Concerns about state's future inspire lengthy trek
By JAMIE OPPENHEIM
Apr. 01, 2010
The Mamas and the Papas' 1965 song "California Dreamin'" blared from
speakers at Sierra Presbyterian Church on Wednesday.
Hundreds of education and labor activists waved protest signs against
cuts to public education and services as they poured onto the church lawn.
Marchers from the 48-day March for California's Future gathered for
the sole purpose of restoring the dream that the '60s folk-rock band
"Here's the future of California," said John Stewart of the Merced
Mariposa Central Labor Council, into a microphone as marchers crossed
Yosemite Avenue along M Street. "No more cuts. We're only part way on
our journey. This is the beginning where working people of America
The march, which began March 5 in Bakersfield and will end April 21
in Sacramento, rallied in Merced on Wednesday, in part to honor the
birth of labor hero Cesar Chavez, after marching from Planada.
The California Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of
State, County and Municipal Employees and other labor unions
organized the statewide march.
The activists will follow the same route Cesar Chavez took in 1966
from Delano to the State Capitol following grape workers as they
struck for higher wages. On this leg of the marchers' 48-day journey,
Merced/Mariposa California Teachers Association (CTA) united with the
other unions to rally against the massive state cuts to education and
The fact that people are marching up the middle of California should
send a message to the state Legislature that something is wrong, said
Rolf Talberg, of the CTA for Merced and Mariposa County.
"I hope the people in Sacramento are paying attention to this,"
Talberg said. "They need to get their noses to the grindstone to get
this resolved. The fact that we can't sustain these institutions is sad."
In the past two years, the state has slashed its education budget by
This year, 150 teachers out of 2,700 in Merced County were issued pink slips.
In Mariposa County, 14 teachers out of 120 received preliminary
layoff notices this year.
As one, marchers asked voters along their journey to sign a petition
that would place the Majority Budget Act on the November 2010 ballot.
The initiative would require a 50 percent-plus-one majority to pass
the budget, as opposed to the two-thirds majority now needed to pass
According to the group, the new provision would keep the minority
from holding the document hostage so they can create tax loopholes
for corporations or lower taxes for the highest income earners.
The group is looking for any way the state can raise revenue without
taking away more funding from education and public services.
Placing an oil severance tax on companies that drill oil in
California and raising income tax on the higher income-earning
citizens are the group's main solutions to raising revenue.
Joel Knox, chairman for the Merced/Mariposa CTA, said it's not a
question of supporting this or that -- something simply needs to be done.
"We have to either generate more revenue, or look at making cuts in
other areas," Knox said. "We're getting 40 percent of our funding and
60 percent of cuts. They have got to start looking at other areas."
The lyrics seemed just right for Wednesday's march:
"I stopped into a church
I passed along the way
You know, I got down on my knees
And I pretend to pray..."
Except these folks weren't pretending.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or