Saturday, 20 July 2024


LAKEPORT – An emergency repaving project on a portion of Highway 29 that runs through Lakeport will continue this week.

The paving project starts near the junction of Highway 29 and Highway 175 at Lakeport and continues toward Mockingbird Lane, according to Caltrans.

Beginning on Monday, ramps at Lakeport Boulevard (Exit 102), 11th Street (Exit 103), Park Way (Exit 106), and Nice-Lucerne Cutoff Road (Exit 108) will be intermittently closed – but Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie said previously that not more than one onramp and offramp will be closed at a time.

Work hours are 4 a.m. to 4 a.m., weekdays. Traffic will be restricted to one lane in each direction of

travel, and motorists may experience minor traffic slowdowns. Caltrans said motorists will be advised to use an alternate route and may experience minor delays.

The $4 million project is repairing the roadway surface using layer of rubberized asphalt, Caltrans reported.

Granite Construction of Ukiah is the contractor on the project, which Caltrans said will continue into next month.

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The Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Saloon in Upper Lake, Calif., will once again be the scene of the Blue Wing Blues Festival, set for Friday, Aug. 6, through Sunday, Aug. 8, 2010. Courtesy photo.

UPPER LAKE – The Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Saloon Restaurant have announced the lineup for this year’s Blue Wing Blues Festival, scheduled for Aug. 6 through 8.

Starting at 5:45 p.m. each day of the festival, two great bands, including headliners John Lee Hooker Jr., Lady Bianca and Daniel Castro will perform on the veranda of the hotel with the audience gathered in the intimate garden between the hotel and restaurant.

“It’s a great time of day and a great spot to enjoy world-class music,” said Tallman manager Shalean Smith, “and with a tasty barbecue dinner thrown in with the $50 price of admission, people really love the Festival.”

Tickets are limited to 120 each evening and may be purchased directly at either the hotel or restaurant, located on Main Street in Upper Lake, or by calling the hotel reception desk at 707-275-2245.

Tallman and Blue Wing owner Bernie Butcher said he feels fortunate to have booked such a great lineup of local bands and national stars.

“The three opening groups have all played here before to great acclaim,” he said. “And John Lee Hooker is almost as good as his famous father, Lady Bianca rocks out on the keyboards, and Daniel Castro is absolutely the most powerful blues guitarist I’ve ever heard.”

Here’s the festival lineup, along the local Lake County sponsors that have helped to make each evening possible. The Tallman Hotel web site ( contains links to additional material on all of the artists.

On Friday, Aug. 6, the evening will open with a set by Side of Blues, featuring Tom King on vocals and blues harp and Anita Elliot on keys and vocals. This is one of the hottest new bands to appear on the local scene in recent years.

John Lee Hooker, Jr. and his band will be the headliner on the opening night of the festival. Son of the legendary John Lee Hooker, who died in 2001, Junior was exposed the life of the blues from a young age, traveling with his dad and singing backup on a number of albums.

Personal problems sidelined him for a number of years, but John Lee reemerged in 2004 with the release of his album “Blues with a Vengeance,” which won a Grammy nomination and a local award as the Outstanding Blues Album of the year. He’s since released two other albums and he and his band tour widely nationally and internationally.

Local sponsors for the opening night of the Festival are Moore Family Winery, Brassfield Estate Winery, ReMax Realty, UCC Rentals and Lake Event Design & Party Rental.

On Saturday, Aug. 7, the festival will kick off with a set by Wendy DeWitt, widely known as the “Queen of Boogie Woogie.”

From the Bay Area to Europe, DeWitt spreads the gospel of Chicago based blues piano and boogie woogie to enthusiastic audiences everywhere. She’s recorded six albums and has appeared with such luminaries as Charlie Musselwhite, Otis Rush and Jimmy Thackery.

Headliner on Saturday will be Lady Bianca and her band. Based in Oakland, Lady Bianca is one of the most creative and talented women in the blues field today. Her unique styling on vocals and at the keyboard places her among the top female blues performers in the country.

Lady Bianca started her career as a background singer with artists including Frank Zappa, Sly Stone, Taj Mahal and Van Morrison. She then stepped out as a solo artist and songwriter to better pursue her love of blues, soul and gospel music. Her seventh CD, “A Woman Never Forgets,” has just been released to rave reviews and a Grammy nomination.

Sponsors of the Saturday show are Shed Horn Wines of Middletown, Economy Propane, Allora DaCar Productions and Blues Express Records.

The festival concludes on Sunday, Aug. 8, with the ever-popular local band Twice as Good.

