Friday, 09 December 2022

News

On Thursday night, the House of Representatives passed an emergency spending bill that would provide much-needed funding for rural schools, the Pacific salmon fisheries disaster, agricultural disaster relief and wildfire emergencies.


HR 2207 passed with a strong bipartisan vote of 302-120, according to Congressman Mike Thompson's office.


The bill would provide $425 million for a one-year extension of the county payments law, known officially as the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, Thompson reported.


Lake County receives funds from that bill, which allocates money for rural schools and roads based on historic timber receipts. The county's most recent payment was about $1 million, according to local school and county officials.


The county payments law ran out last year, and the 109th Congress failed to pass a renewal bill, as Lake County News previously reported.


Provisions to extend the bill were then included in a recent Iraq War supplemental bill, which President Bush vetoed earlier this month because, among other things, it included timelines for troop withdrawal from Iraq.


The bill also includes $60.4 million for California and Oregon's commercial salmon fishing industry, a provision introduced by Thompson. The relief is needed for fishermen, tribes and businesses impacted by the commercial fishery failure of 2006, which Thompson's statement attributed to irresponsible Bush Administration water policies.


"The emergency relief for our salmon industry is long overdue," said Thompson. "Last year's commercial salmon fishing closure was the largest in U.S. history. The affected families and businesses need aid right away, and the president's claim that they should take out loans is illustrative of his disconnect from the real needs of working Americans."


"Due to the fishing closure last year, my business lost $50,000," said Deniel Caouette, owner of Deniel's Place Café in Klamath. "That may not seem like much to the president, but we're holding on by a thread and his suggestion that we just 'borrow' the money reveals how out of touch he is with plight of working people on the Klamath River."


In addition, the bill includes $500 million for wildland firefighting, and money for agriculture disaster relief.


A Bush statement of administration policy, issued May 10, said if presented with the bill, the president would veto it, calling the $7 billion included in the bill “unrequested spending that is unjustified and not appropriate for an emergency spending bill.”


In addition, the administration said the bill circumvents the new House “pay-as-you-go” rule and stretches the definition of “emergency.” The statement called the $500 million in wildfire suppression activities the bill proposes as “unnecessary, saying this year Congress has appropriated enough funding for such emergencies.


Regarding the county payments law provisions, the statement noted that the administration has “serious concerns” with the bill's provisions, and that the president has proposed his own “responsible” extension for the law that includes funding for a more sustainable level of timber harvest, with phase-out provisions.


"This president says he wants to leave no child behind while simultaneously keeping funding out of our schools," continued Thompson. "This veto signals that he doesn't care about getting rural students a good education."


Oregon Congressman Greg Walden also took issue with the administration statement. “To say that the closing of jails, schools and libraries as is occurring right now in my district and in others is not somehow an emergency is to simply ignore reality of what's happening in the rural west. It is outrageous.”


Walden said the federal government has failed to properly fund wildfire suppression, with 10 million acres of federal land burning last year at a cost of $1.5 billion to taxpayers to extinguish those fires. He said the government also has failed to replant those forestlands.


"Without funding, our county schools are at severe risk," said Jan Moorehouse, Superintendent of Del Norte County Unified School District. "These funds should have been secured last year and the president's callous disregard demonstrates he is ignorant to the needs of rural communities in the West."


The spending bill, entitled the Agriculture Disaster Assistance and Western States Emergency Unfinished Business Appropriations Act of 2007, now goes to a vote in the Senate.


Thompson's office reports there is enough support in the House to override the president's veto.


To view Rep. Thompson's floor speech click here: http://recap.fednet.net/archive/Buildasx.asp?sProxy=80_hflr051007_140.wmv&sTime=00:00:51.0&eTime=00:03:25&duration=00:02:33.0&UserName.


To see the White House statement of administration policy, visit www.whitehouse.gov/omb/legislative/sap/110-1/hr2207sap-h.pdf.


To learn more about the bill, visit www.thomas.gov and search for HR 2207.


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


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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The Mendocino National Forest's final snow survey of the season showed still more low readings during what forest officials say has been one of the driest years on record.


Forest staffers Jordan Saylor and Conroy Colman conducted the recent snow measurements at Anthony Peak, at an elevation of 6,200 feet, according to a report from Phebe Brown, the forest's spokesperson.


Forest Hydrologist Bob Faust says Anthony Peak is located in the middle of the forest, between the Sacramento and Eel River watersheds.


