For shame

Submitted: Oct 24, 2007

The Valley has always been a hard place, no doubt of that. Merced County probably hasn't been better than the fifth hungriest county in the state at the best of times in the last decade (given poverty statistics on California counties), but now, in the wake of the greatest building boom in its history, it ranks as the third hungriest county in the state and its foreclosure rate is tops in the nation. One in ten go to bed hungry and one in 68 are in some stage of home foreclosure.

For shame -- if only the decision makers in Merced County had any shame. But in the county, for a period of nearly 15 years, decision makers have paid no attention to anything but the arrival of UC Merced and the residential development it induced. The finance, insurance and real estate special interests behind local landowners, developers and the campus employed legions of propagandists to confuse the Merced public to the extent that today, it cannot connect three dots a millimeter apart: UC Merced=speculative housing boom=concealment of chronic poverty. Now,that UC development didn't pan out to universal rising of all ships, the news of chronic poverty is back along with the big hand out to the state and federal government. It's just the latest version of the Great Valley Whine. But it would have been better if all the prominent Valley plutocrats who donated to UC Merced for the magnificent Blue and Gold Future had instead devoted their excess wealth to alleviating the Present Poverty. This is particularly true in the case of some of our wealthiest citizens, who make so much of their money off government subsidies, like Gallo Farming Co., which hauled down $855,000 in federal subsidies between 2003-2005 with a reported annual income of around $50 million from the largest dairy operation in the US. How much of the $996,000 subsidy over those years to the Nickel Family LLC state Senate candidate Wiley Nickel use for that dismal excuse for a campaign against the incumbent in 2006? Whatever that ridiculous excuse for a political campaign cost, it would have been better spent on school lunch programs.

At the risk of stalling the flow of invective, the editorial board thought at this point it might be interesting to take a trip down UC Bobcatflak Memory Lane to get a better look at the real leaders who jerk the chains of elected officials in Merced and other counties in the San Joaquin Valley. Although UC Merced now chooses to keep the membership of its foundation board of trustees concealed from the public, they were appointed with great fanfare and pride. It is a rare gathering of the wise Valley leaders, many of whom personally profited from inside information on the UCM campus location in the speculative real estate boom centered in the north San Joaquin Valley. In fact, UC Merced could be described as long-term blarney and short-term land boondoggle. These wise leaders of finance, insurance and real estate are responsible for the foreclosure rate in Merced County of one in 68 households and for moving the county from fifth to third place in the poverty/hunger scale statewide. Although space does not permit discussion the ironies of any particular notable, Valley people will get some dark, retrospective chuckles out of the list. UC Merced should have adopted a Rattle Snake as its mascot. The time is Spring, 2000. Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the Cowgirl Chancellor, is in full cry:
(see Herself in full cowgirl regalia at

March 17, 2000

CONTACT: Ron Goble, Interim Communications Director, University of California, Merced, (209) 724-4400 or (559) 734-9046,

UC Merced introduces foundation board of trustees
MERCED -- University of California, Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey has unveiled the university's 82-member Foundation Board of Trustees composed of some of the most prominent individuals in the San Joaquin Valley and beyond.

The founding UCM Board of Trustees will meet in an advisory capacity and offer counsel and direction to Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey and her Vice Chancellors.

"Our Trustees are some of the most respected and highest profile corporate and professional leaders representing such vital valley interests as agriculture, oil, technology, medicine, law, education and science," said Tomlinson-Keasey. "We are overwhelmed that so many San Joaquin Valley and statewide leaders have chosen to join the UC Merced family. Their enlightened and insightful advice will be invaluable to me and help assure the success of the new campus."

Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey explained: "Initially, we were contemplating a much smaller board of trustees. However, when we realized the interest of Central Valley leaders and the needs of the new campus, we thought we should start with a full complement of trustees. Thus, the UC Merced founding board will be the size and status of other UC campus boards."

The blue-ribbon board consists of several Silicon Valley executives from such companies as Lucent Technologies and Sun Microsystems. Several current and former members of the UC Board of Regents included in the UC Merced Board of Trustees are current UC Regent chairman, John Davies, former chairs Leo Kolligian, Meredith Khachigian and Roy Brophy, current Regent Odessa Johnson, former Regents Carol Chandler and Ralph Ochoa. In addition, UC President Richard C. Atkinson, and Emeritus Presidents David Gardner and Jack Peltason are members of the new board.

Tomlinson-Keasey noted that several board members were valley natives, but now reside elsewhere in California, such as former Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson, actor/producer Mike Connors and former U.S. Congressman Tony Coelho.

