Saturday, 25 May 2024

News

LAKEPORT – In the aftermath of last week's purchase of Washington Mutual by JP Morgan Chase, the message to Washington Mutual customers both locally and across the nation is to hang on as the changeover takes place.


There's also good news for local branches, which a company official said will remain open.


Last Thursday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. – FDIC – and the government's Office of Thrift Supervision facilitated the sale of Washington Mutual to JP Morgan Chase Bank for $1.9 billion.


FDIC officials have emphasized that customer deposits are fully protected.


"For all depositors and other customers of Washington Mutual Bank, this is simply a combination of two banks," said FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair. "For bank customers, it will be a seamless transition.”


Bair said there would no interruption in services and, as she predicted, Washington Mutual branches around the country – including Lakeport's – have continued on, with the Washington Mutual name on the door and, until just this weekend, on the bank's Web site.


When calling Lakeport's branch, the automated phone service as well as branch employees continue to identify themselves as Washington Mutual.


The Lakeport branch forwarded all questions about operations to corporate officials.


Tom Kelly, a Chicago-based spokesman for JP Morgan Chase, told Lake County News that Washington Mutual customers will continue to see the familiar name at the bank for a long time, as the internal transition takes place.


Usually large purchases like this take months, said Kelly. But the JP Morgan Chase deal has been a whirlwind by comparison, with the bank making the bid for Washington Mutual last Wednesday night and closing the deal the next day.


“The good news for customers is, nothing changes for them,” said Kelly.


Customers – many of whom began pulling their funds before Washington Mutual was sold – are now backed by JP Morgan Chase, a $2 trillion institution, said Kelly. That, he said, amounts to a stronger base.


JP Morgan Chase also will take on some of Washington Mutual's mortgages, along with branches and bank accounts. It did not assume the company's stock or debt, Kelly added.


Washington Mutual's $1.9 billion price tag was a fraction of what it would have been had the bank been in good shape, said Kelly. He said JP Morgan Chase feels the deal is a fair one.


One of the best pieces of news for Lake County and other North Coast customers is that JP Morgan Chase plans to keep the existing Washington Mutual branches in operation, said Kelly.


That means that the 12 jobs in the Lakeport branch are safe, and jobs in other North Coast locations – Ukiah, Willits, Cloverdale, Santa Rosa and Ft. Bragg – appear secure for the time being.


JP Morgan Chase, which has branches in 17 states, has no California locations, Kelly explained, so Washington Mutual's 688 California branches proved one of its main attractions.


With the two banks coming together, Kelly said their combined resources now include a nationwide network of 14,000 ATMs and 5,400 branches.


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


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Lt. Mark Loveless is the new leader at the California Highway Patrol's Clear Lake area office. Courtesy photo.



KELSEYVILLE – Increasing road safety and partnering with the community to save lives are just two of the goals that Lake County's new California Highway Patrol commander has in mind as he begins his tenure.


Lt. Mark Loveless, 46, is taking the helm as commander of the CHP's Clear Lake area office in Kelseyville. He succeeds Lt. Dane Hayward, who retired this past summer.


Loveless, whose most recent assignment was in Redding, is no stranger to Lake County. He served as an officer in the Clear Lake office for two and a half years in the late 1990s.


He and his wife, Lori, have been married 25 years, and have two children – Megan, 23, and Drew, 20.


Loveless started "late" as a CHP officer; Loveless was 29 years old and had a career in forestry when he decided to join the CHP. His interest was piqued by a friend who was a CHP officer. It's that kind of word of mouth, Loveless added, that is the CHP's best recruitment method.


Loveless started his CHP career out of the academy in East Los Angeles, where he spent five years before transferring to Lake County in 1996 and then on to Redding's Northern Division CHP office.


While in Redding, and still a member of the CHP, he took an assignment for three years with the Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.


From there it was back to the Redding area office, then on to Susanville, and back to CHP's administrative division in Redding, where he was an administrative sergeant. After serving there for two years, the Lake County assignment became available.


