Tuesday, 23 July 2024


LUCERNE – County officials are stepping up efforts to fight illegal dumping in areas that have been hard hit by the activity.

Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely said the county plans to use $20,000 in redevelopment funds to install six gates in areas of the “paper” subdivisions – the hill areas that stretch behind Nice and Lucerne – in order to prevent illegal dumpers from accessing potential dump sites.

The county is partnering with Northshore Fire and Cal Fire to secure the areas, said Seely.

Seely said the funds will pay for concrete, heavy equipment and building materials for the gates, which will be built and installed by Cal Fire.

Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins introduced the idea to Cal Fire, said Seely, which in turn is donating staff time for the project.

The gates, said Seely, will be located on Foothill Drive behind Jim Fetzer's Ceago Vinegarden property; on Minor Road off Bartlett Springs Road; on Bishop Extension, which is located on the top of the ridge on U.S. Forest Service Property; on Utopia Extension near where Cal Water is building a new water tank; on Arden Drive; and on Dunstan Road off of Robinson Road near Morrison Creek.

The Dunstan Road area, where it curves around near Morrison Creek, is “the big trouble spot,” said Seely.

Driving the gate project, said Seely, was a big cleanup of Morrison Creek that Code Enforcement conducted last March.

Supervisor Denise Rushing, speaking at a town hall meeting in Lucerne on Saturday, said that during that cleanup county staff removed cars, refrigerators and about six years' worth of garbage out of Morrison Creek, which is a local water supply source.

However, Rushing reported the area has already been dumped in again.

It's a vexing problem, especially considering that local garbage haulers will pick up the large, bulky items often deposited in area creeks and ravines, and county garbage rates are among the state's lowest, according to Rushing.

Seely said Code Enforcement Manager Voris Brumfield took the idea of installing gates in the subdivisions to County Counsel Anita Grant, who issued a legal opinion supporting the idea.

The Morrison Creek area used for illegal dumping is enough of a concern that the California Integrated Waste Management Board has included it in an inventory of dump sites requiring monitoring, said Ray Ruminksi, director of Lake County Environmental Health.

Morrison Creek was never a legal dump site, said Ruminski.

Environmental Health is the local enforcement agency representing the California Integrated Waste Management Board on matters involving waste management.

The state wants Environmental Health to be involved with inspecting and reporting on the site, Ruminski said, which would be in addition to Code Enforcement's efforts.

Robbins said he has agreed to have Northshore Fire be the gate keeper for the areas once the gates are installed.

“If someone has proof that they own property in there, we will allow them to borrow a key to visit the property,” said Robbins.

In cases where people build homes behind the gates, they will be issued a key of their own, Robbins added.

Robbins said there was an effort several years ago to install gates to reduce access to the subdivisions, in large part because of the bad condition of the roads. Now, however, the primary issue has shifted.

“We're just trying to figure out a way to stop all this garbage dumping,” Robbins said. “We don't know that this is the trick yet but we're certainly going to try.”

Robbins said the gates will be surrounded by bollards, to allow walkers and bikers through to enjoy the public roads.

The fire chief himself has caught illegal dumpers in action in the areas which will now be protected by gates.

Several months ago he watched as employees of a Willits tree service company drove onto a dirt road behind the Fetzer property, where they began dumping tree trimmings and mulch. Robbins said he kept the men there and summoned a deputy, who cited them and ordered them take the greenwaste to a proper facility.

“That's what we have to put up with,” said Robbins, who added that a lot of dumping takes place at night.

Seely said the county hopes the gates will be installed by late spring, in time for the beginning of fire season.

The participating agencies will monitor the dumping situation and the effectiveness of the gates, said Seely. If additional gates are needed, they'll be added in the future.

As access to more secluded areas is limited, Seely said it's hoped illegal dumpers will lose their opportunity. If they do try to dump in other areas, they could risk being more easily seen and prosecuted.

To further enhance the effort against illegal dumping, Rushing said that Code Enforcement has named Beverly Westphal as its illegal dumping contact.

Anyone who has witnessed illegal dumping is urged to call Westphal at 263-2309 during business hours, or leave a message 24 hours a day at 263-2308.

