Thursday, 18 July 2024


Volunteers pick up trash along Highway 53 on Wednesday, May 6, 2009. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.




LAKE COUNTY – Areas along Highway 53 are cleaner thanks to a statewide Litter Removal and Enforcement Day held Wednesday.

Caltrans, California Highway Patrol and Keep California Beautiful joined forces in the cleanup effort, which is meant to address the ongoing problem of litter along state highways.

Caltrans District 1 spokesman Phil Frisbie said 30 Adopt-A-Highway volunteers helped Caltrans employees remove approximately 100 bags of trash from along Highway 53.

Caltrans Adopt-A-Highway volunteers and groups who participated in the Litter Removal and Enforcement Day in Lake County were Debbie Ogulin, Galilee Lutheran Church, Konocti Vista Casino and Lake County Stonewall Democrats.

Frisbie said the overall amount of trash found alongside the road this year appeared about the same as in previous years, with some larger trash items already having been removed because Caltrans maintenance crews have started mowing, and large items can damage their mowers.

On Wednesday Caltrans reported that it spent $57 million in 2008 alone to pick up trash along California state highways, where litter not only is unsightly but gives rise to pollution.

Litter commonly found on highways includes food wrappers, napkins, tires, magazines, motor oil and anti-freeze containers, and soda cans and other recyclables, Frisbie reported. Highway littering carries fines up to $1,000.

Caltrans reported that a primary source of litter is untarped truck loads.

“Litter is a big issue, but we can all be a part of the solution,” said Charlie Fielder, Caltrans District 1 director. “Please hold on to your garbage until it can be disposed of properly. If you use a truck to haul loads, tarp your load to keep it contained.”

For more information on the Caltrans Adopt-A-Highway program, call Nita Brake-Mills at 707-441-5761.

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



Piles of dumped trash that Caltrans found along Highway 53 during the cleanup effort on Wednesday, May 6, 2009. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.




Some of the 100 bags of trash volunteers and Caltrans removed from along Highway 53 on Wednesday, May 6, 2009. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.




A Caltrans sign alerts drivers to the cleanup effort on Wednesday, May 6, 2009. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.




One load of trash and other debris removed during the statewide Litter Removal and Enforcement Day held Wednesday, May 6, 2009. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.

LAKE COUNTY – The loss of homes to foreclosure across the United States, California and Lake County is showing no signs of slowing, and local Realtors are warning of another wave of foreclosed homes that is about to come onto the market.

The latest news from Irvine-based RealtyTrac shows that foreclosure activity nationwide increased 9 percent in the first quarter of this year over the fourth quarter of 2008, and was up 24 percent from the first quarter of 2008.

In all, there were 803,489 properties – or one home in every 159 homes across the United States – that had some sort of foreclosure filing against them, whether it be default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions, in the first three months of this year.

The report noted that March foreclosure activity was up 17 percent over February, and 46 percent over March of 2008.

In Lake County, there were 662 foreclosure filings in the first quarter, up 68 percent from the 393 filings in 2008's fourth quarter, and a rise of 108 percent from the 318 filings in the first quarter of 2008, according to numbers RealtyTrac provided to Lake County News.


The actual number of Lake County homes repossessed by banks was 125 in the first quarter, up from 68 in the same period in 2008, but down from 136 in the fourth quarter of last year.


James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said they saw a record level of foreclosure activity in March, more than 12 percent higher than the next highest month on record.

“Since much of this activity was in new foreclosure actions, it suggests that many lenders and
servicers were holding off on executing foreclosures due to industry moratoria and legislative delays,” Saccacio said.

He said it's also likely that the drop in bank repossession activity can attributed to these processing delays, rather than to any of the prevention programs currently in place.

Saccacio added that it’s very likely that the number of bank repossessions will increase again now that most of the moratoria have been lifted.

The top 10 states for foreclosures during the first quarter of 2009 were, in order, California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and Virginia.

