Sunday, 14 July 2024




Cactus Grill: 3900 Bayliss Ave., Clearlake, telephone 707-994-0905.


People keep telling me “Ross, you have to go to the Cactus Grill, they have the best food!” So when I was out and about recently my wife suggested we eat there.


Having been a SCUBA instructor for 10 years I’m well acquainted with good Mexican food since I’ve spent a lot of time diving down there. Your average American thinks Taco Bell is a fair representative of Mexican food but they couldn’t be more incorrect; that’s like saying McDonald's is New California cuisine.


The Cactus Grill is small, able to seat only about 30 people, but it’s quaintly decked out in the Americanized version of Mexican décor. The large cheerfully painted geckos hung on the wall add a whimsical touch. There are tables and chairs outdoors to accommodate more people.


When you sit down at the table they give you a bowl of tortilla chips, and I looked at my wife and asked “No salsa?” She responded with, “There is a salsa bar over there,” and pointed to the other side of the room. This made me wonder, “How does my wife know so much about this place?”


At the salsa bar there are several different types available such as fresca, cucumber, habañero and a couple of others. I’m a big fan of tomatillos so I went for the salsa verde, but the roasted salsa was also really good.


My penchant for flirting with pretty waitresses was thwarted when our server, a big guy named Ralph, came to our table. You could see Ralph was taken aback when he asked for my order and I responded with, “I want whatever you recommend.”


He asked me what I like and I told him I prefer seafood but I’ll eat anything. He recommended the paella burrito. Full of fish, shrimp, linguica, rice, and drizzled with a chipotle cream sauce, it was a good and filling meal. I actually had so much left over that I had to take it home. OK, I’ll admit I may have eaten too many tortilla chips and salsa.


My wife ordered the tostada, which showed up looking more like a salad in a fried tortilla bowl. She asked for it with chicken, which is charbroiled and lightly seasoned. The tostada also included black beans, tomatoes, cheese, and generous dollops of salsa, sour cream and guacamole.


My wife said she really liked the flavor of the charbroiled chicken because it was simple and authentic, not overly seasoned with “Mexican spices.” Now this may come as a surprise to some of you, but Mexicans don’t actually put chile powder in all their food. That’s more of a “Tex-Mex” principle.


Ralph was so poised and charming that my wife thought he might be the owner of the place. Her comment, “He has the air of propriety,” got me wondering again: “Why does my wife know so much about this place?”


We ordered some sodas to go with our meal and they were served in large, one-liter-sized cups so you definitely get your money’s worth with the drinks.


My wife’s Italian heritage keeps her loving Italian food but she was born in New Mexico and so she also loves all things southwestern. If you want that translated into its most basic form it means you can put black beans on a bowl of ramen noodles and she’ll like it more.


Her birthplace has given her problems when traveling. Not exaggerating at all here, swear to god, U.S. Customs officials have actually asked her, “If you were born in New Mexico, why do you have and American passport?”


I compound the problem by teasing her about it, saying she’s one of those immigrants stealing American jobs. I’m very lucky that she’s a beautiful woman but I have to wonder if she married me just to get a green card.


The menu is quite varied, and has a lot of seafood offerings on it, more than the usual restaurant of this kind. Prices are reasonable and the portions are generous. We were both so full when we left that we had to pass on ordering a dessert. My wife looked longingly at the flan on the menu, and said, “We’ll have to come back again to try it.”


She wants to go back? Is it really the dessert she wants? Or is it something else? I have to wonder …


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.


LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Superior Court is seeking at least 30 applicants willing to serve as jurors and alternates on the 2009-10 Lake County Grand Jury panel. The 19-person grand jury is selected from the different supervisorial districts in proportion to the population of each district.

The Grand Jury serves as the public’s “watchdog” by investigating and reporting upon the affairs of local government. The term of service runs from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, and may entail from 10 to 20 hours of work per week attending committee and general meetings, responding to citizens’ complaints, performing research, and investigating the operations of governmental agencies and allegations of wrongdoing by public officials or employees.

The court is looking for applicants in good health who are interested in community affairs, are objective, and are able to work cooperatively with others. Experience in researching, interviewing, writing and editing, and/or auditing is desirable and having a general knowledge of the responsibilities and functions of governmental and other public entities is helpful.

A Grand Juror must be a U.S. citizen, age 18 or older, speak English, be a resident of California and Lake County for at least one year prior to selection, and not hold an elected office or have any felony convictions.

Applications may be obtained by mailing a letter with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Grand Jury Coordinator, 255 N. Forbes, 4th Floor, Lakeport, CA 95453. Applications are also available at each Superior Court Clerk’s Office; located at 255 N. Forbes, 4th Floor, in Lakeport, or at 7000 A South Center Drive, in Clearlake.

Further information may be obtained by calling the Grand Jury Coordinator at 263-2282. Applications must be received by May 30. Personal interviews will be scheduled prior to final selection.

If you are interested, please apply. If you are not interested, but know someone who may be, please let them know of this opportunity.

Firefighters work on the fire scene to make sure all of the hot spots are out. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



KELSEYVILLE – A small barn and a workshop and all of its contents were destroyed in an early evening fire Monday.

The fire occurred at the Oakie Slopes Vineyard, located five miles west of Highway 29 on Kelsey Creek Drive.

A column of smoke rose high in the evening sky visible from Lakeport as fire personnel from Kelseyville Fire Protection District and Cal Fire ascended the moderately steep hillside scene.

Early radio reports indicated that the barn, a workshop and a pickup camper unit were fully engulfed just before 6 p.m. as fire units arrived.

