Tuesday, 16 July 2024



With the Foodie Freak columns I want to help people discover places and foods they may not have experienced before and to save money when cooking at home. So when I made a recent change at home I thought it was something that I wanted pass on.

Theresa is a cashier at my local mega-mart and she has become accustomed to hearing me moralize about making everything myself. One day when I purchased pre-packaged macaroni and cheese in a box, she looked at me as if I was purchasing a dirty magazine and seemed a tad disappointed in me. I laughed uncomfortably and said, maybe a little too loudly, “My wife and daughter like this stuff!” Theresa smiled and went back to scanning my groceries.

It’s not that I’m an elitist snob that only eats truffles and caviar; I just prefer to make foods myself and from scratch. If you make food yourself at home you can make it healthier than the pre-made pre-packaged items you find on the store shelves – to me even salad dressing tastes better if it doesn’t come out of a jar or bottle.

It pains me to see families with shopping carts full of boxed dried “meals” and I just want to tell them, “You can make that same dinner at home, almost just as easily, with less fat, less salt, and for pennies on the dollar – think how much more money you could have in your pocket every month!”

And then one day I was making tacos at home and thought, “Why do I keep buying these packets of taco seasoning? There must be a better way!” Spices are expensive, and spice mixes are even worse. After all, not only are you paying for the individual spices, but then you’re paying someone to mix them together and put them in all new pretty packaging.

So I started researching taco seasonings and experimenting with what I liked best, and here’s the funny part: I also wanted to experiment with fajitas seasonings and started to look for a fajita spice recipe – and found that they were basically the exact same spices as the taco seasoning recipes! So why buy a packet that says “taco seasoning” and another packet that says “fajita seasoning” when you can mix up your own jar of spices to your own taste and use it for whatever type of meal you’re having?

Once I experimented a bit and felt I had a great taco seasoning put together I made tacos for lunch for my daughter’s school. I also threw together a fairly simple taco sauce just for fun. Later, the students and teachers were begging for the taco sauce recipe, and I didn’t remember how I made it! So I had to spend a while playing around with different ideas and think that I have finally recreated it, and have included it here for you to try.

The taco seasoning recipe I have included will season one pound of ground beef. As a time saver you can make it in quadruple batches and then just use 1/4 cup taco seasoning to 1 pound cooked drained ground beef and 1/4 cup of water. The seasoning mixture will hold its flavor well for three months.

One of the spices I included in the taco spice mixture is smoked paprika and I can’t recommend it highly enough to you. It adds a new dimension to dishes that I can’t live without now. Not only does it improve taco seasoning but goulash, ratatouille and osso bucco all become dishes fit for royalty when adding some smoked paprika. It’s available at many local mega-marts so look for it on the spice rack on your next shopping trip.

Readers may have noticed that I rarely list salt in my recipes and the reason for that is just that salt is such a subjective flavor, and with its health/diet issues I prefer you make salt decisions in your own home. For me, these recipes are fully flavorful enough.

In an effort to share these (in my opinion) fantastic seasonings and sauce with the world, I’ve tried to get commercial kitchen/bottling companies to take my recipes and start a line of specialty food products, but they either want thousands of dollars up front or they don’t return my calls or letters at all. So my failure to start a line of specialty foods is now your benefit. Here are my recipes for taco seasonings and sauce.

Taco/Fajita seasoning

1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/4 cup water

For tacos

1 pound ground beef

Mix all of the dry ingredients and set aside. Brown ground beef in a skillet and drain any excess fat. Return to heat and add spice mixture and water, stir until well mixed and slightly thickened (about one minute). Remove from heat and serve.

For fajitas

1 pound sliced beef strips

Mix all of the dry ingredients and set aside. Brown your favorite fajita beef strips, then add grilled onions, bell peppers, seasoning mix, 1/4 cup water and the juice of one lime, cook until onions and peppers are slightly softened.