The measurements conducted by Saylor and Colman found snow depth and water content to be 60 percent below average for this time of year, Brown reported.


One of the samples at the snow course was bare dirt, although the other nine sites were covered, Brown said.


The average snow depth was 23 inches, or 43 percent of average, said Brown. The water content was 9.4 inches – which amounts to 41 percent of average.


A snow survey of the area conducted March 30 found the snowpack at 26 inches (40 percent of average) and 12 inches of water (43 percent of average).


“This is the lowest water content in 15 years,” said Faust.


Other recent low snow years were 1981, 1986 and 1990, he said.


The snowpack statewide has been down significantly this year.


The Department of Water Resources reported Tuesday that the state snowpack was at an average of 25 percent of normal. The more severe weather conditions can be attributed to climate change and global warming, Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow said last week.


Brown reported that the National Forest has been measuring winter snow depths and moisture

content since 1944 and the averages are calculated based on all those years. Precipitation from Anthony Peak drains down the Grindstone watershed, into Stony Creek and the Black Butte Reservoir, ending up in the Sacramento River, she added.


With the irrigation season on and with low inflow, reservoir storage dropped dramatically, Faust said.


“Anyone driving by Lake Mendocino on Highway 20 can see a lot of shoreline,” said Faust. “This lake is 82 percent of average storage."


Faust compared that to other Northern California reservoirs, including Shasta Lake, which is at 99-percent storage; Lake Oroville, 105 percent; and Black Butte Lake, 68 percent.


Besides California, the states of Arizona, Nevada and Utah are also dry, Faust said.


Good snowpack areas, he added, can be found in Colorado, Washington, Idaho and Montana.


For the most part, Lake County is not dependent on snowpack, according to Water Resources Division officials, but rather on precipitation and creek flow into the lake.


Local creeks remain at extremely low levels according to Department of Water Resources stream gages.


On Tuesday, Kelsey Creek was at 9.9 cubic feet per second (cfs), with the creek's median level at 25; the north fork of Cache Creek measured 20 cfs, with a median of 35; Cache Creek at Lower Lake was at 142 cfs, with a median of 308; and Putah Creek was at 19 cfs, with a median of 74.


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KELSEYVILLE – Rescuers continue to search the lake for a Vacaville man who fell from his boat Saturday evening.


The Lake County Sheriff's Marine Patrol reported Sunday that they had received a report at 5:19 p.m. Saturday that John Stockton had fallen from the back of his boat and into the water.


Stockton, who went into the water near Buckingham Point, didn't resurface, according to the report from LCSO Lt. Gary Basor.


LCSO's Search and Rescue efforts began immediately, reported Basor. Air Ambulance Reach 6 was called and responded within nine minutes, flying over the area where Stockton was last seen in an attempt to locate him.


Search and Rescue brought in a water search dog at 8 p.m. to search the water from a boat, said Basor. However, by midnight, rescuers had not yet located Stockton.


The search resumed Sunday at 8 a.m., Basor noted, led by LCSO and the North Shore Dive Team.


Basor reported that LCSO requested mutual aid through the state Office of Emergency Services for search dogs and dive teams with sophisticated sonar equipment.


Alameda County, Sonoma County, Sacramento County and the California Rescue Dog Association responded, according to Basor.


Basor reported Sunday afternoon that Stockton still had not been found.


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 – With state officials concerned about the spread of the light brown apple moth, a bill is now in the state legislature that proposes to form an advisory task force to address the pest issue.


North Coast Sen. Patricia Wiggins on Friday said she introduced urgency legislation, SB 556, to form a light brown apple moth advisory task force.


Appointments to the task force would be made by the California Department of Food & Agriculture secretary – currently A.G. Kawamura – with task force members required to issue a report on the pest to the secretary no later than Sept. 1, Wiggins' office reported.


The Department of Food & Agriculture reported that the light brown apple moth was discovered in the Bay area in February.


Since then, it has reached a total of eight California counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Cruz.


A total of 1,979 moths have been found according to the most recent Food & Agriculture situation report, released May 8. Most of the moths have been found in Santa Cruz County, which officials believe may be the original infestation point.


Trapping is taking place in 40 counties, with more than 17,000 traps put into urban and rural areas, according to the Department of Food & Agriculture.