Formed in 2003 by Lake County Native American leader Rich Steward and his talented son Paul, Twice as Good has been a favorite at the Blue Wing since its opening two years later. In March of this year, Twice as Good was named the best new Blues band by the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame.

Appearing as a guest vocalist with Twice as Good is Bay Area Blues diva Jan Fanucchi. Jan has performed at clubs and festivals all over California, most recently with guitarist Steve Freund, and she’s opened for such blues greats as Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Gregg Allman and Etta James. She has just released a new CD called Livin’ and Lovin’ on Lost Roots Records.

Daniel Castro and his band will top off the festival on Sunday evening. Originally from the tougher parts of Los Angeles and now based in the South Bay, Daniel Castro is a pure force on the blues guitar. With his passionate sound reminiscent of BB King and Albert King, he is at the forefront of the Bay Area blues scene.

The Castro band is just as comfortable with tough, raw Chicago blues as it is playing a hard driving, rocking, down home boogie. Castro said he appreciates the effort of the Blue Wing to keep great blues alive in this area and he’s looking forward to performing in Lake County for the first time.

Local sponsors for the Sunday performances include Tulip Hill Wines in Nice, Bicoastal Media and KXBX (98.3 FM) as well as Max Design Studio.

Shalean Smith at the Tallman summed up the 2010 Blue Wing Blues Festival this way: “Our staff puts in a lot of effort to book the best entertainers, come up with a special menu and set the place up so everyone can enjoy the show. But the rewards are there when the place is jumping and everyone is having a great time. We’re really looking forward to the event this year.”

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LAKEPORT – Last Thursday the updated plans for a new subdivision proposed to be located near the Clear Lake Riviera went before the Lake County Planning Commission, which after holding a discussion decided to continue the matter until next month.

The 30-lot Plum Flat Subdivision, proposed by partners including civil engineer Scott Bennett and architect Vincent Price, would be located on 105 acres at 10929 Point Lakeview Road in Kelseyville. Commissioners Cliff Swetnam and Bob Malley were absent for the discussion.

Residents of Bel Air Drive West, Bel Air Drive East and Bel Air Drive in the neighboring Clear Lake Riviera have raised issues with the plan, citing increased traffic, fire danger and sprawl, as well as their concern that the original plan was for 105 lots, and that the developers were keeping that option open.

Planner Emily Minton told the commission that if the developers wanted to build more than one home per five acres, they would have to go through a planned development process for a rezone.

Plum Flat LLC had worked with the then-owner of 500 acres adjacent to the proposed subdivision area to get access to Soda Bay Road in addition to Point Lakeview, but Minton said those negotiations didn't go anywhere.

She said the county was unsure of the groundwater supply and wanted to see more data. There also are many oak trees on the property, and new oak-related regulations are coming out yearly, which could impact the plans.

Deputy County Counsel Bob Bridges pointed out that the 105 acres, once open space is subtracted, is down to 60 acres or so, and the county's subdivision ordinance requires an acre per residence when septic tanks and individual water wells are used, such as the developers suggested might be done in this case.

Bennett, who said they were asking for a general plan of development for 30 lots, explained that they have an easement with a local family for access to the proposed subdivision.

He was concerned about the proposal of a 150-foot buffer, which he said they could live with on the south and east sides, but didn't think it was reasonable on the north and west.

Bennett said they wanted the option of going with a community water system, shared wells or individual wells, and said they may need to put in a test well.

He said he and his partners wanted to get past this first step, see how many lots they will have, and then do the research and spend the money to find if they need wells or a small water system. Bennett said they also want to preserve the site's big oak trees.

Commission Chair Clelia Baur asked him about their long-term plans.

“At this point it's 30 lots and that's it,” said Bennett, adding that they have to see how things go in the economy and with the county's growth.

The plan calls for a less dense arrangement than the Rivieras – Bennett said he didn't like that subdivisions higher densities – and for a 60-foot right-of-way that would include a road, and hiking and biking trails.

After 30 lots Bennett said they “may” stop at that, but Bennett added that even if they did 100 lots on the remaining 60 acres they would be good-sized lots that are three times the size of the typical Riviera lot.

“We don't know what the economy is bringing us,” he said.

Bennett said the partners wanted to keep moving in the direction designated by county planners and the Rivieras Area Committee. “We're just taking it one little step at a time.”

District 1 Planning Commissioner Michael van der Boon asked Bennett where the lots would be. Bennett said they would be strewn throughout the property, but located mostly in the middle. A specific plan of development would have those details, he said.

In the following public comment, the commission heard questions about the road easement, traffic, fire access and what the developers really planned to do.

Rivieras resident Walter Zuercher said he didn't like all of Bennett's “maybes,” explaining that if Bennett and his partners are going to develop just 30 lots he should say so.