Loveless is part of a younger generation of CHP administrators who are challenged to do more with less, because the budget isn't as strong as it was five years ago. He said that requires some creativity, including working closely with local allied agencies to make the best use of resources.


The CHP's ranks – with 8,000 officers statewide – also has grown very little historically, said Loveless, in comparison to the vast growth of the state population. Locally, the CHP office has 25 officer positions, with three of those slots not filled or about to be empty due to retirement.


But when it comes to Lake County itself, home to the largest lieutenant-run division in the CHP's vast Northern Division – reaching from Lake County north to the Oregon border – Loveless said the county has challenges regarding public safety that aren't different from anywhere else.


One of those challenges is finding good recruits. New cadets are seldom brought from the academy directly to Lake County, said Loveless. In an effort to change that his approach to recruitment is to draw interested applicants from the community, because area residents know the needs and will come back here to work and live.


A goal for Loveless is promoting increased education and safety for motorcycle riders. He said there is a growing trend of more people riding motorcycles, which he believes is due in part to higher gas prices.


With the growing number of riders comes an increase in motorcycle-related collisions. That may be partially an issue of inexperience, as many of the collisions have been the fault of the motorcyclists, said Loveless.


To address that, Loveless said he's pursuing a grant that will support a combination of education and enforcement efforts in an effort to drop the collision rate.


He's also working on getting a full-time auto theft investigator for his office. From 2006 to 2007, vehicle thefts in Lake County increased 4.8 percent while the county's CHP office had a 13.1-percent increase in the number of stolen vehicles it recovered. The most popular cars to steal, he said, remain Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys.


One of the most important things for people to understand about the CHP is that the agency needs the community to be involved in the work of making the roads safer. That includes wearing seatbelts and properly using child safety seats, and sharing a common goal of saving lives.


"Most of us get into this to help people," Loveless said of CHP officers.


He said the drop in the death rate on the highways can be attributed to many factors – including the CHP getting the word out on safety measures and the resulting community involvement.


With his new job, comes a whole new level of responsibility. "There's no passing the buck from here," Loveless said.


A lot of his work from now on will have a more formal, administrative flavor. A CHP commander's desk is liable to have huge stacks of paperwork, and then there's the business of managing officers and staff.


However, Loveless said his heart "is still on the road," and he'll be out there on the highway whenever he gets the opportunity.


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


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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The Mendocino National Forest is entering the fall prescribed burning season as part of a continued commitment to protect communities and natural resources from wildfires.


The public may notice smoke in various parts of the forest during the next few months, forest officials reported this week.


As cooler weather and higher humidity move in, bringing to a close the hot and dry wildfire season, there is an opportunity to bring fire into the forest in a controlled setting.


Prescribed fires are used to clear the forest floor of small fuels and brush without burning or killing large trees.


During prescribed burning season, fire crews also burn piles of wood debris and fuel that are the result of fuel reduction activities in the Forest. This year the Grindstone Ranger District also plans to burn a pile at the Chico Genetic Research Center.


Prescribed burns are conducted when there is a window of opportunity and specific conditions and criteria are met before, and will be sustained during and after the burn. These include temperature, wind conditions, relative humidity and fuel moisture levels. The forest also takes air quality into consideration.


The season traditionally runs from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 as weather permits. The burning operations are monitored and patrolled frequently to ensure public safety.


“Prescribed burning is an important tool for the forest to use for hazardous fuels reduction and forest health improvement, including wildlife habitat,” said Grindstone Fuels Officer Matt Ellis. “The fires are intended to be slow, low-intensity creeping fires on the forest floor. Although there are only a few opportunities for prescribed burns, they produce less smoke and there aren’t the resource impacts typically created by large wildfires.”


In addition to the pile burning in Chico, there are plans to burn additional piles across the Grindstone Ranger District. The district also plans to conduct prescribed burning activities on approximately 1,650 acres, including understory burning in Alder Springs, Oak Ridge and Little Stony, and a combination of pile burning and understory burning for vegetation type conversion maintenance.


