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Bay Area exports their problems to San Joaquin Valley

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POSTED November 14, 2009 2:21 a.m.

Back in the days when Manteca Police referred to Pennebaker Apartments as the police substation due to multiple calls on a daily basis, it should have been clear what ails California is the fact the wealthiest counties in this state often dump their problems on the poorest.

The owners of the complex were unable to fill it up so they offered first month rent for $99 with no deposit or last month in advance required. There were at least a few – if not more – people on welfare who claimed they were sent this way by Santa Clara County.  The verifiable instances were those who said they did so when asked what brought them to Manteca. How widespread the practice is – or was – of dumping welfare recipients on other counties is open to debate.

It does, however, reflect a bigger problem of the” haves” in California solving their problems at the expense of the “have nots.”
San Francisco, as an example, has an atrocious record of providing housing for the working class and the middle class. As a result, those people have been fleeing The City in favor of the East Bay. The East Bay, in turn, was overwhelmed which sent many people east of the Altamont Pass and into the Northern San Joaquin Valley in search of affordable housing to buy during economic growth periods. That, in turn, made it hard on people in Manteca who have working class jobs to be able to afford to both work and live here.

The same dump down effect is happening with the state prison population.

Part of Governor Schwarzenegger’s prison plan is to increase the number of inmates housed in San Joaquin County by 80 percent. That means we’d have one state prisoner for every 100 residents in the county or twice the statewide rate. We’ll go from 4,253 inmates to 7,620 inmates. Yes, it will generate jobs with the workforce going from 6,500 up to 8,200 employees. It also means the dependents of those prisoners often move closer to where they are incarcerated to be near their loved ones. That means more absent father households in the county as it is tough to fill that role when you’re locked up 24/7 for five years to life.

Rest assured there won’t be a push to build prison facilities in the Bay Area as the land is too costly; Besides the Bay Area NIMBY folks – not in my back yard – more often than not have the wealth, clout, and wherewithal to hire lawyers to fight the state and block new correctional institutions.

The fight over water also has the trappings of the “haves” versus “have nots” with a unique twist that the areas with water – surface and underground – tend to be the weak sisters economically and in terms of political power.

If you think the powerful and rich sections of this state don’t have it better, just walk the streets of Oildale, Avenal, and Delano deep in the Southern San Joaquin Valley were unemployment has soared past 20 percent due to the drought.

You don’t see the lawns of Los Angeles and Orange County laid to waste and browning due to the cut back in state and federal project water supplies except, of course, where there are foreclosures. It is more important that we keep the grass green in LA than poor people working in Delano.

Is that a sound policy for California in this economy? Of course not. But then again the “haves” - those with the votes and the money – can pretty well have their way in California. As a result the San Joaquin Valley – long dubbed the new Appalachian of the United States by federal poverty experts especially as you head south – suffers from lack of water and gets to have imported affordable housing problems as well as criminal problems of the wealthier counties dumped on them.

The disconnect is astounding.

It took years of lobbying air quality people to get the Bay Area to be held responsible for air pollution that they generate that ends up blowing over the Altamont Pass an ultimately ends upon hanging over Bakersfield to reduce visibility  to mere miles on stagnant summer days. The Bay Area’s argument was that they had no air pollution problem so why should they adhere to the same tough air pollution control standards imposed on the Central Valley that they decried as anti-business due to high costs. Forget the fact a good portion of their air pollution was being sent this way and then south due to wind patterns in the Bay Area.

San Joaquin County has had its economy hurt for years by serving as a patsy in part for Bay Area air pollution. We’ve also had people who live and work here financially squeezed out of the housing market and struggle to afford rents thanks to the San Joaquin Valley being the de facto affording housing solution for the East Bay.

And now we are posed to take on more crime and lose agricultural jobs so the “haves” can rid themselves of their convicted criminals and associated problems of incarcerating them plus have water to keep their lawns green.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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