Zuercher added that Bel Air Drive would likely become the main access to the site because of the distance from Highway 281.

Debi Freeland told the commission, “I can't stress enough that this is probably going to 104 (lots).”

She said she wanted to help protect the future serenity of her neighborhood. “It's taken me a lot of years to get to this community.”

There are abundant deer and quail in the area, which she wanted to see protected, adding that residents in her area don't want to see a public access road to the proposed subdivision.

Plum Flat lacks a traffic study, and Freeland pointed out there already is pavement failure which will only get worse.

Then there was fire danger and Plum Flat's desire to have access to community services, which Freeland said come and go.

She said the mitigated negative declaration doesn't have proper mitigations for her concerns, and she asked the commission to require a full environmental impact report on the project.

Monica Rosenthal, conservation chair for the Sierra Club Lake Group, said designated zoning under the county's general plan isn't the only consideration for developing parcels – other guidelines and infrastructure must be considered as well.

She said a general plan of development isn't held to specifics, but even so the 30 lots must meet the general plan's specified requirements.

Referring to Bennett's statements about economics, Rosenthal said they also must consider the community, its safety and the environment.

Van der Boon said if the developers ultimately intended to develop 104 lots, that should be the consideration from the beginning, not just 30 lots, he said.

District 5 Planning Commissioner Gil Schoux asked if they can take Bel Air Drive East and West out of the plan as access routes. Minton said the commission can create a general plan of development condition that gives no access to those roads, and Schoux said he would be OK with the plan if that was done.

Baur said she realized the neighbors treasure their serenity, but explained that it wasn't fair to deny others their right to develop property within acceptable rules and regulations.

However, she continued. “In my opinion, there is too much still up in the air with this.”

She said she wasn't convinced that they knew where the water was going to come from, and questioned the true number of homes that would be developed.

“I'm reluctant to go forward with something when there is so clearly up in the air the intention to expand it,” she said, noting that she wanted to see all phases at once, as well as all impacts on air, emergency services and which oak trees would be saved.

“Just too much is not known in my opinion on this,” she said.

Van der Boon said he wanted the matter to be continued so the commission could gather more information.

Price, asking to speak on the matter, told the commission. “What you're asking for is everything that would be required under the specific plan. We're not asking for a specific plan. We're asking for a general plan. It's two totally different requests.”

Pointing to 30 densely packed lots in an area of the Riviera near Plum Flat location, Price asked, “How are we possibly, possibly, impacting the tranquility of the Rivieras when you have that entire configuration?”

Baur said she wasn't addressing serenity, but had questions about other things, such as water.

Price said those issues will be addressed in the specific plan of development. “You will have every bit of information that you could possibly want to have,” said Price, adding that imposing those restrictions at this time shouldn't be done.

Returning to the microphone, Rosenthal explained that what Price said was true, but added that the general plan has policies that require adequate information about available infrastructure, roadways and sewage.

After Baur closed the public hearing, Bridges explained that they needed three votes to do anything, and with it appearing that they didn't have enough votes, he suggested they should continue the matter to give Swetnam and Malley a chance to review the documents and listen to the meeting recordings.

With Baur and van der Boon leaning against approval but Schoux OK with it if the access roads were changed, they agreed with the applicants to continue the matter to 9:10 a.m. on Aug. 26.

In other meeting business, in a 3-0 vote the commission approved Michael Mims' plan for a small winery producing 15,000 cases of wine or less per year and tasting room at 737 and 755 E. Highway 20 in Upper Lake. An existing 544-square-foot home on the site would be converted to a tasting room, with grapes harvested off-site until the winery is established.

The commission heard Barry Shaffer's appeal of Eric Olof's small winery and tasting room at 5615 Highland Springs Road in Lakeport, but decided to bring it back on Aug. 26 at 1 p.m. to give the two parties an opportunity to work out some of their issues.

Shaffer, who sold Olof the property 10 years ago, is concerned that the value of his home – one of the oldest in the county – will suffer from having to share a roadway easement with a business.

Olof's attorney Andre Ross, responding to Shaffer's objections, argued that Shaffer was overstating the number of visitors the winery would draw.

A public hearing for a major use permit for Lakeport Outlaw Karting's proposed go-cart race track was rescheduled.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKEPORT – Barbecue chefs hoping to claim bragging rights at the inaugural “Grillin’ on the Green” fundraiser have only a week to sign up their teams.

All paperwork, including the required Lake County Health Department application, must be completed by Friday, July 30, organizers have announced.

A barbecue cook-off, musical entertainment by the LC Diamonds, children’s activities including a dunk tank, a car show, self-guided walking tours, and food and wine tasting are planned for the Saturday, Aug. 7, event at Westside Community Park, 1401 Westside Park Road, Lakeport.

