Thursday, March 25, 2010
Marcher becomes a casualty of budget cuts
Irene Gonzalez has been a juvenile probation officer in Los Angeles County since 2000. She lives in Baldwin Park with her 18-year-old son.
For all the talk about painful budget cuts, Sacramento's neglect of state highways proved literally painful for core walker Irene Gonzalez.
Irene, a Los Angeles juvenile probation officer and Central Vally émigré who is marching the entire 260 miles from Bakersfield to Sacramento, sprained her ankle Saturday two miles outside of Tulare.
The accident occurred on a severely cracked and pock-marked road along Highway 99 that is surrounded on either side by a wasteland of empty fields contaminated by agricultural runoff.
"I remember that there was a really bad smell along that road,² said Gonzalez, an executive board member of the American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local 685. "There was this green, smelly, mossy water coming out of pipes and going right into these fields we were walking next to. Then I took a wrong step on the street, because it's really messed up, and I just kept going and didn't think about it, and I just pushed myself to the limit, but once I stopped, I felt some really sharp pain, and I couldn't go forward. When I took off my shoe, the whole inside of my left foot was swollen."
The March for California's Future is designed to highlight the growing ephemerality of the California dream due to the deterioration of the state's social infrastructure that has left many citizens to fend for themselves at a time of record unemployment and home foreclosures.
Now, it appears that repairs for broken roads and environmental protection can be added to the list of needed improvements.
"It is ironic that I hurt my foot on this literally cracked street while marching to find solutions to the problems we have in California," said Gonzalez. "All the budget cuts have really taken their toll on the people and on the state's infrastructure over the years. That's why we need to restore quality public education and public services, rebuild a government that serves all Californians, and create a fair tax system to fund our state's future. Otherwise, the final casualty will be the California dream."
Gonzalez said she has been resting her ankle and icing it.
"I'm not going to let something like this stop me," she said.
Irene's injury actually happened on the 15th - she's back on the road.
Irene Gonzalez - Why I March:
I am marching because I am a fighter. I believe in fighting for our rights and our future. We can’t let the legislators walk all over us. We can’t be living from paycheck to paycheck while corporate executives are making the big bucks. If it takes a march to do it, if it takes three or four months, I’m there.
In Los Angeles, we have 2,000 minors who stay in three juvenile detention camps. These are kids who got in trouble with the law whom we’re trying to set on the right path. They go to school, receive counseling and get job training. Many of these kids come from broken homes and have mothers and fathers who were in prison or were drug addicts.
Earlier this year, Sacramento forced us to shut down a fire camp for 63 minors. These kids were learning how to be firefighters and getting real-life job skills. They actually fought fires last year in Santa Clarita, working side-by-side with real fire fighters. A lot of these kids were learning for the first time that there really is an alternative to the streets. People think of them as bad kids but most of them really want to do better. They have just never been given the guidance, motivation and attention needed to succeed.
If we’re cutting resources for these kids, what is to become of them in the future?