Friday, 24 May 2024


On Sept. 10 I could think of no other woman whose global influence has impacted so many lives as Anita Roddick.

Dame Anita Roddick lived in Britain, but dedicated her soul to the world. I never had the pleasure of meeting Dame Anita. But, I know that her bravery, business acumen and concern for all people touched my life.

She leaves us, her husband, and two daughters with a legacy to be admired, respected, and looked to for inspiration and guidance.

Dame Anita’s illustrious and socially conscious life included an education in teaching (Bath College of Higher Education), work for the United Nations, ownership of The Body Shop until 2006, and an exemplary record of achievement in humanitarianism.

Her life achievements include numerous awards in the areas of business ethics, business leadership, environment, Officer of the British Empire and an award for “Chief Wiper-Away of Ogoni Tears,” from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Nigeria in 1999.

The connection that I share with Anita is multifold. In the 1990s my father, Dr. Carl Jensen, announced that Anita wanted to fund Sonoma State University’s Project Censored. At the time, Project Censored had published yearly books announcing the 10 most censored stories on a shoestring budget.

Anita’s gracious offer of funding helped Project Censored continue to bring significant stories to the public forum in a substantial way. Upon learning about the Body Shop through Dr. Jensen, I sought out her wares at The Body Shop. I was, as an environmentally conscious person, pleasantly surprised by the company’s product line.

True to her personal philosophy of healthy living, Anita’s company provided products that passed all environmental and animal protection activist concerns. Not only that, but Dame Anita sought the release of Nigeria’s social and environmental activist, Ken Saro Wiwa.

As an Environmental Studies and Planning Major at Sonoma State University I was touched by Anita’s call to save Nigeria’s forests, protect the Ogoni people, and release Ken Saro Wiwa from Nigeria’s prison.

The message I learned from her brave activism, care for people and the environment represents, absolutely, the ethos of love. Anita’s documented care for all transcended every act of humanitarianism I have witnessed in my life to date. This is a woman we all should have known, for she was humorous, loving, and gave to so many with all of her heart.

May we all be blessed with having known of Anita’s great work in our world.

Pia Jensen grew up in Santa Rosa and is former vice-mayor of Cotati. She visits Lake County on occasion to see family. She lives in Florida.


Though it hasn’t yet hit the streets and shopping malls, a prominent Republican lawyer in Sacramento recently submitted to the Attorney General a potentially explosive initiative that could guarantee Republican control of the White House for the next generation.

The measure, benignly entitled the “Presidential Election Reform Act,” would radically change the way California counts its electoral votes in presidential elections.

In order to get elected President, you need 270 electoral votes. With 55, California has far more than any other state in the nation. To put it in perspective, California alone has more electoral votes than most of the rest of the western states combined – Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.

Instead of the “winner take all” method that currently awards all 55 California electors to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes, this Republican proposal would give just two electoral votes to the top vote-getter. The other 53 electors would be given to the winning candidate in each of California’s 53 congressional districts.

What would be the result of this modest-sounding change? Well, in the 2004 election, George Bush was the top vote-getter in 22 Congressional districts in California. That means he would have gotten more electoral votes in California than John Kerry got for winning Illinois or Pennsylvania.

In other words, it’s a clever partisan maneuver designed to appear like “reform,” while ensuring the election of Republican presidential candidates.

The Republicans even think they’ve figured out how to make this little stink-bomb smell good. They argue it will force presidential candidates to campaign in California because they can’t take the state – which has reliably voted for the Democrat in the last four presidential elections – for granted.

That sounds good – and it’s the same logic that led the Legislature to move up the date of the presidential primary to February 8 next year. But it’s a smokescreen.

The fact is, people have been unhappy with the electoral college for a long time. Since 1889 there have been nearly 600 proposed constitutional amendments on the subject of the electoral college introduced in Congress – more than on any other subject.

Following Richard Nixon’s narrow, 500,000-vote win in 1968, a proposed constitutional amendment calling for direct popular elections passed the House, but failed in the Senate.

More recently, there was a lot of talk about reforming the electoral college after the highly controversial 2000 presidential election, when George Bush became the first president in 112 years to lose the popular vote, but win in the electoral college.

But if the goal is to get the candidates to campaign in California, the simplest way to accomplish it is to eliminate the electoral college altogether. Since California has more voters than any state, candidates will have to campaign here.

Direct popular elections would give California voters a lot more say in choosing our president. After all, under the electoral college system, a California voter has significantly less electoral clout than a voter in less populous states. California has more than 650,000 people for every electoral vote. In Wyoming, though, there is one electoral vote per 168,000 people.

