Saturday, 20 July 2024

News

This is the first in a series of articles on Robinson Rancheria's effort to disenroll certain of its tribal members.


NICE – The Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomos Citizens Business Council this week is holding hearings that could have serious implications for the future of dozens of people whose lives are shaped by their unique identity as native Pomo.


Of the tribe's 347 voting members, 60 have been notified that they are being considered for disenrollment, according to Tribal Chair Tracey Avila.


Other sources within the tribe estimate the number of potential disenrollments to be as high as 74.


Whichever number is correct, both sides agree that this is the largest disenrollment action the tribe has ever attempted in its history.


The action's results could be devastating for those who find their names removed from the tribe's rolls.


Entire families face the loss of their homes, jobs, health care, education and a sense of their own identity. Homebound elders may no longer receive much-needed meals or monthly retirement checks. A daughter of the tribe's last chief also is reported to be up for dismissal.


Those up for disenrollment may have a slim hope of recourse, as the tribe's constitution contains an appeals process involving the Bureau of Indian Affairs which, in many tribal disenrollment cases, can't get involved, said Bureau of Indian Affairs Deputy Regional Director Dale Risling.


Potential disenrollees said the move is based on politics and greed, and that it's arisen out of a disputed June election that was decertified. They say they're being removed from the tribal rolls before a January election is planned so they can't vote to replace key council members trying to hold onto power.


John Gomez, president of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization (AIRRO), agrees with those assessments of the Robinson Rancheria situation.


In California to date, an estimated 2,000 Indians have been disenrolled by 15 California tribes – not including those currently proposed at Robinson, said Gomez, noting that disenrollments often evolve around political issues and elections.


Avila, the tribe's current chair, denies those allegations, saying that the disenrollments are a matter of tribal housekeeping, and merely an attempt to deal with longstanding questions about the validity of some members' claims.


The tribal members proposed for disenrollment received certified letters dated Nov. 20 – ironically, during the midst of Native American Heritage Month – notifying them that they were proposed for removal from the tribe's rolls, according to a copy of such a letter obtained by Lake County News.


Further, they were told they could request an appeal hearing with the Robinson Rancheria Citizens Business Council, during which they would have a half-hour to make their case for keeping their membership in the tribe. However, they had five business days to respond to the letter, and many tribal members live out of state.


Those appeal hearings began on Monday and have run throughout the week, according to tribal members.

 

Tribal chair says it's housekeeping; members say it's politics


Avila told Lake County News this week that the proposed disenrollment actions are predicated on the three specific dates of membership – which correspond to censuses of tribal members – included in the tribe's constitution. Those people whose names aren't on the rolls are now up for removal from tribal membership and benefits.


“This has been on the table for many, many years,” said Avila, estimating that it goes back to 1990.


Until now, the matter has been overlooked by Robinson's leadership, she said. Avila noted that some of those people who face losing their membership were on past tribal councils.


Luwana Quitiquit, a traditional Pomo artist who makes baskets and jewelry, and creates traditional buckskin clothing, is one of the members facing disenrollment, along with most of her family.


Quitiquit quoted tribal Vice Chair Curtis Anderson Jr. as having said publicly, and repeatedly in the past that everyone currently enrolled in the tribe is a member unless they relinquish their membership – or die.


Anderson was contacted for this article but chose not to offer comment.


Quitiquit didn't have a hearing this week, although she has requested one. “I didn't get that opportunity.”


She said she's waiting for written notification of her hearing, which is supposed to be set at a time and date of her choosing. But the council appears to have been assigning hearing times and dates in most cases.


When Quitiquit does go, she plans to take with her a thorough document outlining the disenrollment action's improprieties and her own lineage. She'll also carry with her a picture of her mother, Marie Boggs Quitiquit, who died at age 76 in 1997.


Quitiquit questions violations of due process, civil rights and privacy – the latter in relation to members' personal files held in tribal officials' hands.


She also points to the tribal constitution's double jeopardy clause as a defense. That's important in her case because she has faced a threat to her membership before when, in 1983, the tribal council attempted to have her and six other members removed.


