Wednesday, 24 July 2024


Illegal dumping in Morrison Creek. Photo by Lenny Matthews.

LUCERNE Before Lucerne has even formed a Coordinated Resource Management Plan, or CRMP, it's getting a massive boost from cooperating county and state agencies and some private firms.

On Saturday, those groups, which include Lake County jail inmates, a private towing company, the California Department of Fish and Game and Lake County's Code Enforcement department, will clean up Morrison Creek's illegally dumped trash. The Robinson Rancheria Tribal Council will bring its trucks to help haul.

Voris Brumfield, Code Enforcement director, invited the public to stay away on this occasion, for safety reasons. But they are invited to a CRMP formation meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center (LASC).

"It's being handed to you," said Chuck Morse, a director with the West Lake Resource Conservation District, and the county's deputy agriculture commissioner, at Wednesday's information meeting at LASC.

About 45 people attended, nearly a third of them county employees or volunteers with other long-established local CRMPS.

Residents' concerns ranged beyond the watershed effort, which is the RCD's central task, to cleaning up street litter and homes where garbage piles up, and involving the community's youth.

That last might be tricky, some residents said later, noting that young users of Off Highway Vehicles had participated in previous cleanups and then been told they could no longer use their OHVs on the back roads.

DFG warden Loren Freeman, who came here in January from Orange County, said he has four misdemeanor prosecutions in the works for illegal dumping.

He and DFG partner Lynette Shimek dug through piles of garbage to find leads which identified the culprits. The violations can bring a maximum six months in jail or fines of $25,000-plus. He noted wardens are peace officers, although involved with environmental law.

The established Nice CRMP will have a cleanup day April 21; all are welcome to join in. "It's good practice," said Linda Juntunen, project coordinator with the RDC. Other state and county sponsored cleanups are regularly scheduled in October.

The audience gave a standing ovation to Lucerne resident Lenny Matthews, who started the effort with her widely-posted photos of illegal dump sites. One of them showed flammable materials and poisons in Morrison Creek.

"And that's right where the creek empties into the lake near the Lucerne water supply's intake pipe," said Third District Supervisor Denise Rushing, who led the meeting.

Gating some access roads to ridge areas was mentioned as a deterrent, a suggestion that led Lucerne's fire captain David Fesmire to comment unlocking gates would slow response times to fires. "We often get reports of a brush fire and then find it's actually flammable materials illegally dumped," he said. A motorcyclist himself, he also expressed reservations about banning OHVs.

Rushing said Thursday the CRMP program has proved effective since it started in California in the 1950s, modeled on a Nevada program.

Currently, 15 agencies are involved, including the California departments of Conservation,Fish and Game, Food and Agriculture, Forestry and Fire Protection, and Water Resources, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Management, and Fish and Wildlife Services.

Numerous local agencies, such as Scout troops and garden clubs, homeowners' associations and garden clubs also participate. One of the most popular programs is "Kids in the Creek," which encompasses education flora and fauna. Another is native plant protection and rehabilitation.

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


LAKE COUNTY – The state has decided how to spend billions of dollars from a voter-approved transportation bond, but none of that money appears headed for Lake County.

In November, California voters approved Proposition 1B – the Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality and Port Security Bond Act of 2006 by a 61.4-38.6 percent margin, according to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office.

In Lake County, according to Secretary of State numbers, the measure actually failed by a slim margin, with 49.1 percent of local voters voting for it, and 50.9 against it.

The bond had several aims, one of them being to make improvements and repairs to state highways, according to California's voter information guide. Nearly $20 billion in bonds will be sold to fund the measure.

Lisa Davey-Bates, executive director of Lake County's Area Planning Council, said the bond set aside $4.5 billion for state highway projects. Locally, there were hopes that the Highway 29 Expressway project, which would be located between Lower Lake and Kelseyville, would be one of the projects considered.

Late last month, the California Transportation Commission set about choosing the projects to make the funding list, Davey-Bates explained.

She said Caltrans staff from the state's various districts created a list of recommendations for projects that they felt should be funded.

Caltrans District 1 staff recommended Lake County's expressway project, Davey-Bates said, but Caltrans headquarters cut the project from the list before it went before the Transportation Commission.

The Area Planning Council, which is the regional transportation planning agency, submitted its own applications to have the commission consider the expressway project, Bates said.

“It didn't make that list, either,” she noted.

Davey-Bates said Lake County was competing with projects in other rural areas, such as the Willits Bypass, which are further along in their development. In the case of Willits, she said they have already completed an environmental process on the project.

In the end, the expressway had to be ready for construction by 2012 to be considered, said Davey-Bates.

