No luau for the cowgirl

On March 14, the Merced Sun-Star reported that the former Cowgirl Chancellor of UC Merced, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, was an unsuccessful finalist for a university administrative position in Hawaii,

according to Robert Bley-Vroman, the search committee's chair.

On March 15, the paper reported that The cowgirl said she'd dropped out before the final selection and is now thinking about going to Atlanta to be with her family and maybe get a job with the Carter Center, founded by former President Jimmy Carter.

Bad reporting on Wednesday, good reporting on Thursday? Or another dose of the cowgirl's patented UC Merced Bobcatflak?

Who cares? She came, she built the first phase of the campus at UC's own risk, without proper federal environmental permits. Then she left, allegedly to work on a book. Then came the Hawaii plan. Now comes the Atlanta plan.

The cowgirl has a unique place in Merced history. Her development strategy started a huge speculative housing boom, now busting about us. She railroaded public process, environmental law and regulation at the local, state and federal levels. While here, she was adored by the press and all dear local leaders, who were willing to bend and break anything to smooth the way for building the first phase of UC Merced, bulldozing a municipal golf course to do it when the public objected to the original site in one of the densest fields of vernal pools in existence. She was a perfect UC administrative front for a corrupt land boom. Merced will be sorting out the consequences of the deals in which she participated for years to come with state legislators, congressmen and lobbyists.

She claimed UC Merced would be the most environmentally friendly campus of all. She meant its buildings, not its location. She promised a high-tech, bio-tech future for Merced. UC Merced's memorandum of understanding with UC/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory suggested possible future involvement with research on weapons of mass destruction. She promised a medical school for Merced. The Valley looks like a promising site for medical research into respiratory illness, in part because of the speculative building boom for which UC Merced is an anchor tenant. UC Merced's seminal research into the contribution of cow farts to Valley air pollution confirmed many suspicions that the campus research agenda was developer- rather than scientist-driven.

The cowgirl was given a difficult task by the UC Board of Regents and our dear leaders; she did and said what was necessary to get building on the ground; she left, announcing she would write a book about the founding of the campus. She also said she would come back to UC Merced as a professor. Now, she's off to Georgia.

Noting that the excuse for the latest 7-percent tuition increase for UC students was that UC needs to pay its faculty and administrators close to what they could earn in the private sector, we thought about the cowgirl from another angle. She was the lowest paid UC chancellor at a little more than $225,000. However there were perks and a retirement package including a year's salary at a professor's grade (on which she was planning to write that book about how the campus was founded). We hope she invested wisely and flipped a few residential properties during her stay. If she didn't, she is perhaps unique among public officials of her time. The cowgirl earned the salary roughly equivalent to a mid-level manager in a development corporation -- about right for her skill set and task. She promised the moon and delivered some bricks and mortar. Only the greater footprint remains in doubt. But there are a lot of development footprints in doubt in Merced at that moment.

Like a good development corporation manager, she never conversed with the public; she announced and pronounced, ran an effective sales and propaganda campaign that was munificently funded by the California public and made her deals in the backroom.

The people of California, without whose support UC could lose its front and become nothing but a private lab full of malevolent science, don't want entrepreneurial UC scientists. We don't want university administrators who behave like corporate gunslingers. We don't want more technocrats. we want educated leaders, not crude, deceitful hustlers of educational institutions bought and sold by private corporations. No, we cannot compete with private industry for academic salaries. We expect professors that love to teach, administrators who love to provide the best institutions in which education can take place. We expect our public research university to care about education and not constantly prostitute itself for the latest corporate grant.

Will we pay for a university we can be proud of as an educational institution? We can't beat private industry. No university, public or private, ever could. To claim otherwise is nothing but cheap flak. But UC Merced immediately sold out to the agribusiness plutocrats of the Valley. Looking back on the history of UC involvement with the Valley, we cannot help thinking that was not completely by accident. In its land-grant college aspect, UC, through the cooperative extension, has at times done useful work on behalf of agriculture. Where UC has failed consistently and completely is in the area of critical thought about the Valley, blocked at every step by the same agribusiness interests that flocked to get their names on various walls of the new campus.

Nonetheless, we have never been against a second UC campus in the Central Valley. We wonder if from rotten beginnings great things can grow, but we understand the importance of manure in the growing process. Unfortunately, UC Merced continues to look like nothing more than an urban anchor tenant in a land boondoggle aiming to urbanize everything east of Highway 99 from Tulare to Placer counties, complete with its own Foothills Freeway. That is unacceptable to the public, however lucrative it may appear to the good friends of UC Merced, regents, congressmen and large landowners included.

