Pattersonite Edith Diaz enjoys a glass of wine at Patterson Repertory Theatre's 10th Annual Art and Wine Gala at the Hammon Senior Center on Saturday, April 12.
Pattersonite Edith Diaz enjoys a glass of wine at Patterson Repertory Theatre's 10th Annual Art and Wine Gala at the Hammon Senior Center on Saturday, April 12.
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Legislative candidates say water is top priority
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Apr 17, 2014 | 316 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Water, jobs and the California economy are at the center of platforms for every candidate running for the June and November ballots for legislative office to represent the Patterson area.   The issues are intertwined like an intricate delicate weave.  Water, which fuels California’s number one industry-agriculture-especially in the Central Valley is scarce this year and legislative rivals are looking for solutions and pointing fingers.  “I don’t think you can run for office and not talk about water right now,” said Congressman Jeff Denham, R-Turlock. He believes water storage to be one of the ultimate priorities.  Shawn Bagley of Salinas, a Democrat challenging District 12 GOP State Senator Anthony Cannella said the effect on the entire economy is underestimated.   “We need to fight for every drop of water,” Bagley said, noting that one of the last main projects put forth in California was the 1962 opening of the San Luis Reservoir in Santa Nella, which was opened with a ceremony with then Governor Pat Brown and President John F. Kennedy. “Water means big, big dollars for everybody.”  Leaders everywhere are prompting citizens to think actively about water efforts, stating that farmers need the water to grow crops, employ workers and buy equipment—which employs more people who are able to contribute paying for rent, food and taxes. “I think it’s a catastrophe waiting to happen,” Bagley said if we were to ignore conserving water.  Cannella, who has also made water a top priority, said that’s why he’s sponsoring legislation across party lines with Democratic State Assemblyman Adam Gray, who also represents Patterson, to increase water storage and create ongoing money to shore up surface water storage projects around the state. Gray is running unopposed this year.  State Assembly Bill 2686 would allocate $3 billion in bond money for surface infrastructure projects as well as $1 billion for clean drinking water facilities.    The drought California is experiencing currently could mean a fallowing of up to 50 percent of farmland in some areas of Cannella’s agriculturally-rich district, which sprawls from Modesto south through Merced County, picks up part of Madera County and crosses to San Benito County and the agricultural portion of eastern Monterey County. All are agricultural counties.  “We have to have a water bond ready in the next couple of months,” Cannella said, who hopes to have a bond measure before voters by November. “Under no circumstances can it not contain $3 billion for water storage and continuous funding.”  Cannella said there also needs to be infrastructures for water treatment facilities across the state to recycle water that can be used for landscape and crop irrigation, freeing up other water for potable purposes.  Denham’s opponent, Turlock Democrat Michael Eggman, a farmer like Denham, said through spokesman Eric Goldman that tax dollars from California need to be brought back and spent on infrastructure projects like water storage.  Manteca Democrat Mike Barkley, who ran against Denham in June 2012 and finished a distant fourth in a five man race, is also advocating for water storage. He’s suggesting raising the capacity of every major federal water project in Northern California and adding a second level to the Temperance Flat reservoir in Fresno County, increasing an aggregate of 32 million acre feet of water and further protecting the Central Valley from floods.  Nick Rappley can be reached at nick@pattersonirrigator.com or 568-9975. 
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Homeless population soars in Patterson
by Brooke Borba | Patterson Irrigator
Apr 17, 2014 | 922 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Clothes and knick knacks are strewn about in the oleanders just off Highway 33 on Monday, April 14. ---Brooke Borba/Patterson Irrigator
Clothes and knick knacks are strewn about in the oleanders just off Highway 33 on Monday, April 14. ---Brooke Borba/Patterson Irrigator
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Patterson Recycling Center manager Ivan Silva (right) shows scraps of copper to Deputy Noel Vento that are often turned in by homeless.
Patterson Recycling Center manager Ivan Silva (right) shows scraps of copper to Deputy Noel Vento that are often turned in by homeless.
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After the authorities were able to force many of the homeless out of the oleanders along Highway 33 and the former Del Puerto Hospital, many decide to live in plain sight in North Park. Their average day consists of eating their one free meal, salvaging cans or working for residents for a small wage.
