Monday, 15 July 2024


THE GEYSERS – A powerful earthquake centered near The Geysers shook not just communities on Cobb but startled residents in other parts of the county and even in other states.

The 4.2-magnitude earthquake was recorded at approximately 9:27 a.m. Sunday, according to the US Geological Survey, which originally had rated the quake as 4.4 in magnitude.

The US Geological Survey report listed the epicenter as two miles east southeast of The Geysers, four miles southwest of Cobb and four miles west of Anderson Springs, at a depth of 2.7 miles.

At 9:32 p.m., it was followed by a 2.0-magnitude centered quake two miles east of The Geysers and four miles southwest of Cobb, at a depth of two-tenths of a mile, according to the US Geological Survey. Five more small quakes measuring between 1.0 and 1.9 on the Richter scale were reported in the following half-hour.

Altogether, 23 quakes occurred Sunday in and around The Geysers, Anderson Springs and Cobb, including the big quake and six smaller ones that happened before it, US Geological Survey records show.

Residents of Cobb, Kelseyville and Hidden Valley Lake told Lake County News that they felt the quake.

It was described as having a rolling-type movement. No one reported damage although one person said she was nearly knocked out of her chair while sitting at the computer.

Cobb resident Roger Kinney initially reported that the quake lasted about 10 seconds, with it coming on quickly, followed by violent shaking before it dissipated and was followed by a second shockwave five seconds later. He said it's the largest quake he's felt since moving to the area two and a half years ago.

The US Geological Survey received reports from people from around Lake County who felt the quake – including Middletown, Hidden Valley, Lakeport, Spring Valley, Clearlake and Cobb. Numerous residents of Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Napa and San Francisco also reported feeling it.

There were even reports from as far away as South Lake Tahoe, Vacaville and Las Vegas.

The last earthquake measuring 3.0 or above occurred on Dec. 30, three miles east of The Geysers at a depth of 1.1 miles. It measured 3.0 on the Richter scale, 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..




Happy New Year!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for reading my column over this past year. And thanks for letting me know that you enjoy them.

I’ve had so many people come up to me and tell me that they got a kick out of one of my jokes or that they learned something new from one of my articles, and it’s been very gratifying. Thank you.

I’ve had some requests for this upcoming year’s Foodie Freak columns. One request is that I write more about wine and Lake County wineries; another is to cover more food/wine events around the county.

Despite what I’ve got my daughter believing I am not actually omniscient, so I need your help to know what events are going on around the county. But please, keep quiet about the not being omniscient thing to my daughter.

Do you have some food news you would like me to cover for Lake County News? Are you opening a new restaurant, or changing cuisines in your current one? Are you holding a food/wine related event and want me to tell people about it ahead of time, or review it after the fact? Give me the particulars, the whens and wheres, and I’ll do what I can to get the news out there.

And even on a personal level – do you need a caterer for your event and don’t know who to call? Are you looking for a personal or restaurant chef and want help in finding one? Let me help you get connected to the right people. I have the resources and associations not only to help you with your personal requests, but to cover the news you want to know more about.

What can the Foodie Freak do for you in 2009?

E-mail me your information at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will be sure to let the county know what your event is. With your help, I’ll be able to maintain that omniscient thing around my daughter.

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


SAN FRANCISCO – On Tuesday California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. filed suit in federal court to block an “audacious attempt” by the Bush Administration to gut provisions in the Endangered Species Act mandating scientific review of federal agency decisions that may threaten endangered species and their habitat.

“The Bush Administration is seeking to gut the Endangered Species Act on its way out the door,” Attorney General Brown said. “This is an audacious attempt to circumvent a time-tested statute that for 35 years has required scientific review of proposed federal agency decisions that affect wildlife.”

The new regulations, initially proposed by the Departments of the Interior and Commerce in August 2008 and made final on Dec. 16, largely eliminate a requirement in the Endangered Species Act that mandates scientific review of federal agency decisions that might affect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

The changes allow federal agencies to undertake or permit mining, logging, and other commercial activities on federal land and other areas without obtaining review or comment from federal wildlife biologists on the environmental effects of such activities.

The new regulations are the most significant changes to the Endangered Species Act and its implementing regulations in 20 years.

Now that these regulations have been adopted, many decisions on whether to permit commercial activities on protected land will be made at the discretion of federal agency project proponents, according to Brown's office. These agencies generally lack adequate biological expertise and have incentives to conclude that their projects will not have adverse affects on endangered and threatened species and their habitat.

