Political battle forces local veterans to action

FRESNO, Calif.

Both political parties are trying to figure out a way to open it on time, including Republican Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, who is seeking $26 million to make that happen.

With flowers already in the ground, a barber shop in place, and rooms ready to go; the Fresno Veterans home is less than four weeks away from completion. Veterans advocate Charlie Waters has been behind this $150 million project since the very beginning. Once open, it will house 300 veterans, and provide 400 jobs. But, at this point, when that opening will take place is anyone's guess.

Charlie Waters said, "And it's complete, and I'll be damned if I'm going to stand around and watch it deteriorate."

The budget crisis has stalled the Fresno Veterans home, as well as one in Redding. But Republicans hope Assembly bill, 21-51 will change all that. Among other things, the bill package seeks $26.1 million to open and operate both homes.

Assm. Linda Halderman said, "These homes are needed and they were promised already to those who served."

Action News spoke to a Department of Veterans Affairs official who questions where that money will come from.

Fresno Assemblyman Henry T. Perea says he too wants to restore funding, but instead of presenting a bill, he's focusing on budget talks and collecting signatures. "I have collected over 2,000 signatures throughout the Central Valley and the state and I will continue to get more signatures that I will deliver personally to the Governor's office."

As for Charlie Waters, while he appreciates the effort from both sides, he questions the political process, all while staying focused on the final prize. "They took the hearing away from the VA and put it in the appropriations committee where it's going to die. And those of us that are able, we'll fight to the last breath to get this thing through."

Waters will speak before the appropriations committee at 11:30 Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the budget committee will meet April 18th. Busloads of Valley veterans plan to travel to Sacramento for those hearings.

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