Monday, 22 July 2024


JoAline Olson, president and CEO of St. Helena Hospital Clearlake and St. Helena Hospital in Napa County (left), is taking a new position with Adventist Health. She'll be succeeded by Terry Newmyer. Courtesy photos.



CLEARLAKE – A leadership transition is taking place at St. Helena Hospital Clearlake, as the current new president and chief executive officer leaves to take a new position and her successor prepares to come on board.

After nearly three years as the hospital's president and CEO, JoAline Olson is moving on to a new position. However, she is staying with the parent health care system, Adventist Health, as vice president of clinical innovation.

"We are pleased that JoAline has accepted this new position for the Adventist Health system," Scott Reiner, senior vice president of Adventist Health, said in a written statement. "Her past experience as both a patient care executive and president/CEO will bring a wealth of insight and expertise as we redesign the patient experience and leverage our Adventist heritage of health and wellness.”

Succeeding her in Clearlake will be Terry Newmyer, who also will lead the hospital's sister facilities, St. Helena Hospital in Napa County and the St. Helena Center for Behavioral Health in Vallejo.

Newmyer has held key roles at Florida Hospital in Orlando, the largest hospital in the country.

He led a $100 million campaign while serving as chief development officer of the hospital foundation and secured alliances worth over $90 million with companies such as Walt Disney World, GE, Philips and Nike as the hospital's senior vice president for business development.

"Terry is a very dedicated leader who has demonstrated a real passion for high-quality, mission-driven health care,” said Reiner. “He brings a diversified portfolio of experience in areas of growth and development.”

The leadership change takes effect in early February, according to Adventist Health.

Olson told Lake County News that Adventist Health timed the start time of her new job to coincide with Newmyer's hire.

As vice president of clinical innovation, Olson said she'll be based in St. Helena. "With my new position I can kind of work anywhere."

She said Adventist Health has asked her to work on completing new innovations at St. Helena Hospital that can be replicated at the Clearlake hospital and other Adventist Health facilities.

"Clearlake will always be part of the scope of what I'm looking at," she said.

Some of the innovations she'll work on include wellness and lifestyle programs currently being developed at the St. Helena Center for Health, and a high quality patient experience that focuses on individualized care.

That patient experience effort, Olson said, is one of the things Adventist Health is focusing on for the new emergency department being built in Clearlake.

She'll also oversee the new Martin O'Neil Cancer Center, and lead a systemwide effort to improve philanthropic efforts at all 18 Adventist Health hospitals.

Olson has been with St. Helena Hospital in several leadership roles for 20 years, with 11 of those spent as president and CEO. During her tenure St. Helena Hospital achieved status as one of the nation’s Top 100 Heart Hospitals and earned many awards for quality, patient and physician satisfaction.

She led the funding and construction of the first comprehensive cancer treatment center in the North Bay, which will open this fall on the St. Helena Hospital campus in Napa County and serve residents of Lake County and beyond, Adventist Health reported.

Olson was in charge of the effort to combine the leadership of St. Helena Hospital Clearlake with the Napa County hospital, which Adventist Health said was done in order to maximize resources and improve services and care for Lake County residents.

“It's the best of all worlds now because one can have some autonomy, which is always fun as a leader,” she said; at the same time, the two rural hospitals' leadership can contribute to strategy and take advantage of the larger organization's resources.

In Lake County in particular Olson oversaw a $10 million investment in facilities.

Among them is the new emergency department, set to double the size of the old one, with construction to begin in April; remodeling the hospital's surgery suites and front entrance; a new family health center in Kelseyville that opens in March; and building a multi-specialty medical office in Hidden Valley Lake.

She called the Hidden Valley Lake office “a wild success.” It now features a full-time internal medicine physician and is getting busier every day. Visiting specialists host clinics on a regular basis; they may see as many as 25 patients a day.

“Our goal has been to bring additional health care services to the Lake County communities, and we've succeeded in Hidden Valley, we've succeeded in Clearlake and now Kelseyville will have a brand new clinic,” said Olson.

Newmyer will bring new perspectives to the Napa and Lake County hospitals, said Olson. “One of our objectives is to have more horsepower here instead of less.”

She's confident of a good transition at the Clearlake campus, thanks to Linda Gibson, senior vice president of operations, who she said is very good at patient care and quality.

Olson admitted that there has been a lot of change at St. Helena Hospital Clearlake in the last few years, from name changes and construction to new faces.