No traps have been put out in Lake County, according to the Department of Food & Agriculture. Traps have been placed in the neighboring counties of Sonoma, Mendocino and Yolo, but so far those traps have yielded no moth finds.


The presence of the moth has been confirmed in as many as 250 kinds of plants and trees, according to the Department of Food & Agriculture.


In particular, the moth has been known to damage pears and grapes, important North Coast crops.


The moth, originally from Australia, has since become established in New Zealand, New Caledonia, Hawaii and the British Isles, the Department of Food & Agriculture reported.


Moth infestations led the state Department of Food & Agriculture to announce April 20 that it was establishing quarantines in the affected counties. On May 2, federal agriculture department officials implemented a federal order restricting the interstate movement of various agricultural products originating from the same counties listed above, as well as Hawaii.


“California stands as the nation’s leader in agricultural exports, shipping more than $7.2 billion in food and agricultural commodities around the world in 2003 alone,” Wiggins said. “The light brown apple moth has the potential to cause significant economic damage due to increased production costs and the possible loss of international and domestic markets.”


SB 556 has been scheduled for its first legislative hearing on May 15 before the Senate Committee on Agriculture at the State Capitol.


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CLEAR LAKE – The Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Tuesday afternoon that they had recovered the body of a Vacaville man who went missing in the lake Saturday evening.


A report from LCSO Lt. Cecil Brown said that 44-year-old John Leon Stockton, was found at noon.


Search and Rescue members and the North Shore Dive Team had been searching for Stockton since Saturday evening, after it was reported that he fell from the back of his boat and into the water, and didn't resurface.


They were joined in the efforts by Tom Tessier of Santa Rosa-based Aqua-Tec Inc., a company that operates sophisticated sonar equipment, Brown reported.


With Tessier's help, dive team members found Stockton's body underwater, Brown said, and later positively identified him.


Brown said Stockton's family was notified of his recovery Tuesday afternoon.


LCSO has initiated a coroner's investigation into the cause of Stockton's death, Brown said. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.


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


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LAKE COUNTY – A former Kelseyville resident found guilty of the 1986 murder of his ex-wife's boyfriend and assaulting his teenage stepson with a firearm was denied parole in a May 4 hearing.


Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff appeared at the parole hearing for Richard Cruz, 59, at the California State Prison in Solano, where. Hinchcliff said he argued against granting parole.


Cruz was sentenced on June 8, 1987, to 33 years to life for the first-degree murder of Michael Koschik and assault with a firearm on a teenage boy.


Hinchcliff reported that the investigation found that Cruz and his wife of seven years, Beverly Cruz, had separated in 1985 and divorced in July 1986 because of Richard Cruz’s excessive alcohol abuse and problems with violence.


At the time of the murder, Beverly Cruz was living with Michael Koschik at a residence on Bell Hill Road in Kelseyville, along with her three children – the youngest of which was Cruz's biological child – and Koschik’s two children, according to Hinchcliff. The five children were between the ages of 7 and 16.


In May of 1986, Beverly Cruz obtained a restraining order against her ex-husband because of his ongoing threats and harassment, including an incident where he damaged Koschik’s truck, Hinchcliff reported. Between June and September of 1986 Cruz violated the restraining order several more times, and in September of 1986 he resisted arrest when deputies arrested him for violating the order.


Investigators interviewed several witnesses who stated that Cruz had made several threats to harm or kill Beverly Cruz and Michael Koschik prior to the murder, according to Hinchcliff.


Then, on the afternoon of Nov. 16, 1986, Cruz drove to Koschik’s Bell Hill Road home with a .357 revolver and a box of ammunition, Hinchcliff reported. Beverly Cruz, Koschik and the five children were all home, having just returned home from a sports banquet for one of the children.


When Cruz pulled up in front of the house, Koschik walked out on the front porch, according to Hinchcliff's report. Cruz got out of his truck with the gun and approached with the gun pointed at Koschik. As Koschik started to back up and turn to go back into the house, Cruz shot Koschik four times from a distance of about 12 feet while several of the children watched.


One of Cruz’s teenage stepsons, afraid that Cruz was there to kill the entire family, retrieved a shotgun, loaded it and shot Cruz as he was reloading the handgun, Hinchcliff's report noted. Cruz then fired at least two shots at his stepson.


Koschik died at the scene, Hinchcliff said.


At the parole hearing, Hinchcliff advised the parole commissioners that due to the callousness and brutality of the crime, Cruz’s violent history and the devastation caused to so many young children, Cruz should never be paroled under any circumstances.


