Farmworkers hold vigil to support union bill
S1: The pressure mounts on Governor Newsom to sign a farm workers union bill.
S2: One of the reasons this is so important is because of the intimidation that many of our farm workers feel.
S1: I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Sewer leaks foul the San Diego River.
S3: The San Diego State study seems to indicate that it is leaky sewage pipes. Just a small amount of leaf leaves , a little bit of sewage on the outside of the pipe. And then when the rain comes in , it washes it all down into the oceans and the bay.
S1: The old downtown library is being prepped as a homeless shelter and the legacy of a California town once known as a black utopia. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Pressure is mounting on Governor Newsom to sign a bill that would allow farm workers to vote in private to unionize. In addition to farm workers themselves marching to Sacramento and holding vigils , national Democratic leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden have spoken in support of Assembly Bill 2183. But the governor has already expressed reservations about the bill. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado spoke with a farm worker who walked to the Capitol and a local farm owner about the legislation.
S4: Now , gang of.
S5: Eight , guys , I got my name on it.
S4: I got it. Farm worker Sergeant Nunez proudly documents the last mile of her 335 mile journey. She leads a chant and procession of thousands towards the Capitol in Sacramento on August 26th. She walks in lockstep with labor leader Dolores Huerta.
S4: But he didn't sign it. And now she and a few farm workers remain at the Capitol , holding vigil in hopes the governor will change his mind. But I don't want to go the. But she says the next step for me is a hunger strike because he doesn't come out and say anything. If we're essential , like he says we are. Prove it then. Westerlund Nunez says she's angry that while the farm workers waited for their bail to be signed , the governor signed other legislation to protect fast food workers. Look , they're.
S2: Just asking for a safe way to vote for union.
S4: That's Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher with the California Labor Federation. She and her husband , San Diego County Board Supervisor Nathan Fletcher , worked with the farm workers for 35 miles. She says the bill is important because farm workers are in a far more vulnerable position than others who try to unionize.
S2: When a boss wants to retaliate , they often deport these workers. So what they're asking for is a safe , secret way by which they can vote in a union election and their boss doesn't know.
S5: We , the farmers , agree with three governors now that a vetoed this same bill.
S4: Al Staley is the owner of Staley Grove Management and is on the board of directors of the San Diego Farm Bureau. He grows avocados , grapes and tangos on his farm in Valley Center. He has 30 employees.
S5: I've been in business over 40 years and some of my employees have been with me that long.
S4: Staley says this bill takes away the rights of farmers.
S5: We , the farmers , don't want to erode our private property rights by having to give access to the unions to the property. Nor do we want to give up our free speech rights to be able to talk with our employees about any union organization.
S4: And he says it would also lead to pressure on farm workers.
S5: The mail in ballot or the card check delivered by the union organizers is just a formula for intimidation and arm twisting.
S4: Those arguments don't make sense to Nunez , who has few moments of rest between vigils at the Capitol. And even then , she's praying and pleading with the governor for firewall , telling people to assume it's there. In brief moments , she says , she allows herself to dream.
S5: Big autonomy.
S4: About with the passage of the bill would mean for families like hers and the legacy left by her hero Cesar Chavez fuels her to fight on. SSL Cami medical says of Travis guess a belly attack on a llama economy last year and the is. That's the legacy Cesar Chavez left me she says that you fight with your soul and your life if necessary.
S5: But he'll feel beyond me.
S4: Kitty Alvarado , KPBS News.
S5: And then we just follow.
S4: This man whose family.
S5: He put.
S1: Joining me is California Assembly Majority Leader Luis Gomez Reyes. She's one of the authors of AB 2183 , The Farmworkers Labor Voting Choice Act. And welcome.
S2: Thank you so much , Mari. And thank you for having me.
S2: And one of the reasons this is so important is because of the intimidation that many of our farmworkers feel and farmworkers feel that somebody is watching over them as they're voting. And this is going to be used against them. So voting by mail is , I think , one of the key aspects of this.
S1: You mentioned intimidation.
