members have real estate licenses be reported with a straight face?

This Merced story looks like a pretty, fallen cottonwood leaf floating on a dairy lagoon. There is not one word about the employment commercial development would bring to a city where unemployment is again rising. In the Modesto story, at least the reader can catch the scent of fear and aggression in the general air.

Badlands editorial board
---------------

9-7-07
Merced Sun-Star
Developer perks may be on the chopping block...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13964798p-14524813c.html

Take your handout requests elsewhere.
That's the message the Merced City Council could soon send to builders if it approves a new policy banning discounts on commercial development fees.
The Planning Commission approved the policy Wednesday night; the City Council is scheduled to consider it Sept. 17.
The policy would "make it clear that the city is not inclined to entertain requests for financial incentives for commercial development and ... refrains from negotiating impact fees on an individual basis."
In other words, no more special deals, discounts, breaks or rebates.

Modesto Bee
Toss book on growth, report urges...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/61359.html

Study would put planning in state lawmakers' hands.
California's air would be cleaner if city and county leaders would stop making bad decisions on where to build houses and stores, according to a new state report.
Poor development decisions also contribute to global warming, according to the California Energy Commission's study.
"The Role of Land Use in Meeting California's Energy and Climate Change Goals" makes the extraordinary recommendation that legislators mandate regional growth plans that could be used to create a statewide growth plan.
That could mean stripping land-use decisions from tunnel-visioned city and county leaders who would lose one of their most important powers.
"There must be a concentrated and collaborative process to identify where, and in what way, long-term growth should and should not occur in the state," the staff report reads. The document also urges new studies on how tax laws facilitate lousy planning.
Proposition 13, embraced by California voters in 1978, holds down property taxes but inadvertently promotes sprawl, the report found.
The same decision-makers during the past three decades introduced the phenomenon of long commutes by providing inexpensive housing far from jobs, according to the report.
Study sounds familiar theme
Carol Whiteside, president of the Modesto-based Great Valley Center, said leaders can craft "back to the future" plans by regularly calling for grocery stores, for instance, within new housing projects. Children chauffeured to school should have the option of walking, she said.
"In many ways, this requires a change of culture," Whiteside said. "A lot of people grew up that way. It's back to the future."
The report is among several technical documents to be compiled in the 2007 Integrated En-ergy Policy Report, scheduled for review in November by en-ergy commissioners. They would send it on to legislators and Gov. Schwarzenegger, who would issue a response within three months. The report grew out of a 2005 Schwarzenegger edict and last year's Assembly Bill 32, both of which target emissions reduction.

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Hun meets environmental Typhoid Mary

Submitted: Sep 05, 2007

The Hun Our Governor panicked a few weeks back when a bunch of young activists did some demonstrating in front of the Fresno offices of the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Control Board, which had just decided to forestall pollution cleanup, accept the worst designation of air quality the federal government has to offer until 2023, to keep its viability with the Federal Highway Authority.
"Rooftops bring retail," goes the mantrum of local planners. "And we pray to the Lord they also bring highway funds," they whisper. Meanwhile, rooftops bring increases in air pollution in our valley with its inversion layer.
The Hun wants to make the history books for being environmentally sensitive and has done some work to that end. But, Valley residents were making themselves heard that the state and regional air quality boards are a disgrace to government and a blemish on the Hun's immaculate image.
He reacted. He tossed out the head of the state air board and hired Mary Nichols, always described as a veteran environmental lawyer and state and federal environmental "leader." Now, we find that Nichols is invested up to her neck in energy stocks, beginning with the largest private coal company in the world and the largest petroleum company in the state. It made a good press release last month. "The Hun does something..."
Now, his hometown newspaper has done some digging and found Nichols' portfolio and its a doozy, if you're into conflicts of interest and perception of corruption.
Environmental lawyer? Whose side was she on?
Environmental leader? As Gov. Gray Davis' resources secretary, she fast-tracked the largest public development at the time in the state, UC Merced, past every mere legal hurdle in its way, and the mess she made has not yet been sorted out. Evidently she knew the law, as a "veteran environmental lawyer," and she clearly broke it in a number of instances surrounding UC Merced. So, whose side was she on?
But the Hun looked down from his cigar porch at the Capitol and said: "Democrat, woman, environmentalist!" nodded once and it was done. It makes him look like a dolt, and he isn't quite that.
So, who on his staff recommended Nichols? Who on his staff knew Nichols, recommended Nichols and either ignored her investments or felt it would be just too tacky to check?
The Hun ought to look down from his porch and give that one the thumb, because whoever that was made a monkey out of him.
There are issues in California that boggle the mind and the term-limited state Legislature has made them all worse. But, this one was relatively simple. The Hun blew it like the political rookie he remains.
He can dump Nichols or stonewall, denying that the mere public perception of conflict of interest really doesn't matter because all state officials maintain the highest ethical standards.
A mere member of the public might imagine the officials meet at their designated watering holes, distressed, and wonder why the public does not trust them. In fact, some will snigger at the Hun's political distress; others will say he must remain strong against the venal press "exaggerating" Nichols' portfolio; some will talk about descending real estate values; and most will talk about the trips they are going to take, because they've all got aces down in the hole.
Bill Hatch
--------------------------

