Agriculture

More benefits of a UC campus in the Valley

Submitted: Jun 01, 2006

The University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which UC manages, recently announced plans to build a level-4 bio-defense lab near Tracy. Level-4 labs store the most dangerous diseases known to man -- Ebola, dengue fever, Lassa fever and "other illnesses for which there are no known cures." (1)

Opposition to UC Davis establishing a level-4 lab in Davis was so strong -- including a unanimous vote against it by the Davis City Council -- that the federal government dropped plans to fund a $59-million National Biocontainment Laboratory there in September 2003. (2) Opponents argued that such a lab would be an attraction to terrorists and that UC doesn't have adequate security to obstruct them from spreading the lethal contents of a level-4 bio-defense lab to contaminate the surrounding community.

Proximity to a UC campus, former UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey never tired of repeating, creates an ambition to go to college. It also creates a fear of UC weapons-of-mass-destruction research and mistrust of the bland assurances of adequate security.

At least one Tracy city councilwoman, Irene D. Sundberg ... "noted that the city abuts Site 300 -- as the possible location for the second lab is known -- and new housing is planned nearby.

"'The (UC Regents) should be putting it in their backyard and not mine,' she said."

Whose backyard the most dangerous, incurable illnesses in the world should be stored, is the question being argued in federal court. Livermore-based Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment has appealed their case to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, after their district court suit to stop UC from locating the facility in Livermore. CARE argues that it is madness to locate such dangerous substances in such a heavily populated area, where, in case of accident, under certain wind conditions, plumes of deadly diseases could blow all over the Bay Area, where a number of regents live.

Meanwhile, enter the sheer magic of UC flak. The closer you get to weapons of mass destruction the more magical becomes the UC flak. UC is saying:

By contrast, researchers at the second (Tracy) lab would concentrate to a greater degree on natural- or terrorist-caused agricultural diseases, but might also have the authority to work on extremely virulent human diseases such as Ebola, research on which is not permitted in the lower-ranked lab.

UC mentions hoof-and-mouth disease, for example, keeping the door open for anthrax, Ebola, etc, of course.

The situation seems to be that if UC/Lawrence Livermore wins its appeals court case, the deadliest human diseases will be stored and studied in the Bay Area, the most densely (human) populated area in northern California, while hoof-and-mouth disease, for example, will be studied in the San Joaquin Valley, which contains the densest population of cows in the nation.

This is undoubtedly why our wise leaders invited UC to establish a campus in Merced. This is the kind of enlightened, scientific guidance we dumb farmers need down here in the Valley.

My personal favorite from the selection of UC flak was:

"Lawrence Livermore has a long history of safely and securely working with biological agents," Colston said. "There are hundreds of these facilities in the United States with proven track records."

This rises to the level of fabulously fatuous UC Flak. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported in 2002:

On March 14, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) detailed their research priorities for countering bioterrorism. Their broad goals include increased funding for treatment, diagnostics, and vaccines, as well as projects in applied immunology and genomics. These include studies on how pathogens affect humans as well as the genetics of biowarfare agents. [10] The NIH also plans to construct six to 10 new biosafety level-3 and-4 facilities to supplement the seven level-4 facilities that already exist or are nearing completion. In response, several other countries have announced plans to build their own high-containment facilities. This is a recipe for disaster. (3)

Here's the political dilemma. Suppose Councilwoman Sundberg is able to rally as many opponents to the establishment of a level-4 bio-defense lab on the outskirts of her town as citizens of Davis were able to muster to oppose a level-4 lab in the middle of their town on the UC Davis campus. It would seem, in view of several factors, that UC Merced would be the next logical step for UC to take to get the millions in federal grants.

As a university, UC Merced is floundering badly. It appears, according to intermittent word from students, to be operated like a genteel prison camp. Its course offerings are meager, some would say eccentrically high-tech. Its chancellor has just quit. Its vice chancellor spent most of her career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Its provost departed precipitously for University of Nevada Las Vegas two weeks ago. UC Merced has posted no information on its search for a new chancellor.

First, UC Merced was going to be the UC campus for all the Valley's Hispanics, who according to UC, wouldn't move away from home to go to college. Then it was going to be the environmental campus. This was the period of the Sierra Nevada Institute and the big Nature Conservancy easement program. In fact, due to vicissitudes in the careers of Gov. Gray Davis and Rep. Gary Condit, D-Ceres, UC was unable to fully complete the railroading of all local, state and federal environmental laws and regulations the campus violates, leaving the actual location of future phases of UC Merced up in the air. Lately, more of its flak has been about being a "bio-tech engine of growth."

Labeled both a "land deal" and a "boondoggle" in the state Capitol, so far UC Merced has produced nothing but a huge speculative real estate boom in eastern Merced County, from which various regents and legislators and their families have personally benefited, along with local landowners, developers and realtors. The huge amount of investment capital in the area is flooding in from elsewhere, the same elsewhere where the big profits will go.

What if Tracy develops some backbone? Now that so many Pombo Real Estate Ranches have been filled up with Bay Area-commuter, labor-camp subdivisions, Tracy shows more signs of regarding itself as a part of the Bay Area every day. They may well argue among themselves quite eloquently and persuasively that the best place for a level-4 bio-defense lab also studying hoof-and-mouth disease should be the second largest dairy county in the United States, Merced.

Whereas San Joaquin County supervisors and Tracy City Council members may choose to dodge their patriotic duty to accept a level-4 bio-defense lab, one has no doubt about the patriotism of Merced County supervisors on anything pertaining to UC Merced's memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

That only leaves the problem of providing the amenities to attract the top-notch scientists we need to study hoof-and-mouth disease, Ebola, Lassa fever and other fatal, incurable diseases in our neighborhood. Our local leaders, speaking with One Voice, have already taken a positive step in this direction -- improving the roads to UC Merced. Next Tuesday, our leaders invite one of the poorest counties in the state to vote for a sales tax increase -- the most regressive tax possible -- to raise transportation funds.

With leadership like this, Merced should get a level-4 bio-defense lab in less than a year. And what a boon it would be to our stay-at-home minorities, our cows, and our environment!

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

Notes:

(1) San Francisco Chronicle
Livermore considers bio-defense lab in Tracy. Proposed research site might store deadly human diseases...Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/BAGLSJ3NVT1.DTL&type=printable
The University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which are already pushing for federal court approval to store and study dangerous microbes at the Livermore lab, have expressed interest in building a second bio-defense lab near Tracy -- a lab that could experiment with even deadlier bugs...if approved and funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the 50,000-square-foot facility near Tracy could come with a ranking of "Biosafety Level Four," a status granted in the United States only to biological labs that store and analyze the world's scariest pathogens, both human and animal -- and lab officials refused to rule out the possibility that they'll study human diseases as well. The proposal for the second lab angered Tracy City Councilwoman Irene D. Sundberg, who noted that the city abuts Site 300 -- as the possible location for the second lab is known -- and new housing is planned nearby..."The (UC Regents) should be putting it in their backyard and not mine." UC officials expressed interest in the possibility of constructing the Tracy facility in a March 31 letter to Homeland Security. UC officials refused to release copies, explaining their letter is "confidential and proprietary" and releasing it might leak secrets to potential competitors for the project. "Lawrence Livermore has a long history of safely and securely working with biological agents," Colston said. "There are hundreds of these facilities in the United States with proven track records."