After the authorities were able to force many of the homeless out of the oleanders along Highway 33 and the former Del Puerto Hospital, many decide to live in plain sight in North Park. Their average day consists of eating their one free meal, salvaging cans or working for residents for a small wage.
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Residents and authorities throughout the West Side have noticed a large increase in the homeless population within the last few months. According to Sgt. Aaron Costello of Patterson Police Services, the number of homeless within Patterson alone has ranged from 50 to 80 people, and the population is continually growing every day throughout the course of the last eight months. The impact has had a direct effect on the oleanders off Highway 33 and the former Del Puerto Hospital and senior center on South Ninth Street. Hundreds of clothes, trinkets and bottles were left in huddles around these specific locations, as well as makeshift homes or tents where bonfires would be built. Many made their homes in the brushes just on the other side of Peck and Hiller Structural Concrete’s large fence near Highway 33, which presented a fire hazard for the numerous stacks of lumber stocked for supply. “It’s a hazard,” said Tim Gilberth, manager of Peck and Hiller. “If the needles were to catch on fire, this place will burn for days. If it did go up in flames, we’d have massive concerns. There is millions of dollars in lumber that we’d have to take care of.” Gilbreth sought his own solution and called his men to cut down the small tree neighboring his fence on Monday afternoon, April 14. He hopes the act will deter future inhabitants or break-ins. Local authorities, the city code enforcement officer and the Southern Pacific Railroad Police have also attempted to force the homeless out of these locations, prompting the isolated community to stage a home at North Park near the Plaza Circle. The clean-up in the oleanders has cost the city of Patterson thousands of dollars to bring in tractors, dump trucks and a crew of five to seven men to clean up the trash left behind. More work will need to be done to the former hospital on South Ninth Street, which has been gutted and rigged with booby traps so that fellow transients and authorities may fall through the floors and into the basement. Now that the homeless are out in the open, many citizens as well as business owners are in a state of unrest, fearing their presence will drive away business or residents from public amenities in the park. Staff members at McAuley Ford have also alluded to many problems since their initial move. The staff has witnessed a series of fights, even one that left a young girl with Down Syndrome crying when she was playing in the park. One incident was recalled where one of the homeless had left feces in the car lot. “It’s really sad,” said McAuley staff member Efren De Anda. “We see it all day long.” Thefts of bicycles, copper, aluminum and cans have also skyrocketed, as most homeless use these means to recycle for monetary funds. Urban and rural areas are all in danger of theft, added Deputy Noel Vento of Patterson Police Services. The homeless population have, and will continue to, scour the entire region and strip parts from tractors, city electrical boxes, businesses and foreclosed homes. One anonymous homeowner said the foreclosed home in her neighborhood on Ashwood Lane was constantly attracting homeless people attempting to steal doorknobs, wiring and electrical units. “I’m here with my daughter while my husband is at a swing shift out of town,” she said. “I don’t feel safe. It’s very frustrating.” WHY PATTERSON? Although citizens are irritated with the added presence and mischiefs of the transients, many are wondering why they would choose to live in Patterson in the first place. According to the homeless community, the choice was an easy one to make. Free meals are guaranteed once a day by Trust in Jesus Cuisine, a volunteer group that serves meals in North Park daily, allowing many transients to spend the money they make from recycling on their addiction of choice. “There are three different types of homeless,” said Deputy Vento. “Drug and alcohol addiction, physical disability and mental disability. We have all of them here but, for the most part, they are addicts. Many people think the homeless are lazy, but they work just as hard, if not harder, to get enough money to feed their addiction.” One 43-year-old transient identified as Deanna said she was unable to receive food stamps because she was a convicted felon in 2000-2001 after being a member of Operation Cocaine Cowboy, a gang in Missouri. Her choice of drug is a “dime a day” of crystal meth. Since she is able to be fed through the Trust in Jesus Cuisine, she spends roughly $10 to $20 to receive the fix, and does so by picking out of garbage cans for recycling. Deanna also said she liked Patterson because of the police presence, which encourages them to get healthy and repeatedly offers services and solutions to their disposal. “I just have a lot of stuff on my mind. I’m really depressed. In Missouri, they are not trying to help. They are really strict,” she said Monday afternoon. Another transient name Gloria, a known alcoholic throughout the police