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Latest News in Raisin City, CA

Fresno woman feels saddened, disoriented as she witnesses the removal of raisin vineyards

Editorials and other Opinion content offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent from the work of our newsroom reporters.I’m upset. Raisins have been produced in the Fresno area for almost 150 years. We used to be the “Raisin Capital of the World.” Now, our local vineyards are being razed at an alarming rate. Our old identity has run its course. All I hear is a death rattle.Take a short ride outside the boundaries of our ever-expanding cities and towns and look around. You&rsquo...

Editorials and other Opinion content offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent from the work of our newsroom reporters.

I’m upset. Raisins have been produced in the Fresno area for almost 150 years. We used to be the “Raisin Capital of the World.” Now, our local vineyards are being razed at an alarming rate. Our old identity has run its course. All I hear is a death rattle.

Take a short ride outside the boundaries of our ever-expanding cities and towns and look around. You’ll understand what I’m talking about. Those of you living near an almond orchard or a mandarin grove already know. A life ends gradually, yet halts with a sobering force.

On a recent visit to a cemetery in Fowler, I was bothered by an unexpected view. Across the avenue, a large vineyard had been leveled. The next day, I returned for another look. Crinkly vine stumps were strewn across the land as if they were revolutionaries who had lost the battle. At the edge of a felled row was a lone grapevine, maybe 2 years old, still stuck in the dirt. A protective, slightly moldy paper wrapper covered its base. Burchell Nursery, it said. This was probably a replacement vine placed into the ground when there was still hope.

The plant had a bright energy radiating through its core. I could feel it. Tiny green leaves had begun to push out through a cane, as all grapevines do in March. But this specimen’s days were numbered. A field worker’s shovel would soon call its fate, the fate of a thousand other vines that lay flattened before me. Vineyards planted during my grandparents’ time lasted a hundred years. This farmer had given up the ghost.

With a couple of phone calls, I could have learned the owner’s name. I didn’t have the heart. I’d already heard enough stories of late. A friend was struggling to find someone to lease her vineyard. Another friend began to weep in my car as she considered the possibility of losing the vines she knew as a child.

Viticulture isn’t easy. The price of farm labor is high. So is the cost of electricity to pump water and fertilizer to support the land. To ease these burdens, some farmers have gravitated toward drip irrigation or mechanized picking. But even with these cost-saving measures, producing raisins hardly pencils out when you’re not getting a good price for your product. Many raisin farmers have transitioned to new crops. Others have abandoned tangled rows altogether until they decide what to do next. Anyone associated with the raisin industry has been pressed into some kind of corner.

In 2000, an estimated 280,000 acres of raisin grapes were harvested in California, a peak number. By 2020, the bearing acreage had declined to 145,000. I don’t think Americans are eating less trail mix or raisin toast than we were 20 years ago. But other countries are producing raisins more cheaply than we are. I’ve been told only 20 percent of the world’s supply currently originates from California. This percentage used to be much higher.

It could be that not all the raisins you’re eating were even grown in the Central Valley. There are whispers that some of the raisins packed locally are being supplemented with foreign product. If this is true, where are these raisins coming from? Turkey? Iran? China? No one is talking.

There are also complaints that the middlemen and women, the raisin packers themselves, haven’t always played well in the sandbox. There’s a sense they’ve been making large profits on the backs of small farmers who are operating within tight margins. At a national level, similar complaints can be heard throughout the farming industry, regardless of commodity. Meanwhile, it’s too late to fix the issues for the farmers who have already moved on.

I admit my perspective is a sentimental one. I grew up on a vineyard that no longer exists. If I tend to romanticize the lost topography of the Central Valley, I’m not ashamed. I don’t see land as a means to an end, a simple spot on the Earth to grow a peach, a grape, or a house. I see the agricultural fields that surround us as a mirror reflecting the parts of ourselves that are most human and vital.

In this place, mourning doves fly over old vineyards and new orchards to land in our backyards. A shared connection rises from their spring birdsong, no matter how pixilated and otherworldly our individual lives become.

Here’s the first announced challenger to Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes

José Ramírez – who was 28 years old when he became city manager of Orange Cove and later took that role in Firebaugh and Livingston – has his eyes set on writing history: Becoming the first Latino living outside the City of Fresno to serve on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.To do that, he must defeat two-term incumbent Buddy Mendes in District 4, whose map remains little changed since Ramírez grew up in a since-eliminated labor camp near Raisin City and attended Washington Union High School....

