One of my favorite local shopkeepers said to me last week something like “Say. I haven’t seen anything in your columns lately about Lindsay.” It was one of those questions in the form of a statement, as if he barely wanted to know why I hadn’t been goring the administrators of our fair city, and so wasn’t going to ask.
I was so pleased to know he was still reading the paper that I didn’t hear the challenge in it at first. As we talked, I could see there are still issues to pursue, but remembering the days when I could barely unlock my jaws from around their proverbial necks, I thought twice about offering to resume my role as watchdog.
It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered the pain of standing there alone.
Earlier in the week, another friend from past events stood with me and talked about the recent efforts to solicit public input the city had made. Suddenly I was flooded with rage over the indignities suffered five or six years ago by petitioners against the second roundabout near Savemart. A small handful of people had gathered 815 signatures against it, people who were afraid of the impacts that would occur if it were built. It was an impressive effort, an exquisite example of authentic grassroots civic action. When they handed the petition to the city manager at a council meeting, he wouldn’t even receive it, and turned to the city attorney, then to the recorder to handle the papers. It was so disrespectful and damaging I couldn’t speak. Many of those concerns became real when they built it, including constriction at one of the roundabout exits, especially at night when residents are home from work and have parked their cars along the curb. But so what? The people who planned and executed that piece of transportation infrastructure don’t live here and so neither see nor suffer the consequences of their actions.
So I don’t trust the city of Lindsay to truly want public input or to respond when it is given. I’d have to see evidence of change, but to see that I’d have to reenter the sphere of public participation. With my burn scars from the past, they might be better off without me.
The real question I’m asking now is whether we people in the valley can see, hear, feel and speak the problems of land ownership here. There are massive problems generated by the huge parcels of land held by a few people and the huge numbers of people who have no hold on the land whatsoever, not even decent rights as renters. The Tulare Lake Basin, the large watershed of which we are a small part, has long been one of California’s regions of extreme disparities in land ownership. Our subregion, which was one of the areas broken up into smaller ownerships for more than 100 years, is silently, invisibly being consolidated into larger parcels, with implications for water rights we can’t even comprehend.
Maybe the place to start this conversation is to ask you, dear reader, this question: Got dirt? Any idea what it means to have that precious commodity, or to do without it? It’s worth considering. It’s really worth engaging in public forums and policy matters. Ask any refugee what it would mean to have a place to lay their heads, be safe, grow food—a little piece of land.
Trudy Wischemann is a grateful small-town dweller with a good-sized lot. You can send her your grimy thoughts on civic effort c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.