Three of the children who were present at the murder, all of them now adults, were present at the hearing to ask that Cruz not be released, Hinchcliff reported.


The commissioners denied Cruz parole, and set his next parole hearing in five years, the maximum denial time allowed by law, Hinchcliff noted. Cruz's next parole hearing will be in 2012.


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Tule elk are once more at home at Lake Pillsbury, thanks to efforts from state and federal agencies, and a conservation organization. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino National Forest.

 

MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – A small herd of tule elk is thriving at Lake Pillsbury thanks to efforts during the past three decades to reintroduce the animals, which were nearly hunted to extinction.


Tule elk once were at the brink of disappearing due to habitat changes and overhunting, said Lee Morgan, a Mendocino National Forest biologist.


Beginning in the state's Gold Rush era, “market hunters” – who shot the animals and then sold the meat – began to erode herd numbers, Morgan explained.


Within 30 years, market hunters had nearly wiped out the tule elk statewide, said Morgan, a situation he said was similar to what happened to the American bison.


Different historical accounts put the tule elk's lowest numbers at between two and 20, he said.


The elk had also been at home in Lake County, which Morgan said is on the edge of the tule elk habitat.


Beginning in the 1970s, the state Department of Fish & Game began reintroducing the animals to the Lake Pillsbury Basin, according to a report by Phebe Brown, the forest spokesperson.


Fish & Game initially brought in 20 animals, Brown reported. Several years ago, Morgan said, another group of elk were brought in.


In January, forest biologists counted 68 elk, including 17 branched bulls, Brown reported.


Morgan said it's a steadily growing herd. “We're expecting to see about a dozen calves this year,” he said, which would bring the herd size to about 80.


“It's the only tule elk herd on our forest that's regularly present,” said Morgan, although some tule elk sometimes travel in from other areas, such as Covelo.


Mendocino National Forest and the Los Padres National Forest in Goleta are the only two national forests in the state to have tule elk, Morgan reported.


The Pillsbury elk can't be hunted, said Morgan, as there's no elk hunting season in that area.


What's a tule elk?


The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a conservation organization based in Missoula, Mont., reports there are four elk subspecies: the Rocky Mountain, found in the Rocky Mountain West region; Roosevelt's, found along the Pacific Coast; the tule, in central California; and the Manitoban, found in the northern Great Plains.


Tule elk are a smaller breed of elk, Morgan said, normally about two-thirds the size of a Rocky Mountain elk.


The cows they've collared in the Pillsbury herd range between 300 and 350 pounds, he said, with the biggest bull weighing in at roughly 500 pounds.


Tule elk tend to prefer flatter ground, he said, and don't range as far as some other elk species.


Although Rocky Mountain Elk are found in California, Morgan said that there is some disagreement among scientists about whether or not that elk subspecies is actually native to California.


Grants helped elk project


The effort to make the elk at home once more was aided by a partnership between the Mendocino National Forest, Fish & Game and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.


The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation gave the effort a grant to help pay for radio telemetry, which is used to county and monitor the elk and their habitat usage, Brown reported. Fish & Game and the Forest Service have worked together to capture and monitor the elk.


Brown reported that several types of recent projects have benefited tule elk around the lake. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Fish & Game and California Deer Association have provided grants that, combined with Forest Service funding, helped pay for work that improves forage for tule elk, deer, and other wildlife.


Visitors can see mechanical brush management and burning projects that have been completed on several hundred acres on the flats at the north end of the lake, Brown reported. The work produces additional food for wildlife as well as reduces fuel concentrations that pose a threat to adjacent homes and forested habitat.


The National Forest has initiated several new forest thinning and fuel reduction projects that will create additional understory forage on more than 1,500 acres on ridges to the east and west of the lake, according to Brown. Elk forage and elk use had been limited on those ridge locations prior to project work, but elk use has already increased where that work has begun east of the lake. Planned future understory burns should help maintain favorable forage conditions while keeping fuel profiles reduced.


Morgan said an Elk Foundation grant will help fund a 100-acre project that this year that will burn older chaparral to provide better feed for area deer and elk. When the chaparral grows back, the elk find the younger growth more palatable and will mow it down, he said, which in turn helps control the brush.


The forest's tule elk also enjoy wild clovers and grasses, he said, and when the main grasses dry out, they'll focus more on the green summer and fall foliage around Lake Pillsbury's edges.