“There's question if it could really happen by 2012,” she said.

That's because endangered plants were found along the expressway's intended route, she said, which is resulting in additional biological studies that have put the project behind.

Ann Jones of Caltrans said the endangered plants found in the expressway area are wooly meadowfoam, Burke's goldfields, Lake County stonecrop and few-flowered Navarretia.

The end result, Davey-Bates said, is the project will cost more money and need more time.

“We're hoping to have the draft environmental process completed by January 2009, even with delays,” she said.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Patty Berg, in the days leading up to a final decision on the project list, asked North Coast residents to lobby the Transportation Commission to leave the $177 million Willits Bypass project on the list and reject a call from Bay Area leaders to send the money there instead.

Berg said the project would remove a major bottleneck along the 200-mile stretch from Santa Rosa to Eureka.

When the Transportation Commission reissued its final list on Feb. 26, even Willits didn't make the cut, said Davey-Bates, with the main focus going to the state's urban areas and dealing with traffic congestion.

“This may be what Bay Area voters had in mind, but it’s not what the rest of us wanted,” Berg said of that decision. “It’s almost as if they’re saying that if you don’t live in the Bay Area or Los Angeles, you don’t matter in this state. And that’s just plain offensive.”

Although the special pot of funding now has projects assigned to it, there is still State Transportation Improvement Project funds available, said Davey-Bates. The Area Planning Council will continue pursuing that funding as it works to move the expressway project forward, she added.

“We'll continue to gather our little eggs, if you will, until we can get the resources to fully fund the construction project,” she said.

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


SACRAMENTO – The state's snowpack levels are looking better, according to the agency that monitors snow levels and water supply for the state.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the third of five snow surveys for the season on Friday off Highway 50 near Lake Tahoe.

The manual measurements were conducted at elevations ranging between 6,500 and 7,600 feet, according to DWR officials. Snow depth measured between 63.8 inches and 86.6 inches.

The average snowpack measurement in the Sierras was 80.5 percent of normal.

That measurement is higher than the computer-generated reports from electronic snow sensors, which on Friday recorded the Northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 71 percent of normal. The sensors also recorded the Central Sierra at 66 percent and the Southern Sierra at 55 percent.

Statewide, the snowpack is at 64 percent of normal, officials said.

Those results are much improved from February's measurements, which were at 40 percent of normal. January's readings had been slightly better, at 59 percent of normal snowpack.

DWR Hydrology Branch Chief Arthur Hinojosa says the results are encouraging.

“Above average precipitation in February has certainly improved our water supply outlook,” said Hinojosa. “Although not enough to offset a very dry January, the latest survey shows statewide average snow pack water content is nearly 65 percent of average to date compared with only 40 percent four weeks ago.”

DWR Snow Surveys Chief Frank Gehrke says the current readings “put us about where we were at this time last year.”

Reservoir storage remains above normal and groundwater storage for most areas is good, DWR reported.

The next survey is tentatively scheduled for March 27.

Snow-water content is important in determining the coming year's water supply. The measurements help hydrologists prepare water supply forecasts as well as provide others, such as hydroelectric power companies and the recreation industry, with much needed data.

DWR coordinates monitoring as part of the multi-agency California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. Surveyors from more than 50 agencies and utilities visit hundreds of snow measurement courses in California’s mountains each month to gauge the amount of water in the snow pack.

Information on reservoir levels can be found at; for real-time snow-water content readings, visit

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


Karlie Breeden last summer. Photo by John Lindblom.

COBB They were a group of family members and intimate friends and they sat in a room singing, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," with tears in their eyes or running uncontrollably down their faces.

The mood in the singing didn't fit the song and the song didn't fit the time of year, because it wasn't Christmas. It was the last day of February, 2007, and the last day of Karlie Breeden's life.

Hours later, lying huddled in a bed between her parents, David and Renada Breeden, she died. She was 4 years old. Four. The number of years it takes to earn a college degree that Karlie, given her brightness, might one day have done. Four. One year short of the age in which children enter kindergarten, which Karlie never will.

The place was the George Mark House for Children, a San Leandro hospice, where the Breedens had elected to take Karlie for the moment that they had steeled themselves against as best they could.

The miracle that Karlie might beat the overwhelming odds and survive an inoperable brain tumor, which the Breedens and many others had hoped and prayed for and for a fleeting moment late last year seemed possible, was not to be.

So, all that was left was to make the precious moments that remained of her life as comfortable as possible for her. The option would have been for the Breedens to take Karlie to their home in the Hobergs area of the Cobb Mountains, but there she would have been placed on feeding tubes and the attendant medical paraphernalia.

