Tuesday, 16 July 2024






“Pot Stickers are the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful food I’ve ever known in my life.”

OK, that’s paraphrasing a line from one of my favorite movies, “The Manchurian Candidate,” but I really mean it. They’re my idea of a comfort food.

I don’t remember when I had pot stickers for the first time in my life but it was probably when I was in the military. I experimented with a lot of different cuisines back then. I hadn’t yet started to do much cooking, but these little Asian dumplings were really enchanting.

Pot stickers got their name because the dumplings are typically fried and they stick to the pot. Removing them involves steaming them in the covered pan until the pan releases them.

I enjoy them so much that a few years ago I started making them at home. The salty sour sauce that is served along side of them (try saying that three times fast) infatuates me so much that I want to drink it when the pot stickers are all gone.

Pot stickers are so popular and have infiltrated the mainstream cuisine so thoroughly that they can even be found premade in the frozen foods section of many grocery stores. This fact gives me the giggles, since pot stickers are rumored to have been invented by a famous Chinese herbalist as a treatment for frost bitten ears.

Another story about the creation of pot stickers tells of a cook for a Chinese emperor who accidentally overcooked them. He knew the potentate wouldn’t be pleased with improperly cooked food, so he told him that the crispy part was done on purpose (trust me, the phrase “I meant to do that” marks the creation of many popular recipes and is the mantra of many chefs). The ruler ended up liking the crisp bottom and the recipe lived on. And so, I imagine, did the cook.

The creation of pot stickers is said to have taken place over 7,000 years ago in China. Because of this long history in a well-traveled culture, they have had a chance to be introduced to many countries that adopted them and adapted them to local ingredients and tastes.

In China they are called “jiaozi,” but also and more accurately “guotie” (which means pot stick). In Japan they are called “gyoza” and in Korea “mandu”; there is the Mongolian “buuz,” the Turkish “manti” and even the Slavs have “pierogi.” Joyce Chen coined the term “Peking Ravioli” in the 1950s in her restaurant as a way to sell pot stickers in the mainly Italian neighborhood where her restaurant was located. The list goes on and on. Among each cultures’ versions there are great variances to the recipe, and even several different types within a culture.

Pot stickers are often confused with Chinese dim sum. They are both a type of dumpling, but the main difference is in the cooking method. Dim sum are steamed, while pot stickers are first pan fried and then steamed.

Chinese dim sum also often have numerous fillings to choose from, so you can really enjoy a variety of them more or less – “I could never figure out what that phrase meant, ‘more or less.’” While pot stickers aren’t technically dim sum, they are usually served along side them.

Pot stickers were introduced into Japanese cuisine around the 17th century, and just like the Chinese pot stickers they branched into several types: sui-gyoza (boiled), mushi-gyoza (steamed), age-gyoza (deep fried) and yaki-gyoza (pan fried), just to name a few varieties.

Pot stickers can contain many different types of meats, fish or vegetables, and in the case of pierogi, mashed potatoes and cheese. There are even different thicknesses in the pasta wrapper that the filling is packed in. The thickness of the wrapper many times is what determines the name of the dumpling.

Almost every major grocery store carries won ton wrappers and those are the very same ones used for pot stickers. Many stores even carry both circles and squares, and different sizes of these as well. Pot stickers and gyoza are typically made from very thin, circular shaped wrappers, but feel free to use any of these to make your own. You are only limited by your imagination.

Pot stickers are typically sealed with a decorative fold or crimp but don’t worry if you have trouble making it look just right. I’m not an expert in doing this either; I still practice it from time to time, but I usually wind up getting frustrated and just fold them in half without the decoration. The important thing is just to make sure the seal is tight.

If you are like me and aren’t a skilled wanton wrapper crimper but really want them to look perfect, there is good news. There is actually a gyoza maker where you place your wanton wrapper then your fillings then fold the mold over it seals the pot sticker and gives a somewhat crimped traditional look to the final item. Look for a “gyoza press.”

Here are a few tips on making pot stickers:

  • 3 ½-inch gyoza skins can be found locally in packages of 60. They are smaller, thinner and more delicate than other wonton wrappers, so you may want to try making larger pot stickers for practice.

  • Shred the cabbage for the filling finely while you bring a pot of salted water to a boil and boil the cabbage for two to three minutes (until tender) then immediately drain and cool the cabbage. This ensures a nice texture in the finished pot sticker.

  • Lightly moisten two paper towels and place the gyoza wrappers between them as you make the pot stickers. This will keep the wrappers from drying out and yet keep them handy during the assembly process.

  • When you’ve put the filling into the wrapper use your middle finger (since your index finger will most likely have bits of filling on it) to dip into the water and wipe halfway around the edge of skin. Then fold over while gently trying to push out any air bubbles.

  • You can replace the steaming water with chicken stock if you would like to add more flavor.

  • Steaming the pot stickers will typically release them from the pan but you may want to have a fish spatula handy just in case.

Your average pot sticker has about 50 calories, with roughly half of those calories being from fat. If you are interested in entering the International Gyoza Eating Championship in Los Angeles (Aug. 22, 2010), just keep in mind that the record is 231 gyoza eaten in – get this – 10 minutes.

This recipe also will work well with ground chicken, fish, shrimp or lobster (beef and lamb are just too heavy, and turkey might be a little dry).

Now I just have to figure out “How did the old ladies turn into Russians?”

