Monday, 22 April 2024

News

LAKEPORT – Two of three juveniles accused of being involved in a stabbing last week in Lakeport may be charged as adults in the case.


Five Lakeport teenagers – three of them under age 18 -- were arrested in connection with the March 16 stabbing of 19-year-old Alex Larranaga of Clearlake Oaks. Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke said all five suspects are involved in the Surenos street gang.


On Wednesday morning, confidential juvenile court proceedings were held for the juveniles, reported District Attorney Jon Hopkins. All three were arraigned and had defense attorneys appointed to represent them, said Hopkins.


According to the original statement from police, the juveniles arrested were a 14-year-old male from Lakeport, on conspiracy and attempted murder charges with the gang enhancement; a 16-year-old male from Lakeport, facing charges of attempted murder and a street gang enhancement; and a 17-year-old Lakeport resident, who is charged with conspiracy, attempted murder and the enhancement for street gangs.


Hopkins said he is pursuing prosecution of two of the teens as adults. Those teens, he said, are scheduled for fitness hearings, which will determine if they should be tried as adults.


The two adults alleged to have been involved in the stabbing, Ricardo Tapia Muniz, 18, and Elias Hernandez, 19, were arraigned in Lake County Superior Court on Tuesday, Hopkins said.


Muniz's booking sheet shows he is charged with attempted murder; authorities allege he was the one who actually stabbed Larranaga. He has an additional felony charge of participation in a criminal street gang.


Hernandez is also charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit a crime and participation in a street gang, according to jail records.


Hopkins said bail for both was raised to $500,000 at the Tuesday hearing. Defense attorneys were appointed for Muniz and Hernandez with their cases continued until Friday for plea entries, he added.


Burke said Larranaga remains in intensive care after the attack.


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 Just when you're beginning to get used to the springtime temperatures we've enjoyed for over a week, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Sacramento is predicting a dramatic change in the weather beginning on Monday.


Tracking a storm that will move into Lake County Monday night and Tuesday, the NWS is forecasting that rain and cooler temperatures will return for a short time.


In addition to the rain, snow levels are expected to reach the 4,000 foot level by Tuesday.


The NWS advises caution if you will be traveling to the Sierra Nevada mountains on Monday or Tuesday, as winter driving conditions will be in effect.


High temperatures on Monday should be in the mid to upper 50s, with lows in the 40s.


Expect temperatures a few degrees cooler on Tuesday and clearing and warmer by Wednesday.


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


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The Westshore Pool is stripped of its plaster now, but will be ready for fun by summer, said project manager Bob Dwyer. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

LAKEPORT – Despite weather delays during February and plenty of unexpected repair work, work on the Westshore Pool is moving forward, with the pool expected to be ready for action this summer.


At its Feb. 6 meeting, the council awarded a $313,370 bid for renovating the pool to Pleasanton-based Pool Time, which was the only company to submit a bid on the project.


The renovations, according to city staff, are funded primarily by Measure I proceeds, along with a $168,000 state grant.


City Engineer Scott Harter reported Pool Time began work on the pool Feb. 12.


Since work got under way, there have been several discoveries that weren't expected in the original project scope, Harter said.


Those included Pool Time's finding that parts of the pool, such as the main drain, needed to be re-plumbed due to leaks. That resulted in having to remove parts of the pool wall, which will have to be replaced with a special kind of concrete.


As a result, Pool Time Project Manager Bob Dwyer has attended the last few City Council meetings to ask for contract change orders to cover additional costs.


While the council grumbled about the requests, they ultimately approved them, saying they felt the community had made clear its desire for the pool's renovation.


“The pool has never been one of my favorite items, but if we're going to fix it, we're going to fix it right," Mayor Roy Parmentier said at the council's Feb. 20 meeting.


During a special council meeting on March 9, the council asked Dwyer to come and answer questions about the project, which he did as part of asking for a fourth change order.


The council approved that order, bringing the total cost of the pool now to $370,515.


Dwyer, who has been building and remodeling pools in 1973, said delays during remodeling projects aren't uncommon.