RealtyTrac said that California accounted for nearly 29 percent of the nation's total filings for the first quarter of this year, with 230,915 properties receiving foreclosure filings.

California's foreclosure activity increased 35 percent from the previous quarter and 36 percent from 2008's first quarter.

Local Realtors report on trends

Anita McKee, president of the Lake County Association of Realtors, said Realtors are continuing to see a lot of activity.

“The foreclosure market is really bad at the moment,” she said. “Some of the agents are getting four a day, every day.”

McKee said they're hearing that the banks are holding back on another group of foreclosures set to come onto the market until the current foreclosure are sold and cleared.

“We're expecting a lot more to come,” said McKee.

Some areas of the county are being hit especially hard, including the Clear Lake Riviera, where McKee said some homes are selling for 40 and 50 percent less than they would ave in 2006.

With those drops in value, it's very hard for homeowners who are not in foreclosure to get their money out of the homes, said McKee.

That's when they try short sales. McKee said the banks are being more cooperative when it comes to accepting offers for less than the amount that is owed. She said the bigger banks, such as Chase, are attempting to work with homeowners.

McKee said there are a lot of opportunities for buyers, including Federal Housing Administration loan programs and the new $18,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers or anyone who hasn't bought a home in the last three years. There also is an increase in lease-option purchases, which allow prospective buyers to build up their credit.

Lots and land aren't moving, and few builders are building new homes, said McKee, whose business deals with high-end properties. She said the high-end market hasn't been greatly impacted; she recently closed a sale on a $1.3 million lakefront home.

Many investors are buying up homes under $200,000, but homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 range aren't moving, said McKee.

Clearlake Realtor Dave Hughes, who is focusing on foreclosures in the south county, said he's seen a small spike in the number of foreclosure listings, and is expecting to see more foreclosures coming onto the market in the next 30 to 60 days.

Hughes said he believes Hidden Valley Lake is the most active area in Lake County for foreclosures. “It saw the best surge in values when things were good.”

Over the last six to eight months, there have been about 105 active listings in Hidden Valley Lake, said Hughes. As of last Thursday, 50 of those were in escrow.

“That's huge,” he said. “It was running around 30.”

He estimated about 70 percent of the foreclosed homes he's listing are vacant, with the remaining 30 percent having the owner or tenants.

“We will pay people to move,” he said.

Depending the company – with Fannie Mae paying the highest amounts – tenants or owners could receive between $1,000 to $4,000 to move within 30 days.

Hughes said he's seeing the average sales price decline, which has led to a lot of sales activity, particularly in the Hidden Valley Lake area. That's aided by low interest rates for buyers.

“If it's the right price when it hits the market, you’ll see multiple offers,” Hughes said.

Hughes said he recently listed a five-acre property with a modular home for $173,000; by the next day he had three offers. In Riviera West, he valued a foreclosed home at $195,000, but the bank's asset manager asked him to drop the sales price, which he did, to $175,000. He received six offers and it's now in escrow for $200,000.

He said he's seeing loan options for prospective buyers including a 100-percent US Department of Agriculture loan and FHA loans with 3.5 percent down. He added that he's seeing a lot more of the latter.

“It’s a good time to buy,” said Hughes. “Even if things go down a lite more, you’re not going to get hurt that bad.”

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



I don’t want people to think that I am some sort of cooking savant. Every exhilarating recipe I create is the culmination of 10 or more trials that my family chokes down which are edible at best, but sometimes are just horrid to look at.

My love of cooking originated in the garden and my attempts to create the best tasting ingredients that developed into a love of cooking those things. So I have no formal culinary training to my credit, just years of trial and error and error and error.

Recently, for instance, I saw a covey of quail running around and they stuck in the back of my mind. I’m sure that most of us have seen quail running around our neighborhoods here in the county. But something that most people wouldn’t know is that most of what you are seeing is feathers. Once they are plucked clean the body is quite tiny and you get only a couple of bites of meat off of each bird, so you have to give a person several quail on their plate in order to have a meaningful meal.