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With the ringing of Wall Street's opening bell Friday morning, Calpine marked its official return to regular trading on the New York Stock Exchange after its Jan. 31 emergence from bankruptcy.

"Calpine is proud to once again be traded on the New York Stock Exchange," said Robert P. May, Calpine's chief executive officer, in a written statement.

"We have streamlined our operations and strengthened our balance sheet, and we are returning to the New York Stock Exchange as a stronger and more competitive power company with one of the cleanest generating fleets in the United States,” May said. “We are confident that the new Calpine is well positioned in the market and poised for success as a corporate leader in the nation's energy industry."

Calpine declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2005, as Lake County News has reported.

Company executives were on hand at the New York Stock Exchange Friday morning for the ringing of the market's opening bell.

The company's stock was relisted under the symbol “CPN” after emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy just over a week earlier.

The new stock opened at $16.50 per share, closing at $16.38. The older stock is now inactive, valued at 15 cents per share.

Calpine is one of the largest power generation companies in the United States, with nearly 24,000 megawatts of installed generating capacity and approximately 2,200 employees.

The company, founded in 1984, owns 19 of 21 geothermal units in the 40-square-mile Geysers steamfield network, which is the world's largest geothermal facility. The Geysers plants generate 725 kilowatts of power, enough to supply 725,000 households, and employ 350 workers.

On Jan. 31, the company officially concluded its Chapter 11 reorganization after meeting all statutory requirements of the company's Sixth Amended Joint Plan of Reorganization, including successfully closing its $7.3 billion exit financing facility that includes a one-year, $300 million bridge facility that is expected to be paid by the end of the first quarter.

Calpine's Plan was confirmed by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in an order entered on December 19, 2007, as Lake County News has reported.

Gregory L. Doody, Calpine's General Counsel, who has also served as the company's chief restructuring officer, called Calpine's restructuring “truly remarkable.”

“In just over two years Calpine dramatically improved its capital structure, reducing approximately $7.2 billion in debt while generating a significant recovery for our creditors as a whole,” said Doody in a written statement.

The company also enhanced and streamlined its core power generation business, Doody said.

Calpine plans to issue a total of 485 million shares of reorganized Calpine common stock to holders of allowed claims. Initial distributions are expected to begin this month.

In addition to the 485 million shares, Calpine will reserve 15 million shares for its management and director equity incentive programs, which will be implemented pursuant to the terms of the reorganization plan.

In connection with its first distribution, Calpine also intends to set aside 62 million shares of reorganized Calpine common stock on account of disputed unsecured claims, the company reported. As claims are resolved, Calpine will make further distributions of reorganized Calpine common stock on a periodic basis.

Old common stock will be canceled, the company reported, and holders of the old common stock will receive warrants to purchase new Calpine common stock with an exercise price of $23.88 per share.

The warrants to purchase the new stock will expire on Aug. 25.

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LAKE COUNTY – Local officials are planning a sobriety checkpoint this Friday.

Sgt. Chris Chwialkowski said the checkpoint will be a joint effort among the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Clearlake Police and the California Highway Patrol.

The checkpoint will be staffed by deputies and officers who are trained in the detection of alcohol and/or drug impaired drivers, said Chwialkowski. Drug Recognition Experts, certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be on site to provide on the spot assessments of drivers suspected of drug use.

The officers also will be equipped with state-of-the-art, handheld breath devices which provide an accurate measure of blood alcohol concentrations of suspected drunk drivers, Chwialkowski reproted.

Calrans employees will be on site providing traffic control in order to ensure the safety of officers and motorists alike, he reported.

“Traffic volume permitting, all vehicles will be checked and drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or unlicensed, can be expected to be arrested,” Chwialkowski said.


NORTH COAST – Patty Berg is in the final year of her service in the state Assembly, but despite term limits she said she's not finished with public service, and she may run for state insurance commissioner.

On Friday, former state Sen. Wes Chesbro, who was termed out of the Senate in 2006, announced his plans to run for Berg's First District Assembly seat this year, with her endorsement, as Lake County News has reported.

Berg's term runs out in December.

In a Saturday morning interview with Lake County News, Berg said she's known Chesbro for 30 years and has confidence he'll serve the North Coast well in the Assembly.

“He'll be exemplary,” she said. “He'll hit the ground running.”

