Thursday, 18 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – The 2008 federal election, with races for the president and congressional seats, is on track to become the most expensive ever, with contributions both here at home and on the national level reaching new records.

The nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics,, is tracking election contributions, with its staff having gone through two million records.

“We've known, of course, that 2008 would be the most expensive ever,” Executive Director Sheila Krumholz told reporters in a pre-election analysis conference call.

Just how big will it be?

Krumholz estimates the federal election, including the presidential and all congressional races, will hit the $5.3 billion mark, surpassing the 2004 election cycle numbers by 27 percent. She said $4.5 billion already has been raised in all races.

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama already have raised $1.5 billion since the election cycle began in January 2007. The Center for Responsive Politics noted that this is the first time that candidates for the White House have raised and spent more than $1 billion, and this year's total is on track to nearly double candidate fundraising in 2004 and triple 2000.

The presidential race alone is expected to reach $2.4 billion in funds raised, Krumholz added.

To put those numbers in perspective, Krumholz noted that US consumers spent $17 billion on Valentine's Day this year, and $8.7 billion on Super Bowl celebrations.

In California alone, itemized contributions for this campaign cycle have reached $283.7 million, with Democrats raising $185.9 million to Republicans' $96.8 million, the center reported.

And here in Lake County, contributions to congressional and presidential races this year total $99,150, up slightly from the $94,340 donated in 2004 and more than double the $41,182 in contributions to federal races in 2000, according to the center's statistics.

This election, Krumholz added, will blow through historic records on a number of counts.

In the 2008 election cycle, Krumholz noted that Democrats have raised 52 percent more in contributions than they did in 2004, while Republicans have shown only a 2-percent contribution growth rate in that same period.

Top contributors this year are those who list their occupation as “retired" (accounting for at least $204.3 million), lawyers and law firms ($180.9 million), the securities/investment industry ($122.8 million), real estate ($105.5 million) and health professionals ($69.6 million). Business interests account for about 72 percent of all contributions, with ideological, labor and other interests making up the rest.

Viewed more broadly, the finance, insurance and real estate sector once again dominates in political contributions, said Krumholz, exceeding $373 million in the center’s most recent analysis. Democrats have a slight edge with the finance sector.

The top donors this cycle, based on contributions from their PACs and employees, is dominated by companies in the financial sector, and most of them favor Democrats.

After ActBlue, the online organization that directs individual contributions to progressive candidates, the top corporation in 2008 is once again Goldman Sachs, the center reported. The global investment bank's employees and PAC have contributed at least $5 million to the 2008 campaign. Citigroup is next at $4.2 million, followed by JPMorgan Chase & Co. at $4.1 million.

The biggest-giving industry association is the National Association of Realtors, which has given nearly $3.2 million, the center reported.

Krumholz said Wall Street and other industries in the financial sector don't seem to have tightened their belts, with no signs of recession in their political giving. “Of course, their contributions may be part of a strategy to continue securing government assistance for their businesses as the economy heads further south,” she said.

Among the big-giving industries, the Democrats' advantage is smaller than in the overall election, Jrumholz said. Lawyers remain strongly in the Democrats' camp and Wall Street favors them, too; however, some of the other top givers – retirees, real estate and doctors and other health professionals – – mostly split at this point between the two major parties.

Additionally, Democrats have solid support in a number of traditionally supportive industries, of course, including the entertainment industry and among college professors and other educators, but Republicans can count on contributions from the oil and gas, pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries, she added.

An important finding in the center's research of candidate contributions is that the lion's share of the money influencing US elections comes from individuals, said Krumholz.

The center has identified more than one million people – less than one half of one percent of the country's population – who have given more than $200 each to political action committees and candidates. That's down slightly from the 1.1 million individuals shown in the 2004 records.

Most of those people include lawyers, bankers and chief executive officers, she notes; guys like “Joe the Plumber” don't figure as prominently as “John the Bond Trader.”

Analysts have estimated that, historically, no more than 4 percent of Americans make a contribution of any size to federal politics. By comparison, about 10 percent of American taxpayers elect to dedicate $3 of their annual tax bill to the presidential public financing system, the center reported.

At the same time, many new donors have come into the fold in 2008, she said.

The big story in this election, Krumholz added, is the number of smaller donors who are coming into the process.

She said that 61 percent of donations to Obama's campaign and 37 percent of McCain's contributions are coming from people donating $200 or less.

Krumholz said both campaigns have done a better job of raising these small amounts, presumably over the Internet, as opposed to past years. It's also a more effective strategy than the direct mail model.

“This it the yellow brick road of candidates it the future,” Krumholz said of the Internet as a fundraising tool.

Those Internet donations can't yet be tracked, said Krumholz, adding that the center would like to see all congressional contribution data filed electronically.

Krumholz said incumbents and Democrats have the advantage in House and Senate races. The average Senate incumbent has raised $8.3 million (which includes money raised since the start of the six-year term in 2003) to the average challenger's $850,000, an advantage of nearly 10 to 1.

For candidates looking to claim an open Senate seat, the average is about $1.6 million and varies widely depending on the state's size and advertising costs, Krumholz reported.

The incumbent's advantage in the House also is lop-sided; members of the House have raised approximately $1.2 million through the third quarter of 2008, on average, while their opponents have raised an average of $286,000 – a 4-to-1 edge for the seat-holder. Open-seat candidates have collected about $497,000.

She said candidates for Congress in 2008 have spent nearly $95 million from their own pockets to get elected.

