TSON News | Exposing Rodney Glassman’s abysmal environmental record

Exposing Rodney Glassman’s abysmal environmental record

[tnivideo caption=”Excerpts from Blue Gold applicable to Arizona” credit=”Blue Gold the movie”]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au_e8ay4sIo

For some background in water politics, check out the video above before you begin reading this article.


I grew up in Marana, northwest of Tucson, and I know most of the desert roads in the Tortolitas, Sawtooth, Newman’s Peak, and other regions throughout Southern Arizona. One thing that I have noticed is how dry the ground it getting. It almost looks like a salty plain in some regions. It was just a century ago that the Santa Cruz river would run year-round and a Spanish word for a thicket gave Marana its name.

Where did all the water go?

Green vs. Red

As a descendant of the original peoples living in this area it amazes me that some people claim to be experts because they have a Ph.D. in a field of knowledge that any 12-year old Native American child knows.

Sometimes technology and theory are not the solution. Sometimes common sense is.

This is one thing that has troubled me about the “green” movement. I do not want to generalize to all environmentalists, but I feel that much of the movement, while well-intentioned, is a façade. It has gotten so ridiculous that principles of the free-market are trying to be applied to solve a problem the free-market is exacerbating, with no appreciation of the irony.

Take for example the cap-and-trade movement, which I do not support. Setting up a Wall Street for trading pollution credits is ridiculous. How about we use some plain common sense? How about we just pollute less?

The same thing is true here in Tucson, and we have not gotten as serious as we should about our water woes. In continuing with the American tradition, we will be reactive to an emergency situation rather that pro-active in preventing the emergency to being with.

Rodney Britz Glassman, Republican from Fresno.

But the biggest irony comes from Rodney Glassman, who claims to be the hero of the environmental movement here in Tucson, and yet has been involved with more water usage and pollution than everyone reading this article combined.

We will go into this more deeply now, but just consider the following. Glassman has a Ph.D. in Arid Land Resource Sciences from the UA and claims to be an expert on sustainability.

How sustainable is it to build an ice rink on top of a landfill in the middle of the Sonoran Desert?

Is that what someone with a doctorate in sustainability considers the best use of Tucson’s most precious and most endangered resource – water? And how many tons of coal from Peabody Coal on Navajo land had to be burned to produce the energy required to have an ice rink in this heat.

Any 12-year old child knows better than that! Certainly his environmental aides do.

The Glassman-Britz family history of pollution and waste

A lot of the references that I will use here can be found in the article Who is Rodney Glassman?

To get you quickly caught up on what you missed Rodney Britz Glassman comes from a rich Republican family conglomerate of Fresno agribusiness, petrochemical, and predatory land usurpers of small family farms. Rodney himself was registered Republican before moving to Tucson to run the biggest scam by attempting to win a US Senate seat to guarantee a huge payout for his family in the form of federal subsidies to take them into the billionaires club.

But we will focus on the beating they have given Mother Earth in exchange for power and money.

Glassman has the appearance of being environmentally friendly because of a water-harvesting ordinance he passed while he was a city councilmember. This requires new businesses, such as a convenience store, to attempt to capture rainwater to use for watering their plants. Tucson’s water problem is solved!

Not exactly.

To begin with, I live next to one of these businesses that Glassman proclaims as being a victory in the water-harvesting movement. This convenience store just recently opened and they had free coffee for 90 days. Since it was on my way to school, and since I’m a grad student addicted to coffee, I would drop by everyday.

The parking lot has a slight incline to it, so that indeed landscaping plants can benefit from the rainwater that hits the parking lot. The only problem is, there’s not much rainwater here!

So what I noticed was that rather that watering plants everyday, the parking lot would be sprayed regularly with a high-pressure water hose. The good thing is that these plants were able to capture the run-off, but I think this defeats the purpose of water-harvesting unless you consider regular parking lot cleaning to be a sustainable and wise use of water in Tucson.

But this is what Glassman considers a victory for water sustainability.