If the goal is to get rid of the “winner take all” system used in California, let’s get rid of it

everywhere. That’s the only fair way to do it.

But the hidden agenda of the proponents of the Presidential Election Reform Act isn’t fairness. It’s not even to increase California’s clout in the presidential election process.

Their goal is to ensure partisan Republican control of the White House. It may even be to continue the ill-conceived and disastrously managed war in Iraq.

So beware the next time you see one of those friendly paid signature gatherers on the street. Read the fine print. Ask questions. Then keep on walking. The best way to stop the Republicans’ latest cynical ploy is to keep it from getting on the ballot.

Mike Thompson represents California’s 1st Congressional District.


The facts in the Bismarck Dinius-Russell Perdock boating accident case, which involved one of our finest off-duty sheriff's department deputies and the unfortunate Weber-Thornton family, brings to mind an incident I experienced last Fourth of July.

Six persons, including myself, embarked from Highlands Harbor by boat to watch the City of Clearlake fireworks. We were presented with a spectacular display of pyrotechnics that evening from a spot on the lake where the show was just overhead.

As we were heading back home, traveling at an estimated 20 knots, we had a near miss with a boat towing a teenaged kid on a disabled jet ski. We came within a few feet of hitting the kid on the jet ski as it had no lights at all and the boat towing the jet ski was poorly lit with only a dim bow light. Needless to say, we were all very shook up by this near miss.

What might have happened had we hit the boat and/or jet ski? Would the Sheriff's Boat Patrol have been unequivocally able to determine the cause? Could we have been erroneously charged? Fatalities would likely have occurred. It is a sure bet that the operator of our boat and myself would have been ejected from the vessel upon impact as we were standing nearest to the bow of the boat. The effects such a collision would have had on the passengers of the other boat and jet ski that had crossed our homeward path would also have been devastating. Thankfully, we will never know what might have transpired.

Despite attempts every year by local, state and federal legislators to create new ordinances and laws to keep us safe and sane, officials who set these standards and the agencies assigned to enforce these laws can never be sure that all scenarios will be covered by any legislation. There will always be "special circumstances" that do not fit into a specifically prescribed legal category. Let's face the fact too that not all laws are well written to begin with. Many laws are eventually modified by additional legislation, scrapped entirely after experience flushes out their follies or high court rulings.

Sometimes, family wishes and extenuating circumstances must be taken into consideration despite the letter of the law due to the inadequacies of legislation and the inability to consider the unforeseen, personal circumstances of innocent human error. The real question is if justice will ever really be served if this case is prosecuted. Sometimes the families of victims would prefer closure instead of a long, drawn out court case.

It would appear that the Dinius case may be one that requires consideration as an "incident of unusual circumstances."

If the family of the deceased Lynn Thornton and Deputy Perdock all agree that this unfortunate and tragic accident was just that, why can't the District Attorney's Office drop the case? I have no knowledge of the Thornton family's feelings in this matter nor Deputy Perdock's viewpoint. I would offer my condolences to the affected parties at this time though. It is a miracle that no one else was killed.

I realize that District Attorney Jon Hopkins has a difficult job to do regarding this case and I do not envy him, but surely all persons involved have suffered a great deal already. It would be nothing short of devastating to all involved to prosecute either party for an unfortunate event that was truly a tragic, uncontrollable accident.

The big picture here and the real issue is that new standards and equipment need to be required by the Coast Guard and/or our local and state officials. With all the new lighting technology and long-life batteries that are now available to the general public, it would seem that the flare gun and small, dimly lit, inadequate running lights should be a thing of the past. The standards currently used for visual location of stranded vessels and normal boating traffic must be updated and lighting redesigned. Call it the Lynn Thornton Maritime Bill in honor of this innocent victim.

A few years ago, I experienced the helpless feeling of being in a boat that was broken down on a moonless night in the middle of Clear Lake. The water was very choppy and our running lights would not work. The emergency flares were found to be damp and the batteries of our flashlight soon ran low. We were luckily rescued by a "Good Samaritan" in a passing vessel that towed us to shore, but this scenario could have easily gone sour, too.

It is time that all recreational boating vessels be required to carry emergency strobe lights that have a long-life battery and/or backup power that is independent from a vessel's primary operating systems. The old maritime emergency technology has been around for almost a century. Flares are not always dependable and they are also highly flammable. Standard marine batteries are still behind the times. Brighter, larger and more visible running lights with backup solar power or another type of reserve battery system should also be required.

In addition, solar-powered channel markers and shoal markers should be mandatory on Clear Lake too. This would be a sure-fire method of reducing the nighttime dangers of disabled vessels and the normal nighttime travels of all boating traffic respectively. This proposal would be a reasonable, fairly low cost way to insure the safety of all boaters and is surely overdue in all of the inland waterways of America.