"You can't win a seat in Congress without being personally wealthy or knowing a lot of wealthy people who are willing to back you with their money," Krumholz said. "With Election Day coming up, it’s important for candidates and citizens to remember that you can't win without votes, either."

The center adds that if history is an indicator, most congressional incumbents should expect to return to Washington next year. In the last five elections, since the 1998 contests, an average of 97 percent of House incumbents have won re-election, as have 86 percent of senators. Even two years ago, when control of Congress shifted to the Democratic Party, 94 percent of House members still won re-election, as did 79 percent of senators.

In the 2008 election cycle, the Center for Responsive Politics estimates Democrats will end up taking 59 percent of the overall contributions, compared to the nearly even split between Democrats and Republicans in the 2004 cycle.

The shift in money, said Krumholz, followed the shift in power that occurred in Congress in 2006, when Democrats took over the majority.

Since then, Democrats have shown skillful use of online fundraising, especially in the presidential race, she said.

Tomorrow, Lake County's contribution numbers are broken down and analyzed.

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


HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – Lake County Sheriff's officials are looking for a suspect in an alleged home invasion and armed robbery that took place Tuesday.

Capt. James Bauman reported that sheriff’s deputies responded to a residence on Park Point Court in Hidden Valley Lake on Oct. 28 to investigate a reported home invasion and armed robbery.

Upon arrival the victims, Kevin Schosek and Wendy Ferrell, told deputies that they were eating dinner in their living room at about 7:30 p.m. when they heard their back door slam shut, Bauman said. When they turned to see who had entered the house, a man wearing all black with a black ski mask was standing in their living room pointing a semi-automatic pistol at them.

According to Bauman, the suspect told the two not to get up and demanded their money. Schosek threw his wallet to the suspect upon demand and then the suspect took Ferrell’s purse from a kitchen counter. The suspect told the two to “wait 60 seconds before they called 911 or he would kill them” and then retreated back through same door he had entered.

Once the suspect left the house, Schosek went to a balcony to see which way the suspect would flee while Ferrell called 911, Bauman said. Schosek did not see the suspect flee the area once he ran out of the house.

The two victims were unharmed, Bauman added.

Sheriff’s deputies conducted a search for the suspect with the assistance the California Highway Patrol and Hidden Valley Security but he could not be located, Bauman said.

The suspect is believed to be a white male as part of his skin could be seen through the cuts in the ski mask, according to Bauman. The only other description the victims could provide was that he was about 5 feet 9 inches tall and had a thin build.

Anyone with information relating to the home invasion and robbery is requested to call the Lake County Sheriff’s Department Investigations Branch at 262-4200.


Bill Shields did not respond to Lake County News' candidate questionnaire. Instead, he provided the following information about his campaign and platform.

Bill Shields

Not a new face in the City Council race

Bill Shields is a longtime resident of Clearlake, age 74, and retired. For many months the city of Clearlake, with a serious shortfall of revenue, has failed to properly examine the city tax base. Without this, all the necessary services that the citizens of Clearlake rely on cannot be provided. By bringing together business owners and taxpayers to take a good look at working together, with new ideas to improve the tax base, we may be able to overcome our consistent lack of revenue. There should be a consistent open-door policy at City Hall with no overuse of closed meetings.

The city of Clearlake has a primary responsibility to maintain a safe and pleasant environment for its citizens by providing efficient, effective public services. The city also should provide a catalyst that involves residents, businesses and service organizations to foster further development of our city.

He said he will work to build a better Clearlake, including building better roads for the city.

Shields is a veteran of the US Air Force and member of the Elks and Moose lodges, and other organizations. He is a community volunteer who is concerned about kids and seniors.

Mission statement

1. When elected to the council, he will push for more detailed examination of our tax base in order to repair our city's finances, along with cutting expenses that waste taxpayer dollars.


2. Water rates in our city are too high and he will look for solutions to this problem.

3. The city of Clearlake should start utilizing solar energy to reduce long-term costs of electricity and heat.

4. He will push for a code advisory committee to begin reform of the city building code.

5. He will seek advice and feedback from the citizens to assist the City Council in finding new ideas to increase the beauty and cleanliness of the city.

6. The redevelopment agency is in debt and he will work to remedy the situation and prevent future bad investments.

Residents of Clearlake have the opportunity to make the sensible choice and elect Bill Shields to the City Council. He will make sure that your tax dollars are wisely spent. He will take a good long look at the many lawsuits against the city of Clearlake that in the past have left a bad impression of the city, its officials and some of its residents.

Bill Shields is about working to make Clearlake a better place now and in the future, and not continuing the bad decisions and bad policies of the past. He will be there for you 24 hours a day at 994-0811, where you can count on your call being returned, or just drop by 4312 Sunset in Clearlake just to talk about the issues or what's bothering you about your community.


LAKE COUNTY – Minor injuries were reported in two of three vehicle collisions that took place late Thursday.

The first incident occurred just after 5 p.m. on Highway 20 just east of Walker Ridge Road, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Two vehicles were reported to be involved, with a Subaru Outback over the side of the road and overturned, CHP reported. CHP and Northshore Fire responded.

REACH was called to transport a 7-year-old child from the scene. At least one of the children was being transported to Oakland Children's Hospital, according to CHP.

CHP reported that minor injuries to the passengers were the result of that collision.

A short time later, at just after 5:30 p.m., two vehicles were involved in a collision on a blind corner Highway 20 between Glenhaven and Clearlake Oaks.

CHP reported that an SUV on was on its roof and a mother wanted medics to examine her child. A big rig coming upon the scene also nearly jack-knifed. No injuries were ultimately reported.

