Saturday, 13 July 2024


SAN JOSE – California Water Service Group has announced net income of $39.8 million, up 28 percent or $8.6 million for the 2008 fiscal year.

Diluted earnings per share were $1.90, up 27 percent or $0.40 per share compared to $1.50 for the same period last year.

The company owns the water district in Lucerne. In 2006 Cal Water received a 121-percent increase in rate for Lucerne after initially seeking a 246-percent increase, as Lake County News has reported. Many area residents were able to receive rate reductions due to being low income.

Cal Water's revenue for 2008 was $410.3 million, increasing 12 percent or $43.2 million over revenue of $367.1 million for 2007.

Revenues for 2008 included an additional $42.0 million from rate increases and $4 million in sales to new customers.

The net effect of the Water Revenue Adjustment Mechanism (WRAM) and Modified Cost Balancing Account (MCBA), that went into effect July 1, 2008, increased revenue by $2.0 million.

Sales to existing customers declined $2.2 million while other decreases accounted for $2.6 million.

Total operating expenses increased 9 percent or $29.9 million to $352.8 million for the year. Of this amount, water production costs increased 6 percent or $7.7 million to $146.6 million.

Other operations expense increased 10 percent or $10.1 million to $110.6 million, due primarily to increases in health and welfare plan expense, professional and other outside services costs, and additional water treatment expenses.

Maintenance expense increased 3 percent or $0.6 million to $19.0 million. Depreciation increased 11 percent or $3.8 million to $37.3 million for the full year.

Net other income decreased $4.6 million for the full year primarily due to no significant property sales during the year and a negative mark to market adjustment of $3.8 million associated with long-term investment assets held by the company.

According to President and Chief Executive Officer Peter C. Nelson, California Water Service Group's greatest achievements in 2008 were those related to implementing the California Public Utilities Commission's Water Action Plan.

“Receiving recovery of reasonably incurred costs was critical to this year's results, as was implementing both a WRAM and an MCBA which allows us to promote water efficiency,” Nelson said. “We also made some key acquisitions, made important and necessary infrastructure upgrades, and continue our focus on improving the way we serve our customers.”

In July 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission approved California Water Service Co.'s 2007 General Rate Case filing, authorizing rate increases of $33.4 million for eight districts, and an additional $13.7 million in 24 districts for general office expenses.

Additionally, the company requested recovery of increases in "offsettable" expenses, including purchased water, power, and pump taxes, and others were made to recover incremental cost increases and certain capital expenses incurred in the districts in between the three-year General Rate Case cycle.

Also in 2008, the CPUC approved the company's request for a WRAM, which effectively decouples water sales from revenues, as well as a tiered rate structure for most California districts.

Having a WRAM effectively removes a major disincentive for the company to pursue and promote water efficiency and conservation.

In the same decision, the CPUC approved an MCBA, which will enable the company to capture changes in costs resulting from utilizing different sources and volumes of supply. Both mechanisms support principals expressed in the CPUC's Water Action Plan, which reflects best practices in water utility regulation.

Pursuant to the CPUC's Rate Case Plan, the company will file a General Rate Case in 2009 for all California districts, including general office, with a scheduled effective date of Jan. 1, 2011; if the decision is delayed, the company will seek interim rates and recovery of lost revenues resulting from any delay. Subsequent General Rate Cases will be filed for all California districts every three years.

The most significant growth in 2008 occurred in Hawaii, beginning with HWS Utility Services' acquisition of multiple water and wastewater operations contracts on the island of Hawaii.

In the second quarter of 2008, Hawaii Water Service Co. received approval from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to acquire a wastewater system serving approximately 800 customers in the community of Pukalani on the island of Maui.

In the third quarter, Hawaii Water completed its acquisition of Waikoloa Resort Utilities, Waikoloa Water Company Inc.and Waikoloa Sanitary Sewer Company Inc., which together provide water utility services to 1,970 customer accounts and wastewater services to 300 customer accounts on the island of Hawaii.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, Hawaii Water completed its acquisition of a water and wastewater system serving approximately 250 customers in Kukio on the Island of Hawaii.

Additionally, in California, the company agreed to acquire Skyline County Water District, a 465-connection system adjacent to Cal Water's Bear Gulch District, and signed an agreement to purchase the Woodside Mutual Water Co., another adjacent system serving 43 customers.


CLEARLAKE – A Clearlake man being sought in connection with an incident last week in which he pulled a gun on another man has been arrested.

William Harold Cressey, 22, was arrested late Saturday by a Clearlake Police officer, according to jail records.

He was booked into the Lake County Jail on charges of misdemeanor possession of controlled substance paraphernalia, felony possession of a controlled substance and a felony warrant for allegedly being a fugitive from justice. The warrant has resulted in a no-bail hold on his status.