S2: And we had a chance to talk to some of our farm workers about what they thought this change would bring for them. There were occasions that they talked about where the employer they knew the employer was going to use it against them. They also talked about the employers telling them everything that was wrong. And when the employers , as our farm workers told us , when the employers would put them together to talk about whatever the issue was , maybe it was safety , they would bring them together. So they have they would have a captive audience and then they would make comments regarding the union because of the way that it was done. The farmworkers shared with us that they felt intimidation. And then we have the issue of immigration status. And they felt that because the employer now knew that they were voting a particular way , that they that they feared deportation. And that was very real. It was from from many of the farmworkers that we spoke with during that march. Now , if.
S1: Farmers choose the labor piece election , under this new proposal , union organizers can come on their property and the farmers won't be able to argue to their employees why they don't want a union. Many farmers strongly oppose these restrictions.
S2: And I understand from our business groups and the agricultural employers that they feel that it's a false choice between two options. Neither one of them is going to maintain voting integrity and therefore , that the employees are going to be manipulated. But the truth is that if the farm workers want to form a union and they are speaking to those who are part of the union , who will tell them the benefits of the union , they want to be able to to then join that union without this fear. And as I mentioned earlier , the fear is real.
S1: Now , you mentioned the integrity of the proposed mail in election. Governor Newsom's office also has concerns about that. He says that's one of the reasons that he didn't sign it before and one of the reasons he may not sign it now.
S2: The issues , I think , have been addressed. And the author of the bill assembly member , Mark Stone , worked with the administration. And I think that Governor Newsom now has before him a bill that makes a difference in the lives of farm workers. And I think in the end , employers , the agricultural industry is going to benefit because if you have employees who feel protected , employees who feel heard in , employees who feel that they have someone who can speak on their behalf and they don't feel as powerless. They're happier employees and they're still going to get the work done. But providing these protections and this representation to the employees is extremely important. A lot has gone into finally getting the language the way it is once it is implemented , after the governor signs it. If something does come up that becomes a serious issue , there will be further discussion to really address it as opposed to saying , oh , no , there's. Your problem with the integrity of an election ? I think there won't be. But if there is , then we can have clean up legislation thereafter.
S2: I think that Governor Newsom has signed a number of pieces of legislation that provide protections for individuals and for groups. And I think when you have people like Speaker Pelosi speaking in favor of it , when you have President Biden speaking in favor of it , I think that it would be it's more likely than not that Governor Newsom , after his thoughtful reflection and review. I think that personally , I do believe he will sign it.
S1: I've been speaking with California Assembly Majority Leader Luis Gomez Reyes. And thank you so much for joining us.
S2: Thank you so much for the invitation.
S6: With more rainfall expected today. You can expect something else , too. Beach closures thought to be caused by sewage contamination and runoff. A new study shows those closures near the San Diego River aren't being caused by sewage from septic tanks or nearby encampments , but by old sewage pipes that have been neglected and are now leaking. The study , conducted by SDSU scientists , calls for swift action. Joining me now is David Garrick , who's been covering this story for the San Diego Union-Tribune. And , David , welcome.
S3: Thanks for having me.
S6: So this study points to old sewage pipes as the culprit behind bacterial outbreaks in the San Diego River that often lead to beach closures.
S3: I think conventional wisdom in the past was that that rainfall and storm water when it went into the oceans and bays , would create a higher level of bacteria because there was like more oil and surface stuff on pavement. And I think now that these studies have been done , I think it's sort of shifting our understanding. And maybe while motor oil is still a problem , it's more about a situation where the pipes are leaking slowly and then the rainwater washes whatever has leaked out into the bays and the ocean.
S3: So a lot of the pipes were laid during that period with new housing developments. They vary in age , but there's a lot of them that are over 50 years old because they were built during that era.
S3: Some people threw out the idea of homeless encampments when they became a big deal because a lot of them are along the river and the river leads into the bays and the ocean. And like I said , the surface run off was the general idea. That's why car washing isn't allowed anymore unless you're in a place where there's proper drainage , because the thought would be that a lot of that stuff was would be on the pavement and then the rain would wash it in. But now it appears that these these studies are pinpointing it more accurately. And it seems likely that certainly the San Diego State study seems to indicate that it is leaky sewage pipes. Just a small amount of leak leaves a little bit of sewage on the outside of the pipe. And then when the rain comes in , it washes it all down into the oceans in the bay.