"... Or, we could go to George Mark and let nature take its course," said Renada. "I felt that George Mark would be better equipped for us. It's the only hospice for children in the U.S.

"There were some family members and some friends and we all gathered around Karlie and sang Christmas carols and told funny stories. Christmas carols were a big thing for her this year. She really got to know them and know all the words."

At some point of the night, Brody, Karlie's younger brother, not quite 3, but well aware of the situation, came into the room, went to the place where she was lying, hugged her and said, "Bye."

That the Higher Power to which the Breedens and others prayed to had "called home" one so young is, at best, a curious matter. This writer recalls a Lakeport woman telling him that as a sickly child there were serious doubts that she would live to see her sixth birthday. The woman, the late Kate Richardson, was 106 at the time of the interview.

But the Breedens, although not especially devout, hold to the belief that there was a special reason for the brevity of Karlie's life.

"She definitely had a purpose," says Renada.

And who's to say what occurred in this little blonde girl's final hours were not more than mere coincidence? Occurrences such as Karlie's putting David's hand on her heart and, as David recalls, saying, "Daddy, I have the spirit of God in me right now. This is happening to save all of us. I have a secret, but I can't tell you."

Of her approaching death, David says, "She knew before we knew and she took her medicine because it made us happy. She had a purpose and she told us the purpose.

"She was like an earthquake," he continued. "She came in, touched everybody she met, shook them up and was gone."

Sometime after learning that the tumor was back Karlie simply refused to eat the acrid pudding that did not quite disguise the harsh medicine she had taken for the 10 months since the tumor was diagnosed.

"She said she wasn't going to take it anymore, and we realized that she's done and the fight's over," said Renada, "because we had been pretty honest with her. She knew she was taking the medicine to extend her life."

In the month that followed, Karlie, said Renada, "went through the bitterness of having to leave, the bitterness of saying goodbye and praying for everyone."

Once an active tot who would rarely sit still, Karlie last walked, her parents said, at a Feb. 4 Doobie Brothers concert at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa, where the Seabreeze Foundation provided the family front-row seats.

"The Doobie Brothers went off stage and when they came back they said, 'This song is for our friend, Karlie.' The song was, 'Listen to the Music,' and they don't know it but with their lyrics they just sang our life that night," said Renada.

The most difficult moments were still ahead. The doctors told David and Renada that they needed to tell Karlie that she must die.

"They told us you have to tell her to let go," said David, who said his final words to his daughter were, "Karlie, don't fight. Just go to heaven."

For Karlie's obituary, go to the front page and scroll down to “obituaries.”

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


SACRAMENTO – State Sen. Patricia Wiggins has been named chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Wiggins said she was honored to be named chair of the joint committee, which is charged with “protecting and enhancing fishery resources as well as consumers in an industry that continues to contribute to our state’s economy.”

“We’ll also oversee state and local activities related to fishing and aquaculture to address problems and ensure that those activities are in the best interest of industry and the public,” Wiggins noted.

In addition to chairing the joint committee, Wiggins has also introduced a measure – Senate Joint Resolution 4 – that would put the Legislature on record as supporting an effort in Congress to assist fishing communities, businesses, and individuals to mitigate the economic losses caused by declining Klamath River fall chinook salmon.

In brief, SJR 4 seeks to build support for legislation by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Congressman Mike Thompson to provide $60 million in relief for commercial fishermen and related industries due to the failure of the 2006 salmon fishing season.

Wiggins has also introduced a bill, SB 695, to help address the issue of understaffing of game warden positions at the state Department of Fish and Game. DFG has had difficulties recruiting and retaining game wardens, in part due to a disparity in pay compared to other law enforcement agencies. SB 695 would bring game wardens’ salaries to within 5 percent of those earned by California Highway Patrol officers.

Wiggins noted that DFG wardens are highly-trained law enforcement officers who perform a wide range of public safety and environmental protection duties throughout California and along the state's coast.

As such, they are on the front lines of protecting endangered, threatened, and critical species, and protecting species targeted by poachers – including deer, bear, crab, reptiles, sturgeon, abalone, and other species – as well as protecting California's land and water resources from dumping, pollution, and destruction.

Recent laws have added substantial new responsibilities for game wardens, yet at the same time warden vacancies are soaring. As of January warden ranks have plummeted and there are about 75 vacancies in a workforce of approximately 250.

“While California is a leader with respect to wildlife and natural resource laws, we have fallen far behind other states in our support for wardens,” Wiggins said. “California now has only one warden per 185,000, compared to one warden per 46,500 residents in Texas and one per 24,600 residents in Florida.