On the other side of the Forest, the Upper Lake and Covelo Ranger Districts are also entering the fall prescribed burning season. There are plans to conduct prescribed burning activities in areas including Elk Mountain Road, Howard Mill, Deer Valley, Boardman Ridge, High Valley, Horse Mountain, Tar Flat, Newhouse Ridge, Pine Mountain, Lake Pillsbury, and the vicinity of the 2005 Hunter Fire (Buckhorn and Skidmore Ridge).


Selected campgrounds, guard stations and miscellaneous pile burning also will be included in the prescribed burning operations.


Prescribed burning announcements will be placed at local Ranger Stations prior to ignition.


For more information, please contact the Mendocino National Forest Grindstone Ranger District at 530-934-3316, the Upper Lake Ranger District at 707-275-2361 or visit www.fs.fed.us/r5/mendocino.


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LAKEPORT – A Clearlake man pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder for a 2006 shooting rampage in which a woman died and three others were injured.


Wilbur Home Cope III, 38, was facing trial for first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder and several other allegations, but reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that reduced the charges, the District Attorney's Office reported.


With the plea agreement, Cope will spend the rest of his life in prison, but the deal will give him better circumstances in the prison system, according to his defense attorney, Stephen Carter.


Cope entered the guilty plea in the 2006 murder of ex-girlfriend Kristin Lori Raviotta and the attempted murder of Terry Lee Cain, the husband of Cope's ex-wife, Michelle, according to the District Attorney's Office.


He also admitted to two special allegations relating to the use of a firearm in Raviotta's death and Cain's shooting, said prosecutor John Langan.


Superior Court Judge Richard Martin presided over the Monday proceedings in his Department 2 courtroom, Langan reported.


Cope's case now goes to the Lake County Probation Department for a report and sentencing recommendation to the court. Langan said Cope will be sentenced by Judge Arthur Mann on Oct. 27. Whether or not Mr. Cope will testify at the hearing is undecided at this point, said Carter.


On Sept. 10, 2006, Cope was alleged to have shot Raviotta during a domestic dispute that occurred inside his automobile, according to the District Attorney's Office.


Raviotta was on her cell phone at approximately 3:10 a.m. with a 911 dispatcher reporting that Cope had just struck her, when he shot her once in the head. The prosecution said the sound of the gunshot was captured on the audio-recorded 911 telephone call.


Following Raviotta's shooting, Cope sped to the home of his ex-wife, Michelle Ann Cain, with Raviotta's body still in the car's front seat. He reportedly crashed the car into a telephone pole just north of the residence Michelle Cain shared with her husband, Terry.


Hearing the crash, several neighbors, including Sharon Kay England, came outside to help Cope. The District Attorney's Office said that Cope responded by firing several gunshots at England, striking her once.


Cope then took a shotgun from the trunk of his car and walked to the Cain residence, yelling for the couple to come to the door. Langan said the Cains, asleep at the time, awoke and came to the sliding glass door. From just feet away, Cope fired three blasts from the shotgun directly at them, striking both of them.


Terry Cain, who took the full force of the blasts, was severely and permanently injured, and today has a paralyzed arm, said Langan.


The District Attorney's Office originally charged Cope with first-degree murder and multiple counts of attempted first-degree murder, mayhem with great bodily injury and various firearm enhancements.


Carter said the plea agreement worked out with the District Attorney's Office reduced the charges from first- to second-degree murder and from first-degree attempted murder to second-degree attempted murder.


Langan said the additional charges of attempted murder and aggravated mayhem were dismissed by a Harvey waiver, which allows the court to consider the facts of the charges in its judgment.


All of the charges and special allegations amount to a maximum sentence of 74 years to life, said Carter, with the firearm use lengthening the prison term considerably.


Langan said Cope would have to serve 72 years before becoming eligible for parole – which would make him 110. “He's going to spend the rest of his life in prison, which is basically what we were looking for.”


At the Oct. 27 sentencing, Carter said he'll delve into the evidence about Cope’s physical and mental condition at the time of the shootings.


Cope, Carter explained, was working as a volunteer firefighter when, in 2001, he was injured fighting a fire in Clearlake. Carter said Cope fell through the floor of a building, causing major injuries to his back.