And this is about it. He did not complete a full term as councilmember, and considers just over two years as Ward 2 councilman enough experience to be US Senator. But there’s more to his history.

Westlands Water District

Rodney Britz Glassman claims his Fresno past is not relevant today, but it surely is. He is still receiving money from the agricultural subsidies and he is listed with 9 other Fresno people (Britzes and Glassmans) as owners of the ice rink.

Rodney still lists Fresno as his home address on some businesses.

The money connection is still strong. How else would a young man come to Tucson and fail at the only business he has run here in town, driving it into bankruptcy, and still have $500,000 to donate to his own campaign. Where is all that money coming from?

Let’s begin with some facts. From the USDA:

Agriculture is a major user of ground and surface water in the United States, accounting for 80 percent of the Nation’s consumptive water use and over 90 percent in many Western States.

What this means is that if agriculture is using 90% of the water, that means the maximum overall savings by the remainder can be at most 10%. We are a part of that remainder.

While you and I and turning off the water when we brush our teeth, installing water-efficient shower heads and what not, this is still nothing compared to how much water agriculture is using. Just look at how much water comes out of the pumps in the video above.

If you really want to address water waste, you should begin with agriculture! From the AZ Daily Star.

FRESNO, Calif. – As drought forces families in the West to shorten their showers and let their lawns turn brown, two Depression-era government programs have been paying some of the nation’s biggest farms hundreds of millions of dollars to grow water-thirsty crops in what was once desert.

Records obtained by The Associated Press show that the federal government handed out more than $687 million in subsidies over the past two years to hundreds of farmers in California and Arizona, the most seriously drought-stricken states in the West. One program pays farmers for planting water-needy crops such as cotton and rice, which are largely grown by flooding the fields. The other provides cut-rate water for irrigation.

Farmers and government officials strongly defend the double-dip subsidies, saying they produce an abundance of food and jobs. But now, with the West booming in population and the region gripped by both recession and a dry spell, environmentalists, city dwellers and members of Congress are demanding the government end or scale back this decades-old practice that essentially rewards farms for using water, not conserving it.

As you have seen in the video above, a farmer can actually lose his water rights for not using their water! These farmers include the Glassman-Britz family of farms. From Environmental Working Group senior analyst Kari Hamerschlag.

Subsidies distort the market. That’s economics 101.

The Environmental Working Group has long contended that subsidies for commodities and Western water have discouraged efficient water use by encouraging farmers to grow alfalfa, rice, cotton and other thirsty crops in arid places.

A 2004 EWG study, California Water Subsidies, concluded that the large agribusiness operations — not small family farmers — were reaping a windfall from taxpayer-subsidized cheap water. The next year, a second EWG study, Double Dippers — How Big Ag Taps Into Taxpayers’ Pockets – Twice, found that one in four Central Valley Project farms received both water and crop subsidies for at least a year.

Today, with the federal government’s deficit soaring to mind-boggling levels and the West gripped by a third year of drought, it’s clear that decades of double-dipping have made a bad situation far worse. In the last few weeks, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has announced major water cutbacks in California, with many farmers denied federal irrigation water during the spring planting season.

The Associated Press reported last week that the federal government has subsidized California and Arizona farmers to the tune of nearly $700 million in the past two years to plant thirsty crops like alfalfa, rice and cotton on arid land.

The AP reporter made highly conservative assumptions, resulting in a subsidies estimate at the low end of the range calculated by EWG. But even AP’s numbers show that taxpayers have paid huge amounts to double-dippers – and for what? Countless farm communities are facing disaster.

So we have to wonder — what if just half of that money had gone towards supporting farmers to implement water conservation practices?

Cotton Isn’t Green.

Subsidies do more than promote wasteful water use. Cotton demands vast quantities of insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers that end up polluting our rivers and streams. Taxpayers have subsidized this environmental damage, paying out more than $600 million in cotton subsidies from 2003 to 2005.

That’s 10 times what the federal government spent during that period to help farmers improve their conservation practices in California.