The majority of the UCM Trustees, approximately 50, are CEOs of their corporations or organizations. All are prominent, but many have national and international prominence such as Robert Gallo of E&J Gallo Winery in Modesto, developer Fritz Grupe of Stockton, John Harris of Harris Ranch in Coalinga, President Eugene Voiland of Aera Energy in Bakersfield, and William Lyons Sr., agriculture leader from the Modesto area.

The first meeting of the new board will be held March 22 at the County Bank in Merced. The board is representative in size and structure to other UC campus boards which have traditionally taken years to put in place, said Tomlinson-Keasey.

The roster of all members of the board, their titles, affiliations and locations are:

Chuck Ahlem, Partner, Hilmar Cheese Company, Hilmar;

Richard C. Atkinson, President, University of California, Oakland;

Joseph Barkett, MD, Chairman of the Board, Sunset Corp., Acampa;

Dr. Kelly F. Blanton, Founder and Chairman, Corp., San Francisco;

Robert Bliss, Senior Vice President; NEC/BCS (West), Inc., Van Nuys;

Calvin Bright, President and Chairman, Bright Development, Modesto;

Roy Brophy, Former Chairman, UC Board of Regents, Fair Oaks;

Jim Burke, chairman, Jim Burke Ford, Bakersfield;

Bob Carpenter, President, Leap, Carpenter, Kemps, Merced;

Carl Cavaiani, President, Santa Fe Nut Company, Ballico;

Carol Chandler, California Women for Agriculture, Chandler Farms, Selma

Tony Coelho, Chairman, C/O Gore 2000, Washington, D.C.;

H.A. "Gus" Collin, Chairman, Sunsweet Growers, Inc., Yuba City;

J.F. Collins, President, J.F. Collins Co., Inc., Merced;

Mike Connors, Actor/Producer, Encino;

Roger Coover, President and Publisher, The Stockton Record, Stockton;

Dean Cortopassi, President/CEO, Santomo, Inc., Stockton;

Bert Crane Sr., President, Bert Crane Ranches, Merced;

Jim Cunningham, owner, Cunningham Ranch, LeGrand;

Frank Damrell Jr., Judge, United States District Court, Sacramento;

John Davies, Attorney-at-Law, Allen Matkins, Leck, Gamble & Mallory, San Diego;

Rayburn Dezember, Bank Board of Chairman, Bakersfield;

Diana Dooley, Attorney at Law, Paden & Dooley, Visalia;

James Duarte, President, Duarte Nursery, Inc., Hughson

Ben Duran, President, Merced College, Merced;

John Evans, Chairman of the Board, Evans Communications, Turlock;

Ted Falasco, President, Central Valley Concrete, Los Banos;

Robert Foy, Chairman of the Board, California Water Service Company, Stockton;

Robert Gallo, President, E&J Gallo Winery, Modesto;

John Garamendi, Yucaipa Company, Washington, D.C.;

David Gardner, President Emeritus, University of California, San Mateo;

Lewis Geyser, President, Destination Villages, Santa Barbara;

Price Giffen, President, Giffen Company, Fresno;

Mark Grewal, Vice President and Director, Boswell Company, Corcoran;

Fritz Grupe, Chairman/CEO, Grupe Company, Stockton

Ann Gutcher, Retired 1/28/00, Kern County Board of Trade, Bakersfield;

John Harris, President, Harris Farms and Harris Inns, Coalinga;

Joe Hartley, Director, Global Technology, Sun Microsystems, Palo Alto;

Daryl Hatano, Vice President, Public Policy, Semiconductor Industry Association, San Jose;

Tom Hawker, President/CEO, County Bank, Merced;

Odessa Johnson, Modesto Junior College, Modesto;

Rafer Johnson, Chairman, Special Olympics, Culver City;

Art Kamangar, Kamangar Ranches, Merced;

Edward Kashian, Chairman, Lance Kashian & Company, Fresno;

George Kelley, founder, Stevinson Ranch, Stevinson;

Meredith Khachigian, Former Chairman, UC Board of Regents, San Clemente;

Dorothy Kolligian, Civic Leader, Fresno;

Leo Kolligian, Former Chairman, UC Board of Regents, Fresno;

Joe Levy, Chairman of the Board, Gottschalks, Inc., Fresno;

Paul Lo, Attorney at Law, Allen Polgar, Proietti & Fagalde, Merced

Robert Luster, President/CEO, Luster Group, Inc., San Francisco;

William Lyons, Sr., President, Lyons Investments and Mapes Ranch, Modesto;

George Martin, Attorney at Law and Civic Leader, Borton, Pettini & Conron, Bakersfield;

Harold Meek, President, Three Way Chevrolet, Bakersfield;

Ginger Moorhouse, Publisher and Chairman of the Board, The Bakersfield Californian, Bakersfield;

