Noted asshole Buddy Mendes wrote an op-ed for the Fresno Bee. I was delighted when I saw that, because I love reminding local bigwigs that there are lots of kinds of authority in the world and they lost some of theirs when they indulged in asshole behavior. How better than writing an anonymous post, tearing apart whatever sophistry he can manage? Unfortunately, the central thesis of Supervisor Mendes’ op-ed is entirely correct and unassailable. He is right. The remainder of California, including our elected officials, neglects the Central Valley and its poor. As he writes, we are committing a moral failure when we know “these policies are having a harmful impact on the region but choose to ignore the human and social consequences.” We should be ashamed.
Mr. Mendes’ solution is that in the name of the poor people of the Central Valley, the State should take water away from communities more powerless and vulnerable (fish, Tribes, riparian habitats) and distribute water to landowners who incidentally create jobs in the process of privatizing resource wealth. So, you know. Fuck that.
But his problem statement remains true.
Even more cynical is the fact that the activists and government officials calling for further restrictions on water supplies are offering no plan to assist the San Joaquin Valley region with the damage they are creating. They encourage policies that take land out of production, eliminate farm jobs, and strain the resources of local governments.
- Frankly, to my mind, the current water policies are only an excuse to throw money at the Central Valley. We’ve shamefully neglected it for decades and if there were no drought and climate change, we should still throw money at the poor in the Central Valley.
- Dr. Michael wrote this about the funding for the AroundDeltaWaterGo. I found it persuasive.
The Valley economy has many, many needs. It breaks my heart to think that anyone in government would contemplate a $6.5 billion subsidy to Valley agriculture that provides no net benefit to the Valley economy. If such a subsidy were to happen, it would be a tragic example of ineffective and wasteful government. If the government feels compelled to spend billions in industry subsidies in the Valley, I would suggest spending a much smaller amount to entice some other industries that would diversify the economy and create good paying jobs. If a subsidy proposal is ever formalized, every mayor in the Valley should oppose it and offer up an alternative economic development package that is much cheaper and does more for their constituents.
- It gets extremely touchy to talk about this stuff, but one of the mitigation strategies could be to help people leave. I know they don’t want to, but I also know that those areas don’t generate enough wealth for people to live by first world standards, like not having arsenic or nitrates in their water. It is a real dilemma. There are relocation funds in the last water bond, and from what I hear, no one has been interested in them.
- The consequences on farmworkers of decreased farmwork is fairly well described. There is another set of social consequences that I don’t see in mainstream conversation. Retiring farmland will create a lot of loss, grief and dislocation for farmowners. Perhaps we don’t think the State has any role in addressing that. Fine; that’s an understandable policy position. But I continue to think that directly working through the emotional side of land retirement (analogous to climate change grief) would open up strategies that we can’t predict (like letting owners have life tenancies on their farms but not farm, or finding ways for them to continue in their roles as stewards by directing the next uses of their land).