Most of the farmers are Republican, and donate heavily to Republican, including the Glassman-Britz family donations in 2008 to John McCain for President and the Republican Congressional Committees. In exchange the farmers receive huge federal subsidies.


(Article continued below)

“The report confirms what we’ve known for many years, that big farms are getting the bulk of these subsidies,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who sponsored 1992 legislation that diverted some project water from agriculture to environmental restoration. “We now see (Bush) administration attempts to lock in this system well into the century by renewing contracts that were written in the 1950s. It’s crazy. You’re talking about some of the richest people in the state standing in line for hand-outs.

The Environmental Working Group specializes in compiling databases on environmental and agricultural issues. For this report, although it was able to use government records to identify the agricultural water districts that received the most project water, it could not obtain water district records to verify the individual farms receiving the greatest amounts of project water. This is because of a state law passed in the 1990s allowing water districts to maintain private records.

Instead, it obtained state records of pesticide application licenses issued to individual farms. Using these records, the group was able to identify the acreage each farm planted to specific crops. The group’s analysts then extrapolated water use per farm based on the known water requirements of each crop.

Rodney Britz Glassman on his new tractor - a Zamboni

There is a lot of money to be made from government subsidies. The politicians will have ads with the small-time farmer, perhaps in overalls and on a tractor, maybe a barn in the background, and talk about how more government welfare/subsidies are needed to save the small farmer.

But it’s all a farce and most of that money goes to huge agribusiness. The following article about Rodney Britz Glassman’s family is from the LA Times:

From its gated headquarters in the suburbs here, the Britz family runs a farming behemoth with arms that stretch across the vast middle of California. It is a multimillion-dollar empire that includes a petrochemical company, packinghouses, a cotton gin and tens of thousands of acres of irrigated cropland.

But the Britzes – whose houses sit amid country clubs and not cotton fields – also get a big helping hand from Uncle Sam. Their 14 separate farming entities have collected $4.6 million in federal crop subsidies over the last six years alone, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures.

This was the year Washington was supposed to shut off the valve of crop supports to rural California and the rest of America’s farm belt, saving taxpayers billions of dollars while letting a free market balance supply and demand. But farmers have watched commodity prices fall to new lows in the face of increased foreign competition.

So Congress last month decided to perpetuate–and even enhance–a program of subsidies that was conceived in the Great Depression to help struggling family farmers but will continue to provide millions to big growers like the Britzes. Over the next decade, crop supports will cost American taxpayers an estimated $190 billion.

The lion’s share of the money in California goes to a handful of big dogs,” said Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that is trying to reform the farm subsidy system. “The dirty little secret is that 10% of the recipients in California get 67% of the money. And these are the guys who least need it.”

As the noise of this spring’s farm debate has died down, it has left behind the question of which farmers in California–big or small, successful or struggling–benefit most from crop subsidies that have totaled $2.8 billion since 1996.

Proponents say the money goes to farms of every size and helps keep food affordable. It doesn’t line the pockets of farmers, they say, but is plowed right back into the soil. It is spent at local tractor dealers and hardware stores. It pays $7-an-hour jobs for laborers who come from Mexico.

Pesticides and pollution

Cesar Chavez and the UFW march against the Fresno grape farmers.

The Glassman family are Fresno grape farmers and do indeed employ migrant laborers, and have made millions of dollars while paying them poverty-wages. But it gets worse than that. They have also been sued for spraying pesticides on the Mexican farmworkers. Remember Cesar Chavez and the UFW boycott of Fresno grapes.

Cesar Chavez also fasted for 36 days and one of the reasons was to protest the use of pesticides on farmworkers. It was these lawsuits dealing with farmworkers that allowed lawyers to find out how much the Glassman-Britz family was making off of federal subsidies and by exploited Mexican farm laborers.

“The Britz family is worth tens of millions of dollars,” said Butch Wagner, a Fresno attorney who gleaned the financial records while winning a lawsuit on behalf of a fired company employee. “The notion that they are milking the federal government for millions more is shameful.”