(2)http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/7356341p-8300182c.html
Huge blow for UCD's lab quest
University fails to win key federal funding.
By Pamela Martineau -- Bee Staff Writer
September 5, 2003

UC Davis' bid for a proposed biolab suffered a crushing setback Thursday when federal officials denied the university funding for a critical research consortium that would have operated out of its proposed facility.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services named eight institutions that will receive five-year grants to operate Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) where scientists would study infectious diseases and defenses against bioterrorist attacks. University of California, Davis, was not among the grant recipients ... Most opponents say they fear the lab could become the target of terrorists and could spread dangerous pathogens through the community through accidents or safety breaches. Marches and silent protests also have been staged to oppose the project ... Don Mooney, an attorney for the group Stop UCD Bio Lab Now, said he has read the NIH's request for proposals for the National Biocontainment Laboratory thoroughly and he believes UC Davis' loss of the Regional Center of Excellence "should be the end" of the biolab proposal. Davis City Councilman Mike Harrington agreed ...

(3)http://www.thebulletin.org/article.php?art_ofn=so02choffnes
Bioweapons: New labs, more terror?
By Eileen Choffnes
September/October 2002 pp. 28-32 (vol. 58, no. 05) © 2002 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

(4) http://www.counterpunch.com/zeese06012006.html
June 1, 2006
Return of the Petri Dish Warriors
A New Biowar Arms Race Begins in Maryland
By KEVIN ZEESE
... Expansion of Bio-Weapons Activity Will Make America, and the World, Less Safe

Not only is this a multi-billion dollar misuse of federal funds, but it will encourage our adversaries to develop similar programs, lead to the invention of new, infectious agents and increase the risk of diversion of U.S. made bio-weapons to our adversaries. If the government really want to increase the safety of Americans the U.S. would invest in the public health system, strengthen international controls and work to remove pathogens from the face of the earth, rather than creating new ones.

The only modern bio-weapons attack was the use of anthrax in letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy at the time the Patriot Act was being considered. There is no question the anthrax used in this attack was produced in the United States and came through Ft. Detrick. The type of anthrax used was the "Ames strain," with a concentration and dispersability of one trillion spores per gram--a technology that is only capable of production by U.S. scientists...

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Some reasons that could explain the Modesto Bee endorsement of Pombo (if stupidity is not the whole answer)

Submitted: May 31, 2006

In a quiet little editorial on May 18, the Modesto Bee endorsed Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, against Republican challenger, former Rep. Pete McCloskey.

The Bee says that although Pombo is a (as yet unindicted) crook, he "has been effective in many ways."
McCloskey, is described as a quixotic, 78-year-old renegade, an author of the Endangered Species Act angry over Pombo's attacks.

Pombo's gut-the ESA bills are co-authored by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, who represents most of the Modesto Bee distribution area. A practical political consideration not mentioned by the editorialists is that without Pombo's hip pocket to ride in, Cardoza would lose influence in the one-party rightwing House. Rather than register as a Republican, Cardoza is a rightwing Democrat, of use to the House rightwing leadership as "bipartisan" cover for Pombo's radical rightwing legislation and decisions in the Resource Committee.

The Bee notes that Pombo was elevated over more senior House Republicans to the chairmanship of the Resources Committee. The Bee fails to mention that Pombo was also elevated several months ago over more senior Republicans to become vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

These important offices, once earned through years of service to the still untermed House, are now doled out by the radically rightwing Republican leadership to bolster its strengths here, fight off a challenge there and especially to reward loyalty to their radical rightwing policies. Once, even under periods of Republican control, the Congress chose its committee leaders on the basis of seniority, encyclopedic knowledge of esoteric subjects like dairy pricing, cotton and rice subsidies (especially at the beginning of a new Farm Bill debate), ability to compromise and negotiate across the aisle, and perhaps, from time to time, even a for little integrity, civility and authenticity.

In Pombo's case, the radical rightwing Republican leadership of the House, whose guidance the Modesto Bee has followed slavishly, has made Pombo as powerful as it could have in two areas -- resources policy and farm policy -- at a time when north San Joaquin Valley special interests are intent on liquidating both natural resources and agricultural land for a huge speculative housing boom.

It is a moment when the Bee editorial board should have stood for a principle. In fact, the "should" word was used:

It is highly unlikely they will pick McCloskey over their homegrown congressman. And we don't think they should.

The Bee editorialists give no reason why 11th congressional district Republicans "should" choose Pombo, but here are a few I imagine might have persuaded the editorialists:

Get rid of the ESA so developers can build from the Altamont to Bakersfield without any interference from environmental law and regulation, despite the air quality disaster unfolding in the San Joaquin Valley;

Let the government buy up agricultural land at development prices;

Get rid of that 3-cent per hundredweight dairy tax proposed for the new Farm Bill;

Continue strong subsidy support for cotton and rice;

Keep the cabal of Pombo, Cardoza and Valley congressmen Radanovich, Nunes and Costa in control for continued pro-growth, anti-environmental, agribusiness-subsidy and racist policies;

Keep out McCloskey, an independent candidate with a proven record for courageous, principled political positions, who would be no tool for regional special interests;

If necessary (if Pombo is indicted before November), elect one of the Democratic candidates who are vying with each other to see who can be the biggest tool of special interests;

Neither Pombo or the Democrats would be votes to impeach the president; McCloskey has shown he has the courage to take that position if he decided it was the right thing to do.

The Modesto Bee sold its readers down the River of Stupid with this endorsement. It was cowardly, corrupt and dumb -- a combination of components in political policies we are finding more common by the day whenever our leaders speak.

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

Pombo best among GOP options, but he'll have explaining to do later

Last Updated: May 18, 2006, 04:23:03 AM PDT

With his close ties to disgraced Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, contributions from clients of admitted criminal Jack Abramoff, and his off-the-wall plan to sell national parks, Richard Pombo looks to be ripe for defeat in the 11th Congressional District.
We don't think so; not this time. None of Pombo's problems will matter to the majority of Republican voters in a district that includes most of San Joaquin and parts of Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties. In this primary, the district's Republican voters are unlikely to vote against their seven-term representative. After all, he is the same big business-friendly, hardball playing, conservative Republican they've been electing since 1992.

As a protegé of DeLay, Pombo was elevated over more senior members to the chair of the House Resources Committee. From that position, he has forged a valley coalition that includes Democrats and Republicans. While we often disagree with the direction he has taken the committee, he has been effective in many ways.

In the primary, Republicans must choose between Pombo and 78-year-old renegade Pete McCloskey (retired Tracy rancher Tom Benigno is a nonfactor). It is highly unlikely they will pick McCloskey over their homegrown congressman. And we don't think they should.

Angry over Pombo's attacks on the Endangered Species Act, of which McCloskey was co-author, Pombo's opponent moved into the district last year to give GOP voters an alternative. This has provided a loud and healthy airing of issues and a real campaign instead of the proforma exercise Pombo usually goes through to win re-election.

We admire McCloskey's quixotic quest, but we doubt that the district's Republicans are interested in an alternative. Besides, even a deeply flawed Pombo has more to offer the district than McCloskey.