Prior to her tenure, there were two interim CEOs who followed Kendall Fults at the hospital's helm. Fults left in 2006 and now works at another Adventist Health hospital, Central Valley General, where he is senior vice president of clinical operations.

Despite the county's economic troubles, health care is still hiring current positions but not adding many new ones, said Olson.

She said she just received a memo from the California Hospital Association, which noted that health care is seeing a definite impact due to the economy.

“The ability to borrow money has hit health care just like it's hit everywhere else,” said Olson.

That's caused some health care organizations to put capital projects on hold, which hasn't been the case for Adventist Health. Any projects current under way are continuing, but new ones aren't being approved.

If the economy worsens, the question will be how that affects people's use of the health care system, Olson explained.

She said they've already seen a small downturn in usage of the emergency department, as well as people waiting for elective surgeries. “It all ripples.”

Olson said she has enjoyed working with her staff, governing board and committees and witnessing their enthusiasm for health care.

“My greatest personal and professional satisfaction is really being able to see firsthand the care and the compassion and the commitment that the professionals have for the community of Clearlake and also for St. Helena Hospital Clearlake,” she said.

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


CLEARLAKE – A Lucerne man is behind held in the Lake County Jail on $100,000 bail after being arrested for lewd and lascivious acts with a juvenile.

Clearlake Police arrested Christopher Adam Sanders, 28, early Monday, according to a report from Lt. Mike Hermann.

Hermann said the Clearlake Police Department is continuing to investigate the incident that led to Sanders' arrest.

He said portions of the allegedly crime occurred within the city limits.

Hermann said additional incidents also were reported to have occurred within the county's jurisdiction. In order to avoid jurisdictional conflicts, it was determined that the Clearlake Police Department would lead the investigation.

No other information is being released on the case is being released at this time, Hermann said.

Sanders, whose booking sheet indicates he works as a plumber, remained in the Lake County Jail Monday night.

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


LAKEPORT – Last month a local organization voted to contribute funds to help offer health care and services to children during the state's budget crisis.

First 5 Lake County commissioners voted on Dec. 10 to contribute funds that will keep local children ages 0 to 5 from being placed on waiting lists for health coverage as the state's budget uncertainties continue.

This funding will pay health care premiums for new applicants to the Healthy Families program until the end of June.

“First 5 Lake is pleased to help expand health coverage access to more children in our county, particularly during this period of rising unemployment and economic instability,” said Tom Jordan, First 5 Lake’s executive director. “This important collaboration continues to make health coverage affordable and accessible to our most vulnerable children.”

First 5 Lake approved a contribution of $28,350.78, as part of a $16.7 million joint initiative between First 5 California and First 5 county commissions throughout the state.

The funds provide immediate relief for infants and young children who would have been denied health coverage because of the state’s budget crisis.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Lesley Cummings, director of the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which administers the Healthy Families program, have all expressed public support of First 5’s funding solution.

“With this plan, First 5 California and First 5 county commissions continue to advocate for the well-being of our state’s youngest children by providing immediate relief to those facing a lapse in health coverage,” said Kris Perry, executive director of First 5 California.

However, First 5 California itself may be in danger in the coming budget year, due to a proposal contained in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's preliminary 2009-10 budget that would eliminate the organization and shift $275 million in funding from the program to Department of Social Services “high priority” children's programs.

Research shows that a child’s brain develops most dramatically in the first five years and what parents and caregivers do during these years to support their child’s growth will have a meaningful impact throughout life.

Based on this research, California voters passed Proposition 10 in 1998, adding a 50 cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes to support programs for expectant parents and children ages 0 to 5.

First 5 is the largest and most stable funding source of health coverage for children up to age 5 in California. Last year, the agency spent more than $48 million on children’s health insurance.

First 5 Lake County distributes approximately $500,000 a year in Prop. 10 revenues to programs and services that meet local needs.

Schwarzenegger alone can't eliminate the First 5 Commission – that's up to the voters.

For those who don't agree with the proposal and want to give the governor their opinion, his office can be reached at telephone 916-445-2841, fax 916-558-3160 or e-mail him from his Web site at

For more information on available local children’s services and other First 5 Lake programs, call 263-6169.


UPPER LAKE – An Upper Lake teenager has been arrested on charges of rape and lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 following an alleged assault of a young girl over the holidays.

Austin Dion Duncan, 18, was arrested Tuesday, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Duncan is alleged to have raped a 13-year-old Lucerne girl at a rental motel room on Lucerne on New Year's Eve, Bauman said.

