Journalism

Public Letter from Central Valley Safe Environment Network to the McClatchy Company Officers and Board of Directors

Submitted: Jun 23, 2006

Central Valley Safe Environment Network

P.O. Box 64
Merced, CA. 95341
cvsen@sbcglobal.net

Senior Officers of The McClatchy Company

Gary B. Pruitt - Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer
Heather L. Fagundes - Vice President, Human Resources
Christian A. Hendricks - Vice President, Interactive Media
Karole Morgan-Prager - Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
Patrick J. Talamantes - Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer
Howard Weaver - Vice President, News
Robert J. Weil - Vice President, Operations
Frank Whittaker - Vice President, Operations

Directors of The McClatchy Company

Elizabeth A. Ballantine
Leroy Barnes Jr.
William K. Coblentz
Molly Maloney Evangelisti
Larry Jinks
Joan F. Lane
Brown McClatchy Maloney
Kevin S. McClatchy
William McClatchy
Theodore R. Mitchell
S. Donley Ritchey
Frederick R. Ruiz
Maggie Wilderotter

2100 Q Street
Sacramento CA 95815

P.O. Box 15779
Sacramento 95852

Tel. (916) 321-1855
Fax (916) 321-1869 Via: Email and Fax

contact@mcclatchy.com

Re: Public Letter from Central Valley Safe Environment Network to the McClatchy Company Board of Directors

Date: June 23, 2006

McClatchy Officers and Directors:

In late April, Merced residents complained to you about a racist column by regular Merced Sun-Star columnist, David Burke, that appeared during a highly inflammatory period of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids on undocumented workers in the county.

At that time we asked for an apology from McClatchy for allowing a column to be printed that was an insult to the entire Hispanic community during a period when it is under mounting racist pressure.

To date, we have received no apology from the board or the Sun-Star.

We did receive a telephone message from Lynn Dickerson, vice president for operations, explaining that we had just misunderstood the satire, irony and sarcasm. We also read Sun-Star editor, Joe Keita’s editorial, which followed the same line – a lecture on irony.

We have waited, patiently, for nearly two months for some sign of community sensitivity from the McClatchy corporation, as patiently as we have waited for years for competent journalism from our city’s newspaper.

The Merced Sun-Star has steadily disengaged itself from the community of Merced since the arrival of UC and its induced development. We had hoped that once McClatchy bought the paper, we would get competent journalism in our rapidly changing county. Instead, the McClatchy Co. local organ has continued to ally itself with the propaganda of special, outside, exploitive interests. Worst, it substitutes cheap sideshows for solid news people in Merced County need – often desperately – to know. It is an untrustworthy newspaper.

In the days following his literary offense against an 18-year-old high school girl incarcerated at an ICE facility in Bakersfield, Burke tried several strategies to explain himself. His attempt to appear on a local Spanish-language radio station was refused. He asked Le Grand High School administrators (where the 18-year-old was attending school before her arrest) if he could come out to talk to the students. The administrators asked the students. The students said they did not want to hear Mr. Burke’s explanation. The administrators relayed the message.

Surely, the second largest newspaper chain in America, based in Sacramento, knew by late April that rightwing Republicans were going to make illegal immigration from Mexico a big campaign issue in the 2006 elections. Its Minneapolis paper is only a stone’s throw from the Wisconsin congressional district of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, author of HR 4437. Surely, McClatchy added the Merced Sun-Star to its holding because it was aware of the speculative real estate boom unfolding due to the arrival of UC Merced. How could the McClatchy organization not have known about the on-going, heavy development pressure on rural eastern Merced County, home of a large number of the county’s farmworkers and focus of the ICE raids in April. Certainly, a news organization as huge and sophisticated as McClatchy could figure out that the pressure on illegal Mexican immigrants in this part of the Valley is directly tied to escalating real estate values and developers’ plans for that region, which include icing farmworkers and endangered species as quietly as possible.

Into that explosive situation, the second largest newspaper chain in America injected this schmuck, Burke, this “former journalism professor,” and his “irony.” When we objected, we got an official explanation of irony instead of the simple, honest apology for a management oversight, which you owe this community and refuse to offer.

We are still waiting for that apology to our community for this insult. We live in one of the most ethnically diverse communities in America. We all make it work and this highly inappropriate column insults all of us, regardless of our ethnicity. When you insult the race and status of our neighbors, when you support (however “ironically”) policies that frighten people in our neighborhoods, you harm everybody. Just because McClatchy chooses to ignore – ostrich style – its insult to our community does not mean that the insult is forgotten. However, even at this point, a sincere apology might help.

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
-----------------------------

Attachments:

To: cvsen@sbcglobal.net
Sent: Monday, May 01, 2006 11:06 AM
Subject: Merced sunstar article

Hi, My name is xxxx xxxxx and I am just asking for help. On April 22 there was an article put into the merced sun star by a David Burke a journalist . I was truly offended , I happen to personally know Alma Osegueras older sister Christina and could not believe what this man wrote but, most of all I cannot believe that the merced sunstar would allow such racism . I am disgusted with this newspaper . I don't really know what I can personally do. can the residents of Planada and Le Grand start a petition to get this man terminated or what ??? I don't know if your office handles things like this. I am just so angry at the merced sun star and I can tell you as a resident of Planada I'm not the only one. Please help..

To: cvsen@sbcglobal.net
Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 9:39 AM
Subject: RE: Racially offensive commentary in the Merced Sun-Star

In case you haven't had a chance to read the Sun-Star this morning attached
is Joe Kieta's column as it appeared in our paper and on our website.
Hank N. Vander Veen
Publisher-The Merced Sun Star

4-28-06
Merced Sun-Star
Column wasn't meant to offend...Joe Kieta
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12110584p-12860741c.html

David Burke was appalled by the strong-arm tactics U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents recently decided to write an ironic column that took the extreme opposite side in an effort to point out what he feels is the senselessness of the agency's actions. Unfortunately, some readers missed the irony in the column -- and for this we truly are sorry if anyone was offended. If used skillfully, a tongue-in-cheek comment or column can effectively crystallize an opinion; if the irony is missed, readers can be confused or outraged by the comments. ...some took his comments literally. ...he received an e-mail hours after it appeared applauding him for the extreme views. He since has received many more messages from readers who missed the irony. Burke's worried the column creates an incorrect perception that he's bigoted and insensitive. He wants to set the record straight: ...
For our part, the Sun-Star will be more careful in the future to make sure satirical columns are clearly labeled as such, which will eliminate any confusion. We could have labeled Burke's column accordingly, but didn't -- and for this, please accept our apologies.

To: cvsen@sbcglobal.net
Sent: Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:46 AM
Subject: Saturday's Sun-Star column...

I have received a lot of feedback regarding my column from Saturday’s edition of the Sun-Star. I understand that you found the article to be offensive and that you’ve formally complained to officials of the McClatchy Corporation on behalf of the Central Valley Safe Environment Network.

My intention with this piece was to use irony and sarcasm to draw attention to attitudes and actions that I believe are cruel, unfair, insensitive and un-American.

Irony, as you know, is a technique in which a writer, or speaker, makes a statement that is opposite to their beliefs. This incongruity can have a dramatic effect when combined with sarcasm, as I attempted to do in the commentary.

A problem with irony is that some readers may take statements literally and believe that the intended message is actually its opposite. I clearly failed to craft this piece skillfully enough to make the irony clear to some readers.

For the record, let me say that I abhor the treatment of Alma Oseguera and her family at the hands of immigration agents. I believe raiding their home at 3 a.m. is the kind of behavior that we expect from secret police or government thugs in other countries, but not in the United States.

I do not believe that U.S. citizens are “more equal” than people from other nations and I despise racism and discrimination.

I hope you’ll take another look at Saturday’s commentary. A second read might reveal that my use of hateful language was intended to get the attention of good people who have become polarized and now view immigrants unfairly. My hope was that by exaggeration I might open some eyes and force people to look at the impact current policies are having on individuals like Alma.

Finally, I have a track record with the Sun-Star and I believe my body of work provides clear evidence that I am an advocate for children and for causes that are completely inconsistent with racism and intolerance.

I invite you to take a look at back issues of the paper. One article that may be particularly revealing is still posted online. You may choose to visit the following site:

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12042436p-12798745c.html

I hope you will reconsider your position regarding my column or at least accept that my intent was not to promote racism. Though I may have missed the target on Saturday, a dialogue has begun and I believe the end result may still be enlightenment. I hope you’ll participate in the discussion and that you’ll continue to read the Sun-Star and my column.

Sincerely,

David Burke

To: cvsen@sbcglobal.net
Sent: Wednesday, April 26, 2006 10:50 AM
Subject: Quepasa News
Merced Newspaper Article

The following is an article published by the Merced Sun Star. It is very disturbing and in the "Gray" area of Hate Mail. It was written by a retired journalist. A group called Central Valley Safe Environment Network has responded to the McClatchy Newspaper Company. I will print their response at the next QUEPASA NEWS.

To: cvsen@sbcglobal.net
Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 8:40 PM
Subject: Letter to The McClatchy Company re: Racially offensive commentary in the Merced Sun-Star

Wow - hard to believe they would publish that crap!
Juan de la Rana-Salta

Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 3:28 PM
Subject: Racially offensive commentary in the Merced Sun-Star
Re: Racially offensive commentary in the Merced Sun-Star
Date: April 25, 2006

McClatchy Officers and Directors:

We write you to protest the publication on Saturday, April 22, 2006 of a column by a regular contributor to the Merced Sun-Star titled “Liberty, opportunity are for Americans only.”

Speaking as citizens of Merced and for citizens of the San Joaquin Valley and of the United States, we will not tolerate racist smears of 18-year-old high school girls in our newspaper; we will not tolerate our newspaper publishing its contempt for an entire ethnic minority; we will not tolerate a vicious attack on a person little more than a child without any means of defending herself, presently in a Border Patrol holding tank in Bakersfield; we will not tolerate our newspaper bullying the weak and defenseless.

We are not asking for or demanding the immediate dismissal of the publisher and the editorial staff of the Merced Sun-Star that published this racial slander and libel against a high school girl. We expect nothing less than their dismissal and an apology from the McClatchy board for publishing material with racial hatred content intended to intimidate and incite.

This newspaper has entirely lost contact with its community and with decency.

Merced Sun-Star, April 22, 2006
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12086617p-12838624c.html
Weekend voices: Liberty, opportunity are for Americans only

The Central Valley Safe Environment Network is confident McClatchy officers and directors will do the right thing in a timely manner, removing the “leadership” of this newspaper, which increasingly over the last decade become a source of unjust speech and propaganda.

Central Valley Safe Environment Network

Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 3:23 PM
Subject: Sun-Star article Weekend voices
By David F. Burke
Last Updated: April 22, 2006, 03:31:08 AM PDT

Get out of this valley, Alma Oseguara. Maybe after a few weeks in a Kern County jail you'll finally understand that we don't want you and your kind here in the San Joaquin Valley.

Never mind that you spent the last 12 years attending school here, and were weeks away from graduation at Le Grand High School. You and your bleeding-heart classmates need to understand that we expect you to obey the law of the land.

Even six-year-old illegals have to play by the rules and because you entered our country without permission when you were six, our agents were perfectly within their rights to "target" you and to bang on your door at 3 in the morning, demanding that you pack your bags and go directly to jail.

And don't start that old song about escaping from Mexico to get away from an abusive father, Alma.

Do you think we're the kind of nation that would welcome the wretched refuse of another country? Do you think we want more homeless, tempest-tossed masses of tired and poor people like you? Does our border look to you like some kind of golden door?

Forget that idea. We stopped holding the torch for your kind of immigrants long ago.

Liberty and opportunity are for Americans only. Did you imagine that we were talking about Mexicans when we said, "all are created equal?" Get real, Alma. Say goodbye to Le Grand High, to dreams of college and to friends and relatives you've known for a dozen years.

Bienvenidos a Mexico.

Let me explain how it works, Alma. My son looks a bit like you; he has the same skin tone. But Jesse had the good sense not to be born in Mexico - he was born in New Mexico.

About 300 years ago, his ancestors, named Garcia, came through Texas -- well, it may have been "Tejas" then -- and up into northern New -- I mean Nuevo -- Mexico and southern Colorado.

Then, 150 years later, my ancestors picked a fight with Mexico. We first tried to get what we wanted peacefully, offering our neighbors to the south $25 million for California. But the ignorant Mexicans thought the state was worth more than that.

So, we sent two armies into Mexico and a third to California, by way of New Mexico. The silly Mexicans refused to surrender, so we captured Mexico City and "convinced" our captors to accept just $15 million for the Golden State. The vanquished Mexicans threw in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Utah - about half of their country, all told - for free.

And that, Alma, should explain why my brown-skinned son -- who was born in New Mexico -- gets to stay while you -- who were born in Old Mexico -- must leave.

It's not personal. It's the law. If you like, you can think of it as manifest destiny.

Now, get out of my country. And don't come back until you are legal.

cc:

Hank Vander Veen
Publisher, Merced Sun-Star
hvanderveen@mercedsun-star.com

Joseph Kieta
Editor, Merced Sun-Star
jkieta@mercedsun-star.com
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK

MISSION STATEMENT

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders

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After another week of flak

Submitted: Jun 11, 2006

If for some reason, one finds oneself trying to look at things while standing somewhere in
grass roots, one of the first problems met is smoke generation. Part of learning the lay of
the land involves locating the local, regional, state and national smoke generators operating
near the grass roots one stands in. In other words, what flak, generated by whom, is smogging
local communications with propaganda for whose profit?

Public relations, as it is called, is among our newest professions. Related, and somewhat
newer, are our "environmental consulting firms," known in some circles as "bio-stitutes,"
because they sell their science for fees. If the grass roots in which one stands are
withering, there are biostitutes ready and willing to declare with scientific authority that
the withering is only in the eyes of someone who happens to be standing in grass roots in
the path of development.

One of the worst examples of smoke generation, combining science and PR, is promotion of
genetically engineered seed, crops with patented gene modifications in their seeds whose
pollen spreads the modified genes around the surrounding countryside. The GMO corporations
seem to be companies run almost entirely by their PR departments, with a few scientists in
the lab shotgunning strands of DNA with foreign genes to "see what sticks." Of course,
any farmer knows who ever asked any pesticide salesman why any pesticide worked, only to
receive the answer, "We don't know but it sure kills bugs," there is virtually no
environmental or even agricultural concern involved in the "corporate culture" of the giant
pesticide companies now producing GE seed.

If one's grass roots are in the San Joaquin Valley, the mental smog comes from a variety of
smoke generating equipment, some of it old, some of it new. Pesticide and fertilizer
companies have been promoting their ever-changing products and extracting their profits from
the Valley for decades. Farmers have come and gone, the entire scale and crop mix of Valley
agriculture has changed, but the pesticide (now GE-seed) corporations go on, immortal,
fictional persons that they are. Sometimes it takes a word from afar, even from as far as the
North Dakota wheat deal, to remind us that seed is life, corporations are just pieces of
paper. Some of the commodities -- dairy, cotton, rice, poultry, some fruits -- are old and
possess venerable smoke machines. An odd, and oddly unacknowledged aspect of our economic
system is that although the PR of its biggest winners has never failed to preach the holy
mystery of the market and competition, while doing everything they can to control their own
markets and protect their own government subsidies. The current one-party, far-rightwing
House of Representatives is a psychotic case in point. Taking big telecommunications' firms
money, they vote against enshrining in law the principle of neutrality on the Internet,
proving again the old political adage the the only truly free market in America is Congress,
where everyone is for sale. They call that being conservative and even godly when in fact it
is just religiously sanctified graft.

