Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Aug. 23, and I’m writing from Sacramento.
On Saturday, after a month of controversy that has brought national attention to a mid-sized Central Valley city, there may be a Modesto “straight pride” event. Or there won’t.
Much remains to be seen, but the organizers, who were denied permits due to a lack of liability insurance say the event will go on and they’ll be announcing details on Saturday morning.
Modesto straight pride is a hot-button culture wars story, writ large. Think a conservative agricultural town in the heart of lefty California, big talk about free speech and white supremacy, protesters and counter-protesters (at one point, there was even talk of the Proud Boys facing off against Antifa, though that has since faded).
But it’s also, improbably, the story of three people: two mothers and a son caught in a strange trinity at the white-hot center of all of this.
Mylinda Mason, who lives in an American-flag festooned house on a quiet street in Modesto, is one of the main organizers of Modesto straight pride. Her adopted son, Matthew Mason — who Mylinda raised from birth, until she kicked him out of the house when he came out at 19 — has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of the event, helping to organize the opposition. Matthew’s birth mother, with whom he reconnected as an adult, is one of the six members of Modesto City Council. Councilwoman Kristi Ah You has also been vocal in her criticism of the Straight Pride event and what it represents.
The event aims to celebrate heterosexuality, masculinity and femininity, babies “born and unborn,” Western civilization, “our wonderful country” and Christianity, according to a flyer that Mylinda reads from at her dining table in Modesto. Mylinda fervently believes that being gay is both a lifestyle choice and a sin.
“Both of us ladies are Christian Republicans,” Ah You said to me of Mylinda. “And I’ve told her before, we’re in the same Bible but we’re definitely on a different page.”
“I went to the [National] Straight Pride Coalition website and I started reading the content on the site,” Ah You said. “The content just seemed very inappropriate and it seemed hateful in nature.”
The site in question, which further outlines the principles on the flyer, can objectively be described as deeply homophobic. The site also lists celebrating Caucasians as “the founders of Western civilization” as one of the movement’s tenets.
“A lot of the push back that I’ve been getting over the past couple of weeks is like, ‘Well, why are you fighting straight pride? Don’t they have the right to have their straight pride?’” Matthew explained. “Well, yeah,” he continued. “But that’s not what this is. This is white supremacy being wrapped up in a package of straight pride and people are just taking the package and taking the white supremacy that comes with it.” (Mylinda’s co-organizer, coalition founder Don Grundmann, went viral with an apparent gaffe while testifying at a city council meeting, where he declared that they were “a totally peaceful racist group.”)
But if anything, the uproar over the planned event has shown that Modesto is not a place where hate is welcome.
Community and faith groups have rallied to voice their opposition, with an interfaith vigil planned for Friday night. E.&J. Gallo Winery, a hometown business and major employer in the area, took the “rare step” of issuing a public statement amplifying its commitment to diversity and inclusion in the community. Numerous response events are planned for Saturday, including a screening and panel discussion at a synagogue, “a love and safety event” at the Central Valley Pride Center and a counter-protest that expects to draw several hundred people. (All of this, along with every development at the city level, has been extensively reported on by the Modesto Bee. Read their full coverage here.)
Ah You said that she didn’t like the idea of Modesto being broadcast around the country based on straight pride, “because these three or four people that are behaving really badly do not represent the bulk of our community.”
So, I asked her to tell me about the Modesto that she wanted people to see. What’s that town like?
“It would be the things that you see in Modesto View,” she said, citing a local publication. “It would be our long-term economic providers like the Gallo winery, for example, or Stanislaus Foods. It would be our good history and the people that live here and do the work every day and serve our population. You know, the guys that trim the tree and make sure the stoplights work.”
And whatever happens Saturday, all of that will still be there. “Hopefully nobody shows up to their event,” Matthew said. “That’s the ideal situation.”
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
Los Angeles has long been locked in battles over where and how people can bed down on its streets and sidewalks — a debate that has played out for decades in City Hall, in the courts and on avenues lined with squalid tents and bedrolls. Now L.A. politicians are weighing a new set of rules that could bar people from sitting or sleeping on streets and sidewalks near schools, parks and daycare centers, and in a range of other prohibited areas — an idea that has drawn fire from homeless advocates. Los Angeles Times
Cities and counties in Southern California will have to plan for the construction of 1.3 million new homes in the next decade, a figure more than three times what local governments had proposed over the same period, according to a letter released by state housing officials Thursday. Los Angeles Times
Taix restaurant, an Echo Park institution, is being sold to a luxury apartment builder. Los Angeles Times
To prevent wildfires, L.A. wants to make it easier to clear homeless encampments in severe fire zones. Los Angeles Times
Six thousand bus stops in Los Angeles lack shade shelter. (According to the story, there are about 7,900 bus stops in the city of Los Angeles in total). Curbed LA
How L.A. inspires the look of the New York Times “Modern Love” column. LAist
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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER
California will sue the Trump administration over their new migrant children detention policy, Gov. Gavin Newsom says. Los Angeles Times
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Bernie Sanders talked about his climate change plan in fire-devastated Paradise. Los Angeles Times
Rep. Devin Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter will get its first hearing in a Virginia courtroom Friday. Defamation lawyers say the Central Valley Republican could face trouble keeping the case alive. Sacramento Bee
CRIME AND COURTS
The San Luis Obispo County public defender’s office is stretched thin representing an unusually high number of murder defendants, including two who could possibly face the death penalty. San Luis Obispo Tribune
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
From the Department of Evergreen Headlines: A thick fog blanked Bay Area bridges on Thursday morning, stalling commutes and delaying Golden Gate Ferry departures. San Francisco Chronicle
More than two dozen Kern County oil and steam-injection wells have been idled because of concerns they never received a proper regulatory review. Bakersfield Californian
Ten years on, the Station fire remains burned into the minds of locals and fire officials. La Cañada Valley Sun
What did Yosemite National Park get for the $12 million paid to its former concessionaire? San Francisco Chronicle
UC Berkeley now offers an “adulting” class. Here’s what it entails. SFGATE
In the Danish outpost of Solvang, Trump’s desire to buy Greenland gets a collective shrug. Los Angeles Times
Construction of a restroom at the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary was halted because the city forgot to call a tribal monitor to be on site during the digging. (The Monterey County location is registered as a sacred site with the California Native American Heritage Commission, and under California law municipalities must include tribal monitors in projects where artifacts or ancestral remains could be disturbed.) Monterey County Weekly
A test flight for a Sacramento-Bay Area shuttle launched this week. A three-month pilot program for the shuttle, which would fly to San Jose from the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova in about 35 minutes, aims to launch in late fall. Sacramento Bee
Eureka has named its first-ever poet laureate. David Holper, a mainstay in College of the Redwoods’ Department of English, applied for the position because he feels the Northern California city has a vibrant arts scene that deserves visibility. Eureka Times-Standard
A guide to the best bao in San Diego. Pacific San Diego
A letter of recommendation for the Fresno Greek Fest, which celebrates its 59th year this weekend. Fresno Bee
Los Angeles: partly sunny, 81. San Diego: partly sunny, 73. San Francisco: sunny, 73. San Jose: sunny, 88. Sacramento: sunny, 97. More weather is here.
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