Bergman, skinned, stuffed and mounted

Submitted: Mar 01, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 

"Let me, and only me, bring the benefits of fresh vegetables to the poor and needy in my donated, beautifully painted truck without refrigeration," said Don Bergman in the sole-bid contract, ovbiously rigged for him with the help of friends in county government.

He was seen a few years earlier leading the goon squad of Black Hats from Out of Town bullying any opposition to John "Long Con" Condren's Riverside Motorsports Park, a popular cause among county supervisors and staff, some of whom may even have invested. 

In the County of Misfeasance, Malfeasance and Nonfeasance, however, Bergman is a person of note. In his years as executive director of the non-profit Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce, he was a tireless booster for private enterprise and often belligerent foe of government. And Bergman knows firsthand the object of his contempt because in the past he'd been a Merced City councilman for part of a term and later was appointed to the county Workforce Investment Board.

This food-truck scandal will all be settled behind the scenes. County officials will ritually denounce the state (for the sin of trying to enforce its own regulations). Maybe there will be some fines. No jail time. Another demerit for the director of Human Services, whose department has been reduced to shambles by economic depression.  Bergman's pettiness and the obligatory absence of institutional memory have always preserved him for his next grift, forthcoming, no doubt, after a suitable period of official forgetting. He is a man who cannot help himself. The scent of unattached public funds fills him with righteous lust.

"Better I, Bergman, than some liberal," says Bergman, the indignant.

 -- blj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2-27-15

Merced Sun-Star

Merced County food truck funds scrutinized

BY RAMONA GIWARGIS

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/incoming/article11419235.html

Taxpayer dollars meant to support children in Merced County welfare programs were awarded to a nonprofit that sells produce from a food truck, just a few years after county officials got rid of an oversight committee formed to keep an eye on the money.

The nonprofit, called Make Someone Happy, formed just months before it landed the $177,528 contract for a “mobile grocery service” from the county’s Human Services Agency in 2013. A year later, the Board of Supervisors approved a yearlong contract renewal for $113,410.

But the six-figure contract was paid using money that state officials say was allocated to provide services to foster children and children in group homes. A grocery truck selling produce to the public doesn’t qualify, they said.

A Merced Sun-Star investigation also found an oversight committee composed of Merced County senior level managers was formed to oversee use of the money, but it failed to meet regularly and eventually dissolved.

HSA director Ana Pagan defended the use of the state funds for the food truck, saying the program promotes healthy eating by providing fresh produce to children and families. She said the state money is meant to benefit all families, not just those in child welfare.

Make Someone Happy was the only nonprofit to bid for the contract. Several nonprofits told the Sun-Star they would have been interested in competing for the contract, but county officials failed to notify them about the bid.

The food truck was donated to the nonprofit and painted with the Make Someone Happy logos months before the Board of Supervisors approved the contract, according to public documents. A Sun-Star review of Pagan’s calendar indicates she met with the nonprofit’s co-founder, Nancy Young-Bergman, about the food truck at least once before the contract went out for public bid.

Young-Bergman said she couldn’t recall the meeting.

Questions have also arisen about the truck’s route. Officials said Make Someone Happy would bring fresh produce to low-income and rural areas of the county, but it’s making several stops at county buildings.

County creates DoWith program

Merced County in 2006 began participating in a state program to help at-risk children, those in foster care or group homes stay with their own families. The county called its program DoWith (Do Whatever It Takes at Home). It was created under Senate Bill 163 to offer services to youths.

The county recorded a surplus in the funding in 2010 and accumulated about $113,121 with the “savings.” The state Department of Social Services said the extra money must be reinvested into child welfare programs.

“It has to benefit children and families within the group home system,” said Sha Rena Chatman, a social service consultant with the state Department of Social Services, in a telephone interview. “It has to be children within this environment or the kids have to have some ties to the child welfare system.”

But county officials decided to instead use that money for the Make Someone Happy truck. Chatman said it appeared to be an inappropriate use of money. “Because the food truck is catered to everyone, it’s not targeting the children in care,” she said.

The Make Someone Happy truck wasn’t always funded by child welfare dollars. It was originally funded by CalFresh and CalWORKs before HSA officials paid for it using DoWith funds. Pagan said the Make Someone Happy truck no longer qualified for CalFresh because of a change in eligibility requirements.