José Ramírez – who was 28 years old when he became city manager of Orange Cove and later took that role in Firebaugh and Livingston – has his eyes set on writing history: Becoming the first Latino living outside the City of Fresno to serve on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

To do that, he must defeat two-term incumbent Buddy Mendes in District 4, whose map remains little changed since Ramírez grew up in a since-eliminated labor camp near Raisin City and attended Washington Union High School.

Ramírez, 50, announced his candidacy Thursday morning in front of the Fresno County Hall of Records, which houses the board. Among those expressing their support for Ramírez were former Assemblymember Juan Arámbula, who also served on the board.

“I’m a practical and effective leader who knows how to get things done,” said Ramírez at his kickoff event. “It’s about bringing new voices to the board. It’s about putting people over politics,” he said.

Mendes, a farmer in the Riverdale area, defeated Fowler City Councilmember Daniel Parra in 2014, and ran unopposed in 2018. Parra has expressed interest in running again.

Ramírez, who has filed a lawsuit against the Livingston City Council after it fired him last July in a move criticized by residents and county elected officials, lives in Selma. He lived in Fresno and commuted to Livingston for seven of the eight years he served the Merced County city.

“I’ve been a champion for the Valley,” said Ramírez in a Wednesday evening interview. He decided to run for supervisor after listening to community leaders. “I can make a difference here.”

Ramírez – whose endorsements include former Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante and former Los Ángeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – expects to raise $500,000 for a winning campaign.

“I understand and know the needs of the county and the region,” said Ramírez, who has a bachelor’s degree in construction management and a master’s degree in public administration from Fresno State.

“I’m running because I know how to get people resources; because I know that there’s a lot more state and federal resources that we can actually bring to our county,” said Ramírez, a father of six children ages 13 to 23.

Ramírez said he is very familiar with the district and its needs. District 4 is largely rural but includes nine of the county’s 15 cities. Driving from Coalinga on the west side of the district to Orange Cove on the east side can take more than 1½ hours.

The district is 74% Latino, but only 62% are voting-age citizens. In the November 2020 election, Latinos accounted for an estimated 57% of voters.

If Ramírez wins, Fresno County, with a 53.6% Latino population, would have two Latinos on the board of supervisors at the same time for the first time. (Supervisor Sal Quintero’s term is through 2025).

Ramírez, who has been active with the Fresno Latino Rotary Club, founded Community Development Inc. in 2015. The company handles project development, affordable housing and consulting.

He worked for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation before he went into public administration.

“Public service is in my DNA,” said Ramírez, who developed an interest in city government as a college intern for Clovis when he was encouraged by city manager Kathy Millison to go into public administration.

“I found out it’s about getting people the resources they need,” he said. “I consider myself a social entrepreneur, helping people and helping people help themselves.”

Arámbula, at Thursday’s press conference, praised Ramírez’s background.

“Ramírez knows how to get things done. He doesn’t yell at people. He listens and he works with everyone to make things better,” said Arámbula. “He brings a successful career as a city manager, a private businessman, a philanthropist, and a civic leader to the board of supervisors.”

Esta historia fue publicada originalmente el 27 de enero de 2022 1:06 pm.

Local festival hopes to inspire Latinas to expand their horizons

RAISIN CITY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Central Valley woman is working to help her fellow Latinas expand their horizons while celebrating their culture.On Saturday, May 8, one local festival in Raisin City will host vendors from across the state for a powerful event. Local women will share their stories to inspire other women to pursue their dreams regardless of where they are in life."There is an unbalanced balance to pursuing your dreams and goals, and you don't have to sacrifice your family," said Alejandra Torres, the fe...

RAISIN CITY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Central Valley woman is working to help her fellow Latinas expand their horizons while celebrating their culture.

On Saturday, May 8, one local festival in Raisin City will host vendors from across the state for a powerful event. Local women will share their stories to inspire other women to pursue their dreams regardless of where they are in life.

"There is an unbalanced balance to pursuing your dreams and goals, and you don't have to sacrifice your family," said Alejandra Torres, the festival's founder.

Torres is a Central Valley native who had the vision to bring Latinas together for an event that would provide inspiration, resources, and moral support.

But the pandemic forced her to put that dream on pause.

"It was sad. I was going to give up on this and thank God for people like Sonia, who encouraged me and said, 'let's just do it!'" Torres said.

Torres says she's had to overcome a number of challenges to achieve success in her business and personal life, and now she wants to help other Latinas realize how strong they are.

"We need to be loud about who we are, not to be egotistic, but hey, I came from a humble beginning, my parents were farm workers, and I was able to acquire the American life, " said Torres.