The grass rooter may take the privilege of remaining skeptical about the economic benefits of
market control and subsidies on certain agricultural commodities. Likewise, he may take a
skeptical position on various governmental strategies to keep land in agricultural production
rather than letting it go to the developer's blade. California's Williamson Act and
Agricultural Preserve laws, which provide a property tax subvention to farmers and ranchers,
has probably been the best law for preserving agriculture in the state -- not that it has not
and cannot be perverted by developers planting large, newly acquired parcels in crops of
convenience (grapes and almonds are popular) waiting for the right time to build the next
subdivision. Meanwhile, of course, this business strategy add to the supply of the commodity
they are growing, lowering the price for everyone else trying to make a living growing that
commodity.

There is the additional strife among generations in farming families that works its mischief. Families get tired of the struggle to make a living with each other on farms. Selling is a good way of settling up. It's an amazing thing to the urban supporters of agriculture, but farmers do not always love their farms. Another factor is the low social status of farmers, which can be attributed more to the eyes of those who hold themselves above farmers than to farmers themselves, although farmers play status games among each other, too. For a number of reasons, farmers in the Valley seem more conventional than farmers on the coast, for example, although this is a more recent phenomenon than it appears. Valley history is full of stories of colorful, inventive, incredibly creative farmers. The chances are they are still out there, but for some reason, they are not as visible as they once were to the public.

In a place where rapid urban development is occurring, farm commodity groups develop forms of
thinking that would be better taken to a competent psychiatrist for examination and reflection than taken to the public as policy. The skeptical grass rooter can entertain the idea that farm commodities in the US are in a longterm crisis caused by input prices ratcheting ever upward while commodity prices continue their languid wave-like motion in the middle of the graph. Sooner or later, commodity by commodity, despite whatever help the government can and does provide, that rising line bisecting the price graph from lower right
corner to upper left corner cuts through the wave-like motion of commodity prices. Once it cuts through the surface, the gap grows over time. During price troughs farmers are forced out of the commodity; and during peak prices they pay off their mortgage and wait for another price fall. If the commodity is heavily subsidized, it only awaits a new chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture like Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, for the axe. Although Pombo has not yet been named chair of the agriculture committee, it seems that is the plan if the wind-power consultant doesn't beat him after McCloskey placed a few
bandilleras and picks in his neck in the primary.

RichPAC, the political strong arm of a San Joaquin County clan of ranch realtors, knows exactly what to do when agricultural inputs rise too far above agricultural prices: sell the land to the developer and import the fruits and vegetables from some other country. It is a popular, practical approach to any agricultural crisis, at least in California, assuming no way for agriculture to evolve out of its crisis. The farmer is caught between the prospects for his commodity and the Pombo approach. This leads to hysterical contradictions in the public utterance from farm groups, as land ownership becomes more important than agricultural production in their family budgets. HBO could do a comedy series on it.

A minor form of flak that occurs within agriculture is the condemnation of farming by organic gardeners or truck farmers. The conventional, commercial farmers get it from all sides. Yet, one of the things they say that rings true is that it is not a good idea for the United States to become food importers just to pave over good farmland for subdivisions.

Development flak is funded by a consortium of interests -- construction unions, building contractors, aggregate mining firms, engineering firms, hordes of consultants serving all development's needs, developers themselves, and the manifold branches of their financial investors. These are largely statewide, national and even international operations, and the larger ones all have flak departments or consultants, ready for a fee on instant notice to flood a promising real estate market in the midst of a speculative housing boom with
flak-to-order for the issue at hand (Measure A in Merced County, for example).

It is when we get to the propaganda of large landowners that the smoke generator is hard to see from the grass roots. However, keeping with a skeptical view, it is possible that the landowning interest is so entrenched in local government it virtually needs no lobby or propaganda, at least to persuade the land-use authorities. The Merced County Board of Supervisors, for example, seems to possess a comfortable quorum of ranch and farm owners whose properties are not far from the path of urban growth, and the chairman of the county Planning Commission is one of the largest land-owning developers on the west side of the county. Some might consider this connection to sizeable tracts of private property -- in view of the de facto pro-growth policies of the board -- to represent what used to be called in a more democratic era "a conflict of interest." But we don't live in a very democratic era, there is a huge amount of money flowing into Merced County in real estate speculation, possibly even a larger amount of money is flowing out of the county, and it is definitely not polite in governing circles to mention the "C-word."

Yet, there are still other forms of flak billowing up in the Valley. There are the "public information" operations emanating out of state and federal bureaucracies like the regional boards for air and water quality and the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Air and water quality in the Valley is deteriorating. The water board recently announced a huge coup: it levied a multi-million-dollar fine against Hilmar Cheese for ruining water quality in its area. Then the water board permitted Hilmar Cheese to sink deep injection wells to pump its waste deep below the surface. The state air board is limited to stationary sources of pollution. The grass rooter looks at this regulatory truncation and speculates that it must be the result of a high level of special interest investment in the free market of politicians, because it certainly doesn't make any sense in terms of the common good or the Public Trust. The federal BOR, which controls federal water projects, has agendas utterly beyond the comprehension of mere mortal grass rooters. Why the BOR produced so much propaganda against the US Fish and Wildlife Service's discovery of the damage done to wildlife at the Kesterson preserve as the result of subterranean drainage of heavy metals from west side farms is still difficult, 20 years later, to understand from a grass roots perspective. Does the BOR just hate birds or fetuses in general? Does the BOR take a pro-cancer position? Can wildlife biology and the BOR exist on the same planet? The mild-mannered Valley grass rooter shudders to think what went on in the free market of congressmen when biological whistles started tooting at Kesterson.

There is also the flak produced by the water districts and irrigation districts, these public agencies that behave so often like private corporations and over whom there is so little real public oversight. They all have marvelously glossy brochures, pamphlets and magnificently jargoned, lengthy reports that could put a grass rooter to sleep before finishing reading the executive summary. There is no subject in California history over which there has been more political conflict (not to mention the gun battles) than water. As a result, water propaganda represents perhaps the most opaque, obscure, slithery official jargon in the state.

Reading California water policy documents conjures up the image of what happens to the San Joaquin River halfway across Fresno County, where it disappears below the sands of the river bed for 40 miles. There has always been too much missing to make sense of it. And when the San Joaquin resurfaces, it meanders northward beside two canals flowing south.

Nevertheless, it is extremely gratifying that so many earnest people, connected to the real sources of information about issues vital to our region are willing -- at other peoples' expense -- to do our thinking for us. It is so gratifying, actually, that it seems as if some people have forgotten how to think without the aid of flak, contenting themselves with parroting the last opinion to which they were exposed.

In our area there is also University of California flak, in a class by itself. First, UC appears to believe that it invented and hold patents (no doubt in fruitful win-win, public-private partnerships) on the truth. Secondly, as manager of two national laboratories of weapons of mass destruction, whatever it says and does not say
carries with it the authority of National Security. For both reasons, UC is very certain what people should know and what they should not know about UC. UC flak is the most impenetrable obstacle to comprehension in the local flak environment because it constantly changes its story depending on what it thinks simple peasants need to know. UC flak games with history -- its own or anything it thinks it ought to control -- are among the most bizarre in the flak industry. The intent appears to be to completely deny the existence of history, at least any other version of it but the current line promoted by the UC flak-du jour, for whatever
the advantage of the moment it is for UC. Perhaps in the highest echelons of UC, they actually believe history is over. Another view might be, however, that as it develops a new generation of nuclear weapons, it simply believes history is UC.

Finally, there is the effortless repetition of flak in the local press.

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12289754p-13025572c.html
6-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure A: Road fixes to take longer...Leslie Albrecht

While the county can charge developers impact fees to cover the cost of new residents' impact
on roads, those fees can only pay for projects related to new growth, not maintenance
projects like reconstructing Livingston's Main Street.

... because, obviously new residents in Livingston won't be using Main Street like old
residents do?

This is an example, taken from an article that is supposed to achieve a professional journalistic "objectivity" about Measure A, which recently failed. Instead, it is mindless regurgitation of developer flak, the main purpose of which is to disguise by any and all means available the fact that development doesn't pay for itself. In the speculative real estate boom Merced County is now experiencing, two things that under no circumstances can be said by public officials or local media organs are: a boom busts; and development doesn't pay for itself.

Another example:

UC names committee to look for new chancellor of Merced Campus...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12295105p-13030135c.html June 9, 2006
UC President Robert Dynes has named a 14-member search committee that will advise him in
selecting the successor to UC Merced founding Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, who is set
to leave the university's top seat Aug. 31. Three UC Merced faculty members, two UC Merced
students and four UC regents are among the committee members, who are scheduled to meet for
the first time at the university later this month ...

The article continues on its gagged path, announcing that a "diverse" committee including one
representative from the Merced community, will choose the new chancellor. The local representative is none other than Bob "Mr. UC Merced" Carpenter, who has never represented anything but local business -- mainly real estate -- interests from the beginning of the first committee he set up to lure UC to Merced to induce the present speculative development boom.

But, of course, the reporter doesn't know this, because she is perhaps the seventh reporter at the paper to have covered UC Merced since Carpenter was dubbed by a predecessor, "Mr. UC Merced," and her editors have forgotten or simply don't care.

The story mentions in disconnected paragraphs that the top two UC Merced administrators have both left. In fact, that is the story and the question Why? screams for some response. But, as in all stories generated by UC flak, the public gets no answer. Why is Larry Salinas, UC Merced's top flak, on a committee to select a new chancellor at all? Who really runs that campus?

How about Carpenter, Regent Fred Ruiz and Salinas for a guess? An insurance agent, a frozen food tycoon and a professional flak man. The ingenue who has inherited the Blessed Beat doesn't ask who the Hun replaced with Ruiz on the Regents and what was the nature of that insult to farmworkers.

This is a university? Or is it a shell waiting to be filled up with substances too dangerous for the Livermore Valley?

Our problem in the Valley is that the various contending creeds, expressed in propaganda, don't jibe with our history, experience or daily reality. In fact, taken as a whole, they don't produce a coherent path for the human mind. Agriculture, in particular, is currently producing masses of contradictory claims, all commanding our belief (but perhaps increasing our disbelief). In the face of these contradictions, developers and the investors behind them come with a very simple political remedy to all our confusions: sell the land. Lately, we have been seeing farmers who have become developers, along with the well-known path of developers holding land in agriculture until the next boom comes, producing distortions in the supply of the commodity they choose to farm.

But, considering local projects like the WalMart distribution center, Riverside Motorsports Park, and UC Merced, the average grass rooter must remain quite skeptical about whether they will deliver any of their proposed promises for the common good.

But flak is beautiful, anyway. It does all your thinking for you, it promises you wonderful things, and gives you an unerring guide for correct opinions -- and never mind if, taken together, it make any sense except for the people who pay for the flak. The thing to admire is that flak is so smooth and shiny next to your own lumpy, half-finished opinions riddled with unanswered questions and doubts -- those niggling things in the mind that flak deals with so effectively by completely ignoring them.

Flak is also very flattering. Flak cares about you. Flak invites you to join its side, always the "good" side, urging you to march forward to wealth, prosperity and security. Flak is so nice you forget to ask why these talented, clean, wholesome citizens would be working so hard to send you these warm, smiling messages that do your thinking for you. Flak is thought in a chauffeured limousine.

Nevertheless, we are privileged at the moment to get a glimpse at what happens with the American profession of propagandist itself falls under attack, in the following brace of articles from CommonDreams.com.

Bill Hatch
-------------------------------

Notes:

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0608-21.htm
Published on Thursday, June 8 2006 by the Center for Media and Democracy

Confronted with Disclosure Demands, Fake News Moguls Cry "Censorship!"
by Diane Farsetta

Be afraid, be very afraid! If television stations are required to abide by existing regulations and label the corporate and government propaganda they routinely pass off as "news," the First Amendment will be shredded, the freedom of the press repealed, and TV stations will collapse overnight!

At least, that's what the public relations firms that produce and distribute video news releases (VNRs) and other forms of fake news would have you believe. PR firms are banding together and launching lobbying and PR campaigns to counter the growing call for full disclosure of VNRs, the sponsored video segments frequently aired by TV newsrooms as though they were independently-produced reports.

This alarmist campaign comes as no surprise; the PR industry is like any other business interest. And if there's one thing business is good at, it's avoiding meaningful oversight ...

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0609-31.htm

Published on Friday, June 9, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Framing Versus Spin
by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson

Two weeks ago, Rockridge published The Framing of Immigration by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson, an analysis of the framing surrounding immigration used by progressives and conservatives, as well as a discussion of framings not being used, but which would reveal important truths. Late last week, the DailyKos leaked a memo by Frank Luntz, the Republican messaging strategist, advising Republicans how to talk about immigration. If you want to compare what Rockridge does with what Luntz does, this is your chance ...

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Some reasons that could explain the Modesto Bee endorsement of Pombo (if stupidity is not the whole answer)

Submitted: May 31, 2006

In a quiet little editorial on May 18, the Modesto Bee endorsed Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, against Republican challenger, former Rep. Pete McCloskey.

The Bee says that although Pombo is a (as yet unindicted) crook, he "has been effective in many ways."
McCloskey, is described as a quixotic, 78-year-old renegade, an author of the Endangered Species Act angry over Pombo's attacks.

Pombo's gut-the ESA bills are co-authored by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, who represents most of the Modesto Bee distribution area. A practical political consideration not mentioned by the editorialists is that without Pombo's hip pocket to ride in, Cardoza would lose influence in the one-party rightwing House. Rather than register as a Republican, Cardoza is a rightwing Democrat, of use to the House rightwing leadership as "bipartisan" cover for Pombo's radical rightwing legislation and decisions in the Resource Committee.

The Bee notes that Pombo was elevated over more senior House Republicans to the chairmanship of the Resources Committee. The Bee fails to mention that Pombo was also elevated several months ago over more senior Republicans to become vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

These important offices, once earned through years of service to the still untermed House, are now doled out by the radically rightwing Republican leadership to bolster its strengths here, fight off a challenge there and especially to reward loyalty to their radical rightwing policies. Once, even under periods of Republican control, the Congress chose its committee leaders on the basis of seniority, encyclopedic knowledge of esoteric subjects like dairy pricing, cotton and rice subsidies (especially at the beginning of a new Farm Bill debate), ability to compromise and negotiate across the aisle, and perhaps, from time to time, even a for little integrity, civility and authenticity.

In Pombo's case, the radical rightwing Republican leadership of the House, whose guidance the Modesto Bee has followed slavishly, has made Pombo as powerful as it could have in two areas -- resources policy and farm policy -- at a time when north San Joaquin Valley special interests are intent on liquidating both natural resources and agricultural land for a huge speculative housing boom.

It is a moment when the Bee editorial board should have stood for a principle. In fact, the "should" word was used:

It is highly unlikely they will pick McCloskey over their homegrown congressman. And we don't think they should.

The Bee editorialists give no reason why 11th congressional district Republicans "should" choose Pombo, but here are a few I imagine might have persuaded the editorialists:

Get rid of the ESA so developers can build from the Altamont to Bakersfield without any interference from environmental law and regulation, despite the air quality disaster unfolding in the San Joaquin Valley;

Let the government buy up agricultural land at development prices;

Get rid of that 3-cent per hundredweight dairy tax proposed for the new Farm Bill;

Continue strong subsidy support for cotton and rice;

Keep the cabal of Pombo, Cardoza and Valley congressmen Radanovich, Nunes and Costa in control for continued pro-growth, anti-environmental, agribusiness-subsidy and racist policies;

Keep out McCloskey, an independent candidate with a proven record for courageous, principled political positions, who would be no tool for regional special interests;

If necessary (if Pombo is indicted before November), elect one of the Democratic candidates who are vying with each other to see who can be the biggest tool of special interests;

Neither Pombo or the Democrats would be votes to impeach the president; McCloskey has shown he has the courage to take that position if he decided it was the right thing to do.

The Modesto Bee sold its readers down the River of Stupid with this endorsement. It was cowardly, corrupt and dumb -- a combination of components in political policies we are finding more common by the day whenever our leaders speak.

