Good afternoon, and welcome to the Fresnoland Lab newsletter. Today is Tuesday, March 23.
This week in Fresnoland, Dympna and Monica wrote about how southwest Fresno residents are fighting back against an industrial rezone; and, Cassandra wrote about the state’s push to force a polluting Fresno recycling facility to clean up their waste.
It’s Dympna Ugwu-Oju, editor for Fresnoland, here.
Are you interested in keeping your community informed on the decisions and policies that impact their lives? If so, please consider applying to join the Fresnoland Documenters program.
Fresnoland is recruiting a new cohort of Documenters this spring after training an initial cohort of 22 community members last fall. Documenters are trained and paid to attend and take notes or live-tweet at public meetings throughout the central San Joaquin Valley.
Funded by the James Irvine Foundation, the Fresno Documenters extend the ability of news organizations to gather information from meetings — councils, commissions, agencies and boards — particularly in rural communities which at the moment have little or no media coverage.
Here are some questions and answers to provide some background on the program.
What is the Documenters program?
The original Documenters program was founded in 2016 by City Bureau in Chicago to bridge civic divides through training and paying every-day citizens to cover meetings taking place in your local governments and agencies everyday. Two other U.S. cities — Cleveland and Detroit — are part of the Documenters network.
What do Documenters do?
Documenters attend and cover public meetings of your local governments and agencies to take notes or do live-tweets of these events. By doing so, Documenters will be filling a void that exists around the country — government bodies holding thousands of public meetings every day, but the vast majority receive no media coverage and produce minimal records.
Why do we need Documenters?
The present media landscape of smaller newsrooms makes the Documenters program invaluable. In the past, the Fresno Bee had bureaus in various communities in the Valley and was able to attend the various local government meetings and follow developments.
The situation is very different today. As resources tighten, more and more public meetings are left uncovered. As a result, on any given day, dozens of public government meetings — from local school boards to city councils — take place in various communities. The decisions made by these governing bodies often escape the scrutiny of the media and the public, even though they impact the daily lives of residents.
Will Documenters be paid for their work?
After they receive training, the Documenters will be paid $20 an hour to attend local government meetings. They will observe the proceedings and take detailed notes which journalists can use for subsequent news stories. These notes are available to the public for anyone to use and share. Some Documenters will also be paid to live-tweet important details about an ongoing meeting.
What kind of training will Documenters receive?
The Documenters will receive training in various areas of information gathering, including note-taking, audio recording, researching, live-tweeting and video recording. They will also learn about the laws that govern how public meetings are conducted in California as well as their own rights to attend, including, defamation laws, the Brown Act and Freedom of Information Act.
What experience does a Documenter need?
None — we only ask that Documenters be attentive to detail and committed to accuracy and transparency, and to be community-minded. We have no education requirements. Bilingual applicants are strongly encouraged.
Does Fresnoland already have a Documenters program?
The first cohort of Fresno Documenters started in November 2020. The group of about 20 people is made up of educators, community engagement specialists, students, freelancers, a public relations expert, a poet and an accountant, and they represent these central San Joaquin communities: Fowler, Sanger, Ivanhoe, Exeter, Madera, Selma, Clovis and Fresno. Their work is published at www.thefresnoland.com/documenters.
There is no time limit to the Documenters program. Once you’ve gone through the trainings, you’re free to sign up for as many meetings as your schedule (and our capacity) allows.
And now, the week’s top reads:
(For the most recent local coronavirus updates, visit www.fresnobee.com/coronavirus.)
Housing, Transportation, and Land Use
Despite a 2019 lawsuit against the city of Clovis for lacking affordable housing, none of the 1,100 units built in the city in 2020 fits the state standard of low-income affordable housing. Fresno Bee
The former Smugglers Inn on Blackstone Avenue is now a 165-unit affordable housing project to house local individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Fresno Bee
While it is generally agreed that the city of Fresno has done a lot to house the homeless, there are disagreements about how to address the larger issue of homelessness. Fresno Bee
Could these bills help California build more affordable housing? CalMatters
The nation’s homeless population grew by 2% from last year for the fourth year in a row. The increase does not reflect the impact of the pandemic. NPR.org
A Chicago suburb starts to shape reparations for Black residents who were targets of housing discrimination. New York Times
Small landlords are left struggling when renters stop paying. CalMatters
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is likely to extend an order aimed at preventing evictions during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The CDC order is currently set to expire at the end of March. NPR.org
Economy and Neighborhood Inequality
Grocery workers in California are asking their employers to pay them hazardous pay for being in the frontline for more than a year since the pandemic started. Sacramento Bee
The Labor Department showed that jobless claims climbed from 725,000 the week before to 770,000, a sign that layoffs remain high even as much of the U.S. economy is steadily recovering from the coronavirus recession. APNews
As many as 2 million unemployed workers could experience delays in getting extended jobless benefits, including the $300 weekly supplement, despite lawmakers’ efforts to complete the $1.9 trillion stimulus package before the benefits ran out. Washington Post
President Biden’s advisers are preparing to recommend a $3 trillion spending on a sweeping set of efforts aimed at boosting the economy, reducing carbon emissions and narrowing economic inequality. New York Times
Based on earlier patterns of unemployment fraud, the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General has estimated that at least $63 billion of the pandemic-related benefits were stolen in 2020. NPR.org
Water and Air Quality
California, get ready for water cutbacks. Cities, farms receive grim warning about supply. Sacramento Bee
Smoke from wildfires that burned millions of acres in the West wiped out all the clean air gains made when the pandemic shut down in 2020 limited travel and all activities. Washington Post
According to a National Weather Service advisory, Fresno, Madera and Mariposa counties may experience wind gusts of up to 60 mph Tuesday, especially in higher mountain elevations. Fresno Bee
How ignored water systems are finally getting attention on Capitol Hill. Roll Call