The accident ended Cope's career as a fireman and left him disabled, said Carter.


Cope was regularly taking pain medications for his injury; in addition, Cope suffers by bipolar disorder, which he was not being treated for at the time, Carter said.


The mix of painkillers and alcohol interfered with Cope's ability to control his emotions and triggered an anger event, which resulted in what Carter called “a tragic mistake.”


“It's not the first time I've seen violence at or around this level with that kind of mixture,” said Carter.


During evaluations of Cope, psychiatrists found that he was sane at the time of the shootings, which didn't favor an initial plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, the defense and prosecution said.


Even though the plea deal essentially results in life in prison, Carter said Cope “has an exceptionally high level of remorse” and didn't want to put the victims through a trial. “He wants to take responsibility for what he did.”


Carter said the plea bargain also will help Cope obtain a better placement within the state prison system, since he will not be in prison for first-degree murder.


Cope is now being treated with medication for his depression and is a different person; Carter said speaking with Cope today, it's hard to imagine him committing such acts.


“I'm hopeful that the rest of his life will be humane and in a placement that's appropriate for him,” said Carter.


Langan said the Cains and will be at the Oct. 27 sentencing, and he's also spoken with Raviotta's mother about attending. He said he'll give the victims an opportunity to tell the court exactly how the shootings impacted them physically and emotionally.


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


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I hate to start the column off on a negative note, but you aren’t pronouncing it right. The pronunciation is actually or “Vee SHEE swahzz” not the more pretentious and/or genteel “Vish-EE-swah” (the “e” after the “s” signifies the “z” sound). Vichyssoise is as American as fortune cookies (both of which are associated with foreign countries but were actually invented in America).


The origins of this cold soup are disputed. Although evidence shows some version of leek and potato soup has been in existence since at least the 1800s, the evolution of the cold, pureed version has a couple of claimants to its creation.


The version that most people put faith in is that it was created in 1917 by Chef Louis Diat at the Ritz-Carlton in New York. This ascription, although the most popular and with the most “facts,” has been found full of holes by the “Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink.” So at best the story is anecdotal, and most likely the story was reverse engineered to fit the situation like a Nostradamus quatrain.


The only thing we know of for sure is that the cold pureed version first appeared in the U.S. during the early 20th century. The name Vichyssoise was changed to “Crème Gauloise Glacee” for a short time after World War II since the soup was named after the town of Vichy, France. This town had collaborated with the Nazis during the war and Americans love to punish the French by renaming food; remember “Freedom Fries”?


Most versions of this soup contain chicken stock and massive amounts of cream. In order to make this soup a little healthier and available to my vegan readers, the following recipe of the popular summer soup is one I adapted myself. Since I couldn’t find soy or vegan cream anywhere locally, I decided to make my own with silken tofu and soy milk: three-quarters of a cup of silken tofu, one-quarter of a cup of soy milk, 2 teaspoons white sugar and a pinch of salt. Put it all in a jar and shake until smooth (about one minute). You end up with a reasonable replacement for cream.


Even non-vegetarians will notice that after eating true vichyssoise your mouth has a slimy feeling from the massive amount of fat from the cream. This recipe avoids that fatty consistency while providing the body the soup needs. Vichyssoise served with a dollop of sour cream is fantastic, but in all of my experimenting with silken tofu, vinegar, lemons and sugar I couldn’t come up with a sour cream substitute ... sorry, but I am still trying.


The good news is while developing this recipe (don’t even ask about the version made with coconut milk) I broke my stand blender, so I get to go shopping for a new blender!


Unfortunately, cooking potatoes and leeks renders them about as nutritious as cardboard, but you at least will be getting a good amount of fiber and a tasty cool soup. You can have some fun and jazz vichyssoise up by adding little things here and there like crab, lobster, asparagus and cucumbers; I’ve even seen recipes with oysters. It also makes a great hors d’ouvres by serving it in shot glasses. This recipe will serve four.


