Saturday, 20 July 2024


T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.


Some of you may know that the pursuit of the bliss of Soul music impassioned my formative years. It made a very constrictive era tolerable. My dear mother took me to see Chubby Checker and a host of other twistin’ rock and rollers at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. That was in1960. The die was cast.

I saw James Brown in his prime several times, twice at what used to be known as the Oakland Auditorium, once at Winterland in San Francisco. I also saw J.B. here in Lake County when he appeared here last. It was a good show. His feet were still fast. But only in eight second spurts. It was no comparison to the nonstop, frenetic, Godfather-getdown on it action of yesteryear.

On my Junior Prom night, we drove to San Francisco’s Basin Street West to see Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. They were good. Smokey was my favorite artist at the time. But the opening act, the late great Tammi Terrell, simply blew Smokey and the Miracles away. She showed the audience every dance that was happening in these United States. She was somethin’!

I’m getting ahead of myself here, but can’t help remembering seeing the legendary Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton at the Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley just a short month before she passed away at a Los Angeles boarding home. She came on stage using a walker for mobility. She gave an outstanding performance and was not to be messed with. She had a drunk thrown out of the venue. Don’t get it twisted, but she reminded me of my grandfather. I was shocked. It was like a message from beyond.

I had opportunities to see both Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix. Incredulously, I spurned both chances. Redding played the Bay Area shortly before he died. I was still in high school. Some friends had a free ticket. I declined for some strange reason. It was probably a case of puppy love or a variation thereof. I was so sad when he died.

I was in Oregon in the late ’60s when Hendrix returned from England to his hometown of Seattle a huge international star. Some friends invited me but I declined. Somehow, I hadn’t yet discovered or understood what was indeed possible with the power of Soul. That was the night the Seattle authorities pulled the plug on Jimi as he played “The Star Spangled Banner.” By the time he died I understood. I was sad again.

I did, however, see a very pregnant Aretha Franklin in Portland in ’68 or ’69. Lady Soul drove ‘em nuts. The crowd went so crazy the show was abruptly stopped. I remember a phalanx of Portland police lifting Aretha high in the air and using a “flying wedge” through the crowd to get her off stage. At least they were concerned for Aretha’s safety. They knocked a lot of folks to the ground though.

The next time I saw Aretha Franklin was at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West in 1971. As I recall it was advertised that she would be recording a live album but I might be wrong on that. Maybe they didn’t advertise that fact. Anyway, Aretha tore the roof off again. She couldn’t help it. She was at the top of her game and the band she had that night was beyond belief.

Amazingly enough, I still possess my journal from 1971 and I hereby gleefully quote the young CyberSoulMan:

“She had the baddest band I’ve ever seen. King Curtis (musical director) with the Memphis Horns and the Kingpins rhythm section consisting of Cornell Dupree on guitar, Jerry Jermott, bass, Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie, drums, Pancho Morales, conga drums, Truman Thomas, electric piano and Billy Preston, organ. The background vocals were handled by the Sweethearts of Soul. Of course Aretha played piano too.”

The songs released on the album include “Respect,” “Love The One You’re With,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Make It With You,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “Spirit In The Dark” and “Reach Out And Touch.”

Aretha and The Sweethearts of Soul sang with passion and power. The Fillmore was filled to capacity with hippies and hipsters, black, white and in between. We were yet holdovers from the Summer of Love. Aretha’s voice touched us in our heart of hearts. We felt it in the depths of our being and screamed our approval in joyous harmony.

But wait. When Aretha seemingly ends the show with “Spirit In the Dark” and plaintively implores of the crowd, can she move with the spirit, can she move with the spirit, CAN SHE MOVE WITH THE SPIRIT, she leaves the stage.

Hold it. She’s coming back to the stage. Jesus, on her arm is RAY CHARLES! It’s *&%$#in’ RAY CHARLES! It’s pandemonium in the Fillmore. They launch into a reprise of “Spirit In The Dark.” Papa Ray takes the keyboards and launches an improvisational vamp.

“Wait a minute. Listen to this. I got one mo’ thang I gotta say. When Aretha sings, can you feel the spirit.

“YES,” we scream. The crowd is one. The spirit and the crowd are one. Ray rises from the piano and is led off the stage.

“More!” we scream.