Cressey led sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers on a lengthy afternoon chase around a Clearlake Oaks quarry on March 3, as Lake County News has reported.

He allegedly pulled a gun on a Forestville resident who found Cressey and another male subject at a work site storage container on Round Mountain in Clearlake Oaks. Deputies and officers responded to the scene, chasing Cressey, who variously drove a green Ford Explorer and a dirt bike.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office told Lake County News last week that Cressey had a warrant for a parole violation out of Colorado.

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


Nutritional science is a field of continual flowing rivers of research and information that often raise the quality of life and abate suffering – information that may give new hope to people suffering debilitating physical problems.

Each week I spend many hours pouring over my health and nutritional journals and exploring Web sites promising new herbal and natural approaches to health problems.

A fair amount of my findings are redundant to earlier research but explained in perhaps a different light. Some “new” herbal remedies are in fact just new to western culture or new to the US.

One product that I am excited about is oil of wild oregano. Mediterranean peoples have used this oil (there are more than 40 varieties world wide) for hundreds of years for everything from allergies and asthma, colds, flu and eczema to gastritis, psoriasis, gum disease and much more. (I must say here that this particular oregano is not your kitchen cupboard variety, which is probably Mexican sage.)

It appears to hold wide spectrum antibiotic properties and phenols like carvacrol and thymol that are natural antiseptics. According to Dr. Cass Ingram (“The Cure is in The Cupboard”) the caustic nature of plant phenols creates a response that is destructive to microbes as well as cancer cells.

Oil of wild oregano also contains terpenes that are potent antiseptic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory agents.

Another exciting and rather “new” supplement is zeolite. Zeolites are minerals that have been commonly used for industrial waste cleanup because of their ability to scavenge sludge and other toxic wastes. And yet native peoples living close to volcanic areas have used these minerals to heal themselves of a variety of disorders.

Zeolites are formed from volcanic lava and are potentized when in contact with sea water. The zeolite molecules are negatively charged and are attracted to the positive charge of waste material and heavy metals within the human body. This makes them wonderful chelators.

Chelators are substances that remove toxins and heavy metals from the body. There are many known chelators but zeoilites seem to be among the most potent.

I am aware of one study that unfortunately was not double blind and placebo-controlled (the gold standard among study protocols). Yet is interesting to note that in that study of 58 stage 4 cancer patients using a zeolite supplement (and taking no other supplement or chemotherapy) 87 percent of the patients went into full remission.

Of course this is unheard of and yet other anecdotal evidence from people around the US seems to corroborate this finding. Good studies need to be forthcoming.

Steven West, ND is a Kelseyville- based naturopath and nutritionist. He graduated form the Institute for Natural Health Studies and has been in practice in California for 18 years.


Before I return to my discussion of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), a brief comment on the state. I mentioned in the last article that new laws are making their ways through congress; the same happened in Sacramento. The state has announced some of their tax changes. Like the federal government, these announcements are short on details.

The state has the choice of following the federal law, ignoring the federal law for state purposes or making their own law. Even if the state follows the federal law, they may not be exactly the same.

A perfect example is the AMT. California has the AMT, but it has never been a problem since they have always indexed the exemptions, while the federal government has not done this.

Another example is retirement plans. California has retirement plans like the federal but in many years has had different rates. The capital gains tax is an example of California going its own way, as they simply do not recognize capital gains tax.

The state has announced that refunds will be delayed if there is not enough cash in the bank. One solution to waiting is, if you get a refund on your 2008 state taxes, is not to take them in cash but to apply it to your 2009 taxes. Of course, this depends on how much you need the cash. This is also a great idea, if you are subject to the above mentioned AMT. It seems the AMT is never far from the discussion on taxes.

As the governments announce their proposals, we need to remember several points. These are proposals, when finally passed they may not exactly look like they do today. If they do make it though the legislative maze and do look exactly as they are proposed, then we have the detail to review. As a common saying goes, “The devil is in the details.”

Lastly, how will these be implemented?

It is clear that the financial rules we’ve lived for so many years are changing. During these times of a slow economy, it’s easy to take the easy road and say, “It’s too hard, it doesn’t matter what I do,” and “I’ll just wait and see what happens.”

These are not good enough attitudes for this year and beyond. It’s never been more important to commit to taking time to start planning and being aware of what rules and regulations are “coming down the pike.” The repercussions of not knowing and just see what happens have never been so severe. Now is not the time for not knowing, but for action.

Some of the major state changes are:

– Sales and use tax rates increase by 1 percent on April 1. While this tax increase will hurt, it must be noted that the state did not make matters worse by changing the law to make labor and service charges subject to sales tax. Not only would this would have been a huge cost to businesses and individuals but would of added much complexity to business transactions. (I won’t make any comments on the date they choose to start the increase despite pressure to make a pun or joke about it.)