He's had about a week's worth of delays due to rainy weather in February and that, along with the other renovation issues, has caused him to be little behind in his timeline. However, Dwyer said he expects to be finished in time for the summer season.


Harter said the local swim team start training in May.


In his meetings with the council, Dwyer said he felt they've been receptive to the issues with the pool.


When the work is done, said Dwyer, “Everybody will be very pleased. It will look so much cleaner than before.”


That's because it will have new coping, tile and plaster, and 75-percent new plumbing, Dwyer said. In fact, everything but the pool floor has been completely replumbed, he added.


There is some electric repair that remains, he said, but for the most part, he believes most of the surprises are past.


“I think we've discovered most of the stuff that is extra, above and beyond the original contract scope,” he said.


Remodeling the pool will make it essentially brand-new, he said, for less than half of what it would cost to build a new pool.


He said he has plans to build a new pool for the City of East Palo Alto that will be 4,300 square feet, about the same size as Westshore. That project, he said, will cost about $1 million.


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

 

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A view of the deep end of the pool and one of the skimmers. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

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LAKEPORT – As the City of Lakeport prepares to hold its second community meeting to discuss hosting BoardStock later today, the event's promoter says his event is being unfairly blamed for crime and violence.


Rob Stimmel of BoardStock Productions won't be at the 4:30 p.m. meeting at city hall, although he attended the first on March 6. At that meeting, there were numerous community members who spoke both for and against the city hosting the event.

 

Acting City Manager Richard Knoll, however, said last week he intended to recommend that the City Council approve hosting the event, because he believes that if it were to include certain modifications – including being gated an nonalcoholic – it would be a good fit and a benefit to the local economy.

 

Stimmel, who is in Italy this week, said in a phone interview Monday that he's concerned that his event is being blamed for a number of underage drinking arrests that occurred last summer at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, which hosted the event for the past two years.


“BoardStock is getting blamed for everything,” he said.


Stimmel claims that Konocti Harbor President and CEO Greg Bennett had sought out BoardStock for several years before it finally came to the county, and had then approached him for a multi-year deal before suddenly announcing last month that the resort would not continue to host the event.


Stimmel said Bennett told him the decision to drop the event was a result of dozens of citations for underage drinking.


A call to Bennett's office late Monday afternoon was not returned.


According to District Attorney Jon Hopkins, his office filed charges in between 30 and 40 cases of minors in possession of alcohol, referred to them by Alcoholic Beverage Control.


BoardStock wasn't to blame for the crime issues, said Stimmel, which he said happened after his event ended for the day, which was usually between 4 and 5 p.m.


“The reputation of my event has kind of been tarnished a little bit,” Stimmel said.


Stimmel said he was especially concerned about recent comments made by Bennett in which he said he planned to do an event similar to BoardStock. The BoardStock banners are still up at the resort, although Stimmel said he has asked for them to be taken down.


He said he would like to be known for his sporting events. BoardStock is part of the World Series of Wakeboarding and the wakesurfing world championships, he said.


Stimmel asked for the city to give him a year, let him put on a world class sporting event and then decide whether or not to invite him back.


The event brings in between $3.5 million and $5 million, said Stimmel. Last year, he said, Konocti Harbor collected $140,000 at the gate.


Stimmel said he will offer to share the gate proceeds with the city in order to police coverage and other city expenses.


He said he's dedicated to having a “good, professional event.”


The meeting will be held at Lakeport City Hall, 225 Park St.


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


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Protestors held signs and marched along Highway 20 Saturday afternoon. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

LUCERNE – A Saturday peace rally organized by two local teenagers drew about 50 people who marched and discussed their concerns about the current war in Iraq.


Conrad Kiczenski and Alie Stout, both 15, organized the rally, which took place began 2 and 4:30 p.m. at Lucerne Harbor Park.


Those who attended the afternoon event were an almost equal number of teens and adults. On the adult side were several members of Lake County Peace Action and District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing.


Some visitors came from outside the county to participate. Madeline Daughton, a third grade teacher, and author Rudy Knoop, both of Covelo, drove over for the day to take part.