Pot stickers/gyoza

1 pound ground pork

1/2 cup shredded and boiled green cabbage

1/4 cup chopped green onion tops

4 teaspoon soy sauce

2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoon fresh ginger grated or smashed

1 teaspoon garlic powder

60 3 ½-inch round gyoza or wonton skins

A couple of teaspoons vegetable oil for frying

Small bowl of water for sealing

Water for steaming.

Thoroughly combine the first eight ingredients; set aside.

Have a sheet pan or other large dish or area to place your completed pot stickers. Put one wonton skin onto your work surface and, using a teaspoon as a measure, scoop up one spoonful of the meat mixture and place it in the center of the wonton.

Dip one finger in water and use it to moisten the edge of one half of the skin. Fold the wonton wrapper over and push out as much air as possible without tearing the skin, and press the edges firmly together forming a seal. Set onto the sheet pan with the seam pointing up like a fin.

When finished assembling all of the pot stickers, prepare a large frying pan with a cover by pouring in about a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Heat the pan over medium heat and add the pot stickers in a single layer, not touching each other. Let cook for two to three minutes until they get a crispy bottom or are firmly stuck to the pan. Add about a quarter to a half a cup of water or stock to the pan and cover, and let steam for two to three minutes more or until the pot stickers no longer stick to the pan.

Remove gently with a spatula and add the next group of pot stickers, repeating the process until complete. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce below.

Simple pot sticker dipping sauce

One part soy sauce

One part rice vinegar

One part water

A couple of drops of sesame oil (or sesame chili oil)

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. Follow him on Twitter, http://twitter.com/Foodiefreak .

LAKE COUNTY – September saw Lake County and California's unemployment rates decreasing, while the national unemployment rate continued to rise.

The latest report from the Employment Development Department showed that Lake County's September unemployment rate was 14.7 percent, down from 15.3 percent in August but up from the 10.2-percent rate recorded in September 2008.

Last month, approximately 3,800 Lake County residents were reported to be unemployed out of a total labor force of 25,890 people, compared to 2,590 people out of work a year ago in a workforce that then measured 25,340 residents.

Statewide, the unemployment rate measured 12.2 percent, with just over 2.2 million people unemployed, according to the Employment Development Department. That's down slightly from the 12.3-percent rate measured in August, when 2.25 million people were out of work.

California's September 2008 unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, at which time almost 1.4 million people were unemployed, according to state records.

The number of people unemployed in California last month was 2,247,000 – down by 13,000

over the month, but up by 799,000 compared with September of last year, according to the Friday report.

The US unemployment rate increased in September, rising to 9.8 percent from 9.7 in August, and up from 6.2 percent in September 2008, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In September, Lake's neighboring counties registered the following unemployment rates: Colusa, 14.5 percent; Glenn, 13.8 percent; Mendocino, 10.1 percent; Napa, 8.7 percent; Sonoma, 9.9 percent; and Yolo, 10.9 percent.

Counties with the lowest and highest unemployment rates, respectively, were Marin, with 8 percent, and Imperial, with 30.1 percent.

The Employment Development Department reported that in September California's nonfarm jobs totaled 14,200,400, a decrease of 39,300 over the month, according to a survey of 42,000 California businesses. The year-over-year change – from September 2008 to September 2009 – showed a decrease of 732,700 jobs or a 4.9 percent reduction.

A federal survey of households, done with a smaller sample than the survey of employers, showed a decrease in the number of employed people, the agency reported.

That survey estimated the number of Californians holding jobs in September was 16,137,000, a decrease of 6,000 from August, and down 896,000 from the employment total in September of last year.

EDD’s report on payroll employment – wage and salary jobs – in the state's nonfarm industries totaled 14,200,400 in September, a net loss of 39,300 jobs since the August survey. This followed a loss of 7,200 jobs in August.

The Employment Development Department reported that two categories – natural resources and mining, and trade, transportation and utilities – added jobs over the month, gaining 4,100 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities posted the largest increase over the month, adding 3,900 jobs.

At the same time, nine categories reported job declines this month, down 43,400 jobs, according to the report. Those categories included construction; manufacturing; information; financial activities; professional and business services; educational and health services; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government. Construction posted the largest decline over the month, down by 14,100 jobs.

From September 2008 to September 2009, nonfarm payroll employment in California dropped by 4.9 percent or 732,700 jobs, according to the Employment Development Department. One industry division, educational and health services, posted job gains over the year, adding 11,800 jobs, a growth of 0.7 percent.

The report also noted that 10 categories had job declines totaling 744,500 over the year. The categories included natural resources and mining; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government.

Trade, transportation and utilities employment had the largest decline on a numerical basis, down by 172,400 jobs or 6.1 percent, according to the report. Construction posted the largest decline on a percentage basis, down by 19.0 percent, a decrease of 144,000 jobs.

Approximately 744,924 people received regular unemployment insurance benefits during the September survey week, the report noted, compared with 790,099 in August and 500,962 last year.

The Employment Development Department reported that new claims for unemployment insurance were 69,160 in September 2009, compared with 69,488 in August and 53,418 in September of last year.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

UKIAH – A man tasered during a struggle with law enforcement on Monday had methamphetamine in his system, according to a Thursday report.

Christopher John Belknap, 36, a transient from Ukiah, died following the confrontation with a Mendocino County Sheriff's sergeant and a sergeant with the Ukiah Police Department, as Lake County News has reported.

