Dementia Bobcatflax

"The region has come alive. It's awakened," said Carol Whiteside, the Modesto-based center's founder and outgoing president. "We are no longer isolated and invisible." ...Other speakers said the valley still faces an uphill climb in many troubling areas. Laurie Primavera of CSU Fresno noted that rates of teen pregnancy, uninsured people and substance abuse continue to outpace those elsewhere. "We have a lot to do in health care," Primavera said. "We rank as badly as third-world countries." Swearingen said the number of valley workers denied jobs because they can't pass drug tests is appallingly high. "The vast preponderance of evidence suggests that jobs are available; we don't have people to fill them," she said. "Our challenges are not economic development — they are people development." -- Modesto Bee, May 10, 2007

Let us endeavor to interpret Whitesidespeak for the wider audience, or even for the audience of citizens of the Valley who weren't designated "leaders" by the Great Valley Center.

There was a speculative housing boom. That's what she means by "alive." Having retired and turned over GVC to UC Merced, she won't be around for the consequences of predatory mortgage lending practices that created the Great Valley Boomdoggle. In fact, since we live in a purely speculative economy, 8-to-5 will get you a bet Whiteside doesn't stay in the Valley any longer than she has to.

But nothing -- absolutely nothing -- happened in the Valley before Carol Whiteside arrived. That must be understood. And, presumably, now that she's leaving, nothing will happen again.

The Valley has been connected to national and international agricultural markets for more decades than the founder of UC/GVC could count on both hands. The Valley has been connect by canal water to San Francisco, Santa Clara Valley and Southern California. And, lest we forget, the Valley is now connected to a lot of off-shore bank accounts through Valley finance, insurance and real estate lending practices. Then, there's the $236 million in farm subsidies between 1995-2005.

There is nothing outstanding about this year's grants to the Valley. In many cases, these are entitlements going with the poverty of the region. Valley politicians remain out of step with the larger trend in both Congress and the state Legislature because our elected officials slavishly represent a handful of special economic interests whose wealth proves the point that, however dysfunctional a situation may be, it always benefits somebody. If those somebodies are rich enough, they can politically perpetuate the situation that harms the rest of the society for quite awhile.

We haven't heard the phrase, "vast preponderance of evidence" in several decades, but it's good to see it back, doing yeoman service on the side of fallacy, as usual. We think of those 550 Hershey workers in Oakdale recently laid off. The firm was clearly so appalled by drug use that they decided to relocate on the other side of the Mexican border to escape the pernicious influence of drug cartels.

"It gets brighter each day in the valley," beamed UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang. He has been at the helm less than three months; UC Merced absorbed the Great Valley Center in October 2005.

Actually, Stevo, the days are getting every so slightly dimmer in the Valley, thanks to growth induced by your blue-and-gilded junior college. But, as another member of the Badlands editorial staff pointed out, it is getting warmer.

"Water, wealth, contentment, health — who could ask for more?" Channing, 86, crooned a cappella. "Modesto is my hometown!"

It's not the asking, Ms. Channing, it's the doing. For at least 14 years, some Modesto residents have wished to hang a sign under the arch and its blithering 19th-century slogan, saying, "NOT!"

Now that UC has absorbed the Great Valley Center, Valley residents will endure periodic "reports" from the McClatchy Chain about the progress of Dementia Bobcatflax. The mere reality of the Valley was never the least bit attractive to UC or GVC. In their collective overreaching, they failed to grasp it.

The idea, which will be endlessly repeated by UC/GVC, that the Valley will only be "alive" in the act of destroying its natural resources for the benefit of a few plutocratic special interests, is a pathetic excuse for political, economic, social and educational "leadership."

Badlands editorial staff

Modesto Bee
Valley 'no longer isolated'...Garth Stapley

Conference touts the turnabouts in education, transportation, planning...The Great Valley Center's 10th annual two-day conference took on an upbeat tone Wednesday, with dignitaries and entertainers insisting the valley has a bright place in California's future. "The region has come alive. It's awakened," said Carol Whiteside, the Modesto-based center's founder and outgoing president. "We are no longer isolated and invisible." Wednesday, presenters had much to crow about as they pointed to recent turnabouts in the 19-county valley's fortune: Eight counties, including Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced, are exploring combined planning efforts in the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint process, and six counties to the north have formed a similar partnership.