– New homebuyer credit will be established. Not sure of the details nor if it will conform to the federal credit. The federal credit has been extended to the end of 2009 and is available for those who have not owned a primary residence for 36 months.

– Vehicle fees will be increased by 1 percent and vehicle registration fee increased by 0.15 percent starting on May 19.

– The exemption credit will decrease to the same amount as the personal credit for tax years 2009 and 2010. This will really hit families very hard. The exemption credit for 2008 is $309 for dependents and $99 for the taxpayers. This is a difference of $210 per dependent and as a credit this is a direct increase of tax.

– There will be an increase in the personal income tax rate by 0.25 percent or 0.125 percent depending on the federal stimulus revenue.

– A tax credit for small businesses, with fewer than 20 employees, hiring new employees.

While some of these are very harsh, there were some increases that were not approved. These measures below seem much harsher than the above.

The major proposals that did not pass were:

  • Gas tax increase;

  • 5 percent surtax on income tax rates;

  • Sales tax on services;

  • Withholding in independent contractors.

It is clear from the above that government is intent on raising tax revenue and that increase is coming from us. This is the time to take action to protect your personal and retirement assets, not the time to just let what happens happen. We need to watch what the new laws mean, continue to save and even to invest in your retirement plan.

I’ll continue more in the next article focusing on the federal changes.

Jon Meyer is a local Tax Accountant and Enrolled Agent with over 25 years experience in tax preparation. The office of Jon the “Tax Man Meyer “also offers retirement planning and insurance options. Questions regarding this article can be directed to 928-5200.





Being a gardener, mead brewer and occasional resident of the planet, I have a love of honeybees and the honey they produce.

You may have heard in the news that honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate and that we should all be very afraid of the consequences. Albert Einstein is credited with a now infamous quote that if the honeybee disappeared from the planet mankind would be extinct within four years.

I can happily say that my genius is so great that I can knowledgeably disagree with Einstein’s opinion on the subject. I’ll admit it’s pretty easy to argue with someone who is dead and can’t defend their comments; nevertheless, I shall present you with my evidence to ease your troubled mind.

Reports on the cause of the honeybee disappearance vary from Colony Collapse Disorder to honeybee HIV to deadly mites. There are even reports that cell phone signals cause honeybees to get lost and never make it back home. With all this happening it seems we’re doomed before I can even start on the problem. Let me explain what’s going on.

Colony Collapse Disorder is the catchphrase used to describe what is happening to all of the honeybees, but there is no one thing that anyone can point at and say, “THIS is what is happening!” Colony Collapse Disorder is just a label used for the sake of discussion. As of now nobody has found any single definable reason that is causing beehives to lose 30 percent to 70 percent of their population in a short period of time.

Getting an explanation about the theories of Colony Collapse Disorder from a group of beekeepers is like asking how to fix the economy from a roomful of economists: you’ll get a lot of stories and theories but in the end be no closer to knowing what to do.

There are certain symptoms that occur to let you know that your beehives are suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder but nobody can say why the process occurs. It’s like trying to explain why Ryan Seacrest is famous: he just is, but nobody can explain how he did it or why he’s still around with any reasonable justification.

Some laypeople have coined the term “honeybee HIV,” as if giving the condition a more frightening name will cause people concern and spur them into action. Honeybee colonies are susceptible to many pests and diseases, including some viruses, but not anything that attacks the immune systems in a way similar to HIV. The average beekeeper is aware of the illnesses that afflict honeybees and can treat for all of them.

Colony Collapse Disorder and bee HIV have been blamed for the loss of entire colonies of bees. Although many reports talk about beekeepers losing massive numbers of bees, this “disorder” doesn’t seem to be as prevalent in wild bees or hobbyists’ colonies.

One apiarist (beekeeper) I spoke to said it is found most commonly in the large commercial beehives that are driven across California’s Central Valley and other massive orchard areas.

The bees are taken by truck to one location and released to forage and pollinate. At sunset they return to their mobile hive, and overnight are driven to a new location to be released again. Often the fields they visit don’t provide enough food for the entire colony to survive so the beekeepers supplement their food with sugar water.

The apiarist I spoke with compared this treatment of commercial bees to being a traveling salesman who spends his working life flying across the country eating junk food all of the time; after a while he would naturally become run down and sickly.

Now call me crazy, but running these migrant bees off their wings day in and day out and feeding them junk food just makes conditions ripe for these poor bees to collapse but that wouldn’t explain all of the problems.

Another thing might be a tiny species of mite called a Varroa mite that can climb onto a honeybee, feed on it and eventually kill it. When the bee dies the mite moves to the next bee or larvae in the hive. Enough of these mites can destroy an entire colony, and these mites are now spreading across the United States.