The location for the rally, in a grove of redwoods at the park, was especially poignant. Among the trees is one with a plaque called “The Freedom Tree.”


The plaque reads: “The Freedom Tree: With the vision of universal freedom for all mankind, this tree is dedicated to the POW/MIAs of California and all prisoners of war and missing action, 1973.”


Some of the signs carried at the rally had slogans such as, “Peace is not partisan,” and “Occupation is terror.”


Conrad himself carried a sign that said, “Tell Congress, stop funding war.”


The group marched and stood along the edge of the park bordering Highway 20, where a number of cars passing by honked as a show of support.


During an interview with videographer Hiram Dukes, Conrad said he's concerned that corporate media is helping keep people ignorant of the government's actions.


Several participants took their turn at the bullhorn to share their thoughts about the war and why the rally was important.


Finley resident Phil Murphy told the teens at the event that they should be proud of themselves for being there and taking action. “You're doing the right thing,” he said.


He added that by protesting the government's policies the teenagers were doing what their parents and neighbors have failed to do.


Both Conrad and Alie were pleased with the turnout.


“I was surprised at how many people showed up,” said Alie.


She said they hope to plan more events this summer.


Today at noon Alie and Conrad will lead a meeting of Lake County Youth Action at the Lucerne Senior Center. The newly forming group seeks to unite local teens in positive causes and activities.


For more information about Lake County Youth Action, e-mail Conrad at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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

 

 

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About 50 people took part in the Saturday event. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

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LAKE COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol reported this week that fewer people lost their lives on California’s roadways in 2006 compared to the previous year, according to preliminary statistics prepared by the agency.


In Lake County, there appears to have been a slight increase both in fatal collisions and the resulting fatalities.


CHP said increased enforcement, along with education, resulted in lives saved statewide.


Highway collision fatalities decreased 9.22 percent in 2006, with 3,907 collision fatalities compared to 4,304 in 2005. Statewide, there were 3,542 fatal collision in 2006, down from 3,822 in 2005.


Jaime Coffee of the Sacramento CHP Office reported that fatal collisions in Lake County in 2005 numbered 12, with 13 victims killed. Statistics for 2006, which she said were preliminary and only extended through September, listed 16 fatal collisions and 20 victims killed.


The county's fatality statistics over the last 10 years show a steady overall increase, with some years showing notable drops. (See graph below.)


“While I am saddened to see these deaths, I am pleased to see what appears to be a substantial reduction in the number of casualties,” said CHP Commissioner Mike Brown. “The projected reduction reflects the emphasis the CHP places on safety.”


CHP said its goals include preventing death, injury and property damage. The indicator of a state’s relative success in traffic safety is represented by the number of traffic fatalities per every 100 million miles of vehicle travel, referred to as the Mileage Death Rate (MDR). The MDR is affected by both increased educational and enforcement efforts.


“Early indications are that California’s estimated mileage death rate in 2006 is 1.21, that’s a dramatic improvement from the previous year’s 1.31 if that holds up,” said Brown.


The MDR won’t be official until the third quarter of 2007 when all data elements are finalized.


“These projected reductions in collisions and victims killed are primarily the result of increased enforcement and education in the three main causes of fatal crashes – seat belt usage, DUIs and speeding,” Brown added.


The preliminary figures were also good news at the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).


OTS awards grants to agencies throughout the state for programs aimed at reducing deaths and injuries on California's roadways.


In the last year OTS awarded $103 million to 290 agencies, more funding to more agencies than ever before, with greater emphasis on combating DUI offenders, increasing seat belt use and promoting public awareness campaigns.


DUI arrests statewide rose 4 percent between 2005 and 2006, going from 89,944 to 93.690. In Lake County, 2005 DUI arrests numbered 360, compared to a preliminary estimate of 411 for 2006 (for 10 years of Lake County DUI statistics, see graph below).


The Lake County District Attorney's Office received an OTS grant last year, according to District Attorney Jon Hopkins. The funds, said Hopkins, were used to create a new DUI Vertical Prosecution Unit and fund a prosecutor whose sole function is to work DUI cases. The unit won its first prosecution in February.