The young victim didn't report the incident until the night of Jan. 4, when she told her mother what had happened, said Bauman. When the mother found out, she took her daughter to Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

Sheriff's deputies responded to the hospital on the report of the alleged rape and molestation just after midnight on the morning of Jan. 5, Bauman said.

Bauman said the girl told the investigating deputy that she and some friends were at a motel room celebrating New Year's Eve when she allegedly was forced to have sex with Duncan.

The victim was subsequently released from the hospital later on Monday morning, said Bauman.

At the same time, sheriff’s detectives began locating and interviewing potential witnesses to the incident, he said.

Bauman said by early Tuesday afternoon, deputies had found Duncan at his residence in Upper Lake, where he was arrested without incident.

Duncan, whose booking sheet says he is a student, was booked at the Lake County Jail on felony charges of rape by force and lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age 14.

He remained in the jail Wednesday evening, according to jail booking information. Bauman said bail is set at $30,000.

Bauman said Duncan also is suspected of allegedly having unlawful sex with a 15-year-old Upper Lake girl in a case that was reported to the sheriff’s department in October.

That case, said Bauman, is currently under review by the District Attorney’s Office for a felony complaint.

On Dec. 2, Duncan was the subject of a nearly daylong search by local law enforcement and Search and Rescue near Upper Lake, as Lake County News has reported.

Sheriff's deputies had tried to contact him for a reason that officials have not revealed. That prompted Duncan to run across Highway 20 and into the Reclamation Road area. A family member suggested at the time that he had been upset over the death of a relative.

After evading deputies for several hours, he fell and hurt his back and called 911 for help. He was located in wild berry bushes and transported to the hospital. He was not arrested at that time.


NICE – The second of two rollover collisions on the Northshore Monday resulted in major injuries.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the rollover occurred at about 6:46 p.m. on E. Highway 20 just east of Sentry Market.

The driver, whose name was not released, was seen swerving just prior to the collision, according to the CHP incident logs.

The driver was reportedly transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital with major injuries.

No further information was available Monday evening.

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


LAKE COUNTY – The preliminary version of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year was released last week, suggesting tax hikes coupled with billions in cuts to programs that could hit hard here at home in Lake County.

The budget includes cuts for K-12 education, higher annual tuition for students in the state's university system, cuts in fire protection and law enforcement, and elimination of the California First 5 Commission, which would require voter approval.

In an effort to generate new revenue, the governor proposes raising car licensing fees, hiking the state sales tax for two years and taxing certain services such as veterinarian care for animals.

The plan already is facing opposition from legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle, who either oppose the tax hikes or the cuts.

Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill of Modesto applauded Schwarzenegger's early proposal.

"While Republicans have serious concerns about raising taxes during a recession, we appreciate that the governor’s proposal includes difficult, but necessary reductions to bring state spending closer in line with revenues,” he said.

Cogdill added that the state needs to focus on economic stimulus “instead of simply asking taxpayers to send more of their hard-earned money to Sacramento.” He accused the Democrats of blocking attempts at stimulus.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said in a prepared statement said she believes the governor's budget indicates he “may finally be coming around and realizing he needs to approve the responsible package of budget solutions the legislature passed Dec. 18.”

Bass said the Democrats' proposal includes $18 billion “in real cuts and new revenues,” plus $3 billion in new funds for transportation projects and $3 billion in expedited projects that have already been approved by voters. “That means we'd be creating 367,000 new jobs at a time California needs all the new jobs we can get.”

Filling in for the governor on his Saturday “California Report” radio address was state Finance Director Mike Genest.

As of Saturday it had been 59 days since Schwarzenegger called the state's legislators into an emergency special session on the budget crisis. “And still they have failed to take real and comprehensive action to close California's exploding deficit,” Genest said.

“Every second the legislature’s inaction continues, we spend another $470 more than we’re taking in,” said Genest. “Every minute, another $28,000. Every hour, $1.7 million. Every day, more than $40 million.”

Compromise is needed to meet the most challenging fiscal crisis the state has ever faced, said Genest.

If nothing is done, the deficit will reach $41.6 billion by the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year, at the same time as projected revenues only are $86 billion.

Schwarzenegger delivered his budget proposal on Dec. 31, 10 days ahead of the constitutional deadline. It includes $17 billion in cuts that will impact all areas of government, and $14 billion in new revenues to minimize the impact on vital programs such as education, said Genest.