“Ray Charles,” says Aretha. “The Right Reverend Ray.”

“More! More!”

Now Aretha is preaching.

“Ladies and gentlemen, before we leave, I’d like to say before we leave that you have been much more than I could have ever expected. I’d like to leave you singin” ...


Many of us in the crowd are holding hands.

As I end this, jolted by the realization that’s it’s round midnight and I need to get this in to the editor, I’m struck by what a powerful memory that is. I’m also moved that Aretha’s instruction inside her sermonette to reach out and touch still applies today. More urgently than ever. Universally.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!


Upcoming cool event:

Calling For Light. A Spring Concert of Poetry and Music. Carolyn Hawley, piano, Chopin and original works. Accompaniment to poetry. T. Watts, accompaniment on trumpet. Lake County Poets LaureateMary McMillan, Sandra Wade, Carolyn Wing Greenlee, James Bluewolf and Jim Lyle. Sunday, March 15, 3 p.m. Galilee Lutheran Church, 8860 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Tickets $10 in advance at Watershed Books, Lakeport and Wild About Books, Clearlake. $15 at the door. Children attend free. A benefit for KPFZ 88.1 FM.

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


LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Sheriff's Office is urging county residents to be careful when commuting through some North Coast.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that on Feb. 19 the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office released a safety alert for motorists traveling the areas of Calistoga Road and Porter Creek Road at night. The alert relates to a series of suspicious events occurring over the past two months in that area.

Sonoma County received two separate reports of a male subject following female motorists along the rural route, tailgating the women and flashing his lights at them in an apparent attempt to get them to pull off the road, said Bauman.

In one of the reports, the female driver did pull over and after the man told her to call 911 to report a motorcycle accident, he tried to open her door and she fled the area. Bauman said the suspect vehicle in that incident was described only as a black SUV.

A third incident was reported to Sonoma County authorities in which a man jumped out from a hillside along the route and laid down next to the roadway as the female driver passed. Bauman said the woman did not stop and there was a suspicious vehicle, possibly a blue sedan with a spoiler, parked along the road in the area.

He said the incidents reportedly all occurred between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. The suspect is described only as possibly being a white male with his face partially concealed with either a bandana or turtle-neck pulled up about his face.

Bauman said residents commuting in and out of the Lake County are reminded to avoid stopping for anyone on rural routes unless the circumstances clearly demonstrate a need for immediate assistance, such as an obvious traffic collision.

Motorists encountering a pedestrian on rural routes are otherwise advised to continue to a well-lit, preferably populated, area before stopping to call and report suspicious circumstances, Bauman added.


SACRAMENTO – North Coast State Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) has introduced new legislation requiring local agency formation commissions, or LAFCOs, to consider “sustainable community strategies” before making boundary decisions.

LAFCOs control the boundaries of cities and special districts. Among the commissions’ statutory obligations is “discouraging urban sprawl.”

To guide their boundary decisions, LAFCOs must adopt “spheres of influence” for cities and districts, designating their future service areas and boundaries. LAFCOs’ boundary decisions must be consistent with these spheres of influence.

As LAFCOs prepare to make decisions about proposed boundary changes, they are required to consider 15 specified “factors,” including local general plans and specific plans.

State law permits – but does not require – the commissions to consider regional growth goals and policies adopted by local elected officials.

According to Wiggins, there is increasing legislative and public support for using land use decisions to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are required to adopt “sustainable communities strategies” or “alternative planning strategies” as part of their regional transportation plans.

These strategies align regional planning for transportation and housing (SB 375, Steinberg, 2008). In preparing a sustainable community strategy, an MPO must consider the spheres of influence for cities and special districts, as adopted by LAFCOs.

While MPOs must consider LAFCOs’ planning documents, there is no reciprocal requirement for LAFCOs to consider the MPOs’ sustainable communities strategies and alternative planning strategies.

Wiggins chairs the Senate Committee on Local Government. Her legislation, Senate Bill 215, seeks to add regional transportation plans, including their sustainable communities strategies or alternative planning strategies,” to the list of factors that LAFCOs must consider when acting on city and special district boundary changes. SB 215 also repeals the permission for LAFCOs to consider regional growth goals and policies.

