Saturday, 13 July 2024


SACRAMENTO – Summing up a difficult year and looking ahead, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday gave his annual State of the State Address.

But some of his solutions for problems facing the state didn't merit approval from a local legislator.

Speaking before a joint session of the California State Legislature, Schwarzenegger recounted challenges from 2007, including Southern California's devastating fires.

He thanked the thousands of thousands of emergency personnel and volunteers – among them firefighters from four Lake County fire departments – who responded to the emergency, and also extended thanks to President George W. Bush and the federal government for support for the state.

Turning to economics, Schwarzenegger recounted a voluntary agreement reached with lenders to help lessen the risk of foreclosures, which have hit the state hard.

He also restated his commitment to “the most comprehensive health care reform in the nation,” which is working its way through the Legislature.

Schwarzenegger gave considerable attention to the state's budget, which he said isn't struggling due to the economy. “The problem is that while revenues are flat, automatic formulas are increasing spending by 7.3 percent. Now, even a booming economy can't meet that kind of increase. So the system itself is the problem.”

With an expected $14 billion deficit looming ahead in the 2008-09 budget year, Schwarzenegger said he will submit a “difficult” budget to the legislature. “It does not raise taxes; it cuts the increase in spending, and it cuts that spending across the board.”

In order to avoid what he called a “binge and purge” annual budget cycle, Schwarzenegger said he plans to propose a constitutional amendment based on a process used in Arkansas, which he said will result in more event spending.

That amendment, called the Budget Stabilization Act, establishes a Revenue Stabilization Fund, which Schwarzenegger's office reported is a savings account for excess revenues taken in by California during a prosperous year.

The state will be able to transfer the difference from the Revenue Stabilization Fund into the General Fund in years when tax revenues are below average and California cannot meet its spending obligations. The governor's office added that the amendment will offer more spending flexibility in times of fiscal emergency.

Water and infrastructure also found a place in Schwarzenegger's plans. The state, he said, has a water system that was built decades ago for 18 million people. “Today we have 37 million people, and in 20 years from now we will have 50 million people.”

Water storage and delivery, and the fragile Bay-Delta must be addressed, the governor said.

The Department of Finance estimates that California needs $500 billion worth of infrastructure over the next two decades, according to Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger said in the weeks ahead he'll be sending legislation to the Assembly and Senate to create public-private partnerships to meet those critical needs.

The governor also outlined plans to improve education by using No Child Left Behind Act provisions to turn around underperforming schools.

North Coast Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) faulted Schwarzenegger's plans, especially his planned cuts.

“I am disappointed, though not surprised, by the governor’s proposal for cuts across the board,” Wiggins said in a statement issued by her office late Tuesday. 'This proposal lacks thought, vision and courage. While some cuts will have to be made, he needs to provide more leadership in these difficult times.”

She added, “We will learn more in the way of specifics in the days and weeks ahead, but I remain opposed to drastic reductions in spending for education, health care and services for the elderly and the disabled. Nor will I support further tampering with our constitution to give this governor more unilateral control over spending. We are already required by the constitution to pass balanced budgets every year, and he already has the ability to blue pencil out spending that he does not support. He’s just failed to do so.”

Schwarzenegger, Wiggins concluded, “doesn’t need any additional tools in order to move our state in a positive direction – but he does need to make choices more difficult than what we have seen and heard from him so far.”

To see the full text of Schwarzenegger's speech, visit

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KELSEYVILLE – The Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch will serve as this year’s host to the Lake County watershed groups for a celebration of their activities and achievements.

The annual “Year in Review” will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m., at the Presbyterian Church of Kelseyville, Church and Third streets.

The evening will shine a spotlight on the events and accomplishments of the various watershed groups throughout the county’s Upper Cache Creek Watershed, and also the two local Resource Conservation Districts.

The West Lake Resource Conservation District (RCD) will be announcing the recipient of their “2007 Partner of the Year” award. Last year’s well-deserved award was given to the U.S. Forest Service, Mendocino National Forest, under the direction of Blaine Baker.

Peter Windrem, chair for the Chi Council, will give a presentation about the Clear Lake Hitch and the activities of this group. The Robinson Rancheria Environmental Department will also be on hand to discuss their work regarding this species, and show a video on migration activity.

New this year will be the presentation of the Volunteer of the Year award. Sponsored by the Upper Cache Creek Watershed Alliance, the award will recognize an outstanding volunteer from each of the active watershed groups.

Greg Dills, watershed coordinator for the East Lake and West Lake RCDs, will present highlights of the accomplishments made during 2007. The presentation will cover conservation activities throughout the county, and is the highlight of the evening. It provides a wonderful opportunity for the community to see what these groups do. Be sure to mark this great event on your calendar for 2008!