Last Tuesday, California voters defeated Proposition 93, which would have given California legislators up to 12 years of time in one or both houses, and extended Berg's years of service.

That would have altered the term limits law, Proposition 140, adopted by the state's voters in 1990, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Those limits impose a lifetime ban after three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year terms in the Senate.

Berg said she was “gravely disappointed” at Proposition 93's defeat, because of its impact on the institution of state government.

With constant turnover of legislators, the only people in Sacramento who have the institutional memory are lobbyists and staff, Berg said.

Since 1990, 21 states have enacted term limits, and six have repealed them, said Berg. Voters, she added, can term out legislators on any election day.

Berg said former state legislator John Vasconcellos, who served in office for 38 years and was termed out in 1996, said it took him a minimum of 10 years to understand the complicated state budget.

“It's all about the budget,” said Berg. “Social policy derives from the budget.”

Berg chairs the Health and Human Services Budget Committee. She said many new legislators with little experience are thrown into the budget mix headlong, with little understanding or experience.

With only six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate, Berg said, “You don't even have time to really build relationships, which is what it's all about, too.”

Berg said she doesn't plan to make a run for Sen. Pat Wiggins' Second District Senate seat, which Wiggins will be termed out of in 2014. Berg is now 65, said she would be well into her 70s by that time.

Berg said she isn't ruling anything out. “Right now I'm just going to keep all my options open.”

She does have a goal in mind, she said.

“I've started a committee to run for state insurance commissioner,” said Berg.

Her interest in health care and health insurance drew her to the insurance commissioner post, Berg explained.

She said she feels the health care industry must be regulated, and that health care is a right, not a privilege. “I really care about people being covered.”

Berg said she would run for the insurance commissioner office, currently held by Steve Poizner, in 2010.

Political commentators have pegged Poizner as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2010. That would open the door for Berg to run for insurance commissioner.

In order to take on the prospect of a statewide race, Berg said she formed the exploratory committee.

For the remainder of her term, however, Berg said she has a lot on her plate in serving the Assembly's First District, which stretches from Del Norte County in the north to Sonoma County in the south, is one of the largest areas of representation in the nation. She called it California's best district.

Some of the issues she plans to work on for the remainder of the year involve health and human services programs, she said, including those dealing with California's aging population – one of her consistent areas of interest.

“My focus is doing the best I can in the time I have left,” Berg said.

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LAKE COUNTY – Former state Sen. Wes Chesbro announced plans Friday to run for Patty Berg's First District Assembly seat. {sidebar id=58}

Berg, who will be termed out this year, offered her support to Chesbro's candidacy at a press conference held at the Humboldt County Democratic Party headquarters in Eureka on Friday morning.

The defeat earlier this week of Proposition 93 meant that Berg cannot seek reelection, which opens the door for Chesbro.

“I was supportive of Proposition 93, in large part because I was hoping Patty Berg could run for reelection,” Chesbro told Lake County News Friday afternoon.

But with no change to term limits, Chesbro said he's seeking the Assembly with Berg's “blessing and support.”

Berg said she's worked with Chesbro on many local issues and added he will do an excellent job representing the people of the North Coast. Chesbro, in turn, said he respected Berg and was grateful for her support.

A Humboldt State graduate, Chesbro founded the area’s first recycling center in 1971, was elected to the Arcata City Council in 1974 and served as Humboldt County Supervisor from 1980 to 1991.

Chesbro spent eight years in the state Senate for the Second District before he was termed out in 2006 and succeeded by Sen. Patricia Wiggins.

Since then he was appointed to two state boards: the Mental Health Oversight and Accountability Commission, created by Proposition 63; and the Integrated Waste Management Board, which regulates solid waste facilities.

The appointments have required that Chesbro spend about half his time in Sacramento, but he said he's nevertheless has more time at home with family.

Chesbro said he's calling his Assembly campaign “First District First,” to highlight his commitment to put the needs of First Assembly District residents ahead of all else.

The North Coast, Chesbro added, “is in for challenging times,” and he said he believes his experience is needed in the Assembly.

“The single biggest challenge we face right now is the continuing and growing budget deficit,” said Chesbro, who in the Senate chaired the Budget Committee.