At the time, tribal elder Wilbur Augustine did extensive research into Quitiquit's family lineage, and spent 10 hours going over it with Bureau of Indian Affairs enrollment officers, she aid.


The result, Quitiquit said, was that they affirmed her membership based on descent from her grandfather, Lumen Boggs, whose name appeared on early rolls.


Since then, there have been “small corrections” here and there to membership, usually on a case-by-case basis – “never anything this big,” she said.


This time, Quitiquit says it's political, since she and her family already have proven their ancestry qualifies them as members. She said she confronted Avila on Nov. 13 at the casino, and Avila admitted that it was political on the part of other council members.


Currently the chair of the tribe's constitution committee, and a former member of the election and amendment committees, Quitiquit stated that she believes the impetus for the disenrollment actions stems from a June 14 election in which Avila was defeated by EJ Crandell for the tribal chair seat.

 

Timing raises issues about upcoming election


Crandell, 32, an Iraq war vet, returned to Lake County in 2004 after a six-year stint in the US Army, where he attained the rank of sergeant.


He was a member at-large on the tribal council from January 2006 to September 2007, serving along with Avila, who said she has been tribal chair since October 2006.


Crandell alleges that Avila appealed his win and the tribe's election committee – dominated by the powerful Anderson family, of which Avila is a member – voted to decertify the election and reset it for January.


Avila said the June election was invalidated “due to some discrepancies,” although she would not specify what they were, saying it was tribal business.


She said it's not the first time a tribal election has been invalidated, which she went on to say has happened to all of them. “It's always been that way.”


The tribe held a general membership meeting on Oct. 25 at which members demanded that Avila and other council members who had been voted out step down to make way for the new council members, including Crandell.


While 119 people voted to have Crandell seated, Avila said the rest of the 347 voting members voted to have the election invalidated, which Crandell disputes, saying the full membership wasn't even there.


Lake County News obtained a DVD copy of a video of the meeting, which showed a unanimous floor vote – with people raising their hands – supporting having Crandell seated. The meeting ended with the tribal council telling tribal members to leave or else they would be removed by security. Tribal members agreed to leave peacefully on their own after the heated gathering.


Avila dismissed the meeting as par for the course. “Those meetings are always like that.”


Crandell said the opposite, that the meetings aren't commonly full of unrest.


Avila said the people proposed for disenrollment aren't on the list because they supported Crandell. However, Quitiquit said the council had people photographing those with their hands up in support of his election. Those people then began receiving the disenrollment letters.


“I don't know why this is such a big issue,” said Avila.


When asked if she realized how the timing of the disenrollment – just a month before the election – gives rise to that concern, she said, “I can understand why they would think that.”


But she insisted that isn't the case.


Avila also acknowledged that the tribe has not previously attempted to remove so many people at one time from the rolls.


Crandell is championing the families facing disenrollment. He's been meeting with BIA officials in an effort to get some redress, and is helping potential disenrollees draft appeal letters to the BIA.


He says the disenrollment action violates the tribal constitution's basic tenets, including bill of attainder – which targets a specific group or individual and punishes them without benefit of trial – and ex post facto, or retroactive, law.


Avila does not dispute that the people being proposed for disenrollment are Indian. Rather, she said they come from other tribes.


The issue of the January election may be a moot point. Crandell said the election committee has informed him that he cannot run, so Avila will seek reelection unopposed.


Crandell said he wants to see the will of the tribe honored. “Peace is the ultimate thing.”


Tomorrow: Disenrollments as a state and national issue, and the far-reaching implications of disenrollment on the lives of those facing the loss of membership.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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KELSEYVILLE – A University of California, Davis professor who has received a substantial grant for breast cancer research wants to give back to the community where he grew up, and is inviting local students to apply for internships in his program.


Michael DeGregorio, 53, grew up in Lake County. Six years ago, he bought a Kelseyville farmhouse built in 1870, which he moved into three months ago.