It could be a different story in November. Then, a well-financed Democrat with distinctly differing views will present a clearer alternative. Then, Pombo will have to explain why 15 American Indian tribes, all with business before his House committee and some represented by Abramoff, have been so generous to him; why he has voted to protect oil companies' royalties and increase their profits; why he worked so hard to protect DeLay's power, and why he wanted to sell off pieces of15 national parks.

Republican voters should stick with Pombo — at least until they have a better alternative.

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Grassland Water District letter to county Board of Supervisors re: amendment policies during the General Plan update process

Submitted: May 14, 2006

The following letter was submitted by attorneys for the Grassland Water District and Grassland Resource Conservation District to the Merced County Board of Supervisors for its May 2 hearing on General Plan Amendment policies and procedures during the General Plan Update process. The letter has been transcribed from a facsimile. – Bill Hatch

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo
Attorneys at Law
1225 8th Street, Suite 550
Sacramento, California 95814-4810
Telephone: (916) 444-6201
Facsimile: (916) 444-6209
E-mail: omeserve@adamsbroadwell.com

May 1, 2006

VIA FACSIMILE AND U.S. MAIL

Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced, CA 95340

Re: General Plan Amendment Policies and Procedures During General Plan Update Process

Dear Chairperson Nelson and Members of the Board:

This firm represents the Grassland Water District and the Grassland Resource Conservation District (collectively, “GWD”). GWD has been following the County’s progress toward updating its General Plan, and the issue of how land use planning should proceed during the General Plan update process. At the Board’s April 11, 2006 meeting, a detailed discussion occurred regarding possible approaches to new project applications submitted during the General Plan Update process. Additional options for the Board’s consideration are included in the staff report for Item 55 on the Board’s April 2, 2006 agenda.

Generally, GWD supports actions by the Board that slow or halt the conversion of agricultural or open space lands located in the vicinity of GWD’s service are to urban and other uses. GWD supports a temporary moratorium on Community Specific Plan (“CSP”) adoptions during the General Plan Update process with respect to the Community of Volta, in particular (Option 3A). GWD also supports reasonable measures to slow or stop conversion of agricultural land during the General Plan update process (Option 3B). GWD also believes that the Board should not allow agricultural subdivision applications to be approved during the General Plan Update process. Such temporary measures are appropriate and would protect the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of the County while the important planning processes are completed. (See Gov. Code, Sec. 65858.)

Background Information

GWD contains over 60,000 acres of privately-owned and managed wetlands located in Merced County. GWD lands, in combination with state and federal refuges and other privately-held wetlands, comprise the approximately 230,000 acre Grassland Ecological Area (“GEA”) designated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”). These lands are managed as habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wildlife.

The wetlands of western Merced County are a critical component of the remaining Central Valley wetlands and constitute the most important waterfowl wintering area on the pacific Flyway. These wetlands are acknowledged by the Merced County General Plan to be highly valuable wildlife and vegetation habitats, and international treaties have recognized the habitat as a resource of international significance. The Convention on Wetlands (also known as the Ramsar Convention) recently designated the GEA as a “Wetland of International Importance”. The GEA is one of only four such sites in California, and twenty-two sites in the country.

A study commissioned by the Packard Foundation, the Great Valley Center and GWD in 2001 found that wetlands within the GEA provide substantial direct economic contributions to the local and regional economies. The GEA receives over 300,000 user visits per year for hunting, fishing and non-consumptive wildlife recreation. Recreational and other activities related to habitat values within the GEA contribute $41 million per year to the Merced County economy, and account for approximately 800 jobs. Agricultural lands within the GEA also account for approximately five percent (5%) of Merced County’s $1.45 billion agricultural economy.

Community Plans Should Not Be Adopted or Updated During the General Plan Update Process

GWD’s concerns relating to adoption and updates of CSPs stem primarily from a long-term concern about the small, unincorporated community of Volta. Located about four miles northwest of Los Banos, Volta is adjacent to GEA, the Volta Wildlife Management Area, and other agricultural lands that provide a buffer to these sensitive wetland areas. Encroachment of incompatible uses associated with CSPs into areas near protected wetland habitats undermines both the long-term viability of the GEA and the core habitat values GWD and other entities are working to protect.

In the 1970’s, Volta was designated by the County as a Specific Urban Development Plan (“SUDP”) area. (General Plan, at p. I-7.) As a small SUDP area, the limited residential and service commercial land uses are oriented toward meeting the needs of the local rural population. (General Plan, at p. I – 11.) No Community Specific Plan (“CSP”) has ever been adopted.

Volta has been the subject of numerous proposals for large-scale residential subdivisions and has long been of concern to state and federal resource management agencies, wetland and waterfowl advisory organizations, the Merced County Farm Bureau, the City of Los Banos, GWD and other public and private entities. GWD has submitted numerous comments on other proposed projects in and near Volta, including Wilkinson Ranch, Volterra, and most recently, the Areias subdivision. These projects, had they been implemented, would have been incompatible with the long-term protection of nearby ecologically sensitive areas and the existing rural character of the Volta community.

Given that it is adjacent to GEA resources, GWD supports the redesignation of Volta to an Agricultural Service Center (“ASC”), as suggested by the current General Plan. (General Plan, at pp. I-11, VII-27.) Primarily, this is because further development of Volta would create conflicts with existing agricultural and open space uses. (General Plan, at p. I-11.) According to the General Plan, redesignation to ASC is appropriate for areas with the following characteristics: (1) lacking a full range of services; (2) stable or declining populations; (3) isolated location; and (4) agricultural service orientation to existing land uses. (General Plan, at pp. VII-27 to 28.) Volta meets all of these criteria; thus, ASC is a more appropriate designation for this rural area.

The current SUDP designation for Volta is inappropriate and will lead to encroachment of incompatible land uses into a sensitive area not suited for urban development. Therefore, GWD believes that adoption of a temporary moratorium on CSP adoptions and updates during the General Plan Update process is appropriate.

Agricultural Subdivisions Should Not Proceed During the General Plan Update Process

GWD also recommends deferring General Plan amendments that facilitate conversion from agricultural to non-agricultural uses in and near the GEA. None of the current options under consideration by the Board directly address subdivision of agricultural land (“ag subdivisions”). While Option 3B would limit approval of General Plan amendments from agricultural to non-agricultural uses (which GWD generally supports where such subdivisions would impact GEA resources), it is not applicable to ag subdivisions, which do not typically involve a change in land use designation.

Converting land currently in use for farming or grazing to ranchettes is incompatible with the long-term viability of the biological resources of the GEA. Furthermore, agricultural activities around the GEA help buffer the area for incompatible urban uses. According to a recently released report by the American Farmland Trust, nineteen percent (19%) of all developed land in Merced County is outside of city spheres of influence.
(http://www.farmland.org/reports/futureisnow/merced3.html)
Additionally, fifty-nine percent (59%) of all development within the 1990 to 2000 time period occurred in High Quality Farmland. (Ibid.)