Festivities will begin at 4 p.m. and will continue until 8 p.m.

The public is invited to attend and participate in the activities, including the barbecue competition, the Westside Community Park fundraising committee has announced.

Ten cook-off teams have signed up to compete but others are welcomed.

There is no entry fee. Each contestant is required to provide the team’s setup and samples of the chef’s “grillin’” specialty for 200 people.

The competition will culminate in a presentation of the People’s Choice Awards. To register for the barbecue competition, call committee member Cindy Ustrud at 707-263-7091.

Event admission prices are $25 per adult and $10 per child 12 years old or younger.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Lake County Chamber of Commerce, the Kitchen Gallery, and Lake Event Design, all in Lakeport, and at the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce in the City of Clearlake.

Tickets are also available from members of the fundraising committee. They are Ustrud, Dennis Rollins, Alice Holmes, Wilda Shock, and Beth and Jeff Havrilla.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the next phase of development of Westside Community Park, which will include soccer fields, a regulation baseball field, and a combination Little League baseball/softball field.

Two major sponsors of the event, the Priest Family Trust and the Keeling-Barnes Family Foundation, are each offering a $5,000 matching challenge to the community.

The Park Committee is seeking additional sponsorships for the event, said Ustrud. Levels of sponsor recognition are $100, $300, $500, $1,000, $3,000, and $5,000. Sponsors will be recognized at the Grillin’ on the Green event.

Westside Community Park is a City of Lakeport recreational facility that was established 12 years ago. The nonprofit Park Committee is developing the park in conjunction with the City of Lakeport, volunteers, and numerous contributions by individuals and businesses dedicated to constructing a recreational facility for the youth and adults of Lake County.

The park currently is four acres consisting of two soccer fields, a parking lot, a picnic area overlooking the soccer fields, and an ADA compliant walking path.

Future plans for development of the park’s full 60 acres include baseball/softball fields, a BMX track, a skateboard facility, football fields, a children’s play structure, a dog park, walking paths and a horse arena.

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SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro (D-North Coast) will be in Clearlake on Monday, July 26, to take a firsthand look at the growing problem of algae blooms on Clear Lake.

Chesbro's office said Friday that he will meet with constituents at Austin Park in Clearlake to hear their concerns about the algae problem from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Chesbro will tour the lake in the county’s air boat with county Supervisor Jeff Smith to learn more about the scope of the problem and assist with the eradication process.

Chesbro also will meet with county officials, agriculture representatives and Clearlake Mayor Judy Thein, his office reported.

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Jim Leonardis' fields of basil at his Kelseyville, Calif., organic farm. Photo by Esther Oertel.




To paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Oh, basil, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!”

This is the herb that makes the summer heat worthwhile. Contained within its shiny green leaves is one of the finest flavors on earth, and I found wonderful long rows of it during a recent visit to Leonardis Organics in Kelseyville.

The mere thought of this member of the mint family can make me salivate, and I'm a slave to its aroma.

When the heat strikes, I know it’s time for fresh tomato sandwiches flavored with basil leaves and for freshly-made pesto, another summertime treat, so you can imagine how pleased I was to see it at Jim Leonardis’ beautiful organic farm.

We are likely most familiar with the sweet basil that flavors Italian cuisine, or its close cousin, Genovese basil. These types are found in grocery stores and are most commonly grown by home gardeners. Another popular variety is Thai basil, which adds a pungent punch of flavor to Southeast Asian dishes.

But there is so much more.

Basil cross-pollinates easily, so determining a species can be challenging. It is estimated that there are between 50 and 150 varieties of the herb. Some are used in cuisine, and others in landscaping.

The size and shape of the leaves can vary dramatically, from the lettuce-like leaves of mammoth or lettuce basil (often used in salads) to the tiny leaves of dwarf bush basil.

Basil plants sport leaves ranging from bright green to deep purple, as evidenced by the colorful names of these varieties: Purple ruffles, African blue, red rubin and dark opal.

In addition to Thai basil, there’s Cuban basil, Greek basil, Mexican basil and Persian basil. It grows in columns (Greek column basil), in near perfect rounds (spicy globe basil), as a shrub or in dwarf bush form.

Some have flavors of cinnamon, licorice, lemon or lime.

The aptly named holy basil (sometimes known as Sacred basil) is used in Hindu worship, as well as to prepare holy water in the Greek Orthodox Church.

My personal favorite basil names are Magical Michael and Mrs. Burns lemon basil.

It is definitely a multi-faceted herb.