The European honeybees that American beekeepers currently raise are very susceptible to this mite. Asian and African honeybees are known to remove and kill mites as infested honeybees enter the hive. The Asian style of beehives is different from western hives and it allows for more interaction between the bees, which in turn provides more of a chance of a mite being seen and removed. So even if every bee in the US dies from mites, Asian honeybees can fill the gap.

The idea of cell phones affecting a honeybee's ability to find its way home is laughable at best. We have known for a long time that when a honeybee locates a plentiful food source like a field of clover, she (all of the bees you see collecting nectar and pollen are female; yes, yes, women of all species have it rough, they are under-appreciated martyrs, fine, I get it) returns to the hive and does a dance that tells the other girls how to find the field by using the position of the sun. Experts in bee behavior can actually watch this dance and tell you where the bee is guiding the others to go. So unless cell phones are changing the position of the sun, this theory doesn’t even qualify as junk science.

So there is some confusion about what’s causing the bees to die off, some ideas bogus and inflammatory, and some ideas legitimate. Just for argument’s sake, how about we assume the absolute worst? Bee HIV-infested mites using cell phones manage to kill every honeybee on every continent.

I still don’t have any worries; we’ll be fine. Why am I so confident? I mean, besides having the ability to outthink nuclear physicists? Why, when Albert Einstein says mankind would be extinct in four years, do I rest easy at night?

First of all, honeybees aren’t native to North America and yet pollination has been occurring here without their production skills for longer than man has been on this continent. Many things pollinate plants. Orchard Mason bees are excellent pollinators and I recommend them for every gardener. They can even be purchased to improve pollination in your home garden. They are smaller than a housefly and fairly docile. Their sting is milder than that of honeybees, being merely annoying with the pain dissipating almost instantly after a sting (I know from experience).

Bumble bees also are first-rate pollinators that are very docile, and they are very easy to see buzzing about your garden. Bumble bee homes are also available to purchase to encourage a colony on your property. There are also species of flies, moths, bats and rodents that pollinate plants.

Pitcairn Island also will save us. The descendants of the mutineers on The Bounty have a honeybee industry that is a source of income for the island, and they can boast the only completely disease-free honeybee population in the world.

Since the island is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean their bees can’t intermingle with other honeybees and contract any of the diseases they may have. So if all of our bees die off, they can slowly but surely re-supply the planet with their extra queens once our problems are dealt with. Keep in mind they don’t accept bee-related donations in order to stay disease free. You can purchase Pitcairn Island Honey on the Internet to support their community at

Now, even if all these methods weren’t enough, if faced with extinction mankind has a special knack for preventing that very outcome. I’m sure we would see advertisements on daytime TV for “colleges” promoting their new “flower pollinator” degree.

A while back I spoke to a bee removal company about taking down a hive in a tree near my home. They said that due to all the factors that are afflicting bees these days and the fact that nobody is medicating them, the colony would no doubt die off on its own within two years. It’s now three years later and the hive is still there and going strong. There are also several more trees with hives in them in my neighborhood. So that (in a small anecdotal way) disproves that it is affecting ALL the honeybees.

About 20 years ago there was a lot of concern about the disappearance of bees and many bee removal services were removing wild bees from homes and properties for free so they could keep the bees for themselves. This practice is no longer followed and people are often stunned when beekeepers quote prices to remove swarming bees. The reason is that the market for these bees just isn’t there like it was in the past. It’s like calling someone to remove a skunk from your house: there isn’t really a market for secondhand skunks so you’re going to have to pay for its removal.

Now that I have made my case and have proven that I have a brain the size of the planet, but before I go on to disprove Einstein’s theory of relativity and show that it’s actually ME the solar system rotates around, I will have to confess one thing. There is no evidence that Albert Einstein ever actually made any quotes about honeybees; it’s just an Internet rumor like Nostradamus predicting 9/11 or that Nigerian princess who wants to give you millions of dollars if you will simply cash a check for her. So relax. Bees or no bees, Colony Collapse Disorder or just a life cycle, we’ll be OK.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's unemployment rate reached the highest level in decades, jumping to 16 percent in January, according to a state report released Thursday.

The Employment Development Department's (EDD) monthly unemployment report showed that the county's unemployment spiked from 13.8 percent in December to 16 percent in January, giving it a rank of 47 – it's tied with Stanislaus – among the state's 58 counties.

Marin County had the state's lowest unemployment rate, with 6.6 percent.

In January of 2008, Lake County's unemployment rate was 10.9 percent, with 2,590 unemployed local workers. But this past January, the number of unemployed rose to 3,990, according to preliminary EDD numbers.

California's current unemployment rate is 10.6 percent, with the nation's rate at 8.5 percent.

The news came as a shock to local officials, including county Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, who said he didn't remember such a high rate before.

