Smoking with Arnold

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has replaced the former chairman of the California Air Resources Board with Mary Nichols, secretary of the Resources Agency during the Gov. Gray Davis administration. The occasion for the switch according to the Hun’s flaks was CARB’s approval of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s decision to forestall the cleanup of Valley air for another 11 years, thereby, in the infinite legerdemain of air pollution regulations, also forestalling a possible cessation of federal highway funds. To keep on growing and adding to air pollution, you gotta have more roads funded by the federal government.

The problem with the appointment of Nichols comes clear when you see her relationship to UC Merced, the UC Merced Parkway project, and the Mission Interchange, the anchor tenant of which is the proposed WalMart Distribution Center that will add 1,200 diesel trucks a day to the City of Merced, smack dab in the middle of the worst air pollution region in the nation.

But (one can hear the Hun’s brain ticking), she’s a woman and a Democrat who served in the administration of the governor I defeated in the recall election. What’s not to like about her?

The Hun has been schnookered by the Valley again. His legacy is supposed to be his support for AB 32, the California global warming bill that, without teeth, is supposed to do … well, whatever. So, the Hun is against global warming and its man-made causes, some of which are connected to air pollution (if you do not remain skeptical about the power of computer modeling).

But the Hun is also an ardent supporter of the San Joaquin Valley Partnership and the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint, regional “planning processes” superceding local general plans.

The latter is co-chaired by Stockton-based Fritz Grupe, the largest developer in the north Valley and one of the principle funders behind representatives Pombo and Cardoza’s last unsuccessful assault on the Endangered Species Act (2006).

But, says the ticking mind of the Hun, Grupe contributes to Democratic candidates, like Angelo Tsakopoulos does. I am safe.

However, Alex Spanos, whose construction company builds Grupe’s subdivisions, is a Republican and a heavy contributor to the Hun.

It would be beyond the Hun to suspect political intelligence from Stockton. One cannot imagine what he thinks about the present situation on the Delta. Could the malevolent intelligence of agribusiness emanating out of Westlands Water District be involved with the probable extinction of the Delta Smelt? Impossible! Those people come from places like Fresno and Stockton, places that do not exist in Mondo Hun. Why Jason Peltier was assistant undersecretary of water for the Department of Interior (former water lobbyistm now future assistant general manager for Westlands via revolving door) or why RichPAC Pombo is now Stockton’s water lobbyist would be quite beyond the Hun’s comprehension.

The question to Schwarzenegger and Nichols is: Will CARB overturn its decision to approve the Valley air board’s decision, which may have been the only course left open for it, considering it is dominated by pro-growth county supervisors like Mike Nelson, who calls the critical public “socialists” and others of Nelson’s political stripe, who call them “asthma terrorists”?

Will the fine people who spoke and demonstrated before the regional air board be able to maintain their focus and publicly insist the Hun and Nichols overturn the decision?

Or, will everybody reach a happy, pointless consensus to chit-chat about it, while layer upon layer of regional planning grind on to the destruction of natural resources, wildlife species, quality of life and public health and safety in the San Joaquin Valley?

An irony local air quality activists should not be paralyzed by is that Nichols corrupted every state and federal environmental law that obstructed siting the UC Merced campus, working at the direction of former Rep. Gary Condit, former Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, and both Condit’s children, who were members of Gov. Gray Davis’ staff at salaries of about $100,000 a year. These activists might ask why. They could consult former Condit chief of staff, Mike Lynch, now at UC/Great Valley Center. But, here’s a version they might consider after going through that exercise in mindless obfuscation.

Davis won a stunning primary victory in 1998 over two candidates far better financed than he was. He did it by employing an ancient political strategy: he took the San Joaquin Valley. He did it again in the general election and Condit and Lynch were heavily involved in Davis’ campaign strategy and tactics. Condit was the first member of the Democratic Party California Congressional Delegation to announce his support for Davis.

What Condit demanded in return was UC Merced. Davis promised it and delivered it and Nichols was his tool to get the campus through almost all of the permitting process in what state Senate Pro Tem John Burton, D-SF, called the biggest “boondoggle” he’d ever seen, and what Sacramento Bee political commentator Dan Walters described as “nothing but a land deal.”

It is because of the growth induced by this boondoggle land deal that the northern San Joaquin Valley now tops the nation in per capita mortgage defaults.

Neither the Hun or Nichols are friends of San Joaquin Valley air quality.

Valley air quality activists should demand CARB rescind its decision on Valley air pollution. They won’t achieve their stated goal but they will reveal a bit more of how willing developers are to threaten public health and safety for their profits and what total control of the state Capitol developers exert.

It should be noted that this entire political fandango is occurring during the July 4 holidays. If might be the Best of Hollywood rerun but it’s lethal political crap for the 20 percent of the Valley population that suffers from asthma. The probability of fire in the mountains and grasslands is higher now than it has been since 1988, when the most destructive forest fires in California history occurred. The sky is blue as I write. The odds are it won’t be by the weekend. That smoke, trapped in this air pollution basin, again will cause untold misery here in the San Joaquin Valley among the young and the elderly.

BILL HATCH lives in California. He can be reached at:



Bill Hatch lives in the Central Valley in California. He is a member of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade of San Francisco. He can be reached at: