Everything about state Sen. Lois Wolk's career, from teaching high school, Davis City councilwoman and mayor, Yolo County supervisor, and assemblywoman before becoming senator expresses one overwhelming focu -- care; care for disadvantaged people, the sick, and the human and natural communities connected to the San Joaquin Delta. Even when under enormous, unfair and shameful attack from fellow politicians like our governor, the Hun, and state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, Twerp-Sacramento, she has responded with measured critique and a completely classy defense -- not of herself, but the communities and natural resources she represents.
Cal Poly Professor Robert Rutherford and UC Berkeley Journalism Professor Michael Pollan are critics of agribusiness.
When Sen. Wolk discovered that a backroom deal between the Hun, Steinberg, Westlands Water District and Metropolitan had rewritten a bill to create a Delta Conservancy she had authored, she withdrew her name from it.
When Harris Ranch, one of Westlands largest landholders, discovered that Pollan would speak at Cal Poly and that Rutherford was teaching a course called "Issues in Animal Agriculture and -- even worse -- offended a Harris corporate suit by "unsolicited" comments that he thought water should be withdrawn from Westlands, Harris has threatened not to contribute $500 million to Cal Poly.
Sen. Steinberg, Senate Pro Tem, stripped Wolk of most of her committee assignments for the new session. Cal Poly administrators changed the format of Pollan's speech and Rutherford not longer teaches the offending course on sustainable animal agriculture.
Steinberg's office claims Wolk "was not specifically targeted."
"Rutherford, who began teaching at Cal Poly in 1974, said he is nearing retirement and thought it best for another faculty member to take over the class."
Wolk has devoted her life to public service. She is one of the most articulate legislators in Sacramento. She has integrity. She is vitally concerned with her district. She's being punished for not permitting herself or her district, the Delta, to get rolled by special interests.
Rutherford's, Pollan's and Cal Poly's academic freedom was rolled.
These are the people that state legislatures and universities depend on. These are the ones that do their jobs sincerely, thoughtfully, with energy and critical thought. These are the ones that are still alive. You don't have to agree with their positions to recognize their public value.
They all got rolled by the same cabal: what Lloyd Carter has indelibly named the Hydraulic Brotherhood of the west side.
They can't govern. They can't teach. They can't farm without massive government subsidies. And even though they try to ruin the careers of their betters, they only do a sloppy job of it that exposes them for the sociopaths they are.
Badlands Journal editorial board
Wolk, Wiggins lose big in committee shake-up
By Torey Van Oot
Sen. Lois Wolk, wasn't shy about her disdain for the water package passed last fall -- or Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's role in crafting the agreement.
The Davis Democrat emerged from last week's reorganization of Senate committee rosters with just two of the seven committee assignments she previously held.
Wolk, who withdrew her authorship from a bill to create a Delta Conservancy when she learned it would be amended into provisions she opposed, criticized the process for passing the package as "incredibly awful," saying Westlands Water District and the Metropolitan Water District "wrote (the package) in private meetings, and then it emerged in the middle of the night."
Wolk, miffed that a peripheral canal could be built under the plan, also slammed Steinberg's role in the deal as "disturbing" and said he threw Northern California Democrats "under the bus."
When Steinberg released a list of slimmed-down committee memberships last week, Wolk retained the chairmanship of the Revenue and Taxation Committee and a spot on the Natural Resources and Water committee and picked up one assignment -- a seat on the Food and Agriculture Committee.
But she was stripped of seats on Appropriations, Budget and Fiscal Review, Health, Transportation and Housing and Local Government.
Steinberg spokeswoman Alicia Trost said Wolk was not specifically targeted in the committee reorganization.
"It's consistent with our overall goal of reducing workload so members can focus on specific issue areas," she said.
Another member who lost a significant number of seats was Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa. Wiggins, who has said she won't seek a second term amid reports of declining health, lost six assignments and her spot as chair of the Local Government Committee.#
Harris Ranch puts pressure on Cal Poly...Nick Wilson, San Luis Obispo Tribune
Last fall, Harris Ranch Beef Co. threatened to withdraw $500,000 in donations to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, after nationally known agribusiness critic Michael Pollan was invited to speak.
The university changed the format of Pollan's presentation to include a broader range of speakers, although it denied bowing to donor pressure.
Now, newly released documents show Harris Ranch also lobbied last fall to have a Cal Poly faculty member quit teaching a class he helped to develop in the 1990s called "Issues in Animal Agriculture."
As they had done with Pollan, Harris Ranch executives criticized Cal Poly professor Robert Rutherford for his views on sustainable farming, which the Harris Ranch officials consider unrealistic and anti-big business. The Selma-based company is one of the nation's largest beef processors.
Since last fall, Rutherford decided to quit teaching the spring class. He has been the course's primary teacher since its inception.
Rutherford said he is quitting the class voluntarily and wasn't pressured by anyone.
The course has covered topics such as global climate change, the livestock industry's use of public lands, animal rights, biotechnology and food safety.
Rutherford, who began teaching at Cal Poly in 1974, said he is nearing retirement and thought it best for another faculty member to take over the class.
Harris Ranch chairman David Wood and his assistant, Michael Smith -- who both studied animal science at Cal Poly -- say students need a balanced view of agriculture. Cal Poly officials say their program provides that.
Harris officials also are requesting a meeting with Cal Poly officials to help them to decide whether to fulfill their financial pledge. Wood pledged $150,000, and company owner John Harris pledged $350,000 toward Cal Poly's $5 million meat-processing center. The university intends to start construction on the facility in the spring.
Cal Poly officials are open to the session, but haven't found a convenient time given the busy schedules of those involved, according to the university's public affairs department.
Wood said in a phone interview that a broad-scale, alternative-farming business model -- including organic farming -- has a place in agriculture, but it can't "feed the world."
After a Sept. 14 phone conversation between Smith and Rutherford, Wood sent an e-mail to Cal Poly president Warren Baker seeking Rutherford's removal from teaching the course, according to university records The Tribune obtained through a California Public Records Act request.
Wood wrote in a Sept. 23 letter or e-mail that Rutherford said "grain-fed production systems were not sustainable, that corn should not be fed to cattle, and especially not in large-scale animal feeding systems."
"Mr. Rutherford then had the audacity to offer Mike [Smith] an entirely unsolicited opinion that water should have never been provided to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley," Wood wrote Baker. "As Harris Ranch operates one of the largest farms in this region, Mr. Rutherford implies Harris Ranch should not be farming."
Rutherford wrote in an e-mail to The Tribune that he understands businesses try to protect their interests.
Rutherford said he will continue teaching other courses, including sheep management and holistic management, which aims to encourage farming decisions that are "ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially just."