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

 

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Fatal collision and victim statistics, 1996-2006.
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The number of DUI arrests from 1996 to 2006.

 

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KELSEYVILLE – With its largest number of nominees ever, the 10th annual Stars of Lake County Community Awards was held Sunday evening at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa to honor those who make Lake County a special place.


Melissa Fulton, executive director of the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce, said this year the awards committee received its largest number of nominations in its 10-year history – 122 in all.


Twenty-four of the golden stars statuettes were handed out to gifted teens, dedicated lifelong volunteers, artists and youth advocates.


The list of this year's winner follows:


– Marla Ruzicka Humanitarian of the Year Award: Dr. Tony Veletto, Lakeport.


– Senior of the Year: Shari Koch, Lakeport.


– Volunteer of the Year: Margaret Medeiros, Clearlake Oaks.


– Student of the Year “Bo Tipton” Award, female: Lauren Nixon, Kelseyville; male, Jorel Allegro, Lakeport.


– Youth advocate, volunteer: Roy and Charlotte Disney, Lakeport.


– Youth advocate, profession: Mike Stempe, Kelseyville.


– Agriculture: Jim Fetzer, Nice.


– Organization, nonprofit: Meals on Wheels drivers (all county senior centers).


– Organization, volunteer: Free Kitchen Project, Lakeport.


– Environmental: Frank Meisenbach, Lower Lake.


– New business: Aero Airport Shuttle & Charter Service (Jeff and Michelle Tennison), Middletown.


– Small business: Strong Financial Network (Jennifer Strong), Lakeport.


– Large business: Piedmont Lumber (Bill and Vicky Myer), Lakeport.


– Best idea: Old Time Bluegrass Festival, Lower Lake.


– Local Hero: Sgt. Mike Hermann, Clearlake Police Department, and Lisa Denny, registered nurse, Redbud Hospital, Clearlake.


– The Arts, amateur: Cindy Car, Lakeport.


– The Arts, professional: Caroline Wing Greenlee, Kelseyville.


– Spirit of Lake County: David Neft, Middletown.


– Woman of the Year: Dr. Louise Nan, Clearlake.


– Man of the Year: John Norcio, Lakeport.


– Lifetime achievement, woman: Thelma Dangel, Kelseyville: man, Bill Cornelison, Cobb.


– Wind Beneath Our Wings Award: Melissa and John Fulton, Lakeport.


 

Check the gallery for photos of 2007 Stars!

 

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


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NASA and his human "mom," Katie Eells. Photo courtesy of Katie Eells.

 

LAKE COUNTY Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) Facility Dog, NASA, is known and loved by thousands in Lake County and beyond. This March, he celebrates his seventh birthday.


Serving as a CCI working dog in Lake County for more than five years, NASA has contributed to the comfort, joy and healing of his many friends.


NASA’s primary mission is working with physical and occupational therapy professionals at Lakeport rehabilitation centers in Evergreen and Skilled Nursing facilities. Clients exercise with him; he brings play and laughter into what can sometimes be a painful experience.


Recently a physical therapist introduced to NASA a client who had so far refused therapy. The only word she would say was “no,” then she would close her eyes and pretend to sleep.


When she entered the room and saw NASA waiting, her eyes lit up. Cheerfully she brushed and stroked NASA. She threw NASA’s ball and reached to throw it again and again. Touched by NASA’s magic, the therapist watched with tears in her eyes.


While the client lay on a cot to have her contracting leg muscles stretched, NASA snuggled beside her so she could relax and straighten her legs comfortably. This time they fell asleep together! NASA is as good as a pain pill! Now this client “practices” all week so that she can show NASA her progress when he comes next time.


NASA volunteers at the “Thursday Club,” or the Northshore Adult Day Center directed by Caroline Denny and located at the First Lutheran Church in Lucerne. Participants delight in NASA’s presence. He greets them as they arrive, wags them into the room and program while caretakers quietly exit.


Throughout the day he visits everyone, putting his head on laps, shaking hands, encouraging participants to play ball, pet him and talk.