The “urban powers” tend to gang up on rural communities, who tend to suffer most when it's time for cuts, said Chesbro.

His three areas of greatest concern – which he said are the same as those he had while in the Senate – are environmental protection, health care and education.

Chesbro said he plans to file the paperwork to run for the Assembly on Feb. 11, the first day of filing.

He'll appear on the primary ballot in June and, if he doesn't win by 51 percent or more, Chesbro will go before voters for a final November decision.

If elected, term limits will allow Chesbro to serve three, two-year Assembly terms.

Wanda Harris, chair of the Lake County Democratic Central Committee, said Chesbro has strong support among the county's Democrats.

Harris said Chesbro attended the local Democrats' holiday gathering, and she pledged to help raise funds for his campaign.

“I have no doubt that he can win,” she said Friday evening. “He's got a great record.”

Congressman Mike Thompson also offered his endorsement of Chesbro's First District candidacy, as did North Coast state Sen. Patricia Wiggins; District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing; District 4 Supervisor Anthony Farrington; District 1 supervisorial candidate Susanne La Faver and her husband, Lyle; former Lake County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cornelison; and the South Lake County Democratic Club, among many others.

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Poll workers stayed busy at the polling place at the Lakeport Firehouse on Main Street Tuesday. They reported that more than 100 people had voted by early afternoon. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKE COUNTY – On Super Tuesday, Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton were the winners for their respective parties in California's presidential primary, with the two senators also proving to be the top vote getters among Lake County voters.

When Lake County Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley's office had tallied all of the results in the county's 52 precincts Tuesday night, they reported the ballots cast countywide totaled 15,497, a 47.3 -percent turnout.

Of those 15,497 ballots, 8,142 were cast at precincts while 7,355 were absentee, Fridley's office reported.

In party voting, among the 14,116 registered Democrats, 8,862 voted, a 62.8 percent turnout, according to the Elections Office.

Clinton received 4,789 votes in Lake County, or 54.8 percent of the Democratic Party vote, compared to the 3,083 votes – or 35.3 percent – received by her rival for the party nomination, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

Other Democratic vote getters included John Edwards, 624; Dennis Kucinich, 97; Bill Richardson, 42; write-in candidates, 40; Joe Biden, 36; Mike Gravel, 13; and Chris Dodd, 10.

Among Republicans, Elections Office figures showed that McCain received 2,407 votes from local residents, or 46.5 percent of the Republican vote. His nearest competition locally was Mitt Romney, with 1,227 votes, or 23.7 percent.

Bringing up the rest of the Republican field were Mike Huckabee, 791 votes; Ron Paul, 298; Rudy Giuliani, 224; Fred Thompson, 151; write-in candidates, 36; Alan Keyes, 14; Duncan Hunter, 13; Tom Tancredo, six; John H. Cox, five; and Sam Brownback, three.

American Independent Party candidates were led by 88 votes for write-in candidates; Don J. Grundmann, 76; Diane Beall Templin, 71; and Mad Max Riekse, 66. The party had an overall 42.7 percent turnout among its 1,050 registered voters.

Among Green Party candidates, Ralph Nader received the most votes, with 66, followed by Cynthia McKinney, 19; write-in candidates, 14; Elaine Brown, five; Jesse Johnson and Jared Ball, each with two; and Kat Swift and Kent Mesplay with one vote each. The Green Party showed a 30.3 percent voter turnout among its 399 registered local members.

Christine Smith led Libertarian Party candidates with eight votes, followed by Barry Hess, seven; write-in candidates, five; Wayne A. Root, four; Alden Link, three; Dave Hollist, Daniel Imperato, George Phillies, Robert Milnes, Michael P. Jingozian and Steve Kubby, each with two; Bob Jackson, one; and John Finan, zero votes. Overall Libertarian turnout was 28.2 percent of 209 registered voters.

The Peace and Freedom Party registered 17 votes for its presidential candidates, including nine for Ralph Nader and six for Cynthia McKinney – both of whom also received votes from Green Party voters. There also was one vote each for Stanley Hetz and Gloria E. La Riva. John Crockford, Stewart A. Alexander and Brian Moore received zero votes, and there were no write-in candidates among Peace and Freedom voters. Peace and Freedom's 129 registered voters showed a 14.7-percent turnout.