The event will have six Latina speakers sharing their stories; 49-year-old Sonia Arreguin is one of them.

She is President of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a mother, wife, full-time employee, and currently pursuing her Ph.D.

"It was something that I have been wanting to do for a while, so the question was if not now than when. I hope if someone hears my story, they will think, 'If she can do it, so can I,'" said Arreguin.

Torres says although the event is geared toward Latina women, everyone is welcome to participate in what is expected to be a positive and motivating atmosphere.

"This, I think, is one of the first events that is opening up and saying, 'hey come, let's gather, hear music and inspire one another,'" said Torres.

Over 40 vendors from across California will be present, and CDC guidelines, including wearing a mask and social distancing, will be encouraged.

Tickets are $25. You can buy them here or at the door. If you know a vendor, you can reach out to them for a discounted price.

The event kicks off at 11:00 am and goes until 6:00 pm at Hacienda La ALborada located at 9199 S Bryan Ave, Raisin City, CA 93652.

These are the Central Valley cities with the fastest-growing home prices

Supply and demand drive the real estate market, affecting everything from building and lot values to availability for buyers and sellers. These forces are usually closely aligned with an area’s economy, job market, population, demographics, location, interest rates, and several other constantly evolving factors. The coronavirus pandemic put an enormous strain on the economy, but created a real estate boom driven largely by ...

Supply and demand drive the real estate market, affecting everything from building and lot values to availability for buyers and sellers. These forces are usually closely aligned with an area’s economy, job market, population, demographics, location, interest rates, and several other constantly evolving factors. The coronavirus pandemic put an enormous strain on the economy, but created a real estate boom driven largely by people buying second homes as vacation properties.

Stacker compiled a list of cities with the fastest growing home prices in Fresno, CA using data from Zillow. Cities are ranked by the change in Zillow Home Values Index for all homes and apartments over the last year as of January 2022. The typical home value in the United States increased over the last year by +19.9% to $325,677.

Keep reading to see if your home city made the list.

#20. Selma, CA

– 1 year price change: +20.9%– 5 year price change: +56.8%– Typical home value: $318,246 (#19 most expensive city in metro)

#19. San Joaquin, CA

– 1 year price change: +21.0%– 5 year price change: +65.6%– Typical home value: $269,265 (#29 most expensive city in metro)

#18. Friant, CA

– 1 year price change: +21.2%– 5 year price change: +47.6%– Typical home value: $597,448 (#2 most expensive city in metro)

#17. Tollhouse, CA

– 1 year price change: +21.3%– 5 year price change: +56.7%– Typical home value: $429,939 (#8 most expensive city in metro)

#16. Reedley, CA

– 1 year price change: +21.3%– 5 year price change: +54.5%– Typical home value: $329,117 (#16 most expensive city in metro)

#15. Riverdale, CA

– 1 year price change: +21.4%– 5 year price change: +63.7%– Typical home value: $289,980 (#23 most expensive city in metro)

#14. Caruthers, CA

– 1 year price change: +21.4%– 5 year price change: +61.4%– Typical home value: $316,366 (#20 most expensive city in metro)

#13. Clovis, CA

– 1 year price change: +21.7%– 5 year price change: +55.2%– Typical home value: $482,056 (#6 most expensive city in metro)

#12. Fresno, CA

– 1 year price change: +22.1%– 5 year price change: +64.5%– Typical home value: $354,622 (#15 most expensive city in metro)

#11. Sanger, CA

– 1 year price change: +23.1%– 5 year price change: +63.2%– Typical home value: $377,437 (#11 most expensive city in metro)

#10. Lakeshore, CA

– 1 year price change: +23.2%– 5 year price change: +28.4%– Typical home value: $514,125 (#5 most expensive city in metro)

#9. Coalinga, CA

– 1 year price change: +24.5%– 5 year price change: +61.0%– Typical home value: $261,093 (#30 most expensive city in metro)

#8. Auberry, CA

– 1 year price change: +24.6%– 5 year price change: +50.1%– Typical home value: $444,280 (#7 most expensive city in metro)

#7. Raisin City, CA

– 1 year price change: +25.0%– 5 year price change: +77.6%– Typical home value: $285,666 (#24 most expensive city in metro)

#6. Prather, CA

– 1 year price change: +25.4%– 5 year price change: +52.6%– Typical home value: $546,527 (#4 most expensive city in metro)

#5. Squaw Valley, CA

– 1 year price change: +27.1%– 5 year price change: +61.7%– Typical home value: $366,147 (#13 most expensive city in metro)