Vineyard owner Edward Tollefson had been called to the location a short time after leaving for a trip to Santa Rosa. He explained that one of his longtime employees had been working in the shop repairing power equipment.

The unidentified worker was transferring gasoline to a riding mower when, for a not yet specified reason, the fuel caught fire.

The fire spread quickly throughout the wood-framed structures. At least one other gasoline container exploded, spreading the fire to a pickup truck-type camper stored behind the two small buildings.

Tollefson told Lake County News that along with three cords of firewood he lost several motorized farm vehicles and dozens of power tools related to farm and vineyard maintenance.

No persons were injured and medical personnel were not called to the scene. Water to fight the blaze was provided by tanker trucks.

The nearly one dozen fire personnel were cleared and released from the scene at 7:35 p.m.

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




The barn, a workshop and a vehicle were fully engulfed before firefighters arrived on scene on Monday, April 20, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The fire occurred at the Oakie Slopes Vineyard in Kelseyville on Monday, April 20, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.



I’ve always found it a drag to hear an artist whose recorded output sounds better than a live performance. I’ve seen some pretty major artists whose live shows left a lot to be desired. This goes back to the early concert going days of my youth when the critical standard of measure that we used was, “Yeah, but did she or he sound like the record?”

The record of course, was what spurred us to the concert in the first place.

Since I’ve been in radio, the opportunity to preview many CDs has come my way. I would venture to vent forth that for every excellent one that comes my way, there is an equally bad one not to far behind. The vast majority of CDs fall in the middle of the two extremes.

Probably about six weeks ago, I received a CD introduction to the music of Wendy Dewitt. In all honesty, my first impression placed the CD in the middle category. Now, don’t get it twisted. The woman can play. That much is obvious from the first listen.

But, my CyberSoulfolks, The Wendy Dewitt live experience is all together a different matter.

Many of you are aware of the big little venue in Upper Lake known as the Blue Wing Café & Saloon and Tallman Hotel. I must confess that my knowledge of the largeness and scope of Bernie and Lynn Butcher’s entrepreneurial ventures had been limited to attending the Blue Monday sessions at the Blue Wing on Monday nights and the Blue Wing Blues Festival which occurs every August at the Tallman.

I was aware of the continuing Concerts with Conversations series but had never attended one. Since Ms. Dewitt’s forte is Boogie Woogie and Blues, I was only to glad to check it out.

The lobby of the finely appointed Tallman Hotel was buzzing with conversation, hors d'oeuvres, fine wine and sparkling cider. My date and I actually walked right into Wendy Dewitt’s path as we approached the front desk to obtain our tickets. She was stunningly taller than I anticipated from the pictures I’d seen.

The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, definitely a people’s vibe. The small plate fare was great as were the beverages. It was kind of like a reception for the artist that lasted about an hour. We then adjourned next door to the meeting room for Wendy’s performance. There was appointed rich desserts, coffee, teas and a finely tuned console piano.

After a short pause, Bernie Butcher introduced Wendy Dewitt who explained her musical history, forte and muse. Drawn to anything musical as a child, she really started perusing the blues and boogie woogie when a friend gifted her with a great blues and boogie vinyl collection. This led to intense study of the styles of the great masters of Blues and Boogie piano players such as Chicago Blues great Otis Spann, Memphis Slim,

Big Maceo, Joe Duskin, Meade Lux Lewis, Little Brother Montgomery, Pete Johnson and others.

Ms. Dewitt led a spirited discussion on the differences between Chicago Blues, Boogie Woogie as well as their similarity to Texas Swing. She entertained stimulating questions from the audience which, incidentally contained generations ranging from a young aspiring pianist to some, I would guess octogenarians.

I found Wendy Dewitt’s playing to be exemplary. She displayed great equal strength and dexterity in both hands. Her choice of notes complimented her rhythmic sense. Put simply she swung and flowed easily from forte to pianissimo. Crucially, her sense of comedic timing had us in stitches. That especially is what separates the live from the recorded in Dewitt’s musical persona. She really swung those bluesy love ballads.

I believe she played and entertained for more than 90 minutes. She received a very sincere standing ovation. She then was whisked to the Blue Wing for a late dinner and the conversations extended for another hour or so for an enchanted party of friends and fans.

To sum it up, catch this great artist when you can. And check out what the Butchers are doing on Main Street in Upper Lake. They are bringing world class culture to the county of Lake. Oh and if you can, take a tour of the digs at the Tallman Hotel. You have to see it to believe it.

Keep prayin’, Keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!


Upcoming cool events:

MC Hammer (w/ Lake County’s Andre Williams), May 2, Club 88 at Cache Creek Casino, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks, telephone 888-77-CACHE.

The Spinners in concert at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino, 1545 E. Highway 20, Nice, telephone 800-809-3636.

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



KELSEYVILLE – One of the signs that it's truly spring in Lake County is the California poppy.

Blooming in profusion along roadsides and across fields, the bright orange poppies are more than a symbol of spring – they're also California's state flower.

On Thursday, Kelseyville resident and acclaimed artist Gail Salituri turned her camera on the local poppies, capturing these pictures near Kelseyville.




A Northshore Fire Protection District firefighter at 6438 15th Ave. in Lucerne. The home was damaged by fire late on Monday, April 20, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




LUCERNE – A fire seriously damaged a house in Lucerne on Monday night.

The fire was reported before 9:30 p.m. at 6438 15th Ave.

Northshore Fire personnel, three Northshore Fire engines, an ambulance and three Lake County Sheriff's deputies responded to the scene.

Battalion Chief Pat Brown said the fire's source appeared to be a small propane tank inside the house.

The home was unoccupied at the time of the fire, according to Northshore Fire Protