McClatchy salsa

Salsa McClatchy Badlands Journal replies to Sacramento Bee editorial on Pombo Bill Hatch -- Nov. 2, 2005 The Sacramento Bee editorial, Pombo mambo, actually looks like the McClatchy Co. going after a bad actor in Congress, one of DeLay’s wretched little henchmen, while the Hammer is back in Texas under indictment for illegal campaign funding. Although green is not really McClatchy’s color, like any good editorial, Pombo mambo provokes thought. For example, how can Sacramento Bee editorialists mention Pombo’s Gut-the-ESA bill without mentioning its co-author, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, whose district encompasses the circulation area for two of its papers, the Modesto Bee and the Merced Sun-Star. The editorial first appeared in Sacramento last week and was reprinted in the Modesto and Fresno Bees yesterday. Perhaps the reason for McClatchy reticence lies in the landscape of its region and the shape of the Pombo/Cardoza bill to gut the Endangered Species Act. The Sacramento Bee is circulated throughout the Sacramento Valley. Altogether, the chain distributes its papers from the Oregon border to Kern County all along the eastern part of the state. A large part of this sparsely populated region of seasonal pasture land for cattle ranches, has been designated as critical habitat for more than 15 endangered species listed under the Endangered Species Act, enforced by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and its seasonal wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act, enforced by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Butte Environmental Council, located on the east side of the upper Sacramento Valley, has sued the USFWS several to enforce this critical habitat designation. The San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and Protect our Water, based in Merced and Modesto, have sued developers and local land-use authorities numerous times under the California Environmental Quality Act to stop developers from devastating natural resources, wildlife habitat, range and farm land. The densest fields of protected vernal pools lie in eastern Merced County, where the first phase of UC Merced is sited. UC has not yet secured its Clean Water Act permit to proceed with expansions. UC Merced has stimulated a building boom in Merced that is now producing the most, least affordable housing in the nation. Merced realtors are now saying that 60 percent of the home sales in the area are bought by speculators. Cardoza’s home, the Merced-Atwater area, is today the most exaggerated example in the nation of the speculative bubble in the housing market. While some local residents speculate that the housing bubble may burst, developers on the east side of Merced County are resorting to another, longer-range strategy that is more devastating to wildlife habitat: the wholesale, illegal conversion of range land to orchards (for a few years anyway). Developers claim all they are doing is converting land from one agricultural use to another. Incidentally, this involves deep-ripping thousands of acres of range land to tear up the underlying hardpan, which supports vernal pools and larger seasonal wetlands, which, in turn support more than 15 endangered species. The absence of the possibility of seasonal wetlands on the property is an attractive feature when developers apply for permits for subdivisions because the habitat issue has been antiseptically removed from the discussion in preparation for the land’s intermediate use as an orchard. This is the strategy that Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakapoulos used to convert the Borden Ranch in Galt to vineyard. When the Army Corps fined him half a million dollars, he sued. The case ended up in US Supreme Court, which found for the Corps, against the developer. The law of the land is that you cannot do it. They are doing it now. That Ol’ Shrimp Slayer, Cardoza, is the blindest man in the county who ever panhandled a special interest. This perverse form of temporary agriculture has other downsides. Putting thousands of acres into almonds, the dominant orchard crop in Merced County, requires wells, which seasonal pasture doesn’t require. These wells tap into an already sinking aquifer. Secondly, what will thousands more acres do to the price of almonds, in a market frequently oversupplied, particularly due to huge developer plantings on the west side of the county. Third, since the land is bought on its speculative real estate value, it adds to the inflation of agricultural land, making it practically impossible for all but the largest, corporate farming/development companies to purchase. The Pombo/Cardoza bill, like Cardoza’s on-going attacks on the critical habitat designation, is based on a rightwing lie: that wildlife species can exist without habitat. In McClatchy Country, that essential habitat is being devastated. The editorialists, deep in the pockets of real estate interests, cannot speak that issue’s name. This leads to hypocritical wails of grief over national parks and offshore drilling, of interest in the Valley mainly to people with second homes at Tahoe or on the coast. Of most immediate, primary concern to 99 percent of the people in the McClatchy circulation area are the effects of massive, mis-planned growth in the Valley: more air pollution for the worst air basin in the nation; water pollution in rivers and in drinking water; sinking groundwater aquifers; traffic; school over-crowding; loss of open space; and for those who think of such things, wildlife extinction. (1) Among other things, all the Pombo/Cardoza bills are aimed at making it as difficult as possible for the public to use the judicial branch of its government to confront the legislative branch of its government over the laws of the land, during a period in American history that rivals or exceeds in political corruption the era of the Spanish-American War. Karl Rove is said to regard the McKinley administration as perfection, but those forced to live through it spawned a generation of muckraking journalists, progressives, anarchists and populists trying to defend the poor against the class war declared upon them by the rich. The McClatchy editorialists have dined so long at the special interests’ table that even if they wished to employ their critical gifts rather than their flak abilities, they are no longer able to. If you want relatively factual stories on Pombo and growth, read the Stockton Record. Its report on Pombo and Cardoza, going arm-in-arm to a developer luncheon in Lodi to collect the contributions that stimulated their collaboration on gutting the ESA was the great journalistic success of this season in the Valley. (2) (see also Letter to Their Dennis, Working in the same mud, McClatchy Washington reporter Mike Doyle mangled the story of this flamboyant, outrageous bargain-basement sale of national policy to local developers at Fritz Grupe’s ranch. Doyle focused his April Pombo feature on a Democrat perpetual opponent in Pombo’s district who couldn’t get Cardoza’s support. (3) This led readers into a story about the 2001 reapportionment, in which the principle of legislator incumbency trumped all public concerns. If only it were news that California has spawned a generation or two of perpetual opponents in incoherently gerrymandered legislative districts! Yet, the Hun and his Republicans are demanding via initiative that the districts be redrawn by judges – as if judges were somehow apolitical and Democrats like Cardoza were any different from Republicans like Pombo. Doyle mentions state Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, as an actually viable Democratic candidate against Pombo. But, since April, there has been little word of Machado’s intentions and my impression from reading the papers is that he isn’t considering running against Pombo next year. State Sen. Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, did some shuffling in the Senate this year. He took water away from the Senate Agriculture Committee and gave that chairmanship to Sen. Jeff Denham, a Merced Republican. Normally, it would have gone to Machado. Having put water into the Senate Natural Resources Committee, Machado took the chair of a special subcommittee focusing strictly on the San Joaquin Delta. The intent was clearly to try to get something done on the Delta, where fish populations are crashing, water quality keeps deteriorating, Southern California demands for water constantly increase, levees are weakening and developers keep building on flood plains. It would probably be unwise to think Machado failed in this work, despite the absence of anything that looks like a viable plan for real Delta improvement. I think for one thing that some realistic assessments of the costs have surfaced. Although greatly aided by Hurricane Katrina, Machado is an important part of the legislative leadership’s efforts to get the state to pay attention to a disaster waiting to happen. And, who knows how many schemes to further destroy the Delta Machado and others stopped behind the scenes. It is clear that Southern California, which keeps growing, and the San Joaquin Valley development, and agriculture collectively want more water out of the Delta than flows through it, and that their lobbyists are well funding and active. Politically, although Machado still looks like the best candidate to take on Pombo, his candidacy would cause political/financial confusion in the dairy industry, which supports them both. The risk in such a race is that both candidates and voters might stray into debating about real policy differences along partisan lines – in other words, become genuinely political – and ignore the special interests. A congressman who holds a seat because voters prefer his political positions to those of his opponent might be more difficult to handle in the auction barn than one who knows he is a simple beast of special interests. By chance I was talking several years ago to an old-line California Republican businessman in San Ramon, who expressed distaste that Rich PAC Combo was representing him in Congress. The information that former Rep. Pete McCloskey, R-Woodside, might consider challenging Pombo in a primary was not available in April but it is now. McCloskey, who ran against Nixon in the New Hampshire Republican primary in 1972, is a co-author of the ESA that Pombo and Cardoza have vowed to destroy, and is a co-founder of Earth Day, one of the most powerful popular expressions of national environmental sentiment. This possibility leads to a new reflection. The seat has been considered an agricultural seat, which means, political speaking, that its holder is an advocate for the special interests of agribusiness, big landowners, and developers. Pombo’s witless, flamboyant greed (Pombo Real Estate Farms) only serves to make a cartoon out of a long-existing reality. Although San Joaquin County is still the largest population bloc in the district, the district now contains suburban portions of Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. What is immediately apparent about McCloskey is that he speaks City, not Agribusiness. McCloskey also speaks History, a dialect utterly unknown to Pombo, forever looking forward to the next land deal. McCloskey also speaks Party-of-Lincoln Republican. Pombo speaks Former-Slave-State-Republican. A Pombo/McCloskey race would be a war for the soul of the California Republican Party. At its best it might contain moments of a contest of reason versus greed. However, district voters will also face a flood of rightwing lies and filth that will be the political equivalent of 30 Delta levees breaking down. But, grassroots environmentalists point out, the Delta and its levees are not political metaphors. They say that what is missing from the plans and prophesies announced by state leaders (4), is the cynical reality behind the posturing: after the disaster, all environmental law and regulations will be suspended, and the area rebuilt according to the desires of developer, landowners, lenders and the politicians in their pockets. Something like this is now happening in New Orleans. Notes: (1) Think regionally, mayors say Valley cities will be asked to consider a different way to manage growth, by Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee – Nov. 1, 2005 (2) Partisan politics not invited to fund-raiser, by David Siders, The Record - March 30, 2005 (3) Valley political bonds strong, by Michael Doyle, Modesto Bee -- April 1, 2005 (4) -------------------------------- Editorial: The Pombo mambo Another day, another anti-environment bill Sacramento Bee – Oct. 29, 2005 It is back page news these days - and in many publications, not even newsworthy - that Congress is pondering whether to end a 24-year-old moratorium on additional drilling off our nation's coasts. It ought to be news when Congress acts in secret to rewrite long-standing environmental policies. But such maneuvers, accomplished through tricks of the parliamentary trade and quickly approved without serious hearings or deliberation, have become the norm in the House of Representatives in recent years. It is both bad theater and bad policy, and too much of the material is coming from a local product, Rep. Richard Pombo, a Tracy Republican. Since Hurricane Katrina, Pombo has been a one-man Category 5 environmental disaster zone. Among his proposals: * The gutting of the federal Endangered Species Act. (Who needs fish in the Delta?) * The sale of certain national park units. (Reduce that federal deficit!) * The sale of federal lands with minerals under them. (Where's that shovel?) * And now the leasing of the oceans. (And while you're looking, where's the drill?) This drilling proposal is noteworthy, even by Pombo's recent standards. It would turn national policy into a state debate. Under the House proposal (deviously added in a closed meeting to a budget measure that faces an up-or-down, no-filibuster vote in the Senate), a state that said yes to more oil and gas drilling would get more of the royalties in return. Federal energy policy shouldn't be dictated by local economic desperation. Federal energy policy should be about the national interest. Pombo comes from a centrist district in the Central Valley. If he were true to his district, he would be proposing some energy supply efforts along with real demand-reduction measures such as tougher fuel efficiency standards. Instead, he is dancing to the tune of the drillers, the diggers and the property rights wackos. As resource policy goes, he has led the full House off the proverbial cliff. The nation can only pray that the Senate won't follow.