A native to the tropical regions of Asia, as well as to the warm climates of India and Iran, basil does well in the summer heat and has been cultivated in those countries for more than 5,000 years.

Its growing season and conditions mirror those of the tomato, and they are often matched in cuisine. Personally, I can’t think of two flavors that trump the marriage of a ripe-from-the-vine tomato and pungent, powerful, spicy basil.

The word “basil” is derived from the Greek word basileus, which means king or royal. Some call it “The King of Herbs,” and it’s uncertain whether this moniker is from the word origin or its powerful place in cuisine.

It carries quite a bit of weight in sometimes conflicting folklore around the world.

While it’s a symbol of love in Italy and Portugal, it represented hatred in ancient Greece.

European lore sometimes claimed that basil is a symbol of Satan, but it is said to have been found around the tomb of Christ after the resurrection.

In Africa, legend claims that basil protects against scorpions; however, a French physician (as quoted by an English botanist) claimed that it is common knowledge that smelling basil breeds scorpions in the brain.





Bright greens summer basil at Leonardis Organics in Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Esther Oertel.




Again, it’s definitely a multi-faceted herb.

Basil is extremely high in vitamin K, with a full 60 percent of our daily requirement being found in just over a tablespoon of the fresh herb. It’s a good source of beta carotene, vitamins A and C, calcium and dietary fiber, as well as the minerals manganese, magnesium and potassium.

Scientific studies have established that the essential oils found in basil have potent antioxidant, anti-cancer, antiviral and anti-microbial properties.

While most dried herbs provide a concentrated dose of flavor similar to their fresh counterparts, dried basil is quite a different animal. It just doesn’t have the same flavor, and for this reason, I don’t keep it in my home pantry, nor do I use it in cooking.

The flavor compounds in fresh basil are volatile, so if cooked for longer than the briefest period, its characteristic pungency is lost. Fresh basil should be added at the last possible minute when using it to flavor hot dishes.

Fresh herbs such as basil may be stored in the fridge in a couple of ways. If there’s room on your refrigerator shelves, cut the bottoms of the stems as you would fresh flowers and place in a glass of water. Otherwise, wrap in damp paper towels and seal in a zipper locked bag. Both methods will keep basil fresh for days.

When basil comes in fast and furious at local farmers’ markets, take home several bunches to puree and freeze that which you can’t use immediately.

Use a food processor or blender for this purpose, adding just enough water or olive oil to make a loose paste. Freeze in ice cube trays, and when frozen, pop the bright green cubes out to store in freezer safe zipper locked bags. They’re wonderful for making fresh pesto in the winter months or for flavoring soups or sauces.

The recipe below is from a culinary class I taught that featured local goat cheese. It offers another way to use pesto, and the flavor of basil is fresh and bright with sweet sun dried tomatoes and tangy goat cheese. It makes an impressive hors d’oeuvre with layers of red, green and white.

Pine nuts have become quite expensive – the price in our local store went from about $17 per pound to $35 – so when making pesto for other uses, walnuts make a fine substitute for pine nuts. (For an extra layer of flavor, toast the walnuts first.) Since this torte is garnished with toasted pine nuts, I’d recommend using pine nuts in the pesto. Thankfully, 1/3 cup doesn’t weigh much!

Layered pesto, goat cheese and tomato torte with pine nuts

10-12 ounce fresh goat cheese

1 cup packed basil leaves

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

1/3 cup pine nuts (toast half of them)

½ tsp salt

½ cup roughly chopped sun dried tomatoes, along with their oil to drizzle (or fresh halved cherry tomatoes when in season)

Balsamic vinegar to drizzle

Line a 5- or 6-inch springform pan or a shallow bowl (such as for soup) with plastic wrap, leaving enough extra wrap on either side for covering up afterwards. Press half the goat cheese into the bottom using the back of a spoon.

Combine the basil, olive oil, garlic, half the pine nuts and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Spoon this thick pesto mixture over the goat cheese. Top with the rest of the cheese and press gently with the back of a spoon to smooth into place. Wrap tightly and chill for at least one hour and up to 24 hours.

When ready to serve, unmold and top the torte with the tomatoes and drizzle with their oil (or extra virgin olive oil if using fresh tomatoes) and a bit of balsamic vinegar. Garnish with the remaining pine nuts (toasted if desired) and serve with croCroûtons:ûtons made from baguette slices. (See recipe below.)

Makes 6 servings.


Brush 12 pieces of thinly sliced French bread baguette with olive oil and toast in a 450-degree oven until golden brown. Rub with a garlic clove after cooking.

