Tuesday, 16 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – As county residents have struggled with rising gas prices over the past year, they've found one attractive option to help pay less at the pump.

It's called public transit.

“We've had steady growth through the year,” said Mark Wall, transit manager for the Lake Transit Authority.

In the 2007-08 fiscal year, ridership grew by 8 percent in the first, quarter, 15 percent in the second, 20 percent in the third and in the fourth, 27 percent, said Wall.

Those increases were helped by a few factors, said Wall, including improved service on the transit authority's route one, which runs along Highway 20.

But the big jump came when gas prices began climbing steeply. “All of a sudden ridership really went through the roof,” he said.

As a comparison, he points to July 2008's ridership numbers, which hit 30,126, putting it at 45-percent above July 2007.

“Ridership is up particularly on any route that goes a long distance,” Wall said.

Big ridership changes were noted on route one along Highway 20 and the Northshore, which increased in passengers by 55 percent; route three from Calistoga to Middletown; route four, running between Clearlake and Lakeport on Highway 29; and route seven to Ukiah.

“The bad news was we were overbudget,” said Wall.

Rising fuel prices, which increased the numbers of people using the bus, also proved a primary cause of the budget overrun. Wall said the authority had planned to spent $289,000 on fuel for the year, but ran over by 16 percent, ending up at $333,800.

In the past year, the authority also changed contractors, with Laidlaw's contract ceasing in July of 2007, to be succeeded by Paratransit Services, said Wall. “It's been a much better situation this year with our new contractor.”

Wall, who also manages Del Norte County's transit authority, notes that bus ridership is up all over the state.

Lake County is on the high end, noted Wall, higher even than some urban areas when it comes to the increases in use it's seeing. That's because people move to transit services more when they live in areas where there are greater distance to travel.

Wall noted that Del Norte County is seeing even more new ridership than Lake, thanks to revisions in its transit system.

That's one big concern here in Lake County – how to make the service more available and useful to a wider range of customers.

“Over the years we've seen a wide variety of people who use the service, but most of them are low income,” he said.

However, Lake Transit recently conducted a ridership survey, said Wall. “We're getting people we've never heard from before.”

Employees in some county offices are using the transit to go to work, and Wall said Social Services now wants to sell monthly passes at their site.

Wall said they're working on a transit development plan, which includes adding more commuter-oriented runs on routes one along the Northshore and four, between Clearlake and Lakeport.

One way to expand the service is to add to its range of hours. Most routes run from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, said Wall, with only one going until 8 p.m.

He said the authority has just applied for a grant to add morning and evening runs between Clearlake and Calistoga with connections to Lakeport, and an evening run between the Lakeport and Clearlake.

But the hope of expanding the service may be hampered by the state's raiding of transit assistance fund monies, which comes from sales tax. Those funds have been gobbled up by the state budget process the past two years, which Wall said will likely happen again this year.

“We're supposed to be receiving more money from state than likely to see,” said Wall.

Transit agencies all over the state want to expand their services but are being hampered because those funds are drying up, said Wall.

While Lake Transit would like to revise its services to meet greater demands, Wall said the process will have to move more slowly than they would like and will be predicated on the availability of money.

If gas prices remain high, Wall said he expects over the long term for transit to become more like it used to be, with more private ownership and less public subsidies.

In the mean time, Lake Transit is focusing on some small changes that can have big returns, such as having its service and routes added to Google's transit tracking service. They're also installing a new bus tracking system to see if buses are running on time, since late buses have proved a problem for the system.

They are planning for several new route changes next January and February, with a third bus route set for Clearlake, and modifications being considered for a few of the other routes as well, said Wall. If they get their grant, they may be able to run some routes more often, especially during commute times.

The eventual goal for route one along the Northshore, said Wall, is to have hourly bus runs. Those runs used to take four hours, and now are down to two.

In the fall of 2009, Lake Transit is aiming to add another Lakeport route, which will move from the city's northern area down to Konocti Vista Casino, looping through town and onto the freeway.

Wall added that Lake Transit is partnering with the Area Agency on Aging to do a senior transportation project between Clearlake Oaks and Spring Valley.

Another challenge for the future is enough buses, and the right kind of buses, to enable Lake Transit to meet its growing demands.

Lake Transit currently has 20 buses but it needs more, with two on order, said Wall, and three more, smaller buses also soon to be ordered. Depending on the state budget, more also could be purchased soon to both enlarge the fleet and replace aging buses.

Wall said the authority's buses are diesel. They're discussing other possible fuel alternatives as they look at the future, with hybrid vehicles offering promise. Hybrids using compressed natural gas tend to run between $400,000 and $500,000 for a new bus, compared to $200,000 for a new diesel bus, said Wall.

Biodiesel also might work if a consistent local or regional source were available. However, Wall added, “It's got a lot of problems for us to use.”

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Preparation is being made by three North Lake Garden Club Members, Henry Bethel, Don Smith and Bill Casey for the Blue Star Memorial by-way marker that will be dedicated in Nice on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY – Special commemorative events are scheduled to take place around Lake County and the nation on Veterans Day, this coming Tuesday, Nov. 11.