“Regulating local boundaries is more than an exercise in cartographic neatness,” Wiggins said. “City limits and special districts’ boundaries influence the timing, location and character of land development. By approving annexations to cities and districts that provide public facilities such as water and sewer systems, streets, and flood control facilities, LAFCOs’ boundary decisions influence which land is likely to develop.”

Wiggins represents California’s 2nd Senate District, comprised of portions of all of six counties: Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma.


Kelseyville High School students marched to the district office on Friday to highlight their concerns over the district's interim budget. Superintendent Boyce McClain met with students and promised to hold an assembly next Tuesday to explain the budget to them. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



KELSEYVILLE – Following a district school board meeting earlier this week to accept an interim budget, a group of Kelseyville High students held a march to their district office to share their own concerns about what the future holds for education.

It was at about 1:15 p.m. on Friday that the group of well over 100 students – carrying a banner that said, “We have voices. Learn to listen” – marched down the hill from Kelseyville High and approached the Kelseyville Unified School District Office.

The sentiment among the participating students was that they wanted to protect their education. One female student urged her peers to show respect to administrators and teachers, and they could expect respect in return.

District Superintendent Boyce McClain, who has headed the district for nine and a half years, was there to welcome the students and speak with them.

Before the students appeared, McClain told Lake County News that his office had been notified that a group of about a dozen students might appear, so he appeared surprised when it was dozens more.

It quickly became evident that they couldn't all fit in the district's board room, so together students and administrators walked back up to the high school, and were joined along the way by more students, so that the group was approaching about 200 people.

McClain and high school Principal Matt Cockerton decided to have the group move to the gym, where they could use the sound system. There, they were joined by still more students and about a dozen teachers.

Administrators assured students that they were aware of their concerns. McClain told students he would hold an assembly to discuss the budget issues on Tuesday.

In an interview with Lake County News after the demonstration, McClain said he had received letters from students who were concerned about losing sports and educational programs, and increasing class sizes, among other things.

“These are great kids,” said McClain. “They want to be able to be heard and I just deeply respect that.”

He added that he wants the students to know that he hears their concerns.

The Tuesday assembly, McClain said, will give him a chance to explain the situation to students fully, and give them accurate information. “I just want to show them that we'll be fine.”

“I think it's great that they're involved and concerned about what's happening in the education system,” school board member Gary Olson said of the students.

Olson said education is struggling statewide.

It's true for districts across the rest of the county as well. This week, the Konocti Unified School District held more community meetings to take input on several options to save that district money in the face of deep cuts, with proposals including closing some middle schools. Konocti Unified's board is set to meet March 4 to look at the issue further.

Elsewhere, districts are looking at cutting programs and possibly more teaching positions.

Lake County Superintendent of Schools Dave Geck said the situation countywide is looking tough.

“Across the county, all districts are looking at where they can effect cost savings as far away from classrooms as possible,” he said.

Based on an initial analysis, Geck said the county's schools are looking at $5.7 million in cuts from now through the 2009-10 budget year, for a 16.6 percent reduction.

He estimated all of the schools will have to lay off personnel. When 85 percent of education budgets are personnel, and cuts are estimated at 20 percent, “There's no way to avoid people's lives getting impacted,” Geck said.

Last year was the first time in Geck's 10 years at the Lake County Office of Education that they had layoffs. Looking toward the year ahead, he said, “I don't look forward to having to do that.”

An ongoing dialogue

Concerns for students and staff alike had arisen earlier in the week, when the Kelseyville Unified board convened for a special Monday meeting to discuss the budget situation.

In the wake of the state budget's passage, McClain said district administration put a budget presentation together in about four hours on Monday for the district board to consider. He called it “a very quick look” at the coming year's budget.

At that meeting, the Konocti Unified Teachers Association expressed their concern about the potential budget, said union President Rico Abordo, an English teacher at Kelseyville High.

Abordo said the union made clear its ideas about where it would like to see the district's money spent, urging against the district keeping an a fiscal reserve of more than 5 percent.

Anything over that amount should be spent on students and employees, Abordo said. “We're an educational institution, not a savings institution.”

Abordo said the union and the district are taking part in an ongoing conversation, and he said those initial concerns the union discussed Monday already have been addressed. He said he feels there has been a healthy dialogue between the board of trustees and the bargaining unit.

Olson said trustees needed to approve an interim budget by March 15 as required by the state. “Nothing of what we approved is set in stone. It's based on what we think might happen. It's sort of a worst case scenario.”