Esther Oertel, the "Veggie Girl," is a personal chef and culinary coach and is passionate about local produce. Oertel owns The SageCoach Personal Chef Service and teaches culinary classes at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. She welcomes your questions and comments; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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As his wife Debra looked on, newly appointed Lake County Superior Court Judge Andrew Blum took the oath of office from Judge Richard Martin at the Lake County Courthouse in Lakeport, Calif., on Friday, July 23, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKEPORT – A 30-year chapter in Lake County's judicial history came to its formal end on Friday, and a new chapter opened.

Judge Arthur Mann looked on as his successor, Andrew Blum, was sworn in as the newest Lake County Superior Court judge on Friday afternoon.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his selection of Blum, 50, to succeed to the Department 3 bench June 30, as Lake County News has reported. Mann announced his retirement last year after three decades on the bench.

Blum's new Department 3 courtroom was filled to overflowing with retired and current judges, friends, family and community members who came for the swearing-in.

His friend and colleague on the bench, Judge Richard Martin, led the 40-minute ceremony.

Blum, formerly the county's chief deputy district attorney under then-District Attorney Stephen Hedstrom – another of the Lake County Superior Court judges – was Martin's boss for a few years in the Lake County District Attorney's Office before Martin left to become attorney general of Kosrae State, Micronesia, Martin explained.

Later, Martin invited Blum and his wife, Debra – also an attorney – to Micronesia, where they accepted jobs working for Martin. After Martin left to return to the states, Blum succeeded him as attorney general there.

Martin, who was sworn in as a judge five years ago this month, noted, “As of today, I won't be the newest judge anymore. I'll be part way to a veteran.”

Blum already has been working for the county, it was noted during the ceremony. This week, he joined some of the county's other judges for two days of travel to five other recently built courthouses – from Napa to Watsonville – to get ideas for Lakeport's new courthouse, currently in the planning stages.

He received congratulations from the other judges, including Mann, who told him he will enjoy a rewarding career as a judge, and Judge David Herrick, who said he admired Blum's dedication and explained that Blum volunteered his time to make the road trip to the Northern California courthouses.

Hedstrom said Blum was only 29 years old when he joined the District Attorney's Office. At 50 Blum “still looks like a kid from my aged vantage point,” Hedstrom said.

“I can't believe you're old enough to join the rest of us on this old bench,” he added.

Blum was Hedstrom's chief deputy district attorney from 1992 to 1997. More recently Blum has worked for the Commission on Judicial Performance, in which capacity he prosecutes judges for misconduct.

“We have absolutely no personal knowledge of his work” on that commission, Hedstrom quipped.

Hedstrom went on to note that as a prosecutor Blum demonstrated complete integrity and honesty in his work, from case evaluation to filing charges, and that he has the right “judicial temperament.”

While the job carries a lot of stress both for judges and their families, Blum “can count on incredible support from all of the court staff. It's unequaled,” said Hedstrom.

He concluded by telling Blum, “I have no doubt, and everyone here has no doubt, that you'll be a superb judge.”

Judge Vincent Lechowick told Blum, “You'll have fun next week,” referring to Blum's first week on the job.”

Blum also received congratulations from several of the county's retired judges.

Judge John J. Golden offered one sentence of advice – “When in doubt, remain silent” – and with that said no more, which caused the gallery to burst into laughter, as did Judge Robert Crone, sitting beside him.

Crone told Blum that by the time he was done with his judicial career he would have affected everyone in Lake County either directly or indirectly through different kinds of decisions.

“It's an important job, it's a challenging job,” Crone said.

Judge Richard Freeborn told Blum that the role of judge, is “a great joy and pleasure.”

Freeborn said they all went into the law to help others, and he urged Blum to be a part of the community and to get to know its citizens.

He said Blum will occasionally see “frequent flyers” in the system – people who constantly appear in the courts – but sometimes those people manage to get their life on track, and Freeborn said Blum will then realize he treated those people with dignity and respect.

“Everyone in this room wants to see you do well,” Freeborn said.

He added, “It's a team effort.”

Judge Betty Irwin congratulated Blum and wished him luck, compassion and energy.

When it came time for Blum to be sworn in, Martin called him and his wife forward, and administered the oath. Afterward, Debra Blum helped her husband put on his new robe.

Martin then introduced the new judge to a standing ovation, escorted him to the bench and handed him his gavel.


“Now what do I do?” Blum joked once the gavel was placed in his hand.

Blum introduced his family – including his three children, mother and father-in-law – and told the courtroom, “It is truly an honor to have been chosen to succeed Judge Mann.”

He said he spent years prosecuting judges “who weren't like this man.”

When he worked for the District Attorney's Office, Blum said he assigned attorneys to courtrooms, and occasionally would treat himself to working in Mann's court, which always was run smoothly and professionally.

