Saturday, 20 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Beginning Thursday and lasting and throughout the weekend, the weather is forecast to be close to average for Lake County, but the remnants of Tropical Storm Ignacio may bring partly cloudy skies and a chance for thunderstorms over the higher elevations.

High temperatures Thursday should top off near the average temperature of 91 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento (NWS). Lows are predicted to be near 52 degrees.

According to the Old Farmers' Almanac, the record high for this date was 113° in 1924, which the county will be well below. The record low of 40 degrees for this date was set in 1921.

NWS states that it will be partly cloudy later Thursday and Friday. Some Bay Area meterologists are predicting that Friday will be warm and muggy, due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Ignacio moving through the area, which a chance of higher-elevation thunderstorms.

Both Saturday and Sunday will in the normal range, with highs around 90 degrees and lows in the 60s, according to the NWS.

The Weather Channel's long-range forecast predicts that Lake County will cool off a bit throughout next week with highs topping off in the 80s.

For up-to-the-minute weather, visit the LakeCoNews homepage.

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

UKIAH – Mendocino County officials are reporting what they believe is that area's first death from the H1N1 influenza.

A 42-year-old Mendocino County man died Aug. 21 with probable H1N1 influenza, according to Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Marvin Trotter.

Trotter said confirmatory tests are pending from the State Public Health Laboratory.

This man – who had a history of longstanding medical issues – is the first person in Mendocino County suspected of dying with the H1N1 virus, said Trotter, who extended his agency's deepest sympathies to the family.

“While we have identified 12 laboratory confirmed cases in Mendocino County through testing, we are following current state and federal testing recommendations which are to test only those hospitalized patients and deaths,” Trotter said. “We want to emphasize that there are hundreds of H1N1 cases in the county. The vast majority of these cases have mild or moderate illness, and the patients recover without medical treatment.”

As of Aug. 18, there have been 115 H1N1-related deaths in California, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control are reporting 7,983 hospitalized cases and 522 reported deaths.

In Lake County, three cases have been confirmed but there have been no deaths, according to Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait.

Mendocino County has been hit harder, with 12 hospitalizations in addition to the death.

“Unfortunately, it is anticipated that there will be more deaths and severe influenza illness throughout the United States and California before this pandemic ends,” Trotter said.

Officials have noted seeing a lot of H1N1 flu activity this year during the summer, which usually is down time for the seasonal flu. Trotter is concerned about more people becoming ill as the fall and winter months approach.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that the H1N1 vaccine is scheduled to be allocated in mid October.

Prioritization guidelines will be issued by the CDC and the state as there may not be enough H1N1 vaccine for everyone. Mendocino and Lake counties are both developing vaccination plans to address the most vulnerable populations, based on CDC guidelines.

Officials urge people to take precautions to avoid getting sick: Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and dispose of the tissue after each use; wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, even after washing your hands; avoid close contact with sick people; stay home from work or school when you are sick and don’t return until you have been free from a fever for 24 hours without any fever reducing medicine; and get your season flu shot.

UPPER LAKE – An advocacy group said Monday that several arrests by the Drug Enforcement Administration that followed a federal raid in Upper Lake last week are believed to be the first involving medical marijuana since President Barack Obama took office.

Tom Carter and Brett Bassignani were arrested Aug. 18 on charges of conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, as Lake County News has reported.

An informant had allegedly made a purchase deal with Bassignani and referenced Carter in the transaction, but last week Carter's federal defense attorneys filed a document in which they challenged the charge, saying they were weak and should be dismissed.

Court document reveal there were additional arrests as well – those of Carter's neighbors, Scott Feil and Diana Feil, and Diana Feil's stepfather, Steven Swanson. The charges against the Feils and Swanson, however, are not elaborated in the documents that Lake County News was able to obtain Monday.

A US Attorney's Office spokesman could not be reached for comment on the case Monday.