The changes also eliminate the requirement to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on species and ecosystems from proposed federal projects. Federal agencies now no longer need to consider the possible adverse impacts on species like the polar bear from commercial projects that require federal approval or funding such as highway construction and coal-fired power plants.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that the Bush Administration:

• Violated the Endangered Species Act by adopting regulations that are inconsistent with that statute;

• Violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider the environmental ramifications of the proposed new regulations; and

• Violated the Administrative Procedures Act by not adequately considering public comments submitted by the Attorney General and numerous other organizations and concerned citizens.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit follows three similar lawsuits challenging the regulations filed earlier by environmental groups.


LAKEPORT – Last month a local organization voted to contribute funds to help offer health care and services to children during the state's budget crisis.

First 5 Lake County commissioners voted on Dec. 10 to contribute funds that will keep local children ages 0 to 5 from being placed on waiting lists for health coverage as the state's budget uncertainties continue.

This funding will pay health care premiums for new applicants to the Healthy Families program until the end of June.

“First 5 Lake is pleased to help expand health coverage access to more children in our county, particularly during this period of rising unemployment and economic instability,” said Tom Jordan, First 5 Lake’s executive director. “This important collaboration continues to make health coverage affordable and accessible to our most vulnerable children.”

First 5 Lake approved a contribution of $28,350.78, as part of a $16.7 million joint initiative between First 5 California and First 5 county commissions throughout the state.

The funds provide immediate relief for infants and young children who would have been denied health coverage because of the state’s budget crisis.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Lesley Cummings, director of the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which administers the Healthy Families program, have all expressed public support of First 5’s funding solution.

“With this plan, First 5 California and First 5 county commissions continue to advocate for the well-being of our state’s youngest children by providing immediate relief to those facing a lapse in health coverage,” said Kris Perry, executive director of First 5 California.

However, First 5 California itself may be in danger in the coming budget year, due to a proposal contained in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's preliminary 2009-10 budget that would eliminate the organization and shift $275 million in funding from the program to Department of Social Services “high priority” children's programs.

Research shows that a child’s brain develops most dramatically in the first five years and what parents and caregivers do during these years to support their child’s growth will have a meaningful impact throughout life.

Based on this research, California voters passed Proposition 10 in 1998, adding a 50 cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes to support programs for expectant parents and children ages 0 to 5.

First 5 is the largest and most stable funding source of health coverage for children up to age 5 in California. Last year, the agency spent more than $48 million on children’s health insurance.

First 5 Lake County distributes approximately $500,000 a year in Prop. 10 revenues to programs and services that meet local needs.

Schwarzenegger alone can't eliminate the First 5 Commission – that's up to the voters.

For those who don't agree with the proposal and want to give the governor their opinion, his office can be reached at telephone 916-445-2841, fax 916-558-3160 or e-mail him from his Web site at

For more information on available local children’s services and other First 5 Lake programs, call 263-6169.


DAVIS – Working closely with entrepreneurs, community leaders, lenders, farmers, and families, USDA Rural Development California invested more than $550 million in California’s rural economies in 2008.

Late last month, USDA Rural Development State Director Ben Higgins released the agency’s Annual Report, outlining the full array of USDA Rural Development assistance delivered in the Golden State in the prior fiscal year.

“For our employees and the hundreds of rural communities they serve, 2008 was an enormously successful year – arguably our most successful ever,” said Higgins. “Collectively we invested more than $550 million in our state’s rural communities – an increase of well over $100 million from 2007. In doing so, USDA Rural Development helped create thousands of new jobs and played a significant role in mitigating economic uncertainties faced by hundreds of businesses, families, and local and tribal governments in rural California.

Over $210 million was invested to support entrepreneurs in rural areas, organizations which assist small and emerging businesses, and renewable energy production in California. These investments, primarily made in the form of loan guarantees to private businesses, saved or created almost 4,000 jobs in rural communities throughout the state.

Nearly $69 million in grants and loans were provided to California rural communities for facilities and infrastructure, including water distribution and wastewater treatment systems, telecommunications, hospitals, health clinics, schools, and to meet the needs of rural law enforcement and fire suppression agencies. Rural areas eligible for community programs funding are generally defined as those with a population fewer than 20,000.

An additional $180 million was provided to create first-time homeownership opportunities for hundreds of rural families, including many who took advantage of USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Program.

USDA Rural Development’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Program enables groups, generally eight to 10 families, to work together over the span of 15-18 months to build their own homes under the guidance of a construction expert. USDA Rural Development helps with construction financing with local housing developers and extends low-interest loans to new homeowners.

The agency’s Multi-Family Housing Program, which makes grants and loans for new construction and repair of apartments for low-income tenants, and for construction and renovation of farmworker housing, contributed over $97 million to the investment total.

