California - Farm Workers Hurt by Jerry Brown budget cuts
- California Farm Workers' Community Hurt by Budget Crisis
By Jennifer Medina
New York Times
May 27, 2012
THERMAL -- To understand the conditions at the Duroville mobile home
park here, a half-hour drive from Palm Springs, just look at the
windows. Dotting the walls are stretches of plywood, cardboard, blankets
and even tin foil. Replacing the glass just costs too much for many of
the residents to consider.
Duroville is a collection of more than 200 trailers that serve as homes
for farmworkers who, at this time of year, work 12-hour days plucking
grapes and digging up onions in triple-digit temperatures. There is no
sewer: a patchwork of plastic pipes repaired with duct tape winds
underground to a swampy pond. Cars kick up a load of dust on the dirt
road, which quickly turns to mud when it rains.
By now, residents were supposed to be getting ready to move out, to a
new mobile home park that would seem luxurious by comparison. But that
plan has suddenly been delayed by bureaucratic regulations that stem
from California's financial struggles.
A federal judge ruled in 2009 that conditions in Duroville were so bad
that it had to be shut down. Reasoning that there would be a
"humanitarian crisis" without a suitable alternative, the judge also
ruled that replacement affordable housing had to be available for
Duroville's families, who now pay about $375 a month in rent and utilities.
Riverside County officials stepped in with a plan: They would use
redevelopment funds to entice a new builder to create a mobile home
development. They figured that the project would cost about $28 million
in federal and state money and take about two years to built.
The first troubles arose in 2010, when officials assumed they could
count on federal funds, which were later lost amid the debates over
earmarks. The money eventually came through, paying for a sewer and
water system on the new property.
But last year, Gov. Jerry Brown moved to shut down redevelopment
agencies in the state, saying that the money often went to needless
projects like downtown bars and would be better used to finance schools,
particularly with the state facing a budget crisis.
John J. Benoit, a member of the county's Board of Supervisors, bristles
at that kind of attack. In the area he represents, which stretches to
the eastern edge of California, redevelopment money is primarily used
for housing -- often for farmworkers who live in squalid conditions.
"You can't possibly look at this and say that it's not a good use of
money," Benoit said, adding that "people deserve basic services just
like everyone else."
The state will now only disperse money for existing contracts. Because
Riverside did not approve a $12 million contract for the new homes until
January, it will not get any of the funds, officials said last month.
The county says the state's standard is absurd because the project has
been in the works for more than three years and there was no way to
begin building the homes until the infrastructure was completed last year.
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