If the Valley public does not want to become a dumping ground for toxic weapons research and residential development at the expense of health and quality of life, it must find a means of engaging this extremely arrogant, deceitful institution, which makes the most dangerous weapons of mass destruction on earth, in a long, frank conversation. Otherwise, UC will do in the Valley what it has done everywhere else in the state: lend its prestige and its research energy to economic and power elites who despise the public (for the public's own good, of course).

We're glad there will be no luau for the cowgirl in Hawaii and we trust Ol' Jimmy can see through this one in a glance. It's time California quit exporting its corruption. Unlike the cowgirl, we'll stay to fight the consequences of her "leadership."

In her suits of that particularly regal shade of blue we always suspected only certain, unnamed Berkeley tailors and dressmakers were issued from UC Central, with her golden jewelry and gold-tinted hair, the cowgirl was a real piece of work. We watched her lie in her teeth to legislative committees. We watched her corrupt newspapers. We watched her crawl into the political beds of real enemies of the public interest. All to get her job done. There is no way we can claim to have caused her as much damage as she caused our environment and our poor, complicated, struggling community. But we tried, and we got an edge in wordwise. At least (she claims) she's off to Atlanta, where the Federal Highway Authority once did suspend funds due to air pollution caused by rampant, unregulated urban growth.

However, we feel she's aiming in the wrong direction when she thinks of going to the Carter Center. Where she belongs is at the side of Newt Gingrich, when he runs for president.

Badlands editorial board


Merced Sun-Star
Hawaii passes on former UC Merced Chancellor...Victor A. Patton
UC Merced founding chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey has been eliminated from the running to become the University of Hawaii at Manoa's next chancellor. UC Davis Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw was announced Tuesday as University of Hawaii President David McClain's choice to lead the university's prestigious Manoa campus. Hinshaw and Tomlinson-Keasey were among four finalists...University of Hawaii's Board of Regents is expected to vote Thursday whether to make McClain's selection of Hinshaw official. Tomlinson-Keasey, 64, said in February that she was approached in December by consultants conducting the University of Hawaii at Manoa chancellor search and decided to apply. She left UC Merced in August, saying that she wanted to dedicate time to family and write a book about the campus. Tomlinson-Keasey guided the university's planning in 1998 as senior associate to then-UC President Richard Atkinson and was named chancellor the following year

Former chancellor says she took her name out of running for Hawaii job...Victor A. Patton
Former UC Merced chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey says she opted out of the University of Hawaii at Manoa's chancellor search prior to this week's announcement by the school's president that a new chancellor has been selected. Although a story published in Wednesday's Merced Sun-Star stated that Tomlinson-Keasey has been eliminated from the chancellor search, she said in an e-mail that she decided not to pursue the position after visiting the campus. Tomlinson-Keasey also said she sent a letter last week to University...also said she sent a letter last week to University of Hawaii President David McClain informing him that she wished for her name to be removed from consideration in the chancellor search...said she made her decision "after careful deliberation." "My children are moving to Atlanta and I think I will look for something with the Carter Foundation or with the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, which is also located in the Atlanta area," Tomlinson-Keasey said in the letter.

Modesto Bee
UC Merced earns gold star for 'green' building efforts...Michelle Hatfield
The University of California at Merced is trying to set the standard when it comes to environmentally friendly buildings. UC Merced's central plant earned a gold certification under the category of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a prestigious distinction sought by many universities and companies across the nation...central plant is composed of three buildings — a three-story facility that includes most of the campus's power operations, a telecommunications building and a 2-million gallon water-storage tank. The LEED certification is handed out by the U.S. Green Building Council. "We want to be a model. We're trying to figure out how to set the standard without having to drain natural re-sources," said Mark Maxwell, LEED coordinator at UC Merced. The central plant was recognized for its efficient energy management, water-use reduction, recycling, waste management, lighting and landscaping. The complex earned marks for using recycled materials. UC Merced also uses its water tank to cut energy costs. The campus's ongoing construction also is environmentally minded.