GWD has commented on numerous ag subdivisions over the years because of the grave danger fragmentation of viable farmland and grazing land poses to the GEA and other natural resource values. Though the “parcelization of large holdings is discouraged: under the current General Plan, numerous ag subdivisions continue to be approved. (Agricultural Chapter, Objective 2. B.) GWD encourages the Board to also include provisions in its General Plan update procedures to limit approval of ag subdivisions and to ultimately adopt long-term policies that would effectively prevent further fragmentation of farmland and open space in and around the GEA.

Conclusion

GWD is participating in an ad hoc advisory group formed to advise local entities on Grassland-related issues. This group is called the Grasslands Resources Regional Working Group (“GRRWG”), and includes representatives from GWD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Fish and Game and Ducks Unlimited. Through the GRRWG and individually, GWD will be participating in the General Plan update process to ensure that appropriate protections are implemented to protect the incredibly valuable wetland resources within the Merced County Grasslands. We look forward to participating in the County’s planned focus groups in the near future.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the information presented in this letter. Thank you for considering GWD’s perspective on these important land use planning issues.

Very truly yours,

Osha R. Meserve

cc: Robert Lewis
William Nicholson
Grassland Water District Board of Directors
Grassland Resource Conservation District Board of Directors
Don Marciochi

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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 …

| »

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.

| »

The Lagoon

Submitted: Apr 16, 2006

Representatives Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, and George Radanovich, Bankrupt Winemaker-Mariposa, are proposing a National Agricultural Science Center for Modesto and have introduced a bill in Congress for funding. They argue that because Modesto has produced more ag politicians since World War II than any other city in the US, Modesto deserves this national center.

In order to shore up his political standing, the one-party, rightwing House of Representatives leadership recently appointed Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, vice-chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Congress is debating a new, 5-year Farm Bill, Pete McCloskey is nailing Pombo’s corrupt hide to every Grange Hall and political club wall in the 11th Congressional District, and Pombo’s handlers have moved the cattle trailer that used to sit one field west of Tracy’s last subdivision that announced “Pombo’s Real Estate Farms.”

Pombo and Cardoza, known collectively by local farmers as the Pomboza, have made a career for themselves whipping up private property-rights rage against the federal Endangered Species Act. Cardoza and the rest of Merced County’s farm-loving political leadership graciously bestowed the Williamson Act on all unincorporated Merced County, claiming deceitfully that it was to be “mitigation for UC Merced.” Merced is the last major agricultural county in the state to get the Williamson Act, which is proving to be a boon for developers buying up ag land at reduced property taxes all over the county.

The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, so highly praised for being pioneers in Valley irrigation in the early years of the last century, every year convert their historic mission more and more to water and electric utilities to slurb development. The smaller Merced Irrigation District dreams the same dream.

The hypocrisy and greed for prestige, credit and honorifics displayed in this proposal is preposterous. Developers, aided every step of the way by local political leadership, are paving over north San Joaquin Valley agriculture as fast as the next “guidance package,” “programmatic EIR,” and quicker than a county planner can say “mitigated negative declaration.” In the process, they are creating an air pollution disaster that is already costing millions in lost production on the remaining agricultural land.

Yet, as a world-class laboratory for everything wrong with agribusiness, no place could be better suited than Modesto (if the former site of the Shell ag chemical lab in Ripon is not a contender). Here is a farming region with no more farms. There is no sense of distinct place left in this farming region. Nobody who farms this land can afford to love this land anymore. Although estates and mansions rise from some of these fields, there is little evidence of real care for real place left. Essentially, there are no more farms, only acreage. In this region you can’t hear the cows moo on the mega-dairy factories, the meadowlarks warble, or the sounds of tractors or crop dusters for the constant background roar of commuter traffic and the real estate adding machine in town, dinning the air with the Great Kah-Ching as it calculates the development value of each acre of farm and ranch land for future slurb.

What the Shrimp Slayer and the Bankrupt Winemaker are proposing is a science museum that will obscure the truth of the disaster of agribusiness even when it is all slurbed over. The McClatchy Chain is enthusiastic.

But the real reason Modesto deserves the center is because of the leadership roles county residents have had in state and national agriculture, Wenger said.

Richard Lyng and Anne Veneman served as U.S. agriculture secretaries as well as state agriculture secretaries, Wenger noted. Henry Voss, Clare Berryhill and Bill Lyons all served as state agriculture secretaries.

"No other county in the country has had that kind of leadership," Wenger said.

You bet. And if any other county had that kind of leadership, they might not have been quite as quick to brag about it. Lyng wasn’t a farmer, he was a rich, politically connected seed dealer. Veneman, daughter of a state legislator, gained the nickname “Mad Cow Annie” when, during her tenure as secretary of the USDA she managed almost to completely bury the mad cow disease story and any serious investigation of it, probably with health consequences it will take many years to realize. Voss and Berryhill were farmers, and -- if memory serves --gentlemen of proto-Pombo political orientation. Lyons failed to get the UC campus on the Mapes Ranch, which he inherited. So he bought 530 acres in the path of development of UC Merced. Asking for annexation to the City of Merced, he appeared before the city council in jeans and plaid shirt as a simple family farmer; but he had his suits handle the deal at the county Local Agency Formation Commission. Lyons is a developer, not a rancher, who bought his state ag secretary post fair and square with a huge fund-raising effort on behalf of Gray Davis’ campaign.

About the only thing the Badlands editorial staff could contribute to this monument to agricultural ruin in the San Joaquin Valley would be to suggest that outside the national center there should be a statue of a Holstein cow about two stories high. “Annie,” the blurb might read. “She lived one year. She made much milk and fast food. Before she died, she wasn’t quite herself.”

Talking it over further, the Badlands editorial staff came up with a counter proposal, a wax museum dedicated to the superb San Joaquin Valley agricultural political leadership from which agriculture has so greatly benefited. Although there are many possible names, the staff decided that, in the vernacular at least, it probably would be called simply, “The Lagoon.”

Pombo’s recently disappeared cattle trailer would be parked outside, proclaiming again, “Pombo Real Estate Farms.” (There is no more completely sound bitten mind in the Valley than the ol’ Buffalo Slayer’s.)

In the lobby, we see a superhuman sized figure -- one hand outstretched to receive, the other full of cash to bestow – a wax likeness of Tony “Honest Graft” Coelho.

Entering the darkened hall, at the first exhibit, backlit behind glass, the visitor would encounter the Mr. and Ms. UC Merced Gallery and would be plunged into the Science Motif, but in a folksy style. This would be an old-timey musical scene, as befits our agricultural heritage, subtitled, “One Voice for The Great Kah-Ching.” At the center of the ensemble would be a barbershop quartet labeled “The Bobbies” (Ayers, Carpenter, Rucker and Smith). The conductor would again be ol’ Honest Graft himself. Musicians would include former Rep. Gary Condit, Lover-Ceres, on fiddle, the Shrimp Slayer on bass, and former state Sen. Dick Monteith, Halfback-Modesto on guitar, conducted by Mike Lynch, with a buggy whip.

Motion-activated, the Bobbies would break into an original song in four-part harmony with one word: “Kah-Ching,” sung to the tune of Abba’s 1960’s hit, “Money.”

Beside them would be an all-woman choir, dressed in white robes, each with a golden halo. Although the wax here would be melted into an angelic blob, a few faces would shine out with holy grace: Supervisor Kathleen Crookham would be the most distinguishable, one hand tastefully strangling a fairy shrimp.