He commutes most days to UC Davis, where he's a professor of hematology and oncology. He also has a laboratory at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, and leads the pharmacology research program at UC Davis Cancer Center, where he specializes in the molecular analysis of drug activity and the evaluation of biomarkers of drug response or resistance. The majority of his work focuses on developing new drugs that improve women's health.


DeGregorio and his research team have received a $3 million grant from Merck KGaA to assess the effectiveness of Stimuvax, an experimental vaccine that targets MUC1, a cancer cell surface protein that is uniquely overexpressed in many cancers, including more than 90 percent of all breast cancers.


The study DeGregorio and longtime collaborator Greg Wurz, a UC Davis research scientist, are launching will study Stimuvax to determine if it can arrest or prevent breast cancer when used in conjunction with standard hormonal therapies.


They will assess the vaccine's ability to prevent breast cancer in mice bred to promote human MUC1 expression and a gene known to spontaneously cause breast cancer. The mice additionally will be exposed to one of four anti-estrogen therapies to assess the vaccine's impact.


Existing cancer vaccines for hepatitis B and the human papillomavirus aim to prevent the viral infections that can lead to liver and cervical cancers. But the experimental breast-cancer vaccine aims to stimulate the immune response against breast cancer tumors themselves.


Results from the UC Davis study will help direct the design of human clinical trials slated to begin worldwide in 2009, according to a statement from the university.


In an effort to give back to the community where he grew up, DeGregorio – a Kelseyville High School alumni – will offer up to six research internships this summer to local students who excel in the sciences.


Students will receive three to four weeks' experience in DeGregorio's state-of-the-art lab, where he said they will see actual cancer patients. Participating students also will be able to conduct molecular biology-type studies in labs.


Those students who complete the internship will come away with a letter of recommendation that can help them get into schools at a time when competition for spots at state colleges is getting tighter, he said.


The internships are open to all area high school students, who DeGregorio said must be at least 16 years of age.


DeGregorio said he hopes that, by giving students first-hand experience in a research lab and showing them how scientists apply knowledge to find solutions to challenging health problems, he'll help those who may be interested in pursuing a career in research or medicine.


Matthew Cockerton, principal of Kelseyville High School, said he appreciates the opportunity to expand students' knowledge.


"Opportunities like this don't surface for our school too often," he said. "Anytime we can give students real-world experience at a nationally ranked university, we are elated. And we are deeply grateful to Dr. DeGregorio for remembering his early experience and offering his laboratory to broaden our students' education."


DeGregorio has been all over the world since leaving Lake County to pursue his studies as a young man.


He started off at junior college, then went on to San Francisco State. DeGregorio received his doctorate from the University of California, San Francisco, where he became a faculty member at age 26.


DeGregorio would later go on to become an associate-level professor at Yale while he was in his early 30s. Then it was on to the University of Texas, where he became a full professor and started a biotech company. He arrived at UC Davis in 1994.


Throughout his travels around the world, DeGregorio said he always wanted to return to Lake County.


Now that he's back, he's placing this new focus on helping local students who have an aptitude for science.


DeGregorio notes there are very bright young people in Lake County. “I really think that we have to even the playing field a little bit out there, the best we can. This is my small way of doing it.”


He estimates his program of study on the effectiveness of the experimental vaccine in humans will last 10 years, with the $3 million grant covering three to four years of study. Within five years they should know if the vaccine works for humans, with human trials scheduled this year.


“In science, nothing ever happens the way you think,” he said, noting that serendipity is responsible for 80 percent of all inventions.


If the vaccine doesn't work, the study will be discontinued, he said.


The protein MUC1 is “a pretty hot topic right now,” said DeGregorio. In addition to breast cancer, MUC1 is now being studiec in relation to lung cancer.


There are many variations of cancer, and DeGregorio said at the molecular level they're all different.


Recent big breakthroughs in cancer involve leukemia in children, which DeGregorio said may be curable, according to the latest studies. There also is increased promise in curing testicular cancer.


“The idea of prevention is where we should be going,” he said, adding that, once you get cancer, it's hard to beat.