All stewardships, coordinated resource management and planning groups (CRMPs) and watershed councils are invited to attend, and are being asked to assist with refreshments. The groups are also encouraged to bring materials that they’d like to display or share with others.

Natural resource partners, public agencies, tribes, neighbors, friends, and everyone interested in the health of the local watersheds are welcome and encouraged to attend the event.

Anyone desiring more information or those interested in helping with refreshments should contact Linda Juntunen at 263-4180, Extension 16.


Cobb resident Roger Kinney, who lives at an elevation of 3,000 feet, photographed the snow on Cobb that fell Saturday. Pictured is a firefighter; Kinney said the fire department came to check on everyone to make sure they were OK.


LAKE COUNTY – Snow fell in parts of Lake County Saturday, but overall there was a slight break in the severe winter weather, with forecasters calling for more rain over the next several days.

Snow covered Cobb and the Lake Pillsbury areas, and dusted the tops of the hills along the Northshore, but there was a window of clearer weather Saturday, before rains began to return in the evening.

Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric's workers were still struggling to repair damage and restore electricity to customers around the state, including Lake County.

PG&E spokesperson Susan Simon said Saturday evening that approximately 1,151 Lake County residents remained out of power in four outages, with the largest in Kelseyville.

Simon had no information on when those customers could expect to have their power restored.

Statewide, PG&E reported that its crews have been working around the clock since Friday morning to restore power and repair damage from the storms.

Across its service region, stretching from Bakersfield to Eureka, 450 miles of power line, 469 power poles, 409 transformers and 525 crossarms, have been damaged, according to PG&E.

The company reported that the storms caused 1.9 million customers to lose power. Of those, 1.6 million had power restored by late Saturday. Fifty-five thousand Bay Area customers still lacked power.

The North Coast and Sierra Nevada were among the hardest hit areas, PG&E reported.

The National Weather Service predicts rain through the rest of the weekend and into early next week in Lake County, with chances of continued showers through next Saturday.

Northern areas of the county, including Lake Pillsbury, remain under a winter storm warning, with snow expected to continue through Monday. From Tuesday through Saturday, showers are predicted.

Caltrans reported Saturday night that all state highways in Lake County remained open with no restrictions.

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Lenny Matthews of Lucerne took this picture of snow along the way to Lake Pillsbury Saturday.




SPRING VALLEY – A Clearlake Oaks man and his two sons were arrested Monday after he allegedly shot into an unoccupied vehicle.

Gerardo Castillo, 42, remained in custody on Tuesday on several charges in connection with a Monday afternoon incident in Spring Valley, where sheriff's deputies initially responded to what was reported as a drive-by shooting, as Lake County News reported.

“It wasn't really a drive-by,” said Lt. Cecil Brown of the Lake County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday.

He said that Castillo and his 18-year-old son, Gerardo Antonio Castillo, along with a younger, juvenile son, drove to a home where they asked the resident about a vehicle that was parked there,

Brown said the Castillos believed the vehicle had been involved in a confrontation earlier in the day. The car's owner denied it, Brown added.

Allegedly the elder Castillo, said Brown, “made his point by firing four shots into the back of the car.”

Castillo and his sons then allegedly drove off, but were later contacted by deputies in Spring Valley and arrested, said Brown.

The elder Castillo on Tuesday remained in the Lake County Jail on several felony charges, according to jail records. Charges against him included shooting into an unoccupied vehicle, felon/addict in possession of a firearm, conspiracy to commit a crime, willful discharges of a firearm in a negligent way and vandalism, plus a misdemeanor charges added Tuesday for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Bail is set at $81,000.

The younger Gerardo Castillo had been arrested for conspiracy to commit a crime and for being an accessory to a crime, both felony charges. He had been released on $50,000 bail on Tuesday.

The juvenile son also was arrested, said Brown.

The two young men were arrested because they allegedly lied to deputies, telling them they had been at the store and didn't know anything about the shooting, said Brown.

He added, “It doesn't look like our agency has had any prior contacts with them.”

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NICE – Sheriff's officials are reporting that three individuals arrested in connection to an alleged Saturday night drive-by shooting are suspected of being gang members.

Authorities also are on the lookout for other possible suspects related to the incident.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office issued a report Monday afternoon that details the arrest of 20-year-old Roberto Garcia and two female juveniles, all of Ukiah, in connection to the Saturday night incident. The shooting took place in Nice, as Lake County News has reported.