“Recent pay increases for wardens have been insufficient to ease the recruitment and retention crisis,” Wiggins adds. “I am convinced that we would go a long way towards solving this problem by compensating our wardens at levels comparable to those attained by other state law enforcement personnel.”

In addition to this position appointment, Wiggins also chairs the Senate Committee on Public Employment and Retirement and the Senate Select Committee on California’s Wine Industry.

Wiggins represents the state’s six-county 2nd Senate District, which includes Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties. Visit her Web site at


WASHINGTON Rep. Mike Thompson's binding legislation to end U.S. involvement in Iraq is gaining fierce momentum in the House of Representatives, according to a report from his office.

HR 787, which restricts the president's dangerous escalation of the Iraq War and sets firm deadlines for redeployment, gained 18 co-sponsors over the past week, bringing the total to 45.

Thompson's bill is the only Iraq legislation in the House with bipartisan support and the only one with a Senate companion, which was authored by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL).

"This bill is an achievable strategy for ending our involvement in the war and helping the Iraqi government stabilize their country," said Thompson. "The support for this bill is an indication that many members of Congress are ready to find a solution to the crisis in Iraq and get our troops out as safely and quickly as possible."

Thompson introduced his bill, the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007, last month with Iraq War veteran Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA).

The plan closely follows the bipartisan recommendations of the Iraq Study Group by requiring a phased redeployment of U.S. troops to begin no later than May 1, 2007, with all combat brigades out of Iraq by March 31, 2008.

"I've been against this war since the beginning and think our troops should have been redeployed long ago," said Thompson. "Our troops have done everything we've asked of them and they shouldn't be in the middle of Iraq's civil war. The Iraqi government should step up and take responsibility for securing their country."

Thompson's bill allows for the president to request from Congress a brief suspension of redeployment if there is clear evidence that the Iraqi government is achieving certain security, diplomatic and reconstruction milestones.

Foreign policy experts agree that this is the most realistic way to get the Iraqi government to assume control of their country and get our troops out of Iraq as quickly and safely and possible.

"If the Iraqi government is making progress, we should help them rebuild and stabilize their country," said Thompson. "But bringing our troops home must be our top priority."

HR 787 also calls for increased diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. It requires the president to appoint a special U.S. envoy that will help build relationships between Iraq and its neighbors.

"The president's escalation plan is a continuation of his failed 'stay the course' slogan," said Thompson. "We should be putting our resources toward a surge in diplomacy, not troops. That's the only way we will effectively help bring stability, and ultimately peace, to Iraq."

Thompson has been a vocal critic of the war since 2002 and voted against the authorization of the war.

In the previous session of Congress, he introduced legislation calling for redeployment of troops out of Iraq by Sept. 30, 2006.

He also introduced legislation for the third time that would require oversight and accountability of all military and reconstruction spending in Iraq.


The CHP was on scene to investigate the Thursday evening accident and found a second submerged car (left). Photo courtesy of CHP Officer Dallas Richey.

RODMAN SLOUGH – The California Highway Patrol is reporting that a good Samaritan – who happened to be a county employee – saved the life of a woman who lost control of her vehicle and plunged into the lake Thursday afternoon.

The accident took place at Rodman Slough along the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff, according to the CHP.

CHP Officer Dallas Richey, one of the investigating officers at the scene, said a 76-year-old woman driving a gold 2001 Chevy Venture minivan lost control of the vehicle as she was traveling along the cutoff. Richey said he believes that she became dizzy and began to lose consciousness due to a medical condition.

The minivan went down the path alongside the bridge and into the water, Richey reported, about 75 feet from shore.

Javier Batres, 36, an employee with the Parks Division of the county's Public Services Department, happened to be at Rodman Slough, said Richey, and saw the accident.

Jan Campbell, Public Services office manager, said Batres was on duty, installing illegal dumping signs when the accident occurred. She noted he had just installed a sign which the minivan hit as it went off the road.

What Batres did next, Richey added, likely saved the driver's life.

Batres reportedly dove in after the woman, breaking through the minivan's rear window and climbing into the vehicle, Richey said.

As the vehicle was submerging, Batres pulled the woman from the driver's seat and out of the car, said Richey, placing her on the roof of the vehicle until help arrived.

Batres' heroic efforts earned him minor injuries to his hands from breaking out the window.

Both the driver of the minivan and Batres were transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital for treatment of minor injuries, Richey reported.

Campbell said Friday morning that Batres was on his normal day off, and that the physical effort of the rescue had left him with some resulting soreness. She said his fellow staffers had been worried about him.

His co-workers are very proud of him for his courageous actions, Campbell said.