S3: They studied caffeine and then basically Splenda , artificial sweetener , and they determined that how long that stayed in in the the water was determinant of of the cause. And it's very complicated. But the idea was that caffeine apparently dissipates very quickly from a water source and they found high concentrations of caffeine in the polluted water. And if it was from a homeless homeless encampment , it wouldn't have lasted that long. Had to be a fresh source like a sewer pipe , because the sewer pipes had all the way down there. So the idea was that the caffeine was sort of like a red flag. If the caffeine is still in the end , the contaminated water must be. It's a fresh source , not a homeless encampment miles up the river.
S6: And , you know , one that's that's very interesting.
S3: The city of San Diego has a large one , but alcohol in the Mesa and other cities , they will probably be responsible. The question is , you know , how does it happen and what is the smartest way ? And another thing that has to be studied is whether it's actually the sewer pipes that are controlled municipally or if it's the hookups that go from the municipal sewer system to the house. Those are called private laterals. That's a technical insider term , but it basically means pipes going from the sewer system to an individual house. If those are more at fault , then actually individual homeowners will have to fix them.
S6: And as you mentioned in your report , this SDSU study comes two years before a larger study is to be completed , which was ordered by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Board.
S3: I mean , I think the city would tell you the city of San Diego would tell you that an ongoing process of replacing aging pipe and that they you know , they also are always they have cameras on their pipes in case there's a sewage spill. In other words , like a a pipe instead of just a leak , it actually has a break. Right. So I think they would say they're vigilant. But as far as a full scale plan to address this problem on a region wide basis , I think that's at least two years away , probably even longer.
S6: And you spoke with the city of San Diego about this.
S3: And , you know , this is something where a couple of days of beach closure is a big problem. But there are other problems , faces like wildfires and , you know , other things. So I don't know. I think they say it's a priority. It's hard to know where it falls on the list.
S6: Mm hmm. I've been speaking with David Garrett. Reporter with the San Diego Union-Tribune. David , thank you very much.
S3: Thanks for having me.
S6: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. Earlier this year , Mayor Todd Gloria cited San Diego's growing homelessness problem as his administration's number one priority. Yet despite the mayor's push to target homelessness through law enforcement , a new AI news source report finds that zero convictions have been made by the city attorney's office. The disparity highlights a stark disconnect in priorities between the San Diego Police Department under the direction of Gloria and the city attorney's office in addressing homelessness. Joining me now with more is I new source investigative reporter Cody Dulaney , who co-authored the story. Cody , welcome back to Midday Edition.
S3: Hey , thanks for having me.
S6: For months now , Mayor Gloria has touted efforts he's directed to address homelessness.
S3: The first is outreach. Social workers are hitting the streets every day to connect people to the services they need. Secondly , we have cleaning city sanitation crews are sweeping through homeless encampments and they're forcing those who live in these encampments to move their belongings temporarily so they can quite literally sweep the sidewalk and throw away trash and property. And then we have law enforcement. And in these sweep , San Diego police officers are always involved. And on one end of the spectrum , they could just be standing by to keep the peace as sanitation crews are doing what they're doing. But on the other end , they could be there strictly enforcing city laws that target unhoused people such as sleeping where it's not allowed or blocking a public right of way. To enforce these laws , though , courts have said the police have to offer a shelter bed. And in San Diego , someone has to refuse that shelter bed four times before they can be arrested. But even so , we've seen a dramatic increase in arrests since the start of the pandemic.
S3: The mayor's office told me that this approach has helped place 700 people into housing from shelters , effectively ending their homelessness. But as I've reported , studies from around the country have consistently shown that this approach only makes it harder for people to find housing. Citations and arrests can lead to a cascade of legal trouble and fines , which only serves as a barrier to finding a home.
