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V. Identifying Approaches for Combined Action, Targets for Engaging the System of Governance & Public Finance in Support of Infrastructure Improvements

The challenges facing residents in our Communities of Interests are deeply entrenched and complex. Tackling them will require effective and sustained advocacy to make the infrastructure needs of our colonias a priority in decision-making bodies at the local, regional, and state levels. The starting point for developing an effective advocacy strategy is getting clarity on:

  • the problems or barriers we seek to address

  • the policy and institutional practices that can be changed or harnessed to help us achieve our

goals

  • the resources and allies we can count on to advance our advocacy efforts, and

  • the opportunities and challenges that are likely to affect our chances of success.

In the previous sections of this paper we sought to begin defining the barriers and problems that severely limit the quality of life in our Communities of Interests. The principal purpose of this section is to present the project participants with an “initial cut” of the challenges and opportunities we are likely to encounter as we advocate for strengthening infrastructure supports in unincorporated islands, fringe, and hinterland communities.

Apart from a host of organizational and tactical questions that will need to be taken up by resident leaders and their allies (e.g., what form the advocacy group will take and from what tools, litigation, grassroots organizing, community development, it will draw on), our initial policy analysis has surfaced two inter-related structural challenges, regardless of the infrastructure deficits we seek to address (water, sewage, energy, roads, storm drainage, housing, and etc.). They are very basic – governance and money.

a. The Structure of Government: Barriers & Challenges: As grassroots leaders and civil rights lawyers can attest, the current maze of governmental agencies with responsibility for providing basic services in Communities of Interest make it difficult to determine what agency(ies) to hold accountable for addressing infrastructure deficit(s). In the language of community organizing, who is the “target,” the decision-maker(s) who can give us what we demand? All other agencies and services aside, according to our research, as of 2000 there were a total of 586 special districts providing basic infrastructure services to the eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley. Special

district services include sewage, water, fire protection, pest abatement or cemetery management, etc.55 In 2004-2005, 57 multi-functional or specialized service districts were providing infrastructure

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