9-05-07
Los Angeles Times
A cloud around the state's air chief...Richard Nemec
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-nemec5sep05,1,2137460.story
...Mary Nichols, a veteran environmental lawyer and federal and state environmental leader, with financial ties that may raise more than a few eyebrows. She holds considerable stock in companies -- such as Chevron Corp. and coal giant Peabody Energy Corp. -- that historically have sat at opposite sides of the table from environmentalists....doubly troubling because Nichols has been appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to head the California Air Resources Board... investments in such corporations raise questions about possible conflicts of interest and also about her credibility as a state official who often must make tough decisions against those industries. With a mandate to implement the state's precedent-setting global warming solutions legislation, the Air Resources Board deals with many of the companies in which Nichols holds large chunks of stock. The friendly Democrat-controlled state Senate should not shrink from asking her about these holdings during her confirmation hearing this month. ...the 84-company portfolio that she and her husband hold includes 13 energy-related firms, one of which is Peabody, the world's largest private-sector coal provider. The Air Resources Board's major focus for the future will be on global warming. The burning of coal is considered to be a major source of the problem. So how can the board's chairwoman hold stock in a huge coal company without giving, at minimum, the perception of a conflict of interest? Nichols's financial report also noted that she holds from $100,000 to $1 million in stock in Chevron, an oil and gas company that has substantial dealings with the Air Resources Board and other parts of state government. ...state senators need to find out how long Nichols has had financial ties to major companies that fall under her new regulatory jurisdiction. In addition, the extensiveness of her portfolio -- particularly among global energy firms -- raises some questions about her priorities at this stage of her career. Nichols' defenders say she has "balanced" her portfolio with green investments, but the commission's documentation doesn't support this contention. Would we typically expect the head of the Air Resources Board to hold interests worth from $10,000 to $100,000 each in Peabody, or Edison International, Southwest Gas Corp., BP,Suncor Energy, Royal Dutch Shell, Northern Border Partners, a natural gas pipeline or Chevron? Together with huge chemical and mining companies in her portfolio, it is the breadth and depth of Nichols' financial interests that is troubling.

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Citizens for Intelligent Growth town-hall meeting

Submitted: Sep 04, 2007

RAPID URBAN GROWTH WILL REQUIRE RAPIDLY WIDENED STREETS. IS YOUR LIVING ROOM SAFE? FOUR AND SIX LANE EXPANSIONS ARE PART OF THE MASTER PLAN OF THE CITY OF LIVINGSTON AND WILL BE ONE OF THE KEY TOPICS WHEN CITIZENS FOR INTELLIGENT GROWTH HOSTS AN INFORMATIVE TOWN HALL MEETING SEPTEMBER SIXTH AT THE VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS HALL IN LIVINGSTON. FARMLAND PRESERVATION, WASTEWATER ISSUES AND AVAILABILITY OF GROUND WATER WILL ALSO BE DISCUSSED. FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT JIM ALVERNAZ AT 394-3337.

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The Pomboza, now an Agency

Submitted: Aug 26, 2007

They're still at it! The inseparable couple of wannabe Endangered Species Act
extirpators, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, and former Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy (reborn as a lobbyist) have teamed up on a scheme to defeat an evil plot by the federal government to make San Joaquin County homeowners living in flood plains pay flood insurance. The Pomboza has so far obstructed updates of FEMA flood-plain maps but time in running out. It is very hard to tell from the stingy reports on this plan what the deal really is, but it seems to be something like this: municipalities
along the river and developers will put up funding for levee work and hope the feds will generously match the money.