Bill Hatch
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Pombo best among GOP options, but he'll have explaining to do later

Last Updated: May 18, 2006, 04:23:03 AM PDT

With his close ties to disgraced Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, contributions from clients of admitted criminal Jack Abramoff, and his off-the-wall plan to sell national parks, Richard Pombo looks to be ripe for defeat in the 11th Congressional District.
We don't think so; not this time. None of Pombo's problems will matter to the majority of Republican voters in a district that includes most of San Joaquin and parts of Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties. In this primary, the district's Republican voters are unlikely to vote against their seven-term representative. After all, he is the same big business-friendly, hardball playing, conservative Republican they've been electing since 1992.

As a protegé of DeLay, Pombo was elevated over more senior members to the chair of the House Resources Committee. From that position, he has forged a valley coalition that includes Democrats and Republicans. While we often disagree with the direction he has taken the committee, he has been effective in many ways.

In the primary, Republicans must choose between Pombo and 78-year-old renegade Pete McCloskey (retired Tracy rancher Tom Benigno is a nonfactor). It is highly unlikely they will pick McCloskey over their homegrown congressman. And we don't think they should.

Angry over Pombo's attacks on the Endangered Species Act, of which McCloskey was co-author, Pombo's opponent moved into the district last year to give GOP voters an alternative. This has provided a loud and healthy airing of issues and a real campaign instead of the proforma exercise Pombo usually goes through to win re-election.

We admire McCloskey's quixotic quest, but we doubt that the district's Republicans are interested in an alternative. Besides, even a deeply flawed Pombo has more to offer the district than McCloskey.

It could be a different story in November. Then, a well-financed Democrat with distinctly differing views will present a clearer alternative. Then, Pombo will have to explain why 15 American Indian tribes, all with business before his House committee and some represented by Abramoff, have been so generous to him; why he has voted to protect oil companies' royalties and increase their profits; why he worked so hard to protect DeLay's power, and why he wanted to sell off pieces of15 national parks.

Republican voters should stick with Pombo — at least until they have a better alternative.

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Political lessons from the McCloskey/Pombo campaign

Submitted: May 20, 2006

Conventional political "wisdom" says Pombo has raised so much money from corrupt dealings with lobbyists wishing to extinguish every trace of environmental law and regulation on the books that he is unbeatable. But where does that money go?

Into a media flood of lies to try to save Pombo and all he can deliver to the lobbyists. Evidently, this crap is beginning to backfire on the great Buffalo Slayer.

It challenges conventional political "wisdom." If all Pombo can do with the money is produce deceptive advertising and the constituents are not in the mood to be deceived, what a truly incredible waste of money! If Americans ever regained their ear for the truth in politics, campaigns could not cost nearly what these inflated races cost now. If corporations were made by such a public that their political contributions were an incredible waste of money, the political system as we know it could collapse like Enron stock, and conventional political "wisdom" along with it.

Bill Hatch

KCRA 3
Adwatch: Pombo's ad focuses on gnatcher
http://www.kcra.com/politics/9241873/detail.html#
The ad claims Pombo saved lives of U.S. Marines by taking a stand on the gnatcatcher. KCRA 3 took a closer look. The ad was shown to three local experts...Barbara O'Connor is a public communications professor at Sacramento State University. Steve Swatt is a political analyst and former political reporter. Bob Waste teaches public policy at Sacramento State University. KCRA 3's adwatchers have a problem with how this describes that move as "closing" parts of the base. In 2003, Pombo wrote legislation exempting all military bases from critical habitat designations. But according to documents, three year's before Pombo's legislation the Fish and Wildlife Service already decided to exclude Camp Pendleton from this critical habitat decision...the scene in the ad of Camp Pendleton Marines being told they couldn't train because of the gnatcatcher could never have happened.

The following statement from Pete McCloskey on Pombo's latest misleading ad was sent to print reporters moments ago.
If you haven't already checked out the latest Pombo TV ad, and KCRA's analysis, go to:
http://www.kcra.com/politics/9241873/detail.html#
An analysis of the ad from KCRA is written below, following the McCloskey statement.
Pete McCloskey issued this statement regarding the ad:
"I trained at Camp Pendleton before leaving for Korea in 1951 and trained there nearly every year through 1965 when I volunteered for service in Viet Nam. The Marines have done a better job of preserving the native habitat and endangered species of most of the 400 square miles of Camp Pendleton than have many civilian agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Pombo has stretched the truth on the gnatcather, as he did when he lied to the Senate in 1994 about the kit fox. No Marine has lost has life or had it endangered because of the manner in which the base commanders at Camp Pendleton and Miramar have mainitained the natural landscape entrusted to them. Major General Mike Lehnert, who participated in the original assault on Baghdad, has perhaps said it best when he told me last February, when I visited the base, "A country worth fighting for is worth preserving."
"Pombo's deciding vote on May 26, 2005 against $9 million for prosthetic research to help military amputees is far more dangerous to Marines than the remaining wildlife at Camp Pendleton."
As a rifle platoon leader in Korea, McCloskey was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

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Pombo described

Submitted: May 06, 2006

Jeffrey St. Clair produced an excellent summation of the high points of the sleazy career of Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, on Counterpunch.com this weekend. St. Clair is an experienced investigative reporter that has spent a great deal of time on environmental affairs and corporate lobbying, which makes his take on Pombo dead on target.

The Pombo/McCloskey Republican primary we continue to believe – for lack of evidence so far to contradict this view – is the most important congressional primary in the county because it is a referendum on how willing any congressional district is to tolerate being represented by a flagrant crook. McCloskey is out there in the 11th CD every day offering an intelligent, honest option to his fellow Republicans, while Pombo makes a deal to get Vice President Dick Cheney (18-percent popularity in the latest polls) to come out to the district and shake down developers, agribusiness and plutocrat duck hunters. McCloskey is saying he’ll attend the event wearing an orange hunting jacket.

McCloskey probably doesn’t have enough campaign money for polls. Pombo could poll daily. We speculate the Cheney visit is related somehow to disturbing trends in Pombo’s numbers.

It would be interesting to know how many Republicans, no longer alive, remain on messy voter roles in San Joaquin and the other rapdily growing counties in the 11th CD.

Bill Hatch
----------------
Weekend Edition
May 6 / 7, 2006

The Endangered Visigoth
The Rise and Pending Fall of Richard Pombo

By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

The banner stretched across the entrance to the Crobar ­ a trendy New York nightclub ­read, "Welcome to the Pombo-Palooza". At the door, members of the Rockettes handed out cowboy hats to the A-list invited guests. Inside, a model clad in rhinestone hot pants and a cleavage-enhancing top that might have chastened a Hooters waitress rode a mechanical bull. On the stage, the Charlie Daniels Band cut loose with fiddle-driven Southern funk as lobbyists and lawyers, politicians and tycoons danced the two-step and drank iridescent blue martinis.

Such was the scene in 2003 at Congressman Rick Pombo's coming out party. The young legislator from Tracy, California had just been appointed the new chairman of the House Resources Committee. At 42, he was the youngest chairman on Capital Hill. Bush couldn't attend the hoedown but he sent a herogram congratulating the congressman he calls "Marlboro Man".

That night money flowed faster than champagne. Before Charlie Daniels had finished his first set, Pombo's campaign war chest had been fattened by more than $250,000, courtesy of an assortment of real estate barons, oil and mining company executives, timber lobbyists and casino operators. Many of these contributors would turn out to be the cream of lobbyist Jack Abramoff's clientele. (Abramoff now faces many years in prison for his corrupt dealings.) And that was just their opening bid. Over the next two and half years, Pombo's political accounts would be fattened by an additional $2 million from an ever-expanding retinue of lobbyists, real estate barons and corporate PACs.

Pombo's is an unlikely success story. He is a college drop-out from a dusty ranching town in California's Central Valley. He showed no particular flair for politics during his early days and, when given the chance, bankrupted the family dairy ranch. Politics was a last resort, and even in this arena Pombo's future seemed uncertain: he was not a particularly gifted public speaker, nor possessed of an [especially] engaging personality.

Pombo likes to describe himself as a rancher. He shows up to congressional hearings in cowboy boots and a Stetson. He owns a ranch, but spends less time on it than Bush does clearing sagebrush in Crawford. Pombo did place photos of himself on his website constructing a pink barn for his children's pet pigs over the last Christmas break. Pombo used to sport a thin Brokeback Mountain moustache. These days he brandishes a manly goatee. The new growth was detected shortly after the movie premiered.

Western myths aside, the Pombo family didn't make their fortune selling milk from their small herd of dairy cows. They got rich by buying up ranchlands and subdividing them into ranchettes for Bay Area commuters. As a member of congress, Pombo pushed for freeway projects that caused the value of properties owned by his family to soar.

Some thought that young Richard might get a job selling real estate for his uncle, who owned one of the largest brokerages in the Central Valley. But Pombo never passed the real estate exam.

Politically, however, his uncle proved to be a huge help. The red and white Pombo real estate signs are ubiquitous across the congressional district. Thus, Rick Pombo, a tubby and slick-haired man of Portuguese descent, enjoyed huge name recognition before he ever considered running for office.

Pombo has told various stories about the event that prompted him to run for Congress. For years he claimed that he was enraged by plans to turn an abandoned railroad near his family ranch into a bicycle trail which -- he fumed -- would lead to the entire valley being designated a "viewshed" where development would be restricted. Later, Pombo said he ran for office because the family ranch had been designated "critical habitat" for the San Joaquin kit fox, the world's smallest wild canid and an endangered species.

Both stories are embellished to the point of fantasy. Pombo's ranch was never at risk from either action. The allegation about the kit fox driving his family from their homestead is particularly outlandish, since the feds have never designated critical habitat for the tiny vulpine. Real ranchers look kindly on the kit fox, since it feeds almost exclusively on rodents regarded as crop pests. In any event, the habitat designation wouldn't have restricted ranching operations but development. And, indeed, that's precisely what ticked off Pombo. He paid $5,137 into a regional conservation fund as an impact fee for houses he built on his "ranch". The houses went up; kit fox populations went down.

In 1992 Pombo won his seat in Congress after narrowly defeating Democrat Patty Garamendi, daughter of the hugely unpopular state insurance commissioner John Garamendi.

In 1996, Pombo published a book-length screed against the Endangered Species Act and environmentalists. Titled This Land is Your Land, the book was ghost written by rightwing columnist Joseph Farrah. Woody Guthrie wouldn't recognize many of the sentiments set forth in the Pombo-Farrah tract, which called for the dismantling of the Endangered Species Act and disposal of public lands to private interests. Though not a bestseller, the book acquired the allure of a Gnostic gospel among the "Wise Use" crowd, whose concept of wise use derives from God's commandment to Adam in the book of Genesis to pillage the earth's natural resources as he thinks fit. The book put Pombo on the ledger as an apex berserker in what Ron Arnold, the P.T. Barnum of the Wise Users, has billed as the War Against the Greens.

But the Wise Use Movement's backing of Pombo certainly doesn't explain his rise to power. The Wise Users have had their congressional champions in the past, notably Helen Chenoweth, of Idaho. But they've tended to labor in obscurity, deemed as coarse Visigoths even in their own party. For his first few years, Pombo toiled in a similar kind of isolation. His speeches at property rights confabs denouncing Bruce Babbitt as an agent of the United Nations and the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone as an example of "political paganism" garnered only the occasional comical notice in the gossip pages of the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. His bills to dismantle the Endangered Species Act rarely attracted more than a few dozen co-sponsors and usually went extinct without a hearing.

Lately, though, Pombo has been on a roll. His McCarthyesque hearings on the dangers of "eco-terrorism", where environmentalists were hauled up before the House Resources Committee and forced to endure harangues from both Democrats and Republicans, have now culminated in a series of arrests by the FBI of nearly a dozen environmental activists on charges of sabotage, conspiracy and arson. Rod Coronado, an editor of the Earth First! Journal and probably the most famous animal rights activist in North America, was also arrested for giving a speech in 2003 at UC San Diego where he demonstrated how to make and use a Molotov cocktail.

Pombo's scheme to sell off millions of acres of federal forest and range lands, once considered political poison, was adopted by the Bush administration this fall, with a proposal to dispose of 200,000 acres of public land to mining and timber companies and real estate speculators, all in the name of funding rural schools.

This fall Pombo came close to realizing his wildest dream when the House of Representatives passed his bill to annihilate the Endangered Species Act by a hefty margin of 229 to 193. Soon after this mighty triumph, the Washington Times announced the onset of "Pombomania" among young Republican ultras.

Ironically, Pombomania may owe more to his enemies than to the shock troops of the property rights movement. Plucking bellicose quotes from his book and his stump speeches, the Sierra Club turned Pombo into the personification of environmental villainy. In dozens of mass fundraising appeals, Pombo was presented as the new James Watt, the dark agent of the looting of the public estate. Pombo glories in his role. "I'm their bogeyman", Pombo gloats. "They need me to raise money."

The Sierra Club's threat inflation of Pombo almost certainly factored into Tom DeLay's decision to catapult the congressman over the heads of more senior members to the chair of the Resources Committee, one of the most prized seats in Congress.

Pombo also got help from the Democrats. His rewrite of the Endangered Species Act, which eliminates the designation of "critical habitat" for listed species, sets in legal stone many of the practices implemented administratively by his former nemesis Bruce Babbitt when he served as Clinton's Interior Secretary.

In Clinton-time, Babbitt simply refused to designate critical habitat for dozens of at-risk animals and plants, forcing environmental groups into court to compel the Fish and Wildlife Service to live up to its legal obligations. The suits were slow in coming while Clinton was in office, but they began to proliferate after Bush came to power.

Bush and Pombo used those lawsuits, most of which resulted in favorable verdicts for the greens, to charge that the law was outdated and was being exploited by militant environmentalists and litigation-happy lawyers. They got some unexpected help from one of the liberal lions of the House, George Miller, the former chair House Natural Resources Committee. This summer Miller said that the law needed to be reworked.

"There is a recognition that the current critical habitat arrangement doesn't work, for a whole host of reasons," said Miller. "There are some in the environmental community who think the answer is just no to any change, and I think that's a problem."

At those words from a politician once regarded by greens as the most enlightened member of the House, critical habitat went extinct without a fight. There were warning signs of Miller's impending collapse. Shortly after the Democrats lost control of the House, Miller gave up his leadership position on the Resources committee. Friends said he was too tired to fight the likes of Don Young and Pombo.

Another Democrat, Dennis Cardoza, Representative in California's 18th District, worked closely with Pombo to craft his assault on ESA, including a provision that is likely to bankrupt the U.S. Treasury faster than Halliburton's Iraq contracts. Pombo's bill calls for the federal government to pay off developers for not violating the law. Under this rule, the feds would have to compensate property owners for value of a "proposed use" for land inhabited by endangered species. It's a shakedown provision. A Central Valley rancher could proposed to build a casino in kit fox habitat, and the feds would be required to pay out millions to keep them from building it. Then the next year the same landowner could come back with new plans for a golf course and get another payoff.

Sound absurd? A similar law was passed by the voters of Oregon two years ago. The law was initially stuck down by a state court as unconstitutional, but last month the Oregon Supreme Court reinstated the statute, which virtually wipes out the state's vaunted land-use planning regulations.

Pombo's bill is currently stalled in the Senate, where Lincoln Chaffee, the Republican from Rhode Island, has vowed to keep the Endangered Species Act from being "Pomboized". (It may be a coincidence but one of the only zoos in the country that has a kit fox exhibit is the Chaffee Zoological Gardens in Fresno.)

Chaffee may resist his fellow Republican, but you won't hear similar objections from California's senior Senator Dianne Feinstein. She and Pombo have worked closely over the years on everything from water policy in the Central Valley (more water for farms, less for salmon) and logging in the High Sierra near Lake Tahoe. The real estate caucus sticks together.