I picked up some quail at the Nylander’s Red and White that I found in their frozen meats freezer. I love the taste of quail and knew I could have some fun fixing it. I noticed that there were several more packages of them so if I came up with something I really liked I could come back for more and repeat the recipe.

My train of thought was straight and fast, but as it turned out it was a little too straight and fast; my mind completely missed several pitfalls in my planning. Just keep reading and don’t drink any coffee right now or it may end up on your monitor.

I thought, “Deep fried quail!” This seemed logical since the quail are so small and the hollow of the body cavity will allow the oil to cook from the inside as well. I thought “How quick and easy can you get?”

So I dredged the quail in rice flour in order to make the skin crispy and then dropped two of the whole quail into hot corn oil. As the quail cooked the legs rose up high and spread out wide into a downright pornographic appearance.

I also didn’t take into account that while rice flour does get crispy it doesn’t brown like wheat flour does. The quail cooking so quickly didn’t give the rice flour any time to get any color. So now not only have my quail distorted into unfortunate positions but they are pasty gray in appearance, further making an unpalatable picture.

As two of the quail finished cooking I put them on a plate in the oven to stay warm and I proceeded to cook the next two. As those two finish I quickly toss them on the plate with the first pair and start the final two.

This method was working out very well and I was fairly pleased, until I threw the final two quail on the plate and removed it from the oven and see to my horror that I have created a Lilliputian orgy scene that would have easily graced one of Caligula’s banquets with honor.

I have several more explanations of what this plate looked like but they would never make it past any of my editors. It’s pretty bad when Caligula is part of the family friendly description!

As I look at this plate of entwined ashen gray birds, I’m at a loss for words. I can’t serve this ... I can barely look at this! All of a sudden I feel like I’m on some sort of reality cooking show and the people at home are watching and laughing at my misfortune, just waiting to see what I do next.

I quickly race to the spice rack and proclaim in victory, “Paprika!” Not only will it hide the pasty color of the quail, but it is smoked paprika and will add a great new layer of flavor. I start pulling the quail apart from their tangle and start shaking the paprika everywhere, praying nobody can actually see this x-rated comedy scene. Meanwhile, I’m steaming the broccoli and mashing the potatoes, knowing full well that those two things are going to be the mainstay of everyone’s meals. In the back of my mind there is this little Han Solo quote repeating over and over in my head, “It’s not my fault!”

My family is now assembled for dinner, and I admit my misfortunes up front and asked for a measure of kindness and please, nobody comment on them. My petting-zoo-vegetarian daughter says quietly, “Don’t serve me any quail please,” and I experience a silent sigh of relief that I don’t have to put the quail on her plate and have them accidentally intertwine into any version of what I just saw.

The quail were actually delicious, despite their peculiar appearance. They were perfectly cooked, but they were just too much work for my family. My daughter wouldn’t eat something that she can empathize with, and my wife can’t get past the amount of labor needed for such a small amount of food.

So this first attempt at quail was a failure, but one I learned a LOT from. I plan to make it again but next time, instead of hitting the ground running with an idea before thinking it through, I’ve already started planning my next attempt. Although I probably want to deep fry them again, next time they will definitely be de-boned first. This was my most recent and dramatic food mistake.  

Then there was my idea of grilling bacon. Come on, think about it: the flavor of bacon and the grill? How can this not already be on every street corner? Well, it turns out that even if you grill the bacon over indirect heat to avoid letting the drippings hit the coals and causing flare-ups, the amount of drippings will eventually become so large and get hot enough that they spontaneously ignite into a fireball and smoke cloud that could make China accuse us of an unauthorized missile launch they witnessed by satellite.

Stuffed squid? Never again. Not only did I spend time making the stuffing and then piping into the tiny opening of the squid body but I tried the new technique that the “TV chef” recommended, consisting of turning every tube inside out before filling in order to keep the bodies from shrinking too much.