Taco sauce

1 can (7.5 oz) Chipotles in Adobo

1-15 ounce bottle (1 and 1/2 cups) raspberry vinegar

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

3 cloves of garlic

Add all ingredients (including the adobo sauce) together in a blender and blend until very smooth (i.e., give it at least a minute). Pour through a strainer or mesh to remove seeds. Pour into storage containers (once washed, the raspberry vinegar bottle acts as a perfect serving vessel) and refrigerate over night to let the flavors meld. Makes about three cups, and will keep in refrigerator well for several months. You can hold back the adobo sauce that the chipotles come in from the recipe for a milder sauce, and also to make it even milder you might wish to add some ketchup. As the recipe is written the sauce is spicy to the taste but without being overwhelming while inside a taco.

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.


ANDERSON SPRINGS – The Anderson Springs area was greeted by an earthquake early Friday morning.

The 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred at 7:02 a.m., according to the US Geological Survey.

The temblor took place at a depth of a ninth of a mile two miles west southwest of Anderson Springs, five miles east southeast of The Geysers and five miles south of Cobb, the US Geological Survey reported.

The most recent quake of 3.0 magnitude or above to occur in the Cobb/Geysers/Anderson Springs Area took place early on the morning of Nov. 12, when a 3.5-magnitude earthquake was recorded. The US Geological Survey had originally rated the quake as a 3.1 but later upgraded it.

In another part of the county, a 2.9-magnitude quake was recorded on Wednesday at 3:10 a.m. 10 miles west southwest of Lakeport, at a depth of 1.6 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.

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HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – A lockout of union employees at the Hidden Valley Lake Association continued on Wednesday, as the association itself issued a rebuttal to flyers the union members have been handing out this week. {sidebar id=107}

At the same time, federal officials are investigating a complaint filed by the union alleging that the association has broken federal labor law by not bargaining in good faith.

The first of the employees were locked out starting this weekend, with the rest of them finding themselves locked out on Monday, as Lake County News has reported.

The dozen and a half union members, represented by Laborers International Union of North America Local 139, continued a protest picket on Wednesday, asking the community for donations of food and toys to help them get through the lockout and the holiday season.

They stood on a corner by Hardester's Market and near the elementary school, dispensing flyers and waving to drivers, many of whom honked in reply.

Union business manager Dave George said they still haven't received any information from HVLA about why it locked out the employees. “It's been the strangest negotiations.”

George and the union maintain that the lockout is illegal, and that HVLA is not bargaining in good faith.

HVLA General Manager Jim Johnson has refused to comment publicly on the situation, and HVLA Board President Don Dornbush did not return a call placed Wednesday seeking comment.

However, on Wednesday HVLA did offer a written rebuttal to the flyers being distributed by the union workers.

The document, which HVLA would only hand out at its office, said that Johnson's place of residence, salary and pension package should not be questioned, and explained he is a Hidden Valley Lake resident who receives no pension from the association.

HVLA's response stated that Johnson has neither “'coerced' nor encouraged union workers,” the majority of which currently make more than the union contract rates.

The association also asserted that they've not suggested those contract rates be lowered, and added that the only HVLA employees who currently have pensions are union workers.

HVLA maintains that it has bargained in good faith throughout the negotiation process, and signed a contract continuance that ended Nov. 14.

According to the rebuttal, the union canceled a contract negotiation scheduled for Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

George told Lake County News on Tuesday that the union planned to file charges against HVLA with the National Labor Relations Board.

Joseph Norelli, the National Labor Relations Board regional director for the San Francisco regional office, confirmed Wednesday that his office had received the filing.

“We are just beginning to investigate this,” Norelli said.

On Nov. 14, the day the bargaining agreement expired, the union filed a charge alleging that HVLA had threatened the employees with a lockout on Saturday because they were at an impasse, according to Norelli.

He was notified by the union's attorney on Saturday morning that the lockout had begun.

Local 139 has alleged the lockout is illegal. For the lockout to be legal, Norelli said HVLA needs to show that they haven't committed unfair labor practices, that they're bargaining in good faith, and have been unable to reach an agreement and so must lock out employees.

“The law gives them that right,” said Norelli, but he said it remains to be seen if this is a legal or illegal lockout situation.

Norelli said he's expediting an investigation into the allegations at the union's request. The investigation could take as long as 49 days, although Norelli said they'll try to get it done faster than that.

