Saturday, 13 July 2024

News

COBB – Faced with county and state permit violations, Bottle Rock Power Corp. is currently working to sort out violations related to its geothermal operations on Cobb Mountain.


The power plant, currently owned by a partnership between US Renewables Group and Carlyle/Riverstone Renewable Energy Infrastructure Fund I, reopened in 2007 after being closed for many years. The Department of Water Resources had originally operated the plant.


Last fall, neighbors in the area began holding a series of public meetings with county officials and plant representatives over their concerns with a variety of plant-related issues, from noise and truck traffic to the disposal of materials created by geothermal drilling, as Lake County News has reported.


Rick Coel, director of Lake County's Community Development Department, said the county sent the plant violation notices in the second week of January.


“Bottle Rock has been working pretty feverishly to rectify some of these problems,” Coel said.


Melissa Floyd, the county's geothermal coordinator, said the county's issues with the plant involve drill cuttings left in a meadow, grading roads and firebreaks, reporting and contingency plans, construction of berms around drill pads, financial assurances, sumps – ponds used to store materials from the drilling – and freeboard, which is the space between the top of the materials in the sumps and the top of the basin.


The county required Bottle Rock Power to come into “substantial compliance” by March 1, with the understanding that some items on the list will require waiting until the dry season because they involve substantial grading, said Floyd. She said she's received contingency plans for the completion of additional measures. The completion dates range from the coming weeks to after the end of the rainy season.


The State Water Resources Control Board also cited the plant last fall based on complaint from a neighbor, said Joe Karkoski, acting assisting executive officer.


A concern for the state was that the plant had not collected necessary data on their operation, he said.


Then there was the issue of freeboard and disposal. “Those are issues that are potential threats to water quality,” said Karkoski.


However, he noted that the problem is being addressed. The plant lowered the level of materials in the sumps to achieve the required 2 feet of freeboard to prevent overtopping, thus restoring the safety margin. He said Bottle Rock Power hired a consultant to work with the state on the resolving the violations.


Karkoski said the agency hasn't made a determination that any water quality problems in the area have resulted from the operations.


The state also was concerned about improper disposal of materials from the sumps on a meadow. However, Karkosi and Guy Childs, a State Water Resources Control Board engineering geologist, said the plant was looking at moving those materials in early November and the plant has since changed its disposal practices.


“That's part of what our conversation is going to be with them, is to get them on track and make sure they're taking care of this material properly,” said Karkoski. “At this point they're being cooperative and responding to the issues that have been raised.”


This is the only dealing the water board has had with Bottle Rock Power, said Karkoski.


He said the agency has a progressive enforcement policy, which begins with working with a discharger to come into compliance. If that doesn't work, they pursue other options, with the more severe possibilities being fines of $1,000 a day.


“Our feedback from the state and the county is that we are meeting their expectations,” said Bottle Rock Compliance Manager Karon Thomas.


Thomas said the plant was working on the issues prior to the issuance of the notices of violation.


“The materials from the meadow were removed, they were never meant to stay there,” she said.


The nonhazardous soil drill cuttings were completely cleaned up prior to Oct. 15, said Thomas, which is a month earlier than the state indicated.


The meadow has since been hydroseeded and the materials taken to a facility, Thomas said.


She said she believed the plant's neighbors misunderstood what the procedures were and what actually was happening with the drill cuttings.


Thomas said the plant also has a permit proposal for a dewatering unit to handle rainwater in the sumps in order to ensure the freeboard margin is maintained. She said 3 feet of freeboard has been achieved at the Francisco and Coleman drill sumps.


Reid Morgan, community liaison officer, said each of the meetings with the community “has been better than the last one,” in terms of general progress being made.


He said the noise levels of the drill pads appear to have been handled through a three-level system of sound walls, blankets around the rigs and walls around the rigs' diesel engines.


Plant officials are working on road maintenance and improvement issues, and have completed a road study. Work on High Valley Road and the bridge will have to wait for better weather, said Morgan. They're also monitoring the speed of truck drivers and plant personnel on the roads.


