What’s going on in Fontana? Feb 3, 2017
This post is a response to the article “What’s going on in Fontana?” published on The Voice. You can read the original article here.
I recently read the response, supposedly written by Mr. Hardy L. Brown, to criticism of Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren and the protests of her shamelessly issuing permits for over 4 million square feet of commercial construction (warehouses). First, I do not believe for a minute that those words came from Hardy Brown – he is far too classy for such dribble. The response sidetracked the debate about the horrendous health crisis we face due to the diesel spewing trucks servicing these warehouses to an outrageous and despicable comparison of one young person-of-color in a costume (Smoggy the Bear) to the marches of the KKK in hoods hiding who they were. We all remember the days of KKK parades in our region. We all remember the divisions within our community – we all remember the tactics and outrageous attacks used by those in power to divert discussions of equity and justice. No one in their right mind would claim a student at a local high school dressed in their mascot costume was akin to the KKK. No one in their right mind should accept this comparison either.
The protesters were from My Generation, a subset of the Sierra Club, which brings the voices and heart of youth-of-color from the very communities most heavily impacted by the pollution they were protesting. Many of them are from Fontana. Many of them suffer health problems from the heavy burden of pollution the continuing development of warehouses causes. These young people were out in force to raise awareness to the continuing abuse of their communities by industries in alignment with Big Oil. The fossil fuel industry along with John Husing, have put forward a continuum of “alternative facts” that these warehouses “…will bring good paying jobs to the city.” The reality is these warehouses don’t bring in good paying jobs. Most are temporary jobs paying minimum wages at best in horrible working conditions. As the Brookings Institute as well as others have pointed out, while the Inland Valleys are increasing the number of jobs, the prosperity of the area is not increasing -poverty levels are up. That’s because the logistics industry creates crappy, low wage jobs. The new warehouses are automated thereby eliminating even those jobs.
The writer asks “Why is the Sierra Club protesting the mayor’s progress?” The answer’s easy. The region we live in has the highest pollution levels in the state, if not the nation. Those levels prompted the Air District to proclaim a State of Emergency and petition EPA to change our status from a “non-attainment” area to a “serious non-attainment” area. There are more than 313,000 people who suffer from asthma in San Bernardino County. More than 5,000 people die prematurely every year from the air we breathe and the industry is not stepping forward to address their impacts. To continue to site facilities without addressing the health crisis is a disservice to the people of Fontana.
The recall effort of the Mayor is up to the residents of Fontana. The complaint is that those seeking a recall claimed they “have the numbers so we can do it”. Well, that is democracy. If you have the majority numbers you win! It’s not complicated.
In these times of hate and bigotry we in the Inland Valleys can’t afford to go back to the days of old. We can debate the issues but we cannot divide and destroy those communities most heavily affected in the process. Low income people of color must fight together and not be manipulated by the money and power of industry. We must stand together for the good of our communities – creating good jobs and improving our health and quality of life. We deserve no less.