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California Leaders Made Promises After Planada Flooded. They Need to Keep Them



A UC Merced report estimated the predominantly Latino farmworker community needs $20.3 million in state relief. A 58-year resident is calling on state leaders to honor the promises they made after surveying the damage. (CalMatters/Larry Valenzuela)
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Planada has been my home for 58 years.

I’ve worked many different jobs, particularly in agriculture – as do many of the hard-working folks who make up the Planada community. So many of us have worked for years building up savings to purchase a home here.

Anastacio Rosales
Special to CalMatters

That is why it was heartbreaking for us when the homes we labored so much for were damaged or completely destroyed in the January floods. These were more than houses – they were symbols of a lifetime of hard work.

Our entire town has been impacted, though some areas more than others – something local officials and visiting state politicians don’t seem to understand. The extent of support needed by many community members is much higher than others, which is exactly why we need more assistance than what’s been provided so far.

California legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom have already pledged statewide disaster assistance, but it barely scratches the surface. The UC Merced Community and Labor Center determined we need $20.3 million from the state budget to recover.

Planada needs our state leaders to listen to us and advocate for this vital funding.

People speak of the flooding that hit many Central Valley communities as an act of Mother Nature or a climate disaster, but the flooding that devastated our community was preventable.

The creeks and canals near our community were not properly maintained. Merced County failed to do essential climate adaptation planning. They also failed to identify flood risk for our community, and by extension failed to protect us from the damage brought by the storms.

This same situation has played out in other communities across the state, showing us that a community’s income and the demographics of its residents determine whether or not they’re “worth” the investment.

This year has demonstrated how state and county officials actually feel about disadvantaged, unincorporated communities of color. Planada is a primarily Latino community. We’re a community of field workers. Despite what we give to the state every day, we continue to be ignored.

Every Californian is deserving of equal representation and attention. Our votes count just as much as anyone else.

Families have lost their homes and have become traumatized by their experiences. We are not asking to become rich – only that we receive the money we need to repair and heal our community.

I have lost all of my most valuable possessions, including family photos and precious keepsakes from my parents. Sadly, the same can be said for many of my neighbors. Houses can be repaired, but money will never return these items, or the memories they held.

Still, funding can at least help us build a new home and future.

I hope what happened to Planada can be a lesson for the rest of the state so this doesn’t happen again. I appreciate state Sen. Anna Caballero and Assemblymember Esmerelda Soria’s efforts to secure resources for our community, and I urge Newsom and the Legislature to follow suit and fully fund the $20.3 million we need to recover.

There is a famous saying in Spanish, “Que no se vayan de la vista gorda,” which essentially means “don’t turn a blind eye.” State leaders need to make good on the promises they made when they visited Planada and help us rebuild.

About the Author

Anastacio Rosales is a longtime Planada resident actively advocating for aid to help the flood-damaged community recover. The author wrote this for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.

About CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.

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