Thursday, March 12, 2009


State Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter with Rialto City Councilwoman Deborah Robertson. Photo by Ellen Porter

State Senator Gloria Negrete-McLeod addresses about 120 women, including Rialto Council Member Deborah Robertson, on the challenges of the state budget during the third annual State of Women: A Dialogue Between Women conference held March 7 in Rialto. Photo by Ellen Porter

(RIALTO, Calif.) “Santa Claus isn’t coming. The Easter Bunny is dead and the Tooth Fairy will take all your teeth.”

State Senator Gloria Negrete-McLeod (D-Rialto) might have added that Prince Charming isn’t looking for a new relationship, were the news not bad enough that she brought to a roomful of about 120 women and a few men who attended the Third Annual “State of Women: A Dialogue Between Women” conference Saturday, March 7 at the Rialto Senior Center.

This conference was hosted by Rialto council members Deborah Robertson and Ed Palmer and Rialto City Clerk Barbara McGee.

Senator Negrete-McLeod and Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto) brought bad news about the state budget. Other speakers spoke of challenges women face in the education of their children, in maintaining their and their family’s health, and in other aspects of daily life.

Still, each speaker offered hope that by working together, women can get through these tough times and bring forth new solutions.

“The world has changed dramatically,” Senator Negrete-McLeod said. “Not just in California, but all over.”

The two state legislators were both fighting colds, each said they had contracted while the Legislature was in lock down trying to resolve the $42 billion state budget deficit. Since then, both said, they’ve had to face angry constituents who were upset either about taxes being raised, or their favorite social program receiving less.

“It was a budget we all hated,” Assembly Member Carter said. “There was something in it for everyone to hate.”

“We had very irate calls; we had curse-laden calls,” Senator Negrete-McLeod said. “They said ‘How dare you raise taxes? How dare you cut services to school children? How dare you cut services to seniors and disabled people? Furthermore, I want more services!”

With real estate foreclosures and high unemployment, there just isn’t enough money to give everyone what the previous state budget has promised, she said.

The two state legislators agreed, one good thing that will come from this financial difficulty is that it will force people to work together. Assembly Member Carter even suggested one way local groups, such as school boards and parents, could work together is by determining what state-funded programs they would most be willing to sacrifice until the state budget can be more generous.

“We have to develop ways we can work together,” Assembly Member Carter said. “We’re going to have to pool our resources and work together.”

Other speakers were:
• Fontana City Councilwoman Acquanetta Warren, who in 2010 will run as a Republican candidate for State Assembly in the 63rd District. She also urged people to work together for the common good, and to set goals for what they want to accomplish. She also talked about Healthy Fontana, a program that helps that city’s residents get exercise by joining one of the city’s walking groups and also promotes other healthy lifestyles.

• Rialto City Clerk Barbara McGee, who talked about how people can apply for passports or obtain forms for voter registration at Rialto and other city halls. She also discussed Healthy Rialto, which promotes healthy lifestyle choices in her city.

• Brenda Parker, the coordinator for Healthy Rialto. Just before the lunch break, Parker led the audience in exercise, singing and cheering, all designed to make people more aware of what they can do to promote a healthier lifestyle. She also used visual aids, such as a cardboard tube symbolizing an artery, stuffed full of paper scraps (symbolizing junk food) that clogged the artery until plastic fruit (symbolizing real fruit) came in and pushed the bad stuff out.

• Rialto School Board Member Joanne Gilbert, who advised parents on ways they can help their child to succeed in school. Her tips were to ask their children questions about school regularly, to develop a relationship with their children’s teachers and to be an advocate for their children by communicating first to teachers, then to administrators and school board members when they feel something is not right.

• Dr. Maxwell Ohikhuare, Public Health Officer for San Bernardino County. He gave a Powerpoint presentation on health conditions affecting women in this county. Unfortunately, San Bernardino County, especially Blacks and Latinas, is higher than the nation in many incidences of health problems.

• Dr. Diane Woods, CEO of the African-American Health Institute of San Bernardino County. From 2003 to 2005, Woods headed a comprehensive county-wide study that also showed Blacks suffer disproportionately from many health conditions. That study, the African-American Health Initiative, also made recommendations for change. Woods updated the conference participants on what has happened since then. While there’s been progress, much more needs to be done.

• Beverly Powell, Regional Manager for Southern California Edison, who talked about her company’s goals for providing “green” energy.

• Sheriann Johnson, Manager of Countrywide Home Loans in Colton, who talked about programs to help people buy homes for the first time, modify their mortgages or refurbish their homes to increase its property value.

For more information about the “State of Women: A Dialogue Between Women” conference, call (909) 820-2519 or email