Scott Feil was the former manager of the United Medical Caregivers Clinic medical cannabis dispensary in Los Angeles, and has been fighting a federal forfeiture case for several years, according to Dale Gieringer, PhD, coordinator for California NORML, a group dedicated to reforming marijuana laws.

Gieringer said the Upper Lake situation is significant because, although there have been about three or four other DEA raids involving that are alleged to be medical marijuana collectives, this is the first time arrests were made and federal charges filed since President Obama came into office in January.

Earlier this year, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would no longer prosecute marijuana offenses that are legal under state medical marijuana laws. Since then, the DEA has raided two or three dispensaries in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but without making any arrests, according to California NORML.

Gieringer said the 154 plants seized from Carter's property – which Carter's wife, Jamie Ceridono, said were covered by medical recommendations – is a small number and is in keeping with what would be found at a medical marijuana collective.

“It sounds like the key to this whole case is this informant who was setting something up,” said Gieringer.

California NORML, which has kept track of all federal marijuana arrests since they started, denounced the federal government for continuing to interfere in California's medical marijuana laws in the wake of the Upper Lake arrests.

The group reported that more than 100 medical marijuana defendants have been charged under federal law.

Gieringer called for concrete changes in federal law, and said the Obama administration so far hasn't announced any changes in federal laws or regulations.

Obama appointees haven't yet replaced Bush appointees – who Gieringer called “marijuana-hostile” – in the DEA and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Northern California.

The locals arrested last week were transported to the Bay Area. Feil is due for a detention hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in San Francisco. Carter's detention hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, and Ceridono said she and supporters plan to attend.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

COBB – A Wednesday morning crash claimed the life of a local man.

Frank Hartmann IV, 21, of Clearlake was pronounced dead at UC Davis Medical Center, where he was flown by REACH air ambulance after the crash, which occurred at approximately 6:50 a.m. Wednesday, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay.

Tanguay said Hartmann was driving a 1972 Harley Davidson motorcycle northbound on Harrington Flat Road south of Sulphur Creek Road.

Witnesses reported that Hartmann was traveling at a high rate of speed and passed two vehicles over painted solid double yellow lines, according to Tanguay.

As Hartmann entered a curve in the roadway, he lost control of the motorcycle, which Tanguay said struck a dirt embankment on the east side of the roadway.

The motorcycle returned to the roadway where it overturned, ejecting Hartmann from the motorcycle, Tanguay said. Hartmann landed approximately 100 feet from where the motorcycle overturned.

South County Fire responded to the collision scene and transported Hartmann to a landing zone where REACH then transported him to U.C. Davis Medical Center, where Hartmann was pronounced deceased, Tanguay said.

Neither drugs nor alcohol are considered to be factors in this collision, which Tanguay said is still under investigation by Officer Brian Engle.


Later in the evening it was reported that candles had been left in the roadway near the crash scene.




CLEARLAKE OAKS – Officials are estimating that Highway 20 will be closed until early Wednesday morning because of a crash that injured several people and left a big rig in a creek.

Several California Highway Patrol units were reported to be at the scene, where the crash occurred shortly before 3:30 p.m.

The crash occurred on Highway 20 at mile post marker 35, east of Clearlake Oaks, leaving the roadway closed down not long afterward, according to the CHP.

At 5:30 p.m., officials estimated that the highway will be closed for approximately eight hours.

Caltrans was closing Highway 20 at Highway 16 near Brooks in Colusa County and also was shutting down eastbound Highway 53. CHP units were being called to respond to turn traffic around at Highway 16.

The big rig, carrying pears, was said to be in Cache Creek, with Fish and Game and hazmat units called to the scene. Officials were discussing damming the creek to try to contain the spill.

County Environmental Health officers were on their way to the scene shortly before 6 p.m.

Two REACH air ambulances landed at the scene to transport several people injured in the head-on crash. Specifics about the number of injured were unavailable Tuesday afternoon.