This of course added another half an hour to the labor of gutting and cleaning each individual squid, but it turns out that it doesn’t keep the tubes from shrinking at all. They shrink just as much and you have wasted all of this time doing it. The squid shrinks down to bite-size appetizers, so when it comes time to serve I end up presenting what appears to be a plate full of bullets.

I try to purchase a variety of foods for my family but unfortunately the only thing that my wife and daughter both like to eat is chocolate, so no matter what I cook someone isn’t going to like dinner.

In my efforts to find things that everybody will eat I’ve tried cooking some more exotic things. This has only led us to the to the point where my family doesn’t trust me not to sneak freakish things like alligator meat into a soup, so when I am serving dinner I must now announce every item used in preparation of the meal as if I am in the confessional: “Bless me Father for I have sinned, there are anchovies in the sauce.”

Julie Hoskins of Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake can confirm that I am not the next Gordon Ramsay or Thomas Keller. Every month at her “Chef’s Table” night we have a cooking competition, and I never win. I’m OK with that (sort of) and actually hope I don’t win (so I tell myself). I’m more interested in the competition aspect and surprising people – sometimes a little too much – with the dishes that I create.

My lamb chops with watermelon sauce and my dessert made from bacon were meant to catch people off guard in the spirit of experimentation, more than to win the competition (yeah, that’s it). I mean, if she wants me to make a soup out of dill pickles I’ll try it ... it’s not like I have to eat it.

Hey! I just thought of another thing I could make to shock the judges: I’ll call it my “Roman Passion Party Quail.” It won’t win (again), but it will astonish the judges. Besides, I think the other contestants cheat anyway.

I’ve made many mistakes in my kitchen, but it’s all part of the development process. I’ve got some recipes that are still in the development stage, like the lime and tequila chili and the barbecue ribs in chocolate sauce. Hopefully I’ll have more successes in the future and you won’t hear about too many of the failures of nuclear proportion.

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.

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced legislation to protect the nation’s children from preventable illnesses, which he believes will help save lives and reduce health care costs.

The bill requires individual and group insurers, employee benefit plans, and health savings accounts to cover preventive benefits for children without copayments or deductibles.

“My bill would ensure that all kids will be able to go to the doctor for the kinds of preventive check-ups that keep kids healthy and cut health care costs by reducing the need for extended hospitalization and more expensive treatments,” said Thompson.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends preventive care measures for children including immunizations, newborn and infant examinations, and early screening for medical conditions and illnesses.

However, health plans do not uniformly cover such preventive services. For example, one in four Americans with employer-sponsored insurance do not have coverage for regular infant and toddler check-ups. Similarly, one in five employer health care plans do not cover childhood immunizations.

“As families struggle to make ends meet in this deepening recession, the last thing they should have to worry about is whether they can afford to bring their children to the doctor for regular preventive-check ups,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. “Every child deserves a healthy and safe start to life, and Congressman Thompson’s bill would make this a reality by requiring health care plans to cover preventive care for children. This legislation would make it more affordable for families to bring their children to the doctor by eliminating copayments and deductibles for children's preventive care services.”

While some states mandate coverage of certain preventive services, there is no national policy that guarantees children access to necessary preventive care.

While in the California State Senate, Congressman Thompson successfully passed legislation that requires many health care plans to cover preventive care for children.

Congressman Thompson’s new bill would further extend and expand this benefit, and eliminate copayments and deductibles for this type of care.

LAKE COUNTY – Starting later this month, a survey will take place that looks at the high speed Internet services offered in Lake and neighboring counties.

The Center for Economic Development (CED), California State University, Chico Research Foundation, will conduct a telephone survey to households and businesses in Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Sutter and Yuba counties.

The survey will be utilized to identify areas throughout the region that are served, underserved or unserved by high speed Internet service.

Economic development and education administrators, Internet service providers (ISPs), local government leaders and other business professionals will be able to utilize the information to make decisions about the services they provide to those in the upstate region of California.

High speed Internet is a critical component of economic, education and business development.