Other proposals, according to Genest, include measures to increase the state government's efficiency, such as eliminating or consolidating dozens of government boards and commissions.

“Our situation is dire,” said Genest. “California runs out of cash in less than 70 days.”

Genest also referred to State Controller John Chiang's Dec. 30 warning that as of Feb. 1, the state will be forced to begin issuing IOUs in lieu of salaries and per diem payments to 1,700 legislators, state elected officers, judges and their appointed staff, and for tax refunds to businesses and individuals.

Those measures will be necessary, Chiang said in a letter to legislators, in order to ensure the state can meet its obligations to schools and repay external loans.

The proposed budget's new revenue sources include:

  • A temporary increase of the state's sales tax rate by 1.5 percent from March 1 through Dec. 31, 2011, which would reportedly raise $2.35 billion in 2008-09 and $7.114 billion in 2009-10, according to an analysis by the California Budget Project.

  • Broadening tax base to include appliance, furniture, and vehicle repair; veterinarian services; and amusement parks, sporting events and golf; that would raise an estimated $272 million in 2008-09 and $1.154 billion in 2009-10.

  • Impose a 9.9 percent oil severance tax effective Feb. 1 to generate an estimated $358 million in 2008-09 and $855 million in 2009-10.

  • Raise alcoholic beverage taxes by the equivalent of a nickel a drink effective Feb. 1, raising an

    estimated $244 million in 2008-09 and $585 million in 2009-10.

  • Reduce the dependent tax credit – the tax credit claimed for children and other dependents – to the same level as the personal credit beginning in the 2009 tax year, to raise $1.44 billion in 2009-10.

  • Increase vehicle registration fees by $12 per vehicle to raise $92 million in 2008-09 and $359 million in 2009-10.

  • Increase the fee charged for driver's licenses by $3 to raise an estimated $16.5 million in 2009-10.

The governor's general fund proposals document explains that the origins of the budget problem go back to 1999-2000, when state revenues increased by 23 percent thanks to the stock market and dot-com boom. “The surge in revenues resulted in massive and unsustainable new spending commitments,” the document notes.

When revenues declined, spending didn't, and one-time measures such as borrowing took place, giving birth to the structural deficit. When growth surged in 2005-06, those revenues were needed to pay back loans and backfill for the loss of temporary cost-saving steps, according to the governor's analysis.

The California Budget Project's analysis notes that the massive budget shortfall facing California now “largely reflects the impact of the downturn in the economy on state revenue collections.”

The situation is made worse, according the California Budget Project, due to the elimination of $500 million in previously anticipated 2009-10 revenues from the sale of the EdFund; a $123 million reduction in 2008-09 tribal gaming revenues and a $192 million reduction in 2009-10 due to the

failure of one tribe to ratify a gaming compact with the state and lower levels of gaming activities due to the economic downturn; and projected reductions of $252 million in 2008-09 and $272 million in 2009-10 in royalty receipts from oil and gas production due to declining oil prices.

The analysis also notes, “California's economy weakened in 'in step' with the US economy in 2008.”

How it would impact Lake County

Specific cuts in education, social services and law enforcement could hit hard here in Lake County.

One of the biggest cuts would be the elimination of the California First 5 Commission, which was formed to bring education, health, child care and other important programs to children from birth to age 5 and their families.

The commission's programs are supported by a 50-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes imposed by Proposition 10 in 1998.

First 5 Lake County reports that Lake County ranks in the bottom 10 percent of state counties for standards of child health and wellness. Annual funding for the local agency averages $775,000.

Dissolving the commission and redirecting its funds would require voter approval. Its elimination would result in general fund savings of $275 million in 2009-10, with all state funds and 50 percent of county First 5 funds to support children's programs overseen by the Department of Social Services.

Another significant cut would be $500,000 annually from Sheriff Rod Mitchell's budget. Lake County receives those funds through the Small/Rural Sheriffs Grant program, which Schwarzenegger proposes to cut in order to save $18.5 million. The funds have been on the chopping block repeatedly in recent years after a caucus of rural legislators had the grants reestablished.

Counties also would see reductions in revenues due to lost Williamson Act contracts, which allow agricultural landowners to pay lower property taxes if they agree not to develop their land. Local governments would see a reduction of $34.7 million for both 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Seniors and the disabled will be challenged by some of the budget's proposals. Property tax assistance for seniors and blind or disabled Californians available through the Senior Citizen's Property Tax Deferral program, would be reduced for savings of $32 million beginning Feb. 1.