In normal years, the interim budget has never been met with much attention, said Olson. “We're not in normal times at all.”

Abordo said the district has been run extremely well over the years, and credited McClain for his work to keep Kelseyville Unified fiscally solvent, and for dealing effectively with controversial issues, such as the changing of Kelseyville High's mascot from an Indian to a knight.

“We're probably in better position than most other districts,” Abordo said of the fiscal situation.

Olson also credits McClain for keeping a good relationship going between the union and the district.

“We've worked real hard to pay the teachers as much as we can afford to,” he said, adding that the district offers its teachers the best benefits package of any group of teachers in the county.

Morale in the district was the highest it's been in a long time until the economic crunch started, said Olson.

Kelseyville Unified's situation looks better than some

McClain said the school district's budget actually is looking a lot healthier than they initially expected. They're not facing a big midyear cut, and have implemented a spending freeze.

Olson said last year the district lost close to 40 classified employees, many of them part-time, and 13 teachers. He attributed much of the district's budget situation to “the elephant in the room” – declining enrollment.

He said he understands personally what teachers are going through – his wife is a teacher at Riviera Elementary, and she went from a full-time to a half-time position last year.

Looking ahead, district officials had expected as much as a $1.4 million cut to their $15 million annual budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year, but McClain said he's since penciled it out and that amount comes in under $1 million.

McClain, who said the district has a $1 million a month payroll, has four teachers retiring, and that may mean that the district can shift assignments and not have to lay off any teachers this year.

Abordo said that layoff notices are due on March 13.

He said that on Friday the high school librarian retired and that means the junior high school librarian will have to do double duty over the rest of the year. As a result, the high school library will be closed two and a half days a week.

Over the next two weeks, as districts finalize their budgets, Geck said he expects tough decisions to be made.

Local districts and government agencies also are meeting to look at ways they can make joint purchases, share resources and be more cost-effective in their operations.

“The piece that's really a wild card that's still being defined is the flexibility that district will have inside of their categorical programs,” said Geck, explaining that the flexibility came out of the state's budget compromise.

Categorical funding is that which comes from state and federal governments and is targeted for specific programs and purposes, according to the Education Data Partnership. The use of funds usually is restricted.

“The devil is definitely in the details,” said Geck.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.

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




Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Boyce McClain speaks to students at Kelseyville High's gym on Friday, February 27, 2009. The students marched to the district office, and then met with officials at the school's gym. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



SANTA ROSA – A special weekend lecture will look at a problem plaguing Indian Country today – the issue of disenrollment.

The California Indian Museum and Cultural Center's Tillie Hardwick Lecture Series will present “The Origins of Tribal Disenrollment” from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 28. The museum is located at 5250 Aero Drive, Santa Rosa.

Dozens of members of the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo were disenrolled last December, as Lake County News has reported. The Elem Colony also has disenrolled members.

Thousands of Indians across California and many more across the nation have been subject to the growing practice, according to the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization and the American Indian Movement.

For those who have ever wondered about the nature of tribal disenrollment issues, the Saturday lecture may answer a host of questions.

What is the origin of tribal disenrollment ? Are there jurisdictional parameters? Why is it a growing issue for tribes throughout California and the nation? What are the options for individuals who are disenrolled? Do tribal governments have an obligation to provide civil rights protections and due process to persons undergoing disenrollment? These and other important issues will be probed in
this lecture.

The event should be enlightening for Indian and non-Indians alike.

Admission to the public is free.

For more information call the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center, 579-3004.


Northshore and Lake County Fire Protection District firefighters responded to the Sunday morning blaze. Photo by Sam Colman.



CLEARLAKE OAKS – A fire damaged a cabin at a Northshore resort Sunday morning.

The fire took place at the Blue Fish Cove Resort in Clearlake Oaks.

The call went out at about 8:15 a.m., said Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Ken Petz.

Northshore Fire was assisted in fighting the blaze by Lake County Fire Protection District, said Petz.

Petz said the fire started when a man was working on a gas stove in the kitchen of a vacation cabin.

The man also was caught on fire in the blaze, and was transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital by a Lake County Fire Protection medic unit, Petz said.

Four fire engines – three from Northshore Fire and one from Lake County Fire – and between 15 and 20 firefighters responded to the scene, said Petz.