They would be accompanied on harp by Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the Cowgirl Chancellor herself. Her hat would be of that very, very special shade of royal blue issued to UC administration officials in lieu of the indictments for fraud and corruption they should receive. Her blouse would be of royal blue and golden stripes. Her authentic cowgirl vest would be made of bobcat fur. Her square-dance skirt of royal blue would be decorated with golden dollar signs interspersed with medical cadeusises. Her boots would be made of black bear-cub hide.

The landscape painted on the curved wall behind them would be filled with depictions of subdivisions completed and under construction with Phase One of the UC Merced campus, radioactively glowing on a low hill, like a Ronald Reagan holy city for all the right Americans and none of the rest of us. There would also be artistically rendered swollen creeks and our Mr. and Ms. UC Merceds would be standing knee deep in dirty water.

In the corner would be only a sign but no wax figure – “Our Governor, the Hun, Who Didn’t Come to the UC Merced Opening.”

The next exhibit would be strobe lit and flickering, but there would be enough intermittent light to make out the figure of former Gov. Gray Davis, an electrical plug in hand.

The third exhibit would be nothing but glass enclosed smoke. The sign would read, “Air Quality.” There would be a black box with a button on it, marked “High-Tech Fix.” When visitors push the button, they would hear the sound of a hospital ward of children coughing, but the smoke would not disappear. Sponsors of this exhibit would be the Gentlemen Start Your Engines Association, the Arkansas/China Trading Hong, the International Foundation for the Preservation of Dirty Diesel Engines, the Make Me SuperRich Developers Association, the Maybe Someday UC Merced Medical Institute for the Study of Childhood Respiratory Disease, the Alliance of Fully Indemnified San Joaquin Valley Local Land-Use Authorities, and the huge membership of the San Joaquin Valley We Don't Give and Damn and Can't Do Anything About It Anyway Society.

Another exhibit would be labeled “FALFA – We Are Always on the Winning Side.” This would be a single, monumental, lumpy piece of wax from which the faces of our prominent spokeswomen for agriculture and smart growth would vaguely emerge – Carol Whiteside, Holly King, Merced County Supervisor Diedre Kelsey, Diana Westmoreland Pedroza, etc.

Yet another exhibit, labeled “Almost the First President from Ceres and Family,” would show the interior of an ice cream franchise in an Arizona strip mall and the Condit family, capped and aproned, scooping ice cream to a group of unemployed construction workers.

The “42-Inch Sewer Trunk Line from Livingston” would be an artist’s rendering of a long line of Ranchwood earth-moving equipment digging and covering a ditch from the Livingston sewer plant to Stevinson, across county roads and a Merced Irrigation District canal. When visitors push a red button, marked “Merced County Planning Process,” the following message is played:

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!

“Village of Geneva Meets Planada Natives” would depict a touching scene in contemporary rural class relations. The above-mentioned Hostetler, top dog in the Geneva deal, in US Calvary officer drag, surrounded by assorted lesser developers in golf clothes, is seen presenting a snow-cone machine (marked “$600 or more”) to local officials of the unincorporated town of Planada, attired in buckskin and feathers with smiles painted on their faces.

Visitors seeking more information on this exhibit would push a button and hear a short dialogue.

Question: What do you get when you cross a school board with a sewer district board?

Answer: A piss poor receptacle for slush fund contributions! Or as Robert Frost might have opined: Something there is that doesn’t love a snow cone machine that sends a chilling public records act request through frozen coils and spills its donors’ check stubs in the sun, exposing accounting gaps big enough to squeeze through the whole ball of wax.

In “DC Does Deacons of Merced,” visitors observe a wax phallus representing male members of the Merced County unregistered, tax paid lobbyists of the “One Whine” crowd in Washington. After a hard day of pimping for federal highway funds for the UC Campus Parkway, they are artistically rendered priapic while ogling strippers, getting the real feel of Beltway politics.

“The Milking String Shakedown” abstractly represents the Valley dairy industry as a doleful, huge-headed Giant garter snake, its mouth full of money, coiled at the feet of the Pomboza, a one-headed creature with four hands reaching down to grab the cash. The huge head is composed of suits decorated with brands – United Western Dairymen, Hilmar Cheese, Gallo and assorted other mega-dairycrats. As the visitors’ eyes follow the snake back toward the tip of its tail, rubber boots begin faintly to emerge in the design, as back-to-front the entire industry is neatly packed and arranged according to the sizes of dairy herds. Pushing the informational button, visitors hear a simple statement: “No 3-cent per hundredweight tax!”

“The Lagoon: A Wax Museum of San Joaquin Valley Leadership” is a work in wax and in progress. However, we think our concept is sound and already more fully realized than its competitors, and we humbly petition the Pomboza for federal funding for this public, grassroots project.

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

Notes:

Ground broken on ag center bill...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12041403p-12797891c.html
The bill is in the hopper to authorize spending federal money for the proposed National Agricultural Science Center in Modesto. Cardoza, D-Merced is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa... ag center is proposed as an interactive, high-technology exhibit designed to explain to people of all ages where food comes from, and agriculture's relationship to the environment and to technology. "I believe it is important for the community to invest in this," Cardoza said. As for when federal money might become available, "It will take a little while," Cardoza said. Allocating new federal money for the center probably isn't realistic, he said. "We are going to have to find an existing pot of money," Cardoza said.

| »

Resistance to slurb grows in Merced County

Submitted: Apr 14, 2006
At their June 13 meeting, supervisors will take a vote on one of five options for how to handle developer-driven growth. Those options range from leaving the system as it is to enforcing a moratorium on any growth that requires changing the general plan. – Chris Collins, Merced Sun-Star, April 12, 2006

Although the general reader of the Merced Sun-Star would not have been able to figure it out, the supervisors had a proposal to vote on Tuesday and they continued the hearing on the issue in the face of determined, well-organized resistance. Local resistance is mounting against incomprehensible and destructive planning idiocy brought about by the arrival of UC Merced and its induced speculative growth boom. The particular idiocy the supervisors were discussing Tuesday is a scheme to simultaneously hire consultants to update the county General Plan – the countywide planning guidance package – while continuing to approve amendments to the existing, out-dated general plan. The latter amendments are developer-written planning guidance packages. This creates a race between county land-use planners trying to create policies and rules for the development of unincorporated, largely agricultural land, and private developers breaking existing and yet unformulated policies and rules for private profit by slurbing farm and ranch land.

It must be added that California planning idiocy is not unique to Merced. The City of Oakley approved a 4,000-unit development six feet below sea level and under a Delta levee, recently. Oakley is being sued by environmentalists. However, the collectively destructive behavior of California local land-use authorities makes their decisions no less idiotic. From a public viewpoint, one could say there is danger in numbers in this planning insanity. The sytem is completely broken from a public health and safety perspective, but it will keep on going on until the public has the guts to stand up against the developer bullies.

Everyone has their favorite examples of this process. Our favorite is the 42-inch sewer trunk line emanating from Livingston, headed for Stevinson without a speck of environmental review to blemish its perfect sheen of greed and political corruption between the City of Livingston, its benighted sewer plant beside the Merced River, a large, terribly influential local landowner and the most gonzo developer in the county. Another is the deep ripping of thousands of acres of seasonal pasture land near Le Grand full of vernal pools and tributary streams to navigable waters of the US done without any permitting or notification of state and federal resource agencies, which it was the obligation of the county to do.