At 5:45 p.m., a vehicle was reported to have flipped over and trapped a person in a crash on Butts Canyon Road, between one and two miles from Highway 29, the CHP reported.

CHP and Cal Fire responded to the scene. Minor injuries resulted in that crash.

Authorities did not say if the crashes were a direct result of a rain that occurred late in the day. However, weather had proved a concern for REACH which were nearly canceled due to weather conditions when it came to transporting a victim from the Walker Ridge crash.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this reported.

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COBB – Operators of the Bottle Rock Power Plant are due to sit down with area residents on Thursday evening and discuss concerns about the plant and its impact on the community.

The meeting will take place beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Little Red Schoolhouse on Cobb, 15780 Bottle Rock Road.

Supervisor Rob Brown said he organized a meeting to bring together the community and the power plant's representatives to discuss the plant and make an attempt to work out concerns and differences. Brown has received numerous complaints about the plant, prompting the meeting.

The plant, owned by US Renewables Group of Santa Monica and Carlyle/Riverstone Renewable Energy Infrastructure Fund I, reopened at the end of March 2007, as Lake County News has reported.

The plant originally had been built by the state Department of Water Resources to provide power for its operations.

The 55-megawatt plant, which can power as many as 55,000 homes, was closed in September of 1990 due to lack of steam. When it was reopened in 2007, plant officials said they had successfully reopened seven of the plant's original 10 steam-producing wells, and drilled two new ones.

Since the plant's reopening, neighbors in the area say they've experienced a number of impacts from the plant – including noise levels and handling of what they believe are hazardous materials – that is harming their quality of life and causing environmental concerns.

Larry Bandt, vice president of engineering for Oski Energy, which manages Bottle Rock Power's plant operations, said company representatives will be at the Thursday meeting to hear what the neighbors have to say and offer their own comments.

Bandt said the company has been talking about neighbors regarding their complaints, and have made and effort to work with them since the plant reopened last year.

One of the neighbors complaining about the plant is David Coleman. Coleman, whose great-grandfather settled the area and homesteaded the land where plant is located on Bottle Rock Road, splits his time between Cobb and the Bay Area.

He and other neighbors are particularly concerned about the plant's drill sumps – which collect water and chemicals – and how they're cleaned. Coleman said the operators have been taking the materials from the sumps and letting them dry in a nearby meadow. When he and a neighbor went to look at the situation they were told they were trespassing and informed they needed to make an appointment.

Coleman's concerns are echoed by another neighbor, Hamilton Hess, who owns property about a quarter-mile from the plant. “The most serious problem is the drilling pad and especially the sumps.”

He said the sumps are potentially a “huge cesspool of materials, many of which are toxic.”

While the plant's operators have claimed the sump materials have been tested and are benign, Hess said the neighbors remain skeptical, and have asked the county to require testing by authorized labs and make the information public.

They're also requesting the plant move to sumpless drilling, which uses tanks instead of ponds. “To move to sumpless drilling is state of the art,” Hess said.

Coleman also alleges the plant is responsible for stream alterations and violations of their use permit, and suggested the plant was approved under an outdated environmental document.

Hess added that there has been a great deal of grading and equipment work, which he said has been unpermitted.

However, he added, “We're not faulting them in terms of motivation,” saying that a new operations team has come on board since last November.

Coleman has taken his and fellow neighbors' concerns to the California Energy Commission, Department of Fish and Game, the Office of Emergency Services and the county's Community Development Department, along with approaching the Sierra Club Lake Group.

“It's just a huge, huge mess,” he said.

Coleman claims the plant has used dredged materials for top soil, and garbage and pallets are stacked everywhere.

Recently, however, he said the county and Fish and Game have the plant working on erosion control, and the plant is moving equipment and junk out of the area.

He said the biggest complaint he and his neighbors have concern the compromised sumps, and what is being done with the mud and materials pulled from them.

Coleman questions what might be in those materials. “I think everybody is nervous about that.”

Sound also is an issue. Coleman said at first the plant's operators encouraged the neighbors to call if they had problems. They did call, he said, but they only were only temporarily appeased and nothing was actually done.

“We found out a lot of things were slipping through the cracks,” he said.

He said at least 10 families in the area have expressed problems with the plant, while many more have just resigned themselves to accepting the problems.

Coleman said he's irritated by the difficulties he's had getting state and local agencies to talk to each other regarding the plant, or even to get plant personnel and Fish and Game communicating. “Why am I doing someone else's job without pay?”

He said he's like to see the power plant stop using the sumps. “I've seen the sumps overflowing on numerous occasions.”

Coleman said he is hopeful since the parent company recently sent out an executive to take a look at operations more closely.

“I'm just very dubious about who's going to fix it and how it's going to get done,” he said.

Hess said he believes things are getting better, and he is looking forward to the meeting, which he sees as an opportunity for the neighbors to get their issues resolved.

When asked about the issues the neighbors have with the plant, Brandt said he would wait until the Thursday meeting to respond to them.

For a full account of the plant's reopening, see Lake County News' February 2007 story,

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LAKE COUNTY – A Sebastopol man who went missing on Sunday while dirt bike riding on Cow Mountain turned up on Monday afternoon – exhausted, hungry but unharmed.

Shortly before 10 p.m. Sunday the Lake County Sheriff's Office received a report that 24-year-old Sean Wesley Levine and a group of friends from the Santa Rosa area had been riding their dirt bikes on both the Mendocino and Lake County sides of Cow Mountain during the day and Levine had become separated from the group, according to Capt. James Bauman.