#4. Miramonte, CA

– 1 year price change: +28.6%– 5 year price change: +59.1%– Typical home value: $293,506 (#22 most expensive city in metro)

#3. Big Creek, CA

– 1 year price change: +30.4%– 5 year price change: +71.9%– Typical home value: $555,962 (#3 most expensive city in metro)

#2. Dunlap, CA

– 1 year price change: +32.3%– 5 year price change: +74.4%– Typical home value: $377,342 (#12 most expensive city in metro)

#1. Shaver Lake, CA

– 1 year price change: +32.6%– 5 year price change: +45.5%– Typical home value: $683,237 (#1 most expensive city in metro)

$50 million statewide scam targeted this school district in Fresno County, DA says

A Fresno County school is one several schools authorities in San Diego say fell victim to a statewide fraud they believe siphoned at least $50 million in total from California over several years.Raisin City Elementary School in rural Fresno County was listed among the nearly two dozen schools named as victims last month by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office following a yearlong investigation. Prosecutors say the alleged fraud began in San Diego and moved to the other parts of the state over several years.An indictme...

A Fresno County school is one several schools authorities in San Diego say fell victim to a statewide fraud they believe siphoned at least $50 million in total from California over several years.

Raisin City Elementary School in rural Fresno County was listed among the nearly two dozen schools named as victims last month by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office following a yearlong investigation. Prosecutors say the alleged fraud began in San Diego and moved to the other parts of the state over several years.

An indictment handed down May 17 accuses 11 defendants of pocketing millions of taxpayer dollars intended for charter school students.

Defendants Sean McManus, 46, and Jason Schrock, 44, spent the money on themselves and their families, prosecutors said. They were described in court records as the ringleaders of the alleged fraud.

McManus and Schrock, along with nine co-defendants who are alleged to have played various roles in the scheme, face numerous charges including conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds, paying for student information and conflict of interest.

Schrock, of Long Beach, was arrested, but McManus is believed to be in Australia, according to the district attorney’s office.

Schrock faces 62 counts and more than 40 years in prison if convicted. McManus is charged with 64 counts and is facing more than 40 years in prison, prosecutors say.

Neither Raisin City Superintendent Juan Sandoval nor school board President Nancy Schwabenland responded to requests for comment.

Kim Cooper, a teacher at Raisin City Elementary School, said she and her colleagues felt something was wrong when they were instructed to hand out independent study forms to their kids in December 2017.

The forms, reportedly for previous winter and summer break programs run by a charter school, were backdated, she said, and students were told they would get a pizza party if everyone had their parents sign the forms.

Cooper said most of the student body turned the forms in, but “there’s no way that all our students showed up” to the programs.

The Raisin City School District, besides its four charter schools, is composed only of Raisin City Elementary School. It sits about 15 miles southwest of Fresno, surrounded on three sides by vineyards and an orchard in the tiny town of Raisin City.

A state audit in July 2017 made no mention of the charter schools but found that “sufficient evidence exists to indicate that fraud, misappropriation of district funds and/or assets or other illegal activities may have occurred” at the school district.

There has also been a shakeup of school board members and superintendents in recent years.

But the remote district was targeted by McManus and Schrock, prosecutors say, because of its size and limited experience in oversight. California school districts receive funds in the form of oversight fees when they authorize charter schools, which could have worked as an incentive for the district.

Prosecutors said McManus and Schrock convinced Raisin City to authorize three virtual charter schools between July 2017 and May 2018, then enrolled Raisin City Elementary students during their school break, according to the indictment.

One of the charter schools allegedly provided a winter camp to Raisin City Elementary School students in December 2017 by paying employees to provide the program. They enrolled 301 students for 17 days at the charter school at a profit of over $300,000.

A letter sent home to parents states about 60 students participated in the winter program, yet 301 were counted. The students were being disenrolled from Raisin City Elementary and enrolled in the California Academy of Sports Science Fresno, then being re-enrolled at their regular school after the programs, according to court records.

“The state pays school districts based on ‘average daily attendance’ (ADA),” the district attorney’s office said in a news release, “and the defendants used their knowledge of how the state doles out funding to collect as much money as possible.”

Teachers escalated their concerns via email to the Fresno County Office of Education in January 2018, but the Fresno County Superintendent of schools “does not have jurisdiction over charter schools approved by individual school districts,” according to Communications and Public Relations Officer Lisa Birrell.

She said Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino contacted the Raisin City superintendent to make him aware of the concerns.

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