Sgt. Brian Martin of the sheriff's Investigation Division reported that Mendocino County Sheriffs arrested Garcia and the two girls early Sunday morning before turning them over to Lake County.

Martin said the arrests stemmed from a late night drive-by shooting in the 3600 block of Lakeview

Drive in Nice.

The three are suspected of participating in the shooting, using a small caliber firearm, reported Martin. They allegedly shot out the window of an unoccupied vehicle and left several bullet holes in the car.

Martin reported that no injuries were reported as a result of the shooting.

Deputy Frank Walsh, who Martin said led the investigation, identified the three suspects as being occupants of a late model Lexus sedan that was spotted in the area at the time of the shooting.

Garcia was arrested for felony vandalism, discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle and participating in a criminal street gang, Martin reported. He remains in the Lake County Jail, with his bail now listed at $41,000, according to jail records.

Martin said the names of the females are not being released due to their age.

Sheriff's investigators are exploring the motivations for the shooting and looking at the possibility that other suspects were involved in the crime, Martin reported.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Sgt. Jim Samples, supervisor of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit, at 262-4200.

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January's skies at 9 p.m. Jan. 15.


LAKE COUNTY – If you hear dogs barking on a cold January night, they just might be two hunting dogs alerting their master, Orion, to the presence of a rabbit.

But we’re getting ahead of our story. Let’s start at the beginning.

In January, the winter skies are dominated by what may be the most beautiful of all constellations, Orion the Hunter.

Look at our January star chart – Orion is below Mars, which is now fading from its December brightness as it begins to move away from the earth.

Orion is framed by four bright stars that represent his shoulders and feet. There are three stars in a line in the middle of Orion – they represent his belt.

In Greek mythology, Orion was a great hunter who boasted he would eventually kill all of the wild animals on earth.

This boast angered Gaia, the earth goddess, so she sent a scorpion named Scorpius to kill Orion. Scorpius was successful, stinging Orion on the heel.

To commemorate the Orion versus Scorpius main event, both were placed in the night sky. To prevent them from fighting, Orion was placed in the winter sky, while Scorpius was placed in the summer sky.

Below Orion’s belt is a magnificent object that can be seen through a telescope – it’s called The Great Orion nebula, and it looks like the picture below.


The Orion nebula, courtesy of Astro Cruise.

The Orion nebula is a huge cloud of dust and gas. New stars are born here, and we sometimes refer to this object as being a star nursery. Through a telescope of any size it is beautiful to behold.

Every great hunter should have some hunting dogs. Orion is no exception. Look at the star chart and locate Canis Major and Canis Minor. Those names are Latin for “Big Dog” and “Little Dog.” Canis Major has the brightest star in the sky, Sirius.

Sirius is sometimes called the “Dog Star,” for obvious reasons. In addition to being the brightest star, Sirius is also a double star. A tiny star rotates around Sirius like our planets rotate around the sun. This star is called “The Pup.”

The following photograph shows the Dog Star and Pup.


Sirius and Companion, courtesy of NASA.



We mentioned the two dogs barking at a rabbit. That would be Lepus the Hare on our star chart. Lepus is a faint constellation originally cataloged by the ancient Greek mathematician-astronomer, Ptolemy.

On our star chart, you will note the bright full moon will light up the night sky on Jan. 15.

Keep that in mind, because in February we’ll talk about the eclipse of the moon that will happen at the end of that month.

For more information about astronomy and local astronomy-related events, visit the Taylor Observatory Web site at

On Jan. 12, starting at 8 p.m., the observatory will be open to the public. The life cycle of stars will be the featured topic.

John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.


LAKE COUNTY – Senior centers in Lucerne and Lakeport have announced personnel changes.

JJ Jackson, who was executive director of the Lucerne Center, has moved to that position in Lakeport, replacing Marilyn Johnson.

Jackson said he will be temporary for two months while the center follows government guidelines for hiring, which include advertising the position. His assistant is Sarah Tansey.

In Lucerne, Lee Tyree, who was assistant director at the Clearlake Oaks Senior Center, has become executive director. She had formerly worked at the Lucerne center's outreach office.

Shirley Darnell is now director of Meals on Wheels at the Lucerne center and Debbie DiAndrea, has moved from pre-event coordinator to director of the outreach office.


NICE – Authorities have arrested a Ukiah man and two female juveniles in connection with an alleged drive-by shooting Saturday.

Sheriff Rod Mitchell confirmed Sunday afternoon that a drive-by shooting had taken place Saturday night, but added that no one was injured.