The union has requested the labor board seek an injunction in federal district court that would require HVLA to immediately reinstate all of its employees, said Norelli.

That, in turn, could lead to a settlement or litigation before the labor board concerning whether or not the employees would have to be permanently reinstated and “made whole” with the payment of back wages and benefits, he said.

Norelli said Local 139 began filing a succession of charges against HVLA in the late spring.

“We investigated all of those charges and in September we found that there was merit to a number of those charges,” he said, adding that some charges also weren't found valid.

HVLA was found to have made changes in employment terms and conditions without notice or bargaining with the union, said Norelli, which is a breach of labor law.

As required by law, the labor board offered HVLA an opportunity to settle, which they did. That settlement required that HVLA – which didn't admit guilt – agree that they would not repeat the mistake, and would post a notice telling employees of their rights and listing the allegations.

“It's just bringing to everyone's attention that this was done unlawfully without bargaining,” Norelli said of the notice.

HVLA also had to reimburse employees for any losses they suffered which, in this case, were related to changes in the rules about letting employees take home company vehicles, he said.

After the settlement, things appeared to be resolved. “We haven't heard much from them since then until we got a charge late in the day on Friday,” said Norelli.

Norelli said the new charges against HVLA also raise concerns about the association's compliance with the previous settlement, which was reached toward the end of September, and is still in a 60-day notice period.

He said that settlement also required that HVLA not refuse the union relevant information requests about such things as wage levels – which George and Local 139 are alleging HVLA is now doing.

“We have not yet closed this case on compliance,” he said. “They may be breaching the settlement agreement, which would require that this settlement be set aside.”

That would necessitate a new complaint, which Norelli said could lead to a new settlement or to litigation.

George suggested that HVLA's new management may not fully understand its duties in the negotiations process.

An HVLA Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The lockout is expected to be a topic of discussion.

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MIDDLETOWN – This year Minnie Cannon Elementary has started a new awareness program called "College Talk."

The idea behind this program is to introduce students to the idea of attending college while still in elementary school. At each monthly assembly a different college is highlighted.

The first of the year was UC Davis. Students were given lots of information about UC Davis in the form of fun facts. They learned that the college was opened in 1908, thus celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year.


In addition students learned about top programs of study at the university, including art, law, viticulture, medicine and firefighting. Students were most interested to hear about all the sports teams and facilities, including a hockey rink, indoor soccer arena, swimming pools and much more.


“At last year's strategic planning meeting we were discussing the needs of the district and how to address those needs,” said Minnie Cannon Principal Tom Hoskins. “One of the primary district directions was to adequately prepare Middletown Unified School District students for college. The idea of College Talk came from that need. We hope that it will enlighten students about the opportunities available to them after high school. We believe that this knowledge will be valuable in helping students make informed choices.”


Hoskins added that the College Talk assemblies will also include information about trade schools and other post high school options. Some members of his staff are including field trips to the featured colleges as part of their yearly plans. He also is exploring the idea of having former MUSD students who are attending or have attended featured colleges to join the assemblies.


* * * * *

The end of October means Halloween and several of the schools marked the day with celebrations.

At Coyote Valley principal Walt Campbell reports that 11 classrooms were open to trick or treaters and that between 100 and 200 children came through. He was especially pleased that many Middletown Middle and Middletown High School students volunteered to "man" the doors.

At Middletown Middle School Halloween marked the end of Spirit Week. Spirit Week is five days of dress-ups, lunch time activities and finally a Friday rally.

At the Friday rally three students Jacob Gill (guitar and vocals), Landon Bracisco (guitar and vocals) and Reid Carpenter (drums) entertained their classmates with three songs including an original piece and AC/DC's “TNT.” No name yet for this band.


* * * * *

At the November board meeting held at Coyote Valley, District Superintendent Dr. Korby Olson read and presented proclamations to retired classified and certified employees.

On hand to receive recognition were Shirley Strumph (7 years), Kathy Toy (+20), Nikke Deacon (+20), Joe Mathews (25) and Bob Norris (25).

Others retiring but not in attendance were Bob Pratt (10), Bonnie Albertson (9), Nancy Jones (23) and Dennis Jensen (27).