Bauman said Levine had been last seen at about 4 p.m. in the area of Scotts and Benmore creeks as the group was making their way back to their vehicles on the Mendocino side.

Patrol deputies from both the Lake and Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office searched their respective sides of the Cow Mountain area. Bauman said by 11:30 p.m., when deputies were unable to locate Levine, Lake County Search and Rescue was activated to take over the search.

He said Search and Rescue teams combed the area throughout the night and at about 5:30 a.m. on Monday, Levine’s motorcycle and riding gear were located on the side of the Mendo-Lake Road to Ukiah. The motorcycle was undamaged and empty of fuel.

At around daybreak on Monday morning, a helicopter contracted for searching out illegal marijuana grows was diverted to the area to assist with the search for Levine, said Bauman.

But an air search of the trails connecting to the area the motorcycle was found, numerous phone calls to Lakeport area motels, and an extended search by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department of the roads from Cow Mountain to Ukiah all resulted in no sign of Levine, Bauman said.

As a result, Bauman said that at about 9:30 a.m. Monday the search for Levine was suspended pending further leads as to his whereabouts.

However, the apparently grim situation ended with Levine walking into the University of California Field Station in Hopland shortly before 4:30 p.m. Monday, said Bauman. The station called the sheriff's dispatch to report Levine's appearance.

Bauman said he called the field station office and spoke to Levin. While hungry and exhausted, Levine was otherwise unharmed.

Officials had suspected Levine had run out of fuel, which Bauman said did, indeed, turn out to be the case.

Levine told Bauman he started walking until it got too dark to see, and then started a small fire on the trail he was on and slept in the wilderness all night.

At daybreak, Levine started walking again along unknown creek beds and trails until he somehow reached Hopland, Bauman said.

Bauman said Levine didn't know where he came out of the recreational area or even what road he found to get to Hopland.

While Levine heard the searching helicopter a couple of times on Monday morning, the helicopter couldn't see him because of the distance, Bauman said.

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LUCERNE – The Code Enforcement Division of Community Development has completed the relocation of its offices to downtown Lucerne.

The division is now located on the second floor above the Lake County Visitor Center at 6110 A East Highway 20, Code Enforcement Manager Voris Brumfield reported.

“Our target date to re-open to the public is Nov. 3,” said Brumfield. “With the current reduction in the number trained officers on staff, this move will be a significant benefit to north county.”

Brumfield said a great percentage of code violations occur in the areas of Clearlake Oaks, Lucerne, Nice and Upper Lake, and the move will allow the division's officers to respond to complaints more quickly.”

Code Enforcement's main phone line has been changed to 274-8923. Information about the division is available on the county Web site at


LAKEPORT – A Sutter Lakeside Hospital official says that a Wednesday informational picket of the hospital by union members has little to do with working conditions there, while the union is using the opportunity to raise patient care issues.

SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW) members will hold the informational picket from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the hospital on Wednesday at the hospital's main campus on Hill Road East.

Also on Wednesday, UHW plans strikes at 10 hospitals around the state, including five belonging to Sutter Health, as Lake County News has reported. The union reported that UHW workers have been in negotiations with Sutter Health for months, and have been without a contract since Sept. 30.

A Sutter Health information sheet on the UHW actions said the strike has “nothing to do with employees who work within some Sutter Health hospitals and everything to do with increasing power, membership and money for UHW.”

Sutter Health states it pays higher-than-average wages to its employees, with medical records clerks receiving an average of $44,336, far above the $28,558 paid by other Northern California hospitals.

Sutter Lakeside Hospital spokesman Mitch Proaps said the union presented its proposals to the hospital in the middle of September, and Sutter Lakeside is now in the midst of answering them.

“I can't really respond to what may or may not be in those proposals,” he said. “I have to respect the negotiations process. We do our negotiations at the table, not through the media.”

Proaps said the hospital and UHW are scheduled to meet to discuss the contract proposals in November.

He said he's not aware of the specific issues the union is using as the reason for the Wednesday event. “They're not at liberty to tell us their motives for the picket.”

Proaps added, however, that it's the hospital's assumption that the picket at Sutter Lakeside is in support of labor actions outside of the area due to where they're at in the negotiations process locally.

Stefanie Edwards, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and a nursing student who also is a UHW member, said she's worked at the hospital for a little over a year. Currently, Edwards is in the hospital's outpatient unit, where she works on a per-diem basis a few days a week.

The main concern for her is a proposal to have a patient to CNA ratio of 16 to 1. “Even in nursing homes they have more staff per patient.”

Edwards said registered nurses, who normally are in charge of more advanced medical care and passing medications, also are doing more duties like bathing normally assigned to CNAs, and that raises concerns over the quality of patient care.

She added that she's seen staff get fewer work hours since the hospital's change to critical access designation became effective earlier this year. “We've seen them keep only one CNA for the whole med-surge wing.”

Edwards said the hospital had said it would not cut hours or lay off staff due to the designation change, but she and others have experienced drastic hour cuts.


She said the ratio change appeared to have occurred about two or three weeks ago, after the September exit of the hospital's former chief executive officer, Kelly Mather.

Proaps said the hospital's CNA contract was settled some time ago, and the state mandates particular ratios for patient to nurses and caregivers. “We run a hospital here,” he said. “Our main priority is patient care.”

He added that staff hours depend on census numbers, not the critical access designation. “Census has always driven staffing, regardless of what your capacity is.”

The critical access designation limits a hospital's beds to 25. As of Sunday, the hospital's census was 22, with a month-to-date average of 19 and a year-to-date average of 20 patients, said Proaps.

