Yes, this was a watershed year for our region
Call 2018 a watershed year. As in, we’re likely to be forced to shed some of the water we’ve relied upon for 140 years so that others in far-away places can use it.
Before 2018 passes through Modesto’s famous city arch and into history, here’s a look at some of the year’s events through its prism of “Water Wealth Contentment Health.”
By deciding that half the water in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers must flow away from us and out to the Delta, the state water board could be altering this region’s way of life. If the board’s indefensible, unwarranted decision withstands inevitable court challenges, it will mean fewer orchards and more field crops (when drought doesn’t wilt them into dust).
Sorry if you’ve read this before, but the state failed to live up to its mandate to use only the “best available science” in reaching its decisions, choosing instead the “best available rationale” for a classic California water grab. In a 4-1 vote, the water board based its Dec. 12 decision on an asinine economic analysis, a discredited theory that more water equals more fish and a willingness to turn a blind eye to a Delta debauched through decades of rip-rapping and wetland destruction.
They ignored some 1,500 people who rallied on the Capitol steps on Aug. 20.
Still, it’s important not to demonize those with whom we disagree. Being wrong doesn’t make anyone “bad” (thank goodness).
The Tuolumne Trust, which runs classes for kids and helps in river cleanups along with its wrongheaded environmental lobbying, did something truly remarkable this year. Dennett Dam, a dilapidated relic from the 1940s that killed three people trying to walk across it over the years, was finally removed. The cities of Modesto and Ceres and Stanislaus County knew this eyesore was deadly, but none could get rid of it. The Trust did.
Set aside the rollercoaster stock market, and think about this: Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in November. That’s higher than California’s 3.9 percent, but better than anything we’ve seen in November for a decade. That’s great, but all great things wane – a warning delivered by outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown. We’re concerned over the consequences of President Trump’s trade war – since nuts, winegrapes and fresh food are all being targeted. Brace for a shock.
Speaking of shocks, you might need some new ones. Our area’s roads have been rated the 20th worst in America.
How’s this for a wealth killer? Paying $225,000 for the city of Modesto’s auditor to leave after she made baseless accusations about another city official. Or how about the lawsuit that cost us $1.4 million after our outgoing sheriff called some employees “limp, lazy and lame.”
Fortunately, jobs and money aren’t the only indicators of wealth. Good education is priceless, and we’re impressed with Turlock eighth-grader Alisha Chakravarty. She made it to the finals of the National Spelling Bee last year and could be headed back this year. We’re worried, though, that she might be planning to continue her studies at Modesto Junior College where hundreds of instructors have been working without a contract for nearly three years. Can we get that settled before Alisha arrives?
How do you measure contentment? How about by counting votes?
In a huge upset, Josh Harder surfed the “blue wave” into Congress by beating four-time incumbent Jeff Denham. The two first met in The Bee’s conference room for an intense debate. Denham was louder, but couldn’t bowl Harder over.
For voters, the biggest issue was healthcare. But Denham’s inability to lead fellow-Republicans to a deal to protect Dreamers – young people brought to America as children and now jeopardized by
TAKE A LOOK BACK AT SOME OF THE YEAR’S EVENTS THROUGH THE PRISM OF ‘WATER WEALTH CONTENTMENT HEALTH.’
the Trump administration’s heartless immigration policies – didn’t help. Yes, he stood up for the Dreamers; just not soon enough.
We were impressed by our region’s high school students who solemnly walked out of their classrooms on March 14, joining their voices to those across the nation protesting lax laws on guns. Some districts, including Modesto City Schools, issued vaguely discouraging warnings. We’re glad those warnings were ignored, and even happier to see hundreds more students – joined by parents – march in Modesto a few days later.
We’re counting on Myron Cotta, who grew up on a dairy farm in Merced County, to bring some Valley common sense to the Catholic Church. Cot- ta was named bishop of the Stockton Diocese this year and soon will join other bishops in seeking a way out of the darkness of sexual misconduct by a few truly awful priests.
Unfortunately, other churches are languishing in the same darkness. Reporter Garth Stapley’s reporting on former youth pastors at Modesto First Baptist Church (now Crosspoint) made that clear. His story about a woman victimized by Brad Tebbutt years ago spurred others to come forward. Soon, so did accusations against other ministers.
It was Anita Garza’s Christian faith that drove her to Beard Brook Park, where nearly 500 homeless were camped on Christmas Day. She brought food, including dessert. We’d like to see the city of Modesto better follow Garza’s example. At least three different sites in the city were proposed for a low-barrier shelter last year, and each was shot down. The only
solution was to put them under a highway bridge – after all, such bridges have served as “shelters” for the downtrodden since the time of Dickens. Turlock, apparently, is following the same sorry example.
This has been a frontburner item for Supervisor Terry Withrow, city councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer and activist Brad Hawn for months, if not years. They’re willing to do this hard and thankless work even as most of the rest of us are content to ignore the problem.
The least we can do is mourn the homeless woman killed when heavy equipment crushed the cardboard box in which she was sleeping. But we shouldn’t do the least.
For a city, Modesto looked incredibly unhealthy earlier this year. That’s why we asked that someone – anyone – find a cure for city hall. It’s looking as if city manager Joe Lopez has a good prescription, though we still detect some coughs and wheezes. Lopez helped uncover $16 million in overspending from city accounts and set up safeguards against more. He has worked with a contentious city council to establish reasonable rules for monitoring Measure L road expenditures and the licensing of weed shops.
Speaking of smoke, wildfires are increasing in number and severity. The smoke this year from fires burning all around us made breathing downright dangerous. Some people are demanding schools be canceled on “smoke days,” but we don’t see the point. Many children, especially from poorer homes, are better off breathing the filtered air in a classroom.
Second-hand smoke is deadly, but second chances are essential. We hope that’s all Kristin Olsen will need. The County Supervisor was arrested for driving under the influence in Sacramento in September. She’s been a good supervisor, performed well in the Assembly and on Modesto’s city council. A single misstep shouldn’t derail a career of public service.
Colin Kaepernick deserves a second chance, too, though he’s less likely to get it. The President of the United States made Kaepernick’s respectful protest against police shootings (that began in 2016) a target this year. His foul language cowed NFL team owners; not one has had the guts to give Kaepernick a job. That hasn’t kept Kap from fulfilling his vow to give away $1 million – far, far more than the fraudulent Trump Foundation gave to anyone. Except Trump.
Speaking of good deeds, we’ll close by mentioning Dr. Silvia Diego. She got a second chance, too, starting her own practice after leaving Golden Valley Health Centers in a disagreement. Half her patients at Family First Medical Care have insurance, the other half relies on government programs. Dr. Diego was named the Stanislaus Physician of the Year in March and was recognized by the California Medical Association in October.
She is unlikely to get wealthy, but she’ll make many people more healthy. And, like the rest of us, she might have to be content with less water.
Happy New Year.
How did 2018 stack up for “Water Wealth Contentment Health”? We’re OK on health and wealth, but there are problems on the other two.