This project is funded by the California Emerging Technology Fund, which was established and funded by the SBC-AT&T and Verizon-MCI merger agreements approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in November 2005.

The fund focuses on “achieving ever-present access to broadband and advanced services in California, particularly in underserved communities through the use of existing and emerging technologies.”

CED has contracted with the Program for Applied Research and Evaluation at the CSU Chico Research Foundation to conduct the telephone survey. All individual answers will be kept strictly confidential.

The survey will continue through the summer with the goal of obtaining complete surveys for 1,200 households and 400 businesses.

If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Don Krysakowski, assistant director at the CED, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 530-898-4598.

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.

The power of philosophy
floats through my head
light like a feather
heavy as lead …

Bob Marley, circa 1978

Bob Marley, Robert Nesta Marley, really impacted my consciousness when his music broke through the airwaves here in America.

The song “I Shot The Sheriff” really resonated with me. It seemed to suggest an allegiance to a higher truth. The narrator in the story line of the lyric, readily and easily admits to shooting Sheriff John Brown. He asserts the sheriff hated him for reasons unknown. When the sheriff came aiming for him, he shot the sheriff first in self defense, “reflexes got the best of him.”

But our storyteller asserts, he didn’t shoot the deputy as the headlines screamed. The law and ensuing manhunt wants to pin the death of the deputy on him. Wow, I thought, the writer of this song admits to the seeming graver offense, the shooting of the boss, the sheriff, but not to the underling, the deputy. It seemed to me a liar wouldn’t make such a startling confession.

Having personally seen how the wheels of justice could spin in defiance of truth, I was an instant Bob Marley convert. Marley appeared at a very crucial time in history. We had witnessed political and artistic repression (Cointelpro), assassinations (The Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X), not to mention the “brainwash education” that Marley wrote about “to make us the fool.”

Of course, this is not a diatribe against the law. What we are talking about is the interpretation of it to the detriment of the unrich.

I actually talked to Bob Marley on the phone during the Wailers second American tour. A travel agent friend of mine called me one day with the information that Bob Marley & The Wailers were staying at the Cable Car Motel in South San Francisco. My friend suggested that since I loved Bob Marley so much, I should call him at the motel.

I took my friend up on his suggestion. To my surprise, they plugged me right into Marley’s room. When he got on the phone, I was speechless! I finally blurted something about how much I dug the music. He responded with an emphatic, “Yeh.”

To be continued next week …

Keep prayin’, Keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!


Upcoming cool events:
The Spinners in Concert, May 16, at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino, 1545 E. Highway 20, Nice. 1-800-809-3636.
T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at



LAKE COUNTY – A group that's created a program to help end homelessness among the community's children will hold its major fundraiser of the year this weekend.

The Friends of Safe House of Lake County will hold the second annual golf tournament, dinner and an auction on Saturday, May 9, at the Rob Roy Golf Club in Cobb.

Registration starts at 11:15 a.m. and tee off is at 12 p.m. The format for the golf tournament is a four-person scramble. Dinner immediately follows the tournament with a live auction, silent auction and raffle. Kathy Fowler Chevrolet will once again donate a car for a hole-in-one prize.

Safe House, a project of the Lake County Community Action Agency (LCCAA), began two years ago. The newly-created program is providing transitional, short-term residence and a comprehensive program of services for Lake County runaway, homeless, and “throwaway” youth between 13 and 17 years old, according to the organizers.

Dr. William MacDougall, superintendent of Konocti Unified School District, reported that the number of identified homeless school-age children was over 600 as of May 2008. This equals 6 percent of the total school enrollment of nearly 10,000. Many of those children are below the social service radar so that the actual number of homeless youth is believed to be well above 600.

LCCAA Executive Director Georgina Lehne credited MacDougall with getting the Safe House effort off the ground, saying it was his dream and goal.

Lehne said the Safe House effort has raised more than $23,000. About $19,000 of that came from last year's golf tournament.

