Valley blueprint for speculator exploitation and ecological disaster

Last week, the Great Valley Center held a special conference in Fresno, called the “Blueprint Summit,” where, according to conference propaganda, “citizens and leaders from throughout the San Joaquin Valley launched a regional effort to plan for the future of the region.”

There was clearly something being launched out of a backroom somewhere – probably the state Capitol. The majority of roughly 600 participants were staff of state and local government and representatives from the development industry, among a smattering of elected officials, and a few “citizens.” Audience launching activities consisted of listening to a number of impassioned harangues from speakers cued into the program, drawing a few lines on maps, and responding to a few cooked questionnaires.

The sample was fatally skewed and certainly not representative of citizens and leaders. It was representative primarily of paid government staff and growth-related industries.
In short, the poll it pretended to be was rigged. The GVC, now a partner of the University of California, Merced, should be called the UC/GVC. And because UC is involved, polite editorial opinion cannot admit the poll was rigged. UC Merced, although perceived by Valley economic elites as the Golden Egg Itself, still must be handled very gently for fear it could break.

Badlands, which is an honest journalism organization, doesn’t mind special interests standing up and telling the public what they want. But, Badlands insists they be honest enough to be moreorless believable. And they aren’t. It leads us to speculative that what they really want is absolutely against the public interest, the common good, and the Public Trust.

The purpose of the meeting seemed to be to convince the media that 600 members of the Valley UC/GVC-designated “leadership” decided emphatically that regional planning was obligatory to override the weak, corrupt, legally attackable planning processes of eight counties and their cities to find an acceptable political way for these jurisdictions to override existing legal environmental review processes.

Why would UC/GVC want to do that? First, because there is grant money in it. As people in the Valley are beginning to resist more development for public- health as well as quality-of-life reasons, developers are turning up the political and propaganda heat.

The scale of recent UC/GVC events has grown massive. They feature audiences in the hundreds, large central podiums winged with huge monitors magnifying in triplicate the face and gestures of every speaker. These gatherings give us the disturbing feeling of having wandered into the wrong hall, where there is some sort of faith rally taking place. Everything in the room and every word from the speakers’ lips is one great exhortation to believe.

The good news is we’re all dead and this life is but a dream. The bad news is that, instead of going to Heaven, we got stuck in a Sinclair Lewis novel.

Marjie Kirn, deputy executive director of the Merced County Association of Governments, actually led the group in a short pep rally:

“Give me an S. Give me a J. Give me a V. San Joaquin Valley, Rah!”

The “citizen” component of the crowd felt uncomfortable. Perhaps, however, the terms of UC/GVC grant required Kirn to lead this yell as a demonstration of how the audience was actually launching “a regional effort to plan for the future of the region,” instead of doing something useful like:

launching a regional moratorium on growth until air quality improves, until groundwater supplies and quality are at least stabilized, and until general plans are updated through the legal processes that mandate full citizen participation;

launching a regional moratorium on sales tax increases to fund growth-inducing transportation expansions; or

launching a regional moratorium on the illegal taking of protected wildlife habitat.

Give me a M-O-R-A-T-O-R-I-U-M! Rah!

The majority of the crowd, state and local government staff, were all for the program outlined by their superiors. It was a little creepy for the few “citizens” in the audience to see quite how determined to see how our “leaders” are leading us over a cliff, which GVC calls a bump in the road, and UC sees as an opportunity for medical research.

Two speeches stood out for the Badlands editorial staff: the first by the executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, the next by UC Merced Chancellor, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey.

The Farm Bureau man said California agriculture was headed for another round of concentration into fewer corporate hands. Then he took his gloves off. He wrote off any future for family farmers, except perhaps in a few “niches.” To the extent these niches would be organic, genetic pollution from the rising tide of genetically engineered crops will insure they are temporary, last-gasp niches – a prospect the did not dismay the Farm Bureau man. Below Fresno, they see the future as Big Dairy and perhaps, Big Cotton, if Boswell can figure out how to keep the subsidy without calling it a subsidy. Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties are bitter about the Friant decision that will take some water out of the Friant-Kern Canal to let the San Joaquin River flow in western Fresno County for the first time in 50 years. Agriculture, particularly in Tulare, will suffer somewhat. But family farming in Tulare to southern Kern County has been dying since the late 1940s. The Farm Bureau man assured us marketing orders are things of the past, neatly nullifying the efforts of several earlier generations of farm leaders and legislators to help stabilize smaller farms by this means of cooperative marketing.

It is likely Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, poised to leave his chairmanship of the House Resources Committee to become chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in a Farm Bill year, will find a way to take cotton and dairy money, convince the public agricultural subsidies are finished, and continue agricultural subsidies.

Valley agriculture is far too important to ever be left to the leadership of the Farm Bureau. Its future, as Farm Bureau members throughout the Valley daily sell off prime farmland to developers, is in fact the most important subject of all for the Valley non-farming public outside of air quality, the deteriorization of which is a direct result of selling off prime farmland for real estate development.

This is a clown character of the sort Luis Valdez used to present on flatbed trucks. On the el teatro campesino stage, he would have worn a big card saying “Corporate Agribusiness Clown” over his T-shirt and the workers would have laughed. But at UC/GVC nobody laughs, at least out loud, when the corporate agribusiness clown says his lines, because there is no form of political corruption – from a Pombo Farm Bill to a San Luis Drain from Kesterson to the Delta to a Peripheral Canal to the next new town on prime farmland on the Valley floor – in which this mob of true believers would not put their faith.

UC Merced Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey told the audience that the Valley needs to recapture the medical insurance dollars now leaking over the hill to Bay Area health facilities. To do that, we must back UC Merced’s campaign for a medical school, which will offer aspiring research physicians ample opportunity to study pediatric and geriatric respiratory disease as the speculative housing boom, in part inspired by UC Merced, continues to shoulder its way forward, ever year insuring that the San Joaquin Valley will attain and maintain its designation as the worse air pollution basin in the US. She emphasized that the Valley doesn’t have as many doctors as other regions of California. Familiar as some are with the chancellor’s statistics, we take that with a grain of salt. But, if it were true, it would point to the good sense of physicians to not take themselves and their families into an area so environmentally unhealthy as well as unremunerative.

She also discussed UC Merced plans for research and development of new solar technologies to make at least the campus the true environmentally friendly campus of the future.

From the beginning of the UC San Joaquin Valley land deal, the chancellor has emphasized that the Valley needed to train its children with a UC education so that they would come back and serve it. We do, in fact, export a lot of children to college who never find their way back, and the amenity of a UC could make a difference. But there seems to be an on-going neurosis at UC Merced about creating a curriculum that responds to the Valley. This medical school campaign is typical of a sort of frantic dithering, changing directions, unsteadiness, that tells at least critics of the project that although the regents and the administration and the politicians had a very clear idea about starting a speculative real estate boom around the campus, they’ve paid little or no attention to the education offered. Students, justifiably as near as one can tell, are not responding well. The reputation of UC Merced is not helped by announcements this winter and spring that the chancellor, the provost, one vice chancellor, the dean of social sciences, and the environmental compliance director, have all left.

This is not really the best example of “service to the Valley.” It is not the sort of instability the Valley respects or trusts, and it justifies every suspicion about this campus being nothing but a “boondoggle” and a “land deal.”

Now that UC Merced and the Great Valley Center have formed a partnership, we are being suffocated in a completely technocratic discussion, no more than a fig leaf over development deals to be done anyway, on topics of the most profound ethical importance. Each time one goes to these conferences, one hears participants grasping fragments of technological or financial information as if they were planks from a wrecked ship as we tread water in a deep, filthy sea.

In the interests of the “moral clarity” so highly prized by Valley true believers, let us suggest that is it immoral:

to create the worst air pollution basin in the US;

to concentrate Valley agriculture into as few corporate hands as possible;

for the UC Regents and a few landowners, investors and politicians to have stimulated this speculative real estate boom by siting a campus here;

for the UC Regents to encourage the gutting of the Endangered Species Act so that they can develop UC Merced on protected habitat;

to dry up the biggest river in the Valley for the benefit primarily of agribusiness.

to make this contribution to global warming;

that UC leadership consists in nothing more than an immortal corporate campaign for research funds; there is no intrinsic relationship between that research and the location of the campus;

to conduct weapons-of-mass-destruction research. UC cannot say that, because they are completely involved in it. The Valley can say it and must say it and act on the statement, if the Valley doesn’t want it going on in the backyard;

for the development industry to engage in the wholesale corruption of local, state and federal environmental law and regulation – designed to protect human health and natural resources.

