Senator Barbara Boxer poses with the children of Saul Martinez Elementary School in Mecca.
By Raymond P. Bondad
I attended my first press conference on Thursday, June 2, 2011, as a journalist and as a character in life, featuring Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and the real Erin Brockovich. The press conference was held in Mecca, an unincorporated town in the Eastern Coachella Valley, in regards to the foul odor and poor air quality that has been plaguing the nearby neighborhoods for quite a while now.
To be honest, to me, the press conference was a bit of a dog and pony show, conveniently set in a classroom at Saul Martinez Elementary School, focused on the children of the community. I say conveniently because, despite efforts to put a lid on the noxious wreak of human wastes that affect the lives of the local communities of Mecca, Thermal and other Eastern Coachella Valley neighborhoods, the sincerity vibe just wasn’t there.
Senator Boxer is noted to own a house in Rancho Mirage and most likely would never know what it’s like living in the situations that most of these citizens are forced to live, in the filth in the East Side, about an hour’s drive from where she sips her coffee, poolside, in peace. When it came down to the nitty gritty of questions from the press, Senator Boxer kept pointing out the team of environmental protection agents who knew more about the one problem than she did. Amongst the many problems they need to tackle, the only issues they referred to in the entirety of the conference were the illegal dumping and the warehouse of burning tires that they stumbled across.
They have no known information about the dilapidated trailer parks and poisonous water supply that many East Valley communities have to deal with. And again, the back drop of this conference was at an elementary school where, during the conference, several of the students in attendance had questions written on index cards, but were not given sufficient amount of time to ask their questions because of West Valley reporters trying to get a good story and Senator Boxer’s time crunch.
With that said, at the commencement of the press conference, it wasn’t so much about the environment and the community, but about taking a picture with Erin Brockovich, who was portrayed by Julia Roberts in the 200 film “Erin Brockovich.” As my colleague Tony Aguilar and I waited nearly 30 minutes in line to ask Brockovich a few questions about her work in the Eastern Coachella Valley, so many Erin Brockovich “fans” impolitely butted their way in front of us to get a picture or pitch a slightly unbelievable sales scam. There were even teachers from the school butting in with Erin Brockovich’s book, Rock Bottom, to get an autograph, all while class should have been in session. In the end, our questions weren’t clearly answered as Brockovich referred us to her website when Aguilar asked her if she knows of any other environmental issues that need their attention in the Eastern Coachella Valley.
It’s my belief that Senator Boxer is only getting involved because she received letters from a school full of children. Yet as a community, we can take Brockovich’s advice and involve ourselves to make these changes happen, especially through social networking and technology that has slowly been made available to us. We can make a difference in numbers with our love for a better community and dedication for greatness as a whole. Either that or wait another thousand years for another politician to pretend like he or she cares.