Ah, Modesto –- the proud producers of the nation’s milk, almonds, chickens, cattle, and walnuts. This agro-business-rich city touted $2.5 billion in agricultural production two years ago. But in classic San Joaquin Valley agro-business style, it doesn’t look like much of that dough went to its four surrounding Latino neighborhoods that all lack basic infrastructure, police service and sewage systems. A decision from a San Francisco federal appeals court recently opened up a 2004 lawsuit by some Latino Modesto residents about the "islands’" lacking resources. The residents are accusing the city, and Stanislaus County, of race discrimination because it refused to include four predominately Latino islands in the city consequently denying them basic needs although residents are within the city’s "sphere of influence." So what’s the hold up, Modesto? There are too many Latinos and we can’t agree on how to split up taxes, say city and county officials. No joke. I’m sure that’s a real quote from one of them. According to the Modesto Bee:
Years ago, [county and city officials] agreed on tax-sharing ratios for neighborhoods that were 48 percent Latino based on 2000 Census data, but never reached accords on islands that were 71 percent Latino.
Basically, the county’s Latino population grew and they didn’t feel the need to do anything about it. But the appeals justices weren’t having it. They sided with the neighborhoods who claim that it’s because the residents are Latinos that city and county officials are dragging their feet on the decision. And if the city and county drag their feet any longer, Latinos in the four islands will continue to wait longer for police in case of an emergency and go without parks, recreation centers, gutters, sidewalks and streetlights. Maybe this second time around in court will get the city and county’s thriving agro-business to divvy up the next $2.5 billion with those people who really need it.