Neighbor David Coleman has mixed feelings about the plant's work to handle its issues.


“The power plant is attempting to do things,” he said. “The problem I have is they made so many mistakes from the beginning.”


Coleman's family members were some of the area's original homesteaders in the 1860s. His property is adjacent to more than 300 acres which are occupied by the plant's operations.


The steamfields at the location were operating in the 1970s, he said, and the plant began operating in the early 1980s. Some of the drill sites are even named for his family.


He said the plant's original permits clearly lay out how it's supposed to be operated, and he faults the current owners for failing to comply with those guidelines.


“I think they're worried,” he said of the plant's operators. “They're making a dramatic effort to make changes.”


While he said the materials in the sumps and drill cuttings aren't toxic “per se,” when considering the chemicals in the ground and those used in high temperature drilling, “over a number of years this stuff adds up.”


He said he's not as concerned with sound issues from the plant, which he said has always been loud.


“I can live with the sound, whereas I can't live with the stuff that's going into the system,” he said.


Coleman is pleased with the state's rapid response to the plant's violations. He said he has friends who work with state government who told him that it's unheard of to get a notice of violation within six months.


And he's upfront in noting that he is the one who complained about the plant to the state. In fact, he said he has contacted many state and local agencies, and will continue to do so, in an effort to keep the heat on Bottle Rock Power so that they comply.


He added, “I've tried to cut them more slack than some of my neighbors have.”


Coleman added that he's been on good terms with the plant's operators since they started.


He maintains the sumps are illegal. The basins have 2-foot-thick clay liners that permit specifications say are only good for eight months. The sumps have been in use for 30 years. He said the sumps have been compromised and may have been leaking into the ground for years.


Coleman said his contact at the plant is Morgan, who he called “a very realistic person.” He said if he shows Morgan a problem, he's willing to accept it and work on it.


Still to be addressed, however, is an issue brought up at a recent community meeting with the plant's operators late last month, in which it was noted that a steam line is starting to fail.


Coleman said he's also asked for core samples to be conducted on the meadow and around the sumps to find if the liners have failed. “They say it's in the works.”


The next step, Coleman said, is for the community to get a time line of when the plant's improvements will be done, who will do them and the process that's involved.


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


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Upper Lake High School's Academic Decathlon team, pictured here after their win at the county level on Saturday, February 7, 2009, placed sixth among small Division 3 schools at the 30th annual California Academic Decathlon, held in Sacramento March 13 to 16. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

 

 


UPPER LAKE – Upper Lake High School's academic decathletes put on a strong performance in the California Academic Decathlon over the weekend, with one student capturing 10 individual medals.


The team, led by former academic decathlete and first-year coach Anna Sabalone, placed sixth out of 20 teams in Division 3, the category for small schools, according to the final results released by state officials on Monday.


This year's topic was Latin America. The competition took place in Sacramento.


Upper Lake's team consisted of Kyle Coleman, Courtney Havrilla, Belarmino Garcia Jr. and alternate Sarah Barnes, honors category (grade point averages of 3.75 to 4.0); Marisa Feliciano-Garcia, Stephanie Tregea, Thonyoon Chao and alternate Hannah Johnson, scholastic (GPAs of 3.0 to 3.74); and Chae Carter, Ben Mullin, Megan Morgan and alternate Brenda Mendoza, varsity (GPAs of 2.99 and below). Sabalone is head coach, with Steve Harness acting as assistant coach.


The competition emphasizes teamwork. However, one Upper Lake student emerged as a star in the competition – Ben Mullin, who was among the county competition's most decorated individual academic decathletes.


Mullin was the highest scoring student in Division 3's varsity category, with a point total of 7,172.1. Overall, he was ranked 41st amongst highest-scoring students. More than 500 students from 39 counties competed.


In addition to winning top honors for the division's varsity category, Mullin also placed first amongst Division 3 varsity students in the Super Quiz and social science; tied for first in interview and speech; and placed second in art, economics, essay, language and literature, and music.