Neither did Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Melissa Fulton. “In the 20 years I've lived here, I've never seen anything approaching 16 percent.”

Supervisor Jim Comstock said he had been concerned when the state's overall unemployment rate was reported to be just over 10 percent last week.

EDD's historical unemployment data for Lake County shows 16 percent to be the highest unemployment rate going back to 1990, the earliest numbers they have available in their online statistical database. In February of 1993, the county's unemployment was 15.8 percent.

An EDD labor market official couldn't be reached on Thursday to find out many years it's been since 16 percent unemployment was seen locally.

Comstock said he's seeing a lot of businesses shutting down in his south county district, especially in Middletown.

Cox added that those strains on businesses are everywhere throughout the county.

Fulton said December and January are typically slower months for the local economy because of its agricultural and tourism base.

She said she's not aware of many more businesses closing, but she knows many people have been laid off because of the business slowdown. Fulton thinks the local economy's growing unemployment is more a matter of employers scaling back on overhead to stay afloat.

“Everybody is just trimming as close to the bone as they can to keep the doors open,” she said.

From the local government standpoint, Cox has serious concerns of his own.

“The higher the unemployment, the greater the impact on our revenues,” said Cox.

Sales tax and property tax particularly are expected to be impacted, he said. “If people don't have jobs, they're spending less money.”

Cox said it's very frustrating that there are so many forces affecting the economy that local government can't control.

“We're able to handle this better than most counties,” Cox said.

The county also is expected to feel the impact in another way – as more people are out of work, they're likely to use the county's social services, which will cause the county government's costs to rise, he said.

“Those caseloads are going to be up when the revenue is going down,” Cox explained.

Cox said the county is trying to give as much work as possible to local vendors and contractors to keep more of its $201 million budget going into the local economy as possible.

Snapshots of specific industries and the region

Looking at specific sectors within the local economy, the industrial category of natural resources, mining and construction has lost 16.4 percent of its workforce over the last year, followed by goods producing, which lost 11 percent. Other sectors within the top five for declines are durable goods, 9.1 percent; information, 7.1 percent; and state government, 6.3 percent.

Industries showing the biggest employment gains included other services, 10.3 percent; federal government, 7.7 percent, an improvement that may be linked to recruitment for the 2010 Census; nondurable goods, 4.5 percent; local government, 1.1 percent, which accounts for approximately 40 jobs; and the overall government category, 1.0 percent.

Lake's neighboring counties also are seeing impacts.

Colusa County has the state's highest unemployment, at 26.7 percent for January, up from 22.1 percent in December, which gives it the state's highest unemployment rate.

In Yolo County, unemployment is at 11.6 percent, compared to 9.7 percent in December, ranking it No. 26. Mendocino County's unemployment rose from 8.8 percent in December to 10.8 percent in January, giving it a rank of No. 22.

Sonoma and Napa counties seem to be doing better than other counties in the region.

Sonoma has the ninth lowest unemployment statewide, with its January rate at 8.6 percent, up from 7.3 in December. Napa, ranking just ahead of Sonoma at No. 8, has a January unemployment rate of 8.5, up from December's 7.3 percent.

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


Firefighters responded to a structure fire on Island Circle Drive at about 11:40 a.m. Saturday, March 7, 2009. Photos by Sam Colman.

CLEARLAKE KEYS – A Saturday morning fire damaged a Clearlake Keys home.

The fire was reported by a neighbor at around 11:30 a.m., said Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown.

Brown said the fire was in one room on the top floor of a two-story duplex.

Three fire engines – one each from Northshore Fire's Clearlake Oaks and Lucerne stations, and one from Lake County Fire Protection District in Clearlake – responded, along with 16 firefighters, Brown said.

He said the first engine on scene pulled supply and hand lines and got quickly to work.

“It was knocked down very fast,” said Brown.

Brown added that, had the fire burned for another few minutes, it could have taken out the duplex's entire top story.

No one was in the home at the time, Brown said, noting the home – which he guessed is about 30 years old – is up for sale.

The fire climbed up one wall, and left heavy charring on that wall and on the floor joists, Brown said.

He estimated damage to be between $20,000 and $30,000.

As to the cause of the fire, Brown said, “We ruled it as accidental. We think it was wiring in the wall.”

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


T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.


After a couple of semesters at Willamette University ending in the spring of 1969, I returned to Hayward, Calif., and attended Chabot College for a few quarters. I had a great friend at that time by the name of Walter Pittman.

One day during a Black Student Union program, in strode Walter Pittman with Big George Forman. Mouths dropped open. Your CyberSoulMan thought it was due to some profound utterance he had stated. You see, I was standing at the podium, reciting for the assembled audience some self-composed poetry.

When I realized that my oral musings had been preempted by the presence of the then-recently turned professional, 1968 Olympic Heavyweight Champion, I got a little steamed. I turned up the heat and directed my diatribe toward George.

