Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Monica Velez

Reporter

Monica Velez is a reporter at Valley Public Radio. She started out as a print reporter covering health issues in Merced County at the Merced Sun-Star.

In 2018 Monica and her colleague at the Sun-Star won a first place George F. Gruner award for breaking news coverage. She was also awarded with a  first place California Newspaper Association award in 2017 for her coverage on the lack of doctors in Merced County and other health access issues.

After growing up in the Bay Area, Monica moved to Sacramento where she received a degree in journalism and creative writing from California State University, Sacramento.  As a Latina and Spanish speaker, she is passionate about telling stories that touch on issues in Hispanic communities.

On this week’s Valley Edition: We learn what one man’s near-death experience with a rare disease can tell us about the healthcare system. And what is the city of Fresno doing about human trafficking?

Plus, a look back at the history of corruption in the Fresno Police Department, and an equal pay case that recently made its way to the Supreme Court.

Listen to those stories and more from the podcast above.

On this week’s Valley Edition: We hear about a lesser-known figure in the farm labor movement. She was there before Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and now, union organizer Maria Moreno’s story is being memorialized in a new documentary film.

Plus, there’s a new state program that tackles mental health issues for the homeless while  also focusing on housing. But success isn't easy.

And later, we talk to two women who spent decades in prison and are now grappling with the near constant challenges and prejudices of life after incarceration.

© 1978 George Ballis/Take Stock

Adios Amor tells the story of one woman who should have made it into the history books but didn't. Maria Moreno was the first female farm worker to be hired as a union organizer.

 

Originally from Texas, Moreno lived with her husband and 12 children working in the fields. She was an indigenous woman with only a second-grade education but used her voice to rally support for farm workers' rights. 

 

Monica Velez

After months of speculation as to whether The Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield would shutter, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement say it will stay open for at least another year.

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: More than half of California’s olive groves are right here in the San Joaquin Valley. But Tulare County growers say that with a major olive cannery set to buy more Spanish olives, the future for olive production looks grim.   

Plus, it’s Women’s History Month. We sat down with three young, dynamic leaders to ask about the women who inspire them.

And later, we learn more about President Trump’s plans to rewrite rules that govern water allocations and infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley.  

Monica Velez

A new exhibit at Arte Américas in downtown Fresno shows the history of Latinos in the San Joaquin Valley through pictures, paintings, maps, and stories. The exhibit, Caminos: Latino History of the Central Valley, covers the 1700s to present day. 

For two years, a multitude of people have been working to put together this exhibit. Dr. Alex Sarargoza was the lead researcher on this project and Nancy Marquez was the director. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: The Valley air district is facing scrutiny for how it manages pollution from local industries. Air quality advocates wonder: How well is the program working?

Plus, Fresno County is considering the Voter’s Choice Act Model for the 2020 election, which could mean fewer polling locations, but more days to cast your ballot. We’ll hear from one neighboring county that’s already made the switch.

Lawsuits were filed in Kern County Superior Court this week accusing Kern High School District staff members of enabling and conspiring to cover up sexual assault allegations.

 

Two teenagers accused the athletic equipment manager, Edwin Rodriguez, at North High School in Bakersfield of molesting them and sending them sexually explicit messages, photos, and videos through social media like Snapchat, according to two lawsuits filed on Wednesday.

 

Monica Velez

Tony Amarante’s home in Bakersfield is about an 8-minute drive to the Mesa Verde Detention Facility. He has volunteered there on occasion to visit detainees. But recently he’s been housing immigrants who’ve been released from the facility.

 

“This is my kid's old room,” Amarante says. “I’ve had three asylum seekers stay here. I’m happy to offer them some shelter, a bathroom and get them on the bus or airplane or wherever we got to go.”

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: There’s no summer school for kids in Bakersfield this year. We ask the superintendent why not. Plus, a new report details the poor living conditions of detention centers in California, but some immigration attorneys say keeping Mesa Verde open in Bakersfield is a good thing.

And later, one of the longest running fringe festivals is happening right now in Fresno. We talk to the founder of Rogue Fest, and hear from some of the performers.