During Veterans Day, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake calls on Americans to recognize the nation's 23.4 million living veterans and the generations before them who fought to protect freedom and democracy.

"While our foremost thoughts are with those in distant war zones today, Veterans Day is an opportunity for Americans to pay their respects to all who answered the nation's call to military service,” said Peake. “Participation in Veterans Day can be as simple as putting out the porch flag or reminding youngsters of the story of a relative who served in the military.”

As part of the national Veterans Day observance, Peake will join White House and military officials and leaders of the major veterans organizations at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery at 11 a.m.

Here in Lake County, the day's events will begin at 7 a.m., as the Avenue of the Flags is posted by volunteers at the Upper Lake, Hartley and Lower Lake cemeteries.

At 8 a.m., a flag-raising ceremony will take place at Veterans Circle at Hartley Cemetery, 2552 Hill Road East, Lakeport.

The main event of the day will begin at 11 a.m. at the Little Theater at the Lake County Fairgrounds. The county's Veterans Day Ceremony and Celebration features speakers and awards to a veteran of the year and an individual who works on behalf of veterans and their issues.

The day will be marked by a very special dedication ceremony from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Nice, where a Blue Star Memorial by-way marker will be unveiled at Triangle Park, located at Manzanita and Howard streets.

The North Lake Garden Club cordially invites the public to the dedication to honor the men and women who served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Dignitaries and participants will include Supervisor Denise Rushing; Public Services Director Kim Clymire; United Veterans Council Chaplain Capt. Woody Hughes; United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team; Elijah Christopher, Navy Construction Builder, Second Class Petty Officer, BU2; California Garden Clubs Inc. President Robin Pokorski; Mendo-Lake District Director GinaBelle Smith; Karen Seydel, Ukiah Bagpipes; Betty Lindvig, Potter Valley Garden Club; Henry Bethel, president, North Lake Garden Club; Sharon Thorne, Blue Star Chairman, North Lake Garden Club; and

Kris Ruben, vice president, North Lake Garden Club.

At 4 p.m., a retreat ceremony with the lowering of the flag will take place at Veterans Circle at Hartley Cemetery.

Later that evening, Chapter 951 of Vietnam Veterans of America will hold its monthly potluck dinner and general meeting. The potluck begins at 6 p.m., with the meeting at 7 p.m.

The group meets at Saint Mary Immaculate Parish Hall, 801 N. Main St., Lakeport. All Vietnam-era veterans, veterans of all eras, their families and friends, and members of the general public are all cordially welcome.


LAKE COUNTY – The annual burn ban for 2008 will end on Monday, Nov. 10, with Cal Fire declaring an end to fire hazard season.

Lake County's joint Fire and Air Quality Management District’s open burning program has incorporated both fire safety and air quality management since 1987.

The program has greatly contributed to the community’s superior fire safety and air quality, according to county Pollution Control Officer Doug Gearhart.

Burn permits are required for all burning in the Lake County Air Basin. Contact your local fire protection agency for a burn permit or the Lake County Air Quality Management District to obtain a smoke management plan.

A smoke management plan is required for all burns over 20 acres in size, multi-day burns, standing vegetation burns, and whole tree or vine removals over an acre.

A fee is required for all burn permits, payable at the time the permit is issued. Agricultural and residential burn permits, as well as smoke management plans, are $22 and land development/lot clearing burn permits are $68.

Only clean dry vegetation that was grown on the property may be burned. Residential burn permits require a one-acre or larger lot, a burn location that is located at least 100 feet from all neighbors and 30ft from any structure.

Land clearing burns require special permits available at your local fire agency. Burn only the amount of material that can be completely consumed during the allowed burning hours. Read your burn permit carefully and follow all the conditions.

Each day of the burning season is designated as a “no burn day,” a “limited burn day” or a “permissive burn day.” On no burn days all open burning is prohibited, unless an exemption has been given for a specific burn.

Burning is generally allowed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. only on permissive burn days. Read your permit for allowed hours of burning.

The daily burn day status information is available for North County at 263-3121 and South County at 994-4444.

Consider using the vegetative waste pickup provided with your waste collection services or composting as an alternative to burning leaves. Contact your local Fire Safe Council for chipping information. For South County go to www.southlakefiresafecouncil.org or your local fire station, for all other areas of the county call 279-2968.

The law requires that an able-bodied adult supervise all fires. Burning even a small amount of illegal material can result in toxic ash and smoke that contain cancer-causing substances and contribute to other health problems.

Burning prohibited materials can also result in significant fines. Some people have smoke allergies and/or respiratory problems and their health is degraded by even small amounts of smoke. Please be considerate of your neighbors.

A permit does not allow you to create health problems for others and you can be liable for fines and other costs associated with your burning.


LAKEPORT – The Lake County Planning Commission will consider projects including a telecommunications tower and two requests regarding subdivisions at its next meeting this week.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 13, in the board chambers at the Lake County Courthouse, 255 N. Forbes, Lakeport.

