Saturday, 13 July 2024


Nutritional science is a field of continual flowing rivers of research and information that often raise the quality of life and abate suffering – information that may give new hope to people suffering debilitating physical problems.

Each week I spend many hours pouring over my health and nutritional journals and exploring Web sites promising new herbal and natural approaches to health problems.

A fair amount of my findings are redundant to earlier research but explained in perhaps a different light. Some “new” herbal remedies are in fact just new to western culture or new to the US.

One product that I am excited about is oil of wild oregano. Mediterranean peoples have used this oil (there are more than 40 varieties world wide) for hundreds of years for everything from allergies and asthma, colds, flu and eczema to gastritis, psoriasis, gum disease and much more. (I must say here that this particular oregano is not your kitchen cupboard variety, which is probably Mexican sage.)

It appears to hold wide spectrum antibiotic properties and phenols like carvacrol and thymol that are natural antiseptics. According to Dr. Cass Ingram (“The Cure is in The Cupboard”) the caustic nature of plant phenols creates a response that is destructive to microbes as well as cancer cells.

Oil of wild oregano also contains terpenes that are potent antiseptic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory agents.

Another exciting and rather “new” supplement is zeolite. Zeolites are minerals that have been commonly used for industrial waste cleanup because of their ability to scavenge sludge and other toxic wastes. And yet native peoples living close to volcanic areas have used these minerals to heal themselves of a variety of disorders.

Zeolites are formed from volcanic lava and are potentized when in contact with sea water. The zeolite molecules are negatively charged and are attracted to the positive charge of waste material and heavy metals within the human body. This makes them wonderful chelators.

Chelators are substances that remove toxins and heavy metals from the body. There are many known chelators but zeoilites seem to be among the most potent.

I am aware of one study that unfortunately was not double blind and placebo-controlled (the gold standard among study protocols). Yet is interesting to note that in that study of 58 stage 4 cancer patients using a zeolite supplement (and taking no other supplement or chemotherapy) 87 percent of the patients went into full remission.

Of course this is unheard of and yet other anecdotal evidence from people around the US seems to corroborate this finding. Good studies need to be forthcoming.

Steven West, ND is a Kelseyville- based naturopath and nutritionist. He graduated form the Institute for Natural Health Studies and has been in practice in California for 18 years.




THE GEYSERS – An earthquake was felt on Cobb Mountain Thursday afternoon.

The quake, measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale, occurred at 3:06 p.m., according to the US Geological Survey.

It was centered two miles north northeast of The Geysers, three miles west of Cobb and six miles northwest of Anderson Springs, the US Geological Survey reported. It occurred at a depth of three-tenths of a mile.

Residents of Cobb, Middletown and even distant Fresno reported to the US Geological Survey that they felt the quake.

The last earthquake measuring more than 3.0 occurred on Feb. 20, measured 3.7 in magnitude and was centered one mile north of The Geysers, as Lake County News has reported.

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


LOWER LAKE – On Wednesday night, the Konocti Unified School District will hold another public hearing on a series of proposals that include closing some district schools and realigning the grades of others in preparation for a looming budget cut.

The meeting will begin at 6:15 p.m. at the Lower Lake High School gym, 9430 A Lake St. in Lower Lake.

At a meeting last month, the KUSD Board of Trustees hosted presentations by two committees formed late last year – one that looked at improving district revenues and the other that explored consolidating services and cutting costs.

The services consolidation committee made four recommendations that variously proposed closing Oak Hill Middle School and East Lake Elementary, and changing many of the other elementary and middle schools to serve kindergarten through eighth grade, as Lake County News has reported.

Konocti school board members made clear they didn't take any of the suggestions lightly.

President Mary Silva, Clerk Anita Gordon and board members Carolynn Jarrett, Herb Gura and Hank Montgomery also emphasized to community members that they didn't pretend to know the answers to how Konocti Unified would cut its budget in the coming fiscal year.

Over the last few weeks, KUSD officials have been holding public meetings throughout the district to find out the priorities of parents, students and the community at large.

“The biggest thing we've found is that people really love their schools and that they would prefer that nothing be done,” District Superintendent Bill MacDougall told Lake County News on Tuesday.

However, doing nothing isn't an option, said MacDougall. “We need to prepare for next year.”

While the district isn't expecting a big cut for the rest of this budget year, they're facing a staggering $1.2 million cut in the 2009-10 budget, MacDougall said.

At Wednesday's meeting, the board will offer the community another chance to give input in what is expected to be a much bigger meeting, said MacDougall. As a result, the meeting will move from the normal venue of the district office to the high school gym.

During the meeting, MacDougall said the district also will be formally giving out pink slips to teachers. Districts must give the notices by March 15.

In all, the district will give the layoff notices to 52 teachers, said MacDougall.

MacDougall said he expects that the vast majority of those teachers will be rehired once the board makes it budget decisions for the coming year. Once a decision is made regarding school consolidation, they can rescind some of those notices.

They want to be able to rescind those notices to teachers as soon as possible, said MacDougall. “We understand that it is disruptive to their lives.”

One decision that would be fairly easy to make at this point is we want to continue with class size reduction in the K-3 grades, he said.

The district recently received information that the state will fund class size reduction for this year and the next in the recently adopted state budget.

“It's a priority of our board so that is something I think they will choose to approve,” he said.

That school size funding will allow the district to keep 15 teachers they might otherwise lose, according to MacDougall.

The board is expected to discuss the budget situation again at a March 11 meeting. MacDougall said it's ultimately up to the board when a final budget decision will be made.

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


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's unemployment rate reached the highest level in decades, jumping to 16 percent in January, according to a state report released Thursday.

The Employment Development Department's (EDD) monthly unemployment report showed that the county's unemployment spiked from 13.8 percent in December to 16 percent in January, giving it a rank of 47 – it's tied with Stanislaus – among the state's 58 counties.

Marin County had the state's lowest unemployment rate, with 6.6 percent.

In January of 2008, Lake County's unemployment rate was 10.9 percent, with 2,590 unemployed local workers. But this past January, the number of unemployed rose to 3,990, according to preliminary EDD numbers.

California's current unemployment rate is 10.6 percent, with the nation's rate at 8.5 percent.

The news came as a shock to local officials, including county Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, who said he didn't remember such a high rate before.

Neither did Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Melissa Fulton. “In the 20 years I've lived here, I've never seen anything approaching 16 percent.”

Supervisor Jim Comstock said he had been concerned when the state's overall unemployment rate was reported to be just over 10 percent last week.

EDD's historical unemployment data for Lake County shows 16 percent to be the highest unemployment rate going back to 1990, the earliest numbers they have available in their online statistical database. In February of 1993, the county's unemployment was 15.8 percent.

An EDD labor market official couldn't be reached on Thursday to find out many years it's been since 16 percent unemployment was seen locally.

Comstock said he's seeing a lot of businesses shutting down in his south county district, especially in Middletown.

Cox added that those strains on businesses are everywhere throughout the county.

Fulton said December and January are typically slower months for the local economy because of its agricultural and tourism base.

She said she's not aware of many more businesses closing, but she knows many people have been laid off because of the business slowdown. Fulton thinks the local economy's growing unemployment is more a matter of employers scaling back on overhead to stay afloat.

“Everybody is just trimming as close to the bone as they can to keep the doors open,” she said.

From the local government standpoint, Cox has serious concerns of his own.

“The higher the unemployment, the greater the impact on our revenues,” said Cox.

Sales tax and property tax particularly are expected to be impacted, he said. “If people don't have jobs, they're spending less money.”

Cox said it's very frustrating that there are so many forces affecting the economy that local government can't control.

“We're able to handle this better than most counties,” Cox said.

The county also is expected to feel the impact in another way – as more people are out of work, they're likely to use the county's social services, which will cause the county government's costs to rise, he said.

“Those caseloads are going to be up when the revenue is going down,” Cox explained.

Cox said the county is trying to give as much work as possible to local vendors and contractors to keep more of its $201 million budget going into the local economy as possible.

Snapshots of specific industries and the region

Looking at specific sectors within the local economy, the industrial category of natural resources, mining and construction has lost 16.4 percent of its workforce over the last year, followed by goods producing, which lost 11 percent. Other sectors within the top five for declines are durable goods, 9.1 percent; information, 7.1 percent; and state government, 6.3 percent.

Industries showing the biggest employment gains included other services, 10.3 percent; federal government, 7.7 percent, an improvement that may be linked to recruitment for the 2010 Census; nondurable goods, 4.5 percent; local government, 1.1 percent, which accounts for approximately 40 jobs; and the overall government category, 1.0 percent.

Lake's neighboring counties also are seeing impacts.

Colusa County has the state's highest unemployment, at 26.7 percent for January, up from 22.1 percent in December, which gives it the state's highest unemployment rate.

In Yolo County, unemployment is at 11.6 percent, compared to 9.7 percent in December, ranking it No. 26. Mendocino County's unemployment rose from 8.8 percent in December to 10.8 percent in January, giving it a rank of No. 22.

Sonoma and Napa counties seem to be doing better than other counties in the region.

Sonoma has the ninth lowest unemployment statewide, with its January rate at 8.6 percent, up from 7.3 in December. Napa, ranking just ahead of Sonoma at No. 8, has a January unemployment rate of 8.5, up from December's 7.3 percent.

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


LOWER LAKE – Konocti Unified School District's Board of Trustees came another step closer to the point of making a decision on how to cut the district's budget for the coming fiscal year.

Parents, teachers, administrators and community members offered pleas for their schools as well as ideas about how to save money at a board meeting in Lower Lake on Wednesday night.

About 80 people attended the meeting at Lower Lake High School's new gym. Seventeen of them spoke to the board over about a two-hour period. Board member Hank Montgomery was out of town and unable to attend the meeting.

The district is looking at options including possible school closures or school curriculum realignments in an effort to cut $1.2 million out of its 2009-10 budget. The board has hosted a series of meetings around the district to receive community response to the district's budget proposals. Board members said they intend to look at making a final decision at a meeting set for March 11.

By the end of the evening, Superintendent Dr. Bill MacDougall offered his own suggestion to the board.

He said it was his belief that the best course was for the board to close Oak Hill Middle School. That will give them the savings they need to get through the coming fiscal year, he said.

The audience members offered very different viewpoints on what was best for the district.

Carl Stewart, himself a middle school teacher at one time, said he believed the middle school model is a bad one. “I just don't think it works.”

While he taught at a middle school in Southern California, his daughter attended a K-8 school, and he said the difference was “phenomenal.” At a K-8 school, a beloved kindergarten teacher would still be available to older pupils, and the children weren't as likely to misbehave in front of such a teacher.

At the middle school, “Kids had been yanked out at the most fragile point in their lives, been lumped together, and the behavior was atrocious,” he said.

Gina Fortino Dickson, who serves on the Clearlake Planning Commission, suggested moving the Lower Lake Elementary campus to Oak Hill Middle School and utilizing it as a K-8 school. That would allow the elementary campus to be absorbed by Lower Lake High next door, which she said was landlocked and bursting at the seams.

MacDougall asked her for her thoughts on how the move would save the district money. She said it was more an issue of giving them more access to resources now and allowing them space options later.

Some of the evening's most powerful testimony came from parent Jennifer Rodgers, whose children are at Oak Hill.

Rodgers, who had attended a previous community meeting held to take community input on the school closure proposals, said she's heard a lot of bashing of Oak Hill Middle school, and she wanted to share her experience with the staff, who she praised for their compassion, understanding and for “getting” the specific needs of middle schoolers.

She said her children would be considered “problems” by some, as her son has two disorders and her daughter is dyslexic. He son's behavior was so bad at one point that she had to homeschool him.

He's now at Oak Hill. “Many changes are happening in my son's life,” she said.

The boy is mentoring other students, and rather than drawing demons he's drawing hearts. “There's been a total 180.”

Rodgers added, “I believe with all of my heart that it has everything to to do with the staff at Oak Hill Middle School.”

A lot of bad things happen at schools, and Rodgers said she believed the ultimate responsibility lies at home with parents.

She said her daughter also is passing regular classes. Rodgers said she feels like she's in a partnership with teachers, and she wanted to thank them for helping her son reach his full potential.

“I know that a decision has to be made but I just hope that stories like that get heard, too, that Oak Hill makes a difference,” said Rodgers, adding she hoped they would find a different option than closing the schools.

During the hearing, Board Clerk Anita Gordon told the audience that they wouldn't be having the hearings about closing schools if it weren't for the decisions being made by legislators in Sacramento.

She asked people to write legislators to let them know what they're doing to communities. “At some point in time they'll have to listen to us,” said Gordon. “We're mad as heck and we're not going to take it anymore, but they don't know that.”

Johnnie Hathcock suggested cutting the district's nine principals – which she said cost the district $950,000 a year – down to five in order to save $400,000 annually. She also suggested they look at encouraging early retirements.

“The district has a reserve and we should use these monies before closing the schools,” she said.

Lower Lake Elementary teacher Peggy Ustick was concerned that by closing Oak Hill the other schools would be overcrowded, and portable buildings would be necessary. She said pushing so many additional students into current schools would cause issues both for discipline and safety.

Parent Cindy Crandell, who also attended a previous meeting at Pomo, said her daughter attends Pomo Elementary, which she wants to stay as a K-8 school, and not see it go to grades fourth through eighth.

She said he was glad to hear Rodgers' story about Oak Hill. “I wish we heard more heroic stories about Oak Hill, because we know there are some phenomenal teachers at Oak Hill.”

Parent Cheryl Barnes said her son is an interdistrict transfer, and she asked if the changes in the district could affect him. MacDougall said it could, that interdistrict transfers might not get priority when it comes to school placement.

He added, “I can't tell you it would happen for certain.”

Barnes suggested fundraising ideas and having people pay for more of the components of their child's education, or at least donate time to help the schools.

MacDougall noted during the public comment period that the reasons the board was there asking for public input was the $1.2 million cut looming in the fiscal year ahead. Keeping the status quo wouldn't help the district make that big cut.

“It always comes down to reduction in staff,” he said. “That's the hardest part of the decision ahead of us.”

Lacy Christensen, whose daughter is in the eighth grade at East Lake Elementary, thanked the board for being fiscally responsible.

She said the plan she could support was closing Oak Hill and making the rest of the elementary schools K-8. Christensen said it was the best plan from a business perspective. She added that Oak Hill is in a bad location and has structural problems, and that the district could sell the facility.

Assistant Prinicipal Gavin Huffmaster said if they close a school, other schools will be very full. Considering the community's growth, Huffmaster guessed that would only be a stopgap measure, and that schools eventually would need to expand.

Carle High School teacher Angela Siegel, also a former middle school teacher, suggested various ways to save money – about $500,000 in all.

She was concerned that the proposal to close at least one school wasn't about the budget.

“This is about a complete reconfiguration of the school district, and we're doing it on a very, very tight deadline,” she said.

She questioned closing Oak Hill Middle School just to reopen it elsewhere or in some other form. If the closure is programmatic, not fiscal, the district needs to say so, she said. They need to make cuts that won't directly affect the classroom, Siegel added.

“This is going so fast and it's going to have such a scattershot effect on every school in the district,” she said.

John Roddy suggested that the district needed to seek the advice of Lake County's chief administrative officer, Kelly Cox, who he said has worked to keep the county in the black for 27 years. MacDougall said Cox was on a consolidation committee.

Roddy went on to suggest that MacDougall should be the first one to take a pay cut.

MacDougall told Roddy that the Konocti Unified School District has always stayed in the black, and as long as he's superintendent it will stay that way.

Kristyn Leigh-Freeman, co-principal of Oak Hill Middle School, said she needed to start thinking about the changes to programs that would come from the board's ultimate decision. She urged them to keep to a timeline in order for changes to be made, including the logistics of moving school facilities.

Superintendent offers his perspective

Following the close of public comment, MacDougall recounted the months of meetings – beginning last September – that he and other administrators have taken part in as they've looked for solutions to meet the coming budget cuts.

He said he'd given the topic his best thinking and a lot of time.

“Financially, we only have one option,” he said, estimating it will take three to five years for the budget picture to recover.

While he agreed that Oak Hill has great teachers, he felt closing the school was the district's best option.

The district has estimated that closing Oak Hill Middle School and changing Pomo, Burns Valley and Lower Lake Elementary schools into K-8 would save between $400,000 to $968,000, while closing Oak Hill and establishing grade separation in two schools would save between $540,000 and $1 million.

MacDougall encouraged the board to keep class size reduction measures in place, which is a priority for schools and administrators. He added, “The parents want it and I desperately want it.”

Keeping class size reductions in place, which MacDougall told Lake County News on Tuesday that the state is financially supporting for this year and the next, will save the jobs of 15 teachers.

Board Chair Mary Silva thanked the public for taking part in the process.

“It was clear to me at all these meetings that people love their schools,” she said, recounting offers of parents to help and noting that many district staff members are doing additional work for free.

“We're all trying to pull together for our kids,” she said. Silva said she was proud to be part of such a community.

“We're all hurting in this,” Silva added. “Nobody wants to see a school close.”

Later in the meeting, the board voted to hand out 52 layoff notices to teachers, a large number that is meant to cover all budget options at this point. The district plans to rehire many of those teachers.

Because of the uncertainty of the situation ahead, the board also voted to give notices to several administrators that they may be released at the end of the school year from any position requiring an administrative or supervisory credential.

Those named were Oak Hill co-principals Maria de los Angeles Friedrich and Kristyn Leigh-Freeman; Ed Zander, Carle High School's new principal; Burns Valley Elementary Principal Troy Sherman; Pomo Elementary Principal April Leiferman; and Debra Sorenson Malley, principal of East Lake Elementary.

“We have some of the finest administrators in California,” said MacDougall, emphasizing the action was a formality, similar to that taken to lay off teachers.

He said the district's administrators give a lot, from their hearts to their Saturdays, to work in the best interests of children. “They love children all the way down to their toes.”

He added, “We will rectify this situation as soon as we possibly can,” and said he hoped they would remain with the district until it can ensure the action isn't needed.

At the end of the meeting, all of the named administrators came forward to receive their notices and sign for them. MacDougall and board members told the administrators they regretted having to take the action.

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


LUCERNE – Beth Minor’s heart was racing. Her hands were shaking to the point that the 29-year-old could not hold a pencil.

She began taking the oral contraceptive YAZ, also known as Yasmin (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol), a product of Bayer Corp., in Oct. 2007. She took the pill for two months.

“I started experiencing tremors in my hands in November,” she said. “The tremors moved from my hands to my arms and legs. I'm told by my spouse that I tremble at night in my sleep.

“The symptoms continued to add up: tremors, fatigue, insomnia, muscle weakness, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, excessive perspiration, light periods, irritability and insatiable hunger. I thought I was losing my mind,” Minor said.

Her symptoms began after taking the pill for six weeks.

Minor went to her doctor who diagnosed her with Graves' disease (hyperthyroidism). Her thyroid levels are three to four times what they're supposed to be.

Another side effect of Graves' disease is difficulty getting pregnant. She took YAZ to “jump-start” her reproductive system, in order to become pregnant following the advice of her physician.

She reported her disease to MedWatch, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) reporting site, Minor said.

Though her symptoms matched with listed possible side effects of YAZ, there is no medical evidence that Graves Disease is connected to the use of the drug.

“I never had any of these symptoms prior to taking the drug YAZ. It is painfully frustrating how my life has been impacted; there are days I cannot lift my toddler,” Minor said.

Minor discovered she wasn’t alone. She found a discussion forum online and received the following e-mail.

“My name is Erin Brockovich and I am in receipt of your e-mail forwarded onto me from Alex. I see that you are experiencing some health problems and have been on the pill YAZ,” the e-mail stated.

According to a Feb. 9 press release from Attorney General Jerry Brown, Bayer is required to launch a $20 million ad campaign to correct misleading information about YAZ.

Brown announced an agreement requiring Bayer Corp. to stop a “deceptive ad campaign” and publicly correct misleading assertions about the product.

“Bayer's deceptive ad campaign led young women to believe that its oral contraceptive would cure symptoms for which it was not approved for use,” Brown said. “This judgment modification forces the company to stop making those claims and spend $20 million correcting misleading assertions about the


Bayer claimed the drug could treat symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and acne, in addition to anxiety, tension, irritability, moodiness, fatigue, headaches and muscle aches. None of those claims were approved by the FDA.

The press release states, “The Attorney General's Office contends that the advertisements for YAZ violated a 2007 agreement with Bayer after the company failed to adequately disclose safety risks associated with the use of Baycol, a drug used to lower cholesterol, which was pulled from the market in August 2001. The agreement required future marketing, sale, and promotion of pharmaceutical and biological products to comply with all legal requirements, and prohibited Bayer from making false or misleading claims relating to any products sold in the United States.”

The states joining California's agreement are Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

Minor is participating in a class-action lawsuit as a result of her experiences with YAZ. She wants to make others aware of her symptoms to shed some light on the possibility that others may be suffering the same health problems.

“The lawsuit includes the heart and lung problems that are being reported too,” Minor said.

According to YAZ Web site at the most frequent side effects, listed in descending order, reported with the use of the contraception in clinical trials, include upper respiratory infection, headache, breast pain, vaginal moniliasis, leukorrhea, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, vaginitis, abdominal pain, flu syndrome, dysmenorrhea, moniliasis, allergic reaction, urinary tract infection, accidental injury, cystitis, tooth disorder, sore throat, infection, fever, surgery, sinusitis, back pain, emotional lability, migraine, suspicious Papanicolaou smear, dyspepsia, rhinitis, acne, gastroenteritis, bronchitis, pharyngitis, skin disorder, intermenstrual bleeding, decreased libido, weight gain, pain, depression, increased cough, dizziness, menstrual disorder, pain in extremity, pelvic pain and asthenia.

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


LAKEPORT – Facing its own significant budget challenges, on Thursday the Lakeport Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to take a number of cost-saving measures, including layoffs of teachers and classified staff. {sidebar id=130}

The board approved the layoffs of a total of 17 district employees – 13 classified staff and four certificated – in answer to $500,000 in lost revenue due to the state's budget cuts and a $300,000 revenue shortfall based on falling enrollment.

About 30 people attended the meeting, which lasted just short of an hour and a half at the district office.

Throughout the meeting the board and Superintendent Erin Smith-Hagberg emphasized that the options before them constituted painful and potentially damaging cuts to the district's $10 million budget.

The 13 classified staffers laid off included the director of buildings and grounds, the day care program provider, director of special programs, two part-time after school program aides, one maintenance worker, an elementary and middle school library clerk, a night custodian, a part-time paraeducator and a part-time site assistant at the daycare program.

One lead teacher, two K-6 multiple subject teachers and one counselor also were laid off.

Smith-Hagberg said after the meeting that some of those employees could be be hired back or their jobs recreated if the budget situation improves or if there are some retirements.

During her report to the board before the budget discussion, Doreen McGuire-Grigg, president of the Lakeport Unified Classified Employees Union, told the board members that their decisions were going to affect not just those laid off but students as well.

“I just want everybody to understand that there are cuts that are being made and there are other cuts that could be made instead,” McGuire-Grigg said.

She said classified employees took “a huge hit” last year, and are facing a 19 percent cut this year. The result is that people are losing their jobs and, in some cases their homes. Many of those losing jobs have been working for the district for decades.

McGuire-Grigg said the people needed to let state legislators know how school budget issues are affecting students.

“I know that you guys aren't sleeping,” McGuire-Grigg told the board.

She added, “It's just not fair to our kids.”

Smith-Hagberg told the board that the budget isn't just affecting schools but families of the district's children. She said the needs of families are becoming more pronounced.

The numbers of those children now on the reduced price lunch program are growing dramatically. Smith-Hagberg said 64 percent of the district's elementary students, 58 percent of middle schoolers and 47 percent of high schools now use the program.

“Our poverty level is getting higher and higher,” she said.

The district also is feeling the affects of dropping enrollment, with families and their children moving out of the district. That's despite the “fabulous job” schools do to keep attendance up.

As the board prepared to listen to Smith-Hagberg's budget presentation, Board President Tom Powers noted, “It's a very liquid budget. The budget isn't even final yet.”

He said a special May 19 state election will change the budget again. “What we're doing tonight is based on the best information we have.”

Smith-Hagberg explained that the election will ask voters to approve some new funding sources. If those sources aren't approved, the district may face more cuts.

“It's not just the state budget cuts that are affecting our district significantly,” said Hagberg, referring to the $300,000 in lost attendance revenue. If those students come back, teachers can be rehired, she added.

She said district business manager Linda Slockbower will be on a call on Friday to find out how much of the one-time federal stimulus money the district stands to get. “We know we're getting money for the district, we just don't know how much,” Smith-Hagberg said.

Describing how the district administration arrived at its suggestions of where to cut, Smith-Hagberg explained that she, Slockbower and site administrators began by looking at ways to move programs and money around to achieve savings without hurting programs and students.

With the help of the district's budget committee, they focused first on management and district operations, then turned to school principals to look at educational programs.

“You can only cut so much out of management and operations and still function as a district,” she said.

The list of proposals came from district principals, Smith-Hagberg said.

“That we have all agonized over this is an understatement,” she said, adding that a lot of students and employees are being hurt by what the district has to do.

Powers said they've had to make cuts several years in a row as the state has reduced its funding. “We're down to the bone.”

Smith-Hagberg also asked parents and teachers to speak up on behalf of their schools by calling or writing legislators.

Children coming into school next year will have a different education than they've had in past years due to what's on the list of cuts, she said. (For the full list, see sidebar, “What the district is cutting.”

During public comment, Lakeport Elementary third grade teacher Paula Mune said she's not taken extra compensation for having more than 20 students in her classroom. The parent teacher organization also has helped raise $60,000 over the years for many needed items, and even helped support a salary.

She asked that cuts be as far away from the frontline teaching staff as possible, and said she didn't understand why the district office needed five full-time employees while students are lacking music programs and classrooms need to be cleaned.

“I'm doing my part and I hope you will, too,” she said.

High school counselor Paul Larrea said families are falling apart, and children are looking for a safe haven at school, which isn't always the classroom. Sometimes it's the library, sometimes a sports activity, but those need to be available for children.

Larrea urged the board to refuse to let some cuts take place, and have the administration find other ways. “You need to take a stand on some of these things and say, 'We just can't let that happen.'”

Board member Phil Kirby was clear about the tough decisions before the board. “It's always remarkably difficult to take a look at cuts that affect personnel.”

He said he respects the efforts by the district's budget committee, Smith-Hagberg and administration staff to come up with ideas.

“There comes a time, however, that decisions have to be made,” he said.

Board member Dennis Darling said the budget process has been lengthy and difficult, and he doesn't think anyone is happy with any of the choices. He added that people in the best position to make recommendations are the ones guiding the process.

Powers asked that the district look at ways of expanding the daycare program to 12 months, since daycare needs continue through the summer months. The idea would be for the district to see more money for the services.

The board approved the midyear budget reductions and those for 2009-10 in a 4-1 vote, with Board member Robyn Stevenson voting no. The vote for the certificated staff layoff was 5-0, and Stevenson was again the lone dissenting vote on the resolution for laying off classified staff.

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


CLEARLAKE OAKS – Law enforcement continues to look for a man who pulled a handgun on another man and eventually was the focus of a lengthy pursuit on Tuesday.

Lake County Sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol pursued William Cressey on land and from the air – specifically, with the help of a CHP helicopter – on Tuesday, as Lake County News has reported.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said that Forestville resident Philip Wheeler drove up to a work site on top of Round Mountain and happened upon two males at his storage trailer.

When Wheeler pulled up, one of the men ran off and the other – who officials believe was Cressey – got in his black Ford Explorer and drove toward Wheeler, Bauman said.

Wheeler tried to block Cressey's path but he drove around him and Wheeler followed him down the mountain until Cressey reportedly pulled out a handgun and pointed it at him, Bauman said.

Bauman said Wheeler then backed off, called 911 on his cell phone, and followed the Explorer at a distance until it turned onto Red Rock Road. Wheeler waited there for law enforcement.

A sheriff's deputy and a CHP officer met Wheeler and as they started up a dirt road to look for the Explorer, a dirt bike came down the road towards them, said Bauman. The rider matched the description of the driver of the Explorer so they turned and pursued the bike.

The dirt bike was able to evade sheriff's and CHP cruisers, said Bauman. During the subsequent search of the area, one of the deputies determined Cressey had been staying at a residence on Red Rock Road and apparently switched from the Explorer to a dirt bike he had at the house which he used to get away.

Bauman said deputies eventually found the dirt bike but never located Cressey, who they determined had a warrant for parole violation out of Colorado.

CHP ground units and one of their aircraft assisted in the search, which lasted from about 1:30 p.m. to about 6 p.m., Bauman said.

Cressey is described as a white male, blonde hair and blue eyes, 5 feet 7 inches in height with a thin build.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts should call the Lake County Sheriff's Office, 262-4200.


CLEARLAKE OAKS – Sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers spent several hours involved in the pursuit of an armed suspect on Tuesday afternoon.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said that shortly before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday a man called to report that a male subject in a green Ford Explorer had pulled a handgun on him near Morine Ranch Road in Clearlake Oaks.

The case was unfolding all afternoon, as officials tried to determine if what occurred was a road rage incident or a basic case of brandishing a weapon.

Both sheriff's deputies and CHP officers responded to the scene only to find the suspect had fled into the west entrance of the Clearlake Cinder Chip Co.'s quarry, said Bauman.

The sheriff's office received information that the suspect in question was 22-year-old William Cressey, with whom the agency has had previous contacts, Bauman said. Cressey also appeared to have an out-of-state warrant for his arrest.

Deputies and officers found the green Explorer with no weapon inside, said Bauman. The suspect was believed to be on foot from that time forward, although one deputy was reported to be in pursuit of a dirt bike. Later the bike also was found abandoned.

Bauman said five deputies were on scene, with CHP Officer Steve Tanguay reporting that five CHP units also were assisting.

Shortly before 2 p.m. the CHP requested air support. At that point the place was mostly surrounded, said Bauman.

Bauman said before the close of business on Tuesday that he didn't know the severity of the initial crime.

The search was later called off, apparently without an arrest of a subject. There was no information on the status of the case at day's end.

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


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's health officer reports that an outbreak of norovirus is winding down in the county.

Dr. Karen Tait said norovirus is a very contagious viral illness.

“We're seeing this viral illness circulating in the community, and that's not too surprising,” Tait said.

The Centers for Disease Control says that noroviruses cause gastroenteritis or what's more commonly known as the stomach flu.

Norovirus symptoms usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping, according to the CDC. Other possible symptoms low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and tiredness. The viruses have a quick onset with symptoms lasting one to two days.

Tait said norovirus isn't a reportable illness – usually a more serious illness that could lead to major health emergencies – so the Lake County Health Department doesn't hear about individual cases. However, health facilities must report norovirus.

She said norovirus can survive on surfaces longer than some other viruses, so it can be a challenge to get rid of it. Even if measure are taken to prevent it, norovirus can still be transmitted.

Tait said norovirus can be especially difficult on seniors, who have other health conditions that make their health more fragile. As a result, norovirus can sometimes hospitalize seniors.

For more people it's a short-term illness, said Tait. “Up to about 30 percent of cases may have no symptoms.”

Paul Medlin, administrator of Evergreen Lakeport Healthcare, said the virus has impacted the facility for about a week. Only one patient currently has it.

“We're on the improvement side,” he said.

The recent outbreak is typical, said Tait, and county health officials work together with facilities to contain it.

Tait said she's seen much bigger outbreaks or norovirus in other areas, including an office building full of people with hundreds of people becoming sick at once.

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


LAKEPORT – The Lake County Sheriff's Office issued a report on Wednesday morning outlining a preliminary cause of death for a man found murdered this past weekend.

Eric James Joaquin, 37, was found murdered on the morning of Feb. 28 in the Clear Lake Riviera home that he shared with roommates including John Robert Gray, 43, who was arrested later that same day and charged with murder.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that an autopsy was performed on Joaquin on Tuesday at the Napa County Coroner's Office.

While the final autopsy report is pending and will not be completed for several weeks, Bauman said a preliminary cause of death has been determined to be multiple blunt force trauma.

No other patterns of injury, including gunshot wounds, were identified, Bauman added.

Bauman said it's not known why initial reports speculated that Joaquin “may have been shot” but there is no evidence at this point that a firearm was involved in the homicide.

The sheriff's office said the men had an altercation on Feb. 26.

Gray made his first court appearance on Tuesday, as Lake County News has reported. He remains in the Lake County Jail on $500,000 bail.

The case remains pending further investigation and no other information on the case is available at this time, Bauman said.


LAKE COUNTY – A man on death row for the 1980 murder of his wife has sent officials a letter offering up the location of another woman's body, which he says is an attempt to resolve the missing woman's case once and for all.

Gerald Stanley, 64, has been on death row for 25 years, sent there for the August 1980 murder of his wife, Cynthia Rogers, who he shot to death at her father's resort in Nice. He was tried in Butte County due to pre-trial publicity in Lake County.

Stanley, who worked as a hunting guide, had a violent history with women before the Rogers murder.

He served four and a half years in prison for murdering Kathleen Rhiley, his first wife, in 1975, and was believed to be involved in the murder of Sheryl Ranee Wright, 19, of Redding, last seen the day before Cynthia Rogers was shot.

But there is another woman linked to Stanley whose ultimate whereabouts have been a mystery for decades: Diana Lynn Ramel.

In a phone conversation with Lake County News late last month, Stanley stated that he intended to turn over to law enforcement officials and the Tehama County Grand Jury the location of Ramel's body. Ramel went missing on Feb. 14, 1980.

“It's time to resolve this,” he said of Ramel's case.

For years, Stanley has promised to reveal Ramel's location, saying he only wanted to be granted an execution date in return.

Previously, he hasn't given up the information. But he appears to have followed through this time.

On Monday, Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen confirmed to Lake County News that he had received a letter from Stanley the same day, outlining the location of Ramel's body.

Ramel and Stanley lived together in Manton, a small community in northeastern Tehama County, on the border with Shasta County.

Stanley maintains that he did not kill Ramel, but he says he did help dispose of her body.

Cohen said he's had a chance to review the handwritten letter, and he intends to meet with the local Department of Justice (DOJ) Crime Lab on Tuesday to discuss the feasibility of conducting a search.

There was a prior search for Ramel's body, said Cohen, although he doesn't know exactly when it took place, or where it was conducted.

Jack Leavitt, a Hayward attorney who has previously been sanctioned by the courts for attempting to help Stanley stop the appeals process in his death penalty case, said he found references in court records to a previous search, but he also didn't know the time frame. He believes it took place close to the area Stanley has identified in the recent letter.

That original search, Leavitt said, failed because it didn't go far enough, and the information Stanley offered didn't appear to pinpoint the location properly.

In the letter outlining the location, a copy of which Leavitt provided to Lake County News, Stanley writes that Ramel put chloral hydrate – a sedative used to induce sleep – in her wine, which killed her, “and I panicked the next morning.”

That led he and another man to bury her body in a creekbed, the letter states.

“I ask that Mr. Leavitt and I be allowed to explain federal attorneys are a fraud and delaying my case deliberately,” he said.

Stanley told Lake County News that he realizes he's not going to get an execution date, and that he's likely to die of a heart attack instead. Natural causes is reported to be the most common cause of death for death row inmates in California due to the lengthy appeals process.

Complaints over handling of death row case

Cohen said he believes Stanley offered the information because he wants to discuss with the world his anger with the Federal Defender's Office because of the repeated attempts to delay an execution.

“In the past it's always been that he would just like to end his life,” said Cohen.

That's been a consistent refrain with Stanley over the years, although some officials have doubted Stanley's sincerity.

Then, last March, came another wrinkle – a federal court judge ruled that juror misconduct and a breach of due process during the competency phase of Stanley's trial, which took place in late 1983 and early 1984 in Oroville, meant that the court needed to reexamine whether or not Stanley had been mentally competent to stand trial.

While Stanley's guilt was upheld in previous rulings, the March 2008 ruling by Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. could mean that Stanley's sentence is changed from death to life imprisonment.

The retroactive competency hearing is back in the Butte County Superior Court, where the original trial took place.

Stanley has complained that his court-appointed attorney, Dennis Hoptowit, represents the wishes of the Federal Defender's Office, not his own. However, Stanley turned down an opportunity for Leavitt to represent him last year, instead choosing to stay with Hoptowit.

Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins said he'll return to Butte County Superior Court on May 21 to set a date for a hearing on whether or not it's feasible, a quarter century later, to attempt to determine if Stanley was competent at the time of trial.

The proceedings have been put over as Hopkins attempts to locate the original trial transcripts, which he said weren't with the Butte County Superior Court. He said he has people looking through the court's storage, and also has transcript copies of his own and from the California Supreme Court to submit in case the original can't be found.

Leavitt said Stanley has indicated he intends to request that the court allow him to represent himself, an action which Leavitt said Stanley hasn't taken formally before.

Also making the possibility of an execution for Stanley unlikely is a current moratorium on executions in California, established following a February 2006 ruling in which a judge ordered the state to review its death penalty procedures over concerns about suffering of inmates and cruel and unusual punishment. The last execution in the state took place late in 2005.

Cohen said the Ramel matter is “an entirely separate matter” from Stanley's death row case, which doesn't necessitate the involvement of the Federal Defender's Office.

Stanley has stated in previous interviews that he had told the attorneys involved with his federal defense of Ramel's burial site, and they had visited and videotaped it.

Cohen said he didn't yet know how he was going to proceed in the matter, and that the weather conditions and the location – specifically, if it appears to be different from the original search area – would be factors.

“It's going to be dependent, too, on what DOJ's suggestion is going to be. I don't want to speculate what they're going to say,” he said.

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


Upcoming Calendar

07.16.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.17.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.