On this week's Valley Edition: The history of African Americans in the San Joaquin Valley - what were the early days like for those who blazed a trail for future generations?  

And forget the movie - why the real-life Green Book was necessary for helping African Americans travel safely - even here in California.

 

Plus: black farm worker families in the 1950s - did they find a better life from their years in the South?

  

Monica Velez

About a dozen people walk out of the Merced County Superior Courthouse. They huddle under an awning over the main doors. They’re smiling and embracing each other. The sky is grey and a few drops of rain start to fall. But in a matter of minutes, the weather changes.  

 

“It’s pouring cats and dogs right now,” says ACLU attorney Michael Mehr. “The heavens have opened up and this is a joyous day in the Valley.”

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: Highlights from this year’s World Ag Expo, including technology that aligns with California’s clean energy goals. We also revisit a Navy Veteran who was facing deportation proceedings, but now might be off the hook.

Plus: Stranger than fiction? We go inside an explosive report linking election meddling and a secretive Israeli intelligence agency to a hospital in Tulare.

Later, we’ll speak with a Fresno-born composer whose work helped earn the Mary Poppins reboot an Oscar nomination.

Monica Velez

Self Help Graphics and Art, an organization in Los Angeles that intersects art and social justice, is celebrating its legacy of producing art prints by Latinx, Chicana, and Chicano artists with an exhibit called Entre Tinta y Lucha: 45 Years of Self Help Graphics and Art.  

 

CSU Bakersfield’s Todd Madigan Gallery is currently housing more than 50 art prints from the exhibit. The exhibit is inspired by the Chicano Movement in the late 1960s and the rise of printmaking as an art form.

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: We look at how pesticides may be contributing to honey bee deaths, and what that means for the $3 billion dollar almond industry. We also look at how the bankruptcy filing from utility provider PG&E could derail the state’s renewable energy goals.

Later, we take some time to explore the arts and culture scene by visiting an art gallery in Bakersfield and talking to a Fresno writer with a new collection of poems.

Monica Velez

Joaquin Antonio Sotelo Tarin points to the various medals pinned on the left side of his Navy uniform: there’s an Aviation Warfare Specialist insignia, an Operation War on Terrorism Medal, an Iraqi Freedom Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, and a Good Service Medal.

 

The 37-year-old served four years in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. He lives in Los Banos with his wife and four young children.

 

In 2005, he was honorably discharged and when he returned to the United States, civilian life was difficult.

On this week’s Valley Edition: The federal government issued deportation orders to a veteran who served six years in the Navy. He’s got a checkered past, but he says he’s making up for it. We also look at an unusual business started by a Valley native that some say glorifies the crimes of serial killers.

Plus: It’s been a year and a half since the City of Fresno banned camping in order to reduce its homeless population. Tent cities are less common but is the ban helping or hurting those most in need?

Monica Velez

Vicki Cham stands at the front of a large multi-purpose room at Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries, or FIRM. Half a dozen students sit in two rows close to the whiteboard taking notes.

 

Cham, an instructor for citizenship classes, shuffles through her packet of 100 citizenship questions and then goes around the room calling on each person.  

 

"Why does the flag have fifty stars?" Cham asks. “What are the two major political parties in the United States?”

Monica Velez

A UC Merced professor spent 18 months examining how religion mixed with political advocacy helped people who were formerly incarcerated reintegrate into society. Edward Orozco Flores explores these issues in his new book, “Jesus Saved an Ex-Con.” He spent time in LA and Chicago.

Listen to the above interview to learn more about Orozco's research and why some formerly incarcerated people wanted to use their voices to change legislation.

George Self / CC BY-NC 4.0

A man from El Salvador, who’s married to a U.S. citizen, was supposed to have an important immigration hearing in early January. He was set to get his green card. He and his wife were thrilled.

 

“And it didn’t happen because the government shut down or at least partially shut down,” says Camille Cook, the man's Fresno-based immigration attorney.

 

The government has been partially shut down since December 22. Immigration courts have been closed and thousands of cases have been cancelled.

 

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