Tag Archives: San Joaquin Valley

Water Situation Looking Worse in the San Joaquin Valley

Water is at the heart of the Central Valley’s daily life, and the southern part of that, the San Joaquin Valley, is always desperately looking for water.  In the middle of the century, the SJ Valley received a bunch of water from the feds and a few state water projects. That allowed the groundwater to work its way back, but the last 45 years have been bad as the water projects have gradually drawn water away from the agricultural purposes and to fishing and urban water priorities.

The result was a process of tapping ground water, leaving the Valley to slowly sink. And since 1961, the results have been quite severe:

California’s San Joaquin Valley has lost 60 million acre-feet of groundwater since 1961, according to a new federal study. That’s enough water for 60 Folsom reservoirs.

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According to the study, groundwater pumping continues to cause the valley floor to sink, a problem known as subsidence. This threatens the stability of surface structures such as the California Aqueduct, which delivers drinking water to more than 20 million people.

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One consequence has been land subsidence over vast areas of the San Joaquin Valley. The most severe drop is about 29 feet near Mendota, which occurred before the canals were built, said Al Steele, an engineering geologist at the state Department of Water Resources in Fresno. (SacBee 7/13/09)

Of course, if the Aqueduct goes, at least the South of the state will begin to pay a lot more attention to the issue.  Much of the water for SoCal comes directly through the Aqueduct.

Our use of resources over the last half century has left in a very poor position to deal with our current drought. Unless we get some rain or come up with some solutions, the future of farming, and of life in general, in the Central Valley looks increasingly bleak.  

With Michelle Obama’s Visit, University of California Merced Gets Its Day

Nothing has ever come easy to the University of California Merced and that makes this Saturday’s commencement of the first four year graduating class a profound moment for the San Joaquin Valley.

When First Lady Michelle Obama honors the class of 2009 by delivering the commencement speech, it will no doubt be time to take stock of how far this area has moved forward to educate its children. I will be there to applaud the graduates and the often ignored but always tenacious Central Valley community.

UC Merced is now a 2,700-student campus. It has breathed new life and vitality into the San Joaquin Valley and given thousands of high school students a sense of purpose. This first graduating class will showcase how the Merced campus will continue to embrace San Joaquin Valley students and others who might not otherwise attend a UC campus.

More over the flip…

For many years, the planning of the UC Merced campus has also given me a sense of purpose, because the Central Valley is my foundation and plays a significant role in the Golden State. I became a founding member and chairman of the UC Merced Foundation Board, because I knew the importance of having a campus in the Central Valley for the state. There were countless obstacles to get the campus up and running from fundraising to environmental regulations. There will other roadblocks in the future as the newest UC campus grows. But the campus will prevail, because UC Merced has gumption and drive. That is why First Lady Obama is speaking at the graduation ceremony.

I cannot overemphasize how important UC Merced is to the Central Valley. Economic and cultural lightening struck when the campus opened its doors. The resources of a world-class educational system located in Merced will help stimulate both the economic and cultural status of the region and the state.

There is nowhere but up for the UC Merced class of 2009 and the San Joaquin Valley. My hat is off to the graduates, their parents and the community.

March for Agribusiness Water

I have been reading or viewing a lot about the California Latino Water Coalition and their March for Water.  The name itself triggered by BS filter. It is like all of those names of groups that seem to back the propositions on our ballots and who always track back to some highly financed special interest… even proponents of controversial projects.

Environmental activist Lloyd G. Carter brings up a good point… that this is just another Agribusiness attempt to empond (sic) all of the water that they can for irrigation and that the Coalition is not really about farm workers or the UFW would be joining in.  Well worth the read if you think this is a real issue.  

UC Merced Accelerated Medical Program on Track to Help Relieve Doctor Shortage in Central Valley

(From our Lt. Governor… – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

In early January I proposed an accelerated medical education program at the University of California Merced designed to prepare high quality doctors and nurses for rewarding careers in the Central Valley. Yesterday at the UC Regents’ meeting, UC President Mark Yudof committed to establishing a first class undergraduate medical education program at UC Merced, and he promised to continue the planning process for post-graduate medical education at the campus. The President’s important commitment could be the important first step toward the accelerated medical school program I envision.