She estimated that about $100,000 needs to be raised for the effort, which is already well under way, thanks to the donation of a home in Clearlake to house children in need. The Safe House opened its doors in March.

The house currently is at capacity, and housing six children, she said.

“It means so much to this community to have this house,” said Lehne.

She said the Safe House is being run under the auspices of the LCCAA's New Beginnings program, said Lehne. The salary of the woman who oversees the program is being offset by her work with New Beginnings client groups.

That means that 100-percent of the funds raised for the Safe House go directly to the effort and not salaries, said Lehne.

Lehne said the community's support for the Safe House has been outstanding, with service clubs to individuals stepping up.

“Everybody in this whole community is contributing in one form or another all year round,” she said.

Lehne added, “It's wonderful to see the community come together to support this. They can't do enough for us.”

There are still spots open for the Saturday golf tournament, said Lehne. If you don't want to play golf, you can come to the dinner in the evening or just send in a donation. “Anything is appreciated.”

For more information about the fundraiser call Carol Germenis, 707-928-4280; Sandi Hearn, 707-928-5713, or Lehne, 707-995-2920.

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to the Lake County Community Action Agency, P.O. Box 969, Clearlake, CA 95422. Additional information regarding the Safe House program may be obtained by calling LCCAA at 707-995-2920.

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

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared May 3 through 9 Wildfire Awareness Week, to remind Californians to be vigilant as the state approaches peak fire season and to highlight the importance of the homeowner’s role in preparing their property ahead of time to survive a wildfire.

Cal Fire will be conducting fire safety inspections throughout the state over the coming weeks to educate homeowners of the importance of wildfire safety and to ensure that homes have 100 feet of Defensible Space.

“Wildfire Awareness Week is designed to remind Californians of their ability to make their homes fire safe,” said Chief Del Walters, Cal Fire director. “Fire prevention is team effort that starts with homeowners preparing well in advance of a fire.”

This year’s Wildfire Awareness Week theme is centered on the idea that fire protection is a team effort, “You provide the DEFENSE, We provide the OFFENSE.”

The first part of fire prevention starts with homeowner’s creating 100 feet of Defensible Space around their homes.

The second is Cal Fire’s part when a wildfire does occur, the department has a large arsenal of different equipment to protect Californians.

Cal Fire will use Wildfire Awareness Week as an opportunity to answer questions about fire safety and how to be better prepared in an emergency situation.

To view the full governor’s proclamation:

For more information on Wildfire Awareness Week, visit

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County’s air has received recognition once again from the American Lung Association.

The association’s 2009 State of the Air report, released this week, gave Lake County an “A” rating.

The report ranked Lake County as having the lowest small-particulate concentrations in California and third-lowest airborne small-particulate concentrations in the entire United States.  Nationally, Lake County was right behind Gallatin, Mont., and Laramie, Wyo., which tied for best air. Last year the county was ranked No. 9.

It’s the best ranking the county has received since the American Lung Association began doing the reports several years ago, according to , said county Air Pollution Control Officer Doug Gearhart.

Lake was the only California county to rank in the top 10 cleanest counties in the United States for particulate matter, and was one of only 12 counties that did not have any days of ozone air pollution levels in the unhealthful range, Gearhart said. Among the top 25, the only other California counties to be ranked were Mendocino, Inyo and Nevada.

The report looked at the years 2005, 2006 and 2007, said Gearhart. During those three years, zone and small particles in the air never exceeded allowable levels.

Information on 2008, which saw Lake County skies clouded by thick smoke from wildland fires, wasn’t included, he added.

“We’re in our 20th year of clean air attainment in Lake County,” said Gearhart.

He credited the program’s success to strong community support and cooperation of local agencies, the local fire protection districts, Cal Fire, the local agricultural community and industry.

That community support, Gearhart added, has enabled the county to comply in full with Federal Clean Air Standards and the more rigorous California standards for ozone and other air pollutants for the past 20 years.

The clean air rankings have become controversial in recent years, with some area residents saying that they don’t believe the county’s high air quality rankings are representative of the true state of the air.