Batres has been with the department since May of 2005, she noted. “We're very fortunate to have him with us,” she said.

The story has an odd footnote.

While pulling the minivan out of the water, rescue workers discovered another vehicle submerged near where the minivan had gone into the water.

Rescuers in the murky water attempted to locate the minivan by groping with their hands but the first car they found was a blue Toyota MR2, last registered in 2002.

Richey said the car had not been reported stolen.

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


LAKEPORT – Superior Court Judge Arthur Mann on Friday denied a change of venue motion by attorney Stuart Hanlon for the trial of Renato Hughes, a young San Francisco man.

Hughes, 22, is charged with the double homicide of two of his companions who were allegedly involved in the alleged pre-dawn break-in and attempted robbery of marijuana at the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds on Dec. 7, 2005.

Hughes is being held responsible for the shooting deaths of Rashad Williams and Christian Foster under a statute holding perpetrators of a felony liable for deaths occurring during a felonious act if the act is likely to result in a lethal response. In this case, it was Edmonds who allegedly did the shooting.

Hanlon had sought a change of venue based on his concerns regarding the possibility of racial bias in the Lake County justice system and the perceived difficulty of selecting a jury here that would give his defendant a "fair trial.”

Hughes is black, as were the shooting victims. Hanlon supported his motion by citing Lake County's limited number of black citizens – the county, he says, has a population that is only 2.3 percent black – and pretrial publicity.

The San Francisco attorney, who has taken a zealous approach to defending Hughes, was respectful of Mann and, in fact, lauded him, but said immediately after the decision that he would appeal it.

"We will take it to the Court of Appeals and then if you don't win, you go from there," he said. "I think the judge showed an awareness of racial bias and unconscious racism, which is quite a statement.

"A lot of judges don't see that, so I was real happy about that. Happy is the wrong word. The judge (Mann) had a sensitivity in this case that made me hopeful."

Hanlon was not as generous in his appraisal of prosecuting District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

"He is a creatively intelligent man – the judge – but not the District Attorney," said Hanlon. "I like Jon, but not in court."

Hopkins, in turn, declined to comment on the statement.

The decision concluded nearly 14 hours of testimony and arguments by the attorneys over a period of three days.

Hughes' mother elected not to comment on Mann's edict, but a leader of the local black community said she was "not surprised" the change of venue motion was denied.

"I was hopeful that the evidence presented by Mr. (Bryan A.) Stevenson and Mr. (Craig) Haney would have been seriously considered by Judge Mann," said Aqeela El-Amin Bakheit, president of the Lake County NAACP.

"I was in the courtroom and I think the evidence was very persuasive, although I know there were other factors to consider besides the testimony of those two experts," Bakheit added in reference to Stevenson, who is the executive director of an Alabama civil rights organization and Haney, who is a professor in the University of California system with a doctorate in psychology and a law degree.

Bakheit, however, said she is hopeful that Hughes will get a fair trial here.

"We know that statistics tell only part of the story ... and there are a lot of people who don't necessarily look at a person's color," she asserted. "They will look at the evidence and they will come up with a fair assessment and evaluation and base their decision simply on that."

Hopkins anticipates that Hanlon will present a writ to the Court of Appeals in San Francisco requesting that Mann's decision be negated.

"But we will prepare ourselves for the start of a jury trial on May 1," he added. "The Court of Appeals is kind of a wild card in all of this."

If the San Francisco court upholds Mann's decision, the trial, Hopkins believes, would proceed on schedule.

"The judge raised some really good issues and he showed a sensitivity to the race issue that we need in this case in the jury selection and the trial," Hanlon observed. "That was really positive. You don't always win when you think you ought to, but the issue was recognized and I believe he'll give us a fair trial if we end up here."

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


KELSEYVILLE – Students at Kelseyville High School rejected the initial idea of a walk-out to protest the firing of a favorite teacher this week, opting to write letters and make phone calls instead.

Math instructor David Blair received the equivalent of a pink slip last week when Kelseyville Unified School District's board of trustees unanimously agreed to terminate his contract.

Time will tell whether the pen is mightier than the door.

Currently the board has no plans to revisit the issue, according to the superintendent's staff Thursday afternoon.

"We had to weigh things out," said school board member Valerie Ramirez about the decision. "We did that and we came to that decision as individuals."

Ramirez wouldn't comment about the board's direction but affirmed she would reconsider her vote if the issue were presented to the board again.

The issue itself remains cloudy as parents and district staff alike refuse to put their names to allegations that the math teacher is being fired because of a controversy regarding his decisions made as basketball coach, a job he held last year but no longer retains.