“We’re proud of our accomplishments in 2008, and look forward to even more success through fiscal year 2009,” said Higgins. “California’s rural communities have real needs for improved infrastructure, economic development, affordable housing, and investment capital. As long as these critical needs exist, USDA Rural Development will play a role in helping create healthy, vibrant rural communities.”

To view the USDA Rural Development California 2008 Annual Report, visit


LAKEPORT – The parent company of the Lake County Record-Bee gave employees some not-very-happy holiday news this week, telling them that the company is cutting its matching contributions to the 401(k) retirement plan.

The Denver-based MediaNews Group, which has owned the Record-Bee since 2001, made the announcement in a letter sent to employees' homes last week as well as a memorandum distributed on Monday.

The news comes as employees in Lakeport and around the company await a round of layoffs slated to happen any day, according to sources who have asked not to be identified due to fear of retribution.

Lake County News obtained a copy of the memo, sent Monday by Jim Janiga, senior vice president of human resources for MediaNews Group's California Newspaper Partnership, in which he informs employees that the company's matching contribution to the 401(k) plan will be suspended Jan. 1, 2009, “for an indefinite period of time.”

Janiga added that the suspension will run through all of 2009 but “could possibly be reinstated beginning in 2010.”

“The decision to suspend the matching contribution was not made lightly,” Janiga wrote. “This is an expense reduction needed to help offset still declining revenues, a trend we are all too familiar with and which continues to impact the newspaper industry and most all private and public sectors throughout our local, state and national economies.”

A summary annual report on MediaNews Group's retirement and savings plan, obtained by Lake County News, notes that 11,880 people were participants or plan beneficiaries as of Dec. 31, 2007.

The value of the plan's assets, after liabilities, was $238,414,653 on Dec. 31, 2007, up from $208,963,645 on Jan. 1, 2007, the report noted.

For the period of Jan. 1, 2007, through Dec. 31, 2007, the plan had total income of $51.5 million, which included MediaNews Group's $5.8 million in contributions, $21.1 million from employees, $4.6 million in other contributions and $19.9 million in investment earnings.

Earlier this month, William Dean Singleton, MediaNews' chief executive officer and its principal owner, asked unions at the Denver Post, another of his 53 daily newspapers, as well as the Denver Newspaper Agency to reopen labor contracts.

Singleton said he needed to cut $20 million in expenses immediately, according to a Rocky Mountain News report.

That request, made to the unions on Dec. 12, came a day after Moody's Investors Services downgraded nearly all of the company's $1 billion in debt further into junk status, reaching a non-investment grade rating of “Caa3,” which according to an Associated Press report is the third-lowest rating on Moody's scale.

Moody had previously downgraded MediaNews' debt in May. Three months later, the company sold its Connecticut newspaper holdings, including the Connecticut Post and seven non-daily newspapers, to Hearst Corp.

The rating downgrades are based on Moody's lowered opinion of the company's ability to meet its financial obligations after a 16-percent decline in revenue for the third quarter, and concerns over a revolving $175 million credit facility that comes due in December 2009, according to the Associated Press.

The Associated Press noted that the downgrade also has the impact of making it harder for MediaNews to find new financing because of default concerns.

In press reports Singleton has steadfastly maintained his company is financially sound and honoring its financial commitments.

The Record-Bee traditionally has been among MediaNews' strongest performers, outpacing advertising revenues of its larger, urban sister papers.

However, despite its stronger performance, the paper and its staff are facing cuts in staffing, which continues a trend in employee reductions at the newspaper.

Since 2001 the editorial staff of the Record-Bee and Clear Lake Observer-American combined has been reduced from 12 employees to eight, with at least another position on the line in the upcoming layoffs. Of those staff reductions, two have been reporter positions.

Those cuts in editorial are in addition to numerous other layoffs experienced throughout the paper's departments, including composing, press and accounting.

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


LAKE COUNTY – The preliminary version of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year was released last week, suggesting tax hikes coupled with billions in cuts to programs that could hit hard here at home in Lake County.

The budget includes cuts for K-12 education, higher annual tuition for students in the state's university system, cuts in fire protection and law enforcement, and elimination of the California First 5 Commission, which would require voter approval.

In an effort to generate new revenue, the governor proposes raising car licensing fees, hiking the state sales tax for two years and taxing certain services such as veterinarian care for animals.

The plan already is facing opposition from legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle, who either oppose the tax hikes or the cuts.

Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill of Modesto applauded Schwarzenegger's early proposal.

"While Republicans have serious concerns about raising taxes during a recession, we appreciate that the governor’s proposal includes difficult, but necessary reductions to bring state spending closer in line with revenues,” he said.