Don Bergman, president of Make Someone Happy, said he’s unsure why the contract’s funding source changed, but said it doesn’t matter to him. “I don’t care where the funds come from because it’s been approved by the county attorney and the Board of Supervisors,” Bergman said.

County Executive Officer Jim Brown said his office signed off on using the DoWith savings because he was told the money isn’t only for child welfare programs. “It’s my understanding that these funds are flexible, to be used to create programs for families and children,” Brown said Friday.

The current balance of the DoWith savings is $550,000, according to HSA Deputy Director Michelle Roe.

Merced County’s plan to the state in 2009 promised to establish an oversight committee to look after the money. The team – composed of deputy directors from mental health, probation, HSA and the Merced County Office of Education – would meet quarterly to provide fiscal oversight, the plan said.

But top county officials say they’ve never heard of the committee, despite their departments being listed in HSA’s plan. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard of that and it doesn’t ring a bell,” said Chief Probation Officer Scott Ball.

Steve Gomes, county superintendent of schools, echoed a similar response. “None of us have served on a committee like that,” he said.

Pagan said the oversight committee was dissolved in 2010 because of a lack of participation. “We said we were going to do that and it didn’t work as well as we thought it did,” she said. “We write a plan, but the state doesn’t require us to have an oversight committee.”

Brown acknowledged changes to the plan should have been brought to the Board of Supervisors – but that did not happen.

Other nonprofits left out

Make Someone Happy was notified it won the original contract in a Sept. 16, 2013, letter. It was the only nonprofit to bid for the $177,528 contract.

Nine days later, the nonprofit’s leaders applied for a permit with the city of Merced to sell produce on Childs Avenue. In its application packet, Make Someone Happy included pictures of a fully-painted truck. The truck was donated by Delta Sierra Beverage in Modesto on May 13, 2013 – four months before the nonprofit won the contract.

Make Someone Happy leaders denied having prior knowledge of winning the bid, but they had a fully equipped truck before an official contract. And other nonprofit leaders said they didn’t get a shot at competing for it.

Bernadette Mello, executive director at the Merced County Food Bank, said her organization would’ve been interested in operating the mobile grocery truck. The truck could have served as an extension of what the food bank offers to rural communities, Mello said.

“Absolutely, I would have been interested, because I believe we could have provided an added service to our community, possibly at no charge,” Mello said. “I was never asked to be invited. We never got any information from the county. I never saw where it was advertised publicly.”

The Community Action Agency wasn’t notified either, said executive director Brenda Callahan-Johnson. “I would have liked to look at it though, because it’s a population we’re very familiar with,” she said. “I feel like we are known in those communities and it would have helped us reach them.”

The county normally contacts potential bidders before starting a bidding process, but county documents confirm no agencies were contacted in this case.

Website excludes 2 stops

Although it was lauded for bringing fresh produce to rural and underserved areas of the county, Make Someone Happy visits two Human Services Agency buildings, on Wardrobe Avenue and Highway 59, in Merced every Tuesday and Thursday. An internal flier advertises the visits to county employees, but the stops aren’t listed on the nonprofit’s website.

Bergman said it was his idea to bring the produce truck to county buildings. He said the objective was to reach clients that visit HSA each week. The stops were not advertised online, he said, because the nonprofit had problems updating its website.

Make Someone Happy charges its customers for produce, but Bergman said the organization is in a negative financial position at the moment. He declined to disclose the amount.

The nonprofit’s contract includes salaries for a driver, part-time staff and a project manager. Bergman calls it a “labor of love” and says he and wife Nancy Young-Bergman are not profiting from the venture.

“People say we are making so much money off this – hundreds of thousands of dollars – and it’s not true,” he said.


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Drought dementia #6: Views from Stockton and Fresno

Submitted: Feb 25, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 The truth, Shields said, is there’s simply very little water in the Stanislaus River system — with or without the new rules protecting fish. -- Alex Breitler, Stockton Record, Feb. 24, 2015.

 

California has only five weeks left of the wet season and needs more than the modest storm that just passed through. That was like shooting spit wads at an elephant. -- Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee, Feb. 24, 2015

2-24-15

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Our friendly local farmers/environmentalists/developers

Submitted: Feb 24, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 The latest news (below) on the Ferrari Ranch development project near Atwater made us ask once again if this was truly a whole New Day of such blinding light that it should wipe our memory as clean as a virus destroys computer files.