Lt. Rusty Noe of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that Belknap was released from San Quentin State Prison last Saturday.

Belknap attacked a Mendocino County Sheriff's Sergeant Monday at around 8 p.m. as he was parked using his cell phone in the 700 block of S. State Street, Noe said.

While defending himself the sergeant deployed his taser and Belknap was stunned twice before he was able to disengage the taser probes. Noe said Belknap resumed his attack and was punching the sergeant when a Ukiah Police Sergeant arrived to assist.

The Ukiah Police sergeant deployed his taser and Belknap was restrained. Noe said officers were still struggling with Belknap placing him in leg restraints. Belknap became unresponsive and paramedics were called.

Noe said Belknap was transported to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Tests done at the hospital prior to Belknap's death showed positive for the use of methamphetamine, Noe said.

Belknap had a long history of drug abuse and assault including several incidents of resisting arrest, according to Noe.

In April of 2009 Belknap was contacted by sheriff's deputies and arrested for resisting arrest and breaking out a window in a patrol car, Noe said. Charges were referred to state parole and he was sent to state prison for six months on a violation.

Noe said the investigation is continuing with the Mendocino County District Attorney working with the sheriff's office and Ukiah Police.

The cause of death is still pending toxicology testing. Results of an autopsy conducted Tuesday are also pending, Noe said.

ST. HELENA – The Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) plans to start down staffing equipment and personnel starting Monday, Oct. 19.

Due to rain and cooler temperatures the unit is beginning the transition from summer staffing levels to winter staffing.

The unit includes the State Responsibility Areas (SRA) within the counties of Sonoma, Lake, Napa, Yolo, Solano and Colusa.

The transition from summer staffing to winter staffing results in the release of seasonal fire suppression employees, down staffing some fire equipment, and the termination of contracts for fixed wing aircraft such as air tankers.

Chief Ernie Loveless points out that “the reduction in staffing and resources is indicative of a major reduction in the wildland fire danger. However, residents need to remember that even with the welcome rains, a period of dry windy conditions could dry fuels to the point where wildland fires are possible.”

Cal Fire is prepared to quickly “ramp up” if conditions here or elsewhere in the state dictate.

The transition to winter staffing however, does not signal the end of fire protection responsibilities for Cal Fire locally.

Cal Fire provides year round emergency response as the fire department for Napa County, the town of Yountville, the South Lake Fire Protection District and The Sea Ranch. Additional response is also provided by contract to the Cloverdale Fire Protection District and to Sonoma County in both the western and southern portions of the county.

The agency also provides personnel and incident management expertise for emergencies statewide, including earthquakes and floods.

Only death and taxes are certain; sometimes they even come together. So everyone should know some basic tax issues associated with inheritances.

The taxes potentially involved are federal estate taxes, federal and state personal income taxes, federal and state fiduciary income taxes, and local real property taxes. Let’s examine them separately.

Federal estate taxes now only affect persons transferring more than $3.5 million at death to their surviving family, excluding gifts left to the surviving spouse – there is an unlimited marital deduction for transfers to surviving spouses.

The $3.5 million is the net worth of the decedent considering all assets, including life insurance. Also, a generation skipping transfer tax may apply when more than $3.5 million is left to related persons more than one generation younger than the decedent (e.g., grandchildren), unless the intervening generation has predeceased the decedent, or is left to unrelated persons who are more than 37.5 years younger.

What about personal income tax? Personal income tax only applies to transfers of items of income in respect of a decedent (IRD).

What is IRD? IRD is anything that would have been included as ordinary income on the decedent’s annual tax return, if received while alive.

Examples include unpaid retirement monies (such as IRAs, annuities, and 401(k)s) and earned but unpaid compensation. Not included as IRD is life insurance. The proceeds are not subject to income tax unless an exception to the “no taxation” of life insurance proceeds applies.

The receipt of property – other than IRD – is not income taxable; there is, however, often an income tax opportunity for the beneficiary who receives property from a decedent. Specifically, any appreciation in value that occurred while the decedent owned the property is eliminated at death and will not be subject to capital gains income tax. That is, the beneficiary receives a so-called “step up in basis” based on date of death appraisal.

For example, if the decedent bought his house in 1970 for $75,000, the decedent had a purchase cost basis of $75,000. If he dies on June 25, 2009, when it is worth $250,000 and leaves it all to his son, then the son’s basis for income tax purposes is stepped up to $250,000, thus eliminating all $175,000 of appreciation when the son sells.

If a deceased person’s estate is held within a trust or probate estate, then a so-called fiduciary income tax return is usually required, and taxes may be due at the estate level. Because trusts pay taxes at the highest graduated rate once their taxable income reaches around $11,000, it is prudent to distribute the taxable income out to the beneficiaries prior to the trust’s own tax year end to avoid paying higher trust tax rates. Taxation of trusts is a very complex, so rely on a qualified tax expert here.

Next, death can trigger a reassessment in value for local (county) real property taxes. With the exceptions of the interspousal transfer exclusion and parent child transfer exclusion for transfers of one’s primary residence and up to one million dollars in other additional real property to surviving children (and sometimes grandchildren), all other transfers trigger a reassessment in tax value to the recipient at time of transfer.

Accordingly, when a decedent’s estate consists of real property and other substantial assets and one child wants to receive a particular real property asset, there is a planning opportunity if the real property in question is left directly by the parent to that child.

Otherwise, if that child buys out his or her siblings, then the portion that is purchased from the other siblings will be reassessed, as there is no exclusion for transfers between siblings.

