A (Too Short) Life, Well Lived

Ulises Valdez was born in 1969 in Los Cuachalalates, a tiny village in Michoacán, Mexico. At age ten, he quit school and went to Mexico City to work in his cousin’s flea market. Two years later, he went to work cutting sugarcane. At age sixteen, on his third attempt, he crossed the border and joined his brother in Sonoma County. Ulises lied about his age and was hired to prune vines in the Dry Creek Valley.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress passed and the President signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The law, referred to as the Reagan Amnesty, gave illegal immigrants the opportunity to become legal residents. Valdez took advantage, obtaining temporary, then, ten years later, permanent resident status. In the interim, he went back to Mexico, married and brought his new wife to Sonoma County.

Valdez progressed from vineyard worker to vineyard manager to partner in a vineyard management company to sole owner of a vineyard management company. In 1996 he became a U.S. citizen.

Over the years Valdez also began leasing and purchasing land and planting vineyards. He supplied premium grapes to high-end wineries. The Valdez businesses employ 100 people and manage more than 1,000 acres of vineyards. In 2004 Ulises Valdez produced the first wines for his own label. Six years later, with 100 acres owned or leased, the Valdez Family Winery opened. His daughter Elizabeth became the winemaker in 2016. Her sister and two brothers also work in the business.

Ulises Valdez died of a heart attack September 12, at age 49, in the midst of harvest frenzy. Sonoma County vintners and longtime clients are showing their respect, supporting the family, helping in the fields, winery and offices.

Don’t Know Much About Herstory

The state of Texas is doing something about all those women cluttering up history books. After years of fighting the battle against left-wing bias in classrooms, the State Board of Education, acting on the recommendation of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills committee, voted to eliminate some non-essential historical figures from its curriculum. The committee said the state required Texas schoolchildren to learn about too many historical persons.

Purged from Texas textbooks is the first deaf-and-blind person – of any sex – to earn a Bachelor-of-Arts degree (Helen Keller) and the first woman to run for president as the nominee of a major political party (you know who).

So who cares what Texas does?

The Texas Board approves textbooks for use in all the state’s schools. The Texas market is large enough for textbook publishers to accede to their requirements. Local districts in other states do not have the Lone Star State’s leverage of volume purchases. Thus what publishers make available to your school district has already been decided by Texas.

Columbia River Crossing

IKEA opened a big, shiny new store in Portland a couple years ago. It anchors the Cascade Station shopping center that also includes Target, Nordstrom Rack and Home Goods among its retail businesses. Cascade Station sits near Portland International Airport, strategically positioned at the south end of the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge that connects east Portland with Vancouver, Washington. The shopping destination’s parking lot is filled with autos displaying Washington license plates. The location is strategic because shoppers pay a 8.4% sales tax in Vancouver compared to the Oregon sales tax rate… oh, there is no Oregon sales tax.

Property taxes in Clark County (Vancouver) Washington are lower than Multnomah County (Portland) Oregon. The good-paying jobs, however, are on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, in Portland. Every workday Vancouver commuters clog I-5 and I-205 and their respective bridges across the Columbia. The city of Portland is infested with Washington drivers and their endearing motoring habits.

Continue reading Columbia River Crossing

Those Other Nashville Cats

Nashville Tennessee is the self-proclaimed “Home of Country Music.” The theme park-ish Opryland – operated by Marriott – is miles from the Grand Ole Opry’s previous home, the storied Ryman Auditorium and light years from the atmosphere of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, where Opry performers used to hang out. Today, Nashville churns out formulaic music described by Tom Petty as “like bad rock with a fiddle.”

Nashville’s country-music image is white. Charley Pride broke the Nashville color line in 1966, the first African-American artist to hit the country-music record charts. Five decades later, Darius Rucker is the current non-white face in country music. But the city’s memoir, music and otherwise, includes an unsettled racial history.

Continue reading Those Other Nashville Cats

Your – Not Their – Tax Dollars at Work

The state of Texas prides itself as a bastion of independence and free enterprise. Business thrives without government regulation and fiercely opposes government interference in capitalistic enterprises. Except when it does want the government to interject itself into business. In a state with abhorrence for tax money subsidizing health insurance and the highest percentage of citizens without coverage, but where the Oil Depletion tax giveaway is sacred, Texas is now seeking a new federal subsidy for its favorite industry. The state wants government funding for oil and gas installations and it wants all U.S. taxpayers, not just Texans, to pay.

After more than a century-and-a-half of contributing CO2 to the world, the fossil fuel industry wants taxpayer-funded protection for the increasingly powerful storms and higher tides, effects of the changing climate. Climate-change deniers and fiscal conservatives – except when the money flows to their state – Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are pushing a scheme for $12 billion of federal money to build sixty-miles of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast. Petrochemical plants, including most of Texas’s thirty refineries, want us all to pay for protecting their facilities. (And if you believe $12 billion will be enough, well, you know…)

Texas has an $11 billion dollar “rainy day” fund, but the Republican controlled legislature opposes spending its own money to protect infrastructure in its own state.

From Talking Points Memo. Read all about it here.

Rosie the Librarian

With all the news about #MeToo and Mr. Weinstein and a certain pussy grabber, let’s return to Depression-era Seattle. Drastic funding cuts to the Seattle Public Library in 1932 resulted in fewer hours and services and pay cuts for employees. Staff was also reduced. The Library Board of Trustees came up with an equitable way to implement employee terminations:

It shall be the policy of the Seattle Library Board not to employ a married woman whose husband is able to provide her a living. Any library employee marrying a husband able to provide a reasonable income will be required to tender her resignation.

Ten years later, World War II caused the Board to loosen its restrictions and allow the hiring of a married woman… if her husband was serving in the military.