A medical program in the region will help address the serious health care problems of the San Joaquin Valley, home to the state’s highest rates of childhood asthma and premature birth. A serious shortage of medical services exists in the Valley; there are 31 percent fewer primary care doctors, 51 percent fewer specialists, and fewer nurses than California as a whole. An estimated $845 million dollars is lost annually in the region when Central Valley patients drive out of the area to receive medical care.

UC Merced’s priority should be educating and preparing new doctors and nurses to fill the needs of the Valley. Entering freshmen recruited from San Joaquin Valley high schools would be prepared in Merced’s world class undergraduate medical education program and immediately begin their medical training.

The program would run year round with no summer vacations. Lower division course work could be identical for students intending to become nurses or doctors. Upper division classes could begin to differentiate and specialize, so that students could pursue nursing or MD tracks. The program would be fully integrated with the regional community colleges.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, students on the MD track could take all the course work necessary to enter clinical rotations in the surrounding hospitals and clinics. The goal would be to put them significantly ahead of the traditional path.

Following the clinical rotations, students would be directed to the excellent hospitals and clinics in the area for their residency work. Since students in the program would still be required to pass all the same tests and licensing board requirements as a physician from a more traditional school, the program improves the value of pursuing an MD degree without sacrificing quality.  

UC Merced already has many of the courses it will need for the first two years of a world class medical education program, and I believe its program could expand economically by partnering with community colleges in the region. Fine labs and other facilities are already at UC Merced, at the UC San Francisco medical complex in Fresno, and in many of the surrounding community colleges.

There is a great need in the San Joaquin Valley for specialized research on community health, public health, and diseases more often found in the Valley. This type of research is not necessarily expensive and would be a valuable and unique contribution of UC Merced. As the UCM campus grows and matures, the medical and nursing programs can follow the path of other UC medical schools and develop into world-class research institutions.

While I am proud to have helped spearhead this effort, it could not have been done without the hard work and dedication of a broad coalition of individuals interested in improving health care access for the Central Valley. Rep. Jim Costa, Rep. Dennis Cordoza, Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani, UC Merced Chancellor Henry Kang, Bill Lyons, UC Merced Natural Sciences Dean Maria Pallavicini, Dr. Frederick Meyers, and hundreds of staff and community members have been ardent supporters of the school since its conception, forming the Valley Coalition for UC Merced Medical School to advocate on its behalf. I would also like to thank the Central Valley Health Network for their tireless support.

UC Merced is a young campus in need of expanding its reputation. A quality and cost-effective medical program will help improve the appeal of the entire campus, helping to retain and bring in new talent to the Valley from across professions.

Businesses are reluctant to move to regions with poor health services. The increased burden on business-subsidized insurance drives up costs, and the increased need for sick days decreases business efficiency and profitability. Improving health access in the Central Valley will improve the region’s overall economy and increase tax revenues for state and local government.

Let’s empower UC Merced to become a magnate school offering the most cost-effective high quality medical education in the nation, while at the same time offering homegrown solutions to the Valley’s health care crisis. It’s time for the Valley to heal itself.

The Secret is Stockton

( – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

The fact of the matter is that Blue California is mostly quite blue and Red California is quite red. But there is a thin strip of politically semi-arid but not yet desert land, like the Sahel region just to the south of the Sahara in Africa, which we can call Purple California. This land could be fertile terrain for political progressives, as long as it received a modest irrigation flow of money and political expertise. This land is called Stockton.

With a working class population bolstered by some ancestrally Democratic Okies (though not as many as settled in the southern Valley) during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, San Joaquin County was traditionally Democratic – though quite conservative. Over the last 2-3 decades Republicans gained greatly in registration numbers and actual votes. This happened because working class Valley residents felt abandoned as the Democratic party, especially under Bill Clinton, moved away from its FDR/Truman tradition of carrying the banner for working class people. This led to  Valley residents’ innate social conservatism asserting itself and impelling Valley voters, almost by default, to the Republican party. But now affordable housing-starved San Francisco Bay Area residents are moving in droves to the parts of the Valley nearest to the Bay Area, especially San Joaquin County. Enough people have moved to change the politics of San Joaquin County and restore a Democratic party registration advantage among San Joaquin County voters, although it’s a quite narrow one. The people moving from the Bay Area to San Joaquin County, especially the Democrats, are much more progressive on average than long time residents.