More updates will be provided as information becomes available.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

NICE – A small fire that broke out at Robinson Rancheria Monday night was quickly contained.

The fire, which officials reported broke out near the rancheria's water tank, was dispatched shortly before 5 p.m. Northshore Fire officials turned the fire over to Cal fire about an hour later.

Fire Capt. Jeff Gahagan of Cal Fire said the fire was only a quarter-acre in size.

He said Cal Fire sent a five-engine wildfire response to the blaze.

By 7 p.m. mop up was completed and everyone was back in quarters, Gahagan said.

Gahagen said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

From left, Lakeport attorney Don Anderson says he'll challenge District Attorney Jon Hopkins in the 2010 election. Photo of Anderson by Elizabeth Larson; Hopkins photo courtesy of the Lake County District Attorney's Office.


LAKEPORT – Although the November 2010 election is more than a year away, the race for Lake County's district attorney post already is taking shape.

In an exclusive interview granted to Lake County News, Lakeport attorney Don Anderson this week announced that he'll challenge incumbent District Attorney Jon Hopkins in the 2010 election.

Hopkins, 63, also confirmed to Lake County News this week that he'll seek reelection next year.

“I'm going do it again in 2010,” said Hopkins, who was elected in 2006 after running unopposed.

Anderson, 57, who was a deputy sheriff for 15 years before getting into law 20 years ago, said of his reasons for running, “It's just disheartening to see what Lake County has been through over the last several years, especially recently.”

High profile cases like the trial of Bismarck Dinius have hurt the county's reputation, he said, noting that the Dinius case contributed to his decision to run. In fact, Anderson visited the courtroom many times during the trial to watch how it unfolded.

He added, however, that the problems that he sees in the District Attorney's Office “were there long before the Dinius case.”

Responding to Anderson's challenge, Hopkins said opponents in race bring in better community participation. “And that's always a good thing, I think,” he said.

However, Hopkins – who has 37 years of experience in the criminal justice system – is giving no quarter when it comes to how he runs his agency. While Anderson is criticizing Hopkins for how he handles his department, Hopkins replies with criticism of Anderson that focuses on lack of prosecutorial experience.

Anderson says he sees system from both sides

Anderson said he has support from law enforcement and his law colleagues in choosing to run.

He said his longterm girlfriend Jennifer McGee is all for his decision to seek the district attorney job. “She's been encouraging me to do this for some time,” he said.

Anderson also has the support of his four daughters, two stepsons and 11 grandchildren.

He's not new to campaigns, having run for sheriff in 1994 among a field of five. Anderson came in third in that race, which was won by Rod Mitchell. Next year, Mitchell also is facing a challenge from Francisco Rivero, who has announced his plans to seek the sheriff's post.

Anderson, who has lived in Lakeport since his family moved here when he was a junior in high school, also gained a place in local law enforcement history in 1981 when – following a shootout – he helped capture a couple who shot and killed another deputy sheriff, Richard Helbush.

Annika Ostberg Deasy, who was sentenced to prison in California, was returned to her native Sweden earlier this year, a decision made by federal and state authorities that had concerned both Hopkins and Anderson, as Lake County News reported.

As he's pursued a career in law, Anderson has focused on civil and family litigation as well as criminal defense cases.

One of the strongest attributes in his favor, according to Anderson, is that he's seen the system from both sides – both as a deputy and as an attorney.

As a former deputy, “I know what it's like on the street,” said Anderson.

As an attorney, he's worked on high-profile cases involving police officers, such as former Lakeport Police Officer Richard Erickson, who was acquitted of several charges including allegations that he had misappropriated government funds.

He also represented Shavon Vestal in her suit against the city of Clearlake and the Clearlake Police Department. Vestal's father, David Vestal, was shot to death in June of 2008 during a confrontation with Clearlake Police. Shavon Vestal had sought $32 million; the case recently settled, with the city's insurance carrier paying Vestal $125,200, while her young son received $25,100 and her boyfriend $15,100.