Below is a letter to the county Board of Supervisors from attorney Marsha Burch, who has tried several environmental cases in recent years in Merced County, on the plan proposed to the supervisors by the county General Plan Steering Committee. The public has so far been unable, through a state Public Records Act request, to view documents that would explain who are the members of this committee or the minutes to its meetings.

Below Burch’s letter, we have included the Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process, which calls for a moratorium on growth not already permitted until the county General Plan is updated, and an end to the corrupt practice of developers paying local land-use authorities legal bills when the public sues the land-use authorities for rubber-stamping slurb.

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

April 11, 2006

Via Email and Facsimile (209.726-7977):
Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced, CA 95340

Re: Proposed General Plan Amendment Policy and Procedures During the General Plan Update Process – set for public hearing April 11, 2006, Item No. 53

Dear Supervisors:

This office, in conjunction with the Law Office of Donald B. Mooney, represents the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and other groups, and these comments supplement comments previously submitted regarding the above-referenced agenda item. Thank you for this opportunity to provide you with these comments. These comments are submitted just prior to the hearing in large part because our clients have been working to obtain documents relating to the above-referenced item, and have been entirely unsuccessful. The general plan steering committee is apparently meeting, having discussions and making recommendations, and our clients have been unable to obtain a single document regarding the dates or times of the meetings, nor have they been able to locate any minutes or written records of the meetings. The public has not had an opportunity to understand what choices are actually before the Board today. Additional information must be obtained in order to inform the public, and it would seem that the Board would also be interested in receiving all relevant information before making a decision on this important policy issue.

1. It is unclear what is before the Board

It is unclear whether the Board is being asked to select a policy from the four proposed by staff, or to approve the Guidance Packages that apparently triggered discussion of these policy issues. If the Board intends to approve any Guidance Package(s), the public has not received notice of that fact, and has not had an opportunity to comment. Further, if the Board intends to approve any application or request that would grant a right or entitlement, CEQA review has not been undertaken. It is difficult to comment on an agenda item so vague that it is impossible to determine exactly what is being proposed.

In addition to the confusion resulting from the agenda item itself, our clients have attempted to obtain documents relating to this item, including making Public Records Act Requests, and have not been able to get a single document. We do not have enough information at this time to make form an informed opinion on the subject, but it appears that the steering committee “meetings” may be in contravention of Brown Act requirements. This issue must be thoroughly considered in the light of day, and the public deserves the opportunity to understand, consider and comment upon the various options available to the County with respect to conducting a cost-effective and legally adequate update to the General Plan.

Finally, this item was continued from the February 14, 2006, meeting, and it would seem that additional information would have been gathered in order to inform your deliberations. There appears to be no staff report or additional information. We request that you continue this item in order to obtain the information you need to inform your decision, and to allow the public to receive information necessary to understand the issues.

2. Processing General Plan Amendments During the General Plan Update Process will Result in Staff and Consultants Working at Cross-Purposes

With respect to the substance of the policy issues, allowing privately funded general plan amendments to proceed during the time when County staff and consultants will be working on a comprehensive general plan update will result in the public purposes of the update process being contradicted by profit-driven efforts to amend the outdated General Plan before the update is completed. We urge you to fully support the General Plan update effort by protecting it from potentially contradictory plan amendment efforts.

At this time, we do not believe that the Board or the public has sufficient information to make a determination on this issue. In fact, this is one of the most complicated issues currently facing the County, and you have not even received a staff report. If the item before you today involves approval of specific applications, that has not been made clear, and necessary materials have not been available. If this truly is consideration of a policy to be adopted for use during the General Plan update process, adequate information regarding the number of projects in the pipeline that will be effected by this policy, and there has not been an honest evaluation of the negative impact the privately funded General Plan “update” will have on the County’s General Plan update. We urge you to continue this item, or adopt a policy that will protect the General Plan update process.

Very truly yours,

Marsha A. Burch
Attorney at Law
131 South Auburn Street
Grass Valley, CA 95945

cc: Clients
-------------------------------

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

We call for a moratorium on County General Plan amendments, variances, minor sub-divisions changes to existing projects, zoning changes, and annexations of unincorporated county land by municipal jurisdictions, MOU’s and developments with private interests and state agencies, until a new County general Plan is formulated by a fully authorized public process – and approved locally and by the appropriate state and federal agencies.

The continual process of piecemealing development through amendments, willfully ignoring the cumulative impacts to infrastructure and resources, for the benefit of a small cabal of public and private special interests, is illegal and reprehensible conduct on the by elected and appointed officials of local land-use authorities.

We also call for a permanent moratorium on indemnification of all local land-use jurisdictions by private and public-funded developers.

Indemnification is the widespread, corrupt practice in which developers agree to pay for all legal costs arising from lawsuits that may be brought against their projects approved by the land-use authority — city or county. Without having to answer to the public for the financial consequences of decisions made on behalf of special interests, local land-use authorities can be counted on to continue unimpeded their real policy: unmitigated sprawl, agricultural land and natural resource destruction, constant increases in utility rates, layering of school and transportation bonds on top of property taxes, and the steady erosion of the county’s infrastructure.

Adopted 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development Co.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club
Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge VernalPools.Org
California Native Plant Society
Stevinson Citizen’s Group
San Bruno Mountain Watch
San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of “Eco-Justice” — the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.

P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341
---------------------

Notes:

4-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
Some call for moratorium until general plan is updated...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12045253p-12801466c.html
Merced County's comprehensive "general plan" approved in 1995 to guide the county's development is outdated and practically useless; it's irresponsible to continue to use it to direct new growth in the county. But large developments are moving forward and more are on the way. The county is in the beginning phase of a three-year process to form a new general plan that will reflect the current population and level of development in the area...supervisors are trying to figure out how to handle development under the wings of the 11-year-old plan. Deidre Kelsey..."I'm disappointed it's not already completed. We have a general plan that doesn't reflect the realities of our county." O'Banion said roadblocks to new development would hurt the county. Nelson said "We know we need to preserve our prime farmland, but we already have protections in the general plan." Representatives from the building industry and the Merced County Chamber of Commerce don't want the system to change and oppose a moratorium on growth. At their June 13 meeting, supervisors will take a vote on one of five options for how to handle developer-driven growth... options range from leaving the system as it is to enforcing a moratorium on any growth that requires changing the general plan.

Environmental group sues to block below-sea-level housing tract...Patrick Hoge
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/04/12/BAG2PI7JVS1.DTL&hw=environment&sn=008&sc=545
Oakley's plan to allow 4,000 new homes on land that is behind levees and 6 feet below sea level. In the suit filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, the Greenbelt Alliance said Oakley failed to adequately consider the potential for levee failures or to require mitigations for numerous likely impacts of urban development on the Hotchkiss Tract in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The suit also says that urban storm water, which under the development plan would be captured and treated in artificial lakes, could contaminate drinking water supplies used by millions of Californians. Critics, including state officials, environmentalists and academics, say that urbanizing such floodplains is unwise. Developers are nevertheless pushing to build in numerous flood-prone areas around the state, with nearly 40,000 homes planned behind levees in the cities of Lathrop (San Joaquin County), Oakley and Stockton alone.