* * * * *


Congrats to Middletown High School junior Lisa Copeland. She is the first ever Lake County high school student (boy or girl) to advance to the Northern California CIF Golf Championships. To advance to the NorCals, Lisa had to work her way through three different qualifying tournaments.

Lisa is awesome on the golf course, but also sports a 4.9 GPA and does volunteer tutoring when not on the course.

* * * * *


There will be lots on new construction going on at all of the district schools over the next few years.

First affected will be on the main campus in early November. The drop-off area/circle in front of Minnie Cannon will be used as an equipment storage area for the construction crews. This will cause some traffic disruptions and changes in parking for the near future.

Similar upgrades can be expected at other locations around the district over the next couple years.

* * * * *

Minnie Cannon recently hosted a family science night. MC received a grant to bring the hands-on science night to our community in conjunction with the Explorit Science Museum in Davis.

Fifteen hands-on stations were available for students to interact with. Exhibits included optical illusions, engineering(building bridges and kites), electro static (a hair-raising good time), and an anatomy station where students could touch a real sheep's heart and lungs (with gloves of course).

MC student council provided science prizes from Funtopia that were raffled off every 15 minutes. MC teacher, Lisa Guerrero, was responsible for writing the grant and organizing the event.

* * * * *

Loconoma teacher, Cindy Weber, reports that two students have completed their graduation requirements. James Lemon and William Werder finished all requirements and will graduate this quarter. They will also return for formal commencement ceremonies on June 9, 2009.

Bob Norris is a 32-year Lake County retired teacher who lives on Cobb. He will be writing regular updates on the activities within the Middletown Unified School District.


On Wednesday, thousands of Californians across the state took action to save the renters' rebate, an important program recently defunded by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Organizers sought to send a loud and clear message that Californians do not accept elimination of this crucial program for low-income senior, blind and disabled Californians.

The statewide day of action came in response to Gov. Schwarzenegger's use of the line-item veto power to eliminate $191 million in tax rebates for low-income elderly and disabled Californians. This was the governor's single biggest line-item veto in the budget.

The governor defunded the entire Senior Citizens Property Tax Assistance program, also known as the “renters' rebate,” a program that has been in effect for decades.

With no forewarning, Schwarzenegger struck all funds from the program, despite the fact that the Legislature had included the funds in the budget approved by the state Assembly and Senate.

The Senior Citizens Renters Tax Assistance program, which has been in effect for four decades, makes senior and disabled renters who earn less than $44,096 eligible for up to $347.50 as a tax rebate.

Many eligible Californians had already filed their claims and were counting on these funds. With the governor's veto, the Franchise Tax Board now will not pay these claims.

Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, characterized the cuts to the tax assistance program as “unconscionable.”

Tenants Together, a statewide organization for renters' rights, advocates for the rights of California's estimated 14 million renters.

“We're outraged that the governor would take aim at low-income senior, blind and disabled renters during these difficult times,” said Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, California's statewide organization for renters' rights. “The state's neediest residents were counting on this money. The governor's veto is totally unacceptable.”

According to Nan Brasmer, President of California Alliance for Retired Americans, “The governor's veto of rebates for renters is a slap in the face to the neediest seniors. To add insult to injury, the governor also cut the tax rebate for homeowners, which also targets lower income homeowners, many of whom are seniors. We call on legislators to override the governor's veto and restore these rebates as soon as possible."

The group is collecting signatures on its online petition condemning the governor's veto of these funds. The petition can be viewed at www.tenantstogether.org.

The coalition opposing the Governor's veto is remarkably broad. More than 30 organizations have signed onto a letter to the governor urging the governor to fully fund the tax assistance program.

Signatories included Access to Independence of San Diego, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Church IMPACT, California Disability Community Action Network, Center for Independent Living - Fresno, Coalition for Economic Survival, the San Francisco Tenants Union and others.


Congressman Mike Thompson's name is being put forth by his colleagues in the search for an interior secretary. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY – Could Lake County's congressman become the next secretary of the interior?