Patients are either being sent to other facilities in Santa Rosa and Ukiah, or being sent home early because of fewer beds, said Edwards. She added that she hasn't seen a larger ratio of people being sent to the skilled facilities, like Evergreen or Lakeport Skilled.

Lakeport Skilled Nursing Administrator Debra Sims said her facility hasn't seen more patients due to the critical access designation. “I can't say it has remarkably increased.”

The facility, which Sims said depends on hospital for patients, has worked “very smoothly” with Sutter Lakeside since the hospital's access change.

The formal contract between the hospital and care facility was never finalized – which Sims said was on Lakeport Skilled's side, with the agreement still in the hands of their legal department. However, they are working with the hospital as if it had been finalized, and they talk with the hospital daily.

Proaps confirmed that a formal, signed bed agreement hasn't been reached with Lakeport Skilled Nursing yet. He said the hospital is working closely with both Lakeport Skilled and Evergreen Lakeport, and the hospital has been impressed by how receptive the facilities have been to Sutter Lakeside's needs.

He said the hospital receives a daily report on bed availability which, between the two facilities, hasn't proved to be an issue. That's one of the areas in which the process has run much more smoothly than anticipated since the critical access conversion.

Proaps said Sutter Lakeside has an “impressively low” vacancy turnover rate, far below Sutter Health's and the state's average.

He also emphasized that the hospital has not reduced its services due to the critical access change, with emergency, intensive care and other important services still very much present.

Proaps said the hospital doesn't plan to take any action regarding the picket. “That's their right and we honor it.”

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LAKEPORT – A Clearlake man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder charges last month was sentenced to prison on Monday.

Judge Arthur Mann sentenced Wilbur Cope, 38, to 74 years to life in prison, said Cope's defense attorney, Stephen Carter.

On Sept. 10, 2006, Cope shot to death his girlfriend, Kristin Raviotta, before heading to the home of his ex-wife, Michelle Cain, and her husband, Terry. Along the way he crashed his vehicle, and when neighbors came to help him he shot one of them, Sharon England.

Reaching the Cains' home, he shot them through a sliding glass door with a shotgun, with Terry Cain taking the gun's full blast, as Lake County News has reported.

On Sept. 29 Cope pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for Raviotta's death, and second-degree attempted murder for shooting Terry Cain.

Carter said Cope received 15 years to life for shooting Raviotta plus 25 years to life for using a firearm. Cope also received the upper term of nine years for shooting Terry Cain, plus another 25 years to life for firearm use.

“So his total is 74 to life,” said Carter.

Cope must serve nearly 73 years before any release could be considered. He would be 111 years old.

“At which point, if he were alive, he would be eligible for parole,” said Carter.

During the Monday proceedings, Cain's son gave a victim impact statement on behalf of his family regarding Cope's actions, said Carter. Raviotta's mother also submitted a statement, which was ready by a Victim-Witness advocate.

Carter said Cope's physical injury – sustained while working as a firefighters several years ago – combined with depression and drug use “led to tragedy for Mr. Cope and the people he harmed.”

Cope entered the guilty pleas last month as part of a deal that, while ensuring Cope will spend the rest of his life in prison, meant he would not face trial for first-degree murder, as Lake County News reported.

By voluntarily entering into the disposition agreement, Cope made sure that the surviving victims and their families do not have to go through a long trial and will not be forced to re-live what took place, said Carter.

Attorney Angela Carter, who worked with husband Stephen on the case, said that the agreement also meant no jury trial and no years of appeals in this case.

Cope is expected to be transported to state prison soon. A benefit of that plea is that Cope will not be housed with prisoners convicted of the higher murder charge, and so he'll have a chance at a better quality of life during incarceration, Stephen Carter said.

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Buster, a golden retriever who lives in Lucerne with the Sorenson family, is among the first Humane Society of the United States Dog of Valor award winners. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LUCERNE – A big-hearted golden retriever who was adopted as a puppy from Lake County Animal Care and Control has been named among the first field of honorees for a new national honor for canine heroes.

Buster, who lives in Lucerne with his family, the Sorensons, received his Humane Society of the United States Dog of Valor medal on Wednesday in a small ceremony at the new animal shelter on Helbush near Lakeport.

Chris Sorenson, 47, adopted Buster as a 5-week-old puppy from the local animal shelter. In the 11 years they've been together, Buster has served as a service dog for Sorenson, who has no sight in his right eye due to glaucoma, besides suffering from numerous other health issues, including a heart condition.

Buster was honored Wednesday for action he took to save his master and family on the morning of Nov. 22, 2007 – Thanksgiving Day.

Sorenson was in bed that morning asleep, recovering from back surgery in which four discs in his back were replaced.

He was awakened by Buster jumping up and hitting him in the back with his paws.

“When I woke up there was a flame shooting a foot and a half out of the wall,” said Sorenson, explaining that a faulty electrical outlet had started to catch the house on fire.

He got up and evacuated his wife and three children, all of them meeting in the front yard of their Fifth Avenue home in Lucerne.

Sorenson, a former volunteer firefighter with Upper Lake, then took a fire extinguisher and a claw hammer and went in and made sure the fire was out. A foot and a half of wiring and a stud in the 1930s-era home were damaged, but no major harm was done.

“Basically, he saved the house,” Sorenson said of Buster.

After a few hours of repair, the family was able to sit down together for Thanksgiving dinner.

“We had a lot to be thankful for,” said Sorenson.