Tracy Press
Hard Ball...John Upton
Attorneys for the Tracy Press have demanded the city provide e-mails sent and received by Tracy Vice Mayor Suzanne Tucker relating to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s proposed biological laboratory and an increase in open-air explosions. Attorney Mark Connolly told city attorneys Bill Sartor and Debra Corbett in a nine-page letter Tuesday that he and San Francisco-based First Amendment lawyer Karl Olson would file a lawsuit if the city fails to hand over the e-mails by the end of next week. Tucker and city lawyers have argued that the e-mails between Tucker and the lab are exempt from California open government laws because Tucker sent and received the e-mails as a private citizen using a personal e-mail address and a personal computer. Tucker, like other council members, does not have a city e-mail address. The March 13 letter included summaries of 77 related e-mails to and from Tucker that were obtained by the Tracy Press and activist Carole Dominguez through public records requests. Connolly said in the letter that the e-mails showed Tucker “was clearly acting in her capacity as a member of the City Council on city business.” Californian Newspaper Publishers Association attorney Jim Ewert said Tucker’s claim that her e-mails are exempt from public records laws because she used personal equipment has never before been tested in court. Tracy Press publisher Bob Matthews said Wednesday it was a “cut-and-dried” decision to take legal action against the city. Matthews described government openness on the relationship between Tucker and the Department of Energy’s $1.7 billion a year weapons lab as “an important public issue.” Tucker is the only member of the council to support the proposed Department of Homeland Security bio-lab...also supports lab plans to increase the size and power of explosions at the lab’s Site 300 test site, which were last week put on hold when the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District demanded the lab analyze health impacts from radioactive dust from the test explosions, pointing to community concerns regarding the blasts. Tucker sits as mayor when the council discusses Lawrence Livermore issues because Mayor Brent Ives works for the lab and is required to step down because of conflict-of-interest laws. The Tracy Press requested, beginning in December, e-mails relating to the bio-lab and Site 300 explosions that were sent between Tucker and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; other members of the council; senior city employees; and members of Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC, CSU reach again for students' wallets...Tanya Schevitz, Jim Doyle
California's 626,000 public university students got clobbered Wednesday with their fifth tuition hike in six years as the governing boards of both the University of California and the California State University agreed to raise the price of attendance dramatically. UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees said they had no choice but to increase the costs next fall to maintain the quality of the institutions. Regents acknowledged this is probably not the end of annual increases for UC students. Since the 2001-02 school year, undergraduate tuition has climbed 92 percent at UC's campuses and 94 percent at CSU's schools. One UCLA student, 19-year-old Sarah Andrews, seemed to sum up the students' disappointment: "They are trying to tell me that they do not value ... students who come from low-income families, students of color and students who are not blessed enough to have parents to pay for a $23,000 education, students who work two to three jobs to get by, students who commute and take the bus to avoid high living costs." The fees are rising as both institutions are under fire for their compensation of executives, among other things. Abraham Ramirez, a student at Cal State Fullerton, pointed out that since 2005, CSU executives have received an average 23 percent pay increase "on top of an inflated salary." At UC, students in the professional schools, including law, business, medicine and dentistry, will take the hardest hit with an average 10 percent increase...with the new increase, the fee will be close to $23,000 for medical school and $26,000 for UCLA's dentistry program. The state Legislative Analyst's Office had recommended a 2.4 percent increase in CSU student fees, saying that amount would be sufficient to bridge the gap between state funding cuts and the university's needs. But university officials said they need not only to account for inflation but also to make up for cuts in past years. A key reason for raising fees, UC officials said, is to improve student services, such as mental health services.

Fresno Bee
Foothill highway back on the map...Russell Clemings
Six years after the controversial idea was last studied, then shelved, a proposed north-south highway along the Sierra foothills may be revived as part of a state-funded master plan for the San Joaquin Valley... so-called Foothill Freeway -- a Highway 65 extension that would link Exeter to Chowchilla -- has been part of the state highway system since 1959, but only on paper. None of it has been built. Even its route remains unclear. Now, Fresno and Madera county planners are talking about the highway again. They see it as a way to ease congestion on the Valley's main north-south route, Highway 99, and to connect future growth hot spots such as southern Madera County's Rio Mesa area and Fresno County's Millerton New Town. .Opponents, in contrast, see only the specter of further urban sprawl. The state Department of Transportation last produced a study six years ago but set it aside in the face of environmental opposition and mixed reactions from local government leaders...the proposal is "still officially inactive" but could be brought back if a consensus emerges from the current San Joaquin Valley Blueprint effort, in which planners and other leaders are trying to define a vision for the Valley at midcentury. It was during Blueprint-related meetings that talk of reviving Highway 65 first arose, participants say. Meanwhile, in the same meetings, Fresno city planners are taking the idea one step further, proposing that Highway 65 be part of a beltway incorporating some form of mass transit as well as highways. The "Metro Rural Loop" would encircle Madera and the Fresno-Clovis metropolitan area. It would include land use policies to encourage high-density development on major transit corridors within the loop while preserving farmland elsewhere. The state's 1959 plan called for Highway 65 to extend from its current end north of Exeter in Tulare County to Rocklin in Placer County, northeast of Sacramento. The 2001 study covered only the area between Exeter and Chowchilla, where the new highway would connect to an eastward extension of Highway 152. It never pinpointed a route.