In conclusion, there are numerous tax opportunities and pitfalls to be considered carefully when planning and subsequently administering a person’s estate.

Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 1st St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.

Yuba College's classified employees rallied outside the district's board of trustees' meeting on Wednesday, October 14, 2009, in an attempt to stop the board from cutting 56 jobs. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

CLEARLAKE – As trustees of the Yuba Community College District Board prepared to begin their regular meeting Wednesday afternoon, they found waiting for them dozens of classified employees, sporting blue and white t-shirts and signs.

“What do we want? A fair share, not a full share!” the employees chanted repeatedly in the minutes before the meeting started at the college's Clear Lake Campus on Dam Road Extension.

Close to four hours later, as the board's meeting neared its end, there would be more chanting.

“Shame on you! Shame on you!” Classified employees shouted in unison outside the meeting room following unanimous votes to accept the 2010 budget and lay off 56 classified employees across the district, out of a total of 210 members of the local chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA).

Outraged CSEA members continued to chant while the meeting went on inside. Finally, a campus police officer closed the building's windows to shut out the sound. Talk then turned to the need to recall the board.


Officials said at Wednesday's meeting that they had little choice in making the decision for the district, which has three campuses serving eight counties.


With a 2009-10 budget that anticipates $45.5 million in revenue and $48.8 million in expenses, Vice Chancellor Albert Alt reported that 86 percent of the budget goes to personnel and there are few other places to make cuts.

But union members insisted that they had tried to offer alternatives to the district, to no avail. They also charged that during the recent financial crisis the district had continued to hire administrative positions while trying to balance the budget at the expense of lower-paid employees who offer the bulk of student support services.

Close to 80 people – classified employees, faculty, students and community members – were present for the lengthy meeting, which lasted from 4 p.m. until just before 8 p.m.

Many of the classified staff had carpooled from Woodland and Marysville to be at the meeting, which included not just a budget session and discussions of potential layoffs, but appeals from many groups to save programs said to be in danger.

Library services and the MESA program were two areas members of the public brought to the board, along with complaints from students that cuts to the college were impacting their ability to meet their course requirements.

Elena Heilman, a college librarian, said library services was looking at an 8-percent cut. She questioned how they could continue maintaining a functional library with such cuts, and pointed out that those reductions included laying off the entire staff of Woodland Community College's library.

The MESA program offers assistance and support and tutoring help to science and engineering students. Students who rely on the program said it's made their education possible.

During their reports, trustees told the staff and faculty that they were concerned about the budget cuts they were facing and the possible impacts on everyone. Several of them referenced postcards and letters they're received about the proposed cuts.

“My answers aren't going to please you in many cases,” said Trustee George Nicholau, who has been on the board for nearly 30 years. “I'm thinking in terms of he whole district, and it's very difficult.”

Trustee Brent Hastey said the district is proposing a 3-percent, across-the-board cut to save all jobs, but he's hearing that employees are unwilling to consider it. “Unlike the federal government, we don't get to print money,” he said.

But classified staff representatives, during their address to the board, said they had not heard about the 3-percent cut proposal, which was mentioned later in the meeting by Yuba College Chancellor Nicki Harrington, and which they said Board Chair Alan Flory was quoted as mentioning in a newspaper article in Marysville.

Minerva Lemus, vice president of the CSEA chapter, said she and others were laid off illegally according to the terms of their contract.

She said they received verbal notices on Sept. 22 and 23; the contract requires they receive something in writing 35 work days prior to such verbal notification. Some senior employees also were laid off, when those with the least seniority must be laid off first.

The demand she laid before the board was reinstatement of all employees and, if necessary, the beginning of a process which follows the contract.

Harrington said there have been no layoff notices issued, and no one has been laid off.

Clear Lake Campus Dean Bryon Bell tried to emphasize good news items to the group during his board report, noting they have an amazing group of new and returning students.

He said said the campus was poised to take the next steps in expanding student services and programs, but that's where the bad news came in.

“There's no money for growth, there's no money even to maintain the status quo,” he said.

As he ended his report, Bell noted, “The better days ahead cannot get here quickly enough.”

Harrington told the board that the administrative budgets had been cut in half, noting they were looking at “every nook and cranny.”

However, the board didn't agree to cut its $17,000 travel budget, voting down for the second meeting in a row a motion to do just that.

Associated Students of Yuba College President Juan Cervantes had challenged the board at its Sept. 9 meeting and again on Wednesday to cut the travel budget.

Budget challenges ahead

Alt went over the district's budget challenges. He said the community college system was looking at $649 million in cuts, which translated into 10 percent for Yuba College.

Yuba took a $2.3 million hit at the end of last year after cutting $500,000 in expenses out of its $48 million 2008-09 budget. The district also has been promised $570,000 from the system office that it's not likely to see, said Alt.

He recommended a 7-percent reserve, which is less than the 10-percent level the firm handling the Measure J facilities bond sales wants to reach a better credit rating.

Alt said if the board approved the budget and layoff recommendations – which he said during the meeting were among the worst he'd ever had to offer – that he would begin meeting with CSEA and the campus police associations to make reductions as part of bargaining.

During public comment, Douglas Harris, who teaches human services classes in Clearlake, spoke to the board on behalf of district's adjunct – or part-time – faculty.