Cogdill added that the state needs to focus on economic stimulus “instead of simply asking taxpayers to send more of their hard-earned money to Sacramento.” He accused the Democrats of blocking attempts at stimulus.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said in a prepared statement said she believes the governor's budget indicates he “may finally be coming around and realizing he needs to approve the responsible package of budget solutions the legislature passed Dec. 18.”

Bass said the Democrats' proposal includes $18 billion “in real cuts and new revenues,” plus $3 billion in new funds for transportation projects and $3 billion in expedited projects that have already been approved by voters. “That means we'd be creating 367,000 new jobs at a time California needs all the new jobs we can get.”

Filling in for the governor on his Saturday “California Report” radio address was state Finance Director Mike Genest.

As of Saturday it had been 59 days since Schwarzenegger called the state's legislators into an emergency special session on the budget crisis. “And still they have failed to take real and comprehensive action to close California's exploding deficit,” Genest said.

“Every second the legislature’s inaction continues, we spend another $470 more than we’re taking in,” said Genest. “Every minute, another $28,000. Every hour, $1.7 million. Every day, more than $40 million.”

Compromise is needed to meet the most challenging fiscal crisis the state has ever faced, said Genest.

If nothing is done, the deficit will reach $41.6 billion by the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year, at the same time as projected revenues only are $86 billion.

Schwarzenegger delivered his budget proposal on Dec. 31, 10 days ahead of the constitutional deadline. It includes $17 billion in cuts that will impact all areas of government, and $14 billion in new revenues to minimize the impact on vital programs such as education, said Genest.

Other proposals, according to Genest, include measures to increase the state government's efficiency, such as eliminating or consolidating dozens of government boards and commissions.

“Our situation is dire,” said Genest. “California runs out of cash in less than 70 days.”

Genest also referred to State Controller John Chiang's Dec. 30 warning that as of Feb. 1, the state will be forced to begin issuing IOUs in lieu of salaries and per diem payments to 1,700 legislators, state elected officers, judges and their appointed staff, and for tax refunds to businesses and individuals.

Those measures will be necessary, Chiang said in a letter to legislators, in order to ensure the state can meet its obligations to schools and repay external loans.

The proposed budget's new revenue sources include:

  • A temporary increase of the state's sales tax rate by 1.5 percent from March 1 through Dec. 31, 2011, which would reportedly raise $2.35 billion in 2008-09 and $7.114 billion in 2009-10, according to an analysis by the California Budget Project.

  • Broadening tax base to include appliance, furniture, and vehicle repair; veterinarian services; and amusement parks, sporting events and golf; that would raise an estimated $272 million in 2008-09 and $1.154 billion in 2009-10.

  • Impose a 9.9 percent oil severance tax effective Feb. 1 to generate an estimated $358 million in 2008-09 and $855 million in 2009-10.

  • Raise alcoholic beverage taxes by the equivalent of a nickel a drink effective Feb. 1, raising an

    estimated $244 million in 2008-09 and $585 million in 2009-10.

  • Reduce the dependent tax credit – the tax credit claimed for children and other dependents – to the same level as the personal credit beginning in the 2009 tax year, to raise $1.44 billion in 2009-10.

  • Increase vehicle registration fees by $12 per vehicle to raise $92 million in 2008-09 and $359 million in 2009-10.

  • Increase the fee charged for driver's licenses by $3 to raise an estimated $16.5 million in 2009-10.

The governor's general fund proposals document explains that the origins of the budget problem go back to 1999-2000, when state revenues increased by 23 percent thanks to the stock market and dot-com boom. “The surge in revenues resulted in massive and unsustainable new spending commitments,” the document notes.

When revenues declined, spending didn't, and one-time measures such as borrowing took place, giving birth to the structural deficit. When growth surged in 2005-06, those revenues were needed to pay back loans and backfill for the loss of temporary cost-saving steps, according to the governor's analysis.

The California Budget Project's analysis notes that the massive budget shortfall facing California now “largely reflects the impact of the downturn in the economy on state revenue collections.”

The situation is made worse, according the California Budget Project, due to the elimination of $500 million in previously anticipated 2009-10 revenues from the sale of the EdFund; a $123 million reduction in 2008-09 tribal gaming revenues and a $192 million reduction in 2009-10 due to the

failure of one tribe to ratify a gaming compact with the state and lower levels of gaming activities due to the economic downturn; and projected reductions of $252 million in 2008-09 and $272 million in 2009-10 in royalty receipts from oil and gas production due to declining oil prices.

The analysis also notes, “California's economy weakened in 'in step' with the US economy in 2008.”

How it would impact Lake County

Specific cuts in education, social services and law enforcement could hit hard here in Lake County.

