We don't hold out the greatest hope that what Rep. Jerry McNerney has called for will help much but at least it bears witness to a deteriorating social situation in the San Joaquin Valley and is therefore closer to the truth of things than the Great Valley Eternal Whiners for anything to put another layer in the already gold lined pockets of those whose views monopolize respectable opinion. -- blj
Stockton Record
Valley in desperate need of help…Michael Fitzgerald
Today: McNerney swings for the fences.
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, has asked President Barack Obama to create a federal task force by executive order to better focus Uncle Sam on the Valley's needs.
"This region has significant social, economic, and environmental challenges that warrant attention from your administration," McNerney wrote the president this week.
The congressman is being reserved. The San Joaquin Valley - Stockton to Bakersfield, 4 million people - has crying needs that have long gone unmet by state and federal governments.
From America's most endangered river, the San Joaquin, to its dirtiest air, in Arvin, to the bankruptcy and crime crisis of Stockton, the Valley bristles with needs Uncle Sam could better address.
Yet there's something almost colonial about the status quo. Others take the region's food, its water and its tax dollars to their immense benefit without reciprocating with social and economic equity.
If the Valley were its own state, it would also be America's poorest, below Mississippi.
The numbers tell a more explicit story. McNerney's office dug them out. I published some before. Uncle Sam spends $10.61 per capita per annum on the average American.
The California average is $8.90.
Now look at the Valley.
Kern County: $6.80
King County: $6.50
Fresno County: $6.39
San Joaquin County: $6.07
Merced County: $5.94
Stanislaus County: $5.93
Tulare County: $5.80
Madera County: $5.61
That's right; by the time you get to Madera County, the Valley is receiving less than 53 percent of the average federal per capita investment.
California is a donor state; the Valley is more like an organ donor.
"We're trying to figure out, how do you get the attention of the federal government?" said Michael Cavaiola, McNerney's communications director. "How do you focus the administration on a region that desperately needs help?"
McNerney has asked Obama to establish an Interagency Task Force on the Economic Development of the San Joaquin Valley.
Each federal agency would contribute a representative. The representatives would work together to optimize federal services to the Valley.
The task force would boast two advantages. It recognizes the new budget reality in Washington, where House Republicans have eliminated earmarks. All budgeting is not top-down anymore; some is bottom-up.
A regional federal task force, working with local partners and the governor, can best identify specific needs and ask for appropriate funds.
Short version: More money.
"Of course we'd like to measure its actual success in jobs created, in businesses relocated, in the crime rate lowered," Cavaiola said. "But if you want to put a monetary price on it, it would be encouraging to see the Valley median go from $6.13 to at least the state average of nearly $9."
The second advantage would be to eliminate, or at least reduce, intra-Valley competition. One big way the Valley holds itself back is by failing to speak with one voice.
Speaking of which ... Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, co-signed McNerney's letter to Obama. No Valley Republicans did.
An inquiry to the office of Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, went unanswered.
Republicans in Congress should be required to explain what objection there is to Valley taxpayers getting back their fair share of federal tax dollars.
The San Joaquin Valley is a raisin in the sun, an American dream deferred. Part of the reason is structural to government. McNerney's initiative addresses this problem at the root.
This is not about dollars alone. It is, at best, a case of millions of people living a lower quality of life, of unrealized human potential; at worst, of poverty and misery that can and should be eased.
"It would be nice if we could secure federal funding equal to what other regions have seen," Cavaiola said, "for a region that badly needs the assistance."