Tuesday, 23 July 2024


WASHINGTON, D.C. A bill meant to provide greater protection for U.S. soldiers and veterans passed the House of Representatives in a narrow vote Friday.

The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act, HR 1591, passed the House 110 to 60.

Introduced by Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, it includes increased funding for military and veterans' health care – including Walter Reed and other hospitals – allocations to improve the readiness of stateside troops and military housing allowances.

The bill also re-focuses efforts to fight terrorism on al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan by providing more funds for operations Afghanistan.

North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson said Friday that he and many other House members who have been opposed to the war approved this emergency supplemental bill.

That's because, besides showing support for the military, it also sets deadlines fore redeployment based on “firm benchmarks” for both the Bush Administration and Iraqi government, Thompson said.

It's the first time, said Thompson, that the administration and Iraqi government have been held accountable during the four years of the war.

The bill also sets a timeline for redeployment of US troops, Thompson said, with final redeployment required to begin by March 1, 2008, and be completed by Aug. 31, 2008.

President Bush has promised to veto the bill, said Thompson. “Notwithstanding his veto threat, I think it was an important bill to pass,” he said.

“This was probably the most responsible bill we could have passed given the divisions in this very diverse Congress,” said Thompson.

In the past, Thompson said the president has gotten “absolutely everything he's wanted” in supplemental bills to fund the war effort. This bill and this vote, he said, “is a pretty strong statement” that times are changing, and that Congress plans to change course.

Thompson said he's voted against such supplementals previously, but HR 1591's benchmarks and timeline makes it “a huge departure from what we've seen in the past.”

He said he thinks it's the best way to get troops home as safely and quickly as possible. It's also necessary to improve health care for soldiers and veterans, issues brought to the front in recent weeks following a scandal at Walter Reed Hospital.

“Everybody knew how important it was to pass this,” Thompson said.

However, his stated support for the bill resulted in his office being visited by protesters.

He said he spoke with the protesters regarding their concerns, and came to some consensus. “I think we agree the tragedy of the Iraq War is just monumental.”

At the same time, he said, “We disagree on the best way to get our troops home.”

A companion bill for HR 1591 must pass the Senate next, said Thompson.

Thompson has a bill of his own, HR 787, that sets a March 31, 2008, timeline for bringing troops home. That bill, the Iraq War Accountability Act, is the companion bill to Senate Bill 433, introduced by Sen. Barack Obama.

HR 787, which now has 60 co-sponsors, went into committee hearings on Tuesday, said Thompson, where it received “a fair and impartial hearing.”

Thompson said he felt the bill was received well by the committee. “I'm hopeful that it will carry some weight in helping to define where we go from here.”

He added, “I think it's one of the most viable bills out there.”

Thompson will be in the county today to host his annual ravioli feed at the Lake County Fairgrounds.

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


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

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

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

The list of this year's winner follows:

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

– Senior of the Year: Shari Koch, Lakeport.

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

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

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

– Youth advocate, profession: Mike Stempe, Kelseyville.

– Agriculture: Jim Fetzer, Nice.

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

– Organization, volunteer: Free Kitchen Project, Lakeport.

– Environmental: Frank Meisenbach, Lower Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

– The Arts, amateur: Cindy Car, Lakeport.

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

– Spirit of Lake County: David Neft, Middletown.

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

– Man of the Year: John Norcio, Lakeport.

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

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


Check the gallery for photos of 2007 Stars!


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




Anna Blair, wife of embattled teacher David Blair, speaks in her husband's defense Thursday night. Photo by Maile Field.


KELSEYVILLE – Parents, students and teachers remain mystified following a lengthy school board meeting Thursday night, during which students pleaded passionately for a popular high school math teacher’s job, but lost.

More than 100 students, teachers and parents gathered and half of them sounded off about the future of David Blair, the only teacher qualified in the district to teach higher math.

Ninety percent spoke in defense of the teacher, but apparently to no avail. The board upheld its decision to deny permanent status to Blair, but cited personnel confidentiality rules in refusing to say why.

The regularly scheduled Kelseyville Unified School District board meeting heard two full hours of commentary on the issue.

Of 51 vocal teenagers, parents and educators, those speaking against the math teacher’s retention could be counted on one hand.

But even after hearing from top students wearing t-shirts emblazoned with words of support for the man, the board upheld its decision “not to re-elect” the highly-credentialed teacher.

The lineup of stellar students, some of whom mentioned their grade point averages were well above the perfect 4.0 mark, spoke glowingly of the teacher, characterizing him as “challenging.” Students and parents praised him for “pushing” the students to learn and for having “high expectations.”