One of the biggest cuts would be the elimination of the California First 5 Commission, which was formed to bring education, health, child care and other important programs to children from birth to age 5 and their families.

The commission's programs are supported by a 50-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes imposed by Proposition 10 in 1998.

First 5 Lake County reports that Lake County ranks in the bottom 10 percent of state counties for standards of child health and wellness. Annual funding for the local agency averages $775,000.

Dissolving the commission and redirecting its funds would require voter approval. Its elimination would result in general fund savings of $275 million in 2009-10, with all state funds and 50 percent of county First 5 funds to support children's programs overseen by the Department of Social Services.

Another significant cut would be $500,000 annually from Sheriff Rod Mitchell's budget. Lake County receives those funds through the Small/Rural Sheriffs Grant program, which Schwarzenegger proposes to cut in order to save $18.5 million. The funds have been on the chopping block repeatedly in recent years after a caucus of rural legislators had the grants reestablished.

Counties also would see reductions in revenues due to lost Williamson Act contracts, which allow agricultural landowners to pay lower property taxes if they agree not to develop their land. Local governments would see a reduction of $34.7 million for both 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Seniors and the disabled will be challenged by some of the budget's proposals. Property tax assistance for seniors and blind or disabled Californians available through the Senior Citizen's Property Tax Deferral program, would be reduced for savings of $32 million beginning Feb. 1.

Local transportation efforts, such as Lake Transit, could face the elimination of grant money based on gas tax revenue, which would be shifted to other transportation costs.

Education for K-12 would take more hits. Last month, county superintendents of schools reported that Lake County schools saw more than $3.8 million in cuts when the state budget was passed in September. Those cuts led to 21 teaching positions being eliminated, as well as dozens of other jobs including instructional aids, office support, counselors and administrators.

It's not all bad news. Among other things, the governor also is proposing increases in certain areas, such as $3 million to fund 14.2 additional game warden positions for Fish and Game. Programs such as the Department of Health Care Services, Department of Social Services, Department of Developmental Services and Department of Mental Health would see increases totaling $2.4 billion.

Special fund support also is being proposed for a $34.9 million increase to support 240 new California Highway Patrol positions and $11.9 million for a new CHP dispatch system, which handles 911 calls.

Schwarzenegger proposes using vehicle license revenues to pay for law enforcement programs like the Citizens Option for Public Safety (COPS) and Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act programs, local juvenile probation activities and booking fee payments. The county and two cities currently receive about $100,000 each from the COPS grants.

That vehicle license fee funding, which would be shifted toward those law enforcement purposes and away from the Department of Motor Vehicles, would be replaced by a $12 per car hike in the vehicle license fee, which would generate an estimated $92 million in 2008-09 and $359 million in 2009-10.

Certain other law enforcement grants, such as Vertical Prosecution Block Grants, Rural Crime Prevention, California Multi-jurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Teams, the High Technology Theft Apprehension Program, Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Teams and various other

programs would be eliminated.

Here are rundowns of some of the other projected changes in specific areas outlined by the California Budget Project and the governor's budget documents.

In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program

The governor proposes to cap the state's contribution toward the wages of IHSS workers at the state's minimum wage, which is currently $8 per hour. Locally, there are about 1,400 IHSS workers.

The budget also would require IHSS recipients who have less severe impairments to begin paying their own Medi-Cal "share-of-cost."

In addition, the proposals would eliminate domestic and related services for IHSS recipients who have less severe impairments.

Fire suppression

A summary of the major expenditure changes from the state's general fund includes a $248 million decrease for Cal Fire's emergency fire suppression expenditures.

Such emergency expenditures assisted in fighting the 14,500-acre Walker Fire, which was caused by a vehicle in June. That fire cost $3.2 million to suppress, according to Cal Fire's final numbers.

The summer lightning fires and fall fires in Southern California have resulted in Cal Fire's emergency fire costs rising to $437 million in fiscal year 2008-09.

The 2009-10 budget would propose $189 million, “which reflects the historical average of firefighting costs over the past five years and additional federal reimbursements.”

Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) Program

SSI/SSP grants would be reduced to the minimum level required by federal law and the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) would be eliminated, for combined savings of $200.1 million in 2008-09 and $1.247 billion in 2009-10.

CAPI provides state-funded cash assistance to approximately 10,000 elderly and/or disabled legal immigrants who are not eligible for SSI/SSP payments due to their immigration status, according to the California Budget Project.

The June 2010 state cost of living increase for SSI/SSP grants also would be eliminated, for savings of $27 million in 2009-10 and annual savings of $323.9 million beginning in 2010-11.