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An electronic voting machine at the Lakeport Firehouse's polling place. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




CLEARLAKE OAKS – Putting its eye-popping scenery and rugged terrain to great advantage, Shannon Ridge Winery and Vineyard plans to host a national mountain biking event this fall. {sidebar id=59}

Shannon Ridge will host the final race of USA Cycling's 2008 National Ultra Endurance series. Events in Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado, Idaho, Wisconsin, Arizona will precede the showdown, which takes place in Clearlake Oaks Oct. 18 and 19.

The Shannon Ridge Showdown Ultra-Endurance race will be a 16-hour competition and the course itself is approximately 7.5 miles in length with over 1,700 feet of climbing per lap, according to Chris Baker, Shannon Ridge’s southeast regional sales manager. The course route is a combination of single track, double track, fire access roads and vineyard rows.

“It's probably going to be one of the hardest races in the country,” said Baker, an avid mountain biker who helped design the course and the event.

Baker, who took up mountain biking in 1989, first brought the idea of hosting the race to vineyard owners Clay and Margarita Shannon.

A few year ago he started endurance racing, taking part in 12- and 24-hour solo races, and racking up wins and high national finishes. He also began to meet national racing champions.

When he saw the ranch for the first time, Baker said he suggested to the Shannons that they should get on the national racing calendar as a great way of promoting both the county and the winery.

Baker said they submitted the necessary paperwork to host the race last November.

While the biggest race category will be solo riders, Baker said there also will be two-person teams and multi-person teams.

Additionally, there will be a wine industry race category for mountain bikers who are involved in the wine industry, according to Baker. Participants in this category will be allowed to race solo or on a team of up to five riders. The wine industry race will run from 4 p.m. until midnight on Oct. 18.

The race will have a controlled start in front of the Shannon Ridge tasting room on Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks, Baker explained. Sheriff's cars will go before and behind the riders, who will ride two miles up Highway 20 before turning onto Morine Ranch Road.

“That's really where the race will start,” said Baker.

Riders will start off with a grueling race to the top of the hill, with 900 feet of climbing in less than a mile and a half, said Baker. Cash prizes will be awarded to the first male and female racers to reach the top, who also will be named King and Queen of the Hill.

USA Cycling is recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Union Cycliste Internationale, and promotes American cycling through its 60,000 members and 2,500 annual events.

The showdown will be the first time that a USA Cycling Mountain Bike Ultra-Endurance series race course has included vineyards as part of the course route, Baker reported. The race and course is designed, promoted and directed by endurance racers.

Ultra-endurance racing is the fastest growing form of mountain bike racing.

Rebecca Rush, who is the current 24-Hour Solo mountain biking world champion, will make the trip to Lake County to compete, along with many of the top ranking male and female Ultra-Endurance racers, Baker reported.

Baker said the winery is focusing on this event before it decides on hosting future races.

“It could be a really big deal for Lake County and for Shannon Ridge,” Baker said.


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This is the second of a three-part series on changing cable franchise policy and its impact on public access television, including the local PEG Channel 8.

LAKE COUNTY – Communities that want to maintain their public access channels must stay ahead of the curve in becoming familiar with the new law, says franchise consultant John Risk of Communications Support Group in Costa Mesa, who formerly worked in Northern California.

Risk has prepared an advice memo which notes that certain aspects of the statewide law make life more difficult for Local Franchise Authorities (LFA).

Those include definition for gross revenues, an LFA's authority to require that cable/other franchised video providers allow LFAs to access these providers’ systems for the transmission of emergency announcements, an LFA’s authority to negotiate for Institutional Networks (“I-Nets”) in cable franchises, and several aspects of public, educational and government access (“PEG Access”) programming and funding.

He recommends that the LFA evaluate the value of PEG support it gets from the incumbent cable operator and compare that with the amount of support that might arise with a surcharge of 1 percent of gross revenues.

Sue Buske, another nationally-known consultant based in Sacramento, recommends enforcing federally required audits of the cable provider, which is part of the franchise renewal process. Last month she was working in Columbia, Mo., with an access station based at Stephens College.