Anderson said he wants to bring back the integrity the office had under former district attorneys Robert Crone and Stephen Hedstrom, both of whom went on to be judges. When Crone and Hedstrom headed the agency, they made their charging decisions based on good reasons, said Anderson.

Currently the District Attorney's Office is charging cases that never should have been charged – and not charging cases that should be prosecuted, said Anderson.

The kinds of problems Anderson cites appeared in the Dinius case, during which the prosecution handing over 119 pages of discovery evidence on the morning the trial started. He said other defense attorneys have shared with him the same problem, which Anderson said illustrates an attitude of wanting to win a case no matter what.

Anderson said he would continue the District Attorney's Office's practice of pursuing grants to support its operations, but he cautions that putting too much emphasis on grants can mean that the money ends up dictating what gets charged.

Addressing questions about his experience, Anderson said he's done many trials and has a good win record.

“It's much harder to defend a case than to prosecute a case,” Anderson said.

In order to build a better relationship with the public, “First you have to change the whole philosophy of the department,” Anderson said.

That would include giving deputy district attorneys more power to resolve cases. Anderson said deputy district attorneys currently have little power to take such actions.

It's important for a district attorney to have confidence in his or her deputies, and Anderson said the District Attorney's Office has a lot of very good young prosecutors.

Hopkins emphasizes decades of experience

Hopkins said he knows the complexities of running a prosecutor's office, and has 24 years of prosecutorial management. His agency this year has a $3.8 million budget.

He said he's also worked as a public defender, and represented thousands of people in that capacity while working in Los Angeles.

“I have a lot of empathy and compassion for the people charged with crimes,” Hopkins said.

An Ohio native, Hopkins is a father of three and grandfather whose early career included seven years as a public defender in Los Angeles County before he moved to Santa Cruz in 1979.

There, he worked as an assistant district attorney and a chief deputy district attorney for seven years before taking the executive director's position with the California District Attorney's Association for a year.

In 1987 he returned to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office as a chief deputy. He was loaned out to the Lake County District Attorney's Office for a homicide case in 1998.

Later – after an unsuccessful application to take on that county's district attorney's job when it was vacated – he and wife, Annette, made the move to Lake County permanently, where he was the No. 2 man in District Attorney Gary Luck's office.

In 2006 he was elected district attorney.

Hopkins has taught for the National College of District Attorneys and the California District Attorneys Association, as well as the Hastings College of Criminal Advocacy.

“I feel like what I'm trying to accomplish here is basically take a farm team from the minors into the majors because of all the young people we've got, because we can't attract experienced people with the low wages that we pay,” he said.

Hopkins said he has a lot of experience with supplemental revenue in the form of grants, and experience with personnel issues in the prosecutor's office.

He also points to “heavy duty, major trial experience.”

An important skill is to be able to teach less-experienced prosecutors so they are ready to take on the cases that are important to the community, said Hopkins.

Lake County doesn't have a lot of violent offenders, but when they do appear, the District Attorney's Office needs to do a good job at prosecuting them, said Hopkins.

Earlier this week Hopkins told Lake County News that he doesn't intend to apply to succeed Judge Arthur Mann, who announced Monday that he's stepping down from his post in Lake County Superior Court's Department 3 effective Nov. 1. Hopkins said that's because he's happiest as a prosecutor.

While Hopkins brings heavyweight credentials and qualifications to his post, he's also prone to the weaknesses that can come with incumbency – including the baggage of unpopular prosecutions.

While he ran unopposed in 2006, the situation for the coming election early on promises to be much different.

Hopkins is at the lowest ebb of his political popularity since arriving in the county, due in no small part to the public outcry over the Dinius case.

He's been roundly criticized both locally and by sailboat enthusiasts around the world for prosecuting Dinius and not Russell Perdock, the off-duty sheriff's chief deputy whose powerboat was traveling at high speed in nighttime conditions when it hit the sailboat Dinius was piloting.