Complaints ranged from basketball “incidents” to “belittling” students in the classroom.

The class president and the three valedictorian candidates all spoke eloquently on Blair’s behalf. For many, the battle took the form of sports versus academia, as concerns about basketball coaching behavior problems were all but spoken.

Many parents urged the board to look past the former coach’s basketball history as “water under the bridge” and recognize a “great teacher.”

“I don’t care about his coaching,” said Katie Murphy, a freshman student. “What I do care about is the future of education ... you’re directly endangering my education.”

Schuyler Bloom, who identified himself as the senior class president, noted that he had little reason to care as he has just one quarter of a term left in Blair’s class. The Pepperdine-bound Bloom said he would be “disappointed” if his fellow classmates didn’t have the opportunity to study under Blair.

“I would be sorry for them,” he said.

Bloom said he learned not only math from the teacher, but also how to be a good person. “There are two people who disagree,” he commented, before urging the board to consider “the majority of the people shaking at the microphone.”

“I am a mother of a 2005 graduate of Kelseyville High,” began Julie Berry. “My oldest daughter graduated with a 4.2 grade point average, and like many other Kelseyville graduates, had to take two semesters of remedial math when she got to Junior College because she wasn’t prepared for college math courses.

“When my 15-year-old son can sit at the kitchen table and explain algebra problems to his 20-year-old sister in easy to understand terms, I am very grateful for the two years he has had the privilege of being challenged by Mr. Blair,” Berry added.

One parent who was not impressed with Blair was Mike Lyndall, who criticized the teacher, a former basketball coach, for allegedly “insulting” coaches and referees regarding a basketball incident.

Lyndall, himself a coach, described Blair as “extremely volatile,” going on to comment sarcastically that “he may be the best math teacher in the state of California.”

After parent Phil Murphy took to the microphone to comment that opposition was “vague” and that no students were speaking against Blair, one courageous girl did just that.

Wearing a jersey marked “13,” Kari Vandraiss said she felt Mr. Blair “has very high expectations.” She went on to say that she had never “been made to feel stupid” until Mr. Blair’s class and that she was intimidated about asking questions.

Student Alicyn Yaffee echoed Vandreiss’ sentiment about feeling nervous about asking questions but that’s where the comparison ended.

Yaffee then topped the courage charts by admitting she had received a failing grade but still supported the teacher because he had helped her understand.

“I started asking questions because I wanted to get it,” she said pointedly.

Teacher Dan Springer, who opened the public comment period of the meeting by thanking the board for serving “in a thankless capacity,” expressed frustration that “some students don’t do their work.”

Several students reiterated Springer’s point throughout the evening, commenting that the amount of respect students get from the teacher is equal to the amount of respect they give him. “If you give him respect,” said one student, “he’ll hand it back to you.”

At least two parents described having children on the opposite ends of the math ability spectrum and both related that their children were being reached by Blair.

Teacher and parent Cheryl Mostin was not alone in describing having children going off to college unprepared.

One Kelseyville graduate, Cora Carrier, who now teaches science and algebra in the district, spoke about her experience going on to UC Davis, only to have to spend a year taking remedial math classes because of inadequate preparation offered here.

“I felt cheated,” she said.

Parent Jackie Farley related picking up the local newspaper last week to find a letter to the editor, written by Joe Conger, a self-described former policeman and neighbor of Blair. “Me and my family were some of his biggest supporters (sic)” the letter read. ”I have observed Mr. Blair's inability to control his temper and his choice of words. He shows no respect for anyone who has a different point of view than his own,” the letter continued.

“I was scared to death,” Farley related. So she asked her son if the writer was talking about his teacher. “No, that’s not Mr. Blair,” she said, relating her son’s response.

Farley described the letter, which is strewn with grammatical errors, as “defamatory and inflammatory.” She drew audience laughter when she suggested it would be good for English students to analyze.

The most disturbing commentary came from Anna Blair, who said her husband “chose not to be here tonight.”

The teacher’s wife related that her family has endured neighbors calling her landlord “to have us evicted” and she said an administrator at another school in the district “told my husband he was not Christian enough.”

Blair said she thought she had won the battle with her husband and had convinced him to give up. But then, she described students calling from 5, 10 and 15 years ago to thank him. She described the callers as doctors, dentists and Division 1 basketball players.

Whether Blair himself has given up remains to be seen.

It is clear his students haven’t.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burke said Larranaga remains in intensive care after the attack.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harter said the local swim team start training in May.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both Conrad and Alie were pleased with the turnout.

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

She said they hope to plan more events this summer.

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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