Paul Bruce, regional program director for the western regional office of the Humane Society of the United States, traveled from Sacramento to bestow the honor on Buster. He said Buster was nominated through a letter sent to the group.

This is the Dog of Valor award's inaugural year, said Bruce.

Seven dogs were honored, including three companion dog runners-up, three runners-up from the working group (including Buster) and one grand prize (see below for details on the other winners).

The grand prize was awarded posthumously to Buffy, a 7-year-old German shepherd from Oakland who was shot while trying to protect her master, Will Bartley, from an armed gunman who attempted to rob Bartley as he was returning home from work. Buffy later died from health complications exacerbated by her wounds.

Bruce said the Humane Society of the United States had offered a reward for her shooter, who has not been found. Later, the group decided to start the Dog of Valor award, and he put Buffy's case forward.

Buffy, Buster and the other winners were chosen by a panel of celebrity judges, among them tennis great Martina Navratilova; dog trainer Tamar Geller; animal activist Candy Spelling, widow of the late TV producer Aaron Spelling; and Silvio Horta, creator/executive producer of the TV show, “Ugly Betty.”

Bruce said he was on an animal evacuation mission for the Humboldt Fire in Butte County earlier this year when he got the call about Buffy and the other dogs being chosen for the award.

“I enjoy my job,” said Bruce, who got some kisses from Buster. “I get to meet a lot of nice dogs.”

Buster is with Chris Sorenson all day, every day. He walks on Sorenson's right side to prevent him from walking into objects which he can't see because he's lost sight in his right eye. Buster sleeps with Sorenson at night, gets him his medicine bag, and uses his calm presence to keep Sorenson's blood pressure down, as well as control the pressure in his eyes which are stricken with glaucoma.

Sorenson also has taught Buster some tricks – fetch, roll over and shake hands.

He said Buster enjoys playing with the children, and slept at the door of his young daughter's bedroom after she was born. When the children argue, however, he will stand between them, not liking to hear them fight.

For years Buster's best friend was the family's cat, Spotsy, who died recently. The dog used to carry the 22-pound Spotsy around from room to room, Sorenson said.

The Sorenson family – Chris and wife Ann; sons CJ, 18, and Luke, 9; and daughter Hally, 2 – are dog lovers. They also run Lucerne Bath and Brush pet grooming.

Chris Sorenson said he always urges people who want a pet to check out the shelter first – a good suggestion, since that's how Buster came into his life.

You can adopt a canine (or feline) hero and companion of your own by visiting the shelter at 4949 Helbush in Lakeport, telephone 263-0278; or check them out online at, where pictures of adoptable animals can be viewed.

Profiles in canine courage: Dog of Valor winners for 2007

The following dogs – some of which, like Buster, are service animals – are the other winners of the Humane Society of the United States' inaugural Dog of Valor award. The following profiles are taken from the Dog of Valor award pages, where the full profiles can be found, at

Companion Dog Group

Buffy (Owners, Will and Lagree Bartley; Oakland, Calif.)

Buffy’s guardian, Will Bartley, had just returned home from work when he was approached by an armed man who pointed a gun at his chest and demanded money. Buffy, a 7-year-old German shepherd who had just made her way out to greet Bartley, sensed danger and lunged at the gunman, who fired two shots, striking her once in the front leg. Despite her wound, Buffy pursued the gunman who eventually escaped. A month after the shooting the Bartleys were forced to euthanize Buffy due to an underlying kidney condition that was exacerbated by the shooting.

Working Dog Group

Yeager (Owner, Sharon Yunker-Deatz; Louisville, Ky.)

Yeager, a 2½ year old Labrador retriever, is trained to help his owner, Sharon Yunker-Deatz, live with multiple sclerosis. Yunker-Deatz and Yeager took a trip to the beach in Muskegon, Mich., during which Yeager helped draw rescuers to a drowning child, swimming out to help despite a strong undertow. A month later, Yeager protected Yunker-Deatz from danger; while visiting a friend whose home had just burned down, she started to walk through the rubble but Yeager blocked her from moving forward. She discovered that a hole had been burned into the floor and, had it not been for Yeager, she may have fallen through the damaged floor.

People's Choice Valor Dog of the Year

Companion Dog Group

Jack (Owners, The Pieters Family; Willow Street, Penn.)

Jack is a terrier mix who a police officer rescued from a trash dumpster. In 2004, he was adopted from the animal shelter by the Pieters family whose daughter, Maya, had been diagnosed the previous year with Congenital Bilateral Perisylvian Syndrome, an extremely rare neurological condition that mainly affects the oral motor functions. Jack and Maya bonded immediately. On a fall morning in 2007, Jack awoke suddenly and rushed upstairs to Maya's room, where he began clawing and barking at the door. The girl was having her first grand mal seizure in her sleep; the family rushed her to the hospital. When she came home, Jack stayed at her side, and since then he seems able to sense when the little girl is about to have an epileptic event, event breaking her fall once and sitting on top of her as she suffered a seizure.

Dogs of Valor Finalists

Companion Dog Group

Anna (Owner, Candace Jennings; Idaho City, Idaho)

Early Thanksgiving morning, Anna, an adopted Australian cattle dog, barked and nudged her sleeping owner as flames quickly began to sweep through their Idaho City, Idaho mobile home. Finally waking her, Anna, two other dogs, and their guardian, Candace Jennings, were able to safely escape the burning home. As soon as they were outside, Jennings realized that all of her work keys were still inside. With Anna by her side, she crawled back in to find them but became disoriented by the thick smoke and could not find her way out. Anna came to Jennings' rescue again by pushing and nudging her towards the door that led to safety. Both escaped with minor burns just moments before the roof collapsed. The home was a total loss.

