Plans to Renovate Binational Park on the Border Launched

BY JACKIE BARSHAK

“Build That Park” organizers launched a 12-month long public education and design development campaign to raise awareness and solicit input for a proposed bi-national park along the Mexican/U.S. border, where California meets Baja along the Pacific.

Hugging the boundary of the wall in Tijuana, the site is home to Friendship Park and the binational garden of native plants, which serves as a gathering site for a community advocating unrestricted access to both sides of the border. To the north, on the very southwestern corner of the U.S., 1.5 miles south of San Diego, a wildlife refuge inside Border Field State Park forms the perimeter to the other side of the border wall. On these and other expanded sites, including the bull ring to the south in Tijuana, chief architect James Brown envisions a park embodying values of peace, friendship, cooperation and security.

During the year-long design phase, input will be solicited from stakeholders, community activists, artists, designers, grassroots organizers and first nations people. Engagement with the public is key to formulating conceptual design plans that will be unveiled on August 18, 2021, the day marking the 50th anniversary of Friendship Park.

Building parks in cities sharing frontiers has historical precedent. At the US/Canada border crossing, green lawns and flowering gardens of Peace Arch Park, straddling British Columbia and Washington State, gives rise to a dramatic white arch, a symbol of peace, honoring the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812. On the Mexican border, the white stone border marker in Tijuana’s Friendship Park stands as a monument to the end of the 1848 U.S. Mexican war and the signing of The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. “The terms of that treaty have relevance to building a park on the border today”, said James Brown, “reciprocal benefit, cooperation and security for both countries outlined in that historical treaty are the values guiding the new park design”.

The design process will draw on a peoples’ history and the collection of personal stories woven into a visionary plan for the park. There will be international competitions for the design of vertical gardens, outdoor event spaces, interpretive centers with conference rooms, trolley terminals and pedestrian walkways, among other structures proposed in the building plans.

Spanning the two frontiers, the binational garden will encompass an expanded area, with greater opportunities to link shared ecosystems divided today by artificial political boundaries. Binational cooperation of the landscape will enhance control of exotic invasive plants and restoration of native flora. “After 15 years of working in the garden”, said Daniel Watman, founder of the binational garden, “and dreaming that some day the garden would outgrow the walls and end militarization, I’m ecstatic about the prospect of expanding native flora across barriers to bring people together and form collaborations that will improve the region we share”.

The fate of two countries sharing a border are linked. A binational park on the Mexico/U.S. border can serve as a model and living symbol of peace between the two nations, exemplifying what can be achieved through cooperation and collaboration.

Visit www.buildthatpark.org for more information about the project and to learn how you can help.

Que Pasa In Baja?

Local University Gets Paid. After numerous problems with the last State Government, the UABC autonomous state university system is finally receiving the 81 million USD that was pledged to it by the federation but was held up by the state in the past administration.

Governor Bonilla announced that he not only would he pay up the money but that he would offer space in the government center in Zona Rio to create a new campus.

Coronavirus Update. Oscar Perez Rico, head of the state health office, stated that Baja California is already “flattening the curve” of new coronavirus cases, as it has consistently had fewer infection cases in the last week.

Although the state, as a whole, has seen a decrease in cases, the city of Ensenada has been increasing the number of infections. In response to this, Perez Rico called upon the people of Ensenada to respect social distancing and to try to stay home as much as possible.

“We want to be one of the first states to get to the new normality, and our focus is not only to have a green light to restart everything, but to reactivate our economy in an orderly manner. If we start reopening prematurely we will only cause economic and health problems in the long run”, said Perez Rico.

Musicians get some relief. Baja’s State Government announced that about 400 musicians from Mexicali have received alimentary support from the State, as they are one of the many professions that hasn’t been able to do almost anything to support their families.

Jesus Alejandro Ruiz Uribe, delegate for the State Government, announced that they will continue to support up to 6,000 musicians, waiters and taxi drivers at this stage.

“Musicians give us joy and they cheer up the population; we shouldn’t leave them alone in these tough times,” said Ruiz Uribe.

Ex-Mayor charged for embezzlement. Gilberto Hirata Chico, former mayor of Ensenada, and a very controversial one, has been charged along with his treasurer Samuel Aguilar Jaime for allegedly misappropriating federal funds amounting to $165,000 USD.

This is the first time a Mayor of Ensenada has been officially charged for crimes committed during his tenure.