Petz said the fire was brought under control in 30 minutes, with the mop up process taking about an hour.

He estimated that the cabin was close to being a total loss.

Randy and Suzanne Olsen purchased the resort last August.

Suzanne Olsen said the resort is still open for business, and they'll be fixing up the damaged cabin right away.

She said that the man who was working on the stove is OK and was back at home on Sunday afternoon.

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




The fire began when maintenance was being done on a gas stove. Photo by Sam Colman.



Aqeela El-Amin Bakheit would like to see more people become involved in the local NAACP chapter. Courtesy photo.



LAKE COUNTY – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) just celebrated its 100th year on Lincoln’s birthday.

Aqeela El-Amin Bakheit, president of the Lake and Mendocino County chapters, would like to see more people involved with the organization. Presently there are between 70 and 80 members.

“I first became a member of the branch because I had a problem that I needed help with and they helped me,” Bakheit said.

She was paying it forward when she became a member. She promised herself that if the NAACP helped her, she would help the branch and that’s what she’s been doing since.

Bakheit said that sometimes people call needing help, want her to stop on a dime and want help yesterday, or don’t fully understand the need to speak with people on all sides of a matter.

There are a number of steps that must be taken to help people and a specific process to follow, she explained.

According to the NAACP Web site, “The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.”

The cost of membership is $30 for adults and $15 for youth annually. It includes a year subscription to the NAACP magazine, “The Crisis.”

The primary goals for youth in the NAACP include, honing leadership qualities, political action, social activism and education.

Bakheit’s primary focus is to improve education. She raised six children and obtained her undergraduate degrees in liberal studies and human development from California State University, Hayward, in her mid-40s.

She thinks that youth have a real disadvantage without education. Bakheit would like to see children inspired about education beginning in kindergarten.

“I would like to see more youth going to college after high school,” she said. “It’s challenging as an adult, with adult responsibilities. I was constantly juggling – family, job and school.”

Her family pulled together as a team. The older children would help with laundry and chores, as well as helping to care for the younger children.

She remembers the skills she learned vividly and says that her education helps her on a daily basis, extending far beyond the doors of a classroom.

Housing is also at the forefront of her primary issues.

“With the current economic crisis, and foreclosures, we are working on the challenges facing us involving housing,” she said.

Bakheit takes an easy-going, peaceful approach, seeking a meeting of the minds.

“My grandmother Elizabeth had a hand in raising me,” she said. She put a lot of goodness in me.”

Though Bakheit is a compelling force, she humbly compliments everyone but herself.

“We have a very good executive board. I’m very proud of the people who work with me,” she said.

The Lake/Mendocino County branch of the NAACP will host its annual Black History Program on Saturday, Feb. 28, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Praises of Zion Baptist Church, 3890 Emile St. in Clearlake. The keynote speaker will be Rick Mayo, founder and first vice president.

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


GLENHAVEN – The California Highway Patrol has identified the victim of a fatal vehicle collision that occurred Monday evening.

Lori Anne Bond-Keech, 48, of Lucerne was fatally injured in the crash, which occurred at 5:34 p.m. Monday on Highway 20 west of Gladys Street in Glenhaven, according to CHP Officer Adam Garcia.

Garcia said that minutes before the collision numerous other drivers had called to report Bond-Keech's silver Volkswagen Beetle swerving into the oncoming lane of traffic.

Bond-Keech, who was driving westbound on Highway 20, reportedly turned left across double-yellow lines in front of an eastbound Freightliner tractor trailer driven by 50-year-old Leo Steinle of Magalia, Garcia said.

Garcia said the two vehicles collided head-on, with Bond-Keech sustaining fatal injuries. Steinle was unharmed.

The collision closed the roadway in both directions from just after 5:30 p.m. until shortly before 9 p.m., said Garcia. Caltrans, Northshore Fire Protection District personnel and tow companies responded to the scene to remove the badly damaged Volkswagen and tractor trailer, and clear the roadway of debris.

During the road closure Caltrans activated the electronic message signs at Highway 20 and Highway 29, and at Highway 20 and Highway 53 to advise motorists of the road closure, Garcia said.

Caltrans turned cars around at Paradise Cove and Glenhaven during the closure while CHP investigated the traffic collision and Lake County Sheriff's Office personnel performed coroner functions, he added.