At 9:05 a.m., the commission will hold a public hearing to consider a mitigated negative declaration based on initial study for a major use permit.

Peacock Associates Inc./Metro PCS has applied for the project, and proposes replacing a 120-foot guy wired lattice tower with a new 120-foot self-supporting lattice tower. The project is located at 9280 Konocti Road, Kelseyville.

South Lake County Fire Protection District has applied to purchase an approximately 13,720 square foot parcel to use as a parking lot at 15476 Graham St. A public hearing will be held on the proposal at 9:40 a.m.

At 9:45 a.m., a public hearing will take place to consider a mitigated negative declaration based on initial study for a parcel map. Glen Rolfe has applied to renew an expired tentative parcel map to subdivide approximately 15.76 acres located at 1000 Robin Hill Road in Lakeport in order to create three parcels.

The Vintage Faire subdivision also will be on the Thursday agenda and the subject of a 10:10 a.m. public hearing for considering of a subsequent negative declaration based on initial study for general plan of development.

De Nova Homes is proposing a one-year time extension of the subdivision's general development plan; the proposed project is located at 20740 and 20830 State Highway 29, Middletown.

The final public hearing of the day is set for 10:40 a.m. The hearing will be for an administrative appeal (AA 08-03) of the Community Development Department's determination to deny issuance of a Certificate of Compliance.

The appellant is Edwin Rohner, proposing a Certificate of Compliance on their parcel after a lot line adjustment was recorded that appears to have erased any underlying parcels of record. The project is located at 5087 State St., Kelseyville.

Planning Commissioners include Monica Rosenthal, District 1; Gary Briggs, District 2; Clelia Baur, District 3; Cliff Swetnam, District 4; and Gil Schoux, District 5.


LAKE COUNTY – After three decades of bringing beautiful music to Lake County, Clear Lake Performing Arts is preparing to celebrate its 30th


The county's primary music support group, will mark its special day on Sunday, Nov. 16, with a special concert at Clear Lake High School followed by a no-host dinner at the Little Theater building at the Lake County fairgrounds.

Clear Lake Performing Arts was founded in 1978 under the tutelage of Jean and Lucien Mitchell. They had both been members of the San Francisco Symphony and Opera orchestras, and who wanted to help provide the same sort of cultural opportunities in Lake County – the place they had chosen for retirement.

Their first task was to recruit enough musicians to form a small orchestra and in this they were successful.

The first performance of what came to be the Lake County Symphony took place at the Konocti Harbor resort. Two years later John Parkinson joined as director and conductor and has since built it into one of the largest and best small-market orchestras in California.

Since its founding CLPA also has offered substantial support for the conversion of Lakeport's Soper-Reese theater into a music venue.

For the anniversary program Parkinson has chosen music from the best works of half a dozen 19th century composers starting with the overture from Austrian Franz Schubert's "Rosamunde." Although relatively unknown during his lifetime, Schubert achieved international fame after his untimely early death at the age of 31 in 1828.

The composer of Parkinson's next selection, the overture from "The Barber of Seville," had no such problem. Gioachino Rossini was the writer of 39 operas, many of them in the buffo or comic opera style, of which Barber is perhaps the best known. He was one of the most popular composers of his day.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was another well-known composer whose opera, "Marriage of Figaro," was nearly banned when it was introduced. The symphony will play the overture from this classic tale of social inequality as its next piece. French composer Jacques Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld" will conclude the pre-intermission portion of the concert.

During intermission the ladies of the CLPA Auxiliary will serve complimentary cookies and juice, after which the 20 young people making up the CLPA Youth Orchestra will present their much-rehearsed version of "The Anniversary Waltz."

Andi Skelton, who also doubles as Symphony Concert Mistress, will then lead her Konocti Fiddle Club into a medley of favorites.

The second half of the symphony program will open with Mozart's popular "Serenade in D, K. 239 while the concluding number will highlight another Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn with his "London Symphony No. 104" – the last of his 12 so-called London Symphonies.

At the conclusion of the concert many of the musicians will join CLPA members in a no-host catered buffet dinner at the Lake County Fairgrounds Little Theater building. Members of the general public are also encouraged to participate, since it's a perfect opportunity to get personally acquainted with both CLPA members and members of the orchestra.

The menu consists of sliced barbecue tri-tips, chicken thighs, potato and green salad, beans, rolls and soft drinks. Wines will be offered for sampling by CLPA Wine Committee enthusiasts. Cost of the dinner is $25, and advance reservations are a must. They can be made by calling 263-5876.

The concert will start at 3 p.m. and end in time for all those planning to attend dinner at the fairgrounds to arrive their by the scheduled meal time of 6 p.m.

Concert tickets are $15 for CLPA members and $20 general admission. Young people under 18 are admitted free of charge.

For more information about CLPA, visit the group's Web site at www.clearlakeperformingarts.org.


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Beginning Nov. 15, the Mendocino National Forest will start charging fees at several campgrounds and recreation sites.