Harris said they've lost 69 positions since the spring, with more to come. He estimated that adjunct faculty, many of them retirees who use the income to supplement their retirement, teach about half of the district's course offerings.

“That makes us very important. Without us what to do you have? So adjuncts matter,” Harris said.

Harris also brought the focus back around to students, without whom “none of us has any purpose here.”

He pointed out that classified employees are essential in providing support and services to students.

In order to protect their classified colleagues from cuts, Harris said the adjunct faculty were willing to consider sharing some kinds of concessions – in a proportional manner – to reduce the need for layoffs, an offer which drew enthusiastic response from the dozens of people who had sat for hours in the audience.

Mary Benson, another adjunct faculty member who teaches business classes at the Clear Lake campus, said next semester she'll be the 70th adjunct faculty member to be laid off.

Benson pointed out that as the district has neared the time for cuts it also has added six new administrative positions.

“It's hard for me to wrap my mind around why, when we're cutting so many services, administration can be growing,” she said.

The board, she added, should have considered cutting its travel budget because, despite it being only $17,000, it would have been a symbolic gesture that meant a lot to everybody.

The board voted unanimously to accept the budget before moving to accept the classified layoffs, presented in two separate resolutions based on how the positions were funded in the budget.

Teresa Paras, an instructional assistant at the Marysville campus, was one of the people whose jobs were on the chopping block. As she spoke, more than 40 fellow classified employees stood up in the audience.

Paras said her seniority might allow her to “bump” another less-senior employee, but that didn't make her happy. She said many of her colleagues are suffering from stress because of the situation.

She said the classified employees had offered the board suggestions they didn't take. Now, the board was considering laying off 56 employees. “How do you call that fair? It's devastating.”

Loretta Richard, another CSEA member targeted for layoff who works at Woodland Community College, emphasized that classified cuts hurt students.

“Balancing the budget on the backs of classified staff is a travesty,” she said.

The proposed cuts included laying off half of the Woodland campus' support staff, and the elimination of the tutoring center, which helps 500 students annually, Richard said.

Despite the outcry, the layoff resolutions both passed unanimously.

A woman from the back of the audience yelled “Shame!” after the votes.

Outside, as angry classified workers chanted “Shame on you!” to the board, Donna Veal-Spenser, a CSEA representative, wept, as other union members discussed what actions to take next.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

Judy Luchsinger (at right) announces her plans to run for Lake County Superintendent of Schools at a rally on the courthouse steps in Lakeport on Friday, October 16, 2009. Photo by Marie Newsom.



LAKE COUNTY – Another race is forming as the 2010 election season nears, this time for Lake County superintendent of schools.

Dr. Judy Luchsinger told a group of about 75 people at the Lake Court Courthouse in Lakeport on Friday afternoon that she intends to challenge incumbent Dave Geck in next year's election.

Luchsinger, 64, previously held the job for 16 years. She was defeated by Dr. Bill Cornelison in the 1994 election and left office in January of 1995.

Geck, who came up through the ranks of Cornelison's office, succeeded him after being elected in 2006.

Hearing of Luchsinger's intent to run, the 61-year-old Geck said Friday that he believes his office has been providing excellent services to the school districts around the county.

“I'm sure we'll have interesting conversations,” he said of the election challenge.

The election next year will determine who will oversee the district, which has 120 employees and a $16 million annual budget.

The superintendent's job has a five-step salary schedule, with a superintendent's pay determined by his Board of Trustees. Geck currently makes $122,000 a year, about two and a half times the salary of a county supervisor.

Luchsinger said she's running on a platform of fiscal accountability and developing quality management systems to improve the district's performance.

She said she's been asked by many people to please run again. “I thought long and hard about it,” before finally deciding to take it on, she said.

The recent grand jury report, which among other things faulted Geck for signing a form that allowed a former administrator to apply for a credential program for which she wasn't qualified, was a basis for many people asking her to run, said Luchsinger.

However, Luchsinger said she preferred to focus on what she can offer the educational office.

Thanks to her previous experience, “there will be no learning curve,” Luchsinger said.

Luchsinger received her doctorate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, before moving to Lake County 42 years ago.

She taught high school English and math classes in Lakeport, and her four children went through the local schools. Luchsinger now has a young grandson attending local schools, and she lives in Lakeport with her fiance.

While she was county superintendent, she started collaborative efforts to purchase insurance for all districts jointly and brought the Academic Decathlon program to local schools. During that time there also was a collaborative district purchasing program for all the schools.

After leaving elected office, Luchsinger started her own consulting firms. Today, she works with corporations on three continents on quality and environmental management systems.

She'd like to bring those same systems to local education.

Addressing the recent community discussion about school district consolidation, Luchsinger explained, “You have to know that a school district is sort of a center of a community.”

She said the county office of education allows districts to remain small by taking on some duties. “That's what a county office can do for a district,” she said.

Luchsinger said countywide consolidation “probably doesn't make sense,” although very small districts that are in close proximity might consider it because that's a scenario where it might work best.

Among Luchsinger's goals are reestablishing fiscal accountability in the Lake County Office of Education.

She said she's been concerned that the cost of running the office has exploded since she left office in 1995.

That's what she told her audience on the courthouse steps Friday.

While teachers are working harder than ever with larger class sizes, “the quality of education has been compromised,” she said.

Responding to Luchsinger's criticisms, Geck said, “When you look at the cost of the office you have to measure it against the service and programs provided.”