S3: But along with my colleagues , Jake Harper and Danielle Dawson , we found that Elliott's office has refused to file charges and two out of every three cases since the start of the pandemic. Of the cases that the office has pursued , every single one has ended in dismissal. And that's often because we found through our reporting that the city attorney handling the case asked for it to be dismissed or agreed with the motion to dismiss.
S6: And you write that the lack of prosecutions points to a pretty clear disconnect between city led enforcement efforts and the city attorney's office.
S3: And they say , you know , in an ideal world , the police and the city attorney's office have the same priorities. Police know what evidence is required to bring a case to the city attorney. And along with elected leaders , the city attorney is on the same page about what these priorities are. But to take this approach that the city has taken , you know , citing and arresting people only to have these cases rejected or dismissed , those we talked to said it's a waste of resources only to show the public that something is being done to address the homelessness problem.
S6: Have you reached out to any of the agencies involved for clarity on this situation ? Yes.
S3: My colleagues and I reached out to everyone involved with this , but none of them agreed to an interview. The mayor and city attorney had their spokespeople answer some questions over email , and the mayor's office basically said , look , it's not his problem that these cases are being dismissed. Residents expect the city to enforce its laws , and that's exactly what officers are doing. And the city attorney's office says , well , these cases are being dismissed for a number of reasons , such as insufficient evidence or inability to locate witnesses. But they wouldn't comment on any particular case. And we certainly struggle to have an understanding of the larger picture of what's actually going on here.
S6: Has the pandemic changed the legal outcomes for this kind of case in any way.
S3: Prior to the pandemic ? The city attorney's office managed to land a guilty plea 83% of the time in these cases that generally target unhoused people ever since. August 2020 , when court started hearing these cases again , every single case since then has been dismissed. The city attorney's office wouldn't speak directly to what changed other than to say changes to maximum sentencing and court diversion early last year are affecting how courts are handling these cases.
S6: And can you talk a little bit about what this whole process does to the individual unhoused resident ? I mean , it seems like they're being shuffled around without much resolution or help.
S3: I mean , from what I've witnessed and the people I've talked to , it's an incredibly destabilizing and dehumanizing experience. In many cases , people are being criminalized for surviving in public view. They're ticketed and arrested when they refuse shelter. But many of the people who are living on the streets simply cannot go into a shelter for various reasons. They have a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder that's that's restricting access to that. And once they're arrested , we found that they often don't show up in court , which only leads to a warrant for the arrest and more legal trouble. So it's just it's a cycle. It's an endless cycle that we're seeing.
S6: I've been speaking with I new source , investigative reporter Cody Dulaney. Cody , thank you so much for joining us.
S3: Thanks for having me.
S1: After years of debate , the city of San Diego is taking initial steps to convert the old downtown library building on F and E into a homeless shelter. Mayor Todd Gloria's office says the city has begun modest preparations to repurpose the building. Over the nine years , the library has sat vacant. Advocates have pressed the city to open up the building to housed unsheltered people. But those requests have been turned down for a host of reasons. Now , the city says it's hoping to have a portion of the building ready for use as a shelter this winter. I'm joined by Voice of San Diego reporter Lisa Halberstadt and Lisa. Welcome.
S2: Thanks for having me again on this topic.
S2: And for nine years , it's been sitting empty and homeless camps have been building up around it , just essentially putting an exclamation point on that. And so last year , obviously , we all know the homelessness situation has been worsening , including in this area. Mayor Todd Gloria had directed city staff to take another look and see could it be a shelter ? He said he didn't want to leave any stone unturned as he was looking at options. And recently the city's fire marshal approved a portion of the building to serve as a shelter for six months during the winter season. And that in and of itself is a big deal because for many years , city staff had flagged a number of issues , saying that it couldn't be a shelter , that there was just too much that needed to be done to make the building workable.
S2: Obviously , that's important for a winter shelter. And they're also working on some interior walls. What I'm hearing is that they expect to have the work done next month and it is probably going to cost about $35,000.