Congressman Mike Thompson was reelected to his First Congressional District seat earlier this month by an overwhelming majority. He's due to begin serving his sixth term in January.

However, the 57-year-old Thompson (D-St. Helena) could be moving on up from his Cannon Office Building address in Washington, DC, to a cabinet position if a proposal made this week is considered by President-elect Barack Obama.

Some of Thompson's colleagues in the California Congressional Delegation, including Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), sent a letter to Obama's transition team asking that Thompson be considered for the Secretary of the Interior post in the new president's cabinet.

“Mike Thompson is immensely qualified to be Interior Secretary,” Miller said in a prepared statement. “He has a strong base of support in the conservation, environmental and outdoors community. He is knowledgeable about the issues. And he is a person of great integrity and commitment to public service.”

A coalition of conservation and wildlife groups, including Ducks Unlimited, also have reportedly contacted Obama's team to push for Thompson's appointment, according to the Associated Press.

In a statement issued by his office, Thompson said, “It’s an honor to be recognized by the many groups I’ve worked with over the years, but no one associated with President-elect Obama has contacted me.”

According to a Friday Washington Post article, there's already another contender for the interior secretary post – Congressman Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), son of a migrant worker and chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, who has an established record on environmental issues.

Thompson, who owns a vineyard in Finley and is an outdoorsman, has a record on conservation issues and protection of endangered species.

His supporters believe that an interview Obama gave Field and Stream magazine, which was published in September, bodes well for a Thompson nomination. In the interview, Obama stated, “I think that having a head of the Department of Interior who doesn't understand hunting and fishing would be a problem. And so my suspicion is that whoever heads up the Department of Interior is probably going to be a sportsman or sportswoman.”

One of Thompson's most notable conservation achievements was the passage of the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, which President Bush signed into law in October 2006.

The legislation gave wilderness status to 275,830 acres in the First Congressional District – with 51,671 acres in Lake County, around the Cache Creek and Snow Mountain areas.

Victoria Brandon, chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group, worked with Thompson on the wilderness legislation.

Responding to Thompson's name being put forward for the cabinet posted, Brandon said Friday, “As far as I know the Sierra Club has not taken a position on this possible appointment, and I personally am of two minds: Thompson would undoubtedly be a superb Secretary of the Interior, but the thought of losing him as our Congressman is dismaying to say the least.”

On species protection issues, Thompson has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, particularly its handling of the Klamath River fish die-off, which claimed an estimated 80,000 salmon.

Thompson and 35 fellow members of Congress from California and Oregon submitted to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., a request in June of 2007 for an investigation into Vice President Dick Cheney's involvement in policy decisions that resulted in the 2002 fish kill.

He also successfully worked to get legislation passed to assist the struggling salmon industry with more than $60 million in emergency funding in the summer 2007.

The following month, Thompson and Miller were part of a special congressional panel that convened in Vallejo to look at the issues facing the Bay-Delta.

During the half day of testimony, Thompson questioned a Department of the Interior official at length regarding an administration official's possible interference in policy decisions regarding the delta smelt.

The official, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Operations Manager for the California/Nevada Office Steve Thompson, said he couldn't answer Thompson’s question regarding political influence because the Department’s Inspector General was investigating the potential manipulation of scientific evidence from the Bay-Delta.

Steve Thompson did say during questioning by the congressman that the investigation involved the former deputy assistant secretary, Julie MacDonald, who had resigned under pressure from another investigation that May.

Congressman Thompson also opposed the Bush administration's July proposal to drill along the Outer Continental Shelf, saying it wouldn't increase the oil supply for years and was potentially disastrous for the ecosystem.

“Our district’s coast is rich in marine resources that have tremendous value to our local economy. An oil spill would be devastating to the coastal economy and its unique ecosystem,” he said at the time.

Another factor working in Thompson's favor for cabinet consideration is that he and Obama have a track record of working together on issues important to them, and have been of similar mind about their opposition to the handling of the Iraq War.

In January of 2007, Obama and Thompson introduced legislation in the Senate and House, respectively, to get the US out of Iraq. The Iraq War De-Escalation Act set deadlines for redeploying US troops. The legislation did not pass.

