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Browsing Posts tagged Al Nevarez

AL DEFINES HIMSELF

In the Daily Kos on 17 September 2009, Alfonso Nevarez published a diary entitled “I Am Politically Incorrect.”  That diary seems to have been inspired by a claim from former President Jimmy Carter that conservative opposition to President Obama was based on racism.  The Obama White House tried to deny the Carter premise, portraying it as harmful to future prospects for bipartisan cooperation.  In discussing this denial by the White House, Al had some things to say which appear to define his views on the issue of race.

The author has focused on this article because of things which he personally experienced in Sterling Park in the years before Al’s arrival. Many will recall the early- to mid-years of the last decade when Sterling Park and Sugarland saw a large influx of illegal and legal immigrants of Latino origin.  Whatever one’s politics may be, it cannot be denied that there followed a serious spike in overcrowded housing, crime, and zoning ordinance violations, something to which most residents were unaccustomed. There was a rapid and very visible deterioration in the overall quality of life, at least in the perceptions of long-term residents.  There was also an explosion of tempers on the part of some residents, culminating in a community meeting at Park View High School which at times became a near shouting match between citizens and county elected and appointed officials.  The Sheriff of this county actually had to leave the microphone under a barrage of criticism over law enforcement.

Some in these communities and elsewhere in the county cautioned not to let the anger evolve into an ethnic bias against the Latino newcomers and Latinos in general.  The counterargument was that citizens were angry about crime and the diminished quality of life.  This was not a bias against Latinos per se, but it ought to be recognized that certain elements within the demographic change were the root causes for the troubles.  A spade was a spade, so to speak.  Some called for government at all levels to do their jobs, enforce the law, and remove the illegal immigrants from our midst.  Others called simply for more effective policing and for enhanced and tougher enforcement of the zoning ordinances so that the new immigrants would understand that they HAD to abide by established community standards.

I think that, in examining the self-stated views of Mr. Nevarez on race, we should do so in the context that Al is a candidate for county supervisor representing these very same communities.  In the article, Al claimed to understand why the Obama White House rejected the Carter statement; and he did not blame President Obama.  But he followed up with this:

“…there are few things more politically incorrect in 2009 as calling out racism, even when it is obvious…The reaction to President Carter’s interview is Exhibit A.  Here we had a former President accurately identifying the motivation behind some of the most irrational displays of animosity towards a sitting President. In response, we see some self-identified liberals claim his statements are baseless, or even demand that he apologize.  Are some liberals really so afraid to be labeled ‘race baiters’ or accused of using the ‘race card’ that they would demand an apology from perhaps the most courageous living President for simply giving a truthful assessment of our current predicament?”

“There are some who believed that President Obama’s election would heal our racial divides, but it feels as though these divisions are becoming deeper than they have been in my lifetime, and this denial of racially motivated hostility is putting ethnic minorities in a position of weakness…What I don’t understand, however, is why self-identified liberals would not only look away from this ugly reality, but actually deny it.  This ‘post-racial’ denial, which has been going on for several years, but which is now a regular part of the discussion on race, has not only emboldened the fringe to propagate the hate, it has made it even more difficult for those of us who experience this hate to confront it, and it has even infected some of those with whom we work side by side to effect progressive change.”

Al then goes on to a very personal defining of himself based on his own ethnicity and personal experiences:

“I am a Chicano.  My father was born in Durango, Mexico.  He and his family came to the US when he was eight years old.  My mother is half Nicaraguan and half Caucasian.  My maternal grandmother, who was Caucasian, died when my mother was just 14, thus I never met her.  In fact, I’ve never met a single relative who was entirely of European descent.  As a result, my identity is intrinsically tied to the experience of being an American born Latino.”

“On the other hand, I look as white as Karl Rove.  I have blue eyes and mostly European features.  At various points in my life, I’ve been affectionately nicknamed Huero, Chele, and Mikio, all in reference to my whiteness.  I have little doubt that this has benefitted me in my life.  I can’t point to many specific examples, but I do know that I’ve had more success up to now developing a white collar career than most of my friends and relatives, and it’s not as though I’m more talented or educated or hard working.  At some point my appearance had to make a difference.  I might be more ambitious, but I feel as though the general receptiveness I get as someone who appears white has contributed to that.”

“The downside to not matching the stereotypical description of my ethnic identity is that people of other races that I interact with are sometimes more direct with their prejudice against Latinos. Some might argue that it’s advantageous to know how people really think, but it can be very stressful.  If I call out a racist remark, I become ‘that guy,’ the one who’s always stirring up racial conflict.  I’ve been ‘that guy’ before.  It stinks.  You’re subtly ostracized.  Eventually, your presence is not really wanted at all.”