Luchsinger said she thoroughly enjoys working with teachers, and appreciates what can be accomplished when organizations develop a culture of performance.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – Lake County's superintendent of schools said he erred in signing a document with incorrect information that allowed a former administrator to apply for a credentialing program for which she was not eligible.

The issues were included in the latest grand jury report, released in July, and addressed in the Lake County Office of Education's formal response to the grand jury, released last month.

In that response to the grand jury, Dave Geck admits mistakes and misunderstandings, but also points to what he said are inaccuracies in the grand jury's report.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins confirmed that the grand jury contacted him about the case, which he investigated. Hopkins said he found no evidence of wrongdoing.

The grand jury asked Geck and his office to explain why he signed the document and provided inaccurate information in last year's response, and why he allowed Allison Hillix, the former director of career technical education, to remain in her job without immediately terminating her when it was discovered she didn't hold the appropriate qualifications.

Hillix, who no longer works for the Lake County Office of Education, would not comment when contacted by Lake County News.

The Lake County Office of Education's responses to the report included an admission that Geck showed “poor judgment” in not checking the accuracy of dates on an application Hillix made for a credentialing program.

The grand jury also recommended that all expenses reimbursed to both Hillix and Geck be audited. The report stated that Hillix was reimbursed $10,000 in expenses in an eight-month period.

Geck said he discussed the report with his board of trustees, who participated in the formal response.

“This reflects on the whole Office of Education,” said Geck.

The agency – which has an annual budget of about $16 million, $2 million of which is for supporting districts in business and human resources – has 120 employees, include 25 full-time staffers in the main office. It also has many part-time staffers.

It's been the focus of two years of grand jury investigative efforts and was mentioned in the last two grand jury reports.

“The initial complaint received by the Grand Jury suggested that a high-ranking administrative position was given to an individual that received administrative credentials under false pretenses,” the grand jury stated in its recent report.

In that report, the grand jury faulted Geck for signing a document attesting to the required teaching experience for Hillix, who was applying for a certification program. In her position she oversaw ROP courses, programs and services in the agency.

The certification would allow Hillix to be at an administrator level, said Geck. Without it, she could still be a manager, which would be at a lower step and pay level.

“I never denied that I messed up and made a mistake” on the certification of experience, Geck said.

Geck said Hillix had filled out the form and then had him sign it. “I didn't do a good job of checking that.”

Geck gets plenty of documents to sign, but said that's no excuse.

“When you make a mistake you have to pay the price,” Geck said.

As a result, Geck said his office now has a new administrative policy in which two administrators must verify such a form before it's signed. “That should not happen again,” said Geck.

The investigation by the grand jury's Public Services Committee also revealed that Geck authorized the $10,000 in expense reimbursements to Hillix.

The grand jury report further stated that Hillix had been reimbursed for alcohol purchases while at a conference, but the district's director of business services reported that no such alcohol purchase were reimbursed based on her review of the documentation, according to the district's response to the report.

Geck said the Lake County Office of Education has added a per diem limit. He said the change wasn't necessarily due to the grand jury's investigation, but rather was part of an effort to reduce expenses.

The grand jury report also faulted Geck for saying he didn't have the form in question, which the office's human resources director, Ed Skeen, later produced.

Geck said the issue was due to a misunderstanding, because he thought they were talking about another document. The formal response to the grand jury also maintains that the issue came down to a misunderstanding.

Last year, Geck's office had sent the grand jury a brochure on the Sacramento State program to clear up the misunderstanding. He said they plan to share the document with the grand jury again this year.

The grand jury also stated that Hillix was allowed to resign two months after the credential was invalidated, but Geck said that's incorrect. He said the grand jury had Hillix's personnel files and the resignation dates, along with the district's personnel policies, which his office sent them.

On Aug. 28, 2008, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing notified Geck's office via e-mail that the state university was requesting the credential be denied, according to the response to the grand jury's finding.

At the same time, Hillix discovered her credential was no longer listed on Sacramento State's credentialing Web site. Geck said she investigated appealing it at the start of September. The grand jury's findings held that Hillix should have been immediately terminated.

Skeen then sent the grand jury a notice on Sept. 10, 2008, saying that the credential was invalidated, Geck said.

Hillix wasn't able to file an appeal due to a statute of limitations issues. “Once she wasn't able to appeal she resigned,” said Geck.

It was 36 days between the time Geck's office received notice that the credential was being invalidated to Hillix's resignation, not two months as the grand jury said, according to the Lake County Office of Education's response to the findings.

Based on the Lake County Office of Education's attorney's opinion, “our delay in terminating the employee was based on providing the employee with sufficient time to pursue an appeal, and to not compromise any 'due process' rights that the employee might have,” the response stated.

A document provided by Skeen showed that the career technical education director position, which was paid $82,325 annually, became vacant upon Hillix's resignation on Oct. 6, 2008, after she was in the position for 217 days.

Geck said she continued nonadministrative employment “on a very limited, temporary, timesheet basis to complete some projects for the ROP office,” and is no longer employed in any capacity within the office.

During the investigation, the grand jury drew on its rarely used subpoena power to call in Geck and several others. He said he doesn't know how many subpoenas were issued, but became aware that some people in his office were called to testify more than once. In all, the grand jury report noted it drew from 42 hours of testimony in its final report.

Geck's testimony, which was the basis of this year's grand jury report, actually was given in the first half of 2008 under subpoena, he said.