S2: Those are just a few examples I could go on and on. And at one point when Mayor Kevin Faulconer was in office , his administration had suggested that it would cost at least $5 million to upgrade it. Now , at the time , they were looking at 450 shelter beds. So I think that's important to note for now. They're certainly looking at a smaller number of initial beds. But then there was this other issue that came up that I learned about at the beginning of 2020 , and that is that there is this 1899 deed restriction signed by civic leader George Marston. If you haven't heard of him , Google , he sold this property to the city way back when and this deed restriction that he signed seems to require that the property has a public library and a reading room. And that really complicated plans another sort of redevelopment plan for the old library.
S1: Yeah , the Marston Deed restriction. It sounds like something you'd read in a novel about an old family will.
S2: So fast forward , or I should say rewind back to circa 2019 2020. Lincoln Property Company had wanted to make this old library into an office campus , but they said that they found out about this deed restriction and title companies wouldn't insure them with that restriction. And they found out because of course , at the time when I figured this out , I said , Well , could you just add a reading room to the project ? And they said , Nope , that would not suffice. And the city at the time said that they thought that this issue could be worked out , but the developer was just at its wits end. So more recently , the mayor and the city attorney's office decided that they wanted to address this issue because the building has just been sitting there. And this deed restriction certainly scuttled some plans. They decided to go ahead and file court action to try to clarify that the old library can be something other than a library.
S1: Now , just this week , the Downtown San Diego Partnership said their most recent count showed a record number of homeless people , 600 living unsheltered , many in makeshift tents downtown.
S2: A library in the post office across the street , and until recently , people almost daily were staying right outside the front entrance of the old library. So this has become a major center of homelessness downtown. And to just really underscore that , the city set up a public restroom right outside the front of the library. And in more recent history , they have been citing public restrooms based on the volume of people that are in a particular area. So I think that really speaks to just how many people have been staying outside near this old library.
S1: Considering that there have been so many delays already , and I guess that the Marston deed restriction could slow down the process.
S2: However , Maureen , you and I both know court cases can move very slowly. The court doesn't necessarily go along with the deadlines that anyone wants. There is an initial hearing in the case next month , but no decisions are imminent. For now. The city is really hoping that they could try to move forward with something in November.
S2: And Mayor Gloria has been pushing for more shelter beds overall. And by my quick count , I think the city has added about 300 new shelter beds since last December. So that's worth noting. But certainly there are more people on the street than there are shelter beds. I think I would also note that it's been less certain in recent years that the city will have extra beds available when there's cold , rainy , inclement weather. So historically , the city would open up additional shelter beds for people to come in and have a safe , warm place to be on cold nights. Those were a lot harder to deliver during the worst of COVID , and last year the city provided fewer inclement weather beds. And it had in years past. I will say I'm hearing more conversations earlier about these beds this year and the library is part of that. So this is something I'll definitely be monitoring in the weeks to come.
S1: I've been speaking with the voice of San Diego reporter Lisa Halberstadt. And Lisa , thank you.
S2: Thank you.
S6: One of the bills that has passed through the legislature and is on Governor Gavin Newsom's desk would offer cash benefits to unemployed , undocumented workers currently excluded from the state's unemployment insurance program. It's an idea that not so many years ago would be considered out of the question. Today , it's a different story. Here's KQED for Rita Javier Romero.
S4: The bill would create a one year pilot program in 2020 for offering undocumented Californians who lose jobs $300 per week , up to 20 weeks before the state Senate voted to approve A.B. 2847 last month. Lawmakers were given one last opportunity to voice any opposition members.
S2: Discussion or debate. Seeing and hearing them. Secretary , please.
S4: Call the roll. There was no registered opposition from the public either , but nine Republican state senators did vote against the bill. Like Brian Daly , who represents the northeast corner of California and worries a program like this would lack enough checks and balances to prevent fraud.
S3: I will guarantee you there will be fraud in this system. And once there's the fraud , the money's gone and it's hurting California businesses.
S4: The bill does provide funding for the government to set up a documentation process for undocumented workers to prove their eligibility. It's a big job in California. More than 1 million workers are undocumented , and the pandemic highlighted how essential they are in industries like agriculture , construction , manufacturing. That's why polls shed and supports the bill. He co-owns a company that makes guitar accessories and Petaluma. He says the tight labor market impacts the parts manufacturing companies he relies on. He says it would help small businesses like his if California made it easier for undocumented workers to stay during economic downturns.