Fish & Game overflies the herd monthly, said Morgan. The National Forest monitors the elk from the ground; Morgan said he comes over monthly to check on them, making more visits during calving season.


Fish & Game wildlife biologist David Casady said the agency is excited about how the elk are doing at Pillsbury.


“There are more elk here than we thought and the herd is growing nicely,” he said. “We have learned new information about local elk movements and relative habitat usage from the telemetry so that land managers can better plan elk enhancement projects near the lake.”


He added, “We are hoping the ongoing bull telemetry will show if some animals are moving between here and adjacent herds.”


Knowing where the elk go and along what general routes can help prioritize future habitat work to improve habitat linkage between elk herds, Casady said.


Elk herd the visible sign of success


Wildlife enthusiasts can consistently view tule elk and other wildlife at Lake Pillsbury, though they are not necessarily all visible all day long, Morgan said.


It's also important to remember that the animals are wild, Morgan said.


“Nature watchers need to remember that these elk are wild animals and not to approach too closely,” he said. “Folks can often park on a road and get a good view of the elk with binoculars from their car without spooking the elk into the cover.”


He added, “Elk viewing can be pretty special here, between the views of the elk, the lake, and adjacent mountains, coupled with the sounds of the elk and waterfowl around the lake. Some of the resident tule elk are visible every day if you know where to look. They are usually most visible early and late in the day and spend many hours out in the lake bed as the water drops.”


Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras said the results of the partnership between government and private agencies are visible in the herd itself.


“Successful partnerships like the ones we have forged around Lake Pillsbury help us to manage our national forests to benefit both wildlife and people,” Contreras said.


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CLEAR LAKE – On Monday sheriff's deputies and Search and Rescue teams continued to look for a missing Vacaville man who reportedly fell into the lake and disappeared Saturday evening.


John Stockton fell from the back of his boat near Buckingham Point and didn't resurface, according to a report from Lake County Sheriff's Office Lt. Gary Basor.


Rescue efforts launched Saturday evening, Basor reported Sunday.


Basor, who is supervising the rescue operations, was back on the water Monday to continue the search, according to Lt. Cecil Brown.


However, no further information was forthcoming from the sheriff's office by the end of the day Monday about the status of the search.


A co-worker of Stockton's longtime girlfriend at First Priority Financial in Fairfield said Stockton, the father of two daughters, was accompanied by his girlfriend on this recent trip to Clear Lake.


The sheriff's office has been assisted in the search by REACH, and dive teams and search dogs from agencies in Alameda, Sonoma and Sacramento County, and the California Rescue Dog Association.


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


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Schoolchildren from Kiyoima Primary School in Uganda welcomed Weeks and her family. Photo by Leslie Weeks.
 

 

Editor's note: This is the last of two articles by Clearlake resident Leslie Weeks on her trip to Uganda in December. Weeks, her husband, John Weeks, MD, and their daughter went to Uganda with Dr. Arthur Bikangaga, who is from Uganda.

 


Soon after our arrival, the electricity went off (electricity is sold to neighboring countries for a better rate, so the electric often goes off at night) and we were left sitting in a room with one candle.


The staff may have been a bit unsettled because there had been a riot at the university a week before. The teachers had demanded a raise in pay and were demonstrating. The police ended up chasing them through the campus with guns and sticks.


We went to bed and abruptly woke up at 2 a.m. because the time difference between Uganda and California is 11 hours. We had problems with sleep for about one week and during this time we were always so glad to hear the “Call to prayer” sung at the local mosque each morning at 5:45 a.m. The city was fully quiet at that hour, and this beautiful voice floating over the rooftops always seemed to make everything better.


After four days one suitcase with my daughter’s and my clothes arrived. The next day the school supplies were located, but customs would not release them unless we came to the airport in person. The claim was that we were going to sell the supplies on the street so it was necessary to pay a tax. We did not realize that this was all about bribing the customs agent.


We spent three hours counting each pencil, pen and toothbrush, handwriting a list on a piece of paper, and then waiting on a hard wooden bench. We would peer around the piles of opened boxes in front of us to see our self-important agent sitting at his table and occasionally speaking with one of his cohorts. We waited. It was very hot.


He finally signaled for us to approach his table and gave us a piece of paper after dramatically stamping it. He directed us to another fold out table where a scowling woman sat. I fearfully approached, hoping there wasn’t going to be another three-hour delay.