Gearhart explained that the county has three separate particulate monitoring stations in the county – in Lakeport, the Glenbrook/Cobb area and Anderson Springs – but is only required to have one.

Over the years, the county has established a burn ban beginning on May 1 and running through the fall, which is credited as another way of keeping the local air clean.

Gearhart said illegal burning still happens, but it’s becoming less frequent, with only about 2 percent of the local population being found illegally burning. He said educating people about burning rules, and making sure they understanding that the rules are there to protect them and their neighbors, has helped reduce the activity.

“The biggest challenge that we typically have is keeping people educated,” said Gearhart. “A lot of people don’t remember what it took to get here.”

Lake’s air basin gets help from coastal breezes, which can push out smoke and other particulate, but Gearhart doesn’t think that factor is a major one in determining local air quality. He pointed to Mendocino and Sonoma counties, which are on the coast but whose air quality isn’t as good as Lake County’s.

The Lake County Air Quality Management District, which has four full-time staffers and several part-timers, monitors air quality year-round, said Gearhart.

The majority of the district’s funding coming from permits – especially industry such as geothermal and gas stations. Gearhart said the district also receives funding from the state to enforce state air toxic control measures with a small amount of funding from the Environmental Protection Agency for specific monitoring.

“Our resources are fine,” he said. “We’re not feeling the same pinch that most agencies are feeling. We’re just feeling delays when we deal with the state, but our funding sources are still there, are still present.”

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

From left, Matt Sheridan of GMAC's Bay Area offices, Kathy Fowler, Dannielle Ward and Kathy Fowler Chevrolet sales manager Tim Wynacht in Lakeport on Monday, May 4, 2009. The presentation was to give Ward the keys to her 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt and a check for $6,000 to cover taxes for winning the car through GMAC Finance's

LOWER LAKE – One of Lake County's best known criminal defense attorneys has died.

Stephen Tulanian, a one-time candidate for judge who was known for taking on some of the toughest criminal defense cases in the local courts, died suddenly on May 2. He was 58 years old.

Tulanian's untimely death left friends and fellow attorneys stunned.

Steve Elias, who has worked as a co-counsel with Tulanian, said he had seen him on Friday night during a get-together with friends at Tulanian's Lower Lake home.

Elias said Tulanian, who he said seemed like “the healthiest guy alive,” was his usual energetic, vital self on Friday, so his death the next day was a shock. Lake County News has not been able to confirm his exact cause of death.

Lakeport attorney J. David Markham is handling Tulanian's cases, according to a message left for those who call Tulanian's Lower Lake office.

Supervisor Rob Brown, who owns a bail bonds business, was friends with Tulanian.

Tulanian was fierce in his defense of clients, and anyone going against him in court had to be on their game, said Brown. “Both sides had a lot of respect for him.”

Tulanian graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972, going on to get his law degree in 1976 from the University of San Francisco School of law, according to the resume on his Web site.

He went into private law practice in 1977 in Napa County, after achieving an impressive feat – passing the bar exam on the first try.

Tulanian's criminal law practice in Lake County began in 1981.

During his decades of practice his work wasn't limited to the local courts. His Web site states that he appeared in courts in more than 15 Northern California counties, including the United States District Court in San Francisco. His nearly 32 years of practice encompassed more than 200 jury trials, with a focus on criminal cases.

Stephen Carter, who along with wife Angela Carter heads Lake Legal Defense, which handles the county's public defender's contract, said he's known Tulanian since coming here 15 years ago.

“He was a really fine person and a fine lawyer,” said Carter, who noted that he and his wife were saddened by the news because they thought so highly of Tulanian.

Elias called Tulanian a “remarkable trial lawyer” who he used to sit and watch in court out of admiration for his legal technique.

“I never saw anybody as good as him,” said Elias.

Tulanian used those skills to win acquittals in high profile cases, such as the first “Three Strikes” case in Lake County.