“You always knew you would have a good day” in Mann's court, Blum said, noting Mann's remarkable ability to put people at ease.

Noting that he will look to Mann as a role model, Blum led the room in giving the retiring judge a standing ovation in thanks.

In his work traveling around the state with the Commission on Judicial Performance, Blum said he has gained a good idea of what's expected of judges, “or at least I know what not to do.”

He asked for everyone's help and support as he learns his new role.

Blum said the county was fortunate to have the judges it does – both retired and active. Not all court systems work as smoothly, he said.

Before coming to Lake County Blum had worked as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles. “You want to talk about some culture shock.”

There, Blum was among more than 900 prosecutors, and he only met the district attorney once.

When he was hired by the Lake County District Attorney's Office on his second application – Martin was hired over him on his first go-round, he pointed out – he drove up to the county with his young son and found Hedstrom waiting for him at the courthouse on a Saturday morning.

Hedstrom had a Realtor run a list of prospective homes and even helped him pick out a place before inviting Blum and his son to stay with him. Hedstrom's wife, Linda, fixed them dinner and breakfast the next morning, and sent Blum's son, Michael, home with a new toy.

“Daddy, I really love Lake County,” he recalled his son saying as they drove away.

After he invited everyone to an evening barbecue at the Lakeport Yacht Club, and with the ceremony drawing to a close, Blum asked, “Is there anything else?”

He then announced, “Court is adjourned.”

As part of a tradition among the judges, Martin passed to Blum a framed passage from Justice Learned Hand's "Spirit of Liberty,” which had been done in calligraphy by Judge Golden's wife, Gail.

The passage always goes to the newest judge, and is meant to offer inspiration and guidance.

Martin noted during the ceremony that despite the frustrations, there is no job more rewarding, especially when a judge figures out how to solve a problem.

The passage includes the following:

“A judge’s life, like every other, has in it much of drudgery, senseless bickerings, stupid obstinacies, captious pettyfogging, all disguising and obstructing the only sane purpose which can justify the whole endeavor. These take an inordinate part of his time; they harass and befog the unhappy wretch, and at times almost drive him from that bench where like any other workman he must do his work. If that were all, his life would be mere misery, and he a distracted arbiter between irreconcilable extremes. But there is something else that makes it – anyway to those curious creatures who persist in it – a delectable calling. For when the case is all in, and the turmoil stops, and after he is left alone, things begin to take form. From his pen or in his head, slowly or swiftly as his capacities admit, out of the murk the pattern emerges, his pattern, the expression of what he has seen and what he has therefore made, the impress of his self upon the not-self, upon the hitherto formless material of which he was once but a part and over which he has now become the master. That is a pleasure which nobody who has felt it will be likely to underrate.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

WASHINGTON, DC – On the evening of Wednesday, July 28, Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) will host a live town hall meeting via telephone and he is inviting every resident of the First Congressional District to join him.

Participants are encouraged to ask him questions about the issues that are important to them.

“Our country is facing many challenges right now and I want to make sure that people from across our district can discuss what’s on their mind,” said Congressman Thompson.

“It’s extremely important to me to hear from constituents, and this telephone town hall will be a great chance to talk about the challenges facing our country,” he added. “Please take this opportunity to call in and make your voice heard.”

The call will take place from 7:10 p.m. to 8:10 p.m. Pacific time.

When the call starts, dial 877-229-8493 and enter the passcode 13293.

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Recently the Soroptimist International of Clear Lake was able to award $10,000 to the Transitional Living Center and New Beginnings to assist them with their transportation needs. Pictured, left to right are Kelley Slater, Kimberly Kent, Arlene Grimes, Debbie Hart, Georgina Lehne, Fawn Williams and Becky Hiss. Courtesy photo.

CLEARLAKE – A local service group has made a substantial financial gift to help those in need.

On July 14 local members of Soroptimist International of Clear Lake met with Georgina Lehne, executive director of the Lake County Community Action Agency and Debbie Hart, operational manager for New Beginnings, to present a check for $10,000 for transportation needs to support New Beginnings and the Transitional Living Center.

The grant is funded by Soroptimist International of the Americas, and was prepared and submitted by members of Soroptimist International of Clear Lake to assist New Beginnings and the Transitional Living Center with transportation cost during the next year.

New Beginnings is a two-part drug recovery program, where women participate in educational and counseling services and at the same time are provided with a safe living environment, where they can begin their recovery journey free from destructive behavior and unsafe living conditions.

New Beginnings is the only perinatal day treatment program in Lake County and has been in existence for 15 years.