"Rumor has it it's a political thing about his being a basketball coach," said one parent. "The bottom line is if it is about basketball, guess what? He's not doing that anymore."

Parents Brad and Peggie King were willing to put their names on a letter to the board regarding the firing.

"Mr. Blair is teaching high level calculus to a group of very bright and dedicated students, some of the best in this year’s graduating class," the letter reads.

"Mr. Blair is dedicated, competent and concerned. He has set the bar high enough to challenge these students ... this is somewhat of a rarity in the current educational climate and these college-bound students will have an even greater appreciation next year when this becomes the norm."

The King letter goes on to urge the board to "make every effort to retain the teacher" despite the acknowledgment, "we cannot know all the facts leading up to the superintendent’s recommendation to the board to not renew the contract with Mr. Blair, as they may include confidential personnel issues."

But Peggie King thinks David Blair is being terminated because he is a good teacher.

"People don't like this teacher because he's passionate, he doesn't listen to excuses and he really pushes the kids,” she said.

King said of her daughter who is in one of Blair's classes, "She's had to work like a dog and she should be proud of herself."

She added, "They're wanting to dumb it down.”

Also enraged is parent Marc Yaffee whose two daughters have been in Blair's classes. "My daughter said he's the best teacher in the school."

Yaffee said he has been impressed with Blair's passion for math, noting that he tutored two students who were behind all summer – without pay – and also attended some training himself at Stanford "on his own dime."

Yaffee is calling for an emergency session of the school board to reconsider the matter.

Two other parents who didn't want to be identified echoed Yaffee's sentiments. All three cited the teacher's website (, challenging work ethic and dedication to the subject as well as to the students.

Yaffee noted that he counted 95 supportive students at the student-led meeting held during the lunch hour Tuesday. He commented that students at the top of the class as well as students who have not received good marks from the teacher all support the man.

Freshman Katie Murphy contacted all five board members by phone or via email according to her father, Phil Murphy, and heard back from all of them.

Katie's polite letter to school board chairman Peter Quartarolo stated, "In my opinion, Mr. Blair brings a higher level of education to our school.

"Mr. Blair is an exceptional math teacher," Katie's letter reads. "For me, he is the first math teacher I have ever had that truly helped me to understand and be interested in math. His teaching methods always get the concept across to me. His is also the most helpful and accessible teacher I have ever had; he has a website with help links and he answers questions by email every night of the week. He helps students who are not only in his math classes, but also in physics and chemistry. His door is always open to student who seek help and want to learn.

"Finally, " Katie Murphy's letter concludes, "the student body does not want to see this teacher leave our school. We want an emergency board meeting before March 15."

Superintendent Boyce McClain, who confirmed the next scheduled board meeting is March 22, said he was citing state law in explaining the process by which teachers are hired and fired.

According to McClain, teachers have a two-year probation period during which the school board can "see if the fit is good."

Because of the state's March 15 deadline regarding termination notices, the superintendent explained, that period is actually more like a year and a half, "so they have time to find a new job."

The school board met in closed session last week to evaluate pros and cons, according to McClain, then voted unanimously "not to re-elect Mr. Blair."

When asked to describe the evaluation criteria presented to make the decision, McClain said, "The high school principal and I went in and shared all the data we had."

McClain said Blair is fully credentialed for the position, but he would not rule out his performance outside the math classroom, repeating that the board evaluated "all the data of Mr. Blair."

McClain said confidentiality code prohibits his further comment on personnel issues.

High School Principal Matt Cockerton was unavailable for comment Thursday.

But McClain continued that "Mr Blair didn't like (the decision)."

McClain added, "It appears he has chosen to rally his students and peers."

The superintendent said "there will probably end up being a board meeting," and "one way or another the community will be heard.”

"The board always cares about what the community thinks," McClain said.

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



LAKE COUNTY – Two local school districts hope to receive money from a state fund set aside to help improve academic quality and increase teacher training.

Last September Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 1133, which establishes the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) of 2006.

The legislation arose out of the terms of a settlement between the California Teachers Association (CTA) and Schwarzenegger. CTA sued the governor over Proposition 98 monies that were due to state schools, but not paid, in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years.

Using the $3 billion in Proposition 98 funds, QEIA seeks to assist the state's lowest performing schools in increasing student achievement.

Schools whose 2005 Academic Performance Index (API) are ranked in deciles 1 to 2 – which is the lowest 20 percent – are eligible for the funds.

County schools that are eligible to apply for funds are Upper Lake High School, and in the Konocti Unified School District, Pomo Elementary, Burns Valley Elementary and Oak Hill Middle School, reported Patrick Iaccino, principal and superintendent of Upper Lake High, and Dr. Louise Nan, superintendent of the Konocti Unified School District.