Absurd as it sounds, there is no ethical content to the UC/GVC, official, “public,” “ground-up” debate about the future of the San Joaquin Valley. First, there is nothing “ground-up” about having a room stacked with government staffers and representatives from the development industry writing answers on questionnaires prepared by their own consultants. When discussing these matters publicly, as “leaders,” yhey babble like mechanical rabbits. They do not speak like human beings in search of values, as all human beings must be. We are behaving as if this speculative boom is a virtual moral vacation.

Carol Whiteside, founder and CEO of the Great Valley Center, concluded the conference with a warning that “leaders” will have to have “courage” to face these problems. Badlands agrees. Eventually, with the kinds of decisions being made today, the public is going to get very angry at the daily amoral “decision-making process,” the Old Valley Whine about how if you don’t approve the next subdivision the economy will fail, all the moribund, wrong slogans they use, and the wholesale destruction of the habitat for wildlife. People do not like to see their children and grandparents in asthmatic distress. People wonder where all the birds went. People resent their waterways being turned into agricultural sewers. It will take “courage” to stand up against rising resistance to go on approving subdivisions for one’s campaign contributors.

Whiteside’s exhortation to “courage” was intended for the majority of the audience who were local and state government staff. “Courage,” in this sense, means turning a blind eye to environmental devastation and deteriorating quality of life, and a deaf ear to members of the public who resist them.

Although there have been better and worse moments through the years, it must be said, overall that the UC/GVC is in the business of converting the charitable crumbs from corporate tables, in the form of its grants, to manipulate Valley public opinion into a state of timidity, anxiety and – above all – political impotence when perfectly good local, state and federal law stands ready to be used if only the public would have the courage to use it. If UC/GVC did anything else, they would not get those grants. It cannot do other than support more urbanization – a disastrous and unconscionable policy.

What ought to anger the Valley public is that, just at the moment when resistance to growth and environmental devastation is beginning to have some effect, the governor, elected officials, the Central Valley councils of government, CalTrans, the developers and UC/GVC are trying to change the rules. They justify this in terms of all the usual deal clichés: “win/win, public/private partnerships,” “consensus,” all managed by corporation-trained “value-free facilitators.” The public mind fogs over, as it is intended to fog over, and as it will continue to fog over as long as it expects help from anyone but itself and as long as it cringes before the possibility of political and legal conflict.

To save itself from a really wretched – perhaps unprecedented – ecological disaster with consequences far beyond its own discomfort, the Valley public needs to use existing law created for its protection right now. It also needs to simply oust from power cynical politicians. It needs to just ignore the UC/GVC and get on with the business of saving its communities, including developing economies to cope with ecological realities – one at a time.

D-O-N-T R-U-I-N O-U-R H-O-M-E! Rah!

Until the Valley begins to make decisions that are intelligent and ethical, it deserves the reputation it has:

a region so stupid and corrupt it elects representatives like Pombo and Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, Devin Nunes, Rightwing Babbler-Visalia, and George Radanovich, Bankrupt Winemaker-Mariposa;

permits a speculative real estate boom to occur on some of the finest farmland in the world;

allows subsidized corporate agribusiness to continue to squander public water;

allowed the west side to pollute groundwater, create an environmental disaster at Kesterson, and still be considering draining that toxic soup to the Delta;

allows the state to let the Delta levees disintegrate while developers build on flood plains;

does nothing to promote and protect family farming;

allows what may soon be a disastrous interruption in the Pacific Flyway for migratory waterfowl;

permits the destruction of its own environment;

prefers to seethe in resentment against the criticism it so justly deserves for having allowed the creation of an extremely unequal society on top of extremely rich land – for having preferred country clubs and homeless people to good small farms.