Roberto Garcia, 20, was arrested early Sunday morning on felony counts of discharging a firearm from a vehicle, shooting at an unoccupied dwelling/vehicle and vandalism with property damage, according to Lake County Jail records.

“I can also confirm that two juveniles, both female, are in custody in relation to this offense,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell added, “We are not comfortable discussing motive publicly at this stage of the investigation.”

A “be on the lookout” for the suspects was issued across law enforcement radio frequencies about 11:18 p.m. Saturday in response to the shooting.

Mitchell said more information would be released Monday.

Garcia, whose occupation is listed as a server, remained in jail on $30,000 bail Sunday.

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LAKEPORT – Contra Costa, San Diego or Los Angeles counties – those are the three choices for a new venue for a controversial trial, but during a Friday hearing the prosecution and defense couldn't agree on any of the three.

On Friday morning District Attorney Jon Hopkins and San Francisco defense attorney Stuart Hanlon had disparate views of where the trial of 23-year-old San Franciscan Renato Hughes should be moved.

In November Hanlon won a change of venue request for Hughes after months of attempts to do that in appeals to the state's appellate and supreme courts.

Hughes is accused under provocative act theory of the deaths of two friends allegedly taking part with him in December 2005 home robbery.

It wasn't until a jury actually was seated in November that retired Alameda Superior Court Judge William McKinstry decided to grant Hanlon's change of venue request, citing his concern over the number of potential jurors who had been dismissed for various reason.

The Judicial Council of California's Administrative Office of the Courts is responsible for choosing possible venues when a change is granted, which isn't often, as Brad Campbell, the Administrative Office of the Courts' supervising analyst, told Lake County News last month.

A report Campbell submitted to Judge Arthur Mann last month said the office contacted the superior courts of Alameda, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and San Joaquin to look for a suitable new venue.

Campbell wrote in the report that factors considered in looking for a new venue included ethnic diversity, transportation, availability of appropriate court facilities and support staff, and ability to accommodate the media.

Los Angeles and San Diego were available to accommodate Hughes' trial without undue burden, said Campbell. Fresno County indicated it could host the trial after March 1, but it would require a judge and staff.

During the brief hearing Friday morning, which lasted about 20 minutes in Judge Mann's Department 3 courtroom, Mann revealed that on Thursday Contra Costa County was added to the list.

“Contra Costa can now handle this case in late March or early April,” said Mann.

Hughes was present at the hearing, sitting beside Hanlon in a black- and white-striped Lake County Jail uniform.

For Hanlon, who has a teenage son and wants to be able to return home from court every night, Contra Costa was the best choice.

Not so for Hopkins, who argued that Hanlon's “publicity moves” have saturated Bay Area counties, including Contra Costa.

Hopkins cited TV and radio shows, and numerous articles by the area newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle in his argument. He added that Hanlon has used a group based in Richmond – located in Contra Costa County – to protest the case on the courthouse steps.

Contra Costa, Hopkins stated, “would be a county this case could not go to without a full survey and analysis of how it would affect people.”

Neither was Los Angeles an ideal choice, according to Hopkins, who called it a “logistical nightmare” that would significantly increase costs for the trial, including housing of witnesses.

Of the three, San Diego is the best choice, said Hopkins, thanks to the courthouse's close proximity to the airport, making it easy to transport witnesses in and out.

Responding to Hopkins' concerns about publicity in Contra Costa County, Hanlon said, “He didn't mind all the media when it was in Lake County.”

Contra Costa is close, said Hanlon, and therefore more convenient for everyone involved.

“Either Los Angeles or San Diego is incredibly expensive,” Hanlon said.

Another concern for Hanlon is San Diego's black population, which he said is below the state average – a number that Hanlon did not specify.

Hanlon said he didn't believe a survey would find that Contra Costa County residents knew much about the Hughes case.

Hopkins replied that the court had records of all the Bay Area media coverage. The Lake County publicity for the case, he said, was far less than that witnessed by the Bay Area.

“This issue with the publicity in the Bay Area is widespread,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins said he was disappointed that the Administrative Office of the Courts didn't contact Sacramento County to gauge its superior court's availability. Sacramento, he said, has a “well-balanced diversity,” and hasn't had the Bay Area media to influence it.

He also addressed Hanlon's comments about a certain black population level being a factor for choosing a venue. “Mr. Hanlon seems to think there's some support for his position.”

Only seven California counties exceed the state average for black population figures, said Hopkins.

According to Hopkins, Hanlon took a petition to the state Supreme Court asking them to consider race in addition to other factors in determining a change of venue. “The Supreme Court denied that petition,” he said.

Hopkins asked Mann's court to contact Sacramento County's presiding judge to ask that they consider making their court available for the case.

