The Valley Citizen

Homeless: Word from the Camps

Word from the camps is you can’t get the black* anywhere. It’s fentanyl or nothing. People are dropping almost every day. “You lookin’ for Cash Money? Cash is dead. He overdosed last year. Fentanyl. Yeah, don’t believe Cash was much over 40 years old, maybe younger. People are dropping. Dropping everywhere.”
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Valley Heat Batters Homeless People

Frank Ploof didn’t know it at the time, but while he was offloading cases of water at a homeless camp in triple digit heat, Little Sherry Lopez was half a mile away, slowly growing more disoriented as she tried to escape the battering rays of the sun. Ploof, who’s...
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A Foot in Two Worlds and a Dream Fulfilled

For Modesto Realtor Lourdes Bento, it all began by a faraway sea, where time itself seemed suspended in a chuva – a fine mist – of happy childhood memories. Ms. Bento remembers the summers, watching her maternal grandfather, her Vovó, whom she adored, and the quiet sunny days she shared with him as he taught her all he knew about fishing. She remembers that he grew his own tobacco and also planted vegetables for the family table, as virtually everyone on São Jorge did, and still does. Ms. Bento remembers the warmth of the brick oven her family used for cooking, and the evenings filled with the music Vovó and her older cousins coaxed from their harmonicas. She remembers being transfixed by the ocean as waves crashed against the jagged outcroppings of her tiny island home.

Kevin McCarthy: Are you Listening?

“A stake was driven through the heart of American democracy on January 6, 2021, and our democracy today is on a knife’s edge.” MJ Luttig. When even Ann Coulter admits that Donald Trump is a grifter, there’s really no sense trying to convince those who still support him of the truth. Coulter is only the latest and most radical of nominal “conservatives” to dump Trump.

Valley Dems Survive Low Turnout: Speed Bumps Ahead

More than most anywhere else in the state, Valley Democrats depend on heavy turnouts to survive, especially during primaries, when crowded fields of candidates slice and dice votes so that outcomes often depend on hard-core voters whose loyalties tend deeply conservative and favor hard-right candidates. Even though turnouts for this...

Homeless: Doubling Down on Double Standards

Tim Byrd’s response to our last essay deserves a more prominent position than in “Comments,” so we’re posting it below, along with our reply. For those who don’t know, Mr. Byrd is Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow’s campaign manager. He is also a resident of Wood Colony and a graduate of Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law. To get a better understanding of the context of our remarks, please read our previous post here.

Dueling High Schools? A Cow? District 22 has you Covered

Among the more amusing campaign tactics in the San Joaquin Valley, few are as enduring as the “outsider” trope, which reached its height of absurdity in 2018, when incumbent Congressman Jeff Denham tried to label Turlock-born Josh Harder with outsider status because he had graduated from Stanford and Harvard and done business in the Bay Area. No matter that Denham was from southern California, his own business was located in Salinas and his partner in that business lived in San Francisco. Heavily favored as a popular incumbent, Denham took a well-earned beating from Harder in the General Election.

Stanislaus County: Where Government Fails the People

When incumbent Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow brags about his leadership, he likes to compare the county to the City of Modesto. That’s what he did during an interview with the Modesto Bee when he said, “Look at how the city is doing and ask if you want that kind of leadership for the county.” Withrow is running for office against Tony Madrigal, a current Modesto City Councilmember.

Valley Voters: With Democracy in Peril

There are two imperatives this election year. First and foremost is the pressing need to defeat American authoritarianism. That need obliterates almost everything else. It can be addressed by withholding votes from Republicans no matter who or where they are and no matter what they’re running for. Led by Donald Trump, the Republican Party has made clear its opposition to free and fair elections, democratic rule, and commitment to the peaceful transfer of power, which ended with the Insurrection on January 6, 2021.

Josh Harder’s Shadow Looms Over District 13 Race for Congress

The conventional wisdom says Merced’s Adam Gray is an easy winner in this year’s race for Congress in California’s newly configured District 13 (CA-13). Gray’s years in the State Assembly District in the same region as CA-13 give him what amounts to incumbent status and his careful cultivation of the conservative Democrat “Blue Dog” persona theoretically immunizes him from threats to his right. It’s supposedly impossible for San Joaquin Valley Democrats to win without the Blue Dog cloak of conservative values.

Raise Taxes? City Residents are Already Taxed Twice

Ever since the Dick Lang administration of the 1990’s, Modesto City Government has been perpetually broke. Subsequent city leaders have had very little discretionary money with which to operate. The present city council is considering whether to ask voters to approve a special sales tax within Modesto to alleviate...

Linda Knoll: a Champion for the Arts and Education

Whether creating a beautiful homage to the great marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson, or painting a loving, whimsical memorial to her cats, Modesto artist and arts advocate Linda Knoll’s canvases are always vividly colorful and arresting. But Ms. Knoll is not only an extraordinarily talented artist; she’s a...

Valley Farmers: Tiptoeing Past a Graveyard of Trees?

Bringing to mind ageless adages about “putting all your eggs into one basket” and “everything that goes up must come down,” the current almond crisis for Valley agriculture has yet to penetrate the consciousness of most local residents, in part because of the major distraction of war in the Ukraine.

Esmeralda Soria: Doing More and Doing it Better

When we heard Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria was running for Assembly in the Valley’s District 27, we wanted to know more about her. We were even more intrigued when we looked at her impressive list of endorsements, including those from State Controller Betty Yee, State Senate Member Anna Caballero, and former Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante.
The Valley Citizen

Mike Hammond: A Good Cop Makes Good

“A police officer will arrest people when they don’t need to be arrested,” said a homeless man living near a park on Modesto’s troubled West Side, “but a cop only arrests people when they should be arrested. Mike Hammond is a cop and he’s a good cop.”

Homeless: The Cruel Realities of People in Need

When Steve Finch and Frank Ploof founded Stanislaus Homeless Advocacy and Resource Enterprise* (SHARE) early last year, Ploof had already had almost ten years’ experience working to help people experiencing homelessness. Finch was new to the task, but thought his experience with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an organization that assists abused and needy children, would provide a model he and Ploof could apply to needy homeless people.

Dr. Richard Anderson’s Life Lessons in Citizenship

One of the Valley’s great community leaders, Dr. Richard Anderson took an often-adventurous path in life prior to arriving as a Professor of Microbiology at Modesto Junior College in 1989. Along the way, he experienced things that helped to shape the dedicated and caring activist he is today. Not...

Nick Bavaro: An American Story

Nick Bavaro’s father was already a veteran of the Italian Air Force when he decided he didn’t want to fight for Benito Mussolini’s fascist government. Discharged in 1933, Paul Bavaro was a working farmer who early on had the foresight to anticipate the awful consequences of Italy’s descent into fascism. After Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, Mr. Bavaro feared he’d be called back into military service. He loathed the idea of fighting for an undemocratic leader who favored invading sovereign nations on the pretext of expanding the Italian empire.