Madi Bolanos

Reporter

Madi Bolanos is the immigration and underserved communities reporter at Valley Public Radio. Before joining the station, she interned for POLITCO in Washington D.C. where she reported on US trade and agriculture as well as indigenous women’s issues during the Canadian election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology from San Francisco State University. Madi spent a semester studying at the Danish Media and Journalism School where she covered EU policies in Brussels and alleged police brutality at the Croatian-Serbian border. Originally from Fresno, she is happy to be back reporting on important issues in the San Joaquin Valley. 

 

On Tuesday, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against McFarland and the company GEO barring them from populating a new detention center. The order comes after a lawsuit highlighted misconduct. 

In April, the McFarland City Council voted to turn two empty state prisons into for-profit detention centers run by the GEO group. The council’s decision violated state laws according to Grisel Ruiz, the supervising attorney for the lawsuit. 

 

 

The Kern County Sheriff’s Department has agreed to collaborate with a community-led advisory council, officials announced on Tuesday. It will be the first of its kind for the county.

Arleana Waller, the founder of MLK CommUNITY, led the initiative to create the advisory council. She said the main goal is to have a diverse panel of community members to review policies within the department. 

 

In early July, the Visalia Unified School District removed Black Lives Matter posters placed by students along a fence outside El Diamante High School.  While some saw this act as silencing free speech, the district says it was trying to protect students. Now the district is creating a new space for students to engage.

 

Brandon Gridiron is the district’s Administrator of Equity. He says the decision to take down the signs came solely out of concern for the safety of the students after several adults became aggressive.

 

 

On the this week's Valley Edition: Are Valley hospitals prepared for a surge in COVID-19 patients? We talk with a local doctor about how they’re staying on top of growing patient loads. And a palliative care doctor tells us why he wants to change people's minds about the coronavirus.

 

Plus, we look at Fresno’s Civil War Reenactment. The Fresno County Historical Society event is cancelled due to COVID-19, but when it returns next year, it’s going to look very different.

 

As positive case numbers continue to climb, FUSD announced Thursday plans to reopen schools in the fall. However, parents will have the option to continue online learning for their children or send them back to a school campus.

 

Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson announced parents must fill out a survey choosing which learning environment is best suited for their children before July 31st.

 

 

 

People detained at a Bakersfield ICE Processing Facility began a hunger strike last Friday, after learning a nurse who worked there tested positive for COVID-19. Detainees are demanding ICE release them or provide a healthier environment.

 

Roughly 70 people across all four dorms at the Mesa Verde Detention Center are hunger striking, said Susan Beaty, a fellow with Centro Legal in Oakland. She says she’s worried not enough people are being tested for COVID-19.

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: We take you inside a church in Fresno where the priest is considered a healer by some and by others, a sexual predator. 

We talk to the KQED journalist who reported the story about how she gained the trust of the alleged victims, and the reaction from the congregation now that the report is out. 

Plus, an update on why bars and indoor dining are on hold in many counties. Listen to those stories and more in the podcast above. 

Joel Martinez

As COVID-19 cases in the San Joaquin Valley continue to climb, the Fresno County Department of Agriculture recently secured nearly one million masks to help protect the county’s agricultural workers.  

 

Melissa Cregan, the agricultural commissioner for the county, said the masks came from California’s Department of Food and Agriculture and the Office of Emergency Services.

 

“We’ve probably received over 800,000 of the face coverings and we’ve distributed probably over 700,000 of those,” said Cregan.  

 

Fresno Alliance

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department reported 507 positive COVID-19 cases at the county jail on Monday. That’s almost a quarter of the total jail population, but testing has still been limited to one part of the facility. 

The sheriff’s department reported its first cases of the coronavirus on June 19th. That’s when 13 incarcerated people who were being transferred out tested positive for COVID-19. The 13 had been housed in the jail’s north annex. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: Black community leaders in Bakersfield are meeting with law enforcement, and calling for more transparency. They tell us about the push to establish a community police advisory board.

Plus, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in every county in the San Joaquin Valley. We bring you our weekly health update. 

Later, we speak to Fresno violinist Patrick Contreras who told us how he’s kept busy during the pandemic, even after losing every major booking for the year.

Amar Shergill

The funeral for a man who was hit by a truck at a Black Lives Matter protest in Bakersfield and later died was held this past weekend. The driver of the truck has not been arrested or charged with any crime. 

Prisons and detention centers across California continue to be at risk for more COVID-19 outbreaks. An ACLU attorney representing detainees at the ICE processing facility in Bakersfield says a staff member there has tested positive for the virus.

In a case conference for a class action lawsuit against the Mesa Verde Detention Center, ICE’s attorney said a medical provider at the facility had tested positive for the coronavirus. That’s according to Angelica Salceda, an ACLU lawyer in the meeting. She said the woman went to get tested on her own accord. 

Maria

 

Before the pandemic hit, 59-year-old Maria had steady work cleaning houses in Merced and Winston. But COVID-19 changed everything.

“When the governor told everyone to shelter in place, the homeowners called me and told me not to go to their houses until this is all over,” she said.  

That meant a huge loss in income. Maria made pretty good money, about a thousand dollars a week. But she says her clients were all older people who feared contracting the virus.

On this week’s Valley Edition: Local recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, react to the Supreme Court decision protecting their status to live and work in the United States. 

We also speak with writer Nick Belardes. He wrote an essay for “Boom California” about Confederate imagery in Bakersfield which he hopes sparks a discussion around street and school names, including one called Plantation Elementary. 

And we get an update on the COVID-19 outbreak at Avenal State Prison. 

Madi Bolanos

The Fresno City Council announced the declaration of an annual Black Lives Matter Day at a street art event in front of Fresno City Hall on Thursday. 

About 200 people filtered in and out of the three hour event; many of them helped paint Black Lives Matter in huge letters on P street in front of city hall. Community Activist DJ Kay Rich, who organized the event, says Fresno residents came to him with the idea.  

Fresno Ethnic Studies Coalition

A coalition of five Fresno Unified School District teachers is asking the district to develop an ethnic studies program for the K-12 curriculum. 

Right now ethnic studies classes are considered elective and are currently only offered in high school. Lauren Beal, an ethnic studies teacher at Edison High School, says the class should be a requirement at every grade level.

Centro Binancional para el Desarollo Indígena Oaxaqueño

 

 As businesses in Fresno County begin to re-open amid a continuing rise in COVID-19 cases, one community organization is asking county health officials to ensure the safety of indigenous speaking essential workers. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: Former Fresno City Councilmember Oliver Baines is heading a new police reform commission. He shares his vision for the department, and talks about why previous efforts have fallen short. 

We also speak with men who survived a disease outbreak at Avenal State Prison, not COVID-19, but valley fever. It was almost a decade ago, and they’re still seeking justice today. 

Plus, parents discuss what it’s like to raise black children in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Christian Viscarra

Protesters demanded justice Tuesday for a 16-year-old boy who was shot by Fresno police in 2017. More than 50 people gathered at City Hall chanting “Say His Name” and “Don’t Shoot.”  

The protest was in honor of Isiah Murrietta-Golding who was shot in the back of the head by Fresno Police Sgt. Ray Villalvazo. A surveillance video of the incident from a nearby daycare was released in 2019. Protester Dez Martinez says she saw the video.

  

The Fresno County Public Defender's Office held a protest Monday against police brutality and in honor of George Floyd. About a hundred protesters started at the public defender’s office and walked to the Fresno Police Department. 

Organizers said this protest had a specific message for police officers. Camille Slack, a paralegal, said the organization is calling for police to intervene when they see other officers abusing their power.  

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