S3: We do take care of them. It means they're more likely in the event that they are sick or unemployed because no fault of their own to stay around. So that when the economy picks up , we need then undocumented workers to pursue those positions. They're here to do that.
S4: What you hear Sharon saying essentially is a growing recognition that undocumented people are an important part of California's economy. It's this reality that's led to the political sea change. A bill like AB 2847 represents in Sacramento compared to 1994 , when Californians overwhelmingly voted to restrict benefits for the undocumented , says Kevin Johnson , dean of the UC Davis School of Law.
S3: With a robust economy , a robust budget and a tight labor market , we're even more appreciative or understanding of the benefits of immigrant workers than in other times get out.
S4: At a summer rally in Sacramento for AB 2847 , Jose Rodriguez and other immigrants called for unemployment benefits in return for the estimated three and a half billion dollars in state and local taxes undocumented people in California pay each year. Some of the element that we important about are , but it's just talent. Rodriguez spent months unemployed after the restaurant in San Rafael , where he waited tables closed like so many undocumented early in the pandemic , his income disappeared when the economy constricted. He and his wife fell behind on rent and relied on food banks to feed their two U.S. born kids. Yeah , I'm a mucho parallel to the other surprise. We are miserly. You are a humble people también. His message to the governor. We do a lot for this country. Help us a little bit as well.
S6: That was KQED for Rita Job , Villa Romero.
S1: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Hyneman. About 30 minutes off Interstate five in the Central Valley , there's a town that's a vital part of California's history and black history in the U.S.. It's called Allensworth. And it was founded as a kind of black utopia back in 1908. It was self-governed by black residents , and for a while it was thriving. These days , though , Allensworth is a dusty , tiny farmworker town that's struggling to survive. Hardly anyone visits or even knows about the state park there that was built to commemorate black history. But preserving Allensworth , its history and legacy has come up in meetings of California's reparations task force. From the California Report magazine reporter Lakshmi Sara introduces us to some of today's Allensworth residents fighting to preserve the town's history and its future.
S7: MAXINE Butler is the first person I meet on the train we bought in Emeryville near Oakland for the four and a half hour ride to Colonel Allensworth State Park for the Juneteenth Festival. I helped her with her bags and her walker , and soon she's offering me fruit. And we're sharing stories and songs. This trip. Already this train. MAXINE , who's now 70 and lives in North Oakland , told me her sister in law's family moved from Arkansas to Allensworth in the 1930.
S1: Escaping the lynchings , escaping the after effects of slavery. And they probably heard about this Jerusalem , this promised land called Allensworth.
S7: For MAXINE , the journey to Allensworth is important for another reason. Doctors gave her a terminal diagnosis just days before she's been battling metastatic cancer. They said she has six months to live.
S1: And I have my bucket list. And this is on the bucket list. To go to Allensworth.
S7: I felt honored to help document a part of her bucket list. MAXINE comes from a long line of pioneering black families.
S1: My grandfather , Charles Nicholas Moore Senior , was the first African-American streetcar conductor in the state of Massachusetts.
S7: But MAXINE is disappointed that so many of these kinds of pioneers aren't well known , especially when it comes to Allensworth. Still , I do.
UU: Ladies and gentlemen , let me get you out and. We will be making multiple stops that people are going to every car. The platform will not be big enough to fit the entire train again. We will be making multiple stops.
S7: There's no official platform here , just a slab of concrete. The stop at Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park is only for special occasions like Juneteenth or if a group makes a special request to Amtrak. Just beyond the state park is the town population 500. It doesn't have any stores or stoplights. There's no grocery store or any other shops. And the closest hotel is 20 minutes away. MAXINE and I get off the train. Definitely.
S2: Definitely. Oh , I'm just.
S1: Blessed , blessed , blessed anticipation. I see the promised land.
S3: Oh , my God.
S1: I can only imagine what they saw. A blank slate and how they created this. I just imagine what it was.