 

 

 

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Ben Mullin, pictured here in February, won 10 individual medals at the state Academic Decathlon competition, held March 13 through 16, 2009, in Sacramento. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 


Mullin's teammate, Marisa Feliciano-Garcia, won second place in the Division 3 scholastic category for her performance in the interview.


The overall winner for all divisions was Ventura County's Moorpark High School, with 50,752.9 points.


Upper Lake scored 35,444.5 points in competition, up from the 34,736 points it scored to win the Lake County Academic Decathlon title in February, as Lake County News has reported.


Finishing ahead of Upper Lake in Division 3 were Acalanes High School, Contra Costa County, 37,879.9 points; Marysville High School, Yuba County, 36,087.8 points; Ponderosa High School, El Dorado County, 35,849 points; Summerville High School, Tuolumne County, 35,694.2 points; Davis High School, Yolo County, 35,523.9 points.


Overall, Upper Lake's team finished 46th out of 60 teams in large, middle and small school divisions.


In the Super Quiz, Imperial County's Central Union High School placed first in Division 3 with 4,005 points. Upper Lake finished 12th overall in the Super Quiz, with 3,340 points. Los Angeles Unified's El Camino High School topped all divisions in the Super Quiz with 5,650 points.


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


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{playerflv}BusinessExpo.flv|400|225|#000000|false{/playerflv}






LAKEPORT – A rainy Sunday gave local businesses a chance to get together, make connections, and introduce and promote their products to community members.


The first Around the Lake Business Expo was held Sunday in the Little Theater at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeport.


The expo hosted 25 vendors, including Featherbed Railroad Bed and Breakfast, Twin Pine Casino, Westamerica and Wells Fargo banks, Lakeport's Radio Shack, Sandi's Interiors, Penny Lane Thrift Shoppe, Curves, Harbor House Espresso, A Gift Horse, The Virtuous Woman, Serenity Massage and Day Spa, Kendra's Tax Preparation, C & G Enterprises, Pampered Chef, Partylite Candles, Totally Pawsome, Innovated Marketing Trading Company, and the Hue de la Roque Farm.


Karen Long and Kendra Runyon of Big Diva Promotions put on the show as a way of giving local businesses a late-winter boost. Long and Runyon said they felt the event went well.


The day saw numerous visitors come through the expo's doors, winning door prizes and receiving sample products from vendors.


To hear from the businesses at the show, click on the video above.


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


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WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Napa Valley) introduced the “Taxpayer Protection Act,” which would impose a 90 percent tax on all bonuses paid by businesses such as AIG that received rescue money from the government.


Public outrage has been mounting over the last week, in the wake of the announcement that AIG was paying $165 million in bonuses to executives.


“It’s outrageous that some of the same bankers who helped create this economic mess are now going to be rewarded for their failures with taxpayer dollars,” said Thompson. “By taxing all bonuses paid out by companies that received money to help them stay afloat, we’ll send a message to these folks that business as usual is no longer acceptable. I would prefer to tax these bonuses at 100 percent but that level is considered confiscatory and doesn’t pass legal muster.”


Currently, the IRS withholds 25 percent from bonuses less than $1 million and 35 percent for bonuses more than $1 million dollars.


Under Congressman Thompson’s legislation, any entity that received assistance under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 would be subject to a bonus tax rate of 90 percent.


Thompson is a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over all tax-related matters coming before Congress.


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MIDDLETOWN – Officials are investigating a bomb threat made against Middletown High School.


High school officials notified parents Monday that a message indicating a vague bomb threat toward the school's campus was left on the Middletown High School office's voice mail.


“At the point that the message was heard the fire alarm was pulled and all students were evacuated onto the softball fields or held at the front of the school, and then moved towards the fields,” Principal William Roderick said in a letter to parents and students.


Roderick said law enforcement was contacted immediately.


Fire officials and sheriff's deputies responded to the scene as parent Lynn Figone was dropping off her two children at Minnie Cannon Elementary, which is on the same site as Middletown Middle School and Middletown High.


