Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

Posts Tagged ‘Visalia’

Four Basic Qs & As for Fresno-Bakersfield HSR Segment

Posted by Roobs on September 23, 2011

Photo Courtesy of AviationMentor

I spent eighteen years of my life growing up in the Central Valley in the City of Visalia, located midway between Bakersfield and Fresno.  I was never a farm boy.  I grew up in a suburban style two-story house in a cul-de-sac.  Though I didn’t grow up on a farm, I developed an appreciation and understanding (especially as I got older) of those who lived and worked in some of the nation’s most productive agricultural regions.  It’s an understanding of, not simply a lifestyle but a life devoted to the cultivation of essential crops and resources. But over the course of the debate on high-speed rail (HSR) over the first leg of construction from Bakersfield to Fresno, I hate to see these local communities being pushed and misled by local city officials and executives who would throw hardworking famers under the proverbial bus because of their own intransigence.  Here are four basic questions and answers on the “why” for the Fresno-Bakersfield segment of the California High-Speed Rail project.

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In Defense of Los Angeles

Posted by Roobs on December 13, 2010

In the great battle between  San Francisco and Los Angeles, LA is the butt of many jokes when it comes to urban planning.  But they are more often than not ill comparisons.

On a sunny yet cool weekend in Berkeley, CA, my mother, friends and I began to pack up my long time college apartment at the corner of Blake St. and Ellsworth St.  I had lived in this apartment for five years; from my sophomore year at UC Berkeley to my time working as a paralegal at a law firm in Emeryville.  Sure, after a while, I got tired of my neighborhood.  The constant trampling of drunken college students who were just one shot away from alcohol poisoning was beginning to become tiresome.  But I loved my apartment itself and the great view of the Golden Gate bridge it offered from my floor to ceiling sliding glass window.  But that was all over now.

After graduation, I found my true professional joy working in the field of urban planning.  And come early summer, I accepted admission into UCLA’s masters of urban and regional planning program.  This meant I was to move to Los Angeles, a city I have spent a great deal of time in and enjoyed but, nevertheless, often maligned and teased, if not lovingly.

We all know the stereotypes of Los Angeles:  Its a culture-less wasteland yet the capitol of car-culture in America; representing everything that is wrong with urban sprawl.  Not only can you NOT walk in Los Angeles but nobody does.  Transit is incomplete and is only for poor people, anyway.  The list goes on but you get the picture.  Columnists like Steve Rubenstein at the San Francisco Chronicle, fully displaying the semi-serious battle between Northern and Southern California, gets his jollies from railing on America’s second largest city:

Contrary to popular notion, it’s legal to walk in Los Angeles. In fact, some people walk in L.A. by choice, it being the accepted means of getting to and from a parked car.

Is all this teasery true?  Is Los Angeles the glowing city on a hill in the middle of a parking lot?  My quick answer is… yes and no.  But some qualifiers are definitely needed.  But let’s get some things straight.

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Posted in Pop Culture, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Confessions of a Third Generation Latino: Dreaming California

Posted by Roobs on June 23, 2010

This is the final post in my series “Confessions of a Third Generation Latino”

Throughout much of this series of posts has been a common theme that i would hope is fairly obvious.  That is, the struggle between myself as a third-generation Mexican finding comfort and brotherhood amongst other generation of Mexicans and Latinos in general.

Because of how i grew up and the socio-economic status of my family, i never truly felt accepted by my fellow Latinos and, therefore, have never truly felt comfortable in situations when i am immersed in that culture.  This was never a question of whether one view is objectively correct over the other; whether or not i represent the better or worse half of American society mixing with Latino culture.  If anything, i would argue that i am far from the ideal.  Generally speaking, i am a Mexican who is, by and large, not that Mexican.  I don’t speak Spanish and don’t really engage in any of the traditional customs of Mexican culture.  I have a decent, though not great, understanding of Mexican history but also love the history and exploration of Mexican cuisine.  So who am I? Is it somehow appropriate that when I’m with a group of more “traditional” Mexicans that when i say “i’m third generation”, they give a collective “oh” as if it is somehow self-explanatory?  Where are we to go from here?

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Posted in Race & Identity, Third Generation Series | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Confessions of a Third Generation Latino: Walking Through Ivory

Posted by Roobs on June 8, 2010

This is the 4th post in a series.  For my previous post, click here.  This post focuses on my time away from the Central Valley while i attended college and my evolving outlook towards my place in the Latino community.

Walking Through Ivory

Before i left for college, my father passed away.  It was in the summer before the start of my senior year at Redwood High when he finally succumbed to liver cancer.  My father left a large imprint on my life, especially on my views of who I am in relation to being Latino and I still wish today that he had lived long enough to hear me come out as a gay young man .  My father grew up on a farm outside of Visalia and hated it.  He left home to pursue a career that made him equally a target to the more fundamental characteristics of local Mexicans.  But he beleived that he didn’t have to be anything for anyone except himself and his family.  Perhaps it was something that he developed later on in life; further along than the stage of life i am in now.  But perhaps it too began in college and at one of the same universities I would soon enter.