Day treatment services at New Beginnings include group and one-on-one counseling on drug education and relapse prevention, education on abuse cycles and aftercare counseling; parenting classes; health and hygiene training; domestic violence awareness; and therapeutic childcare.

New Beginnings has two vans used to transport these women to their session, appointments and other needs. This transportation component is a critical piece because public transportation in Lake County is not a viable option for the participants in this program.

Lake County encompasses 1,329 square miles, much of it being rural. Most bus routes only serve an area every two hours and only until 5 p.m.

Transportation may sound trivial to some, however, with the majority of the clients in New Beginnings it is an essential element of the program.

The goal of New Beginnings is to provide transportation to all clients while they are in the program. Clients who do not live in the Transitional Living Center are picked up, from wherever they may live in Lake County, and brought to New Beginnings in the morning and returned home in the afternoon.

Clients and their children who reside in the Transitional Living Center House receive transportation to the New Beginnings site in the morning, are returned to the house in the afternoon, and receive transportation to all medical, dental, mental health and legal appointments; to job interviews; and to appointments to search for housing when clients are ready to move from the Transitional Living Center House.

They also receive transportation to Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and to religious/spiritual services if requested by the client.

Transportation to all of these counseling appointments and other services is crucial in order to stimulate the clients’ successful completion of the


Soroptimist International of Clear Lake has additionally volunteered over 200 hours in the past year, as well as supplies to refurbish and improve the Transitional Living Center.

Rooms have been painted, decorated with new lamps and pictures. New drapes, bedding and matching towels were provided to each project room.

In June, Soroptimist International of Clear Lake held their annual yard sale in Clearlake and in conjunction, ran a diaper drive encouraging members and the public to donate diapers for the infants and children of New Beginnings and Transitional Living Center House. More than 1,000 diapers were


Members of Soroptimist International of Clear Lake recognize that in these times of budget cuts, each one of us can be a small part of the solution.

If you would like to assist Soroptimist International of Clear Lake in their goal to help the women and children in these two programs by donating diapers, paint or other needed supplies, please contact Soroptimist Project Coordinator Pam Pitkin at 707-987-4986.

Additionally, Soroptimist International of Clear Lake will hold another diaper drive Sept. 25 at the Kelseyville Pear Festival and welcomes community members to make donations there.

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Local resident Gary Johnson captured this picture on Friday, July 23, 2010, of a Cal Fire helicopter at Bona Vita waterski lake in Middletown, Calif., where the copter drew water to fight a nearby grass fire. His wife, Marni Johnson, reported the helicopter took approximately 12 loads of water to use in the firefighter effort.



MIDDLETOWN – Land and air resources were needed to battle a south county blaze on Friday.

The fire was reported shortly before 3 p.m. at Highway 29 and Butts Canyon Road, according to Scott Bravo of the Cal Fire Command Center.

Bravo said Cal Fire sent three tankers, an air attack, one helicopter, a battalion chief, a dozer, four engines, a water tender and hand crew to the fire.

He said the fire ultimately was contained at three acres.

Bravo said the blaze's cause is under investigation.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

UPPER LAKE – A cigarette is believed to be the cause of a Thursday evening fire that burned an Upper Lake duplex and left two families homeless.

The fire, which was dispatched shortly after 6:30 p.m., occurred in two attached cabins in the 9300 block of Government Street, according to Northshore Fire Protection Chief Jim Robbins.

The fire district was having a training night, with firefighters at all of the district's stations, when the call came in, according to Robbins.

That meant a lot of firefighters and equipment were available to respond to the blaze, “which really helped out,” said Robbins, who was the incident commander.

A total of five engines, a medic unit and a battalion chief, in addition to Robbins, were among the responding resources from Northshore Fire, he said.

The structure was three-quarters involved when the firefighters arrived on scene. “I have to give my firefighters credit, they did a good stop on it,” said Robbins.

In addition to Northshore Fire, Cal Fire also sent two engines and a battalion chief, said Joe Petersen of the Cal Fire Dispatch Center. Lakeport Fire also was reported to have sent resources.

Robbins said it took firefighters about 30 minutes to extinguish the blaze and about two hours of mop up.

The older cabins – which Robbins said were built in the 1940s and used by California Conservation Corps crews – had flat roofs covered later by peaked roofs, with enclosed attic space that was difficult to access.

He said firefighters had to spend time pulling down the ceiling to make sure the fire was completely out.

No one was injured but the homes were complete losses, with two families – each composed of two adults – displaced, Robbins said.

The families had places to stay but Robbins said he brought in Red Cross because the renters lost virtually everything they owned.

Robbins said the fire appeared to be accidental, and was caused when a cigarette got under the back porch and lit the blaze.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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