Seeing the situation unfold, Figone decided to keep her children with her and wait until the situation was resolved.


“Once the sweep was done and I could return the kids to school they were a bit scared and confused about why someone would do that,” said Figone.


Deputies did a sweep of the campus while students were kept clear. “After checking the facility, and careful consideration and evaluation of the threat by law enforcement, as well as school administration, the decision was made for students to return to campus,” Roderick told parents.


Roderick said the bomb threat is part of an ongoing Lake County Sheriff's investigation. “When the person or people responsible for this threat are caught they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”


Last April, a message was left at the school that a bomb had been planted in a school locker, resulting in the school's evacuation while the school grounds were searched, as Lake County News has reported.


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


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SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has launched a new Web site to ensure transparency and accountability of federal economic stimulus funding as it is received and expended by the state of California.


The new site can be found at www.recovery.ca.gov.


The launch happened on March 13, the day after Schwarzenegger administration officials attended a White House conference on federal economic stimulus in Washington, DC.


The Web site will provide Californians with new tools to monitor ongoing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act activity and provide up-to-date information about how and when their federal tax dollars are spent.


As information becomes available, the Web site will also post the geographic distribution of expenditures through the use of digital mapping technology.


“We are working hand-in-hand with President Obama to help put Californians back to work and revitalize our economy,” Schwarzenegger said. “We are fighting for every federal stimulus dollar – and will work to ensure each dollar is spent effectively and with transparency and accountability.”


In addition to providing information on federal funds as they are received and expended, the Web site will also be used by the state to fulfill federal reporting requirements. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requires states and other grantees to report project status, spending, and job creation and retention to the public on a regular basis.


Reporting included on the Web site will also include announcements for grant competitions, allocations of formula grants and awards of competitive grants. The President’s Council of Economic Advisors will report quarterly on the estimated impact on employment and economic growth.


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THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM THE FIRE DISTRICT.


CLEARLAKE OAKS – Officials have offered new information regarding a crash that occurred late Monday.


The collision occurred shortly before 5 p.m. Monday on Highway 20 near Walker Ridge Road, as Lake County News has reported.


Officer Steve Tanguay reported that 23-year-old Josephine Boylen of Oceanside was driving her 2006 Chevy Malibu eastbound on Highway 20, east of Walker Ridge road. Sally Ford, 23, of Stockton was riding as Boylen's passenger.


Tanguay said he didn't yet have information on the crash's cause.


Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown said the area where the crash took place, at mile marker 44.19, has had six major vehicle accidents in the past two years, which Caltrans officials confirmed to Lake County News.


Brown said that they've conducted four rope rescues in the area, all of which use a lot of equipment, manpower and advanced training.


The vehicle went off the roadway and was down a 75-foot embankment, according to Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown. He said a low-angle rope rescue was necessary to rescue the two women from the crash.


Sixteen personnel from Northshore Fire and Lake County Fire Protection districts, and the Williams Fire Authority, Brown said. The response was part of a mutual aid program established between the Williams Fire Authority and agencies in Lake County.


Brown said extrication included using power equipment that had to be lowered down in stokes liter. Both patients were then secured and raised up the hill using rope rescue. With extrication and rescue the first patient was loaded into a medic vehicle within 45 minutes.


Tanguay said Boylen was transported by Lake County Fire Protection District ambulance to St. Helena Hospital Clearlake for minor injuries, while Ford was transported by a Northshore Fire Protection District ambulance to a landing zone, and was taken by REACH to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for moderate injuries.


In all, Northshore Fire has conducted six rope rescues in the last two years, said Brown. Rescue 7511, based at the Clearlake Oaks Fire Station, is set up as a medium Office of Emergency Services rescue vehicle. He said it was purchased by St. Helena Hospital Clearlake, with Northshore Fire purchasing all of the equipment.


Brown added that rope rescue training has been supported by each fire district and the Lake County fire chiefs.


Officer Mark Crutcher is investigating the collision's cause, Tanguay said.


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


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CLEARLAKE OAKS – A late Monday afternoon crash left two people injured.