Vegan Vichyssoise


3 Idaho baking-type potatoes

3 leeks (white and light green parts only)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 and a half cups soy milk

1 cup soy cream (see above)

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Salt to taste

Chopped chives for garnish


Peel and slice the potatoes and boil them in slightly salted water. Meanwhile cut the roots off of the leeks and cut the leaves off where the leaves start to split away. Split them lengthwise and wash them (I like to put them in a gallon ziptop bag with several cups of cold water and then shake like a salsa dancer); after a minute remove the leeks and dump the sandy water on the houseplants. Chop the leeks into a medium dice (approximately one inch squares). Heat the olive oil to medium in a frying pan and add the leeks. The purpose is to sweat the leeks, but not brown them or give them any color. Cook them until slightly translucent.


When the potatoes are cooked, drain in a colander and then return to the pot they were boiled in. Add the leeks, soy cream, soy milk and white pepper. Stir for a minute to combine, then blend with a stick blender (you can also ladle mixture into a regular stand blender). When it has been blended mostly smooth, process soup through a food mill, chinoise or strainer. The objective is to remove any leek fibers and have a perfectly smooth soup. Add salt and white pepper to taste, and then chill. Serve topped with the chives.


Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


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KELSEYVILLE – Lake County Sheriff's deputies intervened in an apparent suicide attempt Wednesday afternoon, tasering a man to prevent him from shooting himself.


Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said deputies were dispatched to a home on Skyline Drive at about 4:20 p.m. on the report of a suicidal subject.


Bauman said a 64-year-old man who has been very ill for some time – and has reportedly been speaking about suicide for several months – had taken one of his pistols outside of his home and was threatening to kill himself.


Several sheriff's units responded to the address, where deputies found the man sitting in his backyard with the gun, according to Bauman.


Bauman said a perimeter was formed around the property to keep the man confined to his yard while deputies tried to talk the man into surrendering the weapon.


After nearly an hour and a half of negotiations with the man, deputies were able to work their way into a position of advantage. Bauman said they deployed their tasers to neutralize the immediate threat of the situation, and subdued the man without anyone being injured.


The man was subsequently transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, where he was medically cleared and is pending a mental health evaluation, said Bauman.


Bauman added that no criminal charges will be filed against the man as a result of the incident.


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


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Great views await riders in this weekend's 18th annual Konocti Challenge. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Strong.


 


LAKE COUNTY – The 18th Annual Konocti Challenge Bike Ride on Saturday, Oct. 4, promises to be an awe-inspiring event.


Hundreds of intrepid bicyclists come from all over to tackle this challenging and beautiful ride, which has four options: the 65- or 100-mile course following the circle of the lake, or the 19- or 30-mile family ride. All of the choices offer beautiful views and first class rest stops.


Pre-registration is Friday, Oct. 3, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lakeport Yacht Club. This event is a benefit for the Rotary Club of Lakeport.


The ride release times for the 100-, 65- and 30-mile rides are from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday with the 19-mile family ride having a mass start at 9:30 a.m.


The 100-mile ride is for riders who are really ready to test themselves, knowing they really earned the absolutely great steak and chicken dinner at the end a great day in the saddle.


The 65-mile ride is also not for the faint of heart – like the 100-mile ride you will ease into the ride as you enjoy coasting along the beautiful Clear Lake shoreline, keeping Mt. Konocti in your sights from across the lake. This ride also offers some of the Konocti Challenge's greatest vistas – you may want to pack a camera.


The 30-mile ride sets you on a course traveling south of Lakeport through rows of engaging orchards and quiet country roads. Their new 19-mile fun ride is designed for you and your family to spend a wonderful day of riding together enjoying beautiful Lake County and each other. All rides offer full support and rest stops along the way.


There really isn’t anywhere else that offers more beautiful countryside and magnificent views than Lake County, so if you choose to participate in one of the rides or just go out and cheer the riders on, it is a great way to spend a beautiful fall day in Lake County and support a great organization.


Pre-registration fees are $60 for the 100-mile ride, $50 for the 65-mile ride, $40 for the 30-mile ride, $10 for 12 and under and $20 for 13 and over for the 19-mile family ride. Add $10 to the fees if you wait to register the day of the race. You can get an official ride jersey for $75.