There, the Columbia Missourian reported on Jan. 4, “Court documents show Mediacom failed to pay $93,105 in franchise fees between Jan. 1, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2004. The debt is even higher now, because city code allows it to charge 10 percent interest per year.

“Most of the time they find something,” Buske said of the audits. “It’s not that uncommon.”

Jeff Rein, deputy county administrator for Lake County, said he had unsuccessfully urged hiring a franchise consultant and getting an audit two or three years ago. He also wanted the county to negotiate for an I-net, connecting all public facilities. “That would have saved us $100,000 a year,” he said.

While the county now is involved in a Joint Public Authority for public access, Rein said previous boards of supervisors have not been interested in public access because they didn't want to be involved in issues of content and control.

Although municipalities are entitled to enact a 1-percent surcharge on gross cable franchise fees to be used specifically for public access operations, local governments have not done so. Another funding solution used by many public access systems is a paid membership program, which often includes training in making videos for broadcast.

PEG Committee member Hiram Dukes said he believes local programming could fill three channels with contributions from students. He noted video training programs exist at both Carlé and Konocti high schools, and said he's had Upper Lake High School students offer programs. “The kids are interested in getting their activities on, football games and so forth.”

It's common in many communities which have both public access and a community college to develop a partnership in which students get training and course credit for video production. Often, the training and use of equipment are open to non-students.

Although Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prohibit censorship, the local committee has had frequent disputes about what can be shown. The FCC rules say: "Cable operators may not control the content of programming on public access channels with the exception that the cable operator may refuse to transmit a public access program, or a portion of the program, which the cable operator reasonably believes contains obscenity."

Past PEG boards have objected to religious programming and antiwar programming.

For a while, Channel 8 originated “Backroads,” an occasional tour of the city by Frank Cammarata, a former PEG Committee member and David Lane, former Clearlake city administrator.

At one point, the committee decided to institute a $100 fee to show a contributed video; it's common practice among community cable stations to freely trade programs which might be of wide interest.

Raymond, NH, a coastal town with a population of fewer than 3,000, has an active public access channel with production facilities based at the local high school.

During floods last year, a member of the Raymond PEG committee “went out to various roads and checked with the police and fire chiefs to find out information regarding road closings, safety measures, and other flood related coverage. They were then able to post this information on Channel 22,” according to Seacoastonline.com at www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080125/NEWS/801250382.

Tomorrow: Powerful interests persuade politicians to enact statewide video franchise laws.

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LAKE COUNTY – While Lake County's voting patterns strongly resembled the state's in the voting for presidential candidates, when it came to some state propositions local voters showed distinct differences in opinion.

The majority of Lake County residents voted no on all seven propositions – which included education, transportation, term limits and four propositions to update gaming compacts with four large California tribes.

Lake County's no votes on Proposition 91 (transportation funds), Proposition 92 (community college funding and governance fees) and Proposition 93 (term limits) matched state voting patterns. Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office reported that those three measures failed across the state.

The biggest difference between local and state voting patterns was seen in regards to the four gaming propositions – 94, 96, 95 and 97.

The propositions will ratify new gaming agreements with four Southern California Indian tribes – Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

Under the new compacts, those four tribes could significantly expand slot machine operation, and in return must pay the state part of the resulting increased revenues, estimated at several billion dollars.

While the four gaming propositions failed in Lake County, that was the opposite result from the statewide election, where the measures appeared headed for victory in early morning voting results reported by Bowen's office.

Lake County tribes who voiced support for the measured included Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians (who have Konocti Vista Casino); Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, who are seeking their own casino in Upper Lake; and the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, currently working to secure a casino in Contra Costa County.

The Elem Nation had not formally signed their name to the petition of supporting tribes, but Tribal Chair Ray Brown Sr. told Lake County News that he and his tribe supported the propositions. Elem also hope to open a new casino in the next few years on their lands in Clearlake Oaks.

Local tribes that didn't take a formal public position on the gaming propositions were Robinson Rancheria and Middletown Rancheria, both of which are gaming tribes.

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This is the last of a three-part series on changing cable franchise policy and its impact on public access television, including the local PEG Channel 8.


LAKE COUNTY – New technology often referred to as convergence has ended a 40-year monopoly of your television set by cable providers. Now the struggle for control includes your telephone, wireless phone and computer.