Both Hopkins and Hanlon indicated their desire to further argue their cases for specific venues.

Mann asked what evidence Hopkins planned to present against moving the trial to Contra Costa. Hopkins indicated he would submit copies of radio and television broadcasts, in addition to copies of stories published by Bay Area publications which Hopkins said were already in the court's possession.

Mann gave Hopkins a Jan. 17 deadline to submit those materials in preparation for the next hearing.

The case will return to Mann's courtroom on Jan. 22, at which time defense and prosecution will present their cases to Mann, who must ultimately decide where Hughes' trial should move.

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SPRING VALLEY – Another drive-by shooting was reported in the county late Monday afternoon, with deputies arresting a man on charges of shooting into a vehicle.

Clearlake Oaks resident Gerardo Castillo, 42, was arrested by Lake County Sheriff's deputies on several felony charges, including shooting at an unoccupied vehicle, conspiracy to commit a crime, and a felon or addict in possession of a firearm.

Authorities received a report of shots fired from in the area of Cache Creek Road in Spring Valley just after 4 p.m.

Three male suspects in a green and silver extended cab Ford Ranger pickup reportedly shot at a vehicle, according to a radio report.

The men were reported to be heading for an address on New Long Valley Road, according to radio reports.

Chief Deputy Russell Perdock of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said deputies were on scene at about 5:30 p.m. to investigate the incident.

Perdock said investigators were not yet certain of what exactly had happened or if it was actually a drive-by shooting as originally reported.

Later Monday night, Lake County Jail records showed that Castillo, who works as a pear packer, had been taken into custody just after 6:30 p.m.

Other charges against him included felony willful discharge of a firearm in a grossly negligent manner and felony vandalism. He is being held on $80,000 bail.

Also in custody was 18-year-old Gerardo Antonio Castillo, also of Clearlake Oaks, who was arrested just after 5 p.m. He is being held on felony charges of conspiracy to commit a crime and being an accessory, with bail set at $50,000.

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LAKE COUNTY – Most of the county's residents had power restored to them by Sunday following outages that resulted from powerful winter storms that arrived late last week.

Overall, it was another day of more mile weather on Sunday, although forecasters continue to predict more rain this week.

That break in the weather proved important to Pacific Gas and Electric power crews.

On Sunday afternoon PG&E reported that most of the power outages in the county had been resolved.

PG&E spokesperson Jana Schuering said about 70 people were still out of power in Clearlake Sunday evening, with about 100 other customers between Clearlake and Hopland also believed to still be out of power.

Schuering said crews planned to work through the night to restore the power supply to those customers.

About 5,500 residents in Mendocino County – most of them along the coast – were still out of power Sunday night, Schuering said.

Since the storms hit Friday, about 2 million PG&E customers from Eureka to Bakersfield have lost power, the company reported. Of those, 1.9 million have had power restored.

As of Sunday, PG&E reported that the storms had damaged 527 miles of power line, 567 poles, 536 transformers and 696 crossarms throughout the company's coverage area.

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CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Lower Lake woman is facing felony charges for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from her employer.

Michelle Lynn Davis, 23, was arrested Jan. 2 by Lake County Sheriff's Detective Corey Paulich, according to jail records.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff said a felony warrant was issued for Davis, who then turned herself in.

“She's been charged with embezzlement and with a special allegation that the amount embezzled was over $150,000,” Hinchcliff said.

Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Cecil Brown said Davis is accused of taking the money from her employer, Shannon Ranches of Clearlake Oaks.

Brown said Davis had been with Shannon Ranches, a vineyard management consulting business, for five years. The occupation listed on her booking sheet is bookkeeper.

The investigation was triggered, said Brown, when the company noticed suspicious uses of business checks and a credit card.

Hinchcliff said he couldn't discuss the specifics of the case, which is so new that it has yet to be assigned to a deputy district attorney. Davis also has not yet appeared in court for arraignment, he added.

Davis' case constitutes one of the larger embezzlement prosecutions the District Attorney's Office has dealt with recently, said Hinchcliff.

If convicted, Davis could face up to five years in prison, Hinchcliff said.

Shannon Ranches, owned by Clay and Margarita Shannon, was a precursor to the couple's Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery, which has won both praise and awards for its wines, produced from winegrapes grown in Clearlake Oaks.

The Shannons also have become known for their generosity to community causes. They have assisted in Clearlake Oaks improvement projects, and last month volunteered one of their trucks to transport flooring materials from Southern California to the Clearlake Skate Park so the park can be repaired and reopened.

A company representative said they could offer no comment at this time.

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