Garcia said CHP Officer Randy Forslund is conducting the collision investigation.


New legislation, expiring provisions and existing provisions coming into effect will not only make preparing one's 2008 taxes difficult but could make 2009 and beyond just painful.

When it comes to preparing your tax return, whether you use a professional, do them yourself or just ignore them, there are a number of trouble spots or tax traps of which you should be aware and for which you should plan.

Listening to the news, we hear often of increasing deficit and decreasing tax revenues. This along with the complexity of these, “traps,” makes it apparent that taxes are not going to become simplified or less costly. In addition, these trends show that it has become necessary to plan for these during the year and not just wait and see what happens, when your taxes are prepared. Because of all of this, one’s tax situation should not be ignored during the year, but should be monitored periodically.

There are several areas of concern. However, there is one particular issue that is trapping more and more taxpayers into increased tax bills and that issue is the Alternative Minimum Tax, AMT. This is somewhat of a stealth issue because it seems that very few individuals know of its existence, yet every year its provisions are affecting more and more people.

The AMT, is a separate method of determining income tax. Despite the name, every taxpayer is potentially subject to this tax. The AMT is actually a flat tax, having its rates being either 26 percent or 28 percent depending on one’s level of income. If you are subject to this tax, you must prepare your income tax return and determine your tax using both the regular and alternative rules. You compare the tax calculated under both methods and pay the larger amount.

Most good software companies do the AMT calculations, when you use their products. However care must be taken to properly code preference items. Since the Internal Revenue Service is focusing on compliance, errors in doing this could generate letters from the IRS questioning items on your return.

The AMT appears to be a big secret, as most people I speak with have no idea what the AMT is. The AMT is in response to reports that wealthy taxpayers were paying no income tax due to “special deductions” only available to the rich. The AMT began in 1969 and reportedly was originally intended to apply to only 155 taxpayers.

The first step is to calculate AMT income. In general, this is calculated by adjusting the taxpayer’s current regular taxable income, using all the traditional laws, with a number of tax preference items and adjustments.

Tax preference items are additions to income with income that is generally excluded from regular taxable income. These items include tax-exempt interest from certain private activity bonds, depletion, intangible drilling costs and accelerated depreciation from certain property placed into service before 1987.

While tax preference items appear generally for the wealthy taxpayers, adjustments affects almost everyone and can either increase or decrease alternative income. These adjustments include the standard deduction or some itemized deductions, the personal exemptions, incentive stock options and the passive activity loss limitations, which include losses from residential and commercial rental activities.

From the total of regular taxable income with preference items and adjustments either added or subtracted, an exemption reduces that total. The exemptions for 2008 returns are $46,200 for single or head of household taxpayers, $69,950 for married filing jointly taxpayers and $34,975 for married taxpayers who file separately. This calculation will provide Alternative Minimum Taxable income, AMTI. This figure is multiplied by either 26 percent or 28 percent depending on one’s income. And you now have the AMT tax. This tax is compared to your tax liability calculated by regular tax rules and guess what? You pay the larger of the two taxes.

These calculations are found on IRS form 6251 and are a bit more complex than I have mentioned here. There is also a worksheet available from the IRS which will estimate, if you are subject to this tax. The complexities come from income from capital gains, large income over the AMT limits and AMT credits. However, to explain everything would take way too much space for one article. The State of California also has an AMT, which follows the federal rules somewhat closely.

The problems with the AMT are too numerous to fully mention. Not only are the rules extremely complex, but the exemptions amounts have not been regularly indexed for inflation, as California has regularly done.

In addition, the adjustments of the itemized or standard deductions and personal exemptions place the burden of this tax squarely on the shoulders of taxpayers that were never intended to be part of this system. The exemption amount for tax years 2007 and 2008 were scheduled to drop dramatically which would of caused millions of unsuspecting taxpayers to fall under the AMT. Only at seemly the last minute were “patches” added to the laws which kept the exemptions at the current levels.

The big question is, what will happen for tax year 2009? The AMT would be a very easy way to dramatically increase tax revenue. In addition, should this happen, some of your tax planning may become meaningless.

It is estimated by the taxpayer’s advocate’s office that without major changes, the AMT could affect over 30 million taxpayers by the year 2010. With the economy and tax revenue, as it currently stands, this appears to be a tax that is not going away soon.