However, there was a saving grace to the UC/GVC conference, a special survey of the Central Valley by the Public Policy Institute of California. This opinion poll revealed the information that people in the Central Valley consider air pollution a big problem, in percentages that follow the amount of air pollution in their area – from 26 percent in the North Valley to 59 percent in the South Valley.

The most interesting section of the survey, and the most threatening to UC/GVC and its stacked audience, showed the following:

Seventy-three percent of all Valley adults favored “protecting the wetlands and rivers, and other environmentally sensitive areas, even it this means there will be less commercial and recreational development;”

Sixty-seven percent of Valley adults favored “restricting the development of housing on land that has a significant risk of flooding, even it this means there will be less housing available;”

Sixty-five percent favored “restricting urban development on farms and agricultural lands, even if this means there will be less housing available.”

These findings indicate there is a clear majority of public opinion against most of the decisions that many in the audience are making. The UC/GVC Blueprint Summit is part of a vast propaganda effort by developers and politicians to stay ahead of this growing negative public opinion.

This returns us to the Pomboza, that strange, congressional wannabe Endangered Species Act-destroying monster out of the North San Joaquin, Rep. Pombo in front, Rep. Cardoza behind. The Pomboza was created on the day last year when San Joaquin developer, Fritz Grupe, who is the vice chairman of the governor’s California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, had Pombo and Cardoza to a joint fundraiser with other developers at his Lodi ranch.

On Tuesday, Cardoza and Pombo split roughly $50,000 raised at a bipartisan fund-raiser sponsored by prominent developer Greenlaw “Fritz” Grupe. Grupe is active in both San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, with subdivisions underway in Modesto, Turlock, Hughson, Waterford and Stockton.

Grupe also favors the kind of collaborative work Cardoza and Pombo have done on the Endangered Species Act and other issues. While agreeing the joint fund-raiser held at the developer’s Lodi ranch was “rather unique,” Cardoza said it sent the right kind of signal.

“Frankly, if we cooperated more aggressively, we would all be better off,” Cardoza said … -- “Valley political bonds strong,” Oakland Tribune, April 1, 2005, Michael Doyle, Modesto Bee.

It sent a “signal” that politicians and the developers who own them are now “more aggressively” cooperating against the public opinion of those in the impacted political districts.

The “signal” sent by the fundraiser may have spurred the political efforts to create this partnership, certainly a “more aggressive” way for developers and politicians to cooperate.

But, because all that this more aggressive cooperation between politicians and developers can produce is a lower quality of life, which is beginning to impact voters to the point they are talking about it and becoming bolder by the month before local land-use authorities, what else becomes crystal clear to voters is that the so-called strong valley political bonds are in fact nothing but strong financial bonds between developers and politicians.

If more evidence is needed, consider the Pomboza’s attempt in recent days to make FEMA hold off publishing new flood-plain maps until after the election.

Bill Hatch

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 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

Governor knows Valley's needs...Our View
Arnold Schwarzenegger's big green bus rolled into Modesto on Thursday... Voters will decide whether to climb aboard the governor's "Protecting the California Dream" bus in November, when they choose between Schwarzenegger and Phil Angelides, who won the Democratic nomination in Tuesday's primary. But regardless of their political persuasion, Valley residents should know -- and be pleased -- that we have, for the first time in memory, a governor who is impressive in his interest in and knowledge of our region. It's refreshing to finally have a governor willing to use his political influence -- and in this case his celebrity power -- to advocate for the Valley.

Forum looks at valley issues...Garth Stapley
California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley - The valley's work force already suffers from lack of vocational training, several speakers said. Keith Boggs, senior management consultant for economic development in the Stanislaus County chief executive's office, described a dearth of "human infrastructure." The Modesto-based Great Valley Center is spearheading portions of the governor's partnership effort, including a review of growth policies that could lead to regional land-use recommendations. The Building Industry Association of Central California's Kevin Stone warned against taking growth control too far..."We propose that economic development in the Central Valley supersedes the interests of those who simply desire no change at all," he said. The partnership hopes to circulate a draft "strategic action proposal" in mid-September andpresent a final version to Schwarzenegger in November.
On the Web:

Merced Sun-Star
Hundreds help map Valley's blueprint...Russell Clemings, Fresno Bee
FRESNO -- Land use planning seminar...650 people attended the kickoff of a two-year effort to define what the San Joaquin Valley will look like 20 years from now...San Joaquin Valley Blueprint project will spend $2 million in state funds to plan for a population that is expected to double by 2040. By late 2007, the effort is expected to publish a set of goals for areas such as transportation, economic development, housing and environmental protection. Other products will include plans for better coordination of major infrastructure, such as highways, with local land use decisions, and a joint pool of data to analyze planning decisions and their effects. is likely to meet with skepticism if not resistance among local leaders reluctant to cede control over land use and related matters. Mark Baldassare, director of a newly released Public Policy Institute of California survey of 2,000 Valley residents, said the results showed widespread public support for regional planning to deal with issues such as air pollution, population growth and loss of farmland.

Modesto Bee
UC Merced plan for medical school must be a priority...Editorial
A medical school proposal by University of California at Merced represents the best opportunity for the San Joaquin Valley to get a medical education facility in a region that desperately needs doctors. This project is as important as any public-policy initiative in the valley, and it's time our community leaders give it the attention it deserves. The UC Merced proposal is a visionary plan that would leverage current medical facilities in the valley by using partnerships with regional health providers. It also would utilize the resources of sister campuses UC San Francisco and UC Davis. UC Merced said the intention is to attack the physician shortage in the valley, and have an emphasis on training physicians who are competent in multicultural health care and committed to serving the needs of the San Joaquin Valley. There's strong evidence that new physicians settle into practice near where they train. Having a medical school can help.

Stanislaus grappling with growth...Tim Moran
How can the county's cities and county government make sure there are enough homes, roads, sewers and water to accommodate them? How can they avoid the turf wars and other impediments to good planning that have marked development in the past? How can they preserve agriculture as an industry in the face of such growth? The county's board of supervisors and its cities' mayors met Wednesday to grapple with those issues...discussion dealt mostly with how to frame the solution. Land use attorney George Petrulakis said planning could start by identifying areas that shouldn't be developed. Another suggestion was a strategic investment plan to put limited public dollars into the roads, parks and sewers that will most effectively shape the county's growth.

Proposed half-cent road tax gains speed with Turlock's approval...Michael R. Shea
TURLOCK — The City Council backed a $1 billion countywide traffic plan. Voters likely will have their say on the tax in November's election. The Stanislaus County Council of Governments has proposed a half-cent sales tax increase that could bring $34 million a year over 30 years to pay for road improvements. But before the plan reaches the taxpayers it needs city, then county approval. Turlock joined Hughson, Riverbank, Patterson and Newman in voting in favor of the plan. The plan needs nods from five of the nine councils, representing more than 50 percent of the county's city-based population...consumers would pay 7.875 percent sales tax, up from 7.375 percent. The lion's share of the money would be dedicated to maintenance and improvement projects.

Fresno Bee
City seeks way around a land law...Tim Sheehan
VISALIA — City leaders hope to enable long-term conservation of prime farmland while also stemming the flow of local money to Sacramento. Officials are exploring a way for farmland owners who wish to develop their property to cancel conservation contracts by putting money toward the permanent preservation of equal acreage elsewhere near the city. The examination is being spurred by Mangano Homes, a Visalia development company planning a major project on 580 acres in northwest Visalia. 450 acres of the proposed Lowrey Ranch project is under Williamson Act. Bob Dowds, vice president of Mangano Homes, said his company hopes to take advantage of a process known as "1240 exchanges." In a 1240 exchange, instead of the cancellation fee going to the state, it would be used to purchase development rights on nearby farmland, creating a permanent "agricultural conservation easement."