A little explanation is due here. Judge not thyself, CyberSoulChildren! Perhaps only wizened geezers like me remember the tenor of the times during the 19th Olympiad held in Mexico City.

When American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos were awarded the gold and bronze medals for placing first and third along with second place and silver medal awardee, Australia’s Peter Norman, the demonstration of the African-American athletes at the podium during the playing of the national anthem caused an uproar heard around the earth.

According to a history of the Oct. 16, 1968, event by The Tommie Smith-John Carlos Project, Smith's “raised right black-gloved fist represented black power, the knotted black scarf around his neck represented pride, and the box in his left hand contained an olive tree sapling which stood as an emblem of peace. John Carlos’s raised left black-gloved fist represented unity in black America and the

beads around his neck signified lynchings suffered by blacks. Both men wore black socks but were shoeless during the ceremony to represent black poverty in racist America. Together they formed an arch of unity and power.”

The crowd booed men the men as they left the podium.


George Foreman won the Olympic gold medal for his heavyweight boxing prowess three days later. In celebration of his victory, Foreman danced around the ring with an American flag held high, seemingly disavowing the somber protest of Smith and Carlos.

So, in my youthful exuberance and agreement with the protesters, I kinda scowled at Big George that poetic day in 1969 in an effort to let him know that I was supportive of what Smith and Carlos had done at the Olympics.

When I left the podium, Big George walked up to me and said, “Hey, man. I really dig your poetry.”

BLAM. It was like a straight right to my temple. George Foreman had totally TKO’d me with kind words. We became pretty good friends.

Walter Pittman and I would hang out at George’s apartment. He intimated to us that he hoped Ali and Frazier would both retire before he got to the top. I remember once we were walking down Mission Boulevard just minding our on business. As we walked past the Ford Lincoln car dealership a very excited salesman ran up to us with jingling keys.

“George. George. Check out that Lincoln Towncar. Just check it out. Take your time. No rush. Just check it out.”

We piled in and took a Sunday drive to Oakland. Took our time. Ah, the perks of celebritydom. A Sunday drive in the middle of the week!

I eventually interviewed George for print media twice. The first time was when he was training for Kenny Norton. He was training at the fairgrounds in Pleasanton. It was my first time at a professional boxers training camp. All this machismo strutting and posturing. All these big, buffed dudes. Foreman had a cadre of sparring partners with different boxing styles. Then there was the wannabees. I remember one huge guy, walking around all puffed up, spouting believable nonsense.

“Where’s Foreman at? When I see him, I’m gonna knock his ass out!”

It was amazing theater. This cat looked like he could pull it off.

I remember George sparring with Stanford Harris and George hitting him so hard his protective headgear flew off. Wow.

I was able to be in the locker room with Big George, the great Archie Moore and George’s manager Dick Sadler.

After the training session was over George invited us to dinner. I never will forget that George had a medium rare steak and tossed salad with no dressing. I had brought my cousin Ronnie along to take pictures. When it came time to get a shot of George and I, my cousin wouldn’t take the picture. He was too scared! I ended up taking a picture of George and Ronnie. I was so mad I sold Ronnie a copy.

Some of you may remember the Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope and George Forman’s loss of his heavyweight title in 1974. When he lost the second fight of his pro career to Jimmy Young in 1974, Foreman has stated he had a near-death experience in the locker room after the fight. George became a born-again Christian. He didn’t box professionally again for 10 years.

I interviewed George again on the comeback trail in 1990 after he TKO’d Gerry Cooney. Two things sticks with me that George said in that interview. The first is how he envisioned that he could win the Heavyweight Title again at age 40-plus.

“I took 10 years off from the ring. I wasn’t being pounded on physically and I treated my body well. No drugs or alcohol. A lot of young guys in the boxing game can’t say that. They train but damage their bodies and minds in and out of the ring. I believe my body is in the shape of someone in their late 20’s.”

Turns out he was right. The second thing that that I remember about the last time I interviewed George was what he said to me as we were saying goodbye, “Man, I still have a picture of you.”

That makes me feel pretty good.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!


Upcoming cool events:

Blue Wing Blue Monday Blues. Hansen Raitt Band. Monday, March 9, 6:30 p.m. at the Blue Wing Saloon & Café. 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. 275-2233

The Paramount Theatre at 2025 Broadway in Oakland presents The Whispers, Stephanie Mills Howard Hewitt and Andre Williams on Friday, March 13. 510-465-4600.

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

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


LAKEPORT – Facing its own significant budget challenges, on Thursday the Lakeport Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to take a number of cost-saving measures, including layoffs of teachers and classified staff. {sidebar id=130}

The board approved the layoffs of a total of 17 district employees – 13 classified staff and four certificated – in answer to $500,000 in lost revenue due to the state's budget cuts and a $300,000 revenue shortfall based on falling enrollment.