On August 3, the Stockton Record editorialized that, although as chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo did exactly nothing for Delta levees after the Jones Island break and after Katrina, as a lobbyist, he is proposing a win-win, public-private partnership called Central Valley Resources Agency to lobby for federal flood funds and, one imagines, gut the FEMA flood plain maps, at least in San Joaquin County. Pombo has already signed lobbying contracts with Stockton and Manteca but was rebuffed recently by his hometown city council in Tracy.

It seems like a strange way to run a government in the face of a potential problem that could endanger the drinking water supplies for 23 million people, but levees, as has been noted, are strange jurisdictional creatures, mostly private, so perhaps it is the only way the Pomboza can proceed. The state has expressed itself as tired of the idea that it must pay for flood damage along the Delta as the result of legislation brought to life by the artful state Capitol management of developer lobbyists.

The area we call Pombozastan is but a province -- including all its local governments -- of a larger win-win, public-private partnership designated in 2005 by the Hun, our governor, as the Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. Stretching through interlocking watersheds from the San Joaquin Delta to the Kern River, encompassing subdivisions on flood plains in Stockton to the immense prison/megadairy complex of Kings and Kern counties, it ain't no ecotopia. It's got the worst air quality in the nation and it is the Number One target in California for urban growth. It remains the most productive farming valley in the US, probably in the world, but agriculture's days are numbered in the San Joaquin Valley. We are calling it today the dual monarchy of GrupeSpanopolis and the Fresno Catastrophe, an internal empire of developers who control all levels of its government. the Pomboza is merely its northern-most province.

The Record reports today, Congressman Cardoza is calling for a "regional group to tackle levee problems." Cardoza was sworn into his seat in the state Assembly when a levee break had put about half his district under water in early 1997.

Now let brave souls make wild surmises: this Central Valley Resources Agency will find its way into the Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley plan because its co-chairman is Fritz Grupe, Stockton's largest developer. Due to the essentially private nature of this "agency," the public probably won't see much of the Pomboza Plan before it is sprung as part of the Valley partnership. We'd probably have to bribe a little bird to monitor the Hun's famous Cigar Porch to get an accurate report of the doings of the Central Valley Resources Agency.

The remorselessly consistent Pombo, has left the "Natural" out of his agency's title. But's he's happy he's chairman of a new Resource Agency. Now an employee of a powerful Western lobbying group, Portland-based Pac/West, flaks for our beloved Northwest timber interests, in alliance with the cutting edge of modern agribusiness thinking on private property rights, Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, and funded by developers, the Pomboza agency would appear to be omnipotent. The people who actually live here now would appear to have about the same chance for decent quality of life as a Chinook salmon smolt or a Delta smelt.

Pombo was defeated for reelection to his eighth term by the present Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton. McNerney, the soul of political ambition and yet as timid as a "cautious twerp" of the sort manufactured en masse by the state and national environmental groups that defeated Pombo, is absent from debate on the formation of the Central Valley Resources Agency, although he represents at least as much Valley flood plain as Cardoza does. One imagines the conversation:

"But Dennis, I need some press on water issues in my own district."
To which Cardoza replies with one name: "Andal," McNerney's probable opponent in 2008, a former state Assemblyman, state Franchise Tax Board member and developer in Cardoza's district.

McNerney sneaks off over the Altamont to his stronghold in Bay Area suburbia, far from those tacky Delta water wars. Perhaps he is being advised to do so by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-SF, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA (SF). Who knows what their developer husbands are invested in around here? Too bad, because the people need a voice, which they ain't going to get with either end of the win-win, public-private beast we call The Pomboza Agency and its owners and trainers.

We hope to be surprised by sudden lurches of political evolution not yet in evidence. Meanwhile,the public is in a theological pickle: to pray for rain for drinking and irrigation water, or to pray for continued drought so the levees don't break -- that is the question.