But perhaps his most notable victory was in defending Charles “Eddy” Lepp, a marijuana activist who became the first person to be arrested and tried under California's Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215, which Californian's approved in 1996.

In 1996, the Lake County Narcotic Task Force eradicated 131 mature marijuana plants that Lepp said he had a doctor's recommendation to grow, and charged Lepp with cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, according to a synopsis of the case on Tulanian's Web site.

With Tulanian acting as his defense attorney, Lepp became the first person to be acquitted under the law. Since then Tulanian has been regularly featured in resource lists of the state's medical marijuana defense attorneys.

Lepp, who was at an event on Sunday, could not be reached for comment.

“He was very passionate about marijuana as medicine,” said Elias, calling that stance “a major expression” of Tulanian's politics.

In such a lengthy and varied law practice, defeats are part of the territory, and Tulanian had his share.

In 2000, he ran for judge of Lake County Superior Court's Department 4, losing out to Stephen Hedstrom.

A year later, Tulanian appeared in court to defend a Valencia man in a high-profile murder case.

Tulanian and fellow attorney Judy Conard represented Jeffrey Duvardo, who was accused of killing his elderly parents, Donald and Mary Ann Duvardo of Nice, in March of 1999.

Despite Tulanian's and Conard's expert defense, Duvardo – prosecuted by then-Chief Deputy District Attorney Jon Hopkins – was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

When he wasn't practicing the law, Tulanian had a passion for guitars, said Elias.

“He has an incredible collection of guitars,” said Elias, noting that Tulanian also played music.

Corvettes were another longtime love, although Elias said he hadn't ever been out for a ride with Tulanian in one of his beloved cars.

Carter said Tulanian always had the latest Corvette, and it was a passion he took seriously – going to Corvette driving schools to learn how to get the most out of his cars. He also loved technology and gadgets.

Tulanian had an inquisitive mind and an “excited intellect,” said Carter. “He brought that both to his practice of law and life in general.”

Carter said Tulanian had talked – “off and on” – about retiring. But, like a lot of veteran defense attorneys, he had trouble letting go of his work. Carter said that's because being a defense attorney is a profession in which you can see “on a daily basis the good work you do.”

Unfortunately, he didn't get the chance to retire. But, Brown added, “He liked his job.”

Carter said Tulanian, who was often seen with a friendly smile to match his sense of humor, has been an important figure in the county's legal system.

“He's going to be really missed,” said Carter.

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

LAKE COUNTY – The county’s roadways proved more hazardous than usual on Friday, with the California Highway Patrol reporting numerous collisions and hazards as rain returned to the county.

The CHP reported at least 10 collisions around the county on Friday, with no serious injuries reported.

One crash that occurred just after noon on Highland Springs Road at Rodello Lane involved a small Chevrolet pickup striking a power pole. The driver, who was alone in the vehicle, was said to have minor injuries.

Heavy rain was believed to be a factor in a single-car crash into an embankment on Highway 20 near Paradise Cove shortly after 4 p.m. No injuries were reported, according to the CHP.

Two vehicles were involved in a crash that occurred just after 4:30 p.m. on Highway 20 at mile marker 44, a stretch of highway about 15 miles east of Clearlake Oaks that has been an area of a number of crashes due to speed and wet conditions, as Lake County News has reported.

One of the vehicles rolled over and minor injuries were reported. The highway’s eastbound lane had to be shut down for a short time while debris from the crash was cleaned up.

Yet another noninjury collision on Highway 20 at mile marker 40 east of Clearlake Oaks, which occurred just after 7 p.m., nearly resulted in another collision because of a vehicle blocking the highway. There was oil and diesel in the road, according to the CHP, which required that Caltrans respond to put down sand.

The weather caused road hazards in other areas, including a downed line in Spring Valley, large rocks in the roadway on Highway 29 and an oak tree that fell across both lanes of Hendricks at Scotts Valley Road after 6:30 p.m., with the Lake County Road Department called to remove the tree.

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

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