DeGregorio said he will be contacting area school principals and science teachers to find eligible students.


He also invited anyone interested in the program to contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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SACRAMENTO – The California Highway Patrol is reporting fewer traffic-related deaths on the state's highways during this year's Thanksgiving holiday.


The CHP reported that 33 people died on California roadways during the four-day holiday weekend this year compared to 41 people during the same period last year.


Locally, Lake County had no traffic deaths during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend this year. In 2007, the county had one fatality during the same period, said Officer Adam Garcia of the Clear Lake CHP office.


This year the county also had the same number of reported traffic collisions – eight – as it did in 2007, Garcia said.


“While I am thankful that fewer people died during the four-day holiday weekend, I am troubled that we continue to needlessly lose lives on the state's roadways,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “These statistics aren't just numbers; they represent real people with families and friends who mourn their loss.”


During the four-day Maximum Enforcement Period, all available CHP officers were on the road.


DUI arrests by CHP officers totaled 1,530 this Thanksgiving holiday compared to 1,628 last year. Locally, Garcia said there were nine DUI arrests in 2007 and five this year.


Of the 20 vehicle occupants killed on the state’s highways and unincorporated areas that fall under CHP jurisdiction, seven weren’t wearing seat belts.


“Those seven people might still be alive today if they had simply taken the extra few seconds to buckle up,” Commissioner Farrow said.


With the Christmas and New Year’s holidays fast approaching, the CHP warns that similar Maximum Enforcement Periods will be in effect during those holiday weekends.


“If people will heed our message – don’t drink and drive, obey the speed limit and always wear seat belts – upcoming holiday memories can be happy for everyone,” Commissioner Farrow said.


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PARADISE COVE – An early morning traffic incident closed down a portion of Highway 20 for several hours on Thursday.


A big rig rolled over on the highway near Paradise Cove at 4:45 a.m., according to California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.


Garcia said Joshua Cellars of Sacramento was driving a 2000 Peterbuilt tractor and trailer eastbound at Paradise Cove when the truck and trailer flipped over onto its right side.


Based on the preliminary investigation, Garcia said it appears the truck was going too fast for roadway conditions with regard to the load it was carrying.


No other vehicles were involved, said Garcia. Cellars sustained minor injuries.


The truck was hauling plywood which spilled and blocked the highway until 8:30 a.m., Garcia said. Motorists were diverted at Highway 53 in Clearlake Oaks and at Highway 29 in Upper Lake.


A Caltrans crew was dispatched and cleared the lumber out of the roadway where the truck's company, Inter City Inc., could remove it later, said Garcia.


A small amount of fuel from the truck was spilled but was quickly contained by emergency personnel, he added.


Officer Nick Powell is investigating the incident, Garcia said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Cecil McDaniel was arrested Wednesday afternoon. Lake County Jail booking photo.
 

 

CLEARLAKE OAKS – A man who was being sought, along with his brother, for a Nov. 26 shooting has been arrested.


Cecil McDaniel, 37, of Clearlake Oaks was arrested at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Office's booking records, posted online at www.lakesheriff.com.


McDaniel and his brother, Patrick Dewin McDaniel, 44, also of Clearlake Oaks, have been sought in connection with the shooting of another Clearlake Oaks resident, 42-year-old Patrick Joseph O’Conner.


Patrick McDaniel is alleged to have shot O'Conner in the chest last week following an argument he and his brother had with O'Conner and O'Conner's 23-year-old son. The McDaniels then fled the scene.


Cecil McDaniel's booking sheet says he is being held for being an accessory, with bail set at $500,000. He's set to be in court on Friday.


Still at large is his brother, who recently was paroled from prison.


Patrick McDaniel is described as a 44-year-old black male adult, 6 feet tall, 235 pounds, and was last seen wearing a “puffy” jacket, dark pants and yellow shoes. He has names tattooed on his left arm and a playboy bunny tattooed on his left arm.


Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Patrick McDaniel should call the Investigations Branch of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department at 262-4200.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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CLEARLAKE OAKS – Sheriff's officials are looking for two brothers alleged to have been involved in a shooting in Clearlake Oaks on Nov. 26.


The shooting, which Lake County News first reported late last week, left one man injured and resulted in a search for the two suspects.


Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Monday that 42-year-old Patrick Joseph O’Conner of Clearlake Oaks was shot in the chest.


The two men being sought in connection with the shooting are Patrick Dewin McDaniel, 44, and Cecil McDaniel, 37, both of Clearlake Oaks, said Bauman. Both McDaniels are wanted for attempted murder.


Bauman reported that deputies and rescue personnel from the Northshore Fire Protection District responded to the shooting at 8:20 p.m. Nov. 26.


Arriving at O'Conner's Second Street residence, they found him seated in front of the house with an apparent gunshot wound to the chest, said Bauman.


While O’Conner was treated at the scene, deputies learned that he allegedly had been shot by Patrick McDaniel during an argument at a neighboring residence, said Bauman. The reported argument also included O’Conner’s 23-year-old son, James O’Conner, also of Clearlake Oaks, and Cecil McDaniel.


Bauman said that James O’Conner told deputies the McDaniel brothers had walked through his father’s property to the neighboring home of 40-year-old Jill Robbins, who the McDaniels had apparently met earlier at a local bar.


The McDaniels and Patrick O’Conner had reportedly had words earlier in the day and when the McDaniels got to Robbins’ home, the two O’Conners could hear Patrick McDaniel yelling at Robbins so they went next door to her house to intervene, Bauman said.


During an argument that ensued between Patrick McDaniel and Patrick O’Conner, Cecil McDaniel reportedly swung at O’Conner but missed, said Bauman. Patrick McDaniel then allegedly pulled a handgun from beneath his clothing, struck O’Conner across the face with it and then shot O’Conner once in the chest before both McDaniels fled the area on foot.


Both O’Conners fled back to their home and remained until deputies arrived, according to Bauman.


Sheriff’s detectives were called out to investigate the scene, Bauman said, and for approximately five hours, additional deputies canvassed the Clearlake Oaks area for the McDaniel brothers but they could not be located.


The following day, on Thanksgiving morning, another resident on Second Street in Clearlake Oaks reported her 5-year-old son had found a small handgun in their front yard, a short distance from the location of the shooting, Bauman said. Deputies recovered the weapon and an analysis to determine any connection to the shooting is pending.


Both McDaniels are convicted felons, according to Bauman's report.


Patrick McDaniel is recently paroled from prison and is described as a 44-year-old black male adult, 6 feet tall, 235 pounds, and was last seen wearing a “puffy” jacket, dark pants and yellow shoes. Bauman said McDaniel has names tattooed on his left arm and a playboy bunny tattooed on his left arm.


Cecil McDaniel is described as a 37-year-old black male adult, 6 feet, two inches tall, 250 pounds, with bears tattooed on his left upper arm, said Bauman.


After being flown via air ambulance to Sutter Lakeside Hospital Wednesday night, Patrick O’Conner was transferred to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where he was reported to be in stable condition as of Monday.


Anyone with information on the whereabouts of either of the McDaniel brothers should call the Investigations Branch of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department at 262-4200.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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CLEARLAKE OAKS – A man arrested Wednesday for allegedly being an accessory to a shooting last week was taken into custody without incident, but his brother remains at large, according to a Thursday report from the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


Cecil McDaniel Jr., 37, was arrested Wednesday afternoon in connection with the Nov. 26 shooting of 42-year-old Patrick Joseph O’Conner, as Lake County News has reported.


Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that, following O'Conner's shooting, Superior Court Judge Richard Martin signed felony arrest warrants for Cecil McDaniel and his brother, Patrick Dewin McDaniel, 44.


Bauman said Patrick McDaniel, who is believed to have actually shot O'Conner, remains at large, with an outstanding felony arrest warrant for several charges, including attempted murder.


On Wednesday, sheriff’s detectives were conducting followup on the case in the Clearlake Oaks area when they located Cecil McDaniel standing on the side of the road on Lakeview Drive, said Bauman.