Pombo says there are other laws he wants to obliterate in the next few years. At the top of his hit list is the National Environmental Policy Act, the law that requires Environmental Impact Statements for all federal projects.

It's been a dramatic run, but, alas, Pombo may not survive to witness the promised land. The ethical noose is tightening around his political career.

Back in the 90s, Pombo made rich sport of attacking Hillary Clinton for her role in the Travelgate affair. But it now turns out that Pombo' office has its own travel-related problems. Pombo's political Svengali is a man called Steven Ding, who has long served as his chief of staff. When Pombo landed the Resource Committee chair, he also made Ding chief staffer for the committee. Ding was double dipping, getting paid by both the committee and Pombo's office.

Ding lives in Stockton and travels back to California every week. The Resources Committee picks up the tab. From 2003 through 2004, Ding billed the committee $87,000 in commuter charges. Some of those visits may not have been to see Mrs. Ding. Even though he has two positions with Pombo, Ding has enough time to also hire himself out as a private consultant to corporations and lobbyists seeking his insider knowledge. Last year, Ding earned $57,000 in outside consulting fees. On four occasions, the House Ethics Committee has cited Ding for lowballing or failing entirely to report such outside remunerations.

Ding wasn't alone, though. He was traveling down a trail that was blazed by his boss. Each year Pombo's office spends nearly twice as much on travel as the offices of the adjacent congressional districts. The biggest freeloader is Pombo himself.

Last summer, Pombo took his family on a two-week vacation, touring the national parks in a rented RV. He sent the $5,000 bill to the Resources Committee. When Rep. Ellen Tauscher questioned the reimbursement, Pombo said he was doing research. And perhaps he was. A few weeks later after he returned from his grand tour, Pombo's office leaked a white paper to the Washington Times calling on the Bush administration to sell off a dozen national parks.

What about Pombo's wife, Annette, whose recipe for Apple-Walnut Crosscut Pie is the most popular page on the congressman's website? Surely, Annette's travel expenses shouldn't have been covered by the committee. It turns out that since 2001 Pombo has paid his wife and his brother at least $465,000 in consulting fees from his campaign fund.

This wasn't Pombo's first infraction. In 2004, he used office funds to pay for the printing and mailing of a flier to a nationwide list of property rights fanatics urging them to write letters in support of Bush's plan to let snowmobilers run amok all over Yellowstone Park. The Ethics Committee ruled that the flier violated the rules on franking and slashed his mail budget. Later that year, Pombo gave all of the Republican staffers on the Resources Committee a paid vacation in October so they could disperse across the country to work in GOP election campaigns.

In October 2005, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Pombo had taken two overseas junkets to New Zealand and Japan. Both trips were paid for by a group called the International Foundation for Conservation of Natural Resources, which receives funding from bioengineering firms such as Monsanto, also from pro-whaling interests. Pombo did not report the trip on his income tax form, though the IRS considers overseas junkets as gifts on which taxes must be paid.

"I really have no idea what is going on with that foundation," said Pombo, when confronted with the report. "Obviously I will have my accountant check into this." Even by the high standards of congressional evasiveness, this was a spectacular bout of memory loss. Pombo founded International Foundation for Conservation of Natural Resources and served as its chairman until July of last year.

Then there's the Abramoff connection. Like Bush, Pombo now pretends to have a foggy recollection of the beleaguered super lobbyist. "I think I met the guy a few times", Pombo said last month. "But he never stepped foot in my office. Never lobbied me about anything."

Unfortunately for Pombo, Abramoff has left a distinct paper trail across Capital Hill, with much the forensic evidence to be found in the chambers of the Resource Committee, where the business of his clients was so often decided. Duane Gibson, a former top staffer on the Resource Committee, left the committee to work in Abramoff's firm, where he represented mining companies and Indian tribes. Gibson helped Pombo draft a rider that would hand over thousands of acres of prime federal lands to mining companies. Three months before Pombo inserted the measure in the budget bill, Gibson hosted a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for the congressman.

In 2002, Pombo went to bat for Charles Hurwitz, owner of Maxxam and infamous looter of redwoods and of Savings & Loans. Pombo and Tom Delay intimidated federal regulators into dropping an investigation into Hurwitz's banking practices. Most of the legal footwork was done by Gibson, who is now under legal scrutiny by federal prosecutors. Hurwitz, of course, has been a top contributor to Pombo's campaign war chest.

Republicans are so worried about Pombo's ethical dilemmas that they've recruited an old war-horse to challenge him in the upcoming primary: Pete McCloskey. McCloskey is a former congressman and a sponsor of the original version of the Endangered Species Act. McCloskey calls Pombo the "Duke Cunningham of the environment," a reference to the now imprisoned congressman from San Diego who memorialized his menu of bribes on his congressional stationery.

Add to that the fact that Pombo's district is changing, as more and more Bay Area commuters move onto subdivisions that have sprouted up on the old ranches and farms of the Central Valley. If Pombo really wants to keep his seat, perhaps he should lose the goatee and go back to that suggestive moustache.
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Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and Grand Theft Pentagon: Tales of Corruption and Profiteering in the War on Terror.

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You can come to our Valley but can you play our blue violin?

Submitted: Apr 30, 2006

Badlands owes the community an apology. We published a letter to the McClatchy board of directors last week that complained about an article in the Merced Sun-Star some Valley citizens found extremely offensive to Hispanic neighbors, friends, Mexico and Hispanic culture in general.

We seem to have brought down on the community something almost worse than that letter: a series of lectures on theories of literary interpretation, the main one called, “Column wasn’t meant to offend,” by Sun-Star editor Joe Kieta. Perhaps this new professorial tone the Sun-Star is adopting is yet another wonderful benefit of proximity to a UC campus.

Hermaneutics does Merced!

Central Valley Safe Environment Network, which made the complaint to the owners of the Sun-Star, was bombarded by instruction about satire, irony and sarcasm. The author of the article telling Alma Oseguera to get out of the Valley, Keita, a top McClatchy corporate official, Sun-Star publisher Hank Vander Veen and numerous other important people including some local Hispanic “leaders” took time patiently to explain to members of CVSEN, an old Valley grassroots organization, that its members just didn’t understand what the retired journalism professor and freelance columnist really meant.

“Shocking news events like these are tailor-made for commentary,” Kieta wrote in defense of the offensive piece. “Burke decided to write an ironic column that took the extreme opposite side in an effort to point out what he feels is the senselessness of the agency's actions.”

Later, Kieta explains patiently to Valley dumbbells, “But if the irony is missed, readers can be confused or outraged by the comments.” This is followed by the news that the author had received emails soon after publication applauding his extremist views.

We may be confused by Kieta’s superior literary erudition, but it seems like the people who wrote those praises weren’t the least bit confused. They thought they had a regular Bull White Man to speak their racism.

From there, Kieta goes on to explain that the author is a first-rate man who is neither bigoted nor insensitive, and either is Kieta, Vander Veen or the Sun-Star – and if we dummies just knew about irony, satire, sarcasm and such, this whole misunderstanding would never have occurred.

We just didn’t think it was either funny or in good taste. However, our superiors enlightened us: Valley people don’t have no taste, we can’t think so we should just shut up when a former professor employs the highly refined, esoteric tools of the literary art to tell us something that is so far beyond us we could never understand it anyway.

How could we understand these things? We come from these communities – born and raised in them, among immigrants like undocumented Mexican workers. What could they know about a law that criminalizes them?

I guess we’ll have to see. But, from an agricultural perspective, this HR-4437 looks like using gasoline instead of diesel to stoke up an orchard brush-pile fire.

But we have in the Valley our own little canons of etiquette, too, apparently unknown to The McClatchy Company or its outlets who serve most of us our daily print. One of them is that we tend to speak rather respectfully about immigrants since most of us are immigrants and because the Valley has been a settling area for immigrants – from the US as well as other nations – for a long time. We don’t find immigration is a joke. In fact, we’ve learned through the years that if you aren’t careful and joke about it in the wrong company, you will get your teeth kicked in. Of course, our little canons do not rise to the level of McClatchy literary interpretation because they lack the elegance.

The largest concentration of undocumented Mexican workers in the nation lives between Stockton and Los Angeles. Hispanic people have always lived in the Valley, in fact a number of them lived here before the arrival of the Anglos. In the last 40 years, since the termination of the Bracero Program, the beginnings of the Maquiladora system, the end of the large Anglo migrations out of Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and the increasing militarization of the US/Mexican border, the population of undocumented Mexican workers in California has radically increased. Agribusiness loves a large pool of workers, the more vulnerable to intimidation and coercion the better from its corporate point of view. In recent years illegal aliens have moved beyond agriculture and even, during the latest speculation-driven construction boom, into building trades.

These people will not be uprooted from the Valley now. They are part of our social fabric, our neighbors, friends and coworkers, and many are homeowners. We have been aware for decades that the lives of our immigrant neighbors are frequently complicated by inadequate papers. Border Patrol sweeps are hardly news in these parts. It’s an old game of harassment and intimidation the government plays whenever special interests get nervous about the workers’ emotional state. The special interests prefer the workers be afraid. Signs of courage, organizing and that sort of thing alarm special interests, who then instruct the government to “do something about the illegal alien situation.”

Actually, however, our Hispanic neighbors and friends here in the Valley have had some rudimentary literary education in recent years. A colorful fellow in Chiapas, who wears a ski mask, smokes a pipe, and controls a region of that state for the benefit of its indigenous inhabitants (mainly Mayas), has shown novel tastes in revolutionary literature. According to this subcomandante, all people really need to read is Don Quixote, with perhaps a little Shakespeare on the side, to get an adequate sense of reality in the post-NAFTA world in a nation that lacked an ideological vocabulary to describe reality.

The Badlands editorial staff – always seeking the key to understanding reality – has had an on-going Quixote study group for a dozen years. We feel it has improved our understanding of reality, but evidently not enough to grasp satire with sufficient depth to understand the refined sense of humor of the retired journalism professor or his bosses.

What we hear in these particularly brutal Border Patrol sweeps, backed by HR 4437, is an old simile from Hispanic political science: The state is like a violin, the left hand holds it but the right hand plays it.

The author of HR 4437, James Sensenbrenner, R-WI, understands this saying because his congressional district has the largest concentration of Hispanic dairy workers in Wisconsin, until 1993 (when California took the lead) the largest dairy state in the nation. He knows who holds it and who plays it.

You can bet the Grand Old Party of Global Corporations (formerly the American GOP or Republican Party) also knows who holds the fiddle and who plays it. Going down the list of the Immigration Reform Caucus Members for the 109th Congress makes interesting reading: half of the 90-plus members come from former Confederate states and the group’s rightwing fervor is “balanced” by two Democratic Party members.

HR 4437 would:

Make being undocumented a felony rather than a civil offense.

• Expand the definition of smuggling to include dealing with undocumented knowingly or with wanton neglect of their status.

• Make felony record an automatic basis to deny legal status and citizenship.

• Require employers, including union hiring halls to report all employers for federal examination of their eligibility to work.

• Have mandatory detention for suspected undocumented not from Mexico or Canada.

• Militarize the border with a wall of several hundred miles and high tech military surveillance.

• Eliminate due process from many immigration procedures.

• Deputize local and state police to enforce federal immigration laws.

Dennis Cardoza, to his great credit, voted against HR 4437.

This law makes about as much sense as Prohibition but is “good politics” for the GOP-GC because it criminalizes and terrorizes its victims into a position in which they must respond with the only political tactic they have, large public demonstrations. Since non-citizens, by definition, don’t vote, the rightwing political strategy of the year is to scare the hell out of everyone who does vote with another American alien scare, all mixed in together with the eternal war against terrorism. What else can they do? Their president lied to get us into a war we’re losing; his very election in 2000 was the result of highly organized vote rigging in the Southern state where his brother is governor; his regime has begun to spy on everyone they don’t like; he has given monstrous tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent in the nation and has stimulated a jobless economic recovery; with the largest national debt ever reached, the dollar is propped up by nervous Asian trading partners China and Japan; and the off-shoring of what is left of essential industries continues. He is so unpopular that in New York City yesterday an estimated 300,000 people braved a huge NYPD gauntlet to march against his war and all the rest of his policies. And gasoline costs more than $3 per gallon and the price is rising – a boon to the American president’s oil company constituents.

So, let’s see if we can get the “aliens” riled up, reason the Texans who rule us.

All the failures of the Bush regime must be the fault of undocumented Mexican workers, right? Nobody is certainly going to even remember, much less believe that seditious little marsupial, Pogo, who declared c. 1955: “We have found the enemy and he is us.”

Blame the undocumented Mexican worker, tack on a fat pork barrel in the form of a Israeli-style wall across the border, and pass another idiotic, unenforceable law terrorizing another in the long line of hard-working immigrant groups who have come to the United States, give the racists something to dream on and maintain control of the Congress by the GOP-GC.

The left hand holds the fiddle; the right hand plays an ugly, monotonous, malevolent tune:

· about learning more hatred;
· about more graft, corruption, oppression and police power;
· a ballad about betraying for the benefit of special interests the justice upon which we stand, without which we fall;
· and about getting more stupid by the month through denying (with help from our media corporations) the multiple dangers lying ahead instead of facing them like the relatively courageous, independently thinking people we have shown ourselves to be from time to time.

It’s not funny at all, when you come to think about it, because this authoritarian regime is above wit, rhetoric, argument, and is especially above humor. The emperor may look ridiculous without a stitch of clothing on, but if you grin, you could end up in Gitmo. This regime speaks only with power, money and force. It makes you really nostalgic for US Sen. Alan Simpson, R-WY, if, of course, you remember Simpson, which requires an inability to erase the recent history of your nation from your mind. The debate between Simpson and Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-TX, is evidence that before the present political nightmare, the US Congress was capable of thought – including analysis, argument, a very high level of rhetoric, wit, humility, humor and wisdom – even on the very difficult issue of the immigration of undocumented Mexican workers.

And, by the way, now that we’ve dispensed with its literary interpretation, does McClatchy by chance know where Alma Oseguera and her 50-plus fellow victims from our community are now? We’ll take the information in simple declarative sentences. Save the hermaneutics for the boardroom where the elites meet.

Happy May Day!

Pedro Conejo-Tonto
----------------------------------

Notes:

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12086617p-12838624c.html
MercedSunStar.com
Column wasn't meant to offend
By Joe Kieta
… For our part, the Sun-Star will be more careful in the future to make sure satirical columns are clearly labeled as such, which will eliminate any confusion. We could have labeled Burke's column accordingly, but didn't -- and for this, please accept our apologies.
Biting satire shouldn't bite back. We'll do our best to make sure this confusion doesn't happen again.

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12086617p-12838624c.html
Weekend voices: Liberty, opportunity are for Americans only
By David F. Burke
Last Updated: April 22, 2006
Get out of this valley, Alma Oseguara. Maybe after a few weeks in a Kern County jail you'll finally understand that we don't want you and your kind here in the San Joaquin Valley. … About 300 years ago, his ancestors, named Garcia, came through Texas -- well, it may have been "Tejas" then -- and up into northern New -- I mean Nuevo -- Mexico and southern Colorado.
Then, 150 years later, my ancestors picked a fight with Mexico. We first tried to get what we wanted peacefully, offering our neighbors to the south $25 million for California. But the ignorant Mexicans thought the state was worth more than that.
So, we sent two armies into Mexico and a third to California, by way of New Mexico. The silly Mexicans refused to surrender, so we captured Mexico City and "convinced" our captors to accept just $15 million for the Golden State. The vanquished Mexicans threw in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Utah - about half of their country, all told - for free.
And that, Alma, should explain why my brown-skinned son -- who was born in New Mexico -- gets to stay while you -- who were born in Old Mexico -- must leave.
It's not personal. It's the law. If you like, you can think of it as manifest destiny.
Now, get out of my country. And don't come back until you are legal.

Gadamer, Hans Georg, Truth and Method, Continuum, New York, 1994, pp. 190-192, 265-266

http://www.uwrf.edu/news_bureau/0531022.html
Hispanic Workers Impact Increasing in Wisconsin
By Khrysten Darm
UW-RF News Bureau
A recent presentation by UW-River Falls dairy science Professor Dennis Cooper reflected a new reality in Wisconsin: 10 percent of its dairy workforce speaks Spanish.
Cooper spoke at a Hispanic Dairy Labor Conference recently in Kaukauna,Wis. His presentation was titled: "?Que Pasa? What is Happening with Hispanic Workers? Nine Ideas to Improve Your Success with Hispanic Employees." … Ten percent of the workforce in Wisconsin is Hispanic, and although a high concentration is in the southeastern part of the state, there are still Hispanic workers that come to larger dairy farms in this area. "We are trying to serve dairy farmers and they need information on how to manage a multicultural workforce," Cooper said.

tancredo.house.gov/
Check out Members of Congress' Immigration Report Cards at http://www.betterimmigration.com/reportcardintro.html

www.house.gov/sensenbrenner/

http://www.hispanicbusiness.com/news/newsbyid.asp?id=34019&cat=Hispanic+PR+Wire&more=/hprw
Latino Immigrants in favor of May first economic boycott
4/27/2006
Burbank, CA--(HISPANIC PR WIRE)--April 26, 2006--The large majority of Latino immigrants will support the May first economic boycott. More than 70% of the respondents stated that they will support the “Great Latino Stop” by not attending work, buying anything, or sending their children to school, according to a study conducted by Garcia Research made public today.
“The study indicates that even with the differences in opinion that exist amongst leaders and organizations about the best manner in which to make the boycott effective, and the possible negative repercussions like sanctions and unemployment, the immigrant population has received with great enthusiasm the idea of the boycott”, said Cristina Garcia, director of El Pulso Latino, the division of Public Polling of Garcia Research …

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0604280145apr28,1,7557293.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed
dglanton@tribune.com
How immigration roils tiny Georgian town
Calhoun finds itself at the center of national debate over illegal laborers
By Dahleen Glanton
Tribune national correspondent
Published April 28, 2006
CALHOUN, Ga. -- This is carpet country, home to the largest concentration of carpeting factories in the world. It is a place of abundant jobs and affordable housing--magnets for a growing population of Latino immigrants that some longtime residents see as a threat to their way of life.
Calhoun's 13,000 people are mostly working-class whites. But now nearly one out of six residents is from another country. Some whites see immigrants, legal or not, as unfair contenders in the competition for coveted jobs they have held for generations at the carpet mills. For the most part, they have accepted the changing demographics with apprehension, much as they reluctantly took to forced integration with African-Americans in the 1960s.

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0429-01.htm
Published on Saturday, April 29, 2006 by the Associated Press
FBI Investigated 3,501 People Without Warrants
by Mark Sherman
WASHINGTON - The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday. Confirms our fear all along that National Security Letters are being used to get the records of thousands of innocent Americans without court approval.
It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge's approval or a grand jury subpoena. Friday's disclosure was mandated as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act, the administration's sweeping anti-terror law. The FBI delivered a total of 9,254 NSLs relating to 3,501 people in 2005, according to a report submitted late Friday to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In some cases, the bureau demanded information about one person from several companies. The numbers from previous years remain classified, officials said.

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0430-23.htm
Published on Sunday, April 30, 2006 by the Los Angeles Times
A Day Without All-Stars?
by Dave Zirin
May day 2006 is being called the "Great American Boycott" or "A Day Without Latinos."
Across the country, Latinos and their allies say they will neither work nor shop Monday to protest what they consider anti-immigrant legislation before Congress.
Although many industries and work sites may be affected, one multibillion-dollar enterprise would be crippled by such a boycott: Major League Baseball.
Of the top 10 hitters in the National League, six are from Latin America, including Albert Pujols, last year's most valuable player. In the American League, five of the top 10 are Latinos, including batting leader and 2003 MVP Miguel Tejada.
Latinos dominate the pantheon of the game's superstars like never before. Seven of the last 10 MVPs in the American League are Latinos. The new reality was laid bare at this spring's World Baseball Classic: The U.S. team couldn't compete with its Latin American rivals, failing to even make it out of pool play … The growing Latino presence in Major League Baseball is a story of exploitation and opportunity. Club owners set up baseball academies in countries where future prospects can be signed in their early teens for pennies, then fired with little cost if they aren't good enough to play in the big leagues. As one player said to me, "The options in the Dominican Republic are jail, the army, the factory or baseball." Many talented players make it to the U.S. and play minor league ball, then stay illegally if they're dropped from a team to chase the dream of a professional baseball career. The outer boroughs of New York City are filled with semipro teams of men in their 30s still thirsting for that contract and hoping it comes before they are deported.

http://cpusa.org/article/articleview/752/1/105/
2006 Immigrant Rights Club Educational Guide …
Author: CPUSA Education Commission
First published 04/27/2006 15:25
This educational has the goal of upgrading our understanding of the struggle for immigrant rights and against repressive immigration legislation which is taking place right now throughout the country. The goal is to place in bold relief the central problems of inequality, criminalization, and the greed of US corporations. The suggested readings which are attached include the 2006 report to the National Board on immigration, the resolution on immigration passed at the 28th National Convention, and a PWW article.
The club should invite guests to participate in this educational discussion of the immigrant rights struggle and immediately distribute the educational guide with the attached reading materials to all who will be involved. A discussion leader should be selected to facilitate the discussion. At least 45 minutes to an hour should be devoted to the full educational discussion.
Discussion Questions:
1. How have corporate and governmental policies shaped changes in the immigrant population and the challenges facing the immigrant population? How have the conditions for immigrants worsened?
2. What has been and is now the contribution of organized labor to the fight for immigrant rights?
3. What are some aspects of positive immigration reform? What can your club and district do to help advance the consciousness of the working class, nationally oppressed communities, women, and youth on the issue of immigrants rights? What are some obstacles which must be overcome? What can your club and district do to participate in this struggle? …

http://usliberals.about.com/od/immigration/a/RMahony.htm
Catholic Cardinal Mahony Slams House Bill HR 4437
Liberal Politics: U.S. -- Apr 11 2006
Tells Bush That Priests Will Not Verify Legal Status
In response to an immigration bill passed in late 2005 by the US House, Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, the largest US diocese with five million Catholics, wrote this letter to President Bush, decrying the new mandate that organizations first check immigration status before providing services to any person. …

December 30, 2005
The Honorable
George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Bush:
The House of Representatives recently passed a border-security Bill (H.R. 4437) that has enormous implications and ramifications for all of us in this country.
While I am surely in favor of taking appropriate government action to protect the borders of our country, not every action step is feasible or advisable. Apparently, the recently passed House Bill will require of all personnel of Churches and of all non-profit organizations to verify the legal immigration status of every single person served through our various entities.
In effect, priests, ministers, rabbis, and others involved in various Church-related activities will be forced top become "quasi-immigration enforcement officials." The Catholic Church alone offers a vast spectrum of services for all in need, including education, health care, and social services. Our golden rule has always been to serve people in need--not to verify beforehand their immigration status.
But the Bill imposes incredibly penalties upon any person assisting others' through a Church or a social service organization. Up to five years in prison and seizure of assets would accompany serving the poor who later turn out to be here without proper legal documentation.
One could interpret this Bill to suggest that any spiritual and pastoral service given to any person requires proof of legal residence. Are we to stop every person coming to Holy Communion and first ask them to produce proof of legal residence before we can offer them the Body and Blood of Christ?
Speaking for the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, such restrictions are impossible to comply with. The underlying basis for our service to others ,especially to the poor, is the example, words, and actions of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. The 25th chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel does not simply invite us to serve others in the name of Jesus, but offers such service as a requisite to the Kingdom of God:
"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen. I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25: 31-46)
This one example in Matthew's Gospel is foundational to our discipleship of Jesus Christ, and all that we do in service to those in need is done in light of our Baptismal commitments.
It is staggering for the federal government to stifle our spiritual and pastoral outreach to the poor, and to impose penalties for doing what our faith demands of us.
Throughout your Presidency, you have encouraged Faith Based Organizations to be strong partners in meeting the needs of the those in our communities. Yet, this Bill will produce the opposite effect.
You must speak out clearly and forcefully in opposition to these repressive---and impossible--aspects of any immigration reform efforts. Your personal leadership is needed to counter such ill-advised efforts.
Thanking you for giving strong leadership in this matter, and with kindest personal regards, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
His Eminence
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Archbishop of Los Angeles

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/043006B.shtml
In Leak Cases, New Pressure on Journalists
By Adam Liptak
The New York Times
Sunday 30 April 2006
Earlier administrations have fired and prosecuted government officials who provided classified information to the press. They have also tried to force reporters to identify their sources.
But the Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws …

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Letter to The McClatchy Company re: Racially offensive commentary in the Merced Sun-Star

Submitted: Apr 25, 2006

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
P.O. Box 64
Merced, CA. 95341
cvsen@sbcglobal.net

Senior Officers of The McClatchy Company

Gary B. Pruitt - Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer
Heather L. Fagundes - Vice President, Human Resources
Christian A. Hendricks - Vice President, Interactive Media
Karole Morgan-Prager - Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
Patrick J. Talamantes - Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer
Howard Weaver - Vice President, News
Robert J. Weil - Vice President, Operations
Frank Whittaker - Vice President, Operations

Directors of The McClatchy Company

Elizabeth A. Ballantine
Leroy Barnes Jr.
William K. Coblentz
Molly Maloney Evangelisti
Larry Jinks
Joan F. Lane
Brown McClatchy Maloney
Kevin S. McClatchy
William McClatchy
Theodore R. Mitchell
S. Donley Ritchey
Frederick R. Ruiz
Maggie Wilderotter

2100 Q Street
Sacramento CA 95815
P.O. Box 15779
Sacramento 95852
Tel. (916) 321-1855
Fax (916) 321-1869 Via: Email and Fax
contact@mcclatchy.com

Re: Racially offensive commentary in the Merced Sun-Star

Date: April 25, 2006

McClatchy Officers and Directors:

We write you to protest the publication on Saturday, April 22, 2006 of a column by a regular contributor to the Merced Sun-Star titled “Liberty, opportunity are for Americans only.”

Speaking as citizens of Merced and for citizens of the San Joaquin Valley and of the United States, we will not tolerate racist smears of 18-year-old high school girls in our newspaper; we will not tolerate our newspaper publishing its contempt for an entire ethnic minority; we will not tolerate a vicious attack on a person little more than a child without any means of defending herself, presently in a Border Patrol holding tank in Bakersfield; we will not tolerate our newspaper bullying the weak and defenseless.

We are not asking for or demanding the immediate dismissal of the publisher and the editorial staff of the Merced Sun-Star that published this racial slander and libel against a high school girl. We expect nothing less than their dismissal and an apology from the McClatchy board for publishing material with racial hatred content intended to intimidate and incite.

This newspaper has entirely lost contact with its community and with decency.

Merced Sun-Star, April 22, 2006
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12086617p-12838624c.html

Weekend voices: Liberty, opportunity are for Americans only

By David F. Burke

Get out of this valley, Alma Oseguara. Maybe after a few weeks in a Kern County jail you'll finally understand that we don't want you and your kind here in the San Joaquin Valley.
Never mind that you spent the last 12 years attending school here, and were weeks away from graduation at Le Grand High School. You and your bleeding-heart classmates need to understand that we expect you to obey the law of the land.
Even six-year-old illegals have to play by the rules and because you entered our country without permission when you were six, our agents were perfectly within their rights to "target" you and to bang on your door at 3 in the morning, demanding that you pack your bags and go directly to jail.
And don't start that old song about escaping from Mexico to get away from an abusive father, Alma.
Do you think we're the kind of nation that would welcome the wretched refuse of another country? Do you think we want more homeless, tempest-tossed masses of tired and poor people like you? Does our border look to you like some kind of golden door?
Forget that idea. We stopped holding the torch for your kind of immigrants long ago.
Liberty and opportunity are for Americans only. Did you imagine that we were talking about Mexicans when we said, "all are created equal?" Get real, Alma. Say goodbye to Le Grand High, to dreams of college and to friends and relatives you've known for a dozen years.
Bienvenidos a Mexico.
Let me explain how it works, Alma. My son looks a bit like you; he has the same skin tone. But Jesse had the good sense not to be born in Mexico - he was born in New Mexico.
About 300 years ago, his ancestors, named Garcia, came through Texas -- well, it may have been "Tejas" then -- and up into northern New -- I mean Nuevo -- Mexico and southern Colorado.
Then, 150 years later, my ancestors picked a fight with Mexico. We first tried to get what we wanted peacefully, offering our neighbors to the south $25 million for California. But the ignorant Mexicans thought the state was worth more than that.
So, we sent two armies into Mexico and a third to California, by way of New Mexico. The silly Mexicans refused to surrender, so we captured Mexico City and "convinced" our captors to accept just $15 million for the Golden State. The vanquished Mexicans threw in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Utah - about half of their country, all told - for free.
And that, Alma, should explain why my brown-skinned son -- who was born in New Mexico -- gets to stay while you -- who were born in Old Mexico -- must leave.
It's not personal. It's the law. If you like, you can think of it as manifest destiny.
Now, get out of my country. And don't come back until you are legal.

The Central Valley Safe Environment Network is confident McClatchy officers and directors will do the right thing in a timely manner, removing the “leadership” of this newspaper, which increasingly over the last decade become a source of unjust speech and propaganda.

Sincerely,
Central Valley Safe Environment Network

cc:
Hank Vander Veen
Publisher, Merced Sun-Star
hvanderveen@mercedsun-star.com

Joseph Kieta
Editor, Merced Sun-Star
jkieta@mercedsun-star.com

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT
Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders

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Tools for public political participation

Submitted: Mar 21, 2006

"Journalism, at least journalism in the public interest, is not a business. It is not an industry. It is a public act supported by a business." -- Jay Rosen of the Center for the Study of Journalism and Democracy
----------------

The Modesto Bee publicized some excellent tools for public political participation last week. We include synopses of the articles below, which include links to organizations focused on public access to governmental information. The Modesto Bee celebrated Sunshine Week in fine style. Unfortunately it was a small party, at least in the northern San Joaquin Valley, where we regularly monitor the two other Bees, the Stockton Record and the Tracy Press, as well as the Merced Sun-Star.

Given the corruption prevailing in Merced government, where Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, continues to squat in the county Administration Building, we can understand the local establishment’s disinterest in encouraging public activism if it isn’t correct rightwing thuggery like that inflicted on citizens opposing the Wal-Mart distribution center by the latest crew of local spokesgoons. Their view is that you should get out of town if your soul isn’t recorded with the County has having been legally sold to a corporation.

If you are tired of the local goon squad, here are some tool for public political participation.