Based on the grand jury's report 2007-08 report, the District Attorney's Office subpoenaed district documents and said they would follow up. Geck said if the document signing had been fraudulent, he would have heard from the District Attorney's Office.

Hopkins said his office, along with county counsel and the presiding judge, act as advisors to the grand jury.

The grand jury, Hopkins said, “did come to us and ask us to investigate potential criminal charges.”

He continued, “We did a lot of extra investigation beyond what they had done in regard to that and determined there was no basis for filing criminal charges.”

Geck said he doesn't believe further grand jury investigations are in the offing. “As far as we know this is a final report.”

He said he felt the structure of the investigation created an adversarial process, and said he would have preferred it if people who had issues with the agency came to him directly.

“I'm just looking for a way to make this a positive process,” said Geck.

He added, “Our goal is to get better and improve at all times.”

Geck said he doesn't want the mistake he made to denigrate the entire Lake County Office of Education, and he's concerned about the community's perception. “We have great people doing great programs.”

He continued, “I did make a mistake but I don't want to make that an excuse.”

The Lake County Office of Education also is implementing grand jury recommendations, including explaining the issues with the credential program and undertaking an audit of the expenses reimbursed to both Geck and Hillix, according to its response document.

In September 2008 the Lake County Office of Education initiated an audit on their own, Geck said. That audit was included in the agency's regular annual audit.

That audit, by Robertson & Associates, was expected to be done by this past Sept. 4. However, Geck said that the auditing firm is backlogged and the document hasn't yet been delivered, although he's expecting it soon.

Geck asserted that, overall, this latest grand jury report was “positive by omission,” since many issues mentioned in last year's report didn't arise in this latest report.

Brock Falkenberg now holds Hillix's old job.

“I think things are going well,” said Geck.

All of the ROP programs got a 15 percent cut in 2008-09 and are looking at another 5 percent cut for 2009-10. Geck said he hopes the programs aren't further reduced.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

The rainfall led to a downed tree that hit Cobb resident Roger Kinney's home on Tuesday, October 13, 2009. Photo courtesy of Roger Kinney.



LAKE COUNTY – Tuesday's heavy rains were welcomed by many around the county, but the big fall storm also brought with it car crashes, landslides and downed trees.

The National Weather Service predicted between 3 and 7 inches of rain would fall through Wednesday morning. A flash flood watch also was in effect through Wednesday morning for northern Lake County.

Concerns about the storm and its impacts around the state led Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office to direct state departments and agencies to prepare to respond to emergencies.

Caltrans crews were clearing drains and debris and posting warning signs where possible, and officials urged motorists to delay trips when possible and drive very carefully if they are on the road as crews may not have reached a particular area yet.

Cal Fire officials also reported that crews were on standby for emergency response, and had been busy responding to numerous vehicle crashes and downed power lines around the region on Tuesday.

The slippery road conditions led to numerous crashes around the Lake County, according to the California Highway Patrol. Late in the day, one woman's pickup was reported to be partially in the lake at a location along the Northshore.

“The roads are pretty slick out there,” said Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins, whose department had responded to some of the accidents reported on Tuesday.

In areas along Highways 20 and 29 loose boulders were reported to be blocking lanes, the CHP reported.

Lake County's Department of Public Works reported that Elk Mountain Road at Soda Creek was closed during the day to all traffic due to a landslide. The road was expected to be reopened by midnight Wednesday morning.

The wet weather also led to some downed trees.

One, in particular, fell on Cobb resident Roger's Kinney's home on Tuesday. Kinney said he wasn't sure of the exact damage caused by the falling tree.

One of the storm's important benefits is replenishing Clear Lake and the county's creeks.

US Geological Survey stream gauges showed dramatic increases in stream volume in many of the areas around Lake County. Clear Lake's level also showed a marked improvement over the course of Tuesday.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

The former location of Lakeside Hospital has been the Lakeside Health Center's home for 10 years. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




LAKEPORT – It's been 10 years since a dilapidated former hospital was given new life as a renovated health clinic, and on Friday a gathering commemorated that transformation and a decade of health services offered to those in need.

Lakeside Health Center, located at 5335 Lakeshore Blvd., inhabits a building that once housed Lakeside Hospital.

Since 1999 the clinic – one of three run by Mendocino Community Health Clinic Inc., which also has facilities in Willits and Ukiah – has offered a variety of health services to low-income families.

Clinic and organization employees and community members gathered Friday to celebrate its decade of service at an anniversary luncheon.

John Pavoni, chair of the Mendocino Community Health Clinic Inc. Board of Directors, said the old hospital was built in 1949 and had 33 beds.

In the late 1970s the hospital moved next door to the current Sutter Lakeside Hospital location, and the building then housed a convalescent home before sitting vacant for a time, Pavoni said.

When the clinic organization began looking for a location in Lake County, they found the empty building, which had fallen into a state of disrepair, with broken out windows.

Thanks to a $1 million loan from US Department of Agriculture's Rural Development, they renovated the building and opened for business.

Today it offers dental, medical services and psychiatric services to both children and adults. They also have obstetrics, which Chief Executive Officer Lin Hunter wants to expand.

Services are available in both English and Spanish.

Pavoni said Lakeside Health Center is a major local treatment center for HIV and hepatitis C, and it participates in national collaborations to track the most effective treatments for those diseases as well as diabetes and heart disease.

They've voluntarily pursued accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAHO), said Pavoni. “It's quite a bit of work to do.”