This is the first allegation of a couple that were made that was accepted to be tried in court.

Justice is coming slowly to citizens of Ensenada in this case, as the first accusation was presented in May of 2017, and although it has already been accepted into court it has yet to be tried.

La Mision museum catches fire. A classroom in La Mision’s elementary school that was being used as a local museum, caught fire last week and was reduced to ashes.

The community museum was founded in 1938 by the then president Lazaro Cardenas.

“Unfortunately, it looks like we lost all of that heritage that encourages and fosters future generations to recognize their ancestry, culture and effort from this town”, said Isidro Escobar, a resident of La Mision.

Arturo Rivera, local representative for the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History), stated that residents have already displayed an avid interest in rebuilding the museum.

Baja 1000 confirmed. Ensenada Mayor and Score International authorities signed an agreement to celebrate the Baja 1000 Off- Road race from November 17th to the 22nd, beginning and ending in the city of Ensenada under strict sanitary protocols.

Although the Baja 500 is moving to San Felipe this year, local business groups and authorities worked to make sure that the Baja 1000 stays in the city.

Score announced that the race this year will not be having meet and greet events, press conferences, opening ceremonies, and that the mechanical revisions won’t be open to the public.

State Congress wants to reduce local wine taxes. A new proposal has been submitted to state congress that would allow local wines to pay only half of the IEPS taxes which today amounts to 26.5% of the sales price.

Congress also wants to keep the remaining half of the tax, to be used specifically to support the wine industry in different projects, instead of having to send it to the federation.

This would make local wines more competitive, as one of the main concerns of local producers is that their prices are not competitive compared to other foreign wines because of this tax.

Playas Toll Booth Free for Residents. Although the complete removal of the toll booth was not achieved, the state government along with a local residents group were able to negotiate free transit with electronic cards for residents of Playas de Tijuana.

A total of 18 neighborhoods, where 10,000 families live, will be benefited with these actions as they won’t have to pay any more to exit or enter their homes.

The fight for the removal of the Playas toll booth has been ongoing for decades by residents, and was one of the commitments of governor Bonilla’s campaign.

Voting… Your Privilege, Your Right

Many (5.7 million) US citizens live outside the United States, and 2.6 million of them can legally vote. In Mexico alone, there were 64,852 Americans of voting age in 2014.  Many of these expats don’t realize that it is perfectly legal to vote in United States elections even though they no longer live on US soil. As a US citizen, if you hold the right to legally vote in the US, you have the right to vote anywhere in the world. Americans living on foreign soil are allowed to vote for the offices of president, state senator and the local representative (based on the physical address used while living in the United States) while living full time outside the country.

Absentee ballots play a critical function in the outcome of federal and state elections. Several sitting senators and representatives were elected only after all absentee ballots were tabulated.

It’s easy to request an absentee ballot. You may request a ballot at www.VoteFromAbroad.org. Select your home state from the list and make note of the important dates listed on the site. Each state has different “due” dates for each election. For example: For the November 3 general election in the State of California, registrations to vote must be postmarked by October 19; ballot requests must be received by the office by October 27; and completed ballots must be postmarked by November 3 and received by the third day after the election. To determine whether or not you are still registered to vote, enter the personal information requested on the home page and if you’re registered, you’ll be directed to a voting site.

Some states drop names from voter rolls when a certain number of elections were missed without a posted ballot. Some states require a periodic “check in” with your local office every four or six years. If you neglected to reply to an official notice from your (US) local election office, they may drop you from the rolls. Some states will remove the names of anyone who does not vote in the previous Presidential election. Do your due diligence and make sure prior to October 1 that you are legally able to vote.

If you have registered for absentee voting your ballot should arrive by early October for the November 3 election. If mailing within the US, return the ballot by October 27. If outside of the US, mail in the ballot by October 13. And if you do not receive your ballot in time, you may fill out the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) from www.FVAP.gov. Print, sign, and send this ballot directly to your State Election Office.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) www.FVAP.gov has conducted an Overseas Citizen Population Analysis that consists of who can vote, characteristics of overseas voters (ok, Mexico is not “overseas”).

In 2014 elections 93,000 absentee ballots, representing just 4% of eligible voters, were received. The rate of return on ballots depends largely on the country where the expat is living. For many of us in Baja, we receive our US ballots in our US mail which is delivered regularly, and return it promptly. But there are many of us who leave it in our “in” box until we find it during spring cleaning. The top three reasons for not voting were people faced absentee voter issues; potential voters felt “out of touch” with their local or national community; others had no particular candidate preference.