For more information about the Konocti Challenge, with in-depth detail about the courses, visit www.konoctichallenge.com or call 707-349-0815.

 

 

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Gabe Strong-Oilar takes a break at a rest stop during last year's Konocti Challenge. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Strong.
 

 


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FINLEY – The Blues and Barbecue benefit for KPFZ 88.1 FM Lake County Community Radio is back.


The event will be held at the Finley Grange, 1510 Big Valley Road in Finley on Saturday, Oct. 4, beginning at 3 p.m., with dinner served at 4 p.m.


KPFZ has been back on the air since April 25 after a three-year hiatus. To celebrate the return to the air and to raise funds for ongoing expenses KPFZ will hold the blues dance party and barbecue.


Blues Diva Bettie Mae Fikes will perform her inspirational and one-of-a-kind blues stylings. Fikes is known worldwide; she's performed at Carnegie Hall and has recently returned from a State Department-sponsored tour of Turkey. She has frequently performed in Lake County, most recently at the Blue Wing Blues Festival in Upper Lake.


Joining Fikes will be Levi Lloyd and The 501 Band. Lloyd is a veteran in the world of blues music and has opened for B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Joe Louis Walker, to name a few.


Rounding out the evening will be the band Without a Net with KPFZ’s own Herb Gura, who is a programmer at the radio station.


Lake County Community Radio is a nonprofit, noncommercial radio station. This will be one of the station's biggest fundraisers of the year.


The admission price to Blues and Barbecue includes all the music and a barbecue dinner with all the fixings. A vegetarian meal will be available. There also will be a no-host bar.


Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Tickets for children ages 7 to 11 are $10, and tickets for those under age 7 are free. Advanced tickets can be purchased at The Healing Earth, 350 N. Main St., in Lakeport or Java Express, located at 14624 Lakeshore Dr. in Clearlake.


For more information call 263-3640.


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THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED REGARDING SB 1675.

 

On Thursday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation aimed at protecting homeowners and homebuyers in California and helping establish a safe, more accountable lending environment.


The legislation aims to increase accountability in the real estate market, improve transparency standards in order to prevent abusive lending practices and help Californians maintain homeownership in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis.


"All Californians deserve the opportunity to achieve the American dream of homeownership and this legislation will help homebuyers realize that dream in the aftermath of the housing crisis," Schwarzenegger said in a written statement. "I am pleased to sign legislation that protects consumers and creates a responsible and accountable lending environment that will encourage homeownership in our state."


SB 1461 by Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Montclair) requires real estate agents to disclose their license number on all first point of contact marketing materials and property purchases beginning July 1, 2009 and SB 1737 by Sen. Michael Machado authorizes the Department of Real Estate to suspend or bar a person who has committed a violation of the Real Estate Law if the suspension or bar is in the best interest of the public.


The governor also signed AB 69 by Assemblymember Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) mandating that all mortgage loan servicers report specific, detailed data to their licensing agency concerning loan modifications and AB 180 by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) provides a registration and bonding process for foreclosure consultants and prohibits a foreclosure consultant from entering into an agreement to assist an owner in arranging the release of surplus funds after the trustee's sale is conducted.


To help Californians refinancing their mortgages in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis the governor signed SB 870 by Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) which allows the California Housing Finance Agency to more quickly establish a mortgage refinance program and SB 1065 by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) that includes the refinancing of home mortgages in the criteria for a city or county-administered home financing program.


The following four housing-related bills have also been signed into law:


  • SB 1055 by Sen. Michael Machado and co-authored by Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) allows taxpayers to exclude the forgiven mortgage debt from their incomes for state income tax purposes which brings the state in compliance with federal law. “The current housing crisis has many causes, which means we have to address it at many levels,” said Wiggins. “SB 1055 offers state income tax relief to borrowers whose mortgage debt has been forgiven by their lender, debt which is currently taxable to the borrower as ordinary income. In this economy, that can place a heavy burden on borrowers who already are experiencing financial difficulties.”