As the detectives approached McDaniel, he immediately surrendered, placing his hands in the air and was arrested without incident, Bauman said.


He was booked into the Lake County Jail for felony accessory to a crime and is being held on $500,000.


Bauman reported that O'Conner has been released from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and is believed to be recovering from his injuries.


He said the case remains pending for further investigation and the apprehension of Patrick McDaniel.


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Sgt. Gary Basor of the Lake County Sheriff's Office and Helen Duncan locate Duncan's 19-year-old son, Austin, on Tuesday after a lengthy search. A CHP helicopter from Napa County sits in the background. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 


UPPER LAKE – Following a search that lasted several hours on Tuesday, law enforcement and fire personnel were able to find an injured Upper Lake man.


Austin Duncan, 18, was located around mid-afternoon after falling and injuring his back.


Sheriff's officials reported that they attempted to contact Duncan at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at a location along Highway 20. Duncan, however, fled, running across the highway in the area of Reclamation Road.


Officials did not comment on the purpose of the initial contact with Duncan. However, an unidentified family member suggested that the family was concerned about Duncan's behavior after a family member's recent death.


Duncan managed to evade deputies for several hours before calling 911 around 11:30 a.m., according to a report at the scene. He explained to the 911 dispatcher that he had fallen and had injured his back and requested medical assistance.


As Duncan attempted to describe his surroundings to the California Highway Patrol dispatchers in Ukiah, the dispatchers communicated via radio to CHP Officers Craig Van Housen and Brian Engle, who were aiding the sheriff's office in the search, along with Northshore Fire.


A CHP helicopter from Napa joined the search at 1 p.m.


Communication with Duncan was lost several times. Officials suggested that perhaps Duncan was seeking medical help but did not want contact with law enforcement.


The search covered several acres on both sides of Reclamation Road, with terrain varying from flat open fields to deep and wide gullies lined by 10- to 12-foot-tall dense, wild berry bushes with long sharp thorns.


At around 2 p.m., Duncan made contact with 911 again. With the help of the dispatcher, Duncan described what he could see and hear, and his location was narrowed to an area just 50 feet from the side of the road.


Found in the heavy wild berry bushes Duncan was unable to move without assistance. Duncan’s mother, Helena Duncan, assisted officials in the search and was the first to make visual contact.


The terrain where he was located was nearly inaccesible from the road. The CHP helicopter was sent airborne again with a CHP flight paramedic and Sheriff's Sgt. Gary Basor on board.


Duncan was carefully extricated from the thorny grasp of the berry bushes and loaded aboard a Northshore Fire ambulance from the Upper Lake station. Medical personnel transported him to Sutter Lakeside Hospital.


No information about Duncan's condition was available late Tuesday.


E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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CHP Officer Brian Engle searches for Austin Duncan on Tuesday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

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Sheriff's deputies, CHP officers and rescue personnel from Northshore Fire's Upper Lake station took part in the search. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

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THE GEYSERS – A late morning earthquake was reported near the The Geysers on Monday.


The US Geological Survey reported that the quake took place at 11:41 a.m. and measured 3.2 on the Richter scale.


Its epicenter was located one mile north of The Geysers, five miles west southwest of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, according to the US Geological Survey. The quake occurred at a depth of 2.3 miles.


The area's most recent quakes measuring 3.0 or above occurred on Nov. 21, when a 3.0-magnitude earthquake was recorded near Anderson Springs, and a 3.5-magnitude temblor on Nov. 12 near The Geysers, as Lake County News has reported.


The last few weeks have seen substantial seismic activity around the North Coast, most notably a 5.9-magnitude earthquake that took place Nov. 28 off the coast of Humboldt County. That quake was centered 142 miles west of Petrolia at a depth of 3.5 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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SACRAMENTO – This week, the new leader of the California State Senate, Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) announced that North Coast Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) has assumed the position of chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government.