Bear (Owner, Jeremy Rogers; Palmer, Alaska)

Bear's two owners, Christopher E. Rogers Sr. and Elann Moren, were startled awake before dawn in a frightening way: Rogers Sr.'s 28-year-old son, Christopher Erin Rogers Jr., stood over them with a machete. Even as his son hit him multiple times with the deadly blade, Rogers Sr. tried to fight back. When he finally collapsed, Rogers Jr. turned his attention to Moren, his father's fiance, and began to attack her. That's when Bear, the couple's 160-pound Mastiff mix, attacked the assailant and bit him, giving Moren a chance to escape to the bathroom where she was able to lock herself inside and call the police. His attack thwarted, Rogers Jr. fled the Palmer, Alaska house and allegedly continued his 26-hour rampage in nearby Anchorage. Sadly, Rogers Sr. died from his injuries. While Morenn suffered a dozen devastating slashes to her head, neck, and back, she survived in part because Bear, who suffered a split lip and a shattered tooth, slowed the attack and gave her a chance to escape the nightmare.

Working Dog Group

Pearl (Owner, Adrian McKee; Big Bear City, Calif.)

Pearl is a service dog who is trained to help her owner, Adrian McKee, with her mobility. The 70-pound boxer-great dane mix also alerts McKee to oncoming migraines and has developed a skill for "tasting" (licking) McKee's skin and notifying her when her potassium levels are low or are dropping. One day in their Big Bear City, California home, McKee fainted and collapsed from potassium loss and was barely conscious. Pearl used her nose to try to raise McKee's head. She also licked McKee's neck and tried to get her up again. When that failed, Pearl went to the phone, knocked the receiver off the hook and stepped on one of the large emergency buttons her owner had casually shown her. When there was no response, an ambulance and police car were dispatched to the home. When they arrived, Pearl opened the door as she had been trained, grabbed a ball in her mouth and ran to the gate. Because Pearl's appearance had frightened paramedics and police in the past, McKee trained Pearl to carry a ball in her mouth in an effort to ensure visitors that she was friendly. Paramedics followed Pearl back into the home to McKee and took her to the emergency room where she was treated for dangerously low potassium levels. Thanks to Pearl's quick thinking, help for her guardian came just in the nick of time.

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


Curt Giambruno

Age: 70

Family: Married 51 years to Judie, mother of five children – three girls, two boys – and five grandsons and one great-granddaughter.

Experience in government and community service: 1993 to 1994, started to volunteer for many different entities for and with the city: Chamber of Commerce, CRC, community cleanup projects, auto abatement, City Code Enforcement Department for nine years, Countywide Parks Advisory Board for six years, president of Vector Control Board for nine-plus years. Appointed to the Clearlake Planning Commission for a total of more than nine years, including four as chairman. Appointed to the City Council in 2006. In more than two years on the council, I have been councilmember, vice mayor and currently am mayor.

Endorsements: Supervisors Ed Robey and Jeff Smith; Mark Cooper, DDS, and Janice Cooper; Clearlake Planning Commission, Chairman Carl Webb, Vice Chair Al Bernal, and Commissioners Bill Perkins, Gina Fortino Dickson and Fred Gaul; Carol Webb; Pamela Bernal; Kathy Perkins; Ruth Gaul; Bob Keil; Terry Stewart; Doug and Arlene Cooper; Anna and Frank McAtee; Andy Peterson; Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees member Anita Gordon; Lower Lake High School Counselor Amy Osborn; Harriet Rogers; endorsed by many more citizens and community leaders.

1. Explain what you believe a city council member's responsibilities are. How would you fulfill these? What qualifications do you possess that make you a good candidate for office?

Responsibilities: Setting policy through legislation, reviewing and approving the annual budget, selecting a chief administrator, an attorney and a chief of police. Setting the mission and goals for the organization. Explaining and selling programs.

In order to get anything accomplished an elected official must be a good listener, learn to work together in defining and agreeing on mutual goals for the organization. One of the main things not to do is micromanage staff.

I am a good listener and am able to work cooperatively with enough other members of the group to be able to get things accomplished.

2. Explain how your management style would be applied to your position as council member. Are you hands-on or do you set policy and delegate?

My management style as applied to the role of an elected official is directly accountable to constituents. I feel I must constantly balance individual and group demands with the needs of the entire community.

I would prefer to set policy and delegate by adopting legislation making policy. Adjudicating issues and help to establish budgets.

3. Large developments are proposed for Clearlake and surrounding areas, particularly the Provinsalia development near Cache Creek, the Serenity Cove project on the lakeshore and increased commercial development along Highway 53. What is your opinion on these various projects? Are they good for Clearlake? Why or why not? Are there any other developments that you think are either good or bad for the city?

My general answer to this question is YES. Provinsalia development and the Serenity Cove project (this project is under way) have the potential of bringing to our community additional tourists and visitors. This will be economically viable for our city.

Retail center for the county along Highway 53: This retail hub would provide jobs for our citizens and revenues for our city. This project has the potential of bringing in a large sales tax base, which is sorely needed. The city needs to have this economic stability in order to provide for the public safety and other public needs for our city.

I am not award of any other developments on the drawing board, at this time.

4. For several years the Clearlake Police Department's budget has been augmented by the Measure P sales tax approved by voters. Do you support continuing to augment the police department budget? Are there different approaches that you, as a council member, would take when addressing the police department?

