Paul Rodriguez fights with Dairy Activist

June 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Paul Rodriguez is the chairman of the Latino Water Coalition that is pushing to increase water supplies to Westside Valley farmers. But Thursday's fight over water got physical When Rodriguez was heckled by a man who says the comedian is not keeping his promise.Rodriguez had just left a meeting with Governor Schwarzenegger and was in the middle of a television news interview when the scuffle started.

The man heckling Rodriguez is José Corvelo who claims to be a spokesperson for a small, newly formed dairy coalition out of Merced County.

As the confrontation got louder and physical, the group accompanying Rodriguez tried to separate the men. Later Rodriguez apologized for the incident saying he and his family have been receiving harassing messages and suspected Covelo was responsible. "He gets under my skin because you just can't reason with someone who is just hollering and full of anger," Rodriguez said, "My apologies. My frustration is because I am not able to find the calmness or the words to get across to him that we are on the same side."

Corvelo is angry over what he calls Rodriguez's failure to force the governor and legislators to suspend the Endangered Species Act protecting the delta smelt and release more water for Valley growers. "It's because of the apathy from this group and this group being in bed with the very people that caused the problem that I am appalled that they even have the audacity to come to the people that they pretend to serve and lie and manipulate," Corvelo said.

Police had to intervene last month after Corvelo began heckling Congressman Jim Costa at another Water Coalition event in Mendota, a small farming community near Fresno.

"If I were to take his tactics, the police wouldn't let me get close to the governor," said Rodriguez. "I feel that frustration, but I have to contain myself. If you're hollering and scaring people like that, you'll never talk to the people who can affect change."

At a townhall meeting in Fresno Thursday, Governor Schwarzenegger said he does not have the power to turn on the water pumps.

Rodriguez has asked him to convene the so-called "God Squad", a committee of cabinet-level members who could determine if exemptions should be made to the Endangered Species Act, and allow more pumping from federal facilities.

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