Patriotic Cake – A Porterville Portrait

Dorothea Lange, Porterville, near the scene of Patrotic Cake, 2012

In which we attend City Council so you don’t have to – but we wish you did!

Curious that both Brian Ward and Greg Shelton were not at the public session of City Council’s meeting last night.

I know that Shelton was present at City Hall, as I was hanging around outside near where his distinctive truck was parked.

I don’t know for sure that Ward was there or not.

City Attorney Lew reported that action was taken on one item, I think she mentioned it was 3-0, but she seemed unsure as to how to report it.

It was announced that Ward and Shelton would not be present for the remainder as they were both “sick”.

This was interesting because this meeting was the one meeting of the year where it was critical to pass the budget, and you would think both men would want their votes attached to the results, as this is one of the most important votes of the whole year.

During public comments, it was requested that the vote be postponed until the men are present, but it went on anyway as there was a quorum, and McCracken asked for clarification from City Attorney Lew that the budget had to be passed by June 30th by the City Charter.

She affirmed that, and Hamilton indicated “we know how they feel anyway” and the vote was held.

Certainly other meetings have had items continued or otherwise procedurally postponed until a specially scheduled meeting only a week later.

Such a delayed meeting would have still brought the vote in before June 30th, and left all of the Councilman as being on the record as to their votes on the all-important Budget.

And there is already hardball being played with next years budget, as one of the other items last night involved broken negotiations with the lowest paid bargaining unit at City Hall. A 3 percent cut in their salary was imposed, saving no more than what appears to be approximately 100,000 dollars and perhaps as few as 30,000. All that out of a ~20 million dollar budget. The workers spoke after the meeting of needing to make choices about which family members will have to do without insurance, or of not being able to afford diapers for an infant, of generally living very close to the edge of where paycheck to paycheck doesn’t even cut it anymore.

This reminded me especially of the Flag Day ceremonies last week, with Irish and McCracken also present (but surprisingly none of the other Councilman). At the conclusion of the ceremonies, attendees ate a giant sheet cake in the form of a flag in front of SaveMart, and then streamed to their cars.

Some of them passed by a homeless man by the empty building that used to be Long’s Drugs, sitting there with his dog, his rucksack, and his bicycle that had a flat tire and a sign that said “I need a job”. Even the Church Scouts passed him by (I don’t know the official name of this group in their khaki shirts, yellow neckerchiefs, and black socks, but I think I learned they are associated with a church in town during last fall’s Veteran’s Day Parade).

None of the local patriots who had just spent the previous 2 hours patting themselves on the back for being veterans or related to veterans who fought in wars for all Americans and the American Way even rose past the figurative level of Marie Antoinette’s notorious cry of “Let them eat cake” and offered this hungry man an opportunity to eat Patriotic Cake.

This took place only blocks from where a very famous series of Dorothea Lange photos documented the depth of the Depression and made the John Steinbeck novel “Grapes of Wrath” about real people for America.

Only blocks away, this latter-day saint of an American refugee sat through the ceremony celebrating his America too and he was not offered any Patriotic Cake. Some things never change.

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