California and other states were persuaded to enact statewide video franchise laws by a powerful coalition of interests.

The new regulations have been touted as opening the industry to competition and lowering prices for consumers, as well as streamlining the franchise process for providers. The immediate effect on costs to consumers is unknown.

Now, instead of negotiating with 400-plus communities in California, the providers will negotiate with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) once every 10 years for licenses covering broad areas. They will no longer pay franchise fees to the communities or be required to support public access channels, but will pay a one-time 5 percent of gross to the state, which is expected to pass through 1 percent to the communities.

Licenses already granted are:

  • AT&Tmuch of California, including the counties of Alameda, Marin, Yolo, Mendocino, Humboldt, Butte, and Tehama;

  • Comcast Northern and central California;

  • Cox Communications San Diego;

  • Verizon Southern California, border to Ventura County;

  • Time Warner Los Angeles area, desert;

  • Northland Cable TV City of Mt. Shasta, Siskiyou County.

Detailsof the franchises granted and other proceedings are at: www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/hottopics/2Telco/videofranchising.htm.

When an AT&T public relations representative was asked if she foresaw a time when the company's satellite television partners would provide a public access channel, she did not respond. She said there was no schedule in Lake County for completing AT&T's fiber optics system, which could provide the company's U-verse television, already in operation in some areas of the state.

Michael Morris of the CPUC said Mediacom had not applied for a statewide franchise as of Jan. 13. He added that no municipal entities, such as cities or counties, and no consumer groups had applied to intervene in the recent CPUC hearings.

Lake County's exclusive franchise with Mediacom ends on Feb. 16.

The city of Clearlake franchise runs until 2013. The city of Lakeport's franchise expired in 2002, according to Shawn Swatosh, Mediacom's manager for the county.

Mediacom's Tom Larsen, vice president for legal affairs, said in a phone interview from headquarters in Middletown, New York, that the company does plan to apply for a California statewide franchise.

“The process is really new to us, but we are generally applying in the states with the new franchise law and California is no exception,” Larsen said.

He noted that every state “has its unique quirks,” in application requirements. He said Iowa is their biggest consumer base, with 30,000 subscribers, and they are working on an application for 70 communities there.

They recently filed in North Carolina and Indiana. California will be next, followed by Georgia and Florida.

The other states which either have instituted or are considering a statewide franchise law are Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

The interested technology companies have been heavy contributors to politicians.

AT&T sponsored the spring Speaker's Golf Cup at Pebble Beach, a fundraiser for the California Democratic Party. The day before the November election, the Democratic Party, which received the proceeds of the AT&T Pebble Beach event, gave Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, $4 million.

Núñez, who hosted the golf event, was the main author of AB 2987, the cable-access legislation the company was pushing.

According to opensecrets.org, the Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics, Núñez also received $21,500 in contributions from Verizon employees in California, Maryland, Rhode Island, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts; from AT&T and its affiliates, $3300 and from AT&T California employees political action committee, $6,700; Time Warner and affiliates of Charlotte, North Carolina $3300; Cox Communications, Atlanta, Georgia, $3300; California cable and telecommunications PAC, $6,600.

AT&T also has been generous to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A Sacramento Bee story of March 23, 2007 – a week before the statewide franchise was granted to AT&T and just months after the governor approved a bill easing access for the telecommunications giant to California's multibillion-dollar cable market – reports that eight top-ranking executives at AT&T gave $5,000 apiece to the governor's campaign committee. Seven of the donors reported addresses in Texas; none had previously donated to Schwarzenegger. The company had earlier given the governor $500,000.

Mediacom does not show up on sites tracking political contributions. Tom Larsen said the company “is a dwarf”compared with companies like AT&T and Verizon, and makes its political contributions through the National Cable/TV Communications Association PAC, or through state-level associations.

Nationwide franchising would have been enabled by the Advanced Telecommunications and Opportunities Reform Act, an omnibus bill introduced by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).

The controversial bill died when the 109th Congress adjourned in December 2006, after long awaiting floor consideration. It became too controversial for floor time and the whole telecom bill (including the House version) will have to be re-written in the next session of Congress.

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


Lower Lake High's Academic Decathlon team has been invited to the state competition. The team placed second in the Feb. 2 county competition. Courtesy photo.



