Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

President Barack Obama arrives in Los Angeles for a 2012 fundraiser at the home of actor George Clooney.

Editorial: Welcome, Mr. President, better late than not at all

Published: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 - 12:00 am

If all goes as planned, President Barack Obama will touch down in Fresno on Friday afternoon, a few years late but welcome nonetheless.

After treating the other California as fly-over territory for the first five years of his presidency, Obama will see firsthand that California is more than Beverly Hills, Pacific Heights and the Silicon Valley.

The president won’t be raising money; Fresno is not where the money is. Instead, his focus will be on the drought and agriculture, appropriately so.

His stay will be brief, a matter of hours, leaving him little time to savor the finer parts of the Valley or see much of its blight, which is unfortunate.

He will arrive in one of America’s great melting pots, a county where 66-plus languages are spoken, from English and Spanish to Hmong, Punjabi and Armenian.

Fresno began as a 19th-century railroad and farming town and became a place where immigrants could realize the American Dream. But the boom years ended sometime back. For too many Fresno residents today, life has become about survival.

“We’ve designed an economy that provides no real competition to the farm,” Fresno journalist and author Mark Arax wrote last year. “Each generation of farmer reaches deeper in the peasant heart of Mexico for his labor. Once here, the picker and the pruner and irrigator occupy a firm, but bottom, rung on our economic ladder.”

We hope Obama and his entourage, which will include Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, take time to note the conditions in which farmworkers live and see that unemployment remains at recessionary levels in Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties.

Perhaps he can find inspiration to redouble his effort to seek common ground with Republicans on issues of income inequality, unemployment benefits and an immigration law overhaul.

Obama will spend most of his few hours in Fresno with Democrats including Gov. Jerry Brown, Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

We wish he’d squeeze in some time for the Central Valley Republicans who control the House and thus ultimately will be a part of any deal that earmarks federal money for much-needed improvements to California’s plumbing system.

As he turns his attention to Central Valley water, he should consider that vast numbers of residents, many of them farmworkers, use groundwater that is tainted with arsenic, nitrates and such long-ago banned pesticides as DBCP. In this rich nation, there is no excuse for being unable to assume that tap water is safe.

We welcome President Obama to the part of California that is not near the Pacific Ocean, and where there are few campaign money bundlers.

We wish he had dropped by sooner, but better late than not at all.

Read more articles by the Editorial Board



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