Family Stories, not Census Forms, Explain Ethnic Identities

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 by Gail Lemley Burnett

“Are you Hispanic?” isn’t supposed to be a tough question. Yet every time I meet it while completing a census form or medical history, my pencil hovers between “Yes” and “No” and my eyes search for the most accurate answer, which is never there: “Sort of.”

I’m one of the millions of Americans who occasionally change their ethnic designation. It’s complicated. My mother’s father emigrated with his family from Mazatlán, Mexico, when he was in his teens. He married my grandmother — not Hispanic — in Los Angeles in the late 1920s, and they had two daughters. My grandfather’s family was big, noisy, and still firmly tied to the Mexican state of Sinaloa. When my curly-haired Aunt Gloria was a little girl, the family took her there at festival time and dressed her as an adorable señorita. My mother and Gloria grew up in southern California in the 1940s and ’50s with a Spanish surname and were sometimes told, in those racist “good old days,” that they were “not like the other Mexican girls — you’re clean.” How could that history not be a part of our heritage? read more

County Commission Hesitant to Endorse Fracking Ban

by Leslie Layton

Butte County planning commissioners debated last week an ordinance to ban fracking, finally tabling a measure they said might be purely symbolic.

And if an ordinance that would ban fracking in Butte County is a symbolic gesture — as some argue — the importance of the symbolism to the state’s oil-and-gas industry was clear at the Oct. 23 meeting. The Commission faced upfront industry lobbying from statewide groups opposed to a local ban.

After hearing testimony from more than 30 people, the Commission voted 4-0 to table the matter until its Dec. 11 meeting. (Commissioner Harrel Wilson was absent.) Perhaps more telling, the commissioners also voted 4-0 to pare down the draft ordinance by about 95 percent in order to consider an abbreviated version that would only ban the disposal of fracking by-products in Butte County. read more

Strategists Work for The Industry, Oppose Fracking Ban

by Leslie Layton

When Robin Cook addressed Butte County supervisors to ask for a 30-day study on a ballot initiative that would ban fracking, she talked convincingly about her concern for her father’s —and the county’s— finances.

“My family owns property that has a capped well,” she told supervisors at their July 29 meeting. “From what we can understand … this would be a takings of our property. The debate today is about the … petition coming before you and whether or not that language is bankruptcy language for this county. Nobody wants to see this county be lost in a big old mess of lawsuits.” read more

Anti-Fracking Ballot Initiative Faces Two-Year Delay

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by Leslie Layton

The grass-roots campaign to ban fracking in Butte County via ballot initiative came to a crashing halt with a July 29 vote by the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors voted, 4-1, in favor of a 30-day study of the initiative rather than to place it on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The board also said it would proceed with work on an ordinance county attorneys are writing that would also ban fracking and that would likely include more detail and definition of terms. That’s been underway since the board’s April 8 meeting, when supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a county-wide fracking ban. read more

Fracktivists Deliver the Goods

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by Leslie Layton

Some 20 Butte County anti-fracking activists turned their sky-blue campaign t-shirts inside out Thursday to comply with rules against politicking in the clerk-recorder’s office, and delivered boxes of petitions to the Registrar of Voters.

Frack-Free Butte County activists said they collected 9,802 signatures that would qualify an initiative for the Nov. 4 ballot that, if approved by voters, would ban fracking and other unconventional oil and gas-extraction methods locally.

And even though there’s not yet been fracking in Butte County — to anyone’s knowledge — 4th District Sen. Jim Nielsen has been quietly lobbying against a ban. In a letter that was sent to many Butte County Republicans and appears to have been authored by Nielsen, the senator calls the ban an “ill-conceived maneuver meant to be symbolic.” read more

A Bold, Surprising Vote in Butte County

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Butte County Frack-Free Campaign Group - photo by Karen Laslo
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by Leslie Layton

A majority on the Butte County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to draft an ordinance that would ban fracking, a step that could place this county at the vanguard of a grass-roots movement to halt the practice.

In a surprisingly unscripted move, the supervisors voted 4-1 to consider a comprehensive fracking ban after county staffers research how best this can be done. The vote was applauded by dozens of anti-fracking activists, many of whom had spoken in favor of the more moderate measure that was on the agenda — a recommendation the county amend its zoning code to ensure local oversight of fracking projects. read more