Local transportation efforts, such as Lake Transit, could face the elimination of grant money based on gas tax revenue, which would be shifted to other transportation costs.

Education for K-12 would take more hits. Last month, county superintendents of schools reported that Lake County schools saw more than $3.8 million in cuts when the state budget was passed in September. Those cuts led to 21 teaching positions being eliminated, as well as dozens of other jobs including instructional aids, office support, counselors and administrators.

It's not all bad news. Among other things, the governor also is proposing increases in certain areas, such as $3 million to fund 14.2 additional game warden positions for Fish and Game. Programs such as the Department of Health Care Services, Department of Social Services, Department of Developmental Services and Department of Mental Health would see increases totaling $2.4 billion.

Special fund support also is being proposed for a $34.9 million increase to support 240 new California Highway Patrol positions and $11.9 million for a new CHP dispatch system, which handles 911 calls.

Schwarzenegger proposes using vehicle license revenues to pay for law enforcement programs like the Citizens Option for Public Safety (COPS) and Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act programs, local juvenile probation activities and booking fee payments. The county and two cities currently receive about $100,000 each from the COPS grants.

That vehicle license fee funding, which would be shifted toward those law enforcement purposes and away from the Department of Motor Vehicles, would be replaced by a $12 per car hike in the vehicle license fee, which would generate an estimated $92 million in 2008-09 and $359 million in 2009-10.

Certain other law enforcement grants, such as Vertical Prosecution Block Grants, Rural Crime Prevention, California Multi-jurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Teams, the High Technology Theft Apprehension Program, Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Teams and various other

programs would be eliminated.

Here are rundowns of some of the other projected changes in specific areas outlined by the California Budget Project and the governor's budget documents.

In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program

The governor proposes to cap the state's contribution toward the wages of IHSS workers at the state's minimum wage, which is currently $8 per hour. Locally, there are about 1,400 IHSS workers.

The budget also would require IHSS recipients who have less severe impairments to begin paying their own Medi-Cal "share-of-cost."

In addition, the proposals would eliminate domestic and related services for IHSS recipients who have less severe impairments.

Fire suppression

A summary of the major expenditure changes from the state's general fund includes a $248 million decrease for Cal Fire's emergency fire suppression expenditures.

Such emergency expenditures assisted in fighting the 14,500-acre Walker Fire, which was caused by a vehicle in June. That fire cost $3.2 million to suppress, according to Cal Fire's final numbers.

The summer lightning fires and fall fires in Southern California have resulted in Cal Fire's emergency fire costs rising to $437 million in fiscal year 2008-09.

The 2009-10 budget would propose $189 million, “which reflects the historical average of firefighting costs over the past five years and additional federal reimbursements.”

Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) Program

SSI/SSP grants would be reduced to the minimum level required by federal law and the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) would be eliminated, for combined savings of $200.1 million in 2008-09 and $1.247 billion in 2009-10.

CAPI provides state-funded cash assistance to approximately 10,000 elderly and/or disabled legal immigrants who are not eligible for SSI/SSP payments due to their immigration status, according to the California Budget Project.

The June 2010 state cost of living increase for SSI/SSP grants also would be eliminated, for savings of $27 million in 2009-10 and annual savings of $323.9 million beginning in 2010-11.

Health and Human Services

County administration of the Medi-Cal Program would see the statutory cost of living increase suspended, resulting in a $24.7 million decrease.

There also would be a $50.8 million decrease in 2008-09 and a $668.7 million decrease in 2009-10 through Medi-Cal Program eligibility and benefit changes.

Schwarzenegger proposes eliminating the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) beginning on July 1, for savings of $37.8 million in 2009-10. The program provides food assistance to certain legal noncitizens who are ineligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly the Food Stamp Program – solely due to their immigration status.

The budget also would cut funding for Regional Centers, which coordinate services for people with developmental disabilities, by $334 million in 2009-10 through unspecified program reductions. The governor is proposing to reduce funds to those centers' operations and services by 3 percent beginning on Feb. 1 for savings of $24.6 million in 2008-09 and $60.2 million in 2009-10.

K-12 Education

The state would defer $2.6 billion of school district revenue limit and K-3 Class Size Reduction program payments from April to July, reduce revenue limit funding for school districts and county offices of education by $1.6 billion, reduce funding for a number of K-12 educational programs by $55.5 million and eliminate cost-of-living adjustments for K-12 education programs, a reduction of $2.5 billion.