With all the fallout from the “financial crisis” it is becoming very clear that the financial and tax rules have changed and will continue to change. Most likely the change will not be in the favor of ordinary taxpayers. The consequences of not knowing how your financial actions will affect your tax return could cause you to have a very large tax liability next year.

Jon Meyer is a local tax accountant and enrolled agent with over 25 years experience in tax preparation. The office of Jon the “Tax Man Meyer “also offers retirement planning and insurance options. Questions regarding this article can be made by calling 928-5200.


SACRAMENTO – California’s unemployment rate jumped to 10.1 percent in January, and nonfarm payroll jobs declined by 79,300 during the month, according to data released Friday by the California Employment Development Department (EDD) from two separate surveys.

The U.S. unemployment rate also increased in January to 7.6 percent.

In December, the state’s unemployment rate was a revised 8.7 percent, and in January 2008, the unemployment rate was 6.1 percent. The unemployment rate is derived from a federal survey of 5,500 California households.

“The number of Californians without jobs and a means to provide for their families is a sobering reminder that there is nothing more important than getting California’s economy back on track,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Friday.

He added that the road to full economic recovery will not be short, but the economic stimulus measures in the state budget – combined with the federal economic recovery agenda – will help California create jobs while laying a strong foundation for better economic times ahead.

The number of nonfarm jobs in California decreased by 79,300 over the month, for a total of 14,648,100, according to the survey of 42,000 California businesses which measures jobs in the economy. This survey is larger and less variable statistically than the household survey. The year-over-year (January 2008 to January 2009) change shows a decrease of 494,000 jobs (down 3.3 percent).

EDD will release the January unemployment figures for counties next week.

Lake County's unemployment rate in December was 13.1 percent, as Lake County News has reported.

The federal survey of households shows a decrease in the number of employed people. It estimates the number of Californians holding jobs in January was 16,668,000, a decrease of 283,000 from December, and down 437,000 from the employment total in January of last year.

The number of people unemployed in California was 1,863,000 – up by 257,000 over the month, and up by 754,000 compared with January of last year.

Of the unemployed, 990,600 were laid off, 126,700 left their jobs voluntarily, and the remaining were either new entrants or reentrants into the labor market, or persons who completed temporary jobs, according to the federal household survey.

EDD’s report on payroll employment (wage and salary jobs) in the nonfarm industries of California totaled 14,648,100 in January, a net loss of 79,300 jobs since the January survey. This followed a loss of 84,400 jobs (as revised) in December.

Four categories (natural resources and mining; educational and health services; leisure and hospitality; and government) added jobs over the month, gaining 7,400 jobs. Educational and health services posted the largest gain over the month, up by 3,900 jobs. Seven categories (construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; and other services) reported job declines this month, down 86,700 jobs. Information

posted the largest decline over the month, down by 27,700 jobs.

In a year-over-year comparison (January 2008 to January 2009), nonfarm payroll employment in California decreased by 494,000 jobs (down 3.3 percent).

Three industry divisions (natural resources and mining; educational and health services; and government) posted job gains over the year, adding 43,000 jobs.

Educational and health services showed the strongest gain on both a numerical and percentage basis, adding 39,600 jobs (a 2.3 percent increase).

Eight categories (construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; and other services) posted job declines over the year, down 537,000 jobs.

Trade, transportation and utilities employment showed the largest decline on a numerical basis, down by 145,000 jobs (a decline of 5.0 percent). Construction posted the largest decline on a percentage basis, down by 15.5 percent (a decrease of 130,800 jobs).

In related data, the EDD reported that there were 717,525 people receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits during the January survey week. This compares with 655,445 last month and 480,858 last year. At the same time, new claims for unemployment insurance were 75,514 in January 2009, compared with 87,979 in December and 57,364 in January of last year.


CLEARLAKE OAKS – An early evening collision on Monday resulted in a fatality.

The crash, which took place one mile west of Glenhaven, was reported to the California Highway Patrol at approximately 5:37 p.m.

A Volkswagen Beetle and a semi truck were reported to have collided head-on, the CHP reported.

About 10 minutes before the crash, CHP's incident logs noted that the Volkswagen was reported to be weaving back and forth between the highway's lanes.