About 30 people attended the meeting, which lasted just short of an hour and a half at the district office.

Throughout the meeting the board and Superintendent Erin Smith-Hagberg emphasized that the options before them constituted painful and potentially damaging cuts to the district's $10 million budget.

The 13 classified staffers laid off included the director of buildings and grounds, the day care program provider, director of special programs, two part-time after school program aides, one maintenance worker, an elementary and middle school library clerk, a night custodian, a part-time paraeducator and a part-time site assistant at the daycare program.

One lead teacher, two K-6 multiple subject teachers and one counselor also were laid off.

Smith-Hagberg said after the meeting that some of those employees could be be hired back or their jobs recreated if the budget situation improves or if there are some retirements.

During her report to the board before the budget discussion, Doreen McGuire-Grigg, president of the Lakeport Unified Classified Employees Union, told the board members that their decisions were going to affect not just those laid off but students as well.

“I just want everybody to understand that there are cuts that are being made and there are other cuts that could be made instead,” McGuire-Grigg said.

She said classified employees took “a huge hit” last year, and are facing a 19 percent cut this year. The result is that people are losing their jobs and, in some cases their homes. Many of those losing jobs have been working for the district for decades.

McGuire-Grigg said the people needed to let state legislators know how school budget issues are affecting students.

“I know that you guys aren't sleeping,” McGuire-Grigg told the board.

She added, “It's just not fair to our kids.”

Smith-Hagberg told the board that the budget isn't just affecting schools but families of the district's children. She said the needs of families are becoming more pronounced.

The numbers of those children now on the reduced price lunch program are growing dramatically. Smith-Hagberg said 64 percent of the district's elementary students, 58 percent of middle schoolers and 47 percent of high schools now use the program.

“Our poverty level is getting higher and higher,” she said.

The district also is feeling the affects of dropping enrollment, with families and their children moving out of the district. That's despite the “fabulous job” schools do to keep attendance up.

As the board prepared to listen to Smith-Hagberg's budget presentation, Board President Tom Powers noted, “It's a very liquid budget. The budget isn't even final yet.”

He said a special May 19 state election will change the budget again. “What we're doing tonight is based on the best information we have.”

Smith-Hagberg explained that the election will ask voters to approve some new funding sources. If those sources aren't approved, the district may face more cuts.

“It's not just the state budget cuts that are affecting our district significantly,” said Hagberg, referring to the $300,000 in lost attendance revenue. If those students come back, teachers can be rehired, she added.

She said district business manager Linda Slockbower will be on a call on Friday to find out how much of the one-time federal stimulus money the district stands to get. “We know we're getting money for the district, we just don't know how much,” Smith-Hagberg said.

Describing how the district administration arrived at its suggestions of where to cut, Smith-Hagberg explained that she, Slockbower and site administrators began by looking at ways to move programs and money around to achieve savings without hurting programs and students.

With the help of the district's budget committee, they focused first on management and district operations, then turned to school principals to look at educational programs.

“You can only cut so much out of management and operations and still function as a district,” she said.

The list of proposals came from district principals, Smith-Hagberg said.

“That we have all agonized over this is an understatement,” she said, adding that a lot of students and employees are being hurt by what the district has to do.

Powers said they've had to make cuts several years in a row as the state has reduced its funding. “We're down to the bone.”

Smith-Hagberg also asked parents and teachers to speak up on behalf of their schools by calling or writing legislators.

Children coming into school next year will have a different education than they've had in past years due to what's on the list of cuts, she said. (For the full list, see sidebar, “What the district is cutting.”

During public comment, Lakeport Elementary third grade teacher Paula Mune said she's not taken extra compensation for having more than 20 students in her classroom. The parent teacher organization also has helped raise $60,000 over the years for many needed items, and even helped support a salary.

She asked that cuts be as far away from the frontline teaching staff as possible, and said she didn't understand why the district office needed five full-time employees while students are lacking music programs and classrooms need to be cleaned.

“I'm doing my part and I hope you will, too,” she said.

High school counselor Paul Larrea said families are falling apart, and children are looking for a safe haven at school, which isn't always the classroom. Sometimes it's the library, sometimes a sports activity, but those need to be available for children.

Larrea urged the board to refuse to let some cuts take place, and have the administration find other ways. “You need to take a stand on some of these things and say, 'We just can't let that happen.'”

Board member Phil Kirby was clear about the tough decisions before the board. “It's always remarkably difficult to take a look at cuts that affect personnel.”

He said he respects the efforts by the district's budget committee, Smith-Hagberg and administration staff to come up with ideas.

“There comes a time, however, that decisions have to be made,” he said.