The California Highway Patrol reported that the crash occurred just before 5 p.m. on westbound Highway 20 east of Walker Ridge Road, which is about 15 miles east of Clearlake Oaks.


Initial reports said the vehicle involved was an SUV, but it was later reported to be a four-door sedan.


Officials reported that the sedan was 50 to 75 feet off the side of the road, and a long cable was needed to secure the vehicle and recover it.


Two people were said to be involved, both complaining of back pain, according to officials.


Fire and medical crews responded to the scene, and REACH air ambulance was summoned for medical transport.


Initial reports indicated major injuries but no further information about the extent of injuries or the names of those involved was available late Monday.


Harold LaBonte contributed tot his report.


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


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Before I return to my discussion of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), we have breaking news on the federal stimulus bill that was recently signed into law.


I will get back to the AMT because that still is a major issue that is not going away; however, we need to learn about all the provisions that have just been announced. This law contains important information on the AMT.


I mentioned in an earlier article, when a major new bill is passed, first the headlines, then the basic details and then a bit later the procedures and how this all will work.


We have passed the first step and now are in step two while step three should take a bit of time. Most of these provisions are for tax years 2009 and 2010 but a number do apply to tax year 2008.


First a correction: the federal new homebuyers' credit is for homes purchased BEFORE Dec. 1, 2009. I believe I mentioned the end of the year, which in this case would not be accurate.


The vast majority if the federal stimulus bill affects tax year 2009 and 2010. This means there could be outstanding opportunities available depending on your situation. There are, however two major provisions that effect tax year 2008.


The first concerns net operating losses for small businesses.


A net operating loss is a situation when expenses exceed income. If their expenses are investment or business, then the excess or net operating loss – NOL – can be used as a deduction for other years.


Currently, the federal allows either a carry back of two years or a carry forward. A carry back means that one must amend that return and apply the losses. Generally this means that they will get a refund from that year. It also expends the statute of limitations for that year, so it is a trade off.


The statute of limitations defines how long the Internal Revenue Service or the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) have under normal circumstances to examine your return. Under normal circumstances, the IRS has three years and the FTB has four years. If used, the taxpayer must go back to the second previous year and then apply anything left over to the next year and then into the future. An option to this is to forgo the carry back and just use this loss on future tax returns. I’ve mentioned just the basis; the actual rules are quite a bit more complicated.


There is a new NOL for small businesses. A small business is defined by having gross receipts of under $15 million dollars, and this is an average of year years. Under these new provisions, small businesses that generate an NOL in years either beginning or ending in 2008 will have expanded carry back options. This will allow the businesses more freedom to carry back an NOL, amend a previous tax return and receive a refund.


An affirmative election must be made on the return and there are some traditional rules and complex details so be sure to discuss this with an accountant if you are not familiar with the rules. The state has not conformed to this provision, so there will be timing issues if you have an NOL. This provision has two major benefits, the first is that this allows you to get a refund faster and allows more options to select a carry back year with the highest tax brackets.


The other major change affecting tax year 2008 is the first-time homebuyers' credit. This is an extension of the credit form 2008 with some major change. This applies to purchases made after Jan. 1, 2009, and before Dec. 1, 2009. Remembers that if the purchase is close to either date, make sure escrow begins or ends within the applicable dates. The maximum credit is increased to $8,000 and the repayment provision has been eliminated.


To increase the speed of receiving a refund, you can claim the credit on the 2008 return, even if purchased in 2009. There are three major limitations if you make this election;


You qualify only if neither you nor spouse has owned a principal residence for at least three years as of the date of purchase. You have to live in the residence for at least three years or you have to pay back the credit and the credit will be reduced if your income is $75,000 or more and completely eliminated at $95,000 and for married, the numbers are $150,000 and $170,000.


Not to be out done, California has passed their own version of the credit. As too often happens, the California bill is quite different from the federal provision.