Several CHP units, as well as Lake County Sheriff's and Northshore Fire Protection District responded to the scene of the collision, which blocked both lanes of traffic.

Shortly before 6:30 p.m., the sheriff's office reported that a coroner was en route to the scene.

The CHP's Ukiah Dispatch confirmed to Lake County News that the accident had resulted in a fatality.

From the initial reports, the fatality appears to have been the driver of the car. The big rig driver was reported to be all right. No passengers were mentioned in the reports.

The big rig driver submitted to a voluntary blood draw and was transported to Sutter Lakeside. However, the hospital was reported to be out of blood draw kits so a CHP officer took one to Sutter Lakeside.

Clearing the road proved to be difficult, as the CHP reports noted that officials were struggling to find a tow truck that could move the semi. They also were searching for an available tow company certified to transport the other vehicle for evidence.

The road was reported to be open again at around 9 p.m.

No further information, including the identity of the fatality, was available for release late Monday.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.

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


Hilltop Recovery, located above Middletown, is facing budget concerns due to the economic climate and the state's fiscal emergency. Courtesy photo.



ANDERSON SPRINGS – Things are tough all over, and people struggling with addiction are seeing a steady decline in services during a time when the services are paramount.

At the same time, economic hardships often contribute to escalating numbers of substance abuse and alcohol related problems in society.

Lori Carter-Runyon, executive director of Hilltop Recovery Services, said she was shocked when she received the call that the Ford Street treatment program in Ukiah was closing.

“They have been in business for so long and are providing such a needed service, I would have never imagined that they were being hit so hard from the budget crisis,” she said.

She and husband Ryan Runyon, who run the men’s inpatient recovery program, were asked by Centerpoint Inc., the agency they are contracted through, how many of the men from Ford Street they could take in at the Lake County facility.

Hilltop, located off of Socrates Mine Road, had eight beds available. The Runyons knew they might not get paid for months with the uncertainty of state IOUs looming.

The men from Ford Street needed to be somewhere, though. Options included homelessness and, for some, prison if they couldn’t be placed.

“It is my understanding that Centerpoint was able to place everyone – some went to the Bay Area- others to Humboldt County and some went home,” Carter-Runyon said.

She said that as the news spread about Ford Street, Hilltop residents asked if this was going to happen at the Lake County facility, and even staff wanted to know if they were in jeopardy of soon joining the ranks of the unemployed.

“I’ve done my best to assure them that we were OK for the time being – but I am definitely nervous,” said Carter-Runyon. “We are such a young program, being in business for only two years, and now we are the only local men’s residential treatment facility.”

She’s highly attuned with the state budget because it directly impacts the ability to continue operations. The agency they are contracted through for state referrals notified them some time ago that they may not be getting paid on schedule. Hilltop’s contractor lost six providers and another 13 through the state.

“They let us know that if the state was not paying them, they would not be able to pay us,” Carter-Runyon said. “As soon as I received this information I began tightening the reins on spending and prepared for the worst. I had our credit increased on the company credit card, and have gone to our bank to ask for a line of credit.”

At the present time they have enough funds on hand to make it through March, and with the bank loan could make it through April, but the bank denied the loan based on the state budget issues. They have a contract that is not state funded and a few private pay clients that provide some money. The program is primarily dependent on contracts funded through the state.

“It’s a relief that the budget was passed, but no money is being released yet. If we don’t see change, we’ll have to close our doors April 15,” Carter-Runyon said.

She added, “I’m doing my best to budget everything, and pay the minimum amounts so Hilltop can survive. We are going to need help.”

Clucky Plucky Poultry of Kelseyville donated 480 pounds of chicken, helping to feed the residents of Hilltop Recovery. Worldmark Wyndham Resorts donated patio furniture last spring and continue to donate bedding. Many community members donated much-needed men’s clothing.

Treatment saves money. The cost of incarceration compared to treatment puts the burden of millions more dollars on the taxpayers backs.

“The community support is extremely needed. It may be the thing that keeps us above water – with clothing, shoes, linens and foods donated, I can focus on the paying my employees, the utilities and keeping the residents fed until the funds are released,” Carter-Runyon said.

For more information on Hilltop Recovery and how to help, call 987-9972 or visit the center's Web site at

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



The recovery center is located in a rural setting in the south county. Courtesy photo.



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