Board member Dennis Darling said the budget process has been lengthy and difficult, and he doesn't think anyone is happy with any of the choices. He added that people in the best position to make recommendations are the ones guiding the process.

Powers asked that the district look at ways of expanding the daycare program to 12 months, since daycare needs continue through the summer months. The idea would be for the district to see more money for the services.

The board approved the midyear budget reductions and those for 2009-10 in a 4-1 vote, with Board member Robyn Stevenson voting no. The vote for the certificated staff layoff was 5-0, and Stevenson was again the lone dissenting vote on the resolution for laying off classified staff.

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


LAKE COUNTY – To say the news for business and the economy hasn't been great would be an understatement, so two local women have set out to give Lake County's businesses a boost by creating a new event. {sidebar id=131}

Karen Long and Kendra Runyon, who have their own company called Big Diva Promotions, last month decided to put together a new business expo to bring local businesspeople together for a day of networking.

The inaugural “Around the Lake Business Fair” will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 15, in the theater building at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St.

Admission for the public is free.

Long, who moved to Kelseyville from Healdsburg three years ago, said she and Runyon – both stay-at-home moms – started thinking about how to help boost the local economy.

“We came up with idea to do a women in business show, but then on a phone call to the bank I got the idea to make it about the businesses in the community and what Lake County has to offer the local consumers,” she said. “That's when we came up the the Around the Lake Business Expo.”

It's an effort that goes hand-in-hand with the growing call to shop and seek out services within one's own community.

The expo is open to all kinds of businesses. The promoters hope that the event will benefit everything from gift shops to accommodations, home-based businesses to banks, florists and more.

Since beginning work on arranging the expo, Long and Runyon has been encouraged both by the interest and the energy in the community. Connecting people and sharing ideas is a prime motivation for the effort.

Long and Runyon said there also will be door prizes and plenty of parking for community members.

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


SACRAMENTO – California’s senior population is expected to double in size by 2020. From a traffic safety perspective, this translates to an increase in the number of older drivers, passengers and pedestrians using California’s roadways.

In addition, there will be a larger number of older adults whose health and other factors will force a

transition from driving to a reliance on other methods of transportation to accomplish daily living activities.

“It is imperative that we prepare Californians now for this growing demographic,” said California Highway Patrol (CHP) Commissioner Joe Farrow.

In an effort to deal with the increase and safely extend the driving years for mature Californians, a year-long grant totaling nearly $205,000 has been awarded to the CHP by the California Office of Traffic

Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Through Sept. 30, funds from the Keeping Everyone Safe (KEYS) grant will be used by the Older Californian Traffic Safety (OCTS) Task Force to establish the senior driver safety/mobility pilot program within three-select CHP field Divisions.

The Divisions chosen, Golden Gate (Bay Area), Southern (Los Angeles Area) and Border (San Diego

Area), have the highest concentration of seniors (age 65 and over).

The program, modeled after the CHP’s highly successful traffic safety corridor approach, uses a multi-disciplinary, community-based task force within each division to identify senior population areas where moderate to high levels of collisions involving seniors occur and develop a plan to address this issue.

The plan includes a public awareness campaign using a variety of available tools to address older adult traffic safety/mobility issues.

“Through education and awareness presentations, we’re hoping to have a positive safety impact on California’s senior driver population. This whole program is about safety,” added Commissioner



LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's health officer reports that an outbreak of norovirus is winding down in the county.

Dr. Karen Tait said norovirus is a very contagious viral illness.

“We're seeing this viral illness circulating in the community, and that's not too surprising,” Tait said.

The Centers for Disease Control says that noroviruses cause gastroenteritis or what's more commonly known as the stomach flu.

Norovirus symptoms usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping, according to the CDC. Other possible symptoms low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and tiredness. The viruses have a quick onset with symptoms lasting one to two days.

Tait said norovirus isn't a reportable illness – usually a more serious illness that could lead to major health emergencies – so the Lake County Health Department doesn't hear about individual cases. However, health facilities must report norovirus.

She said norovirus can survive on surfaces longer than some other viruses, so it can be a challenge to get rid of it. Even if measure are taken to prevent it, norovirus can still be transmitted.

Tait said norovirus can be especially difficult on seniors, who have other health conditions that make their health more fragile. As a result, norovirus can sometimes hospitalize seniors.

For more people it's a short-term illness, said Tait. “Up to about 30 percent of cases may have no symptoms.”

Paul Medlin, administrator of Evergreen Lakeport Healthcare, said the virus has impacted the facility for about a week. Only one patient currently has it.

“We're on the improvement side,” he said.

The recent outbreak is typical, said Tait, and county health officials work together with facilities to contain it.

Tait said she's seen much bigger outbreaks or norovirus in other areas, including an office building full of people with hundreds of people becoming sick at once.

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


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