Hopkins said he couldn't convict Perdock based on the evidence available to him, and in an interview last week maintained his belief that the lights on the sailboat Dinius was piloting were off.

Some community members have stated an intention not to wait until next year's election, but to begin a recall petition on Hopkins immediately.

In 2007 he and Sheriff Rod Mitchell both refused to sign on to a countywide ethics policy for department heads, citing First Amendment concerns and the code's prohibition against becoming involved in supervisorial elections, as Lake County News has reported.

Hopkins also was the source of severe criticism for prosecuting San Franciscan Renato Hughes for two counts of homicide in connection with the December 2005 shooting deaths of his two friends, Christian Foster and Rashad Williams.

The three had allegedly broken into the home of Clearlake Park resident Shannon Edmonds, looking for marijuana. During the break-in 17-year-old Dale Lafferty, son of Edmond's then-girlfriend Lori Tyler, was beaten nearly to death and suffered permanent brain damage.

On the stand in the trial – which was moved to Contra Costa County due to pre-trial publicity – Edmonds testified that he shot at Foster and Williams in the back as they ran from his home.

The case came to be cast in racial terms, as Edmonds is white and the other men black. Despite Edmonds' admission to shooting Foster while he was down, Hopkins did not prosecute Edmonds. He did charge Hughes with murder under the provocative act, a law that's not often used but that allows a person involved in a crime that could yield a lethal response to be charged with murder for any deaths that result.

Leaders with the state's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People protested the prosecution on the steps of the courthouse in Lakeport.

Hopkins won burglary and assault with a firearm convictions on Hughes, who a jury acquitted of the murder charges.

He maintains that he can't base his department's course on public sentiment.

“There are a lot of aspects to this job that don't strike the eye,” he said. “You have to be able to make judgment calls without bending to outside influences.”

Those influence include local people of standing or – in the age of connectivity – people speaking out on blogs, he explained.

“You need to be able to make decisions without worrying about political implications,” said Hopkins. “That's a very tall order because people want to have things done their way.”

Hopkins added, “The minute you bend to that you've lost your independence, you've lost your objectivity, you've lost your professionalism.”

He said decisions have to be made based on an obligation to the county's residents.

“I'm very proud of the fact that I've actually gone to battle in those types of cases against the odds and sent dangerous people away, protecting the community,” Hopkins said.

What's next for the hopefuls

A 2010 election calendar issued by the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office notes that the petition for signatures in lieu of a filing fee must be filed between Jan. 4 and Feb. 25.

Declaration of candidacy and nomination papers will follow, between Feb. 16 and March 12, with the extension period for nomination papers lasting from March 13 to March 17 – in the case an eligible incumbent doesn't file.

Hopkins said he has many plans ahead as he seeks a second term. He said he has much more to do that requires another term to complete.

“I started out to achieve a lot here,” he said, adding that he wants to take that a lot further.

He said his goal is to build an office that has obvious leadership succession, which includes grooming not just a successor for others who have the training to take on difficult tasks.

“The DA can't do it all,” he said, noting there are many complicated aspects to leadership.

Anderson said his main focus now will be listening to the community.

“I really would like to get input back from the community,” about both problems and solutions, said Anderson.

Anderson can be contacted at his office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 707-263-1775. Hopkins' office can be reached at 707-263-2251 or through the Lake County District Attorney's Web page, .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

LAKEPORT – After 30 years on the bench, Judge Arthur H. Mann announced Monday that he is retiring.

Mann, 62, said his retirement as judge of Lake County Superior Court's Department 3 will become effective Nov. 1.

“Although I am retiring, I am not quitting,” Mann said in a statement released from his office Monday afternoon. “I anticipate that I will remain working as a retired judge until my successor is selected.

“I wish to thank all the other judges that I have had the pleasure of working with as well as all the Court employees,” Mann continued. “I will miss working with my fellow judges and court staff as much as I will miss being a judge.”