Thompson also told Lake County News during an interview last month that he and Obama had a phone conversation on the issue of the financial bailout before a second and final vote was taken to pass the legislation.

Initially, when Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton were running for president, Thompson said either would make a great leader for the country. He formally endorsed Clinton but later embraced Obama after he won the nomination and pledged his support.

Brandon's concern about losing Thompson in Congress broaches an important point – if he were to resign his seat for the cabinet, how would his seat be filled?

The US Constitution requires that, if a seat in Congress becomes vacant resignation, death or refusal to serve, a special election must be held. In the case of the Senate, state legislatures may provide for a state governor making a temporary appointment until a special election is scheduled.

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The stolen truck was discovered on Socrates Mine Road on Nov. 10, 2008. Courtesy of the California Highway Patrol.


MIDDLETOWN – Two Middletown men have been arrested in connection with a stolen vehicle case, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Raymond Marrujo and Jason Hagan, both aged 34, were arrested Wednesday, according to a Thursday report from CHP Officer Adam Garcia.

Garcia explained that witnesses reported a dumped vehicle consisting of a pickup truck cab and frame on Socrates Mine Road in Middletown on Nov. 10.

CHP Officer Erich Paarsch responded and, with the assistance of Lake County Code Enforcement Officer Rod Hillard, was able to identify the vehicle as stolen out of Vacaville, Garcia said.

Paarsch and CHP Officer Kevin Domby obtained a warrant for a residence on Mead Road in Middletown where witnesses believed the suspects had been dismantling the pickup. Garcia said the search warrant was served on Wednesday with the assistance of the Lake County Narcotic Task Force.

Officers located the engine belonging to the stolen vehicle along with several other components, said Garcia. As a result of the search, Marrujo, a construction worker, was arrested for receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime.

CHP officers and Narcotic Task Force agents discovered information leading them to a second residence in Middletown off of West Road where they recovered more parts from the stolen pickup, according to Garcia.

There, they contacted Hagan, who they arrested, said Garcia.

Charges against Hagan include vehicle theft, receiving stolen property, conspiracy to commit a crime and several other charges including illegal dumping, altering a vehicle identification number and tampering with a vehicle, according to jail documents.

Bail was posted at $42,000 for Hagan, whose profession is listed as chef on his booking sheet. Marrujo's bail was set at $20,000.

Both men remained in the Lake County Jail early Friday.

Paarsch stated that the investigation is ongoing with additional suspects being sought in connection with the theft.


Hidden Valley Lake Association employees on Tuesday protested what they said was an illegal lockout that began over the weekend. Photo courtesy of Lora Darling.

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – Hidden Valley Lake Association employees on Tuesday were protesting what they said was the association management's decision to lock them out of work during ongoing contract negotiations. {sidebar id=106}

HVLA has 16 to 18 employees – most of them golf course maintenance workers, plus building maintenance and a few janitors – represented by Laborers International Union of North America, Local 139, based on Eureka, according to the union's business manager, Dave George.

George said HVLA officials have not given the union a reason for the action.

HVLA General Manager Jim Johnson would not comment on the situation when contacted by Lake County News on Tuesday.

Johnson said a statement will be issued once the association's attorney has approved it.

The union had a contract extension with HVLA until Friday, Nov. 14, said George. The lockout began on Saturday, when a union member who works as a janitor arrived and found he was locked out.

A second janitor was locked out Sunday, and the remainder of the union members were locked out of work on Monday, George said.

George, who accused HVLA of negotiating "in bad faith," said the union is taking its case to the National Labor Relations Board.

"We've filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board to try to get injunctive relief to try to force the employer to put them back to work," he said.

On Monday and Tuesday, union members carried signs protesting what George said was an illegal lockout.

Union members participating in the protest said they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the union.

Instead, they handed out flyers explaining their case and asking for people to attend the next HVLA Board of Directors meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20.

They also asked for donations of food and toys to get through the upcoming holiday season.

Local 139 has represented workers at HVLA since 1996, said George.

George said negotiations between Local 139 and HVLA have been taking place "off and on" for some months. In talks with HVLA, it's come up that the association needs to cut its expenses 20 percent.

During the recent negotiations, George said HVLA brought in an attorney for the first time. "We've never used attorneys in negotiations," he said.

"It was not our choice, it was their choice," said George. "They've been bargaining in bad faith."

George said HVLA has refused to disclose workers' pay rates, most of which he guessed are around $11 to $13 per hour.

"They're trying to turn them into the working poor. They're there now, really," he said, adding that one of the union members has a home in foreclosure.

He said he had asked to meet with the HVLA Board of Directors but received no response. "We tried to head this off before it got to this point."

George said if the National Labor Resources Board finds for the union, HVLA could end up paying substantial amounts in back pay and benefits. He said the union has filed charges against HVLA previously and entered into settlements with them.

Correspondent Aimee Gonsalves contributed to this report.

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LAKEPORT – Lakeport City Manager Jerry Gillham has been sent back to the United States from Iraq after suffering health issues a few weeks ago.

Gillham, 53, was sent to Iraq last summer on his second year-long deployment to that country as a member of the Oregon National Guard, as Lake County News has reported.

While in Iraq, he suffered a transient ischemic attack – or a TIA, according to interim city manager, Kevin Burke.

“We can confirm that he has suffered a noncombat-related injury,” said Capt. Stephen Bomar of the Oregon National Guard.

According to the American Heart Association, a TIA is a warning or mini-stroke that produces stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage because of its extremely short duration.

The condition is caused when a blood clot temporarily clogs an artery, keeping blood from a part of the brain. TIAs average about one minute in duration.

Symptoms include sudden numbness in the face, leg or arm, on one side of the body; confusion; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking; dizzyness; loss of balance or coordination; and sudden, severe headache.

TIAs are considered extremely important predictors of strokes, the American Heart Association reported. Although most strokes aren't associated with TIAs, more than a third of the people who have one or more TIAs later experience an actual stroke.

A few days after having the TIA, Gillham fell, injuring several discs in his back which may require back surgery, said Burke.

Earlier this year Gillham has said he'd recently had back surgery previously for other back problems he has suffered.

Gillham received medical treatment in Iraq and Europe, said Bomar. “He is en route back home at this time.”

Burke said Gillham is now back in the United States at a hospital at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Bomar said Gillham remains on active duty status, but he did not know how long the transition might take for Gillham to return to Lakeport.

“That all depends on what happens,” said Bomar. “They will provide him the best medical care available.”

Burke said Gillham is set to meet with doctors to follow up on the diagnosis.

The city has so far received no other updates from Gillham or his family on the city manager's condition or when he might eventually return to his post at the city, Burke said.

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The Ely Stage Stop building during its summer of 2007 move. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

KELSEYVILLE – The Lake County Historical Society has two interesting projects that need the assistance and talents of our local tradespeople.

The society is seeking help for its Ely Stage Stop Museum and cable car restoration projects.

In July of 2007, the Ely house, one of the county's oldest buildings, was relocated from Highway 29 near Kit's Corner to a beautiful five-acre parcel on Soda Bay Road adjacent to the Riviera area. This was all made possible by vintner, Andy Beckstoffer who donated both the historic building and the five acres.

The county of Lake, in conjunction with the Lake County Historical Society, has been charged with the challenge of turning this generous donation into a first-class agricultural museum and visitors center.

Restoration efforts on the stage stop have begun. Due to the fine efforts of Public Services Director Kim Clymire and his staff, the building now has a proper foundation, a new roof and windows.

Clymire plans to add a wrap-around porch to the building next year and begin restoration efforts on the interior of the building.

After the restoration of the building is completed the county plans to turn over the site to the Lake County Historical Society.

The Lake County Historical Society has grand plans for the agricultural museum that will be located near the Ely house.

Under the direction of Greg Dills, chairman of the Ely Stage Stop Museum Committee, they plan to erect four turn-of-the-century barns on the five-acre parcel. Two of the four barns have been donated to the society and one has already been disassembled for shipment to the museum site.

As the barns are reconstructed on site, they will be filled with unique agricultural equipment that has been donated to the historical society over the years. Horse-drawn wagons, tractors and farm implements are just a few of the items that will be featured.

In order to make this museum a reality, the historical society will need the talents of local contractors and builders.

They will need an excavating contractor to cut the pads for the barns, cement contractors to lay the foundations and cement flooring of the barns.

Also needed are carpenters to erect the barns, roofing contractors and painters to help complete the buildings. The historical society is a nonprofit organization dependent on volunteer efforts but tax credits can be issued for those contractors who wish to realize some compensation.

Another important project on the drawing board of the society and the county is the restoration of a one-of-a-kind cable car. Car 38 is the last example of a pre-1906 earthquake cable car. Built in 1907, it was one of the last to be built in likeness of the pre-quake models. Surprisingly it is in fairly good shape but needs to be refurbished from top to bottom in order to insure it will last into the next millennium.

Bud Boyce of Lower Lake, a welder with over 60 years of experience, has offered to work on the steel undercarriage. The wooden cab of Car 38 is in need of an expert finish carpenter with "old school" savvy to supervise the restoration of the woodwork. Also needed is a building large enough to house Car 38 while restoration proceeds.

If you or anyone you know might be able to assist the Lake County Historical Society in any aspect of these two worthy endeavors please call Greg Dills about the Ely Museum at 707-263-4180, Extension 12, or Randy Ridgel about Car 38 at 707-490-8279.

Visit the Lake County Historical Society's Web site at www.lakecountyhistory.org.


COBB – A followup meeting for community members concerned about the operation of the Bottle Rock Power Plant will be held this Thursday and will offer an update on progress in dealing with a variety of issues.

The meeting will take place at the Little Red Schoolhouse on Cobb, 15780 Bottle Rock Road, at 6 p.m. Thursday.

An initial gathering was held at the schoolhouse on Oct. 30, in which neighbors of the plant – which reopened at the end of March 2007 – made it clear they were tired of waiting for the plant's operators to finally address ongoing issues such as noise and concerns over potentially hazardous materials being stored on the property in drill sump ponds.

One of the most outspoken neighbors, David Coleman, shared his concerns at that meeting, and plans to attend Thursday as well.

Coleman, who said he “wasn't very reassured” by the last meeting, said he plans to put together information packages for several agencies to explain the neighbor's main problems.

While he said the plant's sound levels are bothersome, “Our core group is just mainly concerned with the toxicity of the material.”

The material in question is what comes out of the drills. Coleman said tons of material comes out of the 18- to 20-inch drilling holes that go down about two miles into the ground in pursuit of the geothermal resource.

At the October meeting Coleman said officials confirmed for the first time that those materials might be toxic.

“I thought the county's explanations were really quite pathetic,” Coleman said.

Water safety was another issue that came out on Oct. 30, with some plant neighbors saying their water wells had been contaminated.

Coleman said a lot of people pull water from Kelsey Creek, and he's concerned because the area's water also flows to Clear Lake.

Supervisor Rob Brown, who has put the meetings together, said the plant's management is “working to try to mitigate some of the concerns expressed at the meeting,”

Since Oct. 30 he has had discussions with county Community Development Director Rick Coel and Larry Bandt, vice president of engineering for Oski Energy, which manages the power plant for its owners, regarding sound control.

Speed issues on High Valley Road, where neighbors said plant trucks were driving too fast, causing safety problems and destroying the road, also are being dealt with, said Brown.

One potential development on the county side is consideration of hiring a geothermal consultant.

Hamilton Hess, chair of the Friends of Cobb Mountain, suggested on Oct. 30 that the county have a geothermal point person, which the county had in the past.

Brown said the suggestion was a good one, and the county is now looking at hiring planning consultant Melissa Floyd – who has worked with both the county and city of Clearlake – to fill that role. He said state funds would help pay for Floyd's services.

If the board approves hiring Floyd, she would monitor geothermal projects, said Brown. That would include coordinating contacts between county and state agencies – Environmental Health, Fish and Game and Air Quality – that have a role in permitting and overseeing such operations.

Floyd also would be the person community members could take concerns to, Brown said.

He'll introduce Floyd and the idea of hiring her to the power plant's neighbors Thursday.

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


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