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Request for support

Submitted: Mar 24, 2006

Dear Stakeholders,

We would like to ask you to join a number of local and regional groups that have signed on to a statement calling for a moratorium for Merced County growth until the general plan is updated and a moratorium against the corrupt practice of legal indemnification.

This is not a local issue.

We welcome newcomers and outsiders, including state and national groups beyond Merced County, to sign on to this statement against the corrupt, incompetent development policies here that are devouring agricultural land and natural resources. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, author of bills to abolish the critical habitat designation and co-author with Rep. Richard Pombo of the Gut-the-ESA, has his home congressional office on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building. Show that you know that Merced's chaotic, unlawful growth is the result of his policies and the payoff for those policies. Take it to where he lives.

Among the three items attached is a voice message from a developer to a county supervisor that spells out the real Merced County planning policy better than any politician or planner has ever done. The next item is our request for your support. The final item is the Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning.

The deadline for signing on is April 3, 2006. Please feel free to forward this request for support to any other groups you want to share it with.

Don't let the Pomboza destroy national environmental law and regulation for the benefit of its local relatives and contributors!

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
P.O. Box 64
Merced, CA. 95341
cvsen@sbcglobal.net
cvsen@bigvalley.net

REQUEST FOR SUPPORT

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

Dear Stakeholders, March 23, 2006

Despite concerted opposition from the University of California, developers, elected and appointed public officials and planners, local citizen groups at a Merced County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Feb. 14 called for a moratorium on new development projects before a new county general plan is written. The groups also called for a moratorium on the corrupt practice of indemnification by public (UC) or private developers of local land-use authorities against legal costs arising from their approval of more urban sprawl in Merced County.

On March 6, Merced city schools officials echoed the call for a moratorium on growth that does not pay for itself – even for adequate public education for the arriving masses – before the Merced City Council.

3-7-06
Merced Sun-Star
Further city development opposed by school district...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11901831p-12671148c.html
Cries for a building moratorium Monday illustrate the failure of schools and developers to come to terms on impact fees for new homes...they want the council to apply the brakes to steamrolling development. In spite of protests from schools, the council unanimously voted to allow a 78-home development... City Attorney Greg Diaz said SB 50 ties the council's hands when it comes to requiring developments to pay school fees

The county supervisors tabled debate on a huge Ranchwood-proposed subdivision in Planada for two months when faced with this blunt, organized citizen opposition. Presumably, money will change hands and the Planning Department will be required to come up with new rhetoric before the project is reconsidered in April.

2-15-06
Merced Sun-Star
County unsure how to proceed with Planada homes proposal...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11809566p-12526323c.html
Planada - Valley developer John Sessions and two other property holders northwest of Planada want to take 1,400 acres of mostly farmland and turn it into a 4,700-home community. Local farmers and environmentalists showed up with written statements and poignant words deriding the development as a pave-over of prime farmland...chastised the Planada plan as "developer-driven growth."...wanted local communities -- instead of private developers -- to take the lead in mapping out how the county expands. There are already at least three other communities in the county where developers are taking the growth reins, county documents show. The committee said the housing development could potentially interfere with the county's 11-year-old general plan...block all large developments until the general plan is ironed out. None of the supervisors liked the idea of putting a "moratorium" on development, as some farmers and environmentalists suggested.

Presently, the way business is done in Merced County is well expressed by the following Feb. 3 telephone message from a developer to a supervisor:

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!
(Here audio version at: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11957936p-12722260c.html)

March 10th, 2006
Merced County Development Rodeo: Ranchwood Event
Badlandsjournal.com

March 14th, 2006
Beware the web you weave
Badlandsjournal.com

March 16th, 2006
Sun shines on government in Modesto, but not in Merced
Badlandsjournal.com

March 17th, 2006
Midnight government in Merced County
Badlandsjournal.com

Now is the time for other groups representing public concern over the corrupt pattern of growth in the county, stimulated by the arrival of the UC campus, to consider joining the original groups and signing on to the Coalition Statement on the Merced County Planning Process.
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Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

We call for a moratorium on County General Plan amendments, variances, minor sub-divisions changes to existing projects, zoning changes, and annexations of unincorporated county land by municipal jurisdictions, MOU’s and developments with private interests and state agencies, until a new County general Plan is formulated by a fully authorized public process – and approved locally and by the appropriate state and federal agencies.

The continual process of piecemealing development through amendments, willfully ignoring the cumulative impacts to infrastructure and resources, for the benefit of a small cabal of public and private special interests, is illegal and reprehensible conduct on the by elected and appointed officials of local land-use authorities.

We also call for a permanent moratorium on indemnification of all local land-use jurisdictions by private and public-funded developers.

Indemnification is the widespread, corrupt practice in which developers agree to pay for all legal costs arising from lawsuits that may be brought against their projects approved by the land-use authority -- city or county. Without having to answer to the public for the financial consequences of decisions made on behalf of special interests, local land-use authorities can be counted on to continue unimpeded their real policy: unmitigated sprawl, agricultural land and natural resource destruction, constant increases in utility rates, layering of school and transportation bonds on top of property taxes, and the steady erosion of the county's infrastructure.

Adopted 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development CoRP.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club

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CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.

P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341
------------------

For your group to sign on, just send back your organization’s name and contact person.

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341
cvsen@bigvalley.net
cvsen@sbcglobal.net

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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

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Interruption

Submitted: Feb 28, 2006

The Modesto version of the Denny Show sounds about the same as its Merced prototype (see article below): The congressman, local elitists and bureaucrats tell stories that comfort themselves in a setting designed to look like a meeting with the people which prevents the people from speaking directly to the great man without appearing to interrupt the steady flow of self-serving propaganda.

To interrupt:

The Valley needs to stop growing. Building should cease until people have had time to consider what this boom is doing, in which 20-30 percent of the houses are built for speculators.

We clearly need more agricultural land and natural habitat, not less. Selfishly, we need it for our health and survival – for better air and water and to do our part to stop global warming. At a higher level, natural resources have their own intrinsic values. We need to remember what we knew before we could conceive of the scale of destruction now engulfing the state: Nature has value for us if we can accept it.

Special interests and their politicians cannot accept it; slurbocracy is the result.

Politicians all repeat the lines of corporations, developers and big landowners, usually also major USDA subsidy farmers who pay what the people cannot afford to pay, the cost of political campaigns. The largest costs in campaigns are for media, principally for televisison. An equal and adequate amount of television should be made available for free to all candidates for public office in the United States, regardless of party. Media corporations work ceaselessly to keep that issue out of public consciousness, spending millions to lobby to erase the very thought of it. Politicians are afraid to liberate themselves from the domination of corporate media.

The only serious dialogue that occurs about the environment, at least in California, occurs either in court or under threat of court. Cardoza, a typical tool of the environmentally destructive faction, thinks, "There are organizations that are being funded solely by the lawsuits they file under the act … Everybody is suing. That is not governing properly."