Ballots should be mailed to either your US home of record (physical address) or your mailing address in the US.  It’s ok to use an old home address. The last place you legally lived in the United States is your “home address,” Even if it has been torn down to build a Walmart. (Just don’t use it as the address at which you want to receive your ballot).

You may request registration information or download a federal postcard application at the FVAP site. Follow all the requirements. This IS a federal document. If online isn’t your thing, you may contact them at FVAP – Department of Defense; 4800 Mark Center Drive, Suite 05E22; Alexandria, Virginia 22350-5000. Phone: 1-800-438-8683; email: vote@fvap.gov.

You may wonder why I am writing this article so far ahead of the November election. FVAP suggests requesting your ballot for this year’s general election by August 1, if you are not previously registered to vote by mail. You must be at least 18 years of age and absent from your voting residence. For individual state information and voting procedures, go to: https://www.FVAP.gov/YOUR STATE NAME HERE. There are PDF downloads, state voting guidelines, your state election website, and a list of local election officials.

Your home state may allow for electronic voting. For information and formatting correct for your home state, send an email to ets@fvap.gov, or call 1-800-368-8683 for information regarding completing and faxing your ballot electronically.

Another voter aid site is UOCAVA, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act under the auspices of the US Department of Justice. Enacted by Congress in 1986, this includes all members of the US Armed Services, Merchant Marines, their families, and was expanded to include “US citizens residing outside of the United States.”  This site has many of the same services as FVAP.

www.OverseasVoteFoundation.org will also provide information on voting, registration, election dates and deadlines, voting requirements by state, a Directory of Election Officials, candidate information, and a help desk.

Also, the US Consulate is available in Tijuana/Otay Mesa, and can help with your voting problems and needs by providing information. There is a very good driving map on their webpage, https://mx.usembassy.gov. Their mailing address is American Consul General; Box 439039; San Ysidro, CA 92143-9039. The Consulate can provide information but you cannot vote at any US Embassy or Consulate.

If you would like to claim a new legal residence, you should contact a Judge Advocate General Officer or legal consul to ensure there are no illegalities.

Do your duty. It’s your right…your privilege.  Remember YOUR VOTE COUNTS!

Que Pasa in Baja?

Same-sex marriages not approved in Baja. The reform that would have allowed same-sex couples to be legally married did not get enough votes to be approved by the State Congress.

The controversial reform would have needed at least 17 votes in order to be passed but it only received 15 supporters. There were 3 votes against it and 7 abstentions.

Several groups of people from both sides protested outside of city halls all over Baja to get exposure for their cause.

Two of the absentee voters, Claudia Agaton and David Ruvalcaba, were heavily criticized as opportunists and traitors because they had been supporters on social media against homophobia.

 

Rosarito desalt plant project canceled. The newly created “State Water Commission of Baja California” announced that it had decided to cancel the huge desalt project that was being built in Rosarito because it was too expensive for the State and they wouldn’t be able to bear the monthly cost of almost 8.5 million dollars.

The project was being built by a group of companies that had a contract with the state government to sell most of the water to them, with the remainder going to the Otay Water District. The State government is trying to get out of the contract on the basis that there was a breach of contract when the construction didn’t advance as planned.

“For starters, the project was just too big, it’s like buying a bus to take your kids to school, it’s a massive solution”, said Salomon Faz from the State Government.

The government is already in talks with the company to reach a mutual agreement, while it also looks for another place to build a new desalt plant with a smaller capacity.

Faz stated that even with the cancellation of this huge project, Baja had its water supply assured for the time being.

 

Ensenada police protest. The union for city police officers said that their members were going to be working under protest because their most basic needs hadn’t been met.

They are asking for wages that have not been paid and the lack of monetary support from the force when they have to be relocated to another district.

In order to avoid affecting the population directly, they decided to protest by not writing any traffic tickets, which they are hoping only lasts a few days or until their demands are met.

 

No wine parties this year! Provino, the association that unites most of the winemakers of the Guadalupe Valley, has released a statement saying that because of COVID-19, they won’t be able to hold any wine parties this year.

The wine parties would be celebrating their 30th anniversary this edition.