Wiggins said she was honored to accept the chairmanship of the committee, which reviews bills that affect California’s cities, counties, special districts and redevelopment agencies. The committee also hears bills that shape land use planning and development.


Prior to her election to the Assembly in 1998, Wiggins served as a member of the Santa Rosa City Council. As an Assemblywoman, she founded the Legislature’s Smart Growth Caucus (www.assembly.ca.gov/sgc).


She also authored AB 857 (statutes of 2002), the most comprehensive state land use planning legislation in 30 years. That bill established California’s spending priorities for future growth to help prevent sprawl, and to promote compact development and greater social equity.


In addition, Wiggins chaired the Assembly Committee on Local Government.


Wiggins said she looks forward to working with local governments across the state, to “ensure that my colleagues fully understand how proposed new laws may affect the local agencies that serve the people of California.”


Wiggins represents California’s large 2nd Senate District, which includes portions or all of six counties: Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma. Visit her Web site at http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.


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On Monday Wes Chesbro took office as the new Assembly member for the North Coast. Courtesy photo.
 

 

SACRAMENTO – The North Coast's new Assembly member was sworn in on Monday and says he's ready to get to work for the district.


Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) took his oath of office at the State Capitol, along with other recently elected or reelected lawmakers.


Chesbro is no stranger to state government. He served in the state Senate representing District Two from 1998 to 2006, which included a stint as chairman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.


An Associated Press report said there were 39 new members of the state Legislature; Chesbro is among 28 new Assembly members who previously served in the state Senate.


Chesbro succeeds Patty Berg, who served three terms but could not continue in the Assembly due to term limits. Her term of office ended Nov 30.


“I welcome the opportunity to represent the people of the First Assembly District,” Chesbro said. “The state is facing significant challenges and I am ready to tackle them head-on – roll up my sleeves and get to work.”


The First Assembly District stretches from just north of Santa Rosa to the Oregon border and includes part of Sonoma and all of Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte counties.


For new legislators and those who, like Chesbro, have previous experience but are coming into new positions, there won't be a honeymoon period.


No sooner were Chesbro and his fellow legislators sworn in on Monday than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state fiscal emergency and called for an emergency legislative session, as well as a second special session to address the economy.


A previous special legislative session held late last month yielded no solution to the state's $11.2 billion revenue shortfall.

 

“Without immediate action our state is headed for a fiscal disaster and that is why with more than two dozen new legislators sworn in today – I am wasting no time in calling a fiscal emergency special session," said Schwarzenegger. "We must act now to address the current year revenue shortfall of $11.2 billion and we must implement an economic stimulus package to help retain and create jobs, keep Californians in their homes and fix the state's Unemployment Insurance Fund.”


Schwarzenegger added that he looks forward to working with the legislature to address the problems “head on,” which includes making what he called “difficult choices” the good of the state and its future.


Assemblyman Chesbro plans to maintain three district offices in Santa Rosa, Ukiah and Eureka. Details about the district offices will be made public as soon as possible.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKE COUNTY – For another year, the amount of illegal marijuana seized and eradicated on public and private lands around the state has grown, with record-breaking seizures reported around California.


For the third straight year Lake County is ranked No. 1 for the area with the most plants eradicated.


The California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE) and other participants in the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Field Division Offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, in conjunction with the United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of California, reported on the seizures.


The marijuana eradication season begins in July and continues through October, officials reported.


The 2008 CAMP season and Operation Green Acres 2 netted a record-breaking combined total of 5,249,881, according to the report.


CAMP alone reported a second year of record breaking numbers of marijuana plants eradicated during the 2008 season at 2.9 million. Of the 2.9 million plants, two million were seized from public lands while the remainder was seized from private lands.


This year's seizures included 3,641,328 plants – or almost 70 percent – that were eradicated from state and federal public land, according to the Department of Justice. That's down slightly from the 75 percent found on public lands last year.


“California is Ground-Zero for domestically produced marijuana in the United States; more than half of the domestically produced marijuana in the United States is grown in California,” said BNE Chief John Gaines.