As a Hospice volunteer, NASA helps facilitate eight-week Hospice Bereavement Groups. He always knows who needs a hug. At Wings, the Hospice bereavement camp for families, children sit under a tree, hug NASA, whisper their stories into his ear, and they grieve and heal together. They trust NASA because he keeps everything confidential.


NASA is the official MASCOT (Mature Adults Served by Canine Outreach Therapy) at Lucerne Senior Center. There he visits with many seniors who have given up pets of their own. He brings smiles and laughter. Although he is a large golden retriever/yellow lab mix, his gentle eyes and demeanor invite attention and love.


At 7 years old he is a mature, strong, healthy boy. He loves to play ball, run far and fast, and leap in the air. Recently NASA’s courage and steadiness were tested by a mounted police officer in Sacramento.


With permission, he brought his horse close to NASA. When it leaned down and kissed NASA on the nose, NASA smiled.


“That’s a good dog,” said the officer.


CCI, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Rosa, trains and provides service, hearing, skilled companion and facility dogs.


For more information, call 707-577-1700, TDD 577-1756, or visit their website at www.caninecompanions.org.

 

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NASA sits in the lap of one of his special friends. Photo courtesy of Katie Eells.
 

 

 

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LAKEPORT – A stabbing reportedly took place Friday evening at Library Park, according to a witness account.


The incident took place at the park's boat ramp at about 8 p.m., according to Lakeport resident Harold LaBonte.


LaBonte said the victim survived, and that two arrests may have taken place at the nearby Willopoint trailer park.


He reported some confusion at the scene as patrons at the nearby TNT on the Lake restaurant hurried to leave the area.


Police officials at the scene would not release details, said La Bonte.


A dispatcher at Lakeport Police reported at shortly before 11 p.m. that no one with the authority to release information on the case was available for comment.


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


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HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – While politicians bicker over the truth, causes and effects of global warming, the pros who run water supply systems have been studying its reality and planning for a changed future.


The Hidden Valley Lake Community Service District recently presented a two-hour Webcast from the American Water Works association (AWWA) with system operators explaining what they expect in the future.


Colorado is already seeing the effects of warming with fewer cold snaps, which has created a scourge of beetles devouring lodge pole pines "and they won't stop until they run out of trees," a spokesman said. Fewer trees will mean less rainfall in the area, and less water in the Colorado River.


Warming is expected to create more intense storms in coastal areas, with enormous potential damage to coastal water plants. Inland, faster melting of smaller snowpacks will create flooding but lessen the amount of water flowing into rivers and lakes.


Clear Lake gets some water from the snowpack of Snow Mountain/Elk Mountain (a major supply source for Lake Mendocino, which supplies Sonoma and Mendocino counties) as well as springs and streams. Because Clear Lake's waters flow towards the Central Valley through the Cache Creek and Putah Creek systems, it's included in the Sacramento watershed and Central Valley water quality area. The Cobb area's water may come from the Sierra, although Bob Stark, manager of the Cobb Area Water District, has said no one knows where Cobb's spring water originates. A Los Angeles representative of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves nearly 18 million people from San Diego to Ventura County, said the district is looking to improvements in water and power supply "originating in Northern California."


Among sources the Southern California district considers local are the Owens River Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The area also draws on allotments from the Colorado River.


Changing precipitation patterns will result in lower soil moisture. Although a "slight" drop in Northern California precipitation is predicted, AWWA forecast maps based on climate models show a dry West Coast from lower Oregon south.


Speakers noted a probable increase of eutrophication of source water, or an increase of nutrients (as phosphates) that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life, resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen.


A representative of Miami-Dade Water in South Florida said he expects greater demand and a smaller supply, although much of the area will be covered in ocean and uninhabitable.


"The water industry isn't a bastion of liberalism," said Mel Aust, manager of the Hidden Valley Lake Community Service District, which supplies water and sewer services to 2,400 households and a golf course. The district uses groundwater and has received an award for its reclamation program.



In Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a spokesman also predicted increased demand and smaller supplies, and said his district has merged utilities for better regional management and is working on storm water re-use, recycling and better aquifer storage and recovery.


