Political Fix (16 July, 2015)

The Family Food Freedom Act – The rest of the story

Let’s just say the painful truth out loud about the Food Freedom Act. A wise man told me during the Tulare County Supervisors’ meeting that Visalia could have avoided this whole initiative process if they had just given Gingi Freeman a medical exemption. When code enforcement discovered that she had miniature goats in her yard to provide milk for her newborn and toddler because she can’t breast feed, they could have made a temporary exemption. The city manager could have hidden the item in the consent calendar and that would have been the last we would have heard about goats.


At the June 1 city council meeting the vote, was 3 -2 against changing Visalia’s animal ordinance to allow chickens inside city limits. Those Visalia residents wanting a public hearing on miniature goats never did get the chance, because the group couldn’t get their item on the agenda without paying an outrageous fee. Of course, if the council voted against chickens, they obviously would not have voted for little goats. They saved the city some time and money.

So is anyone going to lose their council seat because of the chicken and goat issue? The answer is probably not. The only council member who is up for reelection in 2016, and who voted against chickens, is Councilmember Bob Link. Mr. Link has not made it official whether he is running again or not. The talk is that since he retired from the clothing business he won’t run again. But that may be just the impetus to make him file papers.

Mr. Link has such a faithful following its hard to imagine him losing his seat over a chicken. Ms. Freeman is also in Mr. Link’s district and if she has any ambitions of running for city council she also has a large following. They both live in District 2 which is southeastish Visalia. It’s a hard call to say whether that area of town would enjoy small farm animals in their neighbor’s yard.

Another little discussed aspect of the initiative is that, right now, the paperwork is sitting on the desk of the city attorney. While the initiative awaits action, Visalia still wields some control over the content of the initiative. Once it goes to the voters the city has lost all control. The Urban Farmers for Food Freedom (UFFF) wrote the initiative with wiggle room in case the city wanted to negotiate. The city would be better off negotiating now because the initiative will ultimately pass.

Of course that depends with whom you speak.

Mayor Steve Nelsen and Mr. Link may be correct in their assessment that the silent majority of Visalians do not want chickens and goats in residential areas. But more often than not the silent majority stews at home and doesn’t vote. The silent majority may have been willing to give their opinion as Mr. Nelsen wandered the neighborhood or sent out emails taking his a straw poll, but will those same people show up to cast a ballot?

I’ll tell you who will show up. The people who make up the UFFF are similar, if not the same, as the group of people who ushered in an unknown to the California State Assembly, Devon Mathis. Assemblyman Mathis ended up not only being the shocker of the election but winning by 13 points. The UFFF lean toward the Libertarian/Tea Party and they vote. If the silent majority holds true to their name, the Food Freedom Act is going to win just as easily as Assemblyman Mathis, but without the shock factor.

The UFFF fighting call is “Visalia is pro-goat and we vote.” At the June 1 city council meeting, Mayor Nelsen said he took offense at the comment that the council needs to listen to the people “or we will remember.” I don’t know exactly what he took offense to, but if I had a nickel for every time Mayor Nelsen said he “takes offense” I’d be able to buy myself a vente chocolate chip macchiato with skim milk, double whip cream and sprinkles at Starbucks. For someone who could conceivably win higher office Mayor Nelsen needs to grow another layer of skin.

That extra layer may come in handy next year when Mayor Nelsen hears the gentle baying of goats and gets a whiff of chicken poop from his neighbor’s yard.

The Pinocchio Syndrome

If you read a lot of political analysis you might have noticed that pundits have been comparing Secretary Hillary Clinton with President Richard Nixon. They haven’t been comparing her to President Nixon’s successes: such as, opening relations with China, initiating the end of the Cold War by engaging in nuclear arms talks with Soviet Secretary General Brezhnev, ending the draft, founding the Environmental Protection Agency, and signing Title IX that prevented gender bias in universities, among other things. No, pundits have been comparing Sec. Clinton with his faults, namely his strained relationship with the truth and trustworthiness.

How do voters see the similarities? Let me count the ways. Let us start with her poll numbers. Everyone already knows she is killing her competition in the polls for the Democratic presidential nomination. But if you look closely she is not very well liked. According to The New York Times, “In the one by ABC News and The Washington Post, only 41 percent said that she was honest and trustworthy while 52 percent said that she wasn’t.” Sound familiar?

Sec. Clinton dodging the press during the first month of her campaign is reminiscent of Pres. Nixon’s disdain for the media. Pundits have also compared her running of the state department and the Clinton Foundation as Nixsonian in lack of transparency.

As much as the Republicans will chuckle as her Democratic rivals bring up Sec. Clinton’s shared quality of truthfulness with Pres. Nixon, it may also remind them of the 1968 election. Many Republicans had some profound misgivings about voting for Nixon, but he was their heir apparent and Republicans didn’t have any choice. That sounds familiar too.


If the presidential contest were held today between the two candidates who attract the most people to their rallies, it would be Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump. Presidential candidate Sen. Sanders has been speaking to sell out crowds, filling stadiums and convention centers. He is the equivalent of a democratic rock star. He has been campaigning on hard issues such as income inequality, health care for all, stopping climate change and fair trade pacts. It took a long time for Sen. Sanders to decide to run for president and he has been humbled by the response.