Bill Hatch
------------------------------

3-19-06
Modesto Bee
Mark Vasche column: We won't let the sun go down on public's right to open government...Mark Vasche, Bee Editor

http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/11951559p-12716139c.html
Sunshine Week turned out to be anything but sunny — and quite appropriately so...it was a week of unsettled weather, with everything from gray, gloomy sky to chilly temperatures to showers and hail and, in some areas, even snow. What better way to illustrate the status of open government at the local, state and national levels. ...during Sunshine Week, openness is critical to our government of, by and for the people. And, because "watchdogging" is one of the most important things newspapers do; it is a historic role and responsibility we take very seriously. Jay Rosen of the Center for the Study of Journalism and Democracy explains it: "Journalism, at least journalism in the public interest, is not a business. It is not an industry. It is a public act supported by a business."
--------

Renew commitment to open government...Terry Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware...3-16-06
http://www.modbee.com/sunshine/story/11938203p-12704283c.html

This is Sunshine Week and a good time to look at California's commitment to open government. Here are 10 problems with our public forum and whistle-blower laws and some long-overdue solutions:...
1 Needless Mystery about Closed Sessions:... Solution:...
2 Done Deals in Settlements:... Solution:...
3 They've Got a Secret: ...Solution:...
4 Too Clueless to Hold Accountable:... Solution:...
5 Police State of Denial, Part I:... Solution:...
6 Police State of Denial, Part II: ...Solution:...
7 Secrecy for Effective Science Policy:... Solution:...
8 Putting Teeth in Transparency Law:...Solution:...
9 Making Illegal Court Secrecy Pay Its Way: ...Solution:...
10 A Tale of Two Lawyers:... Solution:...
--------------------

Polls: Public values open government...Bee Starr and News Services...3-16-06
http://www.modbee.com/sunshine/story/11938202p-12704277c.html

"Polls are people, and, once more, the people have demonstrated that (President) Lincoln was right: You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool most of them for very long," said Hodding Carter III, honorary chairman of Sunshine Week. "They know that information is power in a democracy...
Related Resources
Scripps Survey Research Center poll
Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University poll
--------------

State agencies get 'F' for access...Bee Staff and News Services...3-15-06
http://www.modbee.com/sunshine/story/11934278p-12700647c.html

A survey of 31 state agencies found public records violations at each agency, ranging from illegally charging for copies to taking too long to release basic public information.
-------------------

White House inaugurated era of secrecy, critics claim...David Westphal, Bee Washington Bureau
http://www.modbee.com/sunshine/story/11930095p-12696762c.html

WASHINGTON — Working at the National Archives in the late 1990s, historian William Burr stumbled onto a 1962 telegram written by diplomat George Kennan about China's nuclear program. Today, the original document has been removed from the archive... Between 1999 and 2004, the number of documents ordered sealed annually nearly doubled, to 15.6 million, according to the Information Security Oversight Office. Meanwhile, declassifying documents has slowed dramatically — from 127 million pages in 1999, to 28 million pages in 2004.
----------------

Central Valley Shines...Adam Aston...3-13-06
http://www.modbee.com/sunshine/story/11926464p-12693365c.html
With a few exceptions, open records provided in informal Bee survey
------------------

Merced woman guards public projects process

Now open to the public...Lorena Anderson...3-12-06
http://www.modbee.com/sunshine/story/11923667p-12690527c.html
State laws make most government document available to all who ask

Message from Bee Editor and Senior Vice President Mark S. Vasché

Government watchdog follows the money trail

Paper Trails

Tips on making a request for a public document

Sample letter: how to appeal if your public record request has been denied

Eschew obfuscation - write it so we get it...3-12-06
http://www.modbee.com/sunshine/story/11923666p-12690526c.html

The meetings of elected bodies should be easily accessible to the public — in time, location and, whenever possible, through broadcasts on TV or the Internet. Likewise, the records of government agencies should be available to anyone who wants them, without undue delays, costs or intimidation. But there's another dimension to open government: The way in which government communicates should be understandable to the average citizen. Very often, it is not. Consider these examples:

AP shines light on public information...AP...3-12-06
http://www.modbee.com/sunshine/story/11923665p-12690523c.html

Tom Curley, The Associated Press' president and chief executive officer, has been an outspoken advocate in the campaign against government secrecy. He discussed this year's Sunshine Week initiative spearheaded by media organizations. Q & A's.
-------------------

Open Government Resources on the web...3-10-06

http://www.modbee.com/sunshine/story/11914720p-12682876c.html
California

http://ag.ca.gov/publications/#opengovernment - California Attorney General open government page

www.calaware.org - Californians Aware

www.cfac.org - California First Amendment Coalition

www.cnpa.com - California Newspaper Publishers Association

| »

Sun shines on government in Modesto, but not in Merced

Submitted: Mar 16, 2006

Badlands Journal appreciates the Modesto Bee’s emphasis this week on the second annual, national Sunshine Week. We note, however, that it remains overcast in Merced. There is no excuse for this except the “independence” of the local Sun-Star publisher. The Sun-Star is a McClatchy paper, like the Modesto Bee. However, the Sun-Star appears as a matter of editorial policy to be against protecting and promoting open government for all citizens. That’s a rotten definition of journalistic independence, in the opinion of Badlands Journal.

Bill Hatch
------------------------------

Secrecy on the March:
Making the Case for Sunshine Week

… Sunshine Week is not about journalists, it's not about partisan politics, it's about the public and the importance of protecting and promoting open government. Sunshine Week is not about protecting journalists' rights, it's about the right of all citizens to know what their government is doing—and why. -- http://www.sunshineweek.org/
------------------------------------

Message from Bee Editor and Senior Vice President Mark S. Vasché

Modesto Bee -- March 12, 2006
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690450c.html

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Sunshine Week.

Over the course of the week, we’ll be shining a light on open government, with stories, editorials and columns designed to help you understand the importance of public access to government proceedings and records – and the growing attempts to limit that access.

We’ll help you understand that open government is an issue that affects every citizen, not just journalists.

We’ll help you understand your rights as a citizen, show you how to file a public records request and tell you what to do if your request is denied.

We’ll tell you what happened when we went out and asked 21 local agencies for public documents. We’ll tell you what happened when a First Amendment group made the same request of 31 state agencies. And, we’ll tell you what’s happening in Washington, D.C., and across the country.

We’re not alone in doing this. Newspapers, magazines, broadcast outlets and Web sites throughout the nation are joining The Bee in observing Sunshine Week.

Why? Because a government that ceases to be open and accessible to its citizens ceases to be a government of, by and for the people. And, we never want that to happen.

Mark S. Vasché

Editor and Senior Vice President
-----------------------

Paper Trails

Modesto Bee -- March 12, 2006
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690451c.html

Here are some records to which people have access:

Jail logs -- You can see who's in jail, their ages, hometowns and the offenses for which they were arrested.

Elected officials' statements of financial interest -- Called Form 700, the California Fair Political Practices Commission says each elected and appointed official and certain public employees must file one annually. City hall is required to keep them on file.

Property records -- You can learn the assessed value of the homes in your neighborhood, see who has owned them and what they paid and sold them for, find out zoning and get other information at the county assessor's office.

Restaurant inspection reports -- The county health department issues reports on every restaurant in town. Find out if your favorite restaurant meets cleanliness standards.

Bankruptcies and divorces, civil and criminal court files -- Most court cases in California are open to the public, though judges can choose portions to be sealed, such as search warrants. The only real exception is juvenile court -- all records are closed.

Employment contracts of public officials -- You can compare your city manager's contract with those in similar towns, or find out how your school district superintendent's salary and benefits stack up against others.

Voter registration -- An Internet database allows people to look up the names, addresses and phone numbers of all registered voters (though some people choose not to have their numbers listed).

The city budget -- You can see how your city spends the money that comes in. You can even look at the monthly bills.

Development agreements -- These allow someone to see whether developers follow through on their commitments.

City or county staff reports -- What proposals do staffers generate and how do they justify the costs?
-----------------------------------

Tips on making a request for a public document

Modesto Bee -- March 12, 2006
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690452c.html

Preparing your request

1. Identify the record you want. Knowing the specific document type – a birth certificate or a building permit, for example – will make it easier to direct your request.

2. Identify the agency that has it. Government operates at several levels, so be sure to ask the county for county records, the city for city records, and so forth.

3. Check the agency's Web site to see if the information is available online. More and more, government agencies are posting documents online, so Web sites are worth a look.

4. Find out when the agency is open and its location. You'll save a lot of time and
frustration by knowing the hours of operation.

5. Plan your visit. Expect delays. Go early enough in the morning or afternoon so clerks have time to fulfill your request before lunch or closing time. Park where you won't have to worry about feeding a meter. If you plan to photocopy documents, make sure you have enough money to cover the cost.

At the agency

1. You do not have to prove or even state a "need to know" to justify access.

2. You don't need to explain why you want the record.

3. Your request need not be in writing.

4. You don't need to identify yourself, with a few exceptions. The law requires

identification only when you seek information about pesticides or the addresses of people arrested or crime victims.

5. You have the right to inspect records, but the agency need not compile lists or write reports. For instance, the county assessor's office could produce records of home sales on your block but would not be required to compute the median sales prices or otherwise analyze the data for you.

6. You may be charged a fee for copying records, but not for looking at them.

Overcoming obstacles

1. The agency is obligated to do its best to help you find what you want. Your request should be reasonably clear, but if you need help describing exactly what you need, don't be afraid to ask for help.

2. You should expect prompt access to the records. Delay is allowed only to resolve good-faith doubts on whether all or part of a record is accessible by the public.

3. If there is a dispute over whether a record is open to inspection, the agency has 10 days in which to produce it or provide a written reason for denial. That 10-day delay applies only when there is a dispute over whether the document is exempt from inspection. Otherwise, the document must be produced promptly – which generally should be the day you ask.

4. Occasionally, documents may not be immediately available. For example, old records may be stored at a different location. If you'd like, you may leave your name and contact information so the agency can alert you when the record is ready. But you do not have to identify yourself and always have the option of returning to the agency later.

5. If the agency declines your request, it must justify doing so by citing the law, either a statute or a case interpreting a statute. Write down that information or ask the clerk to do so for you. And get the name of the person who told you.

6. If your request is denied, you have the right to appeal. You may send a letter of appeal, or go to Superior Court. For a sample appeal letter, go to www.modbee.com/sunshine. If you go to court and a judge rules that the agency improperly denied you access, you may be able to recover court and attorney fees.
---------------------------------

Sample letter: how to appeal if your public record request has been denied
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690453c.html
Last Updated: March 12, 2006, 05:34:56 AM PST

Date
Name and Title (of the official with custody of the records) Name of Agency Address

RE: Public Records Act Request

Dear ________________,

Pursuant to my rights under the California Public Records Act (Government Code Section 6250 et seq.) and the California Constitution, as amended by passage of Prop 59 on November 3, 2004, I am writing to request a copy of the following records, which I understand to be in the possession of your agency:

(Describe the record(s) as precisely as possible, including the designation of any forms or
reports with titles, the date or dates if relevant, the author and addressee if the item is a letter or memo, etc. If the record is referred to in another document or published report and it will help to attach a copy of that reference, do so.)

I ask for a determination on this request within 10 days of your receipt of it, and an even earlier reply if you can make that determination without having to review the record(s) in question.

(Use the following if applicable:)

I would not ordinarily trouble you with this written request, but when I first made it informally I was told by __________________ that your agency considers the information to be exempt from disclosure because ________________________________. I respectfully suggest that this position, if I understand it correctly, is wrong. It is wrong because

___________________________________________________________________________.

If you determine that any or all or the information is exempt from disclosure, I ask that you reconsider that determination in view of Prop 59, which has amended the state Constitution to require that all exemptions be "narrowly construed." Prop 59 may modify or overturn authorities on which you have relied in the past.

If you nonetheless determine that the requested records are subject to a still-valid exemption, I would further request that: (1) you exercise your discretion to disclose some or all of the records notwithstanding the exemption; and (2) that, with respect to records containing both exempt and non-exempt content, you redact the exempt content and disclose the rest.

Finally, should you deny part or all of this request, you are required to provide a written response describing the legal authority or authorities on which you rely. Please also address the question whether Prop 59 requires disclosure even though authorities predating Prop 59 may appear to support your exemption claim.

If I can provide any clarification that will help expedite your attention to this request, please contact me at (provide phone or fax number, pager number, etc.). I ask that you notify me of any duplication costs exceeding $xx so that I may decide which records I want copied.

(Use the following as applicable:)

I am sending a copy of this letter to your legal advisor to help encourage a speedy determination, and I would likewise be happy to discuss my request with (him/her) at any time.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
---------------------------------

Merced woman guards public projects process
Lawsuits force the county, UC to toe the legal line

By ADAM ASHTON
BEE STAFF WRITER
Modesto Bee -- March 13, 2006
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11926478p-12693374c.html

For some in Merced County, Lydia Miller's name prompts the same reaction: Why is she suing me now?

Miller, the county's foremost environmentalist, positions herself at the front of often impassioned debates on the spread of subdivisions and the footprint of the University of California at Merced.

She crafts her arguments using the state's Public Records Act to ensure local governments adhere to laws protecting the environment.

"Public process is the only tool in ensuring integrity of a project," said Miller, 48, who leads the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center. "When the process is compromised, then the project is compromised. We see very few projects that follow good process."

One of the biggest of 19 lawsuits Miller's group has filed against local agencies forced Merced County to turn over thousands of pages of documents regarding its interactions with the University of California before the system placed its newest campus there.

Miller believed the county was treating the campus as if it were a done deal and speeding through the approval process.

That case, which ended in 2002 with a judge's order to open the records, provided the groundwork for a lawsuit Miller filed in late 2004 seeking to halt plans on an 11,600-home community that would border the campus.

Her opponent in the three-year push to open the county's UC records was Greg Wellman, the county's former chief executive who now works as Atwater's city manager.

He said Miller had a right to most of the information she requested, even if it gave him headaches at the time.

"I think a large amount of what she's asking for is just a reflection of our democratic process," he said. "I might personally feel some of the issues raised are not consequential, but those are personal feelings. She has a right to public information — pure and simple."

Back then, though, Wellman said handing over some of the information felt as if it were inviting a costly lawsuit.

"You don't want to give up your defense strategy resulting in a higher award or any other such thing," he said.

Bruce Owdom, Miller's lawyer on the open records lawsuit, said agencies sometimes are too quick to deny a request like hers, giving an impression that a "culture of secrecy" prevails in their offices.

"They sometimes have an attitude like it's our domain here and the public doesn't have a right to these things," he said.

Miller says that attitude prevails in many government offices. She said the county should start keeping running files on controversial projects so people could drop by and check out a proposal's progress.

Merced County Supervisor Jerry O'Banion said that recommendation might run afoul of privacy protections for some applicants.

He also said the county shouldn't hand over information while it's being sued unless it's ordered to do so. The Public Records Act has an exemption for documents under litigation.

"There's client-privileged information that may help in regards to giving guidance to a project that shouldn't be part of a public document that anyone could see," he said.

Nonetheless, he said, the public should be able to see all the information that leads to supervisors' decisions.

Miller says the information her group obtains helps it ensure agencies follow through on mitigation plans, and support projects with sufficient resources.

Her group recently filed a public records request with Livingston and Merced County seeking information about plans for a sewer line that would make it easier for a developer to build a subdivision outside the city limit.

The City Council approved Ranchwood Homes' pitch to lay the sewer line in late 2004, but Miller argues the county would have had to sign off on it because it's in unincorporated land. She's waiting for the documents.

"We participate in the process," she said. "We can't sue on emotion; the only thing we can sue on is to make sure the process was adhered to rightly."
---------------------------

Judge rules against county
Merced Sun-Star – July 23, 2002
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/news/281651491740333.shtml

That was the good news. The bad news came five months later, when Merced County Superior Court Judge William Ivey ruled on attorney’s fees and costs. Attorney for the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Bruce Owdom, spent $42,000 on the case. Judge Ivey, forced to rule in favor of the Center on the merits of the case, slammed the plaintiff and its attorney on costs and fees to which they were entitled, as if to say to the Merced public and the bar: We may give the case, but you will not get costs and fees in Merced County.

And that has been largely true.
--------------------------

Records suit costs county $22,000
Court orders reimbursement for group’s court costs
By Cheri Carlson
Merced Sun-Star – Nov. 25, 2002

“Everybody thinks that we make money from the lawsuit. We don’t. – Lydia Miller, San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center

Two local environmental groups that successfully sued Merced County earlier this year have won more than their right to view public records. In fact, they won nearly $22,000.

Superior Court Judge William T. Ivey on Friday awarded the groups their court costs, which must be paid for by the county.

Neither of the organizations – the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and Protect Our Water – nor the individuals involved in the suit – Lydia Miller and Steve Burke – will actually see the money. It will go straight to their attorney, Bruce Owdom.