On the Upper Lake Ranger District, sites at the Oak Flat Campground at Lake Pillsbury will be $5 per night. Sites at Penny Pines and Deer Valley campgrounds will be $6 per night.

On the Grindstone Ranger District, sites at the Dixie Glade, Fouts, Little Stony, Mill Creek, North Fork and South Fork campgrounds will be $5 per night. A $6 per launch few with be implemented at the Sacramento River Boat Launch at Lake Red Bluff.

On the Covelo Ranger District, sites at the Howard Lake, Howard Meadows and Little Doe campgrounds will be $6 per night.

“The Mendocino National Forest is committed to providing high quality recreation facilities and opportunities to Forest Visitors,” said Recreation Officer Tricia Christofferson. “Ninety-five percent of the fees charged at developed recreation sites like these remain on the forest and are spent operating, maintaining and improving public recreation facilities.”

Christofferson said that, by charging nominal fees at these developed recreation sites, the forest will be able to continue to offer services and improvements at these sites.

For more information, please contact the Forest at 530-934-3316 or visit www.fs.fed.us/r5/mendocino.


LAKE COUNTY – A vehicle fire on Highway 175 Sunday night resulted in a temporary shutdown of the highway.

The California Highway Patrol reported an Audi was on fire on Highway 175 at mile marker 83 just before 9 p.m.

The driver was reported to be clear of the car and was not said to be injured, the CHP reported. The CHP did not identify the driver.

The roadway was shut down shortly before 9:30 p.m. as officials responded to the situation.

The CHP did not report in its incident log when the highway was reopened.

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Pictured left to right, Ryan Erickson of Lakeport, Marc Peachey and Kiuya Brown of Kelseyville, and Ty Lewis of Clearlake graduated from the California Highway Patrol Academy on Friday, October 31, 2008. Photo by Kevin Domby.

LAKE COUNTY – Four young Lake County men are starting out their new careers in the California Highway Patrol after graduating from the CHP Academy last week.

The CHP swore in new officers during graduation ceremonies at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento on Oct. 31.

Among the graduates were four Lake County residents, Ryan Erickson of Lakeport, Marc Peachey and Kiuya Brown of Kelseyville, and Ty Lewis of Clearlake.

This academy training class started on April 28 with 213 cadets, and culminated with the graduation of 145 officers following 27 weeks of intense training, according to Officer Adam Garcia of the CHP's Clear Lake area office.

The class, which is the largest since 2001, includes twin brothers who overcame extreme physical challenges due to their weight to achieve their longtime goal of earning a badge and a mother of three who, after breaking her leg twice during training, will be sworn in nearly two years and three attempts later.

Erickson will report to the Contra Costa Area Office, Peachey goes to the Redwood City Area Office, Kiuya Brown reports to the Hollister-Gilroy Area Office and Ty Lewis joins the Arrowhead Area Office, Garcia said.

When questioned about life at the academy, Garcia said the officers explained how challenging the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course was and how demanding the physical training was.

Garcia said the young men are excited about their new career with the CHP and serving the citizens of California. They were unsure if their new careers would lead them back to Lake County but they did not rule out the thought of eventually transferring to the Clear Lake Office.

The CHP has undertaken a major recruitment push due to a large number of retirements and additional positions that have been authorized by the legislature to meet the growing needs of California, said Garcia.

If anyone is interested in a career in law enforcement should go online to the CHP’s new Web site, www.chpcareers.com, or they may contact the Clear Lake Area office at 279-0103.



LAKEPORT – On Thursday the Lake County Record-Bee made its second trip to court in two weeks' time to defend itself against a libel and defamation suit.

Former Clear Lake Riviera Community Association Board members Sid Donnell, Alan Siegel and Sandra Orchid each sued the newspaper for $7,500 “for defamation of character for libelous publication of false charges against each of the plaintiffs” in the paper's June 20 edition.

In court they argued that the paper's coverage of the association was lopsided and unethical. They said the paper printed dozens of letters – many of which accused them of illegal activity – and failed to fact-check them, while at the same time not agreeing to print a rebuttal from Donnell.

Named as a co-defendant with the newspaper was Clear Lake Riviera resident Darrell Watkins, who had written some of the letters in question, particularly a June guest commentary that accused the association board of, among other things, breaking “nearly every law on the books.”

The case, brought in small claims court, was heard Thursday morning in Judge Vincent Lechowick's courtroom.

Shortly after Lechowick called the case he questioned Watkins about a letter he had written that was published earlier this week by Lake County News.

The court clerk had circulated to the bailiffs and the court a copy of the letter, which described freedom of speech defenses in terms of metaphorical gunfire and bullets being aimed at the plaintiffs. An extra deputy had been called to the court before the session due to the clerk's concerns.

Lechowick, nodding to his two bailiffs, said he had fire power himself. “Is it a threat to the court or a physical threat?” the judge asked Watkins, adding that it “wasn't very wise” to make such statements.

Watkins objected and said the judge's comments were prejudicial.

Record-Bee Publisher Gary Dickson, standing at the defendant's table with Watkins, affirmed that the paper had printed the guest commentary that was at the heart of the complaint filed by Donnell, Siegel and Orchid.