Not his evil twin. Mr. Trump has been talking about running for president for 20 years and expects a crowd when he speaks, even if he has to pay them. Affectionately referred to as a farce to be reckoned with, he hasn’t delved too deeply into policy, unless building a wall between Mexico and the United States counts – for which Mr. Trump says Mexico will pay.

Mr. Trump has been long on rhetoric and short on policy but still sees himself as the most successful person to run for president, ever. The rest of us see him as the most successful candidate in attracting media attention to himself, ever.

Mainstream Republicans have tried to marginalize his impact on the race. When Mr. Trump spoke in Phoenix the Arizona GOP establishment snubbed him and did not attend. Only the original crypt keeper, former governor Jan Brewer, came out in support of Mr. Trump.

Lindsay Graham, Senator from South Carolina, reflects the Republican establishment sentiment toward Mr. Trump. In an interview on CNN Sen Graham said, “Donald Trump is a ‘wrecking ball’ who has put the Republican Party’s future on the line with his controversial remarks about Mexican immigrants. I think he’s hijacked the debate. We need to push back. This is a defining moment for the Republican Party. We need to reject this,” he said.

Stage Right – Enter Scott Walker

Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, just declared his candidacy for president and the announcement always guarantees a bump in the polls, which did happen, just not for him. Mr. Trump has skyrocketed to first or second place in all the major national polls, and always ahead of Gov. Walker.

If Mr. Trump is a “demagogue” and a “wrecking ball” who doesn’t represent the mainstream Republican, then why is he doing so well in the polls?

The minute he announced his candidacy and started opening his mouth I thought his poll numbers would tank, but the opposite happened. The more outrageous he talks the more popular he gets. It’s one thing for the establishment to whine and moan about a fringe candidate, and quite another when he becomes their number one choice.

The Rest of the Story

This is a sad personal story so just go back to the news if you don’t want to read it. It’s intriguing though, and has never failed to leave any listener in a state of shock.

This time last year was my family’s eviction trial. We got up on a Tuesday morning like any other, but it wasn’t like any other. I put on my professional green dress, choked down some cereal, and drove with my children and husband to the courthouse. We entered the courtroom and took a bench to ourselves. I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe and that I was going to pass out. Within the hour I was going to find out if my dad and step mom would be able to kick us out of our family home.

The courtroom was full except for the row behind us. I put my arm around my husband to try and calm myself as I felt something brush by. I sensed the empty bench start to fill with people. I could feel both of my grandmothers and my babysitter, Mrs. Gates, sitting behind me. I also sensed an entire row of people I barely knew, but relatives none the less, who had come to support their descendants. My lungs filled with air and I calmed down.

Judge Vortmann had decided the afternoon before in a tentative ruling that my husband and I had a living estate. He reiterated his findings at the beginning of our hearing and gave my dad and stepmom’s lawyer five minutes to make his case that it wasn’t. Their over-paid lawyer stammered and mentioned something about how we had bought a dishwasher and stove. He had also slapped an elder abuse charge on us when we tried, in vain, to alert my parents about their grandson’s condition. They didn’t want to hear it.

The judge quickly ruled in our favor.

I thought that my dad and step mom would lick their wounds, call it quits, and let us keep our family home. But they proceeded to sue to kick us out of our home, and they were successful. Now, a year later I know why they couldn’t stop and why my pathetic pleadings with my mom for her help fell on deaf ears. Mom, dad and my stepmom had shared the same maid for 29 years – and they had promised her our house.

In better times, I was the family historian and the family caretaker. As my parents’ youngest daughter, and the only child to give them grandchildren, I just assumed I would be the one to care for them into their old age. My dad had my stepmother, Tam, who is 12 years younger, but my mom lived alone. Even though my mom would have never won any “mother-of-the-year” awards, I wanted to be a role model for my kids on how you treat the older generation. Many times when my mom needed help it was planned, but just as many they were not, and I always dropped everything to come to her aid. I was honest, loyal and would rather have cut off my left arm than not keep my word.

But, so was their maid, and maybe even more.

After 30 years the maid knows me, and knows how close I was to my parents and stepmom. She also knows how close they used to be to their grandchildren. I don’t know how she reconciled in her mind that my husband, kids and I got kicked out of our home so her family could move in. I assume my parents told her the same lies they told other family members and their lawyer. I don’t know.

If you erase the eviction, her family deserves the house as much as ours. And she does have one quality that I lack. She worships them. My mom, dad and stepmom have been very generous with her and they are very wealthy people. From that has come adulation.

I don’t admire money like they or most people do, and I’m not impressed when wealthy people act human. I also think the super rich should scrub their own toilettes. My mom, dad and stepmom have never liked that quality in me. They are the type of people who think the air should be cleaner in first class because they paid more for their plane ticket. We do not share the same beliefs and we do not have the same priorities. And that was getting on their nerves, especially my stepmom.

There is a happy ending though. My family ended up with a very nice place to live and my mom will be taken care of for the rest of her life by her loyal servant. That worried me when she cut off communication with my family. I would have always entrusted my mom’s life to her maid. Now it looks like I have no choice.


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