LOWER LAKE – When Upper Lake High School's championship Academic Decathlon team journeys to Sacramento for the state competition next month, they'll have some local company.

Lower Lake High School's Academic Decathlon team, which finished second to Upper Lake at last Saturday's county competition, has been invited to the state competition as well, according to Lower Lake Coach Nancy Harby.

Harby reported on Wednesday that Lower Lake received a special invitation to participate at the state-level competition.

“It's because we're the top-scoring No. 2 team in our division, outscoring some other counties' winners,” Harby said.

Upper Lake's overall winning score at the Feb. 2 county Academic Decathlon competition was 34,939 out of a possible 60,000 points to take the win. Lower Lake High School scored 32,205 in their silver-winning performance.

Harby added, “We were also told that we are being included due to our sportsmanship.”

Instilling respect in her students for their opponents is key, Harby told Lake County News in a weekend interview.

Both Harby and Upper Lake Coach Christina Moore said over the weekend that the county's Academic Decathlon teams have achieved a very high level of competition.

Under Moore's guidance the team enjoyed an eight-year winning streak, including a 2004 state championship in Division 3 and a second-place state finish in 2005. Last year, Harby's team handed Upper Lake it's first loss in nearly a decade, which interrupted Upper Lake's longtime dominance.

In 2006, Lower Lake – which that year also had placed second to Upper Lake in the county competition – was invited to the state competition as part of its new 55-team format and thanks to its high score.

Moore's team already has begun the work of preparing for the state meet, which also will have the Civil War as its theme. Harby's students also will now dive back into the topic.

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


Lower Lake senior and Academic Decathlon standout Kate Lyons won 11 medals at the Feb. 2 county competition. Courtesy photo.




WASHINGTON – North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson criticized President George W. Bush's budget proposal Tuesday, saying it cut critical health care programs while boosting war spending through the use of foreign-owned debt.

He called the president's budget “bad news for millions of American.”

In his budget message, President Bush said his $3.1 trillion 2009 budget “I have set clear priorities that will help us meet our Nation's most pressing needs while addressing the long-term challenges ahead.”

Bush said his budget includes both “pro-growth policies and spending discipline.”

Thompson disagreed.

“While American families are struggling with worsening economic conditions, the president’s budget steals billions from critical health care programs in order to finance his war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthy,” said Thompson.

Even after cutting tens of billions from important domestic programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, the budget still carries a $410 billion deficit, one of the highest in our nation’s history, Thompson said.

“Once again, the president wants to pay for his misguided foreign and fiscal policies with more foreign-owned debt,” he said. “And unfortunately, our grandchildren will have to pay the tab for the president’s unprecedented fiscal irresponsibility.”

Thompson said California already dealing with serious economic problems of its own takes an especially hard hit in the president’s budget.

Bush's budget cuts $17 million from state firefighter grants and $20 million from law enforcement grants, said Thompson.

In addition, another $15 million will be cut from teacher training programs, $127 million will be cut from vocational programs, $42 million will be cut from after-school programs, $14 million will be cut from the state’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, $19 million will be cut from housing assistance and $54 million would be cut from federal highways in the state.

“I’m also extremely worried about how the cuts to Medicare will impact rural areas like those in our district, which typically have a higher rate of Medicare recipients,” said Thompson. “In addition, the president makes cuts to other rural health programs and zeroes out some programs completely. Our rural areas are already having a difficult time retaining doctors and affording expensive medical equipment. Now is not the time to make it even more difficult to access health care in our rural areas.”

Thompson said now is the time to do everything possible possible to help middle- and low-income families grapple with the economic downturn, and that includes maintaining investments in Medicare and Medicaid, which he said helps millions of our most vulnerable citizens.

“We should also be spending our tax dollars on American infrastructure projects that infuse money and jobs into our communities,” Thompson added.

Thompson was also thinking of presidential elections when he issued the statement on Super Tuesday.

“Congress is committed to investing in real American priorities, like job-growth, education and health care,” he said. We need a president who shares that commitment, as well as a commitment to fiscal responsibility. This president brought us the five largest deficits in American history. It’s time for a change.”

Thompson has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president, who was declared the winner in Super Tuesday primaries in California and seven other states.


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