Let's not prosecute the unfortunate victims of outdated maritime safety laws and lighting requirements. We must demand safer, updated standards of our legislators and boat manufacturers.

Author Kevin Engle has been a resident of Lower Lake for the last decade and grew up boating, scuba-diving and fishing in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.


Ever since I first came to Lake County, almost 37 years ago, I have heard discussions on how to bring businesses to Lake County that will provide decent jobs for the next generations so they don’t have to relocate to more urbanized areas. Many of the better professional jobs in government and service are being snapped up, in a highly competitive job market, by people moving away from those same urban areas looking to escape and raise their children in a safer environment.

The age-old model revolved primarily around manufacturing and service oriented opportunities. Manufacturing of products has always been a tough sell here due to the isolated nature of the County and transportation costs and issues. The perception of isolation may be a greater hindrance than the reality but certainly gas prices haven’t helped. The size and weight of product also bears on this issue. There have been examples of successful manufacturing in Lake County, but not many.

One of the other issues we face is demographic in nature. We have a large percentage of elderly in our workforce not capable of enduring the rigors of manufacturing or service-related jobs. Also, as a former employer, I can testify to the difficulty of getting employees that are dependable and motivated.

While it is true that our wages fall to the low side, and some of our employers would be better suited to the 18th century sweat shop age, we still have a sizable number of work age people with dependency problems and a general inability to show up on time or at all and give a good day’s work.

The whys on that I’ll leave to the sociologists. The point is, we suffer from having a reputation as a county that does not have a highly dependable, well-trained work force. That hurts when it comes to attracting manufacturing or large service employers. And the reasons many of them may consider us our low wage scale is not something we’d like to emphasize as we try to raise wages and benefits for Lake County employees.

We know that small businesses form the nucleus of Lake County prosperity, along with tourism of course, but where the potential for economic growth really lies is at the heart of the discussion. I thought some County labor statistics might spark the conversation.

Manufacturing in Lake County accounts for only 2 percent of our workforce. Government provides the most substantial opportunities, accounting for 30 percent, however the turnover is less as these represent a significant number of the cush jobs here, offering retirement, benefits, holidays, relatively high salaries, etc.

The tourist industry is definitely large, representing 11 percent, but wreaks havoc on families due to pressures to work weekends, holidays and non-traditional shifts. With these kinds of schedules it’s difficult for families to schedule events where they can be together.

Education and health jobs represent a large percentage of our workforce at 14 percent. These jobs also represent some of the better long-term opportunities and we are certain to see an increase in these areas locally as our population ages and grows.

Trade, transportation and utilities account for 19% of our business this includes agriculture and retail of course.

Construction and Information both account for less than one percent of our workforce. The latter is an area where significant growth could occur if we commit to creating a reliable and advanced infrastructure.

Lake County comes in at providing almost $8,000 less per year per capita income for its citizens than the California average. This is one of the statistics that has to change if we want our kids to remain here. More than 1,000 of our workers commute to Mendocino County to work and a total of 22 percent of our available workforce commutes to other counties for employment. Even more interesting, six percent of our workforce comes into Lake County from other counties to work!

One of the more alarming statistics is the projections for growth that may lie ahead. When my family first came to Lake County there were less than 40,000 residents. By 2020, that is expected to double to 80,000. Expectations run at about 1,000 new residents per year to increase the load on our schools and services, transportation and roads, health and government services, and of course our workforce.

Unless Lake County sets benchmarks for controlling this influx, these immigrating citizens many with high levels of education and transferable skills seeking to escape metropolis will suck up the better jobs or, at the very least, increase the highly competitive circumstances we already have. Do we want to have 110,000 residents by 2050?

Just as a side anecdote for one receptionist position at a local doctor’s office, more than 150 applications were accepted. One of the local casinos had more than 300 applicants nationwide for a general manager position. One of the Geysers postings looking for eight to 16 positions had well over 300 applicants. County positions routinely have 60 or more initial applicants. So our workforce is struggling to find jobs with benefits and commensurate salaries.

A living wage enough to support a worker with rent, fuel, food and basics, is now defined at $15 per hour. Lake County citizens know from experience that the number of local jobs that pay that wage are few and far between. That’s why there are so many families working two or three jobs to make ends meet, and so many falling behind or living under poverty standards without benefits or retirement. To compound that problem, more employers are hiring workers at less than full-time so they can avoid costs of benefits.