She held my paper in hand, the other hand hovering the stamp directly over it. This lasted about 15 minutes. She finally stamped the paper and handed it to me, told us to go get the luggage and see the lady at the door. She gave me a significant look. However, I had no idea what it meant.


We got our four suitcases and headed toward the door. There was no lady there, so we left, not paying any “taxes” after all. My husband got his suitcase with all of his clothes and our hiking gear, mosquito nets, extra medicine, etc. three days after we arrived back in Lake County. One bag of medications had somehow disappeared in that cluttered room.


After he wore the same outfit for six days, we decided we had to replace John’s clothes, which we had not anticipated financially. We realized the airlines weren’t going to be quick to find the missing clothes after a more empathetic airline representative informed us, “I guess I can understand why an American would be upset if he had to wear the same clothes for six days.”


Ugandans put a lot of importance on dressing well, or “smart,” and consider the “Mzungus” (white people) rude if under-dressed. Whenever we told Ugandans of our suitcase plight, they were always quick to say “Sorry,” which is their way of expressing sympathy.


Cash economy


We quickly learned very few places in Uganda take credit cards, and then they only take Visa. We became familiar with the two malls and various other shopping areas. We then found a Woolworth’s willing to take the credit card. With everyone freshly clothed, we were ready to continue our journey.


Six hours and one flat tire later, we arrived at the Kiyoima primary school. The reception the children and staff gave us made all the previous difficulty and discomfort insignificant.


Although school is out in December and January, children, teachers, elders from the village, and the assistant headmaster had gathered just to welcome us. The children sang two delightful songs that brought tears to my eyes. These children still only spoke their local dialect and had learned these songs in English. There are approximately 63 dialects in Uganda, but all the schools teach English.


After we shared a surprisingly delicious barbecued goat (meat is a delicacy in Uganda, vegetarians are pitied), the children led us outside where they performed their local dance. They grabbed our hands and we danced with them amidst many giggles.


We had to leave because it was getting late, so we reluctantly said goodbye to these beautiful children and their teachers. We told the teachers that we had mailed clothes for them in the beginning of December, but they hadn’t arrived yet. We told them two boxes of books would hopefully arrive in February. The assistant headmaster jumped with joy. We wished we could give them more.


We continued our safari and saw the wild beauty of Uganda. We were within yards of mountain gorillas that barely gave us a glance. When a huge silverback did look our way, there was no question of who was boss.


We searched for hours for the climbing lions in Ishasha, and eventually found the gorgeous lions languidly hanging out in fig trees. Baboons lined the dirt-rutted roads while several species of monkeys clamored overhead.


The earth was so fertile, local people had gardens on every inch of cleared space. Zebras, hippos, crocodiles and elephants were all equally stunning. Birds were brimming with grace and color. Water buffalo, impalas and wart hogs all had their own personalities.


Even as we were thrilled by the incredible and diverse wildlife, we were also impacted by the strength and individuality of each Ugandan.


Safari lesson


We left Uganda two weeks later, feeling elated, frustrated, tired, hungry, and sad to leave.


On this safari that originated in Lake County, we learned that tolerance and understanding starts with one person, and can spread to many.


Rudyard Kipling says it well in his poem, “We and They”:


Father, Mother and Me

Sister and Aunties say

All the people like us are We,

And everyone else is They.

And They live over the sea

While we live over the way,

But would you believe it?

They look upon We

As only a sort of They!

We eat pork and beef

With cow-horn-handled knives.

They who gobble Their rice off a leaf

Are horrified out of Their lives;

While They who live up a tree,

Feast on grubs and clay,

(Isn’t is scandalous?) We look upon

As a simply disgusting They!

We eat kitcheny food.

We have doors that latch.

They drink milk or blood

Under an open thatch.

We have Doctors to fee.

They have the Wizards to pay.

And (impudent heathen!)

They look upon We

As a quite impossible They!

All good people agree,

And all good people say,

All nice people, like Us, are We

And everyone else is They:

But if you cross over the sea,

Instead of over the way,

You may end by (think of it!)

Looking on WE

As only a sort of They!


With people like Bill and Kate, Julia, wonderful giving teachers in Uganda, students in elementary schools, and generous people here in Lake County, cultural gaps can be bridged and differences can begin to be overcome on a much grander scale.