Modesto Bee
Bridge plan spurs talk in Waterford...Adam Ashton
WATERFORD — The city's new growth plan could set it up for the construction of at least 1,300 homes, but so far, one proposed bridge is channeling the discussion on how fast the community should grow...bridge would connect older neighborhoods on Bentley Street to an area where Stockton-based Grupe Co. wants to build a 350-acre subdivision. Pattie's unrealistic to plan on linking a new subdivision to downtown. "There's going to be two towns." Mayor Charles Turner said he doesn't like the idea of a bridge crossing the canal. Turner backs limited growth in Waterford. Grupe helped pay for the general plan update that could allow its subdivision's construction. The plan is expected to be finished by the end of the year, and Grupe would then be able to pursue annexations for the Lake Pointe development.

Contra Costa Times
Council blasts UC proposal for campus projects...Martin Snapp
The Berkeley City Council reacted angrily Tuesday night to the University of California's draft environmental report for its Southeast Campus Integrated Projects plan. Planning Director Dan Marks delivered a blistering critique of the report that barely stopped short of accusing the university of bad faith. Among his complaints:
· Conclusions based on inadequate information: "The draft EIR continues to fail to provide sufficient information for adequate analysis,...
· Insufficient analysis of alternatives: "The city requested that the university not identify self-serving 'straw men' alternatives that were clearly infeasible or did not meet project objectives,"...
· Continuing lack of evidence to support that "Best Practices" mitigates impacts: "The university intends to rely on a series of so-called "continuing best practices" to mitigate the impact of the projects,"...
· Poor evaluation of seismic safety and traffic impacts:...
Mayor Tom Bates hinted that the city might not be as cooperative as before regarding town/gown projects, including the proposed multi-million dollar downtown hotel/convention center the city and university are developing together.

The Blockhead Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006
The newest “vision” for the San Joaquin Valley, according to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, which graced us with its prestigious presence last week in Merced, is composed of four elements:
· rapid urbanization;
· destruction of local, state and federal environmental law, regulation and resource-agency enforcement;
· demand for state and federal public funds to pay […]
Posted in Environment, State government, Growth

Grassland Water District letter to county Board of Supervisors re: amendment policies during the General Plan update process
Sunday, May 14th, 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
Posted in Environment, Federal government, Agriculture, Water, Growth,

Merced County
Below the tipping point
Wednesday, May 17th, 2006
This year’s Great Valley Center conference was unusually duplicitous, even by the Center’s relaxed standards. Its title, “At the tipping point,” contrasted to the presentations throughout the two days, creating a sense of cognitive dissonance attributable, no doubt, to the Center’s recent merger with the University of California.
The conference poster invited its viewers to look […]
Posted in Environment, University of California, San Joaquin Valley, Growth
What’s a county General Plan review steering committee, anyway?

Monday, May 15th, 2006
This letter was submitted to the Merced County Board of Supervisors for its May 2nd continued hearing on proposed General Plan Amendment policy and procedures during the General Plan Update process. The board decided that day, among several options presented by the General Plan Review Steering Committee, to continue business as usual. The representative for […]
Posted in Law, Merced County

Some things to think about on Measure A
Sunday, June 4th, 2006
City of Merced Measure C raised sales tax to 7.75%. With passage of Measure A, Merced City sales tax would be 8.25%. A half a cent less than the highest sales tax rates in the state. Sales taxes fall hardest […]
Posted in Environment, Public health and safety, Growth, Merced County, Public works, Economy


A flyer against the Merced County Transportation Tax Measure A appeared in the Merced Sun-Star Monday morning. We have included it below and attached it to this message.

We urge you to read and share these flyers with Merced County residents before the Primary Election on Tuesday, June 6.

We should not use a sales tax to raise money for transportation funds to benefit special interests because a sales tax has an unfair impact on lower-income residents. (1) Merced County ranks fifth from the bottom of California’s 58 counties in per capita income. (2)

Sincerely, Central Valley Safe Environment Network

Correction in CVSEN Sunday's emailer contained inaccurate information. The amount is 5 cents on $10.

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!

REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!

In 2002, the Citizens of Merced County VOTED DOWN the Measure M road-improvement tax. Merced County and its cities went right on approving thousands of new homes. This RECKLESS action is destroying hundreds of miles of our existing streets and roads because new development just doesn’t pay for itself.