The UFW has had problems with the Fresno farmers even until this week.

The Glassman-Britz history with pesticides, or as his supporters prefer to call the “petrochemical operations,” plays two important roles.  Just as Arizona has predatory lenders such as PayDay loans, Fresno has the Britz Investment predatory lending operation. The Glassman-Britz family didn’t make their millions just selling fertilizer. This is where Britz Investment enters the story.

When Albert Britz, a Berkeley-educated chemist who founded the family’s fertilizer company 54 years ago, and his wife, Helen, died in 1986, they left a $23-million estate to their three grown children, David, Linda and Martin. With the vision of Glassman, Linda’s husband, the Britz heirs have moved into the business of lending.

If a grower can’t pay his Britz pesticide bill, Britz Investment steps in as “a bank of last resort.” The farms gained through loan defaults have helped turn Britz from a pesticide seller to a diversified farming giant with 19,000 acres of cotton, wheat, alfalfa, grapes, oranges, tomatoes and sugar beets, county records show.

The chemical company generates $229 million in yearly sales, according to company records filed in a recent court case.

But what about the water that I mentioned above. Now enter in the Westlands Water District.

The 2000 financial statement for Britz Fertilizer shows a $5.3-million net profit and a combined $2.4 million in salaries for company Chief Executive David Britz, Secretary Martin Britz and Chief Financial Officer Glassman.

“The Britz family is worth tens of millions of dollars,” said Butch Wagner, a Fresno attorney who gleaned the financial records while winning a lawsuit on behalf of a fired company employee. “The notion that they are milking the federal government for millions more is shameful.”

In addition, millions of dollars worth of subsidized federal water flows to Britz farms in the Westlands Water District.

The family has divided its immense land holdings into smaller trusts and partnerships because federal reclamation law limits subsidized water to farms no larger than 960 acres.

Crop subsidies also go to farms that have a number of ties to Britz. For instance, $525,000 in checks have gone to “San Mateo Farms,” which in 1999 listed its mailing address as 16423 W. Kamm Ave. in Helm, the same as the Britz cotton gin.

San Mateo’s co-owner, Howard Jones, was a longtime Britz chemical salesman before he retired last year.

He said the crop loans for the 1,913-acre farm come from Britz Investment and the farming equipment belongs to Britz. Britz applies the pesticides and gins the cotton.

As for the subsidy payments to San Mateo since 1996, Jones said the money went to him and two partners, who also are top Britz employees. “I took the subsidy money,” he said. “Only I don’t remember it being that much.”

Water and government money, a recurring theme. By far the largest consumer of water is agriculture, and yet Dr. Glassman claims to be all about water conservation. He should start with his family business!

The story continues in Tucson

The Republican Glassman and Britz family, including Rodney Britz Glassman, who was a registered Republican, decided to take over Tucson. Surely there were some people in Tucson who could be easily persuaded with their millions of dollars.

But to be sure, the Fresno connection has never ended. And they never stopped taking free government money even though they were already multi-millionaires. It’s amazing what some political donations can buy you.

Let’s return to water and government money. We already know that agriculture is the biggest user of water, and petrochemicals and fertilizer are one of the biggest polluters of that precious water source. How can you make water off the mega-consumption and pollution of water?

Be such a bad polluter that the government pays you to stop!

In 2002, taxpayers paid a few growers in the Westlands Water District some $100 million to retire nearly 40,000 acres of drainage-impaired land because applying imported water polluted the groundwater and surrounding land with salt, boron, and toxic selenium. The San Luis Drainage Feature Re-evaluation FEIS (2006) identified 44,106 acres of land that had been permanently retired from irrigation in Westlands. This acreage is comprised of Sumner Peck, Britz Settlements with the Federal Government and CVPIA land retirement demonstration program. An additional 66,000 has also been retired by Westlands due to pollution concerns.