There would be reductions in revenue limit funding for school districts and county offices of education by $1.5 billion and for K-12 education programs by $1.1 billion by allowing districts to shorten the school year by five days.

At the same time, the governor proposes to increase funding to school districts and county offices of education by $268.2 million to backfill projected reductions in property tax collections.

A projected decline in enrollment would lead to reduced general purpose funds for school districts and county offices of education by $152.7 million. The budget also would eliminate funding for the High Priority Schools Grant Program, a reduction of $114.2 million.

All education mandates – with the exception of mandated costs related to the California High School Exit Exam and interdistrict and intradistrict transfers – would be suspended.

The governor also proposes to provide "schools complete and permanent flexibility with respect to categorical funding," authorizing the transfer of funding for categorical programs, such as class size reduction and instructional materials, to a district's or county office of education's general fund.

Community colleges and higher education

Community colleges would see a $322.9 million reduction through the elimination of a 5.02 percent statutory cost of living adjustment for California Community College programs. The state also would defer $230 million of community college apportionments from January and February to July so that this amount counts toward the 2009-10 Proposition 98 guarantee, rather than the 2008-09 guarantee.

The governor would increase funding by $185.4 million to reflect a 3-percent growth in apportionments and categorical programs, and authorize community colleges to transfer any categorical funds to their general fund following a public hearing.

University students would see higher tuition, with a 9.3-percent fee increase in the University of California (UC) system, 10 percent in the California State University (CSU) system and 13 percent at Hastings College of Law. Those increases would generate a total of $300.7 million.

Systemwide undergraduate fees in the UC system would rise from $7,126 to $7,788 and in the CSU system fees would rise from $3,048 to $3,354.

The three systems would see a combined $132.1 million in unallocated reductions, and funding for enrollment growth and operating cost increases that would be required pursuant to the Higher Education Compact would be eliminated to the tune of nearly $430 million.

The governor proposes to increase funding for CSU by $3.6 million and for UC by $1.1 million to provide support for nursing enrollments.


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


WASHINGTON – On the first day in the 111th Congress, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced a bill that would permanently prohibit oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.

The Northern California Ocean and Coastal Protection Act provides protection to the unique and productive marine environment along Northern California’s outer continental shelf (OCS).

“For the economic and biological health of our country, it’s critical that we permanently protect this unique area from the environmental hazards of off-shore drilling,” said Congressman Thompson. “Unfortunately in the last Congress drilling became a political drama, rather than a policy debate. My legislation is one aspect of a broader campaign to restore sensible, science based policy and ensure the health of our oceans for generations.”

During the last Congress, the ban on OCS drilling expired, which leaves the North Coast susceptible to drilling in as little as three years.

The moratorium on OCS drilling had been a bipartisan agreement in Congress since 1982, but came under regular attack, and was not renewed in 2008.

In order to make sure that the North Coast of California is permanently protected, Congressman Thompson introduced his legislation today.

“Our coastline is home to one of the four most important upwellings in the world, which together support 20 percent of the ocean’s fish,” Thompson said. “Drilling on the North Coast doesn’t make sense, either from an economic standpoint or an environmental perspective. By permanently banning drilling, we can provide our coast with the protection it needs, regardless of who is in charge in Washington.”

Upwelling regions are coastal areas that support extremely abundant and productive marine life. This is because an upwelling brings cold, nutrient-rich waters up from the ocean depths that, when combined with sunlight, enhance seaweed and phytoplankton growth.

The seaweed and phytoplankton provide energy for some of the most productive ecosystems in the world, including many of the world’s most important fisheries, such as the North Coast fisheries.

Drilling for gas and oil off the Northern Coast of California could cause serious harm to the unique and productive ecosystem and abundant marine life found off the coast, including the fish many local North Coast economies depend on.


LUCERNE – A Lucerne woman sustained minor injuries in a vehicle rollover that occurred Monday.

Erica Soto, 41, was traveling westbound on Highway 20 west of Harvey in Lucerne shortly after 3:30 p.m. when she failed to negotiate a right curve in the road and traveled off the west edge, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.

Soto's green 2000 Dodge Caravan rolled over and came to rest on its wheels along the lakeshore, Garcia said.

Initial reports indicated that the vehicle went into the lake but that was not the case when CHP arrived on scene, Garcia noted.