Badlands Journal editorial board
------------------------

8-24-07
Dozens hash out levee accreditation...The Record

http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070824/A_NEWS/70823013
Dozens of local, state and federal officials met Thursday to hash out a levee
accreditation process that could end with thousands of residents forced to pay flood insurance as soon as 2009. San Joaquin County officials say they're being required by the federal government to make levee improvements that have not been defined and that they haven't been given enough direction from FEMA or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, asked cities and counties if they'd like to form a regional group to tackle levee problems. Cardoza recently visited New Orleans and called Thursday's meeting to give all the parties a better understanding of the remapping
process.

8-3-07
The voice of Pombo...Editorial

http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070803/A_OPINION01/708030308/-1/A_OPINION
Finding a common voice among San Joaquin County officials and residents regarding flood protection is common sense. Even if they're a decade or more behind Sacramento County, Stockton officials have done the right thing by pledging $100,000 in startup funding for just such an endeavor. It's very ironic they would hire former Rep. Richard Pombo, the Republican from Tracy, to help. Pombo spent 14 years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he had an ideal platform from which to encourage and support that kind of unity. He couldn't formally lead it, but he had every opportunity to help persuade county and city leaders to establish a public-private collaboration. Pombo - who had become chairman of the House Resources Committee - had other priorities. Now he works for Pac/West Communications, an Oregon-based business that has been commissioned to set up a mechanism for lobbying state and federal officials for flood-protection funds. Now, uniting the county's leaders is a priority in Pombo's new job. This public-private partnership, to be known as the Central Valley Resources Agency, still is in the formative stages. Pombo will know who the key decision-makers are in Washington, D.C. He probably will prove to be an effective advocate.

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Work in progress

Submitted: Aug 12, 2007

I was recently asked to produce a bibliography of "essential books" on the San Joaquin Valley.

Argh!

A dozen favorites leapt to mind; a few days later a dozen more; and the pleasant task began to turn into a real project destined for certain failure and remorse. It turns out not to be so easy to remember the books of a lifetime and each dive into the Internet provides more that look very useful but I haven't had time to read yet.

When one gets to a certain age it becomes difficult to remember the heroes because they are all gone and it is harder to recall that I met some of them a time or two, here and there -- for example, Fred Ross, a slim, serious man, perpetually moving purposefully around the Delano headquarters of the UFWOC; the wise, friendly Larry Itliong; or Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel on the phone correcting the spelling of her name in an article I'd written; or the voice of Art Coelho, poet and publisher of our Valley voices, from Montana, talking about burning up cowboy boots on big cats disking the west side and years wandering the West as an itinerant poet composing the best list of country poets in the West.

I remembered a call about a great farm labor leader in farmworkers rest home in Delano leading a seminar on Lenin to fellow octogenarians from the fields. We dreamed of that moment when those workers would confront St. Peter and demand to know: "What is to be done?"

I remember the face of the great, betrayed C. Al Green, director of the multi-racial AFL-CIO Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, a victim, like Chavez, of liberal perfidity that has resulted in indebted servitude in the fields today. All the political thieves of San Francisco have ever wanted from the Valley was agribusiness campaign cash, any way they could get it. "Migrants don't vote," they said. These days, it's "Illegal immigrants don't vote."

The longer I worked on it, the more holes I saw in the vista of written material on the San Joaquin Valley that stretched out before me like a vast battlefield of a war that has been going on since before the great Yojuts leader Estanislao defeated the young Lt. Mariano Vallejo. Looking at water rights issues today, sometimes it seems as if the ghosts of heroes and villains rising off the battlefield are pulling the strings of the living in a never-ending feud we call our "Valley way of life." Another way to look at it is that bioregions matter.

Every reader will find something missing in this bibliography. For example, I am frantically digging in book boxes for a good one on the Chinese in California I know I have somewhere but cannot remember the title of. Can't find it, have nothing on their enormous contribution except in various general histories like Bean's superb California: An Interpretive History.

Everyone I have talked to has added a book I've forgotten or never knew about.

So, this is a work in progress and I invite anyone to write us at billhatch@hotmail.com, gleefully to announce what a knucklehead I was to forget their favorite, indispensible books about the Valley.

Meanwhile, apologies to the people who originally requested the bibliography -- we'll let you know when it's done.