Tapan Munroe, President, Munroe Consulting, Inc., Moraga;

John Myers, Attorney at Law and Rancher, Beverly Hills;

Kate Nyegaard, Civic Leader, Board of Directors George Lucas Foundation, Modesto;

Marilyn Ohanian, Psychologist & Civic Leader, State of California, Fresno

Ralph Ochoa, President, Ochoa & Sillas, Sacramento;

Richard Otter, Senior Vice President, Salomon Smith Barney, San Francisco;

Ashit Padwal, Director, Global Public Affairs, Lucent Technologies, Fremont;

Jack Peltason, President Emeritus, University of California, The Donald L. Bren Foundation, Newport Beach;

Samuel T. Reeves, President, Pinnacle Trading Inc., Fresno;

Curtis A. Riggs, President, VIA Adventures, Merced;

Kenneth Robbins, Attorney at Law, Mason, Robbins, Gnass & Browning, Merced;

Guillermo Rodriguez Jr., Assistant to the President, PG&E, San Francisco;

Fred Ruiz, Chairman of the Board, Ruiz Foods, Dinuba

Thomas Smith, President, CALCOT, Bakersfield;

Edward Spaulding, Director of Government and Public Affairs, The Chevron Companies, Bakersfield;

Jerry Stanners, President, Stanners Consulting, Bakersfield;

Timothy Steele, Vice President, Siemens Information and Communications Networks, Inc., Santa Clara;

Cleveland Stockton, Attorney at Law, Stockton & Sadler, Modesto;

Gerald Tahajian, Attorney at Law, Gerald Lee Tahajian, Inc., Fresno;

Ann Veneman, Attorney at Law, Sacramento;

E.J. (Gene) Voiland, President/CEO, Aera Energy LLC, Bakersfield;

Daniel Whitehurst, President, Farewell, Inc. Fresno;

Carol Whiteside, President, Great Valley Center, Modesto;

Roger Wood, Vice President, J.R. Wood, Inc., Atwater;

O. James Woodward III, Attorney at Law and Civic Leader, Fresno;

Stewart Woolf, President, Los Gatos Tomato, Inc., Huron;

Michael Zagaris, President, Zagaris Companies, Modesto.

The Badlands Journal editorial board, focused on social, economic and environmental justice, is frequently challenged in sneering tones by elected officials and their staffs to provide positive solutions to the questions it raises. Numerous warnings have appeared through the years on this site. None were heeded by the decision makers and certainly none by the puppetmasters behind the elected officials. In fact, decision makers are more hostile than ever. Presumably, that is their method of sublimating shame. They are human, they must see what is happening, but shame is an inconvenient emotion in the heart of American leaders at any level of government.

The litany: five of the seven Merced City Council are realtors; three of the five county supervisors are large landowners (one representing some of the nation's top recipients of farm subsidies), a fourth (failed dairyman) represents farmer/landowners (brother-in-law of the county farm bureau executive director and future president of California Women for Agriculture), and the fifth represents Atwater realtors (whose greed belies their size). We don't have the data on the Atwater and Livingston councils. The state senator is from Salinas and the assemblywoman is from Stockton (both with Livingston addresses at the moment). On behalf of UC Merced, finance, insurance and real estate special interests, landowners and members of his family and friends, the congressman led three attacks on the federal Endangered Species Act in his short, disgraceful term of office, most of it spent in former Rep. RichPAC Pombo's back pocket. These days, he seems to be leading unsuccessful attempts to subsidize fruit and nut growers, no doubt attempting to forestall the consequences of massive overproduction of almonds and the little problem with the Honey Bee.

For shame. These leaders, backed by the culture of Fat City easy virtue provided by the UC/Great Valley Center, spent 15 years focused madly on future residents of Merced, ignoring those who lived here now. They conducted a massive propaganda campaign against the Present Tense, which fed effortlessly into a speculative housing bubble that, in its aftermath, has caused a global credit crisis. It is a record of so nearly perfect social, economic and environmental injustice that it recalls a comment:

How can one defend a system that creates wealth by making the majority poor?
– Henry C. K. Liu (quoted by Mike Whitney) in Market Oracle:

It has taken a world credit crisis to slow our leaders down. They aren't stupid. They are quite cunning, calculating and subtle in the pursuit of wealth -- so much so, so nakedly in accord with what our congressman calls in reverent tones,

"the Valley Way of Life."

In fact, local government in Merced County (as is it in most places in California) is totally controlled by wealthy special interests. It is the planet on which our leaders have chosen to live, as opposed to where we live. If it weren't for the consequences of their 15 years of purely speculative thought, we might call it pathetic because it is veering so far so fast from the Earth of pain, suffering and the real, so long ignored economy of this county, agriculture, in irreversible decline because farmers have become primarily landowners in their minds.