Health and Human Services

County administration of the Medi-Cal Program would see the statutory cost of living increase suspended, resulting in a $24.7 million decrease.

There also would be a $50.8 million decrease in 2008-09 and a $668.7 million decrease in 2009-10 through Medi-Cal Program eligibility and benefit changes.

Schwarzenegger proposes eliminating the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) beginning on July 1, for savings of $37.8 million in 2009-10. The program provides food assistance to certain legal noncitizens who are ineligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly the Food Stamp Program – solely due to their immigration status.

The budget also would cut funding for Regional Centers, which coordinate services for people with developmental disabilities, by $334 million in 2009-10 through unspecified program reductions. The governor is proposing to reduce funds to those centers' operations and services by 3 percent beginning on Feb. 1 for savings of $24.6 million in 2008-09 and $60.2 million in 2009-10.

K-12 Education

The state would defer $2.6 billion of school district revenue limit and K-3 Class Size Reduction program payments from April to July, reduce revenue limit funding for school districts and county offices of education by $1.6 billion, reduce funding for a number of K-12 educational programs by $55.5 million and eliminate cost-of-living adjustments for K-12 education programs, a reduction of $2.5 billion.

There would be reductions in revenue limit funding for school districts and county offices of education by $1.5 billion and for K-12 education programs by $1.1 billion by allowing districts to shorten the school year by five days.

At the same time, the governor proposes to increase funding to school districts and county offices of education by $268.2 million to backfill projected reductions in property tax collections.

A projected decline in enrollment would lead to reduced general purpose funds for school districts and county offices of education by $152.7 million. The budget also would eliminate funding for the High Priority Schools Grant Program, a reduction of $114.2 million.

All education mandates – with the exception of mandated costs related to the California High School Exit Exam and interdistrict and intradistrict transfers – would be suspended.

The governor also proposes to provide "schools complete and permanent flexibility with respect to categorical funding," authorizing the transfer of funding for categorical programs, such as class size reduction and instructional materials, to a district's or county office of education's general fund.

Community colleges and higher education

Community colleges would see a $322.9 million reduction through the elimination of a 5.02 percent statutory cost of living adjustment for California Community College programs. The state also would defer $230 million of community college apportionments from January and February to July so that this amount counts toward the 2009-10 Proposition 98 guarantee, rather than the 2008-09 guarantee.

The governor would increase funding by $185.4 million to reflect a 3-percent growth in apportionments and categorical programs, and authorize community colleges to transfer any categorical funds to their general fund following a public hearing.

University students would see higher tuition, with a 9.3-percent fee increase in the University of California (UC) system, 10 percent in the California State University (CSU) system and 13 percent at Hastings College of Law. Those increases would generate a total of $300.7 million.

Systemwide undergraduate fees in the UC system would rise from $7,126 to $7,788 and in the CSU system fees would rise from $3,048 to $3,354.

The three systems would see a combined $132.1 million in unallocated reductions, and funding for enrollment growth and operating cost increases that would be required pursuant to the Higher Education Compact would be eliminated to the tune of nearly $430 million.

The governor proposes to increase funding for CSU by $3.6 million and for UC by $1.1 million to provide support for nursing enrollments.


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A vehicle got stuck in the middle of Putah Creek on Wednesday, but the occupants appeared to escape harm. Photo by Rick Hamilton.


MIDDLETOWN – Some four-wheeling fun led to a dangerous predicament Wednesday, when a vehicle ended up stranded in the middle of Putah Creek.

Hidden Valley Lake resident Rick Hamilton said the vehicle was in the middle of the creek at Hartmann Road on the east side of Highway 29 at about 2:50 p.m. Wednesday.

Two people were standing on top of the hood and a third person was on one of the nearby banks.

Hamilton said he reported the situation, and two fire trucks showed up but left shortly thereafter.

A California Highway Patrol vehicle and the fire captain's pickup later were on scene, Hamilton said.

No information was available from the CHP late Wednesday.

Hamilton said four-wheeling takes place in the creekbed and the surrounding area.

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THE GEYSERS – A 3.0-magnitude earthquake was reported near The Geysers Tuesday evening.

The quake, recorded at a depth of 1.1 miles at 7:31 p.m., was centered three miles east of The Geysers, four miles south southwest of Cobb and four miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, according to the US Geological Survey.

Four people reported to the US Geological Survey that they felt the quake – two in Cobb, one in Middletown and one in Longview, 823 miles away.

The last quake of 3.0 magnitude or above recorded in the county occurred on Dec. 21, as Lake County News has reported.

Some Cobb-area residents have considered recent earthquake activity out of season.

However, giving another viewpoint, Anderson Springs resident Meriel Medrano believes winter – particularly January and February – are actually the worst times of the year for the area's seismic activity.