  • SB 1604, also by Machado, requires that any private insurance policy maintained by an escrow agent be applied as primary coverage in the event of a loss covered by both the private insurance and the Escrow Agents Fidelity Corporation.

  • SB 1675 by Sen. Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) provides the California Department of Veterans Affairs with the discretion to structure the terms and conditions of any authorized debt issuance.

  • AB 2454 by Assemblymember Bill Emmerson (R-Redlands) would increase potential recovery for harmed consumers applying for Recovery Account payments filed on or after Jan. 1, 2009, to $50,000 for any one transaction and $250,000 for any one licensee.


In July 2008, Schwarzenegger signed legislation giving Californians one more tool to help them stay in their homes. SB 1137 by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) and co-authored by Wiggins, requires lenders to contact homeowners and explore restructuring options before initiating the foreclosure process. The governor also previously signed SB 1448 by Sen. Jack Scott (D-Pasadena) increasing penalties for acting or advertising as a real estate broker or salesperson without a license.


Additionally last year, the governor signed the following legislation to help homeowners preserve their homeownership, increase protections for Californians who plan to purchase homes and expand affordable housing opportunities:


  • SB 223 by Machado will make it a crime for licensed appraisers to engage in any appraisal activity that is connected to the purchase, sale, transfer, financing or development of property if their compensation is impacted by the final price generated by the appraisal.

  • SB 385, also by Machado, permits state agencies involved with residential mortgage lending and brokering to adopt emergency measures and new policies to ensure that all mortgage lenders and brokers are subject to federal guidelines on non-traditional mortgages. This law impacts the Department of Financial Institutions, the Department of Corporations and the Department of Real Estate.

  • AB 929 by Assemblymember Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster) increases the amount of affordable housing in California by raising the total debt that the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) can carry by $2 billion. CalHFA issues bonds to finance housing for low and moderate-income families.


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SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a pair of bills by Assemblywoman Patty Berg designed to curb the rapid growth in financial scams that target the elderly.


Berg's bills, AB 2149 and AB 2150, crack down on the use of trumped-up credentials that unscrupulous sales people use to gain quick credibility with the older customers.


The new laws by Berg, D-Eureka, require real, verifiable training in order to use titles like "senior specialist" or "certified senior advisor.”


"If you want to call yourself an expert, you'd better really be one," said Berg. "If you want to use a title, you have to earn it."


Agents or brokers who violate the laws could lose their licenses or have them suspended.


Elder financial abuse is a growing problem in California and across the nation. More than a quarter million older Californians fall prey to some sort of abuse each year.


In 2007, a New York Times investigation found that the number of "certified" senior experts in insurance and financial product sales increased by 78 percent in the last five years.


While some of these agents are legitimate, many have obtained the credentials through dubious means, or simply invent a title themselves.


Some insurance companies and state regulators have begun to change the rules governing how sales agents can behave.


In 2007, Massachusetts prohibited financial advisors from using titles like "certified senior advisor" unless they were recognized by an accreditation organization or the state. But in most states agents can use any title that they choose.


"If you think there's an epidemic of abuse now, just wait," said Berg. "With the aging of our baby boomer generation, California's population of older adults is going to double in less than 15 years. We had to take these common sense steps now to stop these scams before they start."


Both laws will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.


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California Highway Patrol officials are lauding the governor's signing of a bill banning the use of electronic text messaging devices while driving.


On Thursday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Sen. Joe Simitian's (D-Palo Alto) bill, SB 28, which specifically bans the use of an electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication while driving a motor vehicle.


The bill would impose a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.


“Building on legislation already helping save lives in California, I am happy to sign this bill because it further encourages safe and responsible driving,” said Schwarzenegger. “Banning electronic text messaging while driving will keep drivers’ hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, making our roadways a safer place for all Californians.”


SB 28 compliments an existing law which Gov. Schwarzenegger signed in 2006. SB 1613, also by Sen. Simitian, requires motorists to use hands-free devices while talking on a mobile phone when driving a motor vehicle.


