Who’s (re)Building America

“We’ve had a lot of Spanish-speaking workers. I say, ‘Thank Heaven for them.’ We’d be a lot further from recovering if it weren’t for them.”

As we’ve been told, Mexico and Central America are sending “not their best” across the border into the U.S. We are being overwhelmed by drug gangsters and rapists, according to the current occupant of the White House. Well, maybe not overwhelmed, exactly.

A new recovery-and-reconstruction work force has developed to keep pace with the more frequent and more severe weather events. (Nothing to do with climate change!) Like migrant agricultural workers following the crops, this emerging workforce is also mobile, following disasters: New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; Houston after Harvey; North Carolina after Florence; Florida after Irma and Michael. Much of the cleanup and rebuilding is the work of laborers and craftspeople who entered the country illegally.

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Our Local Press Democrat Beat the New York Times

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat won a Pulitzer Prize this week for its “lucid and tenacious coverage of historic wildfires that ravaged the city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, expertly utilizing an array of tools, including photography, video and social media platforms, to bring clarity to its readers — in real time and in subsequent in-depth reporting.” The Press Democrat beat out the other nominees, the Houston Chronicle and the New York Times. The fire destroyed more than five thousand homes and businesses, taking away a third of Santa Rosa’s tax base. (Kohl’s just re-opened last week.)

Our local newspaper has come a long way since Ernest Finley merged his Evening Press with the Sonoma Democrat in 1897. Both newspapers had been rabid “states rights” advocates and supporters of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Finley purchased the Santa Rosa Republican in 1948. By that time, “Democrat” and “Republican” had each done a 180-degree political change since Civil War days.

The Finley family sold the newspaper to the New York Times Company in 1985. The Times sold it in 2012 to Halifax Media, publisher of local shopper newspapers, mostly in the Southeast. Less than a year later, a group of local movers and shakers formed Sonoma Media Investments and bought the paper from Halifax. (One of the investors is Jeannie Schulz, widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz.)

The paper is apparently thriving as an independent operation in a very difficult environment for print media. The Pulitzer award should make the owners happy and maybe even increase readership.

Annie Wells, a photographer for the Press Democrat, won a Pulitzer in 1997 for her photo of the dramatic rescue of a young woman from a flooded creek by a Santa Rosa fireman.