Now you are getting paid to retire, and you can continue to get paid government subsidies until now and pay minimal fines:

Actually, now that you understand a bit more about Glassman’s family background, and how he still has a stake in the business and continues to generate free government money, you will understand why an ice-rink manager is involved with Arizona and Pima farming. Also from his website:

Rodney served on the Board of the Arizona State Farm Bureau for three years. He also served as the President of the Pima County Farm Bureau, which he reconstituted. In these roles, he was able to help distributed tens of thousands of dollars annually to the local 4-H and Future Farms of America (FFA) through the Pima County Fair.

Closing thoughts

Say what you will about Rodney Glassman, but don’t pretend he is an environmentalist. He continues to brag about how he worked with Southern Arizona’s largest homebuilders and how he was able to bring them to the table, just as he wants to do with the TEA Party.

The video above shows how it is not just agriculture, but high-density home construction that is contributing to our water crisis. Construction takes a lot of water, water that Tucson doesn’t have, and working in the interests of the mostly Republican homebuilders is to work against water conservation. But once again the façade emerges with some illusionary water harvesting gimmick.

If you really want to conserve water in Tucson, you don’t use it to begin with!

It’s common sense, and it doesn’t require a Ph.D. to understand this simple concept. But now that Rodney Glassman is reconstituting the Pima County Farm Bureau and working with homebuilders, even more water will be consumed here in the desert, and it will probably be paid for with taxpayer dollars in the form of subsidies.

Your first warning sign that Dr. Glassman was no environmentalist should have come when he used cheap government loans to build an ice rink atop a landfill in Tucson. That’s not water conservation in the slightest bit.

As fast as carpetbaggers come in to try to take over Tucson, they will be the first to leave after our resources are depleted. The Tucsonans who have family here going back for centuries and who truly love the Old Pueblo will now be left with an even drier desert. The Santa Cruz river doesn’t even flow here anymore, the underground water table continues to drop, and CAP recharging is also running low due to snow patterns in the Rocky Mountains, and other inefficient use of Colorado river water by Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and even Phoenix and Tucson.

What took thousands of years to build up in our basin and range geography is being depleted faster than it can be replaced. My homeland desert is drying up to the point that not even small weeds are growing in huge chunks of the desert.

Our draconian water policies and turning a desert into a water-hungry cotton farmland is not helping either. I have yet to hear Rodney Glassman speak out against agricultural subsidies, but why would he? He would have to denounce his family plan for riches.

Surely a Ph.D. in sustainability and arid land resources, like Rodney Glassman has, should know the millions of dollars he has made from agriculture are the number one cause of water depletion in Western states such as California and Arizona.

But Glassman is smart and rich, and that’s a perfect combination when you are trying to pass off a Republican agribusiness and petrochemical millionaire as a Tucson progressive environmentalist.


Three Sonorans speaks as a life-long Southern Arizona and does not speak on behalf of any political campaign.

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16 comments on “Exposing Rodney Glassman’s abysmal environmental record
  1. For years I’ve puzzled over the free ride Rodney Republican has enjoyed – party stalwarts giving his their blessing, the discipline of the media in keeping a straight face and steering away from the obvious, the absense of any kind of in-depth coverage of his ‘career’. Could it have something to do with that green stuff, the kind you fold, the universal lubricant ?

  2. Money is the only reason why Glassman is being given a pass on all of this.  And all the political insiders know that it’s the dirty snake Grijalva who is behind all of it.  Grijalva loves that blood money and he doesn’t care that Glassman-Britz exploited farmworkers, poisoned them and their children with pesticides, or anything else that he pretends to care about.  He just wants those millions that the Glassman-Britz family has offered him.  And so many of the Democratic minions just fall right into line, for fear of the consequences that Grijalva threatens them with.

    Everyone in the Mexican-American community knows the truth about Grijalva, and this has just cemented it.   Why else would a self-proclaimed “champion of farmworkers” endorse the Glassman-Britz family?  The Mexican-American community also knows that he sees himself as the self-appointed mafia don of Tucson, and they know all about the tactics of fear and intimidation that he and Ruben Reyes use against anyone who falls out of step with their marching orders.