Initially, Donnell said he sent a letter to Dickson with their response to Watkins' letter, as well as a request that the newspaper investigate the facts for themselves to see if the association was guilty of wrongdoing.

Dickson acknowledged receiving the letter and said he had agreed to print the rebuttal. “That offer stood until we were served.”

The initial letter, which Siegel came well before the lawsuit service, wasn't published. Siegel said the paper had said the letter was fine with some minor editing, but it didn't make print. After that, when the paper received its notice of being sued, Dickson said he contacted a corporate attorney who advised against printing it altogether.

Lechowick asked why Dickson printed Watkins' letter without “calling your legal beagles,” yet refused to print the other side. Why, Lechowick asked, was that OK?

Dickson said the corporate attorney said printing Donnell's letter at that point was not in the newspaper's best interests.

Lechowick shook his head and frowned. “Good legal advice might have been to print it,” he said.

As to the substance of Watkins' letter, the judge remarked, “I'm not clear that it's libel per se.”

“Mr. Watkins borders on accusing you of a crime,” said Lechowick, adding that he wasn't sure Watkins had actually done so, hyperbole aside.

Lechowick questioned the three plaintiffs about what damages they had suffered.

Siegel, named a California Teacher of the Year in 2005, said he is a part of a large and prestigious education committee, and had previously received many offers to participate in other such groups. After the barrage of letters, he said those professional offers stopped. He also was introduced over the summer to a cousin he had never met who had read the letters and coverage and told him he was a “bad man.”

“Our view is that the Record-Bee created this situation,” Siegel said.

In addition, on the Record-Bee's online comment boards, run by Topix.net, Siegel said they received death threats and that when they asked the paper to do something about the comments they had refused.

“They consistently deny any responsibility,” said Siegel, adding that the association employees have called the sheriff's office due to issues of harassment.

He described how the newspaper wrote a story when three unhappy property owners – of a total of about 2,800 – were standing outside of the association office with signs earlier this year, protesting board actions.

Siegel said Record-Bee reporter Tiffany Revelle called him to say they were doing a story and that it didn't look positive for the association. Siegel asked her to give him her word that she would attend the next association meeting to see the situation for herself.

Revelle never showed up, he said, and months later when she approached him for another article Siegel confronted her about breaking her promise. He said she apologized at that point and said her managing editor, Rick Kennedy, wouldn't let her attend. During the same period, the paper published another 20 or so letters about the association, according to Siegel.

For his part, Donnell said he suffered damage to his reputation as well as embarrassment, and can no longer serve as a volunteer in his community because of it. Orchid said much the same, noting that in her job at the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce she's been approached by numerous community members asking her why she is breaking the law.

In publishing the letters, Dickson said the Record-Bee did nothing more than newspapers have done in this country for centuries, and in doing so provided an open forum that is protected by the US Constitution's First Amendment.

Losing the case, said Dickson, could have a detrimental effect on the paper, to the point of forcing it to cease printing letters to the editor if there's a danger that they could end up in court repeatedly.

On Oct. 24, a libel suit filed against the Record-Bee by Dr. Camille Keene was dismissed in Lake County Superior Court with the help of a motion used to fight strategic lawsuits against public participation – or SLAPP suits, as Lake County News has reported.

However, Dickson said that the anti-SLAPP protection only was offered in superior court, not small claims court.

Nevertheless, he argued that Watkins' letter was protected opinion and received additional protections under the doctrine of “substantial truth.” The newspaper had no reason to believe the letter's contents were untrue and so printed it. Dickson added that the newspaper employed no malice in doing so.

“We were only conducting business as usual,” said Dickson.

Arguing in his own defense, Watkins presented evidence to back up his assertions that the homeowners association had broken numerous laws.

He called as a witness Ozella Mitchell who testified that she had been hit by large fines of $250 a month by the association for not cutting brush on her property. Mitchell, who eventually cleared her property, said the association was at the point of “terrorizing” her over the issue.

Watkins said state law prevents homeowners associations from collecting fines in this way, and added that the association's own covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) don't allow for fining and lack a fining schedule. He provided copies of the CC&Rs to emphasize his point.

Siegel responded that the association has been assessing fines for 30 years.

Watkins also brought up the issue of the association allegedly paying its secretary as an independent contractor rather than a regular employee. Lechowick said that's a case of tax avoidance, not evasion, which isn't illegal.

Next, Watkins called as a witness John Stoddard who – like Mitchell – had been fined by the association over brush on his property. The fines eventually totaled more than $20,000. State law, Watkins alleged, said such fines must be reasonable.

“If they break California law then they're operating illegally, that's my opinion,” said Watkins.

Watkins said the association's new bylaws also haven't been accepted by the necessary vote of homeowners, which Donnell called an “allegation.”

The association's bylaws specify term limits, said Watkins. He accused Donnell and Siegel of breaking the bylaws by continuing to serve past the end of their terms.

Donnell replied that Watkins didn't quote the entire bylaw section about term limits, and explained a director's term ends when successors are elected and qualified.