Ultimately we still suffer from that traditional early industrial viewpoint of “us versus them” when it comes to employee-employer relationships. We need a thorough education program for our businesses and our workforce to encourage a different perspective. We need more, not less, commitment from both groups to understanding each others needs and problems.

For employers, it shouldn’t be how much can we get for the least cost from our employees it should be what can we do to enhance our employees lives and families, reward them for enthusiastic participation, increase their motivation and help them realize that their quality of work affects us all.

Similarly, employees need to realize that employers need dependable, sober and motivated workers not looking for an easy buck. In a small community, which we still are, we are all interdependent, and the more we look after each other even in business the more attractive staying here will be for our youth.

So what kind of future do we want to encourage here? Information and green technology holds significant promise, with above-average earnings and tremendous growth potential if we have the technological communications infrastructure to support it.

Agriculture still has significant promise if we capture the higher net profit organics market and encourage our local citizens to support that economy by buying locally grown produce and products if only because they’re better for our children’s health. But where will these farm workers come from? There aren’t a lot of Lake County citizens prepared to do this kind of work who aren’t doing it already. Farming isn’t easy but if the wage were high enough it certainly would be an area for expansion for business and workforce especially small farm co-ops. Lake County citizens would have to buy into supporting them but if the products were good, I think that would happen.

Manufacturing growth shouldn’t be excluded from our plan just be well-planned and prepared for. The manufacturing of green products and materials could hold significant promise because green business owners often are as influenced by environment and atmosphere as much as bottom line.

Just as Silicon Valley became a center for computer technologies, Lake and Mendocino counties could host an international green business revolution. Someone needs to be doing the work of developing the contact lists and liaison activities that are required for this type of marketing and outreach to encourage new green businesses to consider Lake County as their primary location. Once again, for this to happen our communications infrastructure must be as technologically advanced as possible.

Bottom line is that Lake County has tremendous potential. We have some problems both with the habits, training and motivation of our workforce and with the attitudes and practices of some of our employers. If we don’t want new citizens coming in to take the cream of the jobs away from our kids workforce development and business relations needs to rise to the top of our priorities.

There’s a lot that needs to be done and the agencies given this responsibility from state and federal programs are so hamstrung by paperwork and lack of funding that many of them are competing to offer identical redundant services. A comprehensive and easily accessed pool of Lake County residents looking for work is non-existent. Employers need to take the initiative to educate themselves as to the most effective ways to motivate and re-energize their workers.

A little profit sacrificed today to improve relations, hold better employees and improve benefits and conditions could make the difference in their bottom line tomorrow.

I look forward to the conversation.

James BlueWolf in an artist and author. He lives in Nice.



I am writing to express the gratitude of a grieving family. We are from all over these great United States, but we are grounded in California. Our grandmother raised four generations right in Clearlake. The branches of our tree may stretch for miles and miles, but our roots have always been right off Highway 29 – For as long as I can remember, anyway.

And so it goes, people leave and start families, visit less and less, letters are a rarity and holiday cards become the common means of communication. That does not mean, in any way, that the bond is broken or even cracked. It does not make relationships less valuable. It does, however, make the guilt and regret more profound when you lose a leaf from your tree. Especially when your loss comes too soon and so unexpectedly.

Leah Leister was my cousin. I have beautiful memories of my childhood visits with her, where my sisters and parents would pack into a car and drive eight straight hours for a week of catching up. I love all of my family, but Leah and I were bound by a sisterhood. Too young to join the rest of the commotion, and not really caring that we were missing it. We had so much else to do than talk about uncle so-and-so or great aunt what’s-her-name.

As we got older, we settled for letters and visits that came only every few years, but we always kept in touch. We always knew what the other was doing. Always. She was so full of dreams. She always talked of bigger and better things. She was so ready to begin her life. When her son was born, I only heard a stronger motivation for a change.

And then she was murdered.

I was able to attend one court proceeding. I drove from Oregon and sat in the courtroom next to Amy, Leah’s mother. I held her hand when Leah’s attacker looked Amy in the eyes and laughed and mouthed the words “you’re next.” I was with her when an officer of the court told us there was nothing that could be done to stop the accused from threatening her. There are laws, however, that protect the accused from being threatened by victims.

It was then that I first tried to block out Leah from my mind. I didn’t really believe there would be any justice and it hurt so bad to see my family tormented. Not just Amy, but everyone. I can’t even comprehend what her son lives with. Or her grandma, my Aunt Joy. How does a person make sense of that? I’d rather not deal with something so painful and since I live so far away, I could do that. I’m sorry to say that is exactly what I did.

I hear things from time to time through the grapevine. I begin to grieve and again just file it away. Too hard to deal with.