    The Tucson community is very bright, though, and now the broader community is starting to wake up to the truth.  Grijalva’s endorsement of Glassman-Britz has shown the world his true colors.  This is a historical time that we are in, and people are waking up to the truth.  Grijalva’s climate of fear is crumbling, everyday.  It is a beautiful thing.

  3. This is quite a rant that tells very little about Dr. Glassman’s politics or political record.  Dr. Glassman is being charged here mainly for the sins of his father and family.  Very little of this article is about Dr. Glassman and what he has done and the parts that do are misleading.  He did manage an ice ring his family owned while he was a student, but the buisness did not go bankrupt under his management as is implied by the author, it was sold and Dr. Glassman did not open the buisness or secure the loan.  This artical also fails to mention that Glassman has opened up a youth charity (most likely with money he gets through his family).

    This article reeks of a political hit piece, highlighted by that quip about the hosing down of a parking lot, as if Dr. Glassman had anything to do with that sort of water waste.  I will judge Dr. Glassman based on his politics and acomplishments and not on the sins of his fathers and the incredable shortcomings of US Ag policy that McCain, not Glassman, has shaped.  However, in light of this article I will ask Glassman about his position on agriculture policy.

    • It’s the dirty money from his family that is financing his entire campaign and that has paid off the snakes such as Raul Grijalva and others.  Therefore, the blood is on both of their hands.  Grijalva poses as a farmworker hero one minute, and then takes Glassman’s blood money, the next.

      Glassman has been completely silent in the face of this full-blown crisis that we are in, even as our children are out getting arrested to defend our human rights.  But once you know his background and what his true intentions are, then it is no surprise why.

    • Rodney Glassman still has a 13.75% stake in one operation that continues to receive over a million dollars as of last year.
      He’s every bit a part of this and is profiting from it.

    • I know many people who have never uttered a word about their charitable giving, an approach I share with them. Dr. Glassman has chosen to follow a different course, and I’m sure he has his reasons for this. If this article says little about what Rodney has done, perhaps there is little to say. Perhaps you could enlighten us about his many accomplishments, if you’ve had a chance to discuss this with him – not too many have – I can’t think of even one. I also will judge him on his ( real ) politics, and rather serverly – am not talking about the fairy tale his handlers have been spinning for several years. That fable should be filed with the childrens’ stories, right next to Harvey Javelina.

  4. When I ran against Rodney in 07′ for the City Council, I brought all of this to the attention to several local reporters, Tucson Citizen, AZ Star, Tucson Weekly. I was told “you can’t connect Rodney with his family business” well we can and we did, but he was the chosen one. It didn’t matter that he had been registered as a R in CA, that the “Family Business” had been sued many times because of over-spraying farmworkers to over-spraying grape fields by accident of course, to owning 960 acres in CA (Rodney can’t remember where they are ) to ownership of water districts and EPA Superfund sites on and on.
    But he was still endorsed by the Unions and Sierra Club without doing their do-diligence.
    Thank you for finally putting it in print, and pulling the wool off this wolf.
    It was claimed a “Hit Piece” in 07′ when I brought it to light too, But it’s not a hit piece, when it’s the truth.

  5. Consider voting for John Dougherty instead. He is an investigative reporter, who exposed the Keating 5 savings and loan corruption. McCain and DeConcini were among those 5.
    Glassman seems like a nice man, but Dougherty could be the SOB we need to go get em. Arizona needs that!

  6. I have two concerns about Rodney Glassman. The first is that we don’t need another politician like Rick Renzi who really isn’t even an actual resident of Arizona. The second is that it appears he has six children judging from his campaign literature. He won’t say how many kids he has, but it is relevant to me because I don’t believe a person can truthfully say he is an environmentalist if he has six children. Why won’t he say how many kids he has? This article raises even more concerns for me. I am a lifelong Democrat but right now I am very angry at my party.

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