As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Remember These Moments

True to the reality of a weak political media and an inattentive public, the chatter over the results of the July budget revision, despite major cuts to the social safety net, has completely subsided. No taxes got increased and nobody "important" got hurt, so it was just time to move on. Politicians just move on to the business of raising corporate money, special interests can move on to the business of writing laws that help their bottom line, and everybody in Sacramento can praise everybody else for "sacrificing" to get things done.

Only, for the people living under the consequences of these budgets, created through a choice not to properly pay for needed services, the budget battle is not forgotten. And it doesn't consist of a group of numbers in a column. It's entirely real and it hits them every single day. Here's just one example.

Six domestic violence shelters in California have been forced to close while dozens more are scaling back services after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated all state funding for the program that supports them.

Shelters in the Central Valley town of Madera, the Sierra foothill town of Grass Valley and in Ventura County in Southern California have closed. Others in the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles and Bakersfield are on the verge of closing.

Many centers are laying off staff and closing satellite offices that serve remote areas of the state as they cope with the budget cuts. A national domestic violence group describes California's as the deepest cuts to such programs nationwide, even as other states have reduced funding.

In Madera County, officials have turned away six domestic violence victims and eight children since the county's only shelter closed Aug. 7, said Tina Figueroa, the shelter's director. The Martha Diaz Shelter served about 100 victims a year, many of them low-income and with no place else to turn, she said.

So 100 victims of domestic violence in smallish Madera County now have truly nowhere to turn, and will either suffer under the boot of their abusive partners or, in many cases, be killed by them. The director of domestic violence policy in the LA City Attorney's office pretty clearly calls these programs "homicide prevention." It also saves money relative to what you spend prosecuting the eventual homicides. I've seen "tough on crime" conservatives over the years invoke the name of victims and stir up public support for laws in their name. They go curiously silent when hundreds of domestic violence victims are put at risk of death because they want to save rich people and corporations from having to pay for their fair share of the commons.

These closures are the direct result of line-item cuts by the Governor. So the blood is on his hands. Leland Yee has a bill that attempts to cover the domestic violence shelter budget with cash from a crime victims fund, but under 2/3 rules, it's not likely to pass this week.

Kudos to the AP for doing a story on this; but there need to be many more. There's a human face on the budget cuts that has completely been lost and forgotten. Those suffering are right to suspect that nobody in Sacramento cares about them.

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