“I try to make it clear to those I work or socialize with, but even people who know my background will sometimes say something negative about Latinos in my presence.  Perhaps they don’t perceive me as being one of ‘the other’ due to my appearance. Regardless of what it is, someone who knows me, someone with whom I must interact with on a daily basis, crossed that line yesterday.”

Al goes on to describe an incident in which a colleague made a reference to having to pull her own child out of school because, according to the colleague, the child’s math teacher spoke with such a heavy accent that communication was too difficult.  Another colleague chimed in with the observation that it was getting awful because more than half the students in the school were now Hispanic.  This remark greatly upset Al.
Al had a second confrontation over a similar observation in another context by this male colleague, whom Al concedes is a serious and active Democrat and “progressive” supporting and working toward the same goals as himself.  This led Al to conclude that his “progressive” colleague also carried an element of “ethnocentrism” in his personal makeup.  Al’s final conclusion came in two short sentences:

” My acqaintance is a bigot. He’s a real nice man.”

This Daily Kos diary appears to be one of Al’s better efforts to define himself.  In Part III we will examine Al’s career progression from high school to his current position with the AFL-CIO in Washington, again largely in his own words.

THE EARLY YEARS

In early May 1978, Alfonso Nevarez, age 23, a resident of California, married in the County of San Francisco a girl named Nina, age 18, also a resident of California.  Alfonso had been born in Mexico and brought to this country as a child.  He spent most of the subsequent years in the San Francisco area.  Nina was the daughter of a Nicaraguan father and an Anglo mother.  She was born in San Francisco and, from what I have been able to find, may have grown up largely in the Mission District of that city.

These are the parents of Alfonso Reymundo Nevarez Jr., who came into this world in late 1979 in the City of San Francisco.  On his website and elsewhere on the internet, Al has described his father, Alfonso Sr., as a telecommunications worker who spent years climbing utility poles and repairing ATM’s.  Alfonso Sr. is a member of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and is now retired and still living in San Francisco.

Again according to Al, his mother, Nina Nevarez, has spent many years working as a community activist for non-profits.  I also found, however, that Nina is a small businesswoman.  She has owned a series of one- or two-person for-profit companies, all operated out of the family home. These companies were/are engaged in legal copying services, medical and legal referrals, and advertising.  Nina joined the San Francisco Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2003.  She is also a fan of Latino websites such as Think Mexican and La Prensa and an advocate of such causes as Justice for Hispanic Farmers and  Boycott Arizona 2010. Nina has impressed the author from a distance as a very active lady.

For the past several decades at least, the Nevarez family has lived in the Excelsior District near the southern limits of the city of San Francisco, although I suspect that they still maintain numerous contacts with the Bernal Heights area and the Mission District just to the north.  An examination of dates suggests that Al was raised in the Excelsior District, at least during the teen years.  Excelsior is said to be one of the most ethnically diverse districts in all of San Francisco.  Although I have had to contend with competing statistics, some of which simply did not add up correctly, I would offer a rough demographic of White 30%, Hispanic/Latino 26%, Asian 33%, Black 7%, and a smattering of others. Excelsior is often referred to as an urban working class district.  Only about 20% of the residents hold post-secondary degrees of any kind. Another 20% do not have a high school diploma.  Excelsior is in the Congressional district of Nancy Pelosi.

Having never visited Excelsior except via Google Maps and other sites on the internet, I have had to depend on a survey of opinions from people who live there or who know the area well in order to present a brief portrait of the district.  Some state that they very much enjoy the ethnic diversity, citing the many families with children and many friendly neighbors. Others complain of trying to cross the streets without being killed by the traffic.  One fellow who lived there described Excelsior as the “armpit of San Francisco.”  He also added:  “…but, hey, $350 for rent isn’t anything to sneeze at!”  There did seem to be one concensus, however:  If you want to enjoy a good restaurant meal, go up to the Mission District.  A number of observers cautioned about street crime and gangs; but this seemed to pertain mostly to specific areas, especially those very close to certain neighboring districts.  A look at Google Maps street level views, especially in the neighborhood where the Nevarez family lives, showed me a variety of homes in either pseudo-Spanish style or that particular boxy, two-story 1930′s San Francisco style, very close together but not row houses,a dearth of trees, very modest, and very well maintained.  But the current prices I saw would make your eyes pop out. For what you pay in Excelsior, you could get two in Sterling Park.  One bit of fun information: Excelsior was the home of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.  They actually have an annual “Jerry Day” in the district.