Mann began his judicial career on July 10, 1979, when he was appointed judge of the Kelseyville Justice Court.

Since then, he's been a justice court judge, a municipal court judge and a superior court judge. In that capacity, he's heard everything from minor cases to cases involving murder.

“Being a judge is the best possible profession that I can imagine, and I always looked forward to going to work each day,” he said.

Mann and the rest of Lake County's Superior Court judges have six-year terms, which aren't up for reelection until 2012, according to the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office.

That means Mann's retirement will create a vacancy that is up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to fill, said Philip Carrizosa, spokesman for the state's Administrative Office of the Courts in San Francisco.

“Generally, the governor's office has a list of people who have filed applications for a judgeship,” Carrizosa explained.

The Governor's Office sends those names over to the California State Bar's Commission for Judicial Nominees Evaluation, said Carrizosa. The commission sends out questionnaires to people who may know that candidates, and conducts candidate interviews.

The application process is the governor is very detailed, and Carrizosa said the Commission for Judicial Nominees Evaluation's work in identifying a suitable candidate is confidential.

The commission assigns ratings to candidates on a scale including extremely well qualified, well qualified, qualified and not qualified, Carrizosa said.

The commission's evaluation of the candidates then go to the governor's judicial appointment secretary, which assists in deciding the best candidate for the position, he said.

Generally, the governor will wait until a position is officially vacant – in this case, November – before beginning the selection process, said Carrizosa. He said he would expect the governor to appoint a new judge sometime in early 2010.

It can take some time to fill a judgeship. The last judicial vacancy in Lake County occurred in July 2004, when Judge Robert Crone decided to retire. It was the following July before Richard Martin was sworn in as his successor.

An official with the Governor's Office wasn't available late Monday to confirm if they've started to receive applications from candidates.

Superior Court judges currently make $178,789 annually. However, local judges have agreed to take a nearly 5-percent pay cut in response to the state's decision to close all courts on the third Wednesday of the month as a cost-saving measure, as Lake County News has reported.

There so far have been no local members of the justice system who have stated they'll seek Mann's post.

However, one who said he won't apply is District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

“I don't think I would be as happy doing that as I am being a prosecutor,” said Hopkins, 63, noting he wouldn't want to be tied to a courtroom.

Hopkins added that being a judge is “a tough job. There's a lot of work involved with it.”

Mann ended his statement by thanking the community “for giving me the opportunity to serve them and I thank them for their support of the judicial system. As a retired judge I hope to continue serving the public.”

He also wished his successor good luck, “and I know that whoever succeeds me will have a rewarding career.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

Tommy Castro performing at the Reno Tahoe Blues Festival in August 2009. Photo by T. Watts.

The CyberSoulMan was in the house at the fifth annual Reno Tahoe Blues Festival, held in Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno, Nev., on the weekend starting Aug. 14.

This year, the festival’s featured performers were Lil Dave Thompson, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Magic Slim & The Teardrops, Lady Bianca, Mel Waiters, The Emotions, Mem Shannon, Larry McCray, Tommy Castro, Shirley Brown and James Ingram.

When we arrived on Saturday the Mississippi-born Magic Slim was onstage. Slim cut his teeth on the Chicago Blues scene as a teenager with the legendary Magic Sam, who was his friend and mentor.

Magic Slim has cut more than 20 albums of his own and at 72 years of age is one of a dwindling number of elder statesmen of the blues. During Slim’s set, Saturday opening act, Ronnie Baker Brooks, sat attentively in the wings sopping up the blues vibrations emanating from Slim.

Up next was the Bay Area’s Lady Bianca. Bianca studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music after cutting her musical teeth in her dad’s church. The stylish Lady B crafted a creative set of rhythm & blues that included selections from her latest album, “A Woman Never Forgets.”