But, not quite ...

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Drought dementia #5: "You can't fault them ..."

Submitted: Feb 22, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

The new Farm Bill, nothing less than the final triumph of finance, insurance and real estate special interests over government in yet another real estate deal -- agriculture,  severs all connections between agriculture and actual husbandry. It's no accident that almond and pistachio orchards are being planted in record numbers. But this bubble won't burst until -- in the projected long drought -- the hedge funds, banksters and the vampire squid of finance, enabled by our local "stewards of the land unto the seventh generation,"  have sucked the Valley aquifer dry, taken their profits and all the money taxpayers provide for the new, risk-free, totally insured "agriculture," and left ... what, exactly? A desert? It was always a desert, but this one might end up containing more ghost towns than the gold and silver rushes left behind them in California and Nevada on poisoned ground. Agribusiness wouldn't care if every county seat down 99 turned into another Detroit, just as long as the big boys got out whole. -- blj

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The irrelevance of Hanson

Submitted: Feb 16, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

  

We found this recent column on the California drought by Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, an acclaimed  academic and Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, (1) and heir to a farm in Fresno County, to be unusually wide of the mark, even by his standards. Hanson is a writer that people interested in rural California read. We often agree with his facts yet end up mystified by the opinions he "derives" from them. Nevertheless, he is one of ours, so we remain interested.

The topic of Hanson's column is water, specifically how environmental "extremists" are stealing it from farmers. He assumes agriculture's rights to water are absolute and  neglects to mention that agriculture uses 80 percent of the developed water in California. Without that elementary nod to reality, reasonable people just throw up their hands and ask, "When is this enfant savant going to grow up?" 

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There will be peace in the Valley

Submitted: Feb 14, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 

Sing it, Elvis!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMD8d7oUjxw

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Not two sides to every story in the Bee

Submitted: Feb 13, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

  

This article is a curious excuse for journalism because, although Valley congressmen "pressure(s) both sides in ports dispute," only one side is given a line in the story:

On Thursday, citing the higher costs entailed by holiday and weekend wage rates, the Pacific Maritime Association said it would suspend vessel operations through Monday. The association’s leaders contend longshoremen have been engaged in deliberate work slowdowns.

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Drought Dementia #4: Pineapple Express renamed, new funds, modeling and all that

Submitted: Feb 05, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 The avalanche of data will help scientists create a 3D model of atmospheric rivers and the factors that govern their rainfall, such as aerosols and dust in the atmosphere. The results will also help to improvehttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/icon1.png current forecast models, Ralph said.

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Drought Dementia #3: Fracking, regulatory corruption, aquifer contamination, Harvard and Hilmar Cheese

Submitted: Feb 03, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 

Successful polluters the world around agree: You just can't trust a government you don't own.

And that's why the smart people in the oil industry figure that whatever the regulatory laws might be, it's all in the enforcement, otherwise known as the "empty monitoring envelop syndrome."  The smart people at Harvard know they can drill all the water they want near Paso Robles. They just may not be smart enough to anticipate what might be in that water. But, they're all Harvard lawyers, so they can sue somebody. And Hilmar Cheese, after a successful run for years with a corrupt state water quality board, dug deep injection wells and accepted federal monitoring. We wonder how that's all going to work out in the drought. Do curds and whey clog drip-irrigation nozzles? -- blj

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Drought dementia 2

Submitted: Jan 30, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 

The drought has revealed that all the government and hydrological science available is not going to put California water policy back together again. It is like submitting Humpty Dumpty to exhaustive scientific studies of the tensile strength of egg shells and the heights of walls. As long as the king and his men keep growing, it will just get worse.

The total effect of groundwater regulation and associated increased expenses is going to be to put Valley agriculture 100-percent in the pockets of irrigation and water districts and federal and state agencies with jurisdiction over surface waters. The template has been in place for decades, but this will cause even more concentration of land ownership in the hands even fewer, richer growers. This neo-feudal system of agribusiness is so overwhelming that no new ideas or leadership can be generated from within it. Perhaps the bill by the two congressmen from north of the Bay Area at least won't add to the destruction. -- blj

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