Owdom said Friday that when he took the public records case it was on a full contingency basis, which means if they lost, his firm wouldn’t get paid.

But they won, and now Merced County – and taxpayers – must foot the bill.

Not the entire bill, however.

Owdom said he was disappointed that the court decided to award only about half the amount he had requested.

He had sought about $42,000 in fees, but the judged awarded $21,796 instead, stating that the issues involved were not complex. He added that the $42,000 figure was based on the 222 hours he said his firm worked on the case.

Miller, Burke and their organizations filed a lawsuit in May claiming the county had repeatedly ignored or denied requests for information related to the University of California, Merced.

Mille said at the time that the information the groups had requested was “a pretty substantial file” of information that they felt the community needed to review, and the county had said, “No, we’re not giving it to you.”

The county argued that some of the requests were denied because the documents had already been provided. Other requests, according to the county, were vague and the requesting parties couldn’t clarify them.

In June, Ivey ruled in favor of the environmental groups and ordered the county to respond to the requests and to produce any of the public records that the county may have.

Owdon said Friday that since Ivey issued that order, the county has complied and produced more than 100 separately identified documents that hadn’t previously been made available to his clients.

Awarding court costs is necessary, according to Owdom, so public interest groups can find lawyers who’ll take these types of cases.

“Attorneys are only willing to take these cases if they have some assurance of getting fees awarded,” he said. “Nonprofit (groups) can’t afford to pay attorneys’ fees.”

Dennis Myers, the county’s attorney, said Friday that the judge’s order for the county to pay the environmental groups’ court costs adhered to state law.

Court costs and reasonable attorney fees are awarded to the plaintiff if they prevail in litigation regarding public record compliance, according to California code. The fees are paid by the public agency.

The code also states that if the court finds that the plaintiff’s case “is clearly frivolous,” it should award court costs and reasonable attorney fees to the public agency.

According to Myers, which account within the county’s funds will provide the money has not been decided since more than one department was involved.

Miller said Friday that she and Burke took their case to court “on behalf of the public,” and one of the benefits is that the court awarded them their attorney’s fees.

“Everybody thinks that we make money from the lawsuit,” she said. “We don’t.”
------------------------------

Central Valley Shines
With a few exceptions, open records provided in informal Bee survey

By ADAM ASHTON
BEE STAFF WRITER
Modesto Bee -- March 13, 2006
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11926477p-12693365c.html

… Merced County, which charged 10 cents for copies of financial disclosure forms, charged the highest fee in the area for copies of other documents. It wanted 50 cents apace, a sum it set in 1990 to recoup some processing costs.

Three agencies — Livingston's building department, Manteca's building department and Tuolumne County's community development department — wanted to charge research fees for requests they deemed burdensome.

Bee representatives did not pay those fees; they reduced their requests from broad attempts to gain several months' worth of inspections to queries for a handful of specific documents.

Outside records firm a wrinkle

The Public Records Act says agencies cannot charge fees for researching or processing, unless the agency has to create a document to meet the request.

Nathan Barankin, spokesman for the state Attorney General's office, said that under the act, an agency may charge a retrieval or research fee for staff time on nonelectronic documents only if the public entity contracts with a private company to keep the records. The fees come through the company's bill.

Livingston's building department is run by a private company and could meet that exception.

City Manager Richard Warne said the department would charge extra fees only for requests that take several hours of staff time.

Its research fee was $46 an hour, city Building Official Rex Wyatt told a reporter.

"If it's a document off the shelf, we just give it to people. If it involves several hours of research, we might charge, but we haven't run into that problem," Warne said …

Bruce Owdom, a Fresno attorney who has worked for The Fresno Bee, said the amount of work that could go into satisfying a public records request is not a sufficient excuse not to comply with the law, or to charge fees beyond what the Public Records Act allows.

"They might say some other department has those records and we don't have those records. Or it would be too difficult to compile," he said. "My recollection is that there's not an exception to the Public Records Act for that type of situation."

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said research fees violate the Public Records Act.

"In general, you can't be charged for the time, the effort or the money of conducting a search that responds to an individual's request — not for the search time, not for the consultation with lawyers, not for any discussions about the request.

"None of that represents the cost that may be passed on to the requester," Scheer said.
---------------------------

Notes:

3-12-06
Modesto Bee
Now open to the public...Lorena Anderson
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690527c.html
Sunshine Week...Your right to know. Anyone can request public records any time, without providing a reason or even identification, and it is up to the government to explain why a document can't be released.Assemblyman Bill Bagley, who represented Marin and Sonoma counties from 1961 to 1974 and wrote the California Public Records Act, said he intended the government to operate in an "atmosphere of openness." ...agencies must prove that withholding a document has more public benefit than releasing it; nothing in the act is to be construed as preventing an agency from releasing records.

Message from Bee Editor and Senior Vice President Mark S. Vasche
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690450c.html
Over the course of the week, we’ll be shining a light on open government, with stories, editorials and columns designed to help you understand the importance of public access to government proceedings and records – and the growing attempts to limit that access. Why? Because a government that ceases to be open and accessible to its citizens ceases to be a government of, by and for the people.

Government watchdog follows the money trail...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690518c.html
Documents let him verify what officials are saying

Paper Trails...
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690451c.html
Here are some records to which people have access

Tips on making a request for a public document...
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690452c.html
Preparing your request... At the agency... Overcoming obstacles...
1. You do not have to prove or even state a "need to know" to justify access.
2. You don't need to explain why you want the record.
3. Your request need not be in writing.
4. You don't need to identify yourself, with a few exceptions. The law requires identification only when you seek information about pesticides or the addresses of people arrested or crime victims.
5. You have the right to inspect records, but the agency need not compile lists or write reports. For instance, the county assessor's office could produce records of home sales on your block but would not be required to compute the median sales prices or otherwise analyze the data for you.
6. You may be charged a fee for copying records, but not for looking at them.

Sample letter: how to appeal if your public record request has been denied...
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11923683p-12690453c.html

3-13-06
Modesto Bee
Merced woman guards public projects process...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11926478p-12693374c.html
For some in Merced County, Lydia Miller's name prompts the same reaction: Why is she suing me now? Miller, the county's foremost environmentalist, positions herself at the front of often impassioned debates on the spread of subdivisions and the footprint of the University of California at Merced. She crafts her arguments using the state's Public Records Act to ensure local governments adhere to laws protecting the environment. "Public process is the only tool in ensuring integrity of a project," said Miller who leads the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center. "When the process is compromised, then the project is compromised. Greg Wellman, the county's former chief executive who now works as Atwater's city manager...Back then, though, handing over some of the information felt as if it were inviting a costly lawsuit. Merced County Supervisor Jerry O'Banion..."There's client-privileged information that may help in regards to giving guidance to a project that shouldn't be part of a public document that anyone could see,"...Nonetheless, he said, the public should be able to see all the information that leads to supervisors' decisions. "We participate in the process," Miller said. "We can't sue on emotion; the only thing we can sue on is to make sure the process was adhered to rightly."

Central Valley Shines...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11926477p-12693365c.html
Bee survey-The Bee informally assessed compliance with open government laws at 17 cities and four counties over the past two weeks by visiting government offices and asking forbasic rec-ords — financial disclosure forms for officials,executive contracts, building permits and restaurant inspections. Most agencies, such as the cities of Modesto, Sonora and Ceres, had the information on hand and disclosed it immediately. Others, such as Riverbank, Turlock and Merced County, wanted written requests. Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, called the level of compliance documented by The Bee "unusual." Californians Aware, another open government advocacy group, is scheduled to release an audit Tuesday indicating that more than half of the state agencies it checked failed to comply with the Public Records Act. Bruce Owdom, a Fresno attorney who has worked for The Fresno Bee, said the amount of work that could go into satisfying a public records request is not a sufficient excuse not to comply with the law, or to charge fees beyond what the Public Records Act allows. Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said research fees violate the Public Records Act.

| »

Friends of Denny

Submitted: Feb 11, 2006

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, has recently inaugurated a weekly email newsletter to keep his constituents "in the loop." The Shrimp Slayer's loop, however, would not be large enough to rope a heavily drugged alley cat. So, we thought we'd somewhat extend the loop to include the Shrimp Slayer's wider circle of friends.

No one among today's elected officials, for example, has a better claim to the title "Mr. UC Merced-- Political Class" than Denny. So we thought we'd read up on how UC is doing these days, because the Shrimp Slayer is working ceaselessly working for UC in Congress. That brought us to remember the academic chair in public policy at UC Merced, endowed by Shrimp Slayer predecessor Rep. Tony “Honest Graft” Coelho. It is always important to set good leadership examples for the young.

In a recent “town hall meeting” stacked with senior citizens who harkened in vain for the “prescription drug” word, Denny introduced another good friend, UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, whose elemental grasp of Valley history begins and ends with the theme: When UC got here! The Shrimp Slayer said he’d spent more time with the Chancellor recently than he had with his wife. Good taste and family values are hallmarks of Denny’s tenure in office.

Then there is Denny's real good friend in Tracy, Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer, with whom Denny teams up from time to time to gut the Endangered Species Act on behalf of their common developer friends and UC, Merced's anchor-tenant developer. So, we thought we'd read up on how Ol' RichPAC's campaign was going against former Rep. Pete "The Elder" McCloskey, Real Republican-Lodi. All this led us to recall The Shrimp Slayer's friends in the Federal Republic of Micronesia.

Returning to the theme of history beginning when UC Merced got here, the campus seems to be operating as a kind of memory wash. Former UC Provost M.R.C. Greenwood, whose compensation package is at the center of the present controversy raging in the state Legislature, was apparently able to stash her son on the UC Merced payroll. And then there’s former UC president David Gardner, a member of the UC Merced Foundation board of trustees, whose golden parachute 13 years ago occasioned the last outbreak of public outrage against UC administrators bilking the public.

Bill Hatch
-----------------------------------

Pombo charges taxpayers for vacation
Nick Juliano
Tracy Press
Feb. 9, 2006

http://www.tracypress.com/local/2006-02-09-Pombo.php
In summer 2003, just after he was named chairman of the House Resources Committee, Rep. Richard Pombo loaded the family in an RV for “two weeks on vacation” traveling around the West.

Documents obtained by the Tracy Press show taxpayers covered most of his expenses.

“This August, my family and I rented an RV and set out to explore the West,” Pombo, R-Tracy, wrote in a 2003 article posted on the Resources Committee’s Web site.

“We spent two weeks on vacation, stopping along the way to enjoy the splendor of many of our national parks.”

Pombo was reimbursed $4,935.87 to rent the RV and spent $1,500.51 on a government credit card for “travel subsistence” during a two-week span from July 27 to Aug. 11, 2003, according to a Resources Committee spending ledger obtained by the Press.

A spokesman for the committee, Brian Kennedy, said the RV rental was the only vacation expense covered by taxpayers. The credit card bill referenced in the Statement of Disbursements for the House was for expenses incurred during previous field hearings, he said. House rules dictate “official travel may not be for personal … purposes,” but allows for members of Congress to bring family members along on official trips.

Kennedy defended Pombo’s expenses. He said Pombo spent those two weeks visiting and meeting with officials at 10 national parks, over which his committee has jurisdiction.

“You bet his family was with him, of course,” Kennedy said. “What better way to see and judge the visitor experience of a national park?”

Larry Noble, a former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission, said the trip gives the impression “that members of Congress are out of touch and feel entitled to things the average person doesn’t get,” even though he may have been doing some official business.

“I understand what he’s saying … but it does look like a family vacation, and the taxpayer has a right to ask, ‘Is this the best way to do this?’” said Noble, who is now the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan government watchdog group.

Kennedy said Pombo and his family traveled through California, Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana, meeting with officials and touring the parks. In an article published on the Resources Committee’s Web site, Pombo said he also visited Colorado.

It is unclear exactly how much of Pombo’s time during the two-week span was spent on official business, but it was “probably a substantial amount,” Kennedy said.

“Frankly, I think it should be refreshing for people to know that Chairman Pombo is the kind of guy who will jump behind the wheel of an RV and drive 5,000 miles to see … and learn about the national parks that taxpayers pay him to oversee,” he said.

No Resources Committee staff members or fellow members of Congress accompanied Pombo on the trip, and Kennedy said he did not know how Pombo’s family occupied themselves while he was in meetings.

By renting an RV and toting along his family, Kennedy said, Pombo likely saved money on hotels and airfare that he would have incurred if he’d traveled alone.

“If the chairman could have loaded the family into a helicopter to go to all of these
meetings and all of these parks for $5,000, he would have,” Kennedy said.

House travel rules require that members reimburse travel expenses for family members

accompanying them on chartered airplanes paid for with government money, but no similar rule exists for RV travel.

The rules also require that personal travel in officially rented vehicles be kept to a minimum and must “not otherwise constitute a significant activity or event.”

Kennedy said Pombo’s travel did not violate these rules.

“The House rules are relatively lax about these types of things,” Noble said. “It’s supposed to be official business, and a number of them (members of Congress) are reluctant to call things official business. This, to me, is really in that questionable area.”

Congressional Democrats have previously accused Pombo of misusing taxpayer funds to pay his top aide to travel between Stockton and Washington, D.C.

Bay Area Reps. George Miller and Ellen Tauscher on Tuesday publicly requested an investigation into the arrangement in which Steve Ding, Pombo’s and the House Resources Committee’s chief of staff, has billed taxpayers more than $87,000 during the last several years for his nearly weekly flights and hotel stays in Washington. The deal also has allowed Ding to collect tens of thousands of dollars in political consulting fees from clients in California.

Pombo has defended that relationship, saying it fosters an outside-the-beltway perspective among his committee staff.
------------------------------

McCloskey for Congress
February 6, 2006
For Immediate Release

"FOLLOW THE MONEY"

In a speech to the Lodi Rotary Club today, former Congressman Pete McCloskey responded to press reports that incumbent Congressman Richard Pombo had raised $1.2 million in campaign funds by year end 2005, as against McCloskey's zero.

"I intend to make Pombo's campaign funding sources and Mr. Pombo's actions in response to those sources a major issue in this campaign," McCloskey said.

He challenged Pombo to respond to the following facts:

1. Indian gaming lobbyist Jack Abramoff has recently pled guilty to felonious efforts to
bribe Members of Congress.

2. Mr. Pombo and his PAC, "RICHPAC," have received more money from Abramoff, his wife and clients ($54,500) than any other California congressperson.

3. Mr. Pombo has also received more money (over $500,000) from Indian tribes than any other Member of the House.

4. One of Mr. Abramoff's most lucrative clients was the infamous clothing manufacturing industry in the Marianas Islands, a U.S. trust territory under the jurisdiction of Chairman Pombo's Committee on Resources. The industry, led by one Willie Tan, paid Abramoff millions to fend off legislation which would reform applicable immigration and labor standards to the thousands of young women brought to the Marianas to work in the sweatshops there.

5. Working conditions had become so notoriously bad by 2000 that conservative Senator Frank Murkowski, (R. Alaska) was able to obtain unanimous Senate passage of a Marianas reform bill. The bill upon passage was referred to Pombo's Committee on Resources, then chaired by James Hansen (R-Utah) where it died.

6. Over a two year period Abramoff records reflect he met on at least two dozen occasions with Majority leader Tom Delay (R-Texas) seeking to prevent Marianas reform legislation and on other topics.

7. During an 8-month period in 2000, Mr. Pombo's press secretary and legislative assistant received at least a dozen tickets to Abramoff's private "skybox," on five separate occasions, the tickets being valued at $1,000 each for inside-the-Beltway fundraising purposes.

8. On September 16, 2003, Abramoff's associate Kevin Ring, a former staff person for Congressman John Doolittle, gave Pombo's RICHPAC $1,000. Mr. Ring also gave Mr. Pombo an additional $3,000 between September 13, 2002, and February 18, 2005. In the fall of 2005, Mr. Ring took the 5th Amendment when questioned by Senator John McCain's Committee on Indian Affairs.