The California Department of Education (CDE) reports that the appropriations begin in fiscal year 2007-08 and continue through 2013-14. School districts around the state will receive approximately $268,000,000 in fiscal year 2007-08 and $402,000,000 for each fiscal year thereafter until 2013-14.

“We've been told it's an experiment the state is doing to see if higher levels of funding can actually make a difference in schools,” said Nan.

Iaccino attended a conference in Sacramento in January to find out more about the funding.

He reported that 1,470 schools statewide – elementary, middle and high schools – are eligible, with 400 of those schools located in the Los Angeles Unified School District alone.

Chris Thomas, Lake County Office of Education's assistant superintendent of educational services, also attended the QEIA conference.

She explained that not all schools will receive funds, but that the state has guaranteed that each county will have at least one school funded through a lottery process. Thomas added that state officials have said that 30 percent of the schools that apply will receive money.

Thomas said the money must be used for very specific reasons, including lowering class sizes, lowering the ratio of students to credentialed counselors (in high schools), increasing numbers of qualified teachers, and offering more teacher training and development.

All of that effort, she said, is meant to result in increased student achievement.

Iaccino said for Upper Lake High, the school would be eligible for between $400,000 and $450,000 annually, or between $2.8 million and $3.1 million.

Compare that with the school's overall annual budget, which Mike Casey, business management for the Lake County Office of Education, reported is $4.7 million.

Funds in the 2007-08 school year would be earmarked for facilities, Iaccino said, in order to reduce class sizes.

Applications for the funds must be completed by the end of March, Iaccino said. The school is also in the process of formulating a plan for how the money would be spent, he said.


For districts with more than one school applying, the district must prioritize which schools it wants to see receive the money. “We don't have to worry about that,” he said.

KUSD has three schools eligible, said Nan. “We're going to apply for the funding for all three schools,” she said.

However, they've had to prioritize because it's unlikely all three schools would receive the money, she said.

“Our first priority right now is Oak Hill Middle School, then we'll be taking a look at the elementary schools in a different order,” she said.

Oak Hill, said Nan, is in year four of its program improvement status, which the No Child Left Behind Act requires for those schools that don't make adequate yearly progress. The district, she said, is in the process of looking at restructuring Oak Hill in response to government guidelines.

Second in line would be Pomo Elementary, said Nan, followed by Burns Valley, which already has a high priority schools grant.

If Oak Hill was funded, it would receive $352,800 in the first year and $533,000 annually for the following six years, amounting to nearly $3.5 million.

The district's overall budget is $29 million, said Casey.

The grant, said Nan, “would be a significant funding source.”

Nan said the state is very clear that the money must be used for class size reduction. In grades fourth through eighth, she said, the goal is to have a ratio of 25 students to one teacher. Most of the money would be directed toward the increase in personnel costs to meet that ratio, she said.

Iaccino said the funds – $2.8 to $3.15 million over seven years – could help with textbooks and supplemental materials, as well as adding teachers and counselors to serve the school's 430 students. “It gives you so many options to do some of the things you need to do to help kids,” he said.

Thomas said the money will be available for seven years, but there's no guarantee from the state that there will be additional help to maintain staff levels or programs once the money runs out.

Schools will need to do a plan for ramping down eventually, Thomas said. “There's hope that there might be more money to follow this, but there's no guarantee.”

Nan said KUSD will need a plan that looks at how to meet those costs after the funding runs out.

Iaccino said Upper Lake High will definitely seek the funds. “It'll be interesting to see how it unfolds,” he said.

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


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County Superior Court Judge Arthur Mann used five California Supreme Court factors in arriving at his decision to deny a change of venue motion for the trial of Renato Hughes Jr.

The factors and summaries on how Mann ruled on them were as follows:

– Nature and gravity of the offense: Mann said the case was a multiple homicide and it did have racial overtones and the homeowner used deadly force to protect his home. Mann said that this was not unique to Lake County and that anywhere this case was tried the same issues would be present. Therefore, Mann concluded that particular factor was neutral.

– Extent of publicity: Mann said that overall this leaned in favor of granting the motion to change the venue. Mann noted that there was extensive coverage, citing the 72 articles presented by the defense, although in many cases there was duplication.

At any rate, Mann concluded that only half of the population of Lake County read the newspaper (according to data presented by the defense) and only half of this group knew of the case.

Turning to the quality of the coverage, Mann referred to expert witness Craig Haney's citing of the repeated absence of the term "alleged" and concluded that this was not much of a factor. Mann also concluded that the term "home invasion," to which the defense took exception, was really not significant.