The New York Department of Electricity and Water plans a $23 billion capital improvement plan over the next decade. They expect a 50-percent decline in snowpack in their 2,000 square mile watershed.


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


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Ricardo Muniz (left) and Elias Hernandez were among five Sureno gang members arrested late Friday in connection with the stabbing. Lake County Jail booking photos.


LAKEPORT – Five gang members were arrested Friday night after a man was stabbed in front of a restaurant near Library Park.


Lakeport Police Lt. Brad Rasmussen reported Saturday morning that the incident was reported at 7:57 p.m. Friday, when the Lake County Sheriff's dispatch center received a 911 call from a cell phone.


The incident reportedly happened in front of TNT on the Lake restaurant, at 1 First St., according to Rasmussen's report.


Three Lakeport Police units, assisted by two California Highway Patrol units and three Lake County Sheriff’s units, responded to the scene and located a 20-year-old male victim who had been stabbed numerous times, Rasmussen said.


Lakeport Fire Department medical units responded to the scene and transported the victim to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, said Rasmussen. However, the seriousness of the man's injuries resulted in his transport to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital by REACH.


Rasmussen said LPD officers identified and located five documented members of the Sureno street gang who were arrested within a few hours of the stabbing.


Arrested were 18-year-old Ricardo Tapia Muniz of Lakeport, for attempted murder with a felony criminal street gang enhancement; and Elias Hernandez, 19, of Lakeport, on conspiracy and attempted murder charges, also with the gang enhancement.


Muniz and Hernandez are being held in the Lake County Jail, with bail set at $155,000 for Muniz and $150,000 for Hernandez, according to a jail official.


In addition, police arrested three male juveniles: a 14-year-old male from Lakeport, on conspiracy and attempted murder charges with the gang enhancement; a 16-year-old male from Lakeport, facing charges of attempted murder and a street gang enhancement; and a 17-year-old Lakeport resident, who is charged with conspiracy, attempted murder and the enhancement for street gangs. No bail has been set for any of the juveniles, who remain in Juvenile Hall.


Rasmussen said Saturday morning that LPD investigates and documents known street gang members and associated activity within the city limits.


Three officers, led by Det. Norm Taylor, are responsible for that effort, said Rasmussen. All are trained in dealing with gangs, and they're assigned to gang investigations such as this one.


“This is why we were able to quickly locate and arrest the five gang members,” Rasmussen said. “Documented Sureno street gang members have been responsible for other crimes in Lakeport in the past.”

 

Rasmussen said the investigation into the stabbing will continue through the weekend.

 

 

Know Gangs, an organization that provides training about gangs for law enforcement, reports that the Surenos street gang developed in the 1960s out of the Mexican Mafia, which itself emerged during the 1950s in the California prison system.


In the late 1960s Nuestra Familia formed, Know Gangs reports. Most of Nuestra Familia's members were from Northern California, so they became known as the Nortenos, or Northerners. Out of the Mexican Mafia came young men from Southern California then took on the Surenos, or Southerners, moniker, Know Gangs reported.


Surenos are separate today from the Mexican Mafia, according to Know Gangs. They use the number 13 and its variations – XIII, X3, 13 – as well as the letter M (the alphabet's 13th letter) and “Sur” in graffiti and tattoos. Their chosen color is blue, and their


The gangs' presence is noted in local graffiti, especially in the Kelseyville area.


Know Gangs reports that the Surenos is the nation's largest street gang, with members found in every state in the nation.


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


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Ben Higgins (center), USDA Rural Development's California director, and Rob Wiener of California Coalition for Rural Housing (left of Higgins) presented a grant for $100,000 to members of five local tribes on Thursday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

LAKE COUNTY – Five local American Indian tribes have received a $100,000 federal grant to help them improve housing in their communities.


The U.S. Department of Agricultural Rural Development visited Big Valley Rancheria's Konocti Vista Casino Thursday to make the official presentation to the tribes, which include Big Valley, Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, Robinson Rancheria and Elem Indian Colony.