The California credit is for the purchase of a brand new, never-occupied home. The credit is $10,000 and there are no income restrictions. The details are:


1. The credit is available if you purchase a personal residence on or after March 1, 2009 and before March 1, 2010. You must occupy the home as your residence for at least two years or the credit must be paid back. Remember to watch the dates very carefully; when it said after March 1, 2009, that means escrow statement must be dated after that date.


2. You take a third of the credit per year, so if you purchase the home in 2009, you get one-third of the credit on tax years 2009, 2010 and 2011.


3. The seller must provide you with a certificate that they obtain from the Franchise Tax Board within one week of purchase.


4. There is a limited funds for this credit, soothe fact that you qualify and make all the steps properly does not mean that you will actually receive the credit. The FTB has announced that they will have a counter on their website to let people know the status of the fund.


5. So, if you are considering this credit, you should act as fast as possible.


As a reminder, a major part of the California bill is that the sales tax will increase by 1 percent starting April 1.


So we see that of the two major bills passed, the federal stimulus and the California budget bill the federal tends to give some tax breaks while the California bill tends to increase tax. I will write more about these bills in my next article and of course will get back to the Alternative Minimum Tax because it’s still very important and is part of the new federal stimulus bill.


Jon Meyer is a local tax accountant and enrolled agent with more than 25 years experience in tax preparation. The office of Jon the “Tax Man Meyer” also offers retirement planning and insurance options. For more information call 928-5200.


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One major advantage to leaving your real property to your children (and in some limited cases to one’s grandchildren) is California’s exclusion from real property tax reassessment (Revenue and Tax Code section 63.1).


This is because if you owned the real property for many years prior to the transfer at death, then your tax base is usually low in today’s prices. Preserving your low tax base for your children when they inherit can sometimes be a tricky issue. Let’s now examine two hypothetical scenarios frequently encountered in the administration of a deceased parent’s estate.


The first scenario is where the parents leave their entire estate equally amongst all their children and the trustee or executor wishes to do a so-called “non pro rata” in-kind distribution of the deceased parents’ estate; that is, to transfer title to one residence “in-kind” entirely to one child (usually) and to transfer other offsetting estate assets (e.g., other real property or cash) to the other child(ren).


The real property tax issue raised herein is whether the transfer of the home to one child alone qualifies entirely for the parent to child reassessment exclusion, or whether involves a partial transfer of ownership interest amongst the children (e.g., a disguised sale of the other children’s inheritance rights in the real property to the sole child who ends up with 100 percent ownership).


In order for 100 percent of the property’s value to qualify for the exclusion the transfer must be entirely between parent and child; meaning that no child exchanged or sold his/her inheritance interests in the subject real property as there is no exclusion from reassessment for inter sibling transfers. This means proving that the other child(ren) who did not receive a property interest in the real property received other estate assets such that all children ultimately received an equal share of the estate when the estate is fully settled.


That entails current appraisals of the estate assets (valid at time of distribution) and in-kind and/or cash distributions to the other children that offset the value of the real property received by one child so that the shares of each child are equal.


For example, if you have two children and two residences of equal appraised value then one residence can go from the parent’s estate to each child and be covered by the parent child exclusion. If, however, one residence is say worth $50,000 more than the other, then $50,000 in additional value (cash or appraised property) must also go to the child receiving the lesser valued home.


Next, the second scenario is where the deceased parents’ home is substantially all of their estate’s value and the trustee or executor in settling the estate wishes to give that home to one child but still treat the other children equally with cash.


Here the trustee or the executor must loan cash from a third party – never from the children – both to create liquidity and to reduce the net value of the residence. Then the encumbered property can be distributed to the child who must takes subject to the loan and the other children receive offsetting cash (derived from the loan).


In the end each child ends up with the same value (albeit one with real property and the others with cash). It is imperative that the cash loan not be provided by the child who is to receive the real property, because this will be treated by the assessor as a purchase by that child of the other children’s inheritance rights in the real property – e.g., a sale not exempted by the parent child exclusion.