Siegel had gone off the board in June 2006 and was reappointed to fill a vacancy in October 2006; Donnell was appointed to an empty seat in January 2006. Both men were reappointed by the board in June 2007, which they said was due to lack of participation. Siegel said in court that the association board approached him for the vacancy, not the other way around.

Returning to the issue of Donnell's rebuttal, Lechowick asked Dickson, “By not printing that letter, doesn't that imply some sort of malice?”

He then asked Donnell, “One-sided reporting doesn't give rise to libel claims, does it?”

“They (the Record-Bee) showed absolutely no interest in determining the truth of Mr. Watkins' allegations,” said Donnell. By not investigating Watkins' claims the paper showed “reckless disregard for the truth,” Donnell added.

Siegel said that while they were was trying to get the newspaper to publish Donnell's rebuttal letter, the paper went ahead and published several more letters criticizing the association. “The Bee has pushed a non-issue to create controversy and sell newspapers.”

The result has been angry people bothering association employees and concerns for the former board members' safety, said Siegel. One new board member already has resigned due to the situation, he said.

Watkins wanted to call Tony Gniadek, a recently elected board member, to discuss term limits for board members, but Lechowick wouldn't hear the testimony, not deeming it relevant.

Then, Watkins called Revelle forward to question her about whether or not Siegel had tried to pressure her regarding covering the story. Revelle promptly invoked her rights under the California Shield Law and refused to discuss her interaction with Siegel.

Watkins then called Kennedy, who said the paper printed a total of 47 letters and guest commentaries about the association, about a third or more were from Watkins and others critical of the group.

Siegel asked Kennedy if he had told Revelle not to go to the association meeting she had promised to attend. Kennedy said he might have.

When pressed by Siegel about Revelle having made the promise to attend, Kennedy said, “Reporters should not be making promises in the field.” He added that Revelle had not mentioned to him that she had promised to go to the meeting.

Kennedy said that, anytime between January and June of this year, when the debate was raging, Siegel or his co-defendants could have chosen to write a letter. But they asserted their rebuttal was in answer to Watkins' June letter.

Turning to Kennedy, Lechowick again asked why they didn't publish the rebuttal on the advice of an attorney when they had published so many letters without such advice. He didn't get an answer.

Siegel asked Kennedy about the paper's policy of only allowing a letter writer two letters per month. Kennedy said that hasn't been a policy under his leadership. (It should be noted that such a policy was in force at the newspaper for many years prior to Kennedy's becoming editor.)

Lechowick asked Dickson if the newspaper would publish Donnell's rebuttal letter.

“I don't see any reason why we shouldn't,” Dickson replied.

At that point, after more than two hours of discussion, Lechowick announced that he would take the case under submission and mail decisions to the parties.

On Friday, Dickson told Lake County News that the newspaper now intended to publish the rebuttal it had previously refused to print by Donnell.

“It will be sometime early to mid next week,” he said.


However, Donnell has since withdrawn his request that it be printed.

Whatever the outcome of this case, there appear to be more legal troubles ahead for the association.

On Oct. 20, Stoddard filed suit against the association and its current board, along with Siegel, Donnell, Orchid, past board member Boone Bridges and Does 1-100. He's seeking injunctive relief and alleges several legal violations against the association.

At one point, Watkins had attempted to submit a copy of the lawsuit into the record, but Lechowick refused to accept it, saying that anyone can make any allegations in a suit, and it was no proof of wrongdoing.

Before their court appearance on Thursday, Donnell, Siegel and Orchid were served with the new suit. No date for a hearing has yet been set.

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The kitchen at the campus is an exciting and busy place as students learn the culinary trade. Photo courtesy of Robert Cabreros.



CLEARLAKE – Jackson Pollock didn’t take a class on how to throw paint at a canvas. He first attended art school and then developed his signature style.

The same can be said of the food at Aromas Restaurant at Yuba Community College Clearlake Campus. The food is good gourmet food without gilding it with pretentious truffles and caviar.

Chef Robert Cabreros, who teaches at the college, is currently training the next wave of culinary artists who will affect the food trends of Lake County and beyond. He recently hosted this writer over two full days, offering the chance to watch the students prepare and serve the lunch service at the college’s restaurant.

There are currently 18 students in the class with a full waiting list to enter the program.

Why is there so much interest in the culinary program nowadays? Cabreros said he believed it was because obtaining a position in the culinary industry is being viewed as an actual career now.

He said that opinions have changed in large part because of the way that food networks and learning channels have made cooking mainstream, and how the industry as a whole is now viewed with more professionalism as opposed to how it was seen 20 years ago.

Cabreros himself is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, which is the same cooking school that trained the legendary Julia Child. For you youngsters out there, it’s the same school from which Giada De Laurentis graduated.

He said he never intended to become a teacher, but he was hand-picked by his predecessor and now says he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

The formality of some culinary schools is not required in this class. Demanding that every order be responded with the entire room yelling out “Yes Chef!” is set aside here; it’s very casual and Cabreros' students just call him “Robert.”