Medrano said that they continue to have many small quakes in the area but the larger quakes seem not to be occurring as often.

The shallower earthquakes have been linked to geothermal production at The Geysers, as Lake County News has reported.

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T Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.

For those of you who don’t know, jazz trumpeter Eddie Gale is a property owner in Lake County. He also has an interesting take on Obama as president. I called him on New Year's Eve to wish him cheers for 2009.

If you are not familiar with Eddie Gale, here are some of his qualifications:

  • He is listed in the comprehensive academic music reference volume entitled, “The Trumpet Kings: The Players who Shaped the Sound of Jazz Trumpet.” Written by Scott Yanow, this book unveils the personal and musical lives of 479 brilliant jazz trumpeters, past and present.

  • You can hear the work of Eddie Gale on recordings by Sun Ra, Larry Young and Cecil Taylor. His muted trumpet work with Cecil Taylor is included in the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. Gale also has performed live with such luminaries as John Coltrane, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison.

Before his usual conversation ending salutation of “Inner Peace To You,” he shared with me his interesting take on the inauguration of Barack Obama.

A deeply spiritual man, Eddie Gale feels the election has more to do with the highest force in the universe calling on us as human beings to finally begin to work toward a world of true peace and understanding without regard to race.

“The change that the election brings should mean the end of us thinking about each other in strictly racial terms,” he said. “It could be the end of red, white, black, brown, yellow men and women. Just an American man and woman. It is a greater America for the world. We are hearkening to the pull of the spirit.”

To view and hear Eddie Gale’s ninety second video that I’ve just quoted from go to this link:

Unfortunately, many of us are yet hung up on the so-called racial ramifications of the installation of the first African American president. I say this despite the historical rumors that there was another before him! (For now, you'll have to research that yourself!)

* * * * *

A couple of strange rumors from pretty reliable sources floated past me recently.

A friend of mine went church shopping in Lake County recently and, at one church, the pastor prophesied to his flock that if Obama won the election it was a sure sign that the end times were upon us.

Another person reported that at a drunken Republican gathering on election night those in attendance were calling President-Elect Obama “The Antichrist.” The margin of error in public opinion is frequently shaped by folks who have no idea of what they are talking about ...

* * * * *

We lost the great songstress/actress/dancer and diva Eartha Kitt recently.

Immediately, I recalled a film I saw as a teenager entitled “Anna Lucasta” that co-starred her with Sammy Davis, Jr. It was a great film. I think I was a legal adult before I realized that the Eartha version was a remake of the original version which starred Joann Woodward.

After Ms. Kitt died, I ordered the DVD of the Eartha/Sammy version to view with my elderly mother. When I received it, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to drive 100 miles to take it to my Mom. I had to see it quickly.

The story line wasn’t quite like I remembered it and it would probably be categorized as a B movie in terms of what Hollywood spent on the production in 1958. But the performances by Kitt and Davis are brilliant. I highly recommend it.

* * * * *

“Cadillac Records” came to Lake County for an all-too-brief run in early December. It was billed as the story of Chess Records, but really portrayed primarily an interpretation of the Muddy Waters/Leonard Chess business arrangement.

Though not always historically accurate, the film featured fine performances by Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, Columbus Short as the tragic genius Little Walter, Mos Def as Chuck Berry, Eammon Walker as Howlin’ Wolf, Adrian Brody as Leonard Chess and Beyonce Knowles as Etta James. This film is good entertainment. The real story of Chess Records is way too large to be confined to a two-hour movie.

* * * * *

Finally, the Village Voice fired the great Jazz Critic Nat Hentoff recently.

The face of the world of publishing is changing as well as the political climate. We are conscious of it here in Lake County as well.

This column will attempt to articulate certain truths that historically haven’t been covered in Lake County and the world.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at


SACRAMENTO – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) first snow survey of the 2008-09 winter season is holding a little promise, with higher snow content than was recorded in late 2007.

The survey, conducted Tuesday, indicates snow water content is 76 percent of normal for the date, statewide. This time last year, snow water content was 60 percent of normal statewide.

While this year’s water content is higher than last, winter storms arrived late. It is too early to tell whether improved figures will translate into a better water year than the state experienced last year, when winter storms ended early leading to California’s driest spring on record.

Electronic sensor readings show northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 54 percent of normal for this date, central Sierra at 76 percent, and southern Sierra at 99 percent. The sensor readings are posted at

In Lake County, where water supply is largely dependent on rainfall and snowpack from the Mendocino National Forest, Clear Lake's level on Wednesday was 1.16 Rumsey – the measure specifically used for Clear Lake. That's 0.11 Rumsey below Dec. 31, 2007.