Traveling to other countries is not always easy, things we experience there are not always pleasant, or comfortable, but I hope it always brings the “They” into our “We.”


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SACRAMENTO – A key Senate committee gave unanimous approval Wednesday to SB 813, a bill by Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) to clarify state elections code.


Specifically, the bill would clarify that a provision in the state elections code pertaining to the death of a candidate prior to a vote of the people applies only to primaries and not runoff elections.


A statement from Wiggins' office said the bill is meant to prevent a repeat of the 2006 Mendocino County District Attorney's Race. In that instance, incumbent Norm Vroman died 47 days prior to the November runoff, a situation which led to a long and controversial election.


Existing law provides that when a candidate dies after the 68th day before the election, the votes cast for the deceased candidate are to be counted in determining the results of the election for that office.


If the deceased candidate receives a majority of the votes cast for the office, he or she shall be considered elected and the office to which he or she was elected shall be vacant at the beginning of the term for which he or she was elected. The vacancy shall be filled in the same manner as if the candidate had died subsequent to taking office for that term (Elections Code Section 15402).


However, there's another twist to election law. If an incumbent runs for a nonpartisan state or local office against only one other candidate, and either of the two candidates dies after the 68th day before the election, the law states that another election can't be held. If it is, the ballots will be declared void.


In those circumstances, a special election is required when the death of either candidate occurs. This provision is located in an area of the Elections Code (Section 8026) that pertains only to primary elections and was never intended to apply to runoff elections. The Wiggins bill merely seeks to clarify that intent.


Section 8026: History


Elections Code Section 8026 was enacted in 1988 in response to the 1986 election for San Mateo County Sheriff. The popular incumbent, Brendon Maguire, drew only one opponent, who was considered by some observers to be unqualified for the office.


After the close of the nomination period but prior to the primary election, Maguire died. Fearing that an unqualified person might be elected sheriff, then-Assemblyman Lou Papan authored successful urgency legislation (AB 2739 of 1986) to cancel the election and require a new one.


However, AB 2739 was overturned by the State Supreme Court and the election between the deceased sheriff and the challenger proceeded. Sheriff Maguire won the election with nearly 80 percent of the vote. The office was eventually declared vacant and a special election was held to fill it.


In order to prevent the possibility that such a situation could result in an unqualified candidate winning a future nonpartisan election, the Legislature enacted Section 8026, which cancels a primary election if the incumbent has only one challenger and one of them dies prior to the primary.


That legislation, AB 2582 of 1988, was not intended to address runoffs, the reasoning being that if a challenger is able to force a runoff against an incumbent, that challenger must be deemed qualified for the office in the eyes of the electorate.


A case in point: The recent Mendocino election


The 2006 election for Mendocino County District Attorney featured three candidates running in the June primary: incumbent Norm Vroman, attorney and former deputy D.A. Meredith Linott and Myron Sawicki.


Vroman received 36.08 percent of the vote, Sawicki received 21.77 percent and Linott received the most votes at 42.01 percent. Since no candidate received a clear majority of the votes (50 percent plus one), a runoff was scheduled between Vroman and Linott.


Vroman died of a heart attack just 47 days prior to the runoff. Given that it was a runoff election the county invoked a provision of the election code (Section 15402) requiring that the ballots be counted. The county was subsequently sued, however, over whether the provision rendering the election null and void (Section 8026) should have been invoked instead.


The Appellate Court ruled against the county and ordered a special election be held that negated the primary, setting a new precedent given the intent and history of Section 8026.


Fixing the Problem: SB 813


“In light of the turmoil resulting from the 2006 Mendocino County D.A. race and the subsequent lawsuit and court ruling, I introduced SB 813 to clarify that Section 8026 of the Elections Code does indeed apply only to primary elections,” Wiggins said.


“Furthermore, my bill would clarify that if a candidate dies within 68 days of a runoff election, Section 15402 applies to govern the results of that election,” she added. “The Legislature never intended Section 8026 to apply to runoff elections and doing so results in unnecessary costs, delays, and added confusion for voters.”


For more about Wiggins' bills or to contact her office, visit http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.


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WASHINGTON Rep. Mike Thompson joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Leadership outside the Capitol last week to raise awareness of the treatment barriers facing mental health patients.


According to the Government Accountability Office, 90 percent of health insurance plans impose financial limitations and treatment restrictions on mental health and addiction benefits.