On Friday, CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow issued a statement in support of the governor's action.


“All of us who are charged with keeping our roadways safe applaud Gov. Schwarzenegger for signing this much needed legislation,” Farrow said. “I think most people understand that text messaging is just not compatible with safe driving. Drivers need to keep 100 percent of their attention on the

road.”


The law takes effect January 1, 2009.


{mos_sb_discuss:3}

SOUTH LAKE COUNTY – As the District 1 supervisorial candidates head into the home stretch for the November election, the most recent report on campaign expenditures and donations shows there was a slight slowdown in fundraising earlier in the summer.


The latest financial report on file for District 1 candidates Susanne La Faver and James Comstock is for May 18 through June 30.


La Faver was the top vote getter in the June 3 primary, receiving 811 votes and 31.8 percent of the vote to Comstock's 800 votes, which accounted for 31.4 percent, according to the Registrar of Voters Office. The two candidates far outpaced the rest of the six-person field.


At that time, Comstock had already raised $11,519.19, the largest amount of any candidate in the three supervisorial races. La Faver had raised $5,998.26 during the same time period.


From the beginning of the campaign season through June 30, Comstock leads in money raised, with $13,048.19; La Faver's total through June 30 is $8,017.


The two candidates raised close to the same amount for the May through June reporting period, with Comstock pulling in $2,229 and La Faver $2,047, according to reporting documents.


During the same period, La Faver spent $1,151.19, compared to Comstock's $2,209.90.


For total campaign spending from the start of the year through June 30, Comstock spent $7,983.76, with La Faver reporting $7,009.06 in expenditures.


The following campaign contributions, expenses and donors are included in the recent reports.


JAMES COMSTOCK


Total raised this reporting period: $2,229

Expenditures this reporting period: $2,209.90

Total raised calendar year-to-date: $13,048.19 (including $700 in loans from candidate)

Expenditures for calendar year-to-date: $7,983.76


Payments made:


Middletown Times Star, campaign advertising, $375

Middletown Times Star, campaign advertising, $375

James Comstock, reimbursement for campaign signs, $1,172.21

Political Calling.Com, campaign phone messaging, $102.32

Political Data Inc., campaign phone messaging, $118.25.


Contributions received:


William Throop, Calpine power plant tech, $100 ($200 year-to-date)

North Coast Builders Exchange, political action committee, $1,000

Earnest M. Emery, retired, $100

Joseph P. Keith, building contractor, $250

Herb and Kim Bladel, refrigeration company, $250

Roland Shaul, telecom business, $200

Jessie Head, building contractor, $100

Kellie Risso, homemaker, $100


SUSANNE LA FAVER


Total raised this reporting period: $2,047

Expenditures this reporting period: $1,151.19

Total raised calendar year-to-date: $8,017

Expenditures for calendar year-to-date: $7,009.06


Payments made:


Perfect T's and Screening, yard signs, $134.69

Dr. Don's Buttons, Badges and Magnets, pinback buttons, $249.44

Forand Balloon Imprinters Inc., latex balloons, $166.64

Middletown Times Star, newspaper ad, $100

Voter Guide Slate Mail, voter guide, $200

CDMM, Web and wifi, $79


Contributions received:


Friends of Pat Wiggins, $250

Chuck Lamb, self-employed/Airkayaks.com, $250

Christopher Layton, owner of Pine Grove Resort and Spa, $250 ($500 year-to-date)

Judy Mirbegian, office manager for Dr. Mirbegian, $100 ($150 year-to-date)

Lois M. Moore, University of San Francisco professor, $50 ($100 year-to-date)

R.S. DeVoto, owner of DeVoto Vineyards, $250

William T. Tobin, retired, $200


Campaign expenditures and donations can be expected to grow in the month ahead, as the campaign draws closer to the Nov. 4 election.


The candidates have two upcoming finance reports due, one for the period of July 1 through Sept. 30, which is to be submitted by Oct. 6, followed by another due on Oct. 23, according to the Registrar of Voters Office.


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


{mos_sb_discuss:3}

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