I absolutely support continuing with Measures P as part of the police department budget. Additional funding would be nice (additional sales taxes from retail developments) would help, add the necessary officers and at least two K-9 units to our force. The approach I would take as a council member with the police department is working closer with our chief and his reorganized department, which is doing a fine job in community policing.

5. The city's redevelopment plan has two years remaining in its implementation. Updating the plan is being proposed to extend it for another 10 years. Do you support extending redevelopment in Clearlake? Why or why not?

Yes I support the update of the redevelopment plan and extending it another 10 years. This will be good for the city and will add a number of millions of dollars in future years. In conjunction with this update we need to amend and update our general plan which will make the redevelopment plan more viable.

6. In September of 2007, the Clearlake Vision Task Force presented to the council a 60-page report that lays out a vision for the city, from improved infrastructure and public facilities to ways to build the economic base and create a sustainable city. What is your opinion on the value of the report? Do you think its ideas can be achieved? What would you as a council member do to carry the vision forward?

I am very pleased this task force was formed and the 60-page report came from those many meetings. I spent nine years on the Planning Commission asking for this type of document to be brought forward. I am most pleased it finally came to fruition. This vision was accepted by the council and assigned toht e Planning Commission to work with it and carry forward.

7. Some issues that come before the council can be extremely divisive, both among council members and city residents. How would you address clashing opinions when approaching a decision? What experience do you have in working with others when there are no easy answers but a decision has to be made?

In the past two-plus years on the council I have had a number of issues that have been very divisive among both council and residents. I have been involved in openly negotiating a compromise conclusion, which pleased all concerned. My experience in working with others comes from owning my own business for 30 years. I had to listen to others and to compromise.

8. If elected, is there any project or issue you plan to tackle first?

I have a number of items on my wish list – not in this order.

A. Form a Lakeshore Drive Parking District.

B. Continue to clean up Lakeshore Drive.

C. Try and make the senior center more economically viable. Solar – drop ceiling in main room.

D. Expand our economy and create jobs by working toward a retail center complex.

E. Construct a medium-size BMX bike track at Haverty Field.

F. Construct a small playground for little children at Redbud Park.

G. Economic development of Austin site.

H. Assist police department in getting the K-9 program up and running.

I. Continue working with the senior community addressing their issues.

9. Public safety is an important issue in Clearlake. How would you as a council member seek to improve safety and reduce crime in the city's neighborhoods?

I would refer to question No. 4 regarding the police department and Measure P, the new chief and his community policing policies.

10. When you think of Clearlake's future, what do you want the city to look like in 10, 20 and 30 years?

1. Having the lake more accessible to our citizens for their recreation and marinas for public use.

2. Revitalizing Lakeshore Drive.

3. Two good-sized resorts on the water – one possible a timeshare.

4. A pier extending out into the lake with a first-class restaurant and some small gift shops.

5. Transition from a small resort town to a world-class small city.

6. Through a policy of managed growth the city can expand its town center and its stock of housing while building parks and preserving open space.


Dwain Goforth, Camisha Knowlton, Linda Lake, Jane Weaver and Marybeth Alteneder took part in Saturday's Living History Day at the Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum. Courtesy photo.

LOWER LAKE – When history comes to life it becomes something relative; when history is revealed about your home it is something you can take with you.

Visiting the Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum offers a unique glimpse of what our home town was like years ago.

Saturday was the first Living History Day held at the museum. If you missed it, however, you may soon have another chance to experience this new event.

“We’d like to have one four times a year,” said Lake County Museum Curator Linda Lake said.

The turn out this Saturday was a good one, said Lake, with many people visiting the schoolhouse to investigate their town’s history.

The Museum is opened year round, Wednesday through Sunday, 11a.m. to 4p.m. In Lakeport you can also visit the Courthouse Museum. Their hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The museums offer an educational and inexpensive way to entertain yourself and your family.

Saturday offered a slide show of historic pictures, from men posing with their hunting dogs to horsedrawn wagons racing down a trail.

“People don’t get to see our historic pictures enough,” said Lake, that is why another slideshow is in the making as well.

On Saturday the Museum also had on display an authentic spinning wheel, a sewing machine and a player piano. Children’s games, such as marbles, also were played.

An exhibit at the museum reminds visitors that tough economic times aren't anything new. The exhibit explains that the average worker in the 1800s made about $16 a week. At the same time, an average week's supplies cost about $18.50, which is why children often were sent to work in order to help families make ends meet.

While you’re at the museum make sure that you look into purchasing a birds-eye view map of Lake County. These maps are part of the Museum Preservation Committee’s new fundraiser. These are the same people responsible for the new paint job of the building in August of 2007.

Lake said a museum volunteer digitally restored the map and it is now on sale for $35, not including a frame. This map was used to entice people in the 1800s to move to Lake County and buy real estate.




A historical map of Lake County that has been digitally restored and is available for sale at the museum's gift shop. Proceeds will go to the Museum Preservation Committee.



Saturday's event appeared to be a success.

“We had a lot of fun and were going to do it again,” said Assistant curator Dwain Goforth, dressed in authentic period costume.

Lake County is rich with history patiently waiting to be discovered. Visiting the museum will take you back into time and give you the opportunity to look into the past at the area's great history.

The Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum (16435 Morgan Valley Road, telephone 995-3565) is open year-round, Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In Lakeport, the Historic Courthouse Museum (255 N. Main St., telephone 263-4555) also is open all during the year, and welcomes guests from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.



An exhibit of historic farming implements graces one of the museum's walls. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Upcoming Calendar

07.18.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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