There is one thing I discovered while trying (unsuccessfully) to pin down where Al went to high school. There are some areas in and around Excelsior which appear to be rather dangerous from the standpoint of public safety. And, if you ever get to read the story of Balboa High School, the principal public secondary school in the area, you may never criticize the Loudoun County Public School System again.

Built in 1928, Balboa was once a fine school with a strong record of academic and athletic achievement.  It appears that Al’s father may have graduated from Balboa in 1972.  For all the 1950′s old timers out there, the conga line dance devised by Balboa students in 1952 became the “Bunny Hop” of rock and roll music fame.

Beginning in the late 1980′s and right up to 2000 and beyond, Balboa High went through a trial and tribulation that no one would wish upon any kids. The San Francisco Weekly published in October 2000 an article entitled “Hard Lessons” in which Balboa was described as the worst high school in all of San Francisco.  They painted a scene in the mid-1990′s when the school had lost most of its Caucasian kids to “white flight” and was 95% minority.  The buildings were covered in graffiti, and there were many broken windows.  Street gangs invaded the school quad during lunch hour. Students wandered the halls during class time, and the security guards would find kids having sex in the bathrooms.  Academic and athletic achievement virtually disappeared.  The dropout rate was horrendous.  One third of the faculty resigned every year, and substitute teachers were the only glue which held the school together.  One of the Spanish teachers reportedly fled to Mexico to avoid an arrest warrant.  Community spirit and cooperation were so lacking that they could not even form a PTA. Finally, in 1996, the Board of the San Francisco Unified School District threw up their hands in disgust and fired every last member of the staff. They then tried to “reconstitute” the school using a technique called “small learning communities.”  And, by golly, by 2007-2008, Balboa was in the process of making a remarkable comeback.  The miracle in Excelsior.

I don’t know if Al went to Balboa or if his parents were able to send him to the Catholic high school or another private high school in the area or even to another public school in the city.  But Al would have been 17 in 1996.  If he did go to Balboa, then, whether you agree or not with his current politics, you would have to admit that Al really survived something.

Al will tell you that his family in San Francisco is middle class.  Al also appears to be a strong supporter of the entitlement system.  In a Daily Kos diary dated 18 June 2008 and entitled “Better Ideas for Our Economy,” Al wrote the following:  “I know my family would be stuck below middle class if it had not been for WIC, Medicaid, unemployment, and FHA. Those programs helped my family through difficult times and helped us make the most of our good fortune.”

In Part II to follow, we will let Al describe and define himself in his own words based on ethnicity and personal experience.

This is a personal adventure into local politics by someone who, despite voting in every election, national, state, and local, for many years, has never been an activist or even a member of a political party because of professional constraints and many years of overseas service.  In fact, until just a few years ago, I had never even posted on a blog, much less a political blog.

Over the past decade or so, however, I found myself becoming more and more irritated by what seemed to be a growing partisan hostility within the American political system.  Having worked in places abroad where politics sometimes became violent and even bloody, I became increasingly angry to see the politics of personal destruction taking such a strong foothold in my own country.  I saw it in the media, in the political party structure, and on the blogs.  The use of ad hominem attacks, crass insults, and unsubstantiated innuendo against political figures and even just posters on the blogs appeared to have become a part of our modern rule book.  Too often one was no longer simply a member of the opposition or an individual with a different take on the issues.  One was now a “tool” or a “wingnut” or, of late, even a “terrorist” or a “barbarian.”  On the other side were the “Marxists” and the “socialists” and the “panderers” and the “libtards.”  As if that wasn’t quite enough, a leading 2008 candidate for the White House had the audacity to say in public that his supporters should go out there and “get in the faces” of his opponents.  That I found to be particularly alarming.

And then there is that word “extremist.”  It appears to me that we have rewritten the political lexicon to such a point that, if you do not agree with someone’s position on a major social or economic issue, you can get dismissed as an extremist, as someone who is somehow “unfit” for public office and even unworthy of consideration in debate.
In December 2010, I ran across an article in the Loudoun Times-Mirror concerning the prospects for local elections in Loudoun County in 2011. In the comments section below the article was a post by someone named Alfonso Nevarez, who announced that he was going to run against the incumbent in the Sterling District for a place on the Board of Supervisors.  In this post, Mr. Nevarez claimed that the incumbent was “too extreme” for Sterling and that “he raised a lot of money from other extremists, which he then used to win close elections.”