Then I hear from my mother that it’s over. He’s guilty. He’s going away for life – no parole for him. Ever. That is it. I can’t bury it any longer and I grieve. I’m still grieving. I think I always will.

So, I read an article by Elizabeth Larson that tells of Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff’s tireless effort. I think of the detectives that won't let Leah’s case go. I think of the jurors who hugged my family when it was finally over. I think of it every day. I will not ever be given the words to tell those people what that means to my family. All of us. Not just those in Lake County, but every one of us. I was not able to be there for Aunt Joy or Amy or William, but this community was. You didn’t know then and I don’t think you ever will really know what that means to me and her extended family.

I realize murder happens every day. Death is a part of life. My family isn’t the only one that grieves. Yet this community has made me feel as though they were personally taking care of my family for me – a and those who could not be there. How do you thank someone properly for that?

Thank you to the district attorney. Thank you to the detectives and police who did their part. Thank you to the group of peers that made up the jury that did the right thing.

In the end my cousin has been honored. She may never be able to live out all her dreams, but her dreams will never be forgotten.

Leah Leister was my cousin. I miss her and I love her.

Candie Johnston lives in Madras, Ore. Johnston's cousin, 26-year-old Leah Leister, was murdered in her Clearlake apartment in March 2002. More than five years later, on June 27, 2007, Edward James Munoz was convicted of Leister's murder. He is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff prosecuted the case, persevering in the case's prosecution despite a hung jury in a previous trial in late 2006.


I was driving by a local business area the other day and noticed the sprinklers operating with significant water running off into the gutters. Having just watched the Weather Channel’s presentation on drought in the mid-south, I was reminded of how precious our water resources are.

Having been a landscape contractor myself, I know how difficult it is to design systems that are always “perfect” when it comes to the controllability of the ratio of how much water is needed to how much is applied. New technologies make these problems less difficult to solve.

I want to take this opportunity to encourage the county to consider what types of voluntary and mandatory water conservation steps can be taken to insure that the quality and availability of our water resources is maintained.

A panel of landscape contractors could make suggestions for technologies that could be required as code to insure that sensors, timers and other automatic monitoring technology be utilized on new projects with the possibility of additional credits to homeowners and businesses for the retrofitting of existing systems considered.

Any increased costs to implement these types of systems would not substantially affect competition if everyone was required to use them. Anyone that’s driven by a water system functioning in a driving rainstorm can testify to the waste unmonitored systems can produce.

Even our groundwater is precious. Well systems should have some sort of guidelines and safeguards to insure that people with these types of systems are not lulled into thinking they have unlimited access to these resources simply because they’re not paying to city water companies.

Once again, I know this infringes on the time-honored feeling that individual ownership entitles one to unlimited use of natural resources but this is an obsolete philosophy given the realities of limited resources.

A second concern is that despite the county’s progress with recycling a significant amount of usable resources are still being sent to the landfill. Construction materials that might be recycled at the landfill gates free of cost might give our commercial contractors a way of getting rid of their waste and allow subcontracted handling companies to re-market these materials at reduced costs to citizens unable to purchase new materials.

Additionally, it seems that many of our resorts and communities are not required to recycle at all but still dump all their garbage plastic bottles, cardboard and all together with nonrecyclable trash. These gaps in our system need to be addressed by making tenants and/or resort owners responsible for the same efforts at recycling the rest of the populace is now required to participate in.

Finally, we need to make more of an effort to provide additional locations for people to get rid of common hazardous waste materials i.e., batteries, light bulbs, electronics equipment, etc. so they aren’t tempted to “hide” these items in their regular landfill wastes. My wife and I very much appreciate the plastic bag recycling cans out in front of a number of our more progressive food markets. The recycling of plastic bags and bottles must be at the forefront of our efforts.

In the same way that public and commercial trash receptacles are located outside businesses and public areas for trash we need to begin to allow the concept of having more public receptacles for specialized and separated wastes creep into our social consciousness even if it requires more and more cans.

The results of these efforts will be felt for generations and the need for them surpasses any reticence we have about the visual impact these extra facilities might have in our immediate surroundings. Personally, I’d rather see an abundance of garbage containers wherever I go than imagine that these materials are being deposited onto and into our lands and water systems.

Budgeting and planning for the appropriate amount of workers and resources needed to keep our communities clean and safe and our disposal and recycling systems effective are part of the greening and sustainability movement we are embracing.

Yet we should not expect that county government will do all these things for us as citizens we have the ability, without much of the red tape to take the lead in these efforts. But that’s an issue for another commentary.

James BlueWolf lives is an artist and writer. He lives in Nice.



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05.25.2024 7:00 am - 11:00 am
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