9. In January 2004, Mr. Pombo traveled to the Marianas, and on May 18, 2004, received nine campaign contributions from the following residents of the Marianas connected with the garment industry or the government of the Marianas.

Jerry Tan $500
Eloy Inos $500
Juan Baubata $500
Paul Zak $500
Hsia-Ling Lin $2,000
Richard Pierce $1,500
Clarence Tenorio $1,000
Pedro Atalig $1,000
Diego Benevente $500
Total = $7,750

10. In January 2005, Mr. Pombo and the House Republican leadership changed the House Ethics Rules to prevent any further investigation of Tom Delay who had been three times admonished on the House Ethics Committee.

11. As of February 2006, Chairman Pombo has neither considered a bill to implement the Murkowski bill, nor has he responded to repeated requests to investigate the Abramoff influence on either the Marianas reform bill or the Indian casino industry.

"At the very least, Mr. Pombo should explain to his constituents why he has taken so much money from Mr. Abramoff, his clients, and the Indian tribes interested in casino gambling,"

McCloskey said.

For more information contact:
Robert Caughlan
650 575 9448
www.PeteMcCloskey.com
---------------------------

US delegation leaves Pohnpei with "first-hand island experience"
www.fsmgov.org/press/pr011704.htm

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Service): January 17, 2004 - Congressman Richard Pombo of the United States House of Representative and his Congressional Delegation (CODEL) along with Secretary Gale A. Norton of the US Department of Interior left Pohnpei State with an experience of the island life, "first-hand" during their visit to the seat of the nation.

The welcome for the high-level CODEL was punctuated by the famous heavy rain showers of Pohnpei upon arrival. Mwaramwars and a chorus of songs from the local Head Start - as they waived mini FSM/US flags, continued the display of island-welcome when officials from both State and National Governments greeted the CODEL at the Pohnpei International Airport.

Continued rainfall accompanied their drive to the nation's capitol in Palikir where they met with President Joseph J. Urusemal and Speaker Peter M. Christian of the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia.

President Urusemal welcomed the delegation to Palikir and explained that rain-shower in local folklores, is a good omen.

The President expressed FSM's appreciation for U.S.'s passage of the amended Compact and thanked, especially, the US Congress for its "swift action" on the amended Compact legislation.He also noted the recent establishment of DOI's Honolulu Office to monitor financial assistance under the Compact and expressed FSM's willingness and commitment to making the amended Compact work to the benefit of both nations.

Along the same line, Secretary Norton said the signed Compact signals tremendous opportunities for both nations to "further strengthen our relationship" and that she is "looking forward to working with the FSM, to go forward with the Compact of Free Association, to go forward with the future." …

During the evening's dinner reception at the Cliff Rainbow Hotel, Chairman Pombo echoed Secretary Norton's remarks when he also referenced Specialist Bermanis's sacrifice. He thanked the FSM for their sons and daughters that are serving alongside U.S's own. Chairman Pombo said their visit to Pohnpei afforded the opportunity for members of his delegation to see and experience first-hand the issues which they have been working on from afar.

Secretary Norton said, "it provided a tremendous opportunity to experience the FSM first-hand." … Pombo chairs the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The chairman headed a CODEL that included: Rep. Eni Faleomavaega from American Samoa, Rep. Frank Lucas from Oklahoma, Rep. Jeff Flake from Arizona, Rep. Dennis Rehberg from Montana, Rep. Dennis Cardoza from California, Rep. Madeleine Bordallo of Guam and a several Congressional staff.

Representing the 11th District of California, Chairman Pombo is serving his sixth term in the House. His personal leadership has been noted as "very instrumental and effective" in the passage of the amended Compact legislation …
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Pombo introduces rewrite of Endangered Species Act

Sep 26, 2005 9:17 AM
By Forrest Laws, Farm Press Editorial Staff
http://westernfarmpress.com/news/9-26-05-Pombo-Endangered-Species-Act/

Rep. Richard W. Pombo, R-Calif., introduced his long-awaited rewrite of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, saying it was “time to do better” by the plants and animals the law was designed to protect.

Pombo, chairman of the House Resources Committee, was joined by fellow West Coast Congressmen Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif.; Greg Walden, R-Ore.; and George Radanovich, R-Calif., at a press conference announcing the new legislation in Stockton, Calif., Sept. 19.

After the announcement, critics complained the new legislation would cripple the current Endangered Species Act and “punch loopholes in the law on behalf of greedy developers, oil companies and other special interests.” Pombo said the 1973 law simply has not done what it was intended to do...
------------------------------------

http://www.ucinthevalley.org/articles/2002/jan25art1.htm

Former U.S. Congressman Tony Coelho Commits Endowment for UC Merced

Merced, CA - Tony Coelho, a former U.S. Congressman who represented California's Central Valley for more than a decade and pioneering advocate for a University of California campus in the region, has committed an endowed chair to the University of California, Merced. A special ceremony will be held this afternoon (Friday, January 25) in Merced to announce the Tony Coelho Endowed Chair in Public Policy and to recognize his longtime commitment to the 10th UC campus.

"For our campus to have a faculty chair bearing the name of Tony Coelho is indeed a privilege," said UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "He is a visionary leader whose work to promote education, disability awareness, agriculture and many other important issues has improved the lives of millions of Americans. Tony Coelho's dedication to public service will live on in the faculty research and education of future leaders made possible through this endowment." …

===================================================

SENATORS DEMAND ANSWERS ON UC PAY
Unreported compensation raises ire at panel's hearing
- Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack, Chronicle Staff Writers
Thursday, February 9, 2006
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/02/09/MNG8JH5HBO1.DTL&type=printable

Sacramento -- Members of the state Senate Education Committee expressed annoyance Wednesday and demanded to know why the University of California has failed to fully disclose its pay practices and follow its own policies.

At a contentious hearing, UC President Robert Dynes faced one difficult question after another and offered a personal apology for the university system's failure to meet its obligations to account for the money it gives employees.

"It is with real regret that I have come to acknowledge that we have not always met the standards others hold us to in matters of compensation and compensation disclosure,'' Dynes said. "My ethics are upset by this."

The hearing was one of a series called in response to reports in The Chronicle that the 10-campus system has paid some employees much more than was reported to the public. Dynes is scheduled to testify again before the Senate committee on Feb. 22. An Assembly committee plans to hold its own hearings in late spring.

At Wednesday's session, senators peppered Dynes with questions about golden parachutes offered to former Provost M.R.C. Greenwood and former UC Davis Vice Chancellor Celeste Rose as well as about hidden pay and perks offered to other executives.

In one of the harshest exchanges, Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, demanded to know whether any UC executives had resigned or been fired in the wake of the payment revelations.

Dynes noted that Greenwood had resigned, eliciting snickers from the audience.

"We heard about what happened to her," Romero replied, referring to a $301,840, 15-month leave she was given after her resignation as well as her cushion of a $163,800 faculty job at UC Davis. Greenwood resigned in November after UC opened an investigation into the hiring of her business partner and son after questions were raised by The Chronicle.

Romero also asked whether anyone at UC was examining whether any of the mistakes "border on criminality."

"Yes, there are internal investigations,'' Dynes said. UC has previously announced an array of internal audits, though this was the first mention of the possibility that any laws were violated.

In general, Dynes admitted that he had sometimes let the university go astray in its secretive approach to compensation.

"It is perhaps true that at times I have been so committed to competitiveness and excellence that I have not been as mindful of the other responsibilities that come with being steward of this public institution," he said.

Half of the senators on the 12-member committee were outspoken in their criticism, some saying Dynes' apologies and promises of improvements ring hollow considering that UC was in the same situation in 1992.

Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, ticked off a series of reforms recommended to the UC Board of Regents back then by retired Legislative Analyst A. Alan Post.

Dynes conceded that UC has continued to provide several executive perks that Post had urged be eliminated. Those include an executive severance pay plan that UC now says is deferred compensation (and is converting to a retirement plan), an executive auto allowance and a special life insurance policy.

"That was something that was asked of you, and you didn't comply," Speier said.
Dynes said a reporting and monitoring system will be put in place to make sure the reforms "stick" this time.

Under questioning from the senators, UC officials admitted for the first time that they had violated policy in secretly agreeing to give Rose, the former UC Davis vice chancellor, $50,000 and a new job that pays $205,000 a year. That agreement came after Rose, who is African American, threatened to sue for discrimination when she was told to resign. Rose's new job doesn't have any regular duties, and UC promised to keep her on the payroll for two years regardless of whether she does any work.

"This should have been approved by the regents," UC attorney Jeff Blair told the committee. "There was confusion as to who was taking action to get it approved. It was an error."

In other cases, Dynes acknowledged that UC administrators had made exceptions to policy to pay employees additional money or perks. Last month, UC drew fire for an exception granted former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl, allowing him to keep the full $355,000 he earned on a 13-month leave even though he plans to quit to take another job before fulfilling his teaching commitment.

Dynes said he had no idea how often such policy exceptions were granted. Until the audits can be completed, Dynes announced, future policy exemptions for senior managers will require his approval in consultation with the regents.

"I want to see the exceptions to see if there are flagrant violations,'' Dynes said. "I am only guessing at this point, and guessing is not a healthy thing to do."

Critics, however, said the new policy does not go far enough.

"Dynes continues to insist that he will consult, rather than requiring approval by, the regents before making exceptions to new compensation policies. That's an insufficient safeguard," said UC Berkeley Professor Bruce Fuller, who led a faculty drive for an independent investigation into the compensation practices. "It's a sugar-coated version of the status quo."

Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Salinas, urged Dynes to impose a salary freeze until the university can finish reviewing and improving its pay practices.

"Why not stop the blatant abuse we have seen and figure it out," Denham said.
Dynes said UC has already frozen executive pay.

"We have had a salary freeze the past three years,'' Dynes said. "I have had no salary increase in three years."

In fact, the UC regents in November approved a retroactive pay raise of 2.5 percent for dozens of senior managers, including Dynes. Dynes' pay, for instance, went up $10,000 to $405,000 as of Oct. 1.

UC spokesman Michael Reese said executive pay had been frozen for three years, despite the recent increases, so "that does not negate the basic point he was trying to make."
------------------------------------

UC provost who quit got questionable perk
$125,000 payment for housing possibly violated policy
Todd Wallack, Tanya Schevitz, Chronicle Staff Writers
Friday, November 11, 2005
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/11/11/MNGFMFMNV01.DTL

…In addition, UC has placed one of Greenwood's underlings, Winston Doby, on paid leave while it investigates whether he did anything improper to help Greenwood's 43-year-old son, James Greenwood, win a paid internship at UC Merced.
----------------------------------------------

PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
Lessons not learned at UC
Louis Freedberg
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/11/23/EDGVPFS9FO1.DTL
Wednesday, November 23, 2005

WILL THEY ever learn?

The most depressing aspect of the recent revelations by my Chronicle colleagues Tanya Schevitz and Todd Wallack about the lack of transparency in awarding compensation to top University of California employees is that the university went through a similar nail-pulling experience 13 years ago.

In 1992, the university was thoroughly shaken by disclosures that the Board of Regents, in a series of closed door meetings, had awarded then-UC President David Gardner a "deferred compensation" and retirement package worth close to $1 million.

That included an annual pension of $126,000, adjusted annually for inflation, that Gardner, who chose to retire at age 58, would receive for life.

The revelations came during another period of financial duress for the university. During the three years leading up to the Gardner disclosures, student fees had risen by 85 percent. That was the last time student fees had escalated so rapidly until the most recent round of fee increases -- up 79 percent since 2001.

I covered the ins and outs of the scandal, which included publishing transcripts of a closed-door meeting at which regents schemed how to keep details of Gardner's compensation from the press. (As we later discovered, I and other reporters were waiting right outside the room where the regents brazenly discussed how to keep the information from us).

Revelation upon embarrassing revelation followed -- including how the university bought Gardner's house in Utah in order to facilitate his move to California and ended up losing $111,000 on the deal when it sold it later. Gardner didn't want to live in the president's house in Kensington, so the regents gave him a low-interest loan, plus a generous housing allowance, so he could buy a house in Orinda. It even paid for the property taxes on the Orinda property.

The scandal widened when it turned out that 22 other top officials of the university also received similarly secretive "deferred compensation" packages.

The furor reached its peak when then-Gov. Pete Wilson and Speaker Willie Brown showed up at a tumultuous special meeting of the regents to defend Gardner's severance package.

In his memoir "Earning My Degree," published last year by UC Press, Gardner tried to rewrite history by downplaying the seriousness of the scandal.

He blamed the media for its "unremitting, and unrestrained (mostly inaccurate) news reporting" -- even though he never once requested a correction for any of the dozens of stories I wrote about the furor.

In his memoirs, he paid me a backhanded compliment by describing me as "an intelligent and accomplished journalist." But, in a conspiratorial flight of fancy, he concocts a theory that has no basis in fact by suggesting my reporting was driven or manipulated by Ralph Nader, simply because I knew his sister Laura, an anthropology professor at UC Berkeley.

In his 432-page memoir, Gardner leaves out any mention of a lacerating 1992 report commissioned by the university by retired Legislative Analyst A. Alan Post, at the time perhaps the most respected fiscal analyst in California.

"The manner in which compensation issues have been presented, considered and approved during the last 10 years has been seriously deficient," Post concluded. "The imposition of secrecy (regarding executive compensation) appears to have become commonplace, becoming a matter of convenience rather than principle."

Gardner's memoir also neatly leaves out any reference to a 178-page audit by the state's auditor general, also in 1992, expressing concerns about questionable practices by UC officials, including first-class air travel, using university money to pay for a wedding reception and making charitable contributions using UC funds with no clear benefit for the university.

The auditor rejected the argument that some of these perks were paid for from "private funds." "Because UC exists as a constitutionally based public trust, it is an entity of the state," the auditor wrote. "As such, all of UC's funds are state funds and should be expended with similar regard for UC's responsibilities as a public trust."

After Gardner left, new UC president Jack Peltason introduced a range of reforms that promised more openness in disclosing executive compensation. The university, for example, pledged to provide full details of executive compensation to the Legislature and involve UC faculty in helping to set administrative salaries.

So what happened? Gardner went on to become president of the Hewlett Foundation and chairman of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Over time, the scandal faded in memory, and Gardner was lionized by his peers. A smart new addition to the Doe Library on the UC Berkeley campus was named after him.

The transparency promised by the university gradually become more opaque, making a mockery of the "reforms" adopted by the regents -- with the unfortunate results we have seen over the past weeks. As Jeremiah Hallisey, the retired regent who was Gardner's most persistent critic at the time, reflected this week, "If they have to pay these salaries, let's justify it in a public meeting, and let's have transparency."

It's pretty simple. A public university has no choice but to do its business in public.

That is a truism that the University of California has yet to fully embrace. It should not take a lashing from the public and the press every dozen years or so to force it to do so.

Louis Freedberg is a Chronicle editorial writer.
--------

List of SF Chronicle stories on the UC administration pay scandal:

List of execs who got severance
(1/27)
President gets power to boost salaries
(1/19)
Big changes sought in how UC raises pay
(1/13)
Details given on extra pay
(1/12)
Legislative hearing into UC compensation
(12/6)
Ex-provost still on payroll
(11/26)
Freedberg: Lessons not learned at UC
(11/23)
Outrage in Capitol at pay revelations
(11/16)

Editorial: UC's hidden pay
(11/16)
UC refuses to release exec raise list
(11/15)
Student services cut as high-pay jobs boom
(11/14)
Free mansions for people of means
(11/14)
UC piling extra cash on top of pay
(11/13)
Other perks include gifts, travel, parties
(11/13)
Database of highest paid UC employees
(11/13)
-------------

UC Merced introduces foundation board of trustees

http://www.ucinthevalley.org/articles/2000/march1700.htm

...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 ...

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