S7: Every building in the park is preserved to look like it did in 1908. Most with nearby structures that were once outhouses. By fi. Yes.
S2: Yes. She called her initials and a.
S4: Lot of it this magical hill.
S7: Right here at the old schoolhouse. There are rows of wooden desks , each with a small chalkboard. We walk in to look for a name carved into one of the desks. Gloria Harris , Maxine's relative , who went to school here in the 1930s.
S1: My sister in law's family stay here , and I have a picture of my sister in law's mother in front of this building.
S7: Though we couldn't find the initials in the desk. MAXINE confirmed through a school record book that Gloria did attend the school.
S5: This is the basics for making us square head , nails.
S7: And many of the festivals. The park hires volunteers to showcase what Allensworth was like in 1908. Like demonstrating , blacksmithing.
S5: Having a lot of nails. This is the way they make the nails.
S7: But if you visit the park on a day when there isn't a celebration , it's much quieter. You can't walk into any of the buildings. Just look through the windows.
S3: Hello and welcome to the Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park Cell Phone tour.
S7: And call a number for some recorded history.
S3: This busy station was a vital part of town life. Most important , freight shipments supported the town's economy in December 1930.
S7: Over at The Portable , that serves as the visitor center. I meet park interpreter Jerilyn Olvera.
S4: We like the quiet , and it's one of the reasons we like working at the park , too.
S7: She leads tours of the state park and shares how one of the factors in the town's demise was the expansion of the train line to a nearby town in 1914.
S4: They added tracks over to the little community of Al Paul , which is west of here by about seven miles , and all the agricultural product was being transported from our port instead of Allensworth. So the money started slowing down , dwindling up , and then the trains stopped stopping here in 1929.
S7: What Jeralyn doesn't include is that the train service was rerouted through the neighboring white town of ALPA. And that , say critics , is one of the problems with the park's version of the history.
S4: It's not so much sugarcoating it. They're not saying what actually happened. The park ranger spoke about the history of the community.
S8: But he spoke more about the type of. Corsets.
S8: Women wore during that time. I felt. Insult it , promote history , promote it , promote the history , promote the culture , and help people see it for themselves. Just promote the history.
S7: Dennis Hudson and Dennis Quaid are twins and Allensworth residents who moved here in the 1970s with their mom. She was a black activist who wanted to preserve Allensworth legacy. Now they're in their sixties. Dennis is an Army veteran and farmer , and Dennis has years of experience as a city planner. They're both active with the Allensworth Progressive Association. They feel like the stories they've heard park rangers tell about their town don't give the full picture. The version of Allensworth history that emphasizes what a beautiful black utopian town this used to be a self-sufficient , joyful place.
S8: They had a library , book , exchange books from all over the state. Not just black communities , but from all over the state. We're coming here because education was important.
S7: Dennis and Denise are concerned the official park narrative doesn't explain the structural reasons why the town didn't survive.
S4: The downfall of Allensworth happened.
S3: The railroad spur. Was.
S8: Diverted to another community. The water was never delivered as the contracts agreed.
S7: Black farmers also had to pay almost five times as much as white farmers for land.
S4: You know , any way that you can keep a community down , it seems like Allensworth has had to deal with that.
S7: The more I talked to Dennis and Denise , the more it becomes clear that the demise of what Allensworth used to be is the result of a series of actions by state and local powers a town squeezed into submission , a clear result of institutional racism that forced this black community to dwindle and is still making life difficult for the largely Latinx farmworker population of the town today.
S4: Everybody wants to live in a community that provides for their essentials.
S8: And this is a food desert and we're trying to change that.
S4: This community lacks an economy. We're trying to change that.
S5: It lacks an.
S8: Air tax base.
S4: We're trying to change that. And all we want to do here is bring the community back and make it a thriving community once again.
S7: According to Denise Allensworth , has been battling structural racism for more than 100 years. And one of the clearest examples is that the town still doesn't have safe drinking water.
S1: That story from reporter Lakshmi Sara. Hear how water plays a vital role in the town's survival. You can listen to the full episode on the California Report magazine podcast.