To watch Cabreros talk about his students is like watching a parent speak of their his child. You can see the pride in his face and hear it in his voice as he talks.

He doesn’t consider his class a springboard program so you need to go on to another school to add onto your education. His course is a complete package that gives culinary students everything they need to be successful in the industry.

Cabreros talks of his students with confidence saying, “He’ll be an executive chef within five years,” and “She’ll be a sous chef within two years.”

To look at the students of this particular class is to see the word “diversity” in its purist form: young, old, every race, sex, skill level, interest, financial background and personal style. The youngest student is 15 years old and the oldest is 60.

The restaurant itself is as “green” as it can be. Waste has been reduced 75 percent, everything that can be recycled is, and the edible waste is sent to a pig farm as feed.

Local produce is used when available, and the daily menus are even printed on half a sheet of paper. The to-go orders and “doggie boxes” are made of biodegradable bamboo.

Lake County has yet to have any rating system for how green a business is or even recognize businesses as green, but Aromas restaurant has pushed the envelope all on their own. The county could use this program as a template for rating other Lake County businesses that would like to brag about being “green.”

The sanitation and cleanliness of the restaurant is impeccable. A dirty spot or bad sanitation habit couldn’t be found. This is one of the cleanest kitchens this writer has ever seen, which is a fantastic foundation for the students coming from this program; they are learning good habits that will follow them to their next kitchen.

Even safety is top notch. “Knife!” and “Hot Pan!” are always shouted out when someone walks through the kitchen with one. On occasion a student would use poor knife practices, and Cabreros would be right there to show them the correct way to do it and remind them that scars aren’t cool.

The group of students move about the kitchen with the synchronized movement of a school of fish, but walk through the kitchen and all of a sudden the words “Excuse me,” “Pardon me,” and “Look out behind you!” were suddenly being said over and over.

Although all of the students have different skills and talentsm there are three that deserved mention.

Matt Morgan is so talented and skilled that this writer actually assumed he was part of the staff until Cabreros said otherwise. Morgan currently works with Julie Hoskins of Chic le Chef and cooks prolifically throughout the county. If you attend many public functions around the lake you’ve most likely already eaten his food. He’s also on the cover of the college’s most current class schedule.

Julie Wonderwheel also currently works in the food industry and it is evident in her incredibly precise knife skills. When she's doing cutting up onions it looks like they went through a mandolin. She works quietly in all of her tasks but her performance made her stand out.

Kacie Carson, a Tinkerbell-sized girl, has amazing creativity and an eye for detail that you rarely get to see so early in a career. When she decorated a plate with caramel and chocolate Cabreros said with excitement, “I have never seen anything like that before!” Remember her name; she’s going to be famous.

The prep work continues all morning with each individual doing a specific job on their own, with only as much supervision as they need. The individual students hustles through their particular tasks, but when the restaurant opened they seemed to transform without a word into a seamless machine working in unison to get the lunches out in quick order. It was impressive to see such teamwork, everyone knowing what needed to be done and doing it together.

The restaurant opens at 11:30 a.m. and people are seated right away. Since the restaurant has no particular theme or ethnic style they are able to make all sorts of dishes. Prices are almost freakishly inexpensive; if you have $10 you can easily eat lunch and if you have $20 you can bring a date.




The class has a wide range of individuals of all ages, skill levels and backgrounds, all of them hoping to work in the food industry. Photo courtesy of Robert Cabreros.




Thursdays are the busiest day of the week since it is prime rib for $8 a day. Prices are perfect for a restaurant on a college campus, giving starving students a much-needed break from ramen noodles.

The timing of the meal orders is impressive. The first table’s orders were placed and the kitchen put it together, completed it and had it on the table in three minutes. The next table took two minutes. The longest wait was five minutes from order to table.

Every table gets a comment card and they get filled in; service, cleanliness, food and speed are rated from one to 10 and a remarkable amount are turned in with 10s filled in across the board.

At 12:45 p.m. the entire crew was still going at full speed but the fatigue was starting to show on their faces after four hours of non-stop work. At 1 p.m. service is completed and the crew starts to prepare their own group lunch, after which is cleanup.

A recent bond measure will be providing the culinary program the funds to enlarge its facilities and hire a larger staff, so if you have ever been interested in a career in the culinary arts now is the time to sign up.

Remember, there can be a waiting list to get into this program. The next semester starts in January and sign up to join it starts Dec. 1 or if you just want a gourmet inexpensive lunch, drop by between 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Aromas Restaurant at Yuba Community College Clearlake Campus is located at 15880 Dam Road Extension, Clearlake. The restaurant can be reached at 995-4804; for general college information call 995-7900.

Ross Christensen writes the Foodie Freak column for Lake County News.



Presentation and great taste work together to make Aromas restaurant a great place to eat. Photo courtesy of Robert Cabreros.




Visitors to the Main Street Gallery on Friday, November 7, 2008, view an exhibition of masks and drawings done by Melanie Liotta's fifth and sixth graders from Cobb Mountain Elementary School. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKEPORT – Art and local artists were celebrated in Lakeport during this month's First Friday Fling.