department, was found just outside the Patterson Recycle Center. When Deputy Vento stopped the car and offered help repeatedly, she began to tear up, look at him solemnly, but ultimately walked away. “It breaks my heart,” said Deputy Vento shortly after the interaction. “She wants help. I can see it. We don’t want to move these people and burden another town. We want to solve the problem. You look at their hearts and their human. We’ll chip away slowly at a time.” Many others said they preferred Patterson over Modesto because of the religious factor. Most services that offer help for addiction or housing force the transients to pray or attend religious classes. Deputy Vento added that many residents are allowing the homeless problem to prosper by offering odd jobs for only $35 a day. Even if they were to work all day, the homeless would be happy to receive the money, as it is just enough to feed their addiction. This fuels them to stay in town, where they can earn just enough to live off their addiction, but nothing more. This was confirmed by a young man named Anthony, who prefers to work alone but appreciates every little scrap he can muster to feed his addiction to cocaine, weed and meth. “Some residents are taking advantage of the homeless’ weaknesses,” added Vento, who honestly felt that Anthony was a hard worker capable of more than his current lifestyle. “It’s disgusting. They are feeding their addiction.” OFFERING SUPPORT, SOLUTIONS Although Vento couldn’t vouch for all members of the homeless community, he did feel that there were standout applicants that could be reworked fully into society if the community were to offer the right type of support. As of now, most helpful prospects are becoming hindrances to the homeless, which invites more transients to town. As a result, Deputy Vento urges residents to stop providing money to the homeless, as many are already receiving benefits through federal food stamps or social security. Some homeless make as much as $130 to $800 a month depending on their disability or circumstance, which is more than enough to feed their addiction. Instead, Deputy Vento suggests residents to keep the homeless occupied by offering jobs for civic clubs and services. If they are too busy working, they’ll be less inclined to loiter public parks, and may have a hand in cleaning them up. He feels that if several homeless were to lead by example, the others would follow suit, helping to impact the community in a positive route. Other organizations that are linked to the homeless are encouraged to come up with creative ideas to offer various solutions. The Sheriff’s department has spoken with Patterson Recycling Center and St. Vincent de Paul’s Thrift Store to offer new terms of service. Patterson Recycling Center will no longer take anything that looks to be stolen and will be checking bicycles for engraved numbers, names and addresses to see if they were stolen. St. Vincent de Paul has also implemented a new policy encouraging the homeless to change their clothes in the store and discard their old ones on the spot so less articles may be found in the oleanders or on the streets. The green canisters that hold articles of donated clothing, known as USAgain, will be spoken to by the police department in regards of keeping their containments closed or removed. Anyone with ideas are also welcome to call Deputy Noel Vento at 895-8080 or email a solution for the public to review as a letter-to-the-editor at news@pattersonirrigator.com. Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24 or brooke@pattersonirrigator.com.
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'Lumps' shows steady following
by Maddy Houk | Patterson Irrigator
Apr 17, 2014 | 243 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The word is out about a new restaurant in town. Lumps Fish House, a family-owned establishment, has developed a good following over the six months it has been open at 31 S. Third St. Cheryle Murchison-Church, family spokesperson, said the family has always wanted to open a restaurant and chose Patterson for its potential. “We chose Patterson because it’s a small community that is starting to grow,” Cheryle said. “Business is good — the first of the year it really perked up.” The business is named for Frederick Douglas Murchison Sr. who died in May 2010 and was also known as “Lump.” He was born in Shady Grove, Ark., and lived in Reno most of his life. “Lump” was a ‘people person’ known for his laughter, singing and his love of music, according to daughter Cheryle. The family established the restaurant in October 2013 in his memory. “Lump” loved family, friends, music and good fried food — including fish and chicken. The “Lumps” menu reflects just that by offering fried meals featuring chicken, cod, catfish and prawns. The home-cooked meals are served with French fries and coleslaw. Lump’s Delight, labeled as “Lumplicious,” includes catfish fillets, cod, prawns, wings and onion rings, so the hungry diner can try a variety of food. Lumps Fish House, 31 S. Third St., is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday from 12 Noon to 6 p.m. and closed “gone fishing” on Monday and Tuesday. For information: 892-0600 Local businesses who are new to town or have news to share may call Maddy Houk at 892-6187.