The harsh truth is that the overwhelming majority of San Joaquin County elected officials who are Democrats (still a minority of elected officials in the county) have horrible voting records from the perspective of progressives. But there are progressive opportunities. The finely balanced partisan registration margins in San Joaquin County overall mask dramatic differences within different parts of the county. The rural areas and the smaller incorporated cities, especially Lodi, are still quite Republican. Stockton is by far and away the largest population center of San Joaquin County. Stockton itself has a fairly strong Democratic voter registration advantage.

But there’s not anyone doing partisan electoral work from a progressive perspective on the ground in Stockton. California coastal progressives from places like the Bay Area need to think strategically. We shouldn’t be channeling scarce resources to the sparsely populated Gold Country Congressional districts of Doolittle & Lungren, however much their stench offends our nostrils. Those districts are just too Red. Even if we defeat Doolittle because he’s indicted (the only way it’ll happen), we’d lose the seat back two years later.

On the other hand, Stockton just elected a very progressive Latina lesbian to the city council in a harsh race where she was viciously attacked by the old boy power structure. Of the five supervisorial districts in San Joaquin County, one is strongly Democratic and one strongly Republican with the other three closely balanced (two with a narrow Dem advantage/one with a narrow Republican advantage). The predominantly Democratic supervisorial district is the one that includes most of Stockton. This supervisorial district in turn is at the core of the 17th state Assembly district represented by Cathleen Galgiani and the 18th Congressional district represented by Dennis Cardoza, both of whom are fairly wretchedly reactionary Democrats. Fortunately Galgiani will be pushed elsewhere (one hopes to political oblivion) by term limits. By percolating her up through the political ranks, our progressive member of the Stockton City Council COULD wind up being a progressive member of the U.S. Congress. But it won’t happen by accident, and – quite possibly – not without our help.

Bay Area progressives need to scour Stockton and link up with indigenous activist groups who A) have their act together, B) are progressive & C) are angry with the right wing pro-developer, pro-big-agribusiness, pro-corporate mentality that’s resulted in the San Joaquin Valley (including San Joaquin County) having a variety of negative social indices more like those of a third world country than those of the Bay Area. These groups don’t have to currently be engaged in electoral work. They do need to be dedicated to community organizing – year round, not just in election season. With the credibility gained by doing the hard, dirty work of organizing poor people around getting a stoplight at an intersection where a kid has been hit by a car, etc., i.e. Saul Alinsky-style organizing, these indigenous organizations are the only ones who are in a position to command the respect of the socially/economically disadvantaged and understandably cynical communities that they work in. We should be funding them to hire people who have great experience in both community organizing AND nakedly electoral work as well.

It would take a tremendous amount of work, some expenditure of resources as well as time to take over the Stockton City Council. But it could be done and it would provide a tremendous beacon of hope for progressive organizing in San Joaquin County which in turn would provide a tremendous beacon of hope for progressive organizing in the entire San Joaquin Valley.

California’s coastal progressives ignore the Valley at their peril. It’s rapidly growing while the Bay Area’s population is essentially stable. Without combating Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Valley so that it doesn’t become their 21st century equivalent of what Orange County represented for the right wing in the 1980s and `90s, California will slowly but inexorably slide from being a blue state to being a purple one overall. That’s because the other rapidly growing parts of California, the Inland Empire counties of Riverside and San Bernardino lean to the Republicans and carry increasing heft in California politics as they mushroom in population and Los Angeles stagnates along with the Bay Area.

Maybe I shouldn’t say the secret is Stockton, but rather that the solution is Stockton!

Joshua Grossman, who wrote this posting, will be live blogging and taking questions on FireDogLake this coming Saturday, April 14, from 11 am- 1pm PST.

If you want to help make Stockton the solution, click on the Progressive Kick ActBlue link: http://actblue.com/c…
As a 527 organization, Progressive Kick can take contributions of any size from a dollar to $10 million (if you work in a social change nonprofit you have to be an optimist, at least for the long haul  😉