The grant funds will be used to provide training and technical assistance to assist tribes in acquiring and developing land for housing projects and related infrastructure, rehabilitating and building housing, and operating housing assistance programs, the agency reported.


State USDA Rural Development Director Ben Higgins came for the event. He said the grant is modest when considering the nearly $80 million the agency has awarded over the last seven years to help foster growth in business development, homeownership and infrastructure in rural communities.


However, Higgins said in the case of Lake County's tribes, “Money alone isn't the answer,” and that it's necessary to have an element of community leadership as well.


“There are unique and pressing problems we're looking to address,” he said, which include a poverty rate of 17 percent in Lake County, which is five points above the state average.


Also on hand was Rob Wiener of California Coalition for Rural Housing. That organization is partnering with the tribes on an implementation plan for the grant, which includes conducting an analysis to identify each tribe's training and housing needs, training in affordable housing and training for housing and community development applications.


By funding that important training, said Higgins, the grant will help the tribes plan for the future.


This is one of the first grants the agency has been able to award in this fiscal year, said Higgins, which has been delayed in Congress.


The California Coalition for Rural Housing has done numerous farmworker housing projects, said Wiener, but tribal housing is a brand new experience for them. He said the coalition hopes to see if they can get existing housing programs to work for the county's tribes.


“We see this as a wonderful opportunity to learn about tribal housing issues,” he said.


The visitors from USDA Rural Development and California Coalition for Rural Housing also had what Higgins called an “eye opening” experience.


That came in the form of a tour of Big Valley Rancheria's housing conditions, led by Tribal Administrator Anthony Jack and Linda Hedstrom, the tribe's housing director.


“We're going to dispel the myth that all gaming tribes are rich,” said Jack.


What they showed were conditions that Wiener and Higgins said were some of the worst they had ever witnessed: numerous travel trailers clustered around each other, hooked up to hoses for running water; badly dilapidated homes and trailer houses that looked barely habitable.


And yet they sit in a beautiful area looking out on the lake, on land that Hedstrom called “an incredible, priceless piece of property.”


Even the rancheria's construction department lacked heating, wheelchair access and hot water, said Hedstrom.


“All tribes around here have the same stories,” said Hedstrom.


About 200 of the tribes 860 members live on the Rancheria, said Jack. Hedstrom said many more would like to return to the rancheria to live in their native communities, but the tribe needs more land and better housing.


They're hoping to expand the rancheria, said Hedstrom. While there's prospective land nearby, she said, the owners usually ask exorbitant prices.


The perception, said Jack, is that the tribe has a lot of money thanks to the casino, but that's wrong. Due to competition, he said, “It's hard to make a buck right now.”


That's one reason why the rancheria aggressively pursues grants, said Hedstrom.


The tribe recently put in 10 new manufactured homes next to 10 newer stick-built homes along Yellow Hammer Lane. Hedstrom said they had many people on a list for those manufactured homes. The families which received the homes were determined by lottery, she said, and began moving in at the start of March.


Hedstrom said the tribe wants to hold a construction boot camp, similar to one which has been held successfully in Lake County over the past few years, in order to help tribal members learn how to assist in building their own homes.


Afterward, Higgins said, “The housing conditions here are some of the worst in the state, if not the country.”


For more in USDA Rural Development's programs, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/ca.


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

 

 

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Dilapidated conditions haunt many parts of Big Valley Rancheria, but the tribe is working to find grants to fund more news homes. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
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One of 10 new modular homes for tribal members on Yellow Hammer Lane. Each of the homes cost about $112,000, said Big Valley Housing Director Linda Hedstrom. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

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Upcoming Calendar

25Apr
04.25.2024 1:30 pm - 7:30 pm
FireScape Mendocino workshop
27Apr
04.27.2024 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Northshore Ready Fest
27Apr
04.27.2024 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Prescription Drug Take Back Day
27Apr
04.27.2024 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Inaugural Team Trivia Challenge
4May
05.04.2024 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Park Study Club afternoon tea
5May
05.05.2024
Cinco de Mayo
6May
05.06.2024 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Senior Summit
12May
05.12.2024
Mother's Day
27May
05.27.2024
Memorial Day

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