The Lakeport clinic sees hundreds of people a day. Numbers for Thursday showed close to 60 regular doctor's visits, 52 pediatric patients and 47 dental visits, according to Chief Operating Officer Carole Press.

“The regular medical community is afraid of us,” because they perceive the clinic as taking patients, said Pavoni.

But Press added, “We're really a safety net provider.”

As a federally qualified health center, Lakeside Health Center offers a sliding payment scale for patients, and also takes Medicare and Medi-Cal, Health Families and some private insurance, Press said.

Hunter estimated that the Lakeside Health Center has between 6,000 and 7,000 patients that it serves, with a total of 24,000 patients in the organization's entire Lake and Mendocino County service area.

Hunter said Mendocino Community Health Clinic Inc. recently lost $2 million in Medi-Cal reimbursements for 15,000 visits. The organization's total budget is about $21 million.

The clinic's main facility has 10 to 15 exam rooms and a 10-chair dental facility.

“They're always full,” Hunter said of the dental department. “It's a huge need in this community.”

They're especially proud of their pediatric care facility. Located behind the main building in a newly renovated and expanded facility, the pediatrics center opened in February.

There, Dr. Marlene Quilala sees children in exam rooms decorated with colorful floor tiles and exam tables shaped like dinosaurs, hippos and school buses.

At the luncheon on Friday Heidi Dickerson of Congressman Mike Thompson's office presented the clinic with a plaque commemorating its service to the community in its first decade.

For more information about the center visit www.mchcinc.org/centers/lakeside-center.php or call 707-263-7725.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .




Lakeside Health Center's colorful pediatric medical clinic has dinosaur- and hippo-shaped exam tables to make children feel more comfortable. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




The clinic sees thousands of patients annually. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKE COUNTY – The annual Lake County Burn Ban for 2009 will end on Monday, Oct. 19, with Cal Fire declaring an end to fire hazard season.

Lake County’s joint fire and Air Quality Management District’s open burning program has incorporated both fire safety and air quality management since 1987.

Air Quality Management District officials reported that the program has greatly contributed to the community’s superior fire safety and air quality.

Burn permits are required for all burning in the Lake County Air Basin. Contact your local fire protection agency for a burn permit or the Lake County Air Quality Management District to obtain a smoke management plan.

A smoke management plan is required for all burns over 20 acres in size, multi-day burns, standing vegetation burns, and whole tree or vine removals over an acre.

A fee is required for all burn permits, payable at the time the permit is issued. Agricultural and residential burn permits, as well as smoke management plans, are $22 and land development/lot clearing burn permits are $68.

Only clean, dry vegetation that was grown on the property may be burned. Residential burn permits require a one-acre or larger lot, a burn location that is located at least 100 feet from all neighbors and 30 feet from any structure.

Lot clearing burns require special permits available at your local fire agency. Burn only the amount of material that can be completely consumed during the allowed burning hours. Read your “burn permit” carefully and follow all the conditions.

Each day of the burning season is designated as a “no burn day,” a “limited burn day,” or a “permissive burn day.”

On “no burn days” all open burning is prohibited, unless an exemption has been given for a specific burn. Burning is generally allowed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. only on permissive burn days. Read your permit for allowed hours of burning.

To determine the daily “burn day” status, use the contact information found on your issued burn permit. Consider using the vegetative waste pickup provided with your waste collection services or composting as an alternative to burning leaves.

Contact your local fire safe council for chipping information. For south county go to www.southlakefiresafecouncil.org or your local fire station, for all other areas of the county call 707-279-2968.

The law requires that an able-bodied adult supervise all fires. Burning even a small amount of illegal material can result in toxic ash and smoke that contain cancer-causing substances and contribute to other health problems. Burning prohibited materials can also result in significant fines. Some people have smoke allergies and/or respiratory problems and their health is degraded by even small amounts of smoke.

Please be considerate of your neighbors. A permit does not allow you to create health problems for others and you can be liable for fines and other costs associated with your burning.

Lake County Air Quality Management District thanks the community for its cooperation this fire season.

UKIAH – A man who attacked a Mendocino County Sheriff's sergeant and subsequently engaged in fight with law enforcement officers died after he was tasered.

Lt. Rusty Noe of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said the fight involving the male subject – who was not identified – occurred on Monday at 8:30 a.m.

The enraged male subject walked up to a Mendocino County Sheriff's sergeant, who was parked in the 700 block of S. State Street in Ukiah, and attacked the sergeant with his hands, Noe said.

Noe said the man struck the sergeant in the face and head numerous times, but the sergeant was, at some point, able to deploy his Taser, causing the suspect to fall to the ground.

The suspect continued to fight and was able to resume his attack on the sergeant when a sergeant from the Ukiah Police Department arrived to assist, Noe said.

The fight between the suspect and the two sergeants continued and then the Ukiah officer used his Taser to subdue the suspect, according to Noe.

Noe said both officers were able to handcuff the suspect and were waiting for additional assistance when the suspect quit breathing.

Fire department personnel responded and the suspect was transported to the Ukiah Valley Medical Center where life saving efforts were continued. The efforts were not successful and the suspect was pronounced dead, said Noe.

Detectives from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, the Ukiah Police and the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office responded and conducted a combined investigation into the death. Noe said the District Attorney's Office is the primary agency in the investigation.

The identity of the suspect is pending the notification of the next of kin, Noe said. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave and are not identified at this time pending the investigation.

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