The uproarious “Ugly Man Song” – with its accompanying monologue – left the audience in stitches. Lady B informed me after the festival that they want her back next year, if possible, and intimated that the festival producers treated her like royalty.

The Gentleman of Southern Soul Mel Waiters and his revue had to bump it up a notch after Bianca’s riveting performance. Waiters, the consummate showman, came down into the audience and worked the crowd into a dancing frenzy through such numbers as “Hole In The Wall” and “Got My Whiskey.

The closing act for Saturday were the Emotions, the trio of female vocalists who had hits with “The Best Of My Love,” “Don’t Ask My Neighbor,” “So I Can Love You” and “Boogie Wonderland,” produced by Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire.

The Emotions are still a very talented group but their act was ill-suited to close for the blues festival crowd. Their style was more cabaret than blues festival. Perhaps they should’ve opened.

Sunday’s show was more balanced. Though I missed the opening act Mem Shannon, I did catch Larry McCray, Tommy Castro, Shirley Brown and James Ingram.

McCray offered a fine set of guitar blues and vocals. California favorite Tommy Castro’s high energy set of blues rock had the folks dancing. He strolled through the crowd playing cordlessly at the beginning and end of his set.

Southern Soul Belle Shirley Brown thoroughly entertained with her Aretha-esqe vocals and her bawdy brand of storytelling. You had to see it and hear it to believe it.

The great James Ingram closed the festival festivities Sunday night. His set was geared toward the ladies in the house, heavy on the love ballads. He also sang hits from his recorded repertoire that included his collaborations with Michael McDonald and Michael Jackson. His latest CD is his first inspirational effort and he also sang tracks from it. Unlike the prior nights closer, he held the crowd to the very end.

The food sold at the festival was varied and delicious. I tried a catfish platter that was fresh and tasty. The barbecued ribs were outstanding. I even tried the gator. It was great and didn’t taste like chicken!

And on the Lake County front … blues diva Bettie Mae Fikes, fresh from her endearing performance at the Blue Wing Blues Festival, is recording a live album in Lake County on Wednesday, Aug. 26. The album is set to be recorded on location at a “rightly energized space” that I will report on next week.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Frankie J. and Real Deal will be performing at Acoustic Café, 745 State St., Ukiah, outside under the parachutes. Wine, dine and enjoy! Saturday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m. Cost: $10. Advanced tickets available online at and at the Ukiah Music Center.

Tyrone Rivera and Tim Culp, Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe Sunday Brunch, Aug. 30. Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; music from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, .

Memphis Exchange with Randy McGowen, Blues Monday, Aug. 24, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, .

Open mike night, Thursday, Aug. 27, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, .

Lake Blues All-Stars with Neon, Blues Monday, Aug. 31, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, .

Con Funk Shun, Saturday, Sept. 5, 8 p.m. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Telephone 888-77-CACHE, .

Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings plus Gerald Mathis & Starlight at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 7. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone 707-275-2233, .

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

A fuel spill that resulted when a semi truck went into Cache Creek following a collision on Tuesday, August 25, 2009, resulted in a portion of Highway 20 being shut down for several hours. Photo by Georgia Hughes.



CLEARLAKE OAKS – A stretch of Highway 20 reopened just after midnight Wednesday after officials spent hours dealing with a hazmat issue that resulted from a crash.

The collision that triggered the closure occurred just before 3:30 p.m. Tuesday on Highway 20 at mile post marker 35, east of Clearlake Oaks.

The California Highway Patrol reported from the scene that an RV's hood had popped open while it was going down the highway, causing it to pull over. A tractor trailer carrying pears swerved, hit the RV from the rear and then also hit three other vehicles.

The Button Transportation semi went into Cache Creek as a result of the collision, coming to a rest on its side.

Several people were injured in the crash, with some of the victims suffering major injuries, according to the CHP. The truck driver was reported to be uninjured.

A short time after the crash Caltrans closed the highway between Highway 16 and Highway 53 as emergency medical personnel arrived.

