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The Madera Tribune

Time has come for leaders to lead

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webmaster | 07/05/13

I was disappointed after reading the Madera Tribune editorial page discussion with local elected and appointed leaders over the past few weeks.

Most of those quoted have held their elected or appointed offices for years. While some positive efforts were highlighted, when asked to discuss the economic future of our community, their responses were typically “I think that we should talk about…” instead of “this is what we have agreed to do, these are our plans, and this is what we are actually accomplishing.”

Additionally, we see trustees of the Madera Unified School District in disarray, County supervisors publicly criticizing each other, and elected and appointed leaders trading verbal shots with the Madera County Grand Jury.

Enough already! We need leaders in business, schools, and government to lead. Put aside your squabbles, work together, compromise, and move our community forward. Give citizens a reason to volunteer to help.

Our community has been economically depressed for decades. We have too many young people who do not graduate from high school, too many adults who do not have rudimentary job skills, and too few skilled workers. This didn’t come about with the near depression of 2008. That calamity simply aggravated our long-standing problems. Progress doesn’t happen overnight. Quite often progress is built on failures. The new Madera County Superior Courthouse under construction in downtown Madera is an example. I know. I failed repeatedly in my efforts to get that project started.

The current Madera courthouse was built as a school before World War I and condemned in the 1950s. In 1997 the chief justice of the California Supreme Court described it as the worst courthouse he had seen. Since state law in 1998 required the counties to build and maintain courthouses, I then asked Madera County to build a new one. It refused. I failed.

When I asked the City of Madera to work with the county, I was told that it was the County’s problem. I failed.

I couldn’t even get fellow judges of the Madera County Superior Court to help me in the late 90s. One would tell me that we would never see a new courthouse in Madera during our lifetimes. I failed.

A headline in a now-failed local newspaper (Madera County Times) read, “Wieland is the Lone Ranger, says Silva.” That was John Silva, then chairman of the Madera County Board of Supervisors. (And in Johnny Depp’s new movie, "The Lone Ranger," I failed again — Depp has chosen to play Tonto instead of me.)

I took my quest on the road, asking for help at the state level. We got lucky. The chief justice convinced the Legislature to pass, and the governor to sign, legislation in 2002 to require the State of California to pay for the construction of new courthouses. Our community was placed on a “critical needs list” that has survived the budget traumas of the last five years. Then a lot of people got on board and made things happen. The new courthouse will open in June 2014.

What’s the point? It took me four years of talking and a change in state law to get to the planning stages. It has taken many of us 10 years of planning to get to the construction stage, which will consume another 22 months … 16 years for one building.

The time, coordination, and changes needed to turn around our local economy are much more complicated. It will take a lot more time.

Talk is not cheap, especially if that is all you do. The failure to act is costing our entire community.

I’m willing to participate if our leaders will lead. Who will lead?

Charles Wieland,
Madera County Superior Court judge


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