Bipartisan window dressing in the all-Republican House of Representatives, Cardoza became the rear end of the Pomboza when he co-authored the Gut-the-Endangered Species Act with Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy. He has wormed his way up in the hierarchy of Democrat sycophants in the House, lately becoming the co-chair of communications for the Blue Dog Coalition. The Blue Dogs are a group of conservative Democrats, mainly from large USDA-subsidy districts, who, being dogs, vote mainly along with their Republican masters. Now that he is the top Blue Dog barker, he doesn’t have to listen to anyone else anymore except Pombo.

For the record, however, the last time Dennis Cardoza met two of the most active members of the environmental community in his district was on the night he received word he would be made chairman of the Rules Committee in the state Assembly. The meeting occurred in Simon’s Restaurant near the state Capitol. Cardoza came over to their table, flanked by a couple of new staff, and asked if the diners were going to oppose UC Merced. On hearing that this was likely, he gave the table his rump, announcing over his shoulder, “Then we will do battle.” He has not spoken a word to these people since, nor has his staff. That’s a competent politician at work?

The Shrimp Slayer would have you believe he genuinely can’t understand why some people in his district are willing to go to court to defend environmental law and regulation. They do it because it is an authentic public right and responsibility and the last and only means for the public to protect the environment against drastic destruction and to protect the Public Trust and the legal processes of government. For example, in 1985, US Fish & Wildlife biologists discovered evidence of massive selenium poisoning in Kesterson Wildlife Refuge, in the middle of the district Cardoza now represents. The campaign by politicians, the Bureau of Reclamation, water agencies (principally Westlands Water District), and farmers to suppress the hard scientific ground-truthing was so grotesque Congress passed an act to protect whistleblowers the following year.

The Shrimp Slayer would have you believe that because UC Merced brings its enormous (if tarnished) prestige to his district and the promise of great wealth to an already wealthy faction in his district, that it is categorically exempt from state and federal environmental law and regulation. When obstacles to this legal theory developed, the Shrimp Slayer introduced legislation to change national environmental law to prove his point. His point, at this juncture, remains unproven. That’s a competent politician at work?

His contention that people are making a living off environmental suits is false, at least in his district. But it raises another question: How much money does Cardoza’s campaign receive from special interests destroying the environment, environmental law and regulation by lawsuit, legislation and intimidation?

He complained recently, allegedly on behalf of two irrigation districts in his district, about the “secrecy” surrounding the confidential negotiations in the 18-year-old lawsuit on the flow of water into the San Joaquin River below the Friant Dam. For the last 50 years, the Friant-Kern Canal has taken about 90 percent of the water creating a dead river from Fresno County to the Delta.

We notice on Cardoza’s campaign website that he is not being honored by these two irrigation districts. However, in mid-March, he will be “saluted” by Tom Birmingham, CEO of Westlands Water District, and two large, very rich Westlands’ customers, Mark Borba (cotton), and John Harris (beef, vegetables and racehorses). Westlands, under Birmingham the Litigator’s reign, is probably the most litigious water agency in the nation as well as being the largest. During the last round of negotiations on Friant, Westlands sued each party, has filed numerous suits since, and are backing the limitation of the definition of wetlands under the Clean Water Act being currently heard in the US Supreme Court.

Whenever Cardoza mentions “balance,” it is hypocrisy and corporate money talking. He thinks lawsuits are just dandy if they are on behalf of large special interests. If they are against the large special interests, the Shrimp Slayer considers them bad governing.

Was it good governing when, as chairman of the state Assembly Agriculture Committee, he sold out the Williamson Act to Merced County as “mitigation for UC Merced”? Was his Select Committee on Tire Fires good governing? The only justice the victims of the Filbin tire fire got was what they sued for. They didn’t get it from Cardoza.

Is it good governing to squat on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building during the biggest building boom in county history carefully nurturing the development of UC Merced by circumventing the legal processes of land-use land, planning and environmental law and regulation. He started his career as one of the many Mr. UC Merceds in the state Legislature cooking up schemes to “fast track” UC – induced growth in the San Joaquin Valley.

But what’s interesting about the Shrimp Slayer’s Republican, conservative, corporate ass-kissing in a district that took home $335 million in farm subsidies and much more in water subsidies between 1995-2004, is how little there is to show for it. The Bush 2007 Farm Bill proposal will hurt cotton, dairy and rice as it stands.

Or is the Bush Farm Bill proposal merely a cynical, calculated shakedown of agriculture for political contributions? Will Blue Dogs hunkering under Massa’s table get some scraps?

Farming in the Valley is sick unto death. There is a frenzied sense in it now, a feeling that no amount of production can catch up with falling commodity prices and groundwater levels, and rising real estate prices. Today, it seems largely a corporate land deal with some meanwhile crops, trees, vines or cows. In the present economy of real estate speculation bubble and developer ownership of the state’s politicians, farming has lost its future, its creativity and its grip on reality. While the farmer can't plan, the developer plants.

Developers run the political economy of the state and they own the politicians as completely as the Railroad once owned them, before the Progressive Era. This financial domination of absolutely everything by the state’s top development corporations has created a situation in which a farmer can’t be a farmer or a politician a politician, a teacher a teacher, a doctor a doctor, even a newspaper reporter a reporter, and on and on – because “Development” won’t allow any professions or vocations to exist without its corrupting paws in their pockets or over their mouths. American government from city hall to Washington is in a coma. Business is about profit, loss and risk. It tries to maximize the former and eliminate the two other factors as best it can. Buying and destroying government regulation is a logical strategy. When political representatives will no longer protect the people and their natural resources against business, it’s time to find representatives who will.

Yes, you can blame politicians for being corrupt, venal and sycophants of power. You can blame them for selling out the general public, the Public Trust and the common good for a bone under the table. Their job is to defend the government so that it can defend the people against the periodic surges of corporate power that are well known features of capitalist economies and the periodic fantasies of world domination in our diseased dynastic political class. When politicians sell the government to the corporations and the autocrats, they sell their sworn duty, the honor of the office and the Constitution upon which we rest.

End interruption.

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

2-26-06
Modesto Bee
Cardoza criticizes port deal, Bush Drug plan. But environmentalists take him to task at public forum...Roger W. Hoskins
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11852249p-12584435c.html
Congressman Dennis Cardoza's traveling town meeting came to Modesto on Saturday and a round table of experts answered questions and offered a glimpse of the Central Valley's future...representatives from Caltrans, the state air quality board, Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour, Great Valley Director Carol Whiteside, a farmland preservation advocate and a pharmacist. Stanley Gainer of Keyes...Why can't we ask questions?" "It's supposed to be a town hall meeting, not a town control meeting." ...environmentalists interrupted Cardoza as he explained why he was part of the move to modify the Endangered Species Act. "There are organizations that are being funded solely by the lawsuits they file under the act," Cardoza said. "Everybody is suing. That is not governing properly." Merced College professor Eric Caine was skeptical..."I don't think a reform bill led by Richard Pombo (R-Tracy) will take into consideration enough science,"... Jeanni Farri of the Farmland Working Group..."The valley is the eighth wonder of the world (with its farm production)," she said. "We dare not pave it over." Whiteside..."Affordable housing may come as close as there is to an insoluble problem"...growth in the valley also was linked to water quality...conserving potable water should be a valley priority.

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