There was that word again: “extremist.”  Who was Mr. Nevarez?  I have been a homeowner and lived in Sterling Park for over thirty years (with time off for overseas service); and the name rang no bell with me, nor with my spouse, who is a long-time teacher in the Loudoun school system.  I have been to hundreds of community events in Sterling.  I once drove to Lynchburg to see the Park View High School Patriots win the first ever state football championship in Loudoun history.  I remember when the Patriots played their home games at Bill Allen Field.   I shopped at the “old” Safeway.  I remember what Old Sterling on Church Road once looked like. I traveled Route 28 when it was just a “country” highway.  When I went to Leesburg, I crossed Goose Creek on the old bridge next to the golf course.  I remember when, in order to retrieve the baseball after a homer at the Broad Run High School varsity field, you had to walk through rows of corn to get it.  But, Mr. Nevarez, with his claims of “extremist,” drew a total blank.

Now I know why.  When Mr. Nevarez put up his 2011 campaign website, he revealed that he had moved to Northern Virginia five years ago (2006) and that he was now an “economic analyst” at the AFL-CIO.  It took only a few strokes of the laptop keyboard to find Al’s very talented wife, Jeane Nevarez, on Artwanted.com and her 7-23-2006 statement that she was living in Fairfax, near D.C.  A few more strokes, and I found Mr. Alfonso Nevarez (with wife, Jeane) blogging from Baltimore, Maryland, in September 2007 and January 2008 [SFGate.com 21 Sept, 2007 and 25 January 2008].  I also found in various real estate and county records that Al had purchased his home on Balsam Street in Sterling Park in April 2008.  A little more work surfaced the fact that Al and his wife had moved from California to the East Coast in 2006 and that Al was pretty much a politically “progressive” guy.  Mr. Nevarez was what we around here call a genuine “newbie.”  Try as I might, I could find find no connection between Al and Sterling prior to 2008.

Eh, a “newbie.”  Big deal.  A number of relative “newbies” in local elections this year — until I found a 29 May 2011 entry on Al’s Facebook page in which he stated that he and his supporters were going to “reclaim” Sterling.  Then it was:  “Whoa, just a minute there, Mr. Nevarez!  Reclaim Sterling from whom and for whom?!”
Actually, I did get somewhat of a chuckle out of this.  Mr. Nevarez is 31 years old going on 32.  By my calculations, at the very time I was moving into my current home in Sterling Park, Mr. Nevarez was still in his mother’s womb in San Francisco.  And here this young fellow had come all the way from sunny California to show the rest of us what Sterling needed.

One of the things I have found missing on many campaign websites are truly detailed accounts of a candidate’s background.  These people too often feed you only the bare essence of what they want you to know.  They make you work for the rest of the story.  And, if that hasn’t caused some of the biggest gabfests on the political blogs that you have ever seen. I do get a feeling at times that some candidates want you to forget to peel the skin off the proverbial onion. So, since my new neighbor, Al Nevarez, will be seeking my vote in November and since he has never expanded on the brief biography on his campaign website, I thought I would give a larger and “unauthorized” biography a shot. Not everything will be found here. This is solely an internet project.  Under other circumstances I would travel and interview and scour through courthouses and libraries, and old newspaper files because the internet is often limited in terms of back information.

If there are some factual errors here and there, I would hope that Al himself might chime in to correct them. One of the biggest problems in a search such as this is that of multiple people with the same name.  If you do not pay close attention and recheck your work, you can wind up combining the lives of several people into one.  In point of fact, I found so many people in this country with the surname of Nevarez that I began to think that, if Al ever ran for the Oval Office, he might have a solid bloc of voters right there.  And there are at least 29 people in this country with the name Alfonso Nevarez.  There may be an occasional factual mistake.  I hope not many.  I have tried to match every statement with a verifying source.

Stand by for Part I of the unauthorized biography of my neighbor and fellow American, Alfonso Nevarez.  In this and eight subsequent parts I will try to present for the voting public as candid and factual a portrait of Mr.Nevarez as I can using internet sources.  And a great deal of it will be in his own words.  Please stay mindful that Mr. Nevarez is, in my judgement, a good family man and a truly dedicated “progressive.”  He is not my enemy.  I just happen to disagree with him on a whole lot of things

Handed out some campaign literature at the Sterling Middle School Back to School night recently, and look who showed up:

Al Nevarez and Eugene Delgaudio

Al Nevarez and Eugene Delgaudio

I’d never met Mr. Nevarez before. He turned out to be a jovial sort, a nice guy, really. He had a small cadre of very enthusiastic supporters on hand giving out some literature of their own. There was even one fellow who’d come all the way from his home in the Midwest, “just outside of O’Hare Airport,” I believe he said.

Al's supporter's car ... check out the plate.

Al's supporter's car ... check out the plate.

Who would’ve thought our little old Sterling supervisor’s race would draw attention from folks halfway across the country?

Should be interesting!