Santiago Cosio Pando, head of PROVINO, stated that these activities generated over $37 million USD last year alone, that will be lost this year to the Coronavirus.

 

Controversy over Playas toll booth stirs fight. Just one day after Governor Bonilla successfully “took over” the Playas de Tijuana toll booth while stating that it was going to be free for everyone passing through it, federal forces from the National Guard took them back from State Authorities and said they were not closing the toll booth.

Governor Bonilla said that the toll booths were put in place originally to pay for the development of the scenic road, but that by now the road should have been paid for by 4 or 5 times its value.

 

Baja 500 finally canceled. After going back and forth between the city and SCORE International, the city has finally put its foot down and decided to cancel the event completely.

SCORE had already announced that the Baja 500 race was being moved to August but got reprimanded by the city because they said they had not authorized that.

The plan was to have a no-spectators race in August, but the city government was afraid of fans and visitors’ agglomerations which could spark a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases.

This, along with the cancellation of the wine parties, will be a hard blow for the local tourist industry which were looking forward to these events in order to keep their businesses afloat during this tough pandemic.

 

Baja popped up in the Trump-AMLO meeting. According to the multinational company Sempra Energy, their $2 billion USD investment planned to expand operations on the “Energia Costa Azul” project was one of the main topics discussed by the two presidents.

The investment will be applied in a project to store, transport, liquify and distribute natural gas that would come from the USA and would be exported to several countries via Ensenada.

The complete project is expected to generate about 30,000 jobs, and bring much needed prosperity to both sides of the border.

 

Baja Congresswoman under fire. Montserrat Caballero, State Congresswoman from the Morena party, has been under heavy criticism this last week when she was caught drinking a can of Tecate Light beer while on a virtual congress session.

 

Rosarito closes beaches on weekends, again. Just a couple of days after the city had decided to reopen beaches for sports activities every day from 6:00 am to 10:00 am, city officials decided to completely close access to the beach on weekends.

The decision came after several beaches got packed with families that were clearly not there to participate in any sporting events.

The city said that they didn’t have enough personnel to monitor the beaches constantly while open, so they decided to close them on the weekends.

They are still open for sports activities, Monday to Friday, from 6 am to 10 am.

 

Sharp Healthcare offers FREE webinar. Dr. Andres Smith, global patient services medical Director at Sharp Chula Vista and President of Cruz Roja Tijuana, is offering a free online one-hour webinar this coming Wednesday, July 29 starting at 10:00 am.

Dr. Smith will discuss COVID-19 updates for the U.S. and Mexico, including current border status, what to do if exposed or have a positive COVID-19 result, and what to expect when seeking medical care.

For information or to register for the webinar contact Minerva Santos at (858)-499-4962 or email her at Minerva.santos@sharp.com

Support Your Local Locals

When Mexico declared a “public health emergency” in March, all non-essential activities were suspended through May. Then June. Now, perhaps through the summer, in many areas. Many of our local restaurants, places of business, gewgaw dealers, beauticians, etc. are still closed. Sadder still is that many of these establishments may never reopen.

Many of you, myself included, are still hesitant to return to normal – or “new normal,” to resume shopping, travel, and dining out.

There are many ways, however, that you can help keep our local economy alive:

Shop locally. Decrease the number of your cross-border shopping forays, and accept the local varieties of goods and servicers that we often substitute by patronizing Costco, Walmart, Home Depot and other American invasions to our culturally diverse enterprises.

If you are not yet ready to brave the elements and dine out, or prefer preparing your own meals, you can always “pay it forward.” Consider purchasing coupons or gift certificates at your favorite local eateries. This will help to ensure that they will still be around when you are finally ready to de-quarantine yourself.

If possible, keep your home workers employed. If you feel uncomfortable having non-family coming into the home, consider donating to those you employed prior to March.

You can also create “care packages” of food, clothing, educational supplies or other useful items to orphanages or food kitchens.

You can also offer “propinas” to people whose services you normally take advantage of when not in quarantine, like stylists and manicurists.

Always reach out to friends and family. Your weekly poker and game days may have been temporarily suspended, but stay in contact via phone, text, email, or even a Zoom gathering (these have been becoming more and more popular to keep people connected without exposing each other to unnecessary danger).

Many of us are in one or more of the high-risk categories, so it’s best to be prudent rather than reckless when it comes to our health and the health of those loved ones around us.

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