Dennis A. Fordham is an attorney licensed to practice law in California and New York. He earned his BA at Columbia University, his JD at the State University of New York at Buffalo,and his LL.M in Taxation at New York University. He concentrates his practice in the areas of estate planning and aspects of elder law. He can be reached at dennis@dennisfordhamlaw, by phone at 263-3235 or at his office at 55 First St., Lakeport.


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LAKE COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol (CHP) knows Californians plan to celebrate that sure harbinger of spring – St. Patrick’s Day.


The CHP is reminding all revelers to make sure they have a sober designated driver to make their trip home a safe one.


For those drivers who do not heed this advice, the CHP will be out in force looking for and arresting anyone under the influence and behind the wheel.


“We want people to enjoy themselves and have a good time, but safety on the roadways is everyone’s responsibility” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “If you are going to be drinking, make sure

you have a designated driver who will not be consuming alcohol to get you home safely.”


The number of people killed in alcohol-involved collisions statewide in California has risen from 1,233 in 2000 to 1,489 in 2007. On St. Patrick’s Day last year, 50 people were injured in 110 alcohol-involved collisions statewide.


“Every CHP officer and local law enforcement will be looking for impaired drivers on St. Patrick’s day, and every other day too. This is about saving lives,” said Commissioner Farrow.


The CHP also reminds motorists to report suspected drunk drivers by calling 911 so law enforcement can intervene and remove an intoxicated driver from the roadway before they injure or kill someone. Callers should be prepared to provide dispatchers a description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel.


The CHP will continue to emphasize DUI enforcement and education efforts, especially around holiday celebration times such as St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day and Halloween.


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WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the first time in four years, public opinion about government secrecy has leveled off, although more than seven in 10 adults still consider the federal government to be secretive, according to the 2009 Sunshine Week survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University.


Sunshine Week takes place March 15 through 21. It puts the focus on the public's right to know about what its government is doing, at all levels.


Since 2006, the percentage of adults who believe the federal government to be somewhat or very secretive has grown steadily; from 62 percent in 2006 to 74 percent in 2008. The latest survey finds 73 percent characterizing federal government as secretive.


This mood is perhaps buoyed by the nearly eight in 10 adults who think President Barack Obama's Freedom of Information directive calling for a presumption of disclosure is the right thing to do.


“Trust in government has been on the decline for some time in the United States. The previous administration's disclosure policies certainly contributed to public skepticism,” said Jerry Miller, director of the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University. “People now appear more optimistic, but still guarded, about President Obama and the current administration's disclosure practices under the Freedom of Information Act.”


As in previous years' surveys, people see their state and local governments as more open than the federal system. At the state level, 54 percent view government as open, 44 percent as secretive. People also are more trusting of local public officials. More than half, 56 percent, say their local government is very or somewhat open, with 44 percent rating it as very or somewhat open.


“The more open our government, the more inclusive the processes that impact our everyday lives,” noted Rich Boehne, president and chief executive officer of The E.W. Scripps Co.


Two-thirds of adults (67 percent) say they've heard of the federal Freedom of Information Act, and when told about it, slightly more (77 percent) think it is a good law. However, hardly anyone surveyed had ever used it. Nine in 10 adults (94 percent) have never requested information using a FOIA request. None of this, of course, dulls their skepticism about compliance with the law: 61 percent say they believe the federal government only sometimes, rarely or never obeys FOIA law.


“It's heartening there is a reversal in the downward trend of public confidence in the openness of the federal government,” said Andrew Alexander, co-chair of the American Society of Newspaper Editor's FOI Committee.


“But it's sobering to note that more than half of those surveyed said they still believe their government only sometimes, rarely or never abides by disclosure requirements mandated by law,” added Alexander, who is ombudsman at The Washington Post.


The survey of 946 adults was conducted by telephone from Feb. 16 through March 11 by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University under a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation. The survey has a margin of error of about 4 percentage points.


The survey has been commissioned by ASNE for Sunshine Week since 2006, Sunshine Week is a non-partisan open government initiative led by ASNE, with print, online and broadcast media; public officials; civic groups and non-profit organizations; public and special libraries; educators and students; religious leaders; and others. It is primarily funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

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