The monthly event, hosted by the Lake County Arts Council at its Main Street Gallery in Lakeport, is a chance to put the spotlight on local artists.

This month, Rod Newsick, Ruthie Martin, Terry Rogers and Sophie Lauterborn were the featured artists in the main gallery. In the student gallery, Dan Weiss' third and fourth graders from Cobb Mountain Elementary displayed Hawaiian quilt designs, while Melanie Liotta's fifth and sixth graders, also from Cobb Mountain Elementary, show ceramics and drawings.



Hawaiian quilt designs done by Dan Weiss' third and fourth graders from Cobb Mountain Elementary. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



"We have the only student gallery in Lake County," said Shelby Posada, the arts council's executive director.


Posada said that, beginning in January, the gallery will start to rotate in juried shows for adults in with the student art shows.

The event also included an update on the Barbara LaForge Memorial, founded by LaForge's friend, Gail Salituri of Inspirations Gallery.

Earlier this year the arts council became a supporter of the effort, which they hosted in a previous First Friday Fling.

On Friday, Salituri introduced some of the latest art available in a silent auction and raffle to benefit the fund. She was joined by local businesswoman and artistic patron Kathy Fowler, a member of the board for the Lake Family Resource Center. The center's domestic violence shelter will be the recipient of the proceeds from the fund.

“I never know what I'm gonna say, so I bring Kathy Fowler with me,” Salituri joked. “She loves to talk.

Salituri introduced a special guest for the evening, LaForge's niece, Stasha Prueitt, who came to honor her aunt's memory.

“This is Barbara LaForge's favorite person in the world,” Salituri said of the young woman.

Fowler called Salituri “the lady with the big heart” for her efforts to benefit the shelter effort.

Salituri said she plans to continue the fundraising efforts into next year.


Donations can be made to the Barbara LaForge Memorial Fund at 165 Main St., Lakeport, or to any Westamerica Bank.

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



Rod Neswick's sculptures are among the featured art pieces this month at the Main Street Gallery in Lakeport. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Sophie Lauterborn's colorful mixed media artwork is in the spotlight this month at the gallery.




Melanie Liotta's fifth and sixth graders created fanciful drawings and masks on display at the student gallery this month. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LAKEPORT – Nearly 70 workers at Lakeport Skilled Nursing have a new contract as part of an agreement reached this week between United Healthcare Workers West and Horizon West, the facility's owner.

Lakeport Skilled was one of six facilities, with 500 workers, who this week ratified a new master contract with Horizon West, a for-profit company operating nursing, assisted living and retirement facilities throughout California and Utah.

In addition to Lakeport Skilled, the other facilities involved are Foothill Oaks Care Center in Auburn, Heritage Care Center in Sacramento, Monterey Pines Skilled Nursing Center in Monterey, Placerville Pines Care Center in Placerville and Sierra Healthcare Center in Davis.

Union officials said the agreement was reached by a 97-percent margin after six months of contract negotiations led by an elected rank-and-file bargaining team and was settled on the eve of a strike at four homes.

Union spokesman Blinker Wood said Lakeport Skilled has 67 workers who are members of the union.

The settlement – which a union statement called “historic” – includes a number of new standards for nursing home workers throughout the country and follows the pattern set by contracts won at Mariner Health Care and Sava Senior Care earlier this year.

Important issues for Lakeport Skilled and other homes included staffing levels and health care affordability, said Wood.

Key elements of the settlement include:

  • Wage increases of up to 25 percent over three years and wage scales at all six facilities. These increases take a significant step toward closing the wage gap between hospital and nursing home workers in Northern California.

  • Quality of Care Committees that will give frontline caregivers a role in staffing and other patient care decisions. These committees provide for third party mediation if no agreement can be reached.

  • Successorship language so that if a facility is sold the new owner must abide by the contract. While standard in many hospital contracts, this is an important first for the nursing home industry in California.

  • Defined-benefit pension for workers at all six facilities.

  • A Code of Conduct for organizing which will allow UHW to organize 18 non-union Horizon West facilities in Northern California without employer interference.

  • Participation in the UHW Joint Employer Training and Upgrade Fund giving Horizon West workers the opportunity to participate in career ladder training and upgrade programs.

UHW members’ settlement with Horizon West differs significantly from recent agreements reached between SEIU International and a number of nursing homes in Southern California. Those settlements do not include many of these key standards won by UHW members, including wage scales to ensure equity, a defined-benefit pension plan, successorship protections or a code of conduct for organizing non-union workers. Most notably they do not establish quality care committees or any other real mechanism to give frontline caregivers a direct voice in patient care issues.

Under the agreements reached so far this year by workers at Mariner, Sava and Horizon West, UHW nursing home workers now have the opportunity to organize nursing home workers at 22 homes across California which is more than the number of homes UHW was able to organize under the prior Alliance model. Most importantly, newly organized workers will be granted full collective bargaining rights and the ability to have a real voice in their negotiations and their union.


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