Soto was transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital with minor injuries, Garcia said.

Garcia said CHP currently believes that Soto was under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of the collision and that substance is to be determined by the investigating officer.


T Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.

For those of you who don’t know, jazz trumpeter Eddie Gale is a property owner in Lake County. He also has an interesting take on Obama as president. I called him on New Year's Eve to wish him cheers for 2009.

If you are not familiar with Eddie Gale, here are some of his qualifications:

  • He is listed in the comprehensive academic music reference volume entitled, “The Trumpet Kings: The Players who Shaped the Sound of Jazz Trumpet.” Written by Scott Yanow, this book unveils the personal and musical lives of 479 brilliant jazz trumpeters, past and present.

  • You can hear the work of Eddie Gale on recordings by Sun Ra, Larry Young and Cecil Taylor. His muted trumpet work with Cecil Taylor is included in the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. Gale also has performed live with such luminaries as John Coltrane, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison.

Before his usual conversation ending salutation of “Inner Peace To You,” he shared with me his interesting take on the inauguration of Barack Obama.

A deeply spiritual man, Eddie Gale feels the election has more to do with the highest force in the universe calling on us as human beings to finally begin to work toward a world of true peace and understanding without regard to race.

“The change that the election brings should mean the end of us thinking about each other in strictly racial terms,” he said. “It could be the end of red, white, black, brown, yellow men and women. Just an American man and woman. It is a greater America for the world. We are hearkening to the pull of the spirit.”

To view and hear Eddie Gale’s ninety second video that I’ve just quoted from go to this link:

Unfortunately, many of us are yet hung up on the so-called racial ramifications of the installation of the first African American president. I say this despite the historical rumors that there was another before him! (For now, you'll have to research that yourself!)

* * * * *

A couple of strange rumors from pretty reliable sources floated past me recently.

A friend of mine went church shopping in Lake County recently and, at one church, the pastor prophesied to his flock that if Obama won the election it was a sure sign that the end times were upon us.

Another person reported that at a drunken Republican gathering on election night those in attendance were calling President-Elect Obama “The Antichrist.” The margin of error in public opinion is frequently shaped by folks who have no idea of what they are talking about ...

* * * * *

We lost the great songstress/actress/dancer and diva Eartha Kitt recently.

Immediately, I recalled a film I saw as a teenager entitled “Anna Lucasta” that co-starred her with Sammy Davis, Jr. It was a great film. I think I was a legal adult before I realized that the Eartha version was a remake of the original version which starred Joann Woodward.

After Ms. Kitt died, I ordered the DVD of the Eartha/Sammy version to view with my elderly mother. When I received it, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to drive 100 miles to take it to my Mom. I had to see it quickly.

The story line wasn’t quite like I remembered it and it would probably be categorized as a B movie in terms of what Hollywood spent on the production in 1958. But the performances by Kitt and Davis are brilliant. I highly recommend it.

* * * * *

“Cadillac Records” came to Lake County for an all-too-brief run in early December. It was billed as the story of Chess Records, but really portrayed primarily an interpretation of the Muddy Waters/Leonard Chess business arrangement.

Though not always historically accurate, the film featured fine performances by Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, Columbus Short as the tragic genius Little Walter, Mos Def as Chuck Berry, Eammon Walker as Howlin’ Wolf, Adrian Brody as Leonard Chess and Beyonce Knowles as Etta James. This film is good entertainment. The real story of Chess Records is way too large to be confined to a two-hour movie.

* * * * *

Finally, the Village Voice fired the great Jazz Critic Nat Hentoff recently.

The face of the world of publishing is changing as well as the political climate. We are conscious of it here in Lake County as well.

This column will attempt to articulate certain truths that historically haven’t been covered in Lake County and the world.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at


LAKE COUNTY – When it came to major crime incidents over the holidays, the bad guys appeared to have taken some time off with a few notable exceptions in Lakeport.

Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke, whose agency reopened its public office hours on Monday following a two-week city furlough, said there were two burglaries of note in the city in late December – one at the Blockbuster video store and the second at the now-closed Carlos and Vinny's restaurant.

Blockbuster, located on Lakeport Boulevard, was the victim of a “smash and grab” early on the morning of Dec. 20, Burke said.

The perpetrators smashed in the business' front window on the northeast side of the building and took two Playstations. Burke said police were dispatched to the area at about 5:30 a.m. Dec. 20 when the break-in triggered the alarm.