Two REACH air ambulances transported two crash victims from the scene to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

With the truck in the creek, concerns about a fuel spill resulted in a call for hazardous materials cleanup. State Fish and Game and Lake County Environmental Health subsequently joined the effort.

About an hour after the crash officials were looking at putting a dike in Cache Creek to divert the spill. A request also reportedly was made to Yolo County to reduce the flow of water through the creek in an effort to contain the truck's fuel.

Two big rig tow truck were tasked with pulling the truck and its two trailers from the creek, an operation it completed shortly before 9:30 p.m.

With the truck out of the creek, Caltrans was able to finish roadway cleanup. Willits Tow is to repair approximately 100 feet of guard rail damaged by the wreck, the CHP reported.

The CHP noted that the highway reopened at approximately 12:07 a.m. Wednesday.

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SANTA ROSA – Amidst growing questions about her health, state Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) announced Monday that she will re-enter private life when her current term ends in November 2010.

Wiggins, who served as a Santa Rosa City Council member and then in the Assembly for six years before being elected to the Senate in 2006, said that rather than seeking re-election next year, she will look for other avenues for assisting people living on the North Coast.

Wiggins has had to overcome a variety of health-related issues during her years in office, including a hearing impairment that forced her to wear a headset during committee and floor debates.

“My commitment to fight for the people of the North Coast has not diminished a bit,” Wiggins said. “But, the physical demands of representing a district that stretches from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay, have become progressively more challenging for me.

“I am proud of my legislative accomplishments. I know I have made a difference with my votes and the measures I have carried for my district,” she said. “I am equally proud of the message I have been able to send to everyone who is physically-challenged.

“When I first considered running ran for the Assembly, some people discouraged me because of my hearing problem. But I was determined to set an example, both as a representative and as a person who refuses to let disabilities get in the way. A dozen years later I am pleased to say I believe I have succeeded on both fronts.

“However, it is also true that my years in office have taken their toll. I think it is now time to move on rather than going through one more campaign,” she said.

Wiggins said she has a lot of people to thank for their support and assistance during her time in the legislature. “This is not a one-person job. Our effectiveness can be traced to outstanding staff assistance and to the many people throughout the North Coast who have shared their time, talent and ideas.

“I look forward to working with all of them in other capacities after my term in office ends,” she said.

Among Wiggins' legislative accomplishments over the years, she founded the Smart Growth Caucus in the Legislature; prevented the coastline of the Hearst Ranch from being subdivided; enacted AB 857, said to be the most comprehensive state land use and infrastructure law in 30 years; provided $1 million dollars for Russian River restoration projects; worked to expand affordable housing opportunities; established the California School-to-Career Grant Program to help those students who don’t go directly to college; provided an assortment of laws to protect people from identity theft.

While in the Senate, she worked with the California Rural Caucus to acquire $22 million from the Federal Communications Commission for the California Telehealth Network to improve rural health care through the expansion of telemedicine technology; worked to protect open space; authored SB 562, which provided $5.3 million for coastal salmon and fishery restoration projects to preserve and improve their habitat; through SB 1690, protected the crab fishery by creating an industry task force to make recommendations to the Legislature on how to best regulate the crab industry to prevent fishery depletion like that of the salmon industry; and chaired the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Other legislative efforts made significant progress in cleaning up the more than eighty rusting WWII ships sitting in Suisun Bay and raised food standards – specifically, creating the first in the nation olive oil standards based on existing international standards.

Wiggins also urged Congress to pass the salmon relief bill to provide $60 million in relief for commercial salmon fishermen and the related industries due to the failure of the 2006 salmon fishing season, and succeeded in having the Joint Legislative Audit Committee direct the California State Auditor to inspect the Yountville Veterans Home, which led to findings that the home needed to make major improvements to its health care services as well as major improvements to its compliance with the American Disability Act requirements.

Visit Wiggins' Web site at .

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