In response, Thompson has co-authored the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addition Equity Act (H.R. 1424). This bill requires all insurers that offer mental health care to provide the same level of benefits as they would for any other medical condition.


"Mental illness and addiction are diseases like any other," said Thompson. "It is unconscionable that people suffering from these sometimes life-threatening diseases are discriminated against when they ask for help."


Currently, health insurers are allowed to offer mental health benefits that differ significantly from the medical and surgical benefits offered under the same plan. As a result, beneficiaries often pay more for these services and are eligible to use fewer of them.


The Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act requires any insurer choosing to provide mental health benefits to equalize the financial requirements and treatment limits in comparison to other benefits.


"There are already so many barriers for people with mental health problems, from the stigma associated with it to a nationwide shortage of providers," said Thompson. "This bill will make sure that health insurance is not one of them. It's time we leveled the playing field in the treatment of mental health. Millions of Americans are depending on it."


A majority of respondents to a National Mental Health Association survey indicated that they would support parity legislation even if it meant a $1 per month increase to their premiums. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that such legislation will increase healthcare costs less than that amount.


H.R. 1424 was introduced by Reps. Patrick Kennedy and Jim Ramstad and co-authored by Thompson on March 7.


The bill is cosponsored by a bipartisan majority of 265 Members of Congress.


For more information on Thompson's legislation, visit his Web site, http://mikethompson.house.gov/.


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KELSEYVILLE – This week, work will continue on a fire prevention project in the Black Forest that began last month.


During the week of April l5-21, crews from Cal Fire – the new name for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection – began cutting brush and snags from the forest's edge running along Soda Bay Road in order to create a shaded fuel break.


The Bureau of Land Management project is intended to reduce the likelihood of a wildland fire in the forest, according to Rich Burns of the BLM's Ukiah field office. The project is sponsored and funded by BLM and the US Department of Interior.


On April 21, community volunteers helped drag undergrowth the Cal Fire crews had cut up to Soda Bay Road, where tons of materials was chipped. Taking part in the effort were students from Carle, Kelseyville and Clear Lake high schools; Big Valley Lions Club members; and local volunteers as well as those from as far away as Contra Costa and San Diego counties.


In addition, Bob Braito, used his heavy equipment to grade a staging area near Golf Road and Soda Bay and moved many yards of brush from Soda Bay Road to the staging area. The Buckingham Homes Association, led by manager Julie Berry, provided lunch with help from donations from Bruno's and D&J Pizza.


Volunteers on April 21 weren't able to complete chipping all of the materials, so the rest of the work is slated for completion this week.


On Tuesday and Wednesday, flaggers will be controlling traffic from Madrone to Little Borax Road. One volunteer flagger for Tuesday, quipped, "I feel that I am getting to be on my sixth grade school traffic squad again. You were special if you were trusted to use the whistle and the little stop sign."


The west side of the road will have two chippers working in tandem with 20 Cal Fire members feeding the chippers the rest of the cut undergrowth. This work will complete the first phase of the Black Forest Fire Prevention Project.


Only a portion of the "Prescription Plan" developed by CDF and BLM in 2004 was completed in Phase I. The plan for the Black Forest calls for removing all brush and trees under 3 inches in diameter at a height of 10 feet. The removal would extend 300 feet into the forest, providing a defensible fire control area, Cal Fire officials explained.


Most fires that start along the road smolder for a long time. If the grass fires cannot easily ladder up into the trees, the local fire service has a better chance of extinguishing the fire. Roads to the entrance of Yosemite National Park and other national parks entrances are being treated with the same prescription prepared for the Black Forest.


The prescription was established by BLM when the 250 acres was turned over to the BLM from the Lake County Land Trust. The Land Trust was able to purchase the property from loggers and hold the property in trust until a combination of donations and grants were obtained. All the land, except for seven acres owned by Lake County, was turned over to BLM in September 2004.


Planning will soon start for the project's next phase.


The Black Forest Fire Prevention Project Phase II is scheduled for Saturday, Sept 29, on National Public Lands Day. That effort will be discussed at an information celebration at 4 p.m. Friday, May 11, at the Witherell home, 8100 Soda Bay Road.


The public is invited to see the results of Phase I and discuss a Phase II project. Youth are encourage to attend. All three high school representatives have indicated that they plan to bring their students on Sept. 29 for phase II.


For more information about National Public Lands Day, visit www.publiclandsday.org. For more information about the Black Forest project, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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