It's hard to measure all the government aid that comes into this county. Between 1995-2005, the Environmental Working Group estimates that $186 million came to Merced farmers in subsidies. EWG admits that its records so far are only partial, but it has made strides recently on pass-throughs to individuals from agribusiness corporations. Still, with all that federal aid (not including publicly subsidized irrigation and all the other little things government does for our "family farmers," they are selling their land for subdivisions and commercial sites. This is the growth that kills. If land stays in agricultural production, the society has an opportunity to improve the farming system. Residential and commercial real estate development kills the option, not to mention what it does to the environment.

As for the public funds flowing into UC Merced, who can tell? What is the price for a well pimped, witless virgin ? All her relatives from the village in Mindanao are surrounding her to support her career in Manila to get their handouts.

Pathetic. Cruel. But Very Pacific Rim.

Badlands Journal editorial board

Modesto Bee
Jobless numbers ratchet up for Stanislaus, Merced, San Joaquin
Housing crisis cited for construction work loss in three counties...Christina Salerno
Unemployment rates in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties swelled above last year's averages, the result of a shaky economy and deepening housing crisis. The three counties each gained at least a percentage point from the previous year, with Stanislaus County recording the biggest jump. The county went from an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent in September 2006 to 8 percent last month, according to state Employment Development figures released Friday. The construction sector, reeling from the downturn in home sales, posted the steepest decline over 12 months, 28,600 jobs statewide.
Modesto Bee
Valley home prices continue to plummet
Merced takes turn at top for lost homes
1 in 68 houses in county got foreclosure notices; SJ, Stanislaus not far behind...J.N. SBRANTI
It's a title no one wants, but counties in the Northern San Joaquin Valley keep passing around the undesirable honor of having the nation's highest home foreclosure rate.Merced County is the latest to get that title, pushing Stanislaus County into the No. 2 spot and San Joaquin County into No. 3.September filings show Merced County had the nation's highest percentage of homes in the foreclosure process. An estimated 1 in 68 homes there received some type of foreclosure notice last month, according to RealtyTrac, which monitors such statistics. That's more than eight times the national rate of 1 in 557 homes...
Merced Sun-Star
County ranks third in country for hunger
Food summit brings together several groups to try to solve the nutritional problems facing Merced's poor residents...Scott Jason
Merced County may be a thick slice of the Central Valley breadbasket, but more than a third of its poor adults scramble to eat the crumbs.
Yet 25,000 low-income adults here face that problem regularly, and an estimated 38.2 million Americans have trouble putting food on the table.
Though the statistic may drop jaws, it's not filling stomachs. That challenge has been undertaken by the Merced County Hunger Task Force. With Merced County ranked as the third-highest population in the country that has trouble feeding itself, the group of community service agencies met Friday for its second annual all-day summit about the hunger crisis.
While the idea of chronic hunger may conjure images of homeless residents, the problem afflicts seniors, children, students and, most surprisinglyMerced's working class that struggles to survive. out of 10 Merced County adults faces the prospect of going to bed hungry.
$1.1 million grant awarded to UC Merced...Victor A. Patton
Called the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, the grant will allow eligible students to receive up to $2,800 in the summer to support research related expenses. The funds will also let the students attend national and international conferences with their professors.
The program will provide about $220,000 to UC Merced each year for the next five years and is expected to benefit at least 50 students during its funding cycle
Environmentally friendly house going up -- made of straw...Dhyana Levey
Hay is for horses, straw is for houses.
That's what Jean Okuye of Livingston says.
Okuye, 67, began looking about three years ago for a way to build an energy-efficient home with sustainable products. "I wanted to work with nature as much as possible," she said. "A house with materials more cradle-to-cradle than cradle-to-grave."
That means she'd rather see her home products recycled and reused than end up at the bottom of a landfill. She has the future in mind -- five generations of family members have lived on her 78 acres of land, which was just put in a conservation easement. After researching her options online she connected with the eco-friendly Bay Area design and construction firm Skillful Means and learned all about the uses of straw bales.
Part of her inspiration may have been genetic. In her ancestors' Japan, as well as today, at least one room in many homes is made of tatami, straw mats, for flexibility and comfort. About 160 bales of rice straw now make up the walls of her new dwelling, which will be 1,370 square feet when it's done...
The straw provides effective insulation, which was a selling point on this project, said Okuye, an almond farmer and president of the Valley Land Alliance, which seeks to protect local farmland. Her goal was to conserve energy by creating a house without air conditioning or central heating.

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