Redwood High, has about 2,000 students every year and more than half of that population is Latino.  Unfortunately, district wide, Visalia has a 1/3 drop-out rate in grades 9-12.  In my high school class a lot of those who made it to graduation did initially take off to college.  A good number of them attend the local community college: College of the Sequoias.  I haven’t found any data on this specifically but anecdotally, a good number of those students who leave for college usually return to Visalia before completing a 4-year degree.  Many of those who do leave home attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (SLO).  The joke around most high school campuses in Visalia is that SLO is a lot like Visalia except near water.  I did not attend SLO.

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Posted in LGBT, Race & Identity, Third Generation Series | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Confessions of a Third Generation Latino: Community

Posted by Roobs on June 3, 2010

This is the third post in my series.  This post focuses on my time in middle and high school.  Compared to my previous post, this post explores my self-realization of my place in the Mexican community in Visalia and how i addressed it at the time.


The last post in this series was meant primarily to set the foundation of what happens next.  I was a young Mexican kid who, in all fairness, wasn’t that Mexican.  I became more acutely aware of this fact when i left Royal Oaks Elementary and entered middle school and high school.

The teasing continued througout this time and it did bother me to a good extent.  But where i once knew not why i was the target of such ridicule, now i had reasoned why.  I wasn’t Mexican enough for the rest of the community living in Visalia.

The Mexican community in Visalia and, arguably throughout the Central Valley, are rather fundamental about what it means to be Mexican.  As i mentioned before, the Latino population largely settled in the North Side ghetto and lived below or near the poverty line.  The parents of other Mexican kids i interacted with were mostly Catholic and conservative and held more blue-collar and labor-intensive occupations than my parents did.  They also held a much more skeptical view of their white neighbors, and not necessarily without good cause.

The Central Valley is not a bastion of liberal ideals as San Francisco would be or even as moderate as Los Angeles might be.  The Central Valley is politically and culturally very conservative.   They voted heavily in favor of Proposition 8 and if polled today, would probably support Arizona’s new immigration law with similar numbers.  That being said, the Mexican community responds by behaving similar towards other as well as their own.

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Posted in Race & Identity, Third Generation Series | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Confessions of a Third-Generation Latino: Royal Oaks

Posted by Roobs on June 3, 2010

This is the second post in a series.  This post focuses on the early development of my personal life in the town of Visalia, CA.  It describes my parents and the experiences in elementary school that will have an impact on my outlook and experiences in the coming years.

Royal Oaks

I grew up in the Southern portion of California’s San Joaquin Valley.  Californians in general usually call it the “Central Valley” but hose that live there just call it “the Valley”.  This gets a little confusing when i visit Southern California because “the Valley” to them refers to the San Fernando Valley.  Oh well.  Mine’s bigger.

The city i grew up in is called Visalia (pictured above), which is located about 40-minutes south of Fresno.  When i was born, Visalia had a population of around 60,000.  Today, the population has doubled to around  125,000.

Visalia is old.  Settled in 1852, It’s the oldest town between Los Angeles and Stockton and is the county seat of Tulare County, named one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country.  Over 36% of the population identifiy as Latino and the vast majority of them live below the poverty line.  Many of the Latino’s in Visalia settle in an area known as “North Side”.  It is named so for being north of the 198-Freeway that runs through the center of town.  North Side is a ghetto in both senses of the word.  It is a ghetto in that it is a place where people of similar background settle.  It is where you can find the small Mexican shops and grocers.  But it is also a ghetto because it is arguably the most run down area of the city.  Here is where most of the crime occurs, where the local gangs hangout, and where most of the police spend their time.  I didn’t grow up here.

As i implied, this is not a typical tale of rising from the streets by the pull of my bootstraps and making it in the world.  No, im sorry to say that I was born on the other side of the freeway.  The neighborhood i grew up in is known as “Royal Oaks”.  Already it sounds pretentious but i assure you the name is more pretentious than the neighborhood itself.

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Posted in Race & Identity, Third Generation Series | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Fresno County Turns Blue!

Posted by Roobs on March 24, 2010

Last night, i got word that Fresno County, long a bastion of conservative Republicans, had officially turned blue for the first time in a quarter century.  Fresno County now officially has more registered Democrats than Republicans!

I grew up in the city of Visalia in neighboring Tulare County and am very happy and excited that our northern neighbor is a nice light blue.  Having grown up as a Latino and openly gay, it wasn’t easy.  At the time when i was going to school there, there was still evidence of lingering racism and much more animosity towards the LGBT community.  But the fact that Fresno County is now more Democrat gives me hope that future young people in similar situations as i was will not feel as constrained by the views of their community.

Democrats have long been allies of the Latino and LGBT community and will continue to be so for a long time.  With an increasing number of Democrats registering in these conservative areas, we can hope to elect more moderate and liberal Democrats who will work to protect these communities and make it easier and more comfortable for them to be proud of who they are and what they want to accomplish.

Of course, while Fresno County now has around 200+ advantage in Democrat voter registration, Tulare County is still solidly Republican both in registration and voting record.  Similarly, Fresno County has still voted Republican in the last election and many before.  But what this means is that the trend is upward towards a blue region.  Enthusiasm and hope are never forsaken commodities.

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