Bill Hatch, for the Badlands Journal editorial board

Non-fiction:

Garden of the Sun, Wallace Smith (the only history to date strictly about the SJV)
Handbook of the Yokuts Indians, Frank Latta
The Stanislaus Indian Wars, Thorne P. Gray
The Destruction of the California Indians, Robert F. Heizer
Saints or Oppressors: The Franciscan Missionaries of California; In The Missions of California: A Legacy of Genocide, Rupert and Jeannette Costa
Flooding the Courtrooms: Law and Water in the Far West, by Mary Catherine Miller (a legal biography of the Miller&Lux cattle company)
Empires in the Sun, Peter Wiley, Robert Gottlieb (development of power utilities in the West)
Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (DDT)
Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner
Death in the Marsh, Tom Harris (the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge ecological disaster caused by agricultural drainage containing heavy metals)
Fruits of Natural Advantage, Steven Stoll (the self-destructive economics of agribusiness)
The New California, Dan Walters
Works of Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange: Taylor was one of the first academics (UC Berkeley economist) to study farm labor, both Mexican and Dust Bowl immigrants; Lange's photographs of migrants stand alongside Walker Evans' work with James Agee as testimony to the destruction and poverty of the Depression
Factories in the Fields, Carey McWilliams
Farm workers and agri-business in California, 1947-1960, Ernesto Galarza
Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa, Jacques E. Levy
United Farm Workers website, history section http://www.ufw.org/_page.php?menu=research&inc=research_history.html
Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement, Craig Scharlin
Articles on 160-acre limitation by E. Phillip Leveen (have to do Google search for them, Leveen was the top spokesman for the 160-acre limitation for federal water during the last great war over it in the late 70s; an agricultural economist at the time, he was trained as an historian and gives the history of the whole federal water/land fraud in the Valley)
Articles by Don Villarejo, founder of the California Institute for Rural Studies, list available at http://donvillarejo.com/ (nearly 50 years of thought and research on the Valley balancing social, economic and environmental justice claims)
California Institute of Rural Studies publication catalogue http://www.cirsinc.org/pub/pubcat.htm
Isao Fujimoto, UC Davis emeritus, has published a number of studies on different aspects of the Central Valley -- from farm labor to environmental issues
The King Of California: JG Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire, by Mark Arax,Rick Wartzman
Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm, by David Mas Masumoto
BORDER CORRESPONDENT, Selected Writings, 1955-1970, Ruben Salazar
Mean Justice, by Ed Hume
California: An Interpretive History, Walton Bean
Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), www.ciw-online.org/ (the Florida front line of current farm-labor organizing)

Legal and administrative decisions and discussion: The San Joaquin Valley has produced major legal contests on an array of natural resource issues; these sources will lead the reader into essential topics in Valley history; others are dealt with in the non-fiction section

Public Trust Doctrine
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Mono Lake Decision
San Joaquin Raptor Wildlife Rescue Center
Monterery Accord decision: PCL v. DWR
Kesterson Wildlife Refuge
San Joaquin River Settlement
Rapanos Decision
CEQA decisions (law firm blogs like Abbott and Kinderman Land Use Law blog offer reviews of recent decisions: San Joaquin Raptor v. County of Merced, Woodward Park Homeowners Association, Inc. v. City of Fresno, Vineyard Area Citizens for Responsible Growth Inc. v City of Rancho Cordova, Hayward Area Planning Association v. City of Hayward, City of Marina v. Board of Trustees of California State University, etc.
Badlandsjournal.com provides current news on lawsuits, administrative decisions, essays and articles on resource law

Fiction, Poetry, Drama

Poetry of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel (the greatest Dust Bowl poet, still writing about her people until shortly before she died this April)
Grapes of Wrath, In Dubious Battle, by John Steinbeck
The Octopus, Frank Norris
The Ford, Mary Austin
Art Coehlo (Cuelho) and Seven Buffaloes Press
Gerald Haslam's works, short stories and Workin' Man's Blues (memoirs of youth in Oildale and the development of "Nashville West," Bakersfield.
Plays of Luis Valdez ("Zoot Suit," "La Bamba"). http://store.elteatrocampesino.com/books.html
Luis is the farmworkers' Bertold Brecht.
Highway 99: A Literary Journey through California's Great Central Valley, edited by Stan Yogi, Gayle Mak, and Patricia Wakida
Fat City, Leonard Gardner
--------

Additions since posting:

New Roots for Agriculture, Wes Jackson
Topsoil and Civilization, Vernon Gill Carter and Tom Dale
The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin

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