Mann also found that the publicity was largely factual and included facts that are going to be admissible to the jury.

– Size of community: Mann noted that Lake County has a population of roughly 65,000, only 2.3 percent of which is black. But Mann noted that in its use of these demographics Haney did not take into account the diversity of Lake County and the residents here who previously lived elsewhere, especially in the San Francisco Bay area, which Mann said neutralized this data.

– Status of the defendant: Mann also saw this as a neutral factor. Hughes is an outsider from San Francisco, but a survey commissioned by Haney did not deal with the question of whether the people of Lake County have any animus toward people from San Francisco.

Mann also recalled the testimony of expert Byran A. Stevenson that the image of a burglar in Lake County is a young male of color. Mann said in his experience that is not the image that people of Lake County embrace. Their image of a burglar in Lake County, Mann observed, is a young white male who is a methamphetamine user.

Referring again to comments made by Stevenson regarding racial bias, Mann granted that it exists here as it does everywhere and has to be dealt with as an issue. But it can be dealt with in court here, Mann concluded.

– Status of the victim: Mann also found this factor to be a neutral one, because the victim, Shannon Edmonds, had no particular status in the community and reports of Edmonds' use of marijuana, even allegations that he is a drug pusher, are not the type of information that would contribute to unfairness in the trial of the defendant.

Mann said if dealing with these issues end up showing that the defendant cannot get a fair trial in Lake County, the motion for change of venue will be revisited.

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



LAKE COUNTY – March is going to be a very exciting month for three of the county’s local watershed groups, along with the citizens who live in the Kelsey Creek, Middle Creek and Scotts Creek watersheds.

Thanks to a $400,000 grant awarded to the West Lake Resource Conservation District, studies will be conducted in these three watersheds that will allow these groups to gather information about both the historical and current conditions of the natural resources in these areas.

These watershed assessments will be used in making management decisions and obtaining funding for restoration, fuel load management, habitat improvement, water quality and various other projects in the future.

In order to put together the most comprehensive documents possible, it is vital that the local communities participate in these studies.

This grant opportunity was specifically designed for the citizens in each of these watersheds to participate in the process, and help in developing the information that goes into these assessments.

The three watershed groups in the participating areas will be holding meetings in March, and citizens in these areas are urged to attend.

Are you concerned about clean air, clean water, fire safety, erosion problems, development, and the day-to-day issues we all deal with? Well, we all live in a watershed, and if you live in one of the three included in this grant opportunity, now’s your chance to share your opinions, your concerns and your knowledge of the area in which you live.

If you reside in the vicinity of Kelsey Creek from Forest Lake on Cobb Mountain to Clear Lake itself, you live in the Kelsey Creek Watershed, and are encouraged to attend the Big Valley CRMP meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6. The event will be held at the American Legion Hall, corner of Second Street and Gaddy Lane in Kelseyville.

If you live in the vicinity of Clover Creek, Sam Alley Creek, the town of Upper Lake, or the areas near the East Fork and West Fork of Middle Creek to Rodman Slough, you reside in the Middle Creek Watershed. Please make it a point to attend the next meeting of the Middle Creek CRMP at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14. This month’s meeting is being held at the Upper Lake High School Library, 675 Clover Valley Road (corner of First Street and Clover Valley Road), in Upper Lake.

There are a number of communities included in the Scotts Creek Watershed. If you live in the areas of Saratoga Springs, Witter Springs, Bachelor Valley, Blue Lakes, Scotts Valley, Cow Mountain, and Tule Lake to the confluence at Rodman Slough, you live in the Scotts Creek Watershed. The date to mark on your calendar is 6 p.m. Thursday, March 15. The meeting will be hosted by the Scotts Creek Watershed Council and held at the Scotts Valley Women’s Clubhouse, 2298 Hendricks Road, Lakeport.

Each of these meetings will be facilitated by Korinn Smith of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Lakeport. The meetings will be structured to gather the information which will be used to develop the purpose and goals of these assessments. Greg Dills, watershed coordinator for East Lake and West Lake Resource Conservation Districts also will be on hand to answer questions and share his knowledge of the process.

This is an opportunity to participate and have a voice in the issues that concern your community. You may be the person that helps to identify an issue others know nothing about!

What do you want your watershed to look like in five, 10 or 50 years? Now's your chance to have a say in the future of your own community. Don’t miss this opportunity to get involved. To quote one of the watershed volunteers, “This is a really big deal!”

For questions or additional information, call Dills at 263-4180 x12 or Linda Juntunen at 263-7950.





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