Facts vs Claims on Measure A Tax

Measure A Claim: "We can be sure one thing won't go to Sacramento ... Every single dime of Measure A funds will stay right here in Merced County"

Fact: The Major funder behind Measure A is the California Alliance for Jobs, a consortium of statewide highway construction contractors and unions. We can be sure this additional sales tax will go here, there, and everywhere, including Sacramento.

Measure A Claim: "The state and federal governments cannot take one dime of Measure A funds"

Fact: Measure A is a matching fund gimmick to attract more than a billion dollars in state and federal highway funds that may arrive and be spent as state and federal government agencies decide. Your potholes are not on their lists. This is a make work scheme for statewide contractors and out- of- town union members.

Measure A Claim: "We're not betting the farm"

Fact: Measure A is certainly betting Merced County farms will be absorbed by urban growth. Even the Measure A “farm picture” appears to be out-of-state. Minnesota, perhaps?

Fact: Fresno County has had a transportation sales tax in place since 1986. Since that time, entire farming districts in Fresno County have been swallowed by urban sprawl. Fresno citizens are paying for development that does not pay for itself.

Fact: Measure A will induce Fresno-level sprawl, Fresno-level air pollution, Fresno-level asthma and Fresno-level political corruption investigations.

Fact: But even Fresno subjected its reauthorized transportation tax plan to public environmental review. Merced leadership wants you to pay the Measure A tax before they begin any public environmental review of the consequences of the sprawl these funds will induce.

Measure A Claim: "Projects include: Ensuring safer routes to school for local children"

Fact: The highest priority project Merced County leaders have is the Yellow Brick Beltway to UC Merced, connected to Highway 99 south of Merced and north of Atwater. There are less than a thousand UC Merced students and they come from all parts of California.

Measure A Claim: “using developer impact fees to supplement Measure A funds so that new growth pays its share of transportation costs”

Fact: Special interests want you to tax yourselves so they won’t have to pay for their impacts on your county. These special interests include: public developers like UC Merced and CalTrans; local, national and international homebuilders; highway construction companies and their unions; the statewide and international aggregate companies mining your rivers and creeks; your elected public officials and their staffs; and the local media.

Measure A Claim: "Citizen oversight: An independent taxpayer watchdog committee and annual third-party audits will ensure that Measure A funds are spent wisely"

Fact: Presently Merced County oversight is by ‘special interest’ only: This conversation between Ranchwood Homes owner and county supervisor Crookham shows how economic development really works in Merced.

Feb. 3, 2006: 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 is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County

Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.

Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.

Fox Hills - 907 units, Fox Hills Estates north 337 units, Fox Hills Estates, central- 1,356 units.

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes 420 acres. Del Valle, Gallo Ranchwood, 1,000acres,

Los Banos -, Ranchwood, 932 acres 323 units, Pinn Brothers, 34 units, Court of Fountains, 2.7 acres 95 units, Woodside Homes,

City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units,

Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,

Vista Del Lago, 442 units, Weaver Development, 920 units, Fahrens Creek II, -1,282 units,

Fahrens Creek North, 1,093 units, Hunt Family Annexation,

Planada - 4,400 units, Village of Geneva at Planada, Hostetler 1,390 acres.

Felix Torres Migrant Megaplex 127 units, Park Street Estates, 31.8 acres, 200 units.

San Luis Creek 629 units, F & S Investments, 180 acres.

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

Santa Nella - 8,250 units - Santa Nella Village west 881 units, 350 acres,

The Parkway, phase III, 146 acres - 138 units, Santa Nella Village, 40.7 acres - 544 units,

San Luis Ranch, phase II - 232 units, 312 acres - 182 acres, Arnaudo 1 &2

Stevinson - 3,500 units, Stevinson Ranch/Gallo Lakes Development - 1,700 units, 3,740 acres.

Winton - 50 units, 17 acres- Gertrude Estates, Mike Raymond, 18 acres - 142 units, Winn Ranch

Commercial Development

WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls ….and the list goes on!

What You Can Do:

Vote No on Measure A Tax
Demand to participate in General Plans and community plan update process
Support public statements advocating slow growth or no growth until General Plans and Community Plans are legally compliant.

Paid for by the Committee Against Measure A Tax