About a week and a half later, at some time on the night of Dec. 29 or early on the morning of Dec. 30, a break-in occurred at Carlos and Vinny's restaurant on S. Main Street, Burke said.

He said the suspects, who aren't known at this time, smashed a window on the north side of the business, which has been closed since late November.

The building's property manager reported that most of the business' contents were there but believed alcohol had been stolen, said Burke.

“At this point we haven't confirmed exactly what was taken,” he said.

Besides those two notable exceptions, there were a few cases of vandalism and driving under the influence during the holiday period, which Burke said weren't out of the ordinary for Lakeport.

For the most part, the rest of the county was quiet for the Christmas and New Year's season.

Lt. Mike Hermann of Clearlake Police called the holidays “pretty uneventful.”

“We had a few minors arrests, just two DUIs, but nothing out of the ordinary,” he said.

The same appeared to be the case for the county at large.

“Fortunately, it appears to have been a slow holiday,” said Capt. Jim Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

No DUI arrests outside of Clearlake or Lakeport were reported in the jail logs during the California Highway Patrol's maximum enforcement period from Dec. 31 through Sunday, although there had been three arrests during its increased enforcement period around Christmas.

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


THE GEYSERS – A powerful earthquake centered near The Geysers shook not just communities on Cobb but startled residents in other parts of the county and even in other states.

The 4.2-magnitude earthquake was recorded at approximately 9:27 a.m. Sunday, according to the US Geological Survey, which originally had rated the quake as 4.4 in magnitude.

The US Geological Survey report listed the epicenter as two miles east southeast of The Geysers, four miles southwest of Cobb and four miles west of Anderson Springs, at a depth of 2.7 miles.

At 9:32 p.m., it was followed by a 2.0-magnitude centered quake two miles east of The Geysers and four miles southwest of Cobb, at a depth of two-tenths of a mile, according to the US Geological Survey. Five more small quakes measuring between 1.0 and 1.9 on the Richter scale were reported in the following half-hour.

Altogether, 23 quakes occurred Sunday in and around The Geysers, Anderson Springs and Cobb, including the big quake and six smaller ones that happened before it, US Geological Survey records show.

Residents of Cobb, Kelseyville and Hidden Valley Lake told Lake County News that they felt the quake.

It was described as having a rolling-type movement. No one reported damage although one person said she was nearly knocked out of her chair while sitting at the computer.

Cobb resident Roger Kinney initially reported that the quake lasted about 10 seconds, with it coming on quickly, followed by violent shaking before it dissipated and was followed by a second shockwave five seconds later. He said it's the largest quake he's felt since moving to the area two and a half years ago.

The US Geological Survey received reports from people from around Lake County who felt the quake – including Middletown, Hidden Valley, Lakeport, Spring Valley, Clearlake and Cobb. Numerous residents of Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Napa and San Francisco also reported feeling it.

There were even reports from as far away as South Lake Tahoe, Vacaville and Las Vegas.

The last earthquake measuring 3.0 or above occurred on Dec. 30, three miles east of The Geysers at a depth of 1.1 miles. It measured 3.0 on the Richter scale, as Lake County News has reported.

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




Happy New Year!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for reading my column over this past year. And thanks for letting me know that you enjoy them.

I’ve had so many people come up to me and tell me that they got a kick out of one of my jokes or that they learned something new from one of my articles, and it’s been very gratifying. Thank you.

I’ve had some requests for this upcoming year’s Foodie Freak columns. One request is that I write more about wine and Lake County wineries; another is to cover more food/wine events around the county.

Despite what I’ve got my daughter believing I am not actually omniscient, so I need your help to know what events are going on around the county. But please, keep quiet about the not being omniscient thing to my daughter.

Do you have some food news you would like me to cover for Lake County News? Are you opening a new restaurant, or changing cuisines in your current one? Are you holding a food/wine related event and want me to tell people about it ahead of time, or review it after the fact? Give me the particulars, the whens and wheres, and I’ll do what I can to get the news out there.

And even on a personal level – do you need a caterer for your event and don’t know who to call? Are you looking for a personal or restaurant chef and want help in finding one? Let me help you get connected to the right people. I have the resources and associations not only to help you with your personal requests, but to cover the news you want to know more about.

What can the Foodie Freak do for you in 2009?

E-mail me your information at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will be sure to let the county know what your event is. With your help, I’ll be able to maintain that omniscient thing around my daughter.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


Upcoming Calendar

07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.