The Mendocino National Forest conducts snow surveys beginning in late February. This past year, the first forest snow survey noted levels 156 percent of average, while measurements at the same time in 2007 had showed 92 percent of normal. However, dry conditions in both years led to lower readings later in the spring.

Lake County's creeks also appear to be running low. US Geological Survey stream gage measurements noted the following readings on Wednesday:

  • Kelsey Creek was discharging at 14 cubic feet per second, well below the median of 32. The creek's minimum recorded reading is 3.9, recorded, in 1991, while its maximum is 3,500 cubic feet per second, recorded in 1997.

  • Cache Creek at Hough Springs near Clearlake Oaks was discharging at 18 cubic feet per second, with a median reading of 47. Its minimum is 1.7 (recorded in 1977) and maximum is 7,300 (recorded in 1997).

  • Cache Creek near Lower Lake, discharging at 4.7 cubic feet per second, with a median reading of 2.9. Its lowest reading, in 1991, was 0.19; its highest, in 1997, was 4,530.

  • Putah Creek near Guenoc, discharging at 41 cubic feet per second, with a median reading of 126. Minimum reading was 2.4, recorded in 1937, while its maximum, in 2006, was 4,650.

California's water picture remains uncertain, despite the fact that Tuesday's measurements indicate an improvement over last years initial snow survey figures.

DWR Director Lester Snow noted that “the strain on California’s water supply persists.”

“Recent regulatory actions that further limit pumping through the Delta and deficits from the previous two dry years will require a very wet year to relieve the drought,” said Snow. “We must take immediate steps to protect the Delta ecosystem, conserve more water and develop additional groundwater and surface storage facilities to meet our future needs.”

Storage in California’s major reservoirs is low. Lake Oroville, the principal storage reservoir for the State Water Project (SWP), is at 28 percent of capacity, and 44 percent of average storage for this time of year.

Continuing dry conditions and court-ordered restrictions on Delta water exports are limiting water deliveries to farms and urban areas. DWR’s early estimate is that it will only be able to deliver 15 percent of requested State Water Project water this year to the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and Southern California. Increased precipitation this winter could increase this figure.

In December 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a Delta smelt Biological Opinion which could reduce Delta exports by 20-50 percent. In December 2007, Judge Oliver Wanger restricted pumping to protect the Delta smelt, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in water deliveries. In a November 2008 decision, the California Fish and Game Commission implemented take restrictions for the longfin smelt which also could reduce water delivery pumping.

A Biological Opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect salmon and steelhead is expected in March. These regulatory actions have and will continue to significantly decrease deliveries to homes, farms, cities and industry by both the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Snow water content is important in determining the coming year's water supply. The measurements help hydrologists prepare water supply forecasts as well as provide others, such as hydroelectric power companies and the recreation industry, with needed data.

Monitoring is coordinated by the Department of Water Resources as part of the multi-agency California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. Surveyors from more than 50 agencies and utilities visit hundreds of snow measurement courses in California’s mountains to gauge the amount of water in the snowpack.


LAKE COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol will conduct a maximum enforcement effort over the New Year’s holiday weekend which begins Wednesday, Dec. 31, at 6 p.m. and continues through midnight, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009.

“Consider this a warning,” said Clear Lake Area CHP Commander, Lieutenant Loveless, “We will be out there taking a zero tolerance approach and will arrest you if you are drinking and driving.”

CHP officers arrested 1,397 motorists statewide for driving under the influence (DUI) during this year’s Christmas MEP compared to 1,661 in 2007, according to a CHP report.

During that same time period, 37 people died in the collisions that occurred in California compared to 43 in 2007. Among those killed this year, 15 were not wearing a seatbelt.

“Remember to designate a non-drinking driver before the celebrating begins, watch your speed and always wear your seatbelt,” Loveless added.

Along with the increased enforcement effort, the CHP is asking motorists to help keep the state’s roadways safe by calling 911 to report a suspected drunk driver. Callers should be prepared to provide dispatchers with a description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel.

“The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and celebrations; unfortunately it is also a time when we see too many alcohol-related highway fatalities,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Even if we save just one life by getting the message out, that is one life that has been spared.”

In keeping with the state trend, during the Christmas MEP, the Clear Lake Area had less DUI arrests, but also showed a drop in traffic collisions, according to CHP Officer Adam Garcia.

Three drivers were arrested for DUI by the Clear Lake Area compared to 10 in 2007, Garcia reported.

He also noted that in 2008 there were seven traffic collisions with three injured and zero fatalities compared to 11 collisions with three injured and zero fatalities in 2007.


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