Lake was the county with the highest number of eradicated plants, 499,508, according to the report. While leading the state, that number was down slightly from last year, when 507,000 plants were seized, but up from 2006, when officials eradicated 344,241 plants, as Lake County News has reported.


The other counties in the top five for illegal eradications this year were the same as last year, only in slightly different order, with Tulare and Humboldt County changing places. Tulare more than doubled its numbers and Humboldt's were halved.


This year, Tulare ranked at No. 2 with 395,489 plants (up from No. 5 and 160,591 plants in 2007); Shasta, 394,375 (No. 3 with 270,728 plants in 2007); Mendocino, 231,802 (No. 4 and 220,436 plants in 2007); and Humboldt, 145,762 (No. 2 with 271,056 plants in 2007). All counties listed, except for Humboldt, had an increase in the number of marijuana plants eradicated.


During the 2008 season, 143 individuals were arrested and 142 weapons seized, the Department of Justice reported. Those statistics are nearly triple the amount of individuals arrested and weapons seizures from 2007, which numbered 53 and 41 respectively.


CAMP and its partner agencies are part of an organized, collaborative effort which is yielding the seizures.


CAMP has been operating for 26 years as a multi-agency task force comprised of local, state, and federal agencies including, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, National Parks Service, California Department of Fish and Game, Office of National Drug Control Policy-National Marijuana Initiative, California National Guard and Office of Emergency Services. The program is designed to help counties eradicate illegal marijuana cultivation and trafficking in California.


“Our forests and public lands cannot and will not be allowed to become safe havens for Mexican drug cartels operating massive marijuana cultivations. These criminal enterprises pose great risk to those simply seeking to enjoy these lands in the manner for which they were intended,” U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said.


In addition to the 2008 CAMP season, DEA conducted their second year of Operation Green Acres, a four-week, statewide operation that began in late July and was concluded in August 2008. The operation was conducted by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and primarily focused on marijuana grown outdoors.


As a result of Operation Green Acres 2, agents seized almost 1.4 million marijuana plants, with an estimated street value of $4.2 billion, according to the report.


Approximately 1.2 million of those plants were eradicated from public lands in California, a 73-percent increase from last year.


Additionally, 63 individuals were arrested statewide in connection with the operation, the report noted. Of those arrests, seven were charged in federal court in the Eastern District of California, while four were charged in federal court in the Central District of California. Nearly $200,000 in assets and 102 weapons were seized during the operation.


“Each year more marijuana is seized from California’s public lands. It destroys our national forests and threatens the safety of the residents and visitors who seek to enjoy California’s natural treasures. Only with collaborative law enforcement efforts, will we be able to make an impact against this serious problem,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña.


Another important eradication effort, also undertaken last summer, was operation LOCUST, targeting large-scale marijuana cultivation in and around Sequoia National Park. This operation was spearheaded by Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman, BNE, along with DEA, U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. It resulted in the seizure of approximately 524,000 plants and indictments of 15 individuals in the Fresno Court of the Eastern District of California.


The CAMP program and its partner agencies continue to eradicate the large scale marijuana cultivations from public and private lands that cause deforestation, damage to wildlife habitats, and hazardous-chemical pollution.


Pesticides, chemical repellants, poisons, and fuels are often used in large-scale, outdoor marijuana cultivation. Attempts to irrigate the marijuana crops often harm nearby ecology including creeks, streams, and rivers. These plants are often under surveillance by their caretakers, who, in many instances, are heavily armed with pre-planned escape routes.


“Illegal marijuana cultivation is wreaking havoc on our public lands and causing extensive environmental damage of these precious resources,” said DEA Los Angeles Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum. “DEA is committed to working jointly with our federal, state, and local partners in combating this growing threat to our parks and our communities.”


The continued success of the CAMP program is due in large part to the coordinated effort between local, state and federal agencies.


Gaines said the BNE vows to continue its “exceptional partnership” with local, state and federal counterparts to eradicate illegally grown marijuana and prosecute those individuals and organizations responsible for trafficking this drug while damaging the environment and endangering the lives of citizens.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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