Is the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint “community organizing”?

Don left this comment below:

August 20, 2019 at :
It’s not just Friant. The Valley Blueprint is Valley wide and includes non ag participants, NGOs, disadvantaged communities and real live people who work and live here. I don’t get the push back. It’s community organizing.

So. Is the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint “community organizing”?

No. The San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint is lobbying, not community organizing. There are several tells:

  • Its single focus is a project that benefits the already powerful.
  • The lobbying effort relies on money, not social capital.
  • There are no women in the lobbying effort.
  • It has no alliances outsides the benefactors; they are not supporting reciprocal efforts.
  • The solution it proposes puts the costs/burden on less powerful entities and gives the benefits to powerful entities. (It proposes that the poorer subsidize the richer.)

Let’s go through them.

Its single focus is a project that benefits the already powerful.

The SJV Water Blueprint does one thing. It proposes to generate 2-3MAF to backfill the groundwater that the west/south Valley can no longer overdraft. It is not a project to bring water to the Valley in general, for cities towns and tribes. A project created by community organizing would serve more than one set of water users.

The water users that would benefit from the SJV Blueprint are the already wealthy. At minimum, they are landowners, which makes them wealthier than most Californians. At the maximum they are literally millionaires and billionaires.  They are already powerful; they are represented by governmental and NGO’s with budgets in the millions; here in the early months of creating the Blueprint, they speak of extended contact directly with Governor Newsom and the Natural Resources Agency.

The SJV Water Blueprint relies on money, not donated skills.

The agencies participating in the SJV Water Blueprint are being asked (and readily approving) for $15K each for the initial effort. This is paying for engineering consultants and the design firm for the brochure. The people promoting the Water Blueprint at meetings around the Valley are paid (paid well, in fact) for their attendance at these meetings. All things are possible, but I would be surprised to hear of anyone promoting the Water Blueprint on his own time, out of personal conviction.

Community organizing forms when people who cannot buy nice presentations and access to governors join together. Their work is often, unfortunately, unpaid, relying on donated skills and time. They mostly do not have access to even one fifteen-thousand-dollars, much less several, readily approved.

There are no women in the SJV Water Blueprint lobbying effort.

As I read through the meetings that discuss the Water Blueprint, all the names are male. This is because they are paid professionals, drawing on professional networks in established agencies. Real community organizers are often women, drawing on their social networks, grown through long participation in the community. Real community organizers in the San Joaquin Valley look like this. Women are in every one of those pictures. I know several dedicated male community organizers. But I don’t know of any community organizing that doesn’t have women.

It has no alliances outsides the benefactors; they are not supporting reciprocal efforts.

The SJV Water Blueprint effort is lobbying within grower organizations and water agency groups. Because this is not an effort for the general well-being of the Valley, they have nothing to offer other interest groups in the Valley. They are not cross-coordinated with faith groups; they are not supporting clean air initiatives; they are not supporting the Fresno parks initiative. They are not connected enough to see where supporting other organizing work will create good will for them.

By contrast, the most recent news I saw for community organizing in the Valley showed Dolores Huerta getting arrested for protesting for home health care workers. Her historic focus was on farm worker issues, but her connections to the community gives her commonality with home health care workers. She extends herself on someone else’s behalf, which is not something we see from the Water Blueprint effort.

The solution it proposes puts the costs/burden on less powerful entities and gives the benefits to powerful entities. (It proposes that the poorer subsidize the richer.)

The SJV Blueprint proposes that Californians as a whole pay for projects that always fail a cost-benefit analysis in order to build works that gather water away from the environment towards wealthy landowners that overexpanded their farmed acreage.

The people who will bear the costs are all Californians, who are almost all less wealthy than landowners in the San Joaquin, especially west side growers. They other entities who will bear the costs are fish, rivers and habitat. These are all voiceless, dependent on humans to volunteer to represent them. In the model of the SJV Water Blueprint, costs are forced downward, benefits accrue upward. That’s how I know it isn’t community organizing. In community organizing, people band together to extract benefits and put costs on someone wealthier.

 

I don’t fault the Friant Water Authority for pushing the Blueprint. There’s a window and extractors gonna extract. But community organizing is an actual thing, and calling the Blueprint effort “community organizing” is deeply wrong, adjacent to astroturfing.

 

 

 

1 Comment

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One response to “Is the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint “community organizing”?

  1. Noel Park

    Yeah, my warning buzzer went off when I saw “community organizing”. Alas, I procrastinated until you came forward with a commentary 2000 times more eloquent than anything I could have come up with.

    Did you see the passage in “The Dreamt Land” about the farmworkers, on the payroll, transposed to various public hearings around the Valley? Astroturfing defined.

    Although by “tea party” standards it’s pretty weak. More like professional PR spin if you ask me.

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