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A hero in our midst
Apr 17, 2014 | 390 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Captain Les Williams-1943
Captain Les Williams-1943
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World War II Army Air Corps Capt. Les Williams is one of the few surviving Tuskegee Airmen, an all black Fighter and Bomber unit that was well decorated. The squadron is credited with helping break segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces and helped the Civil Rights movement two decades before it reached a fever pitch.Nick Rappley/Patterson Irrigator
World War II Army Air Corps Capt. Les Williams is one of the few surviving Tuskegee Airmen, an all black Fighter and Bomber unit that was well decorated. The squadron is credited with helping break segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces and helped the Civil Rights movement two decades before it reached a fever pitch.Nick Rappley/Patterson Irrigator
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World War II Army Air Corps Captain Les Williams, a hero from a bygone era, recently moved to Patterson from his lifelong home in San Mateo to be with his family during the sunset of his life. To live to be 94-years of age is remarkable enough, but his age is hardly the most interesting and honorable thing about him. Capt. Williams was no ordinary Air Corps officer, however. He is one of a few living Tuskegee Airman left alive in the world today. As of 2010, as few as 50 were believed to still be alive from the original 996 pilots. Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American aviators in the armed forces and suffered unthinkable discrimination. During World War II Jim Crow laws still existed—that is laws that called for the segregation of blacks and whites in the military. It is believed that Tuskegee Airmen, one of the most decorated units of World War II, was an early break of the color barrier. Capt. Williams was a song and tap dance man from San Mateo in his early 20s when the war broke out in 1941. He was busy teaching tap dance when the U.S. entered the war. “I tried to get around being drafted,” Capt. Williams said in an interview with the Irrigator Tuesday, April 8. He originally tried to enter the war was an Air Corps pilot in early 1942. His idea was that he didn’t want to get injured fighting as an Army infantryman, especially his profoundly talented tap dancing legs. With two years of college under him and passing all the fitness tests, he felt he met all of the requirements to fly back then, he said. Alas, he was denied at the San Francisco Air Corps recruiting station. Later, after he was an officer, he returned to the recruiting station and found the original records to find out why he was denied. The paperwork was simply stamped, “Colored.” Capt. Williams soon received a draft notice from the Army but he did not open it. “I knew what it was and I wasn’t going to open it,” he said, and promptly tried to avoid the draft for months, moving to Chicago where he was working in the entertainment business. Soon however, Uncle Sam caught up with him and, with the threat of an arrest looming, he entered the Army as an enlisted black man in late 1942. He was stationed with a group called the quartermasters—men subject to manual labor and sent to the Seattle Area to unload trucks all day long, he said. Soon, however, the only white officer on base in charge of their entire operation was married, however, and the officer wanted to be with his bride. He placed Williams in charge and made him a Sergeant Major-the highest enlisted man on the base. “I was in charge-I became a big shot,” he said. “I wanted to graduate to the highest rank you could offer me. They wanted to promote me slowly, but I didn’t have time to wait.” He lasted a year there while also entertaining officers with his tap dancing on the side and got noticed by a top general. When the general asked where he would like to serve, Williams snapped up and said as a pilot. “Once I was known to be under the hooks of General Denison, I got everything I wanted,” he said. Soon he would have more than he bargained for, entering the deep south as a black facing unthinkable discrimination. day long, he said. Soon, however, the only white officer on base in charge of their entire operation was married and wanted to be with his bride. He placed Williams in charge and made him a Sergeant Major-the highest enlisted man on the base. “I was in charge-I became a big shot,” he said. “I wanted to graduate to the highest rank you could offer me. They wanted to promote me slowly, but I didn’t have time to wait.” He lasted a year there while also entertaining officers with his tap dancing on the side and got noticed by a top general. When the general asked where he would like to serve, Williams snapped up and said as a pilot. “Once I was known to be under the hooks of General Denison, I got everything I wanted,” he said. Soon he would have more than he bargained for, entering the deep south as a black facing unthinkable discrimination. Editor’s note: This is the first of a two part story regarding the military career and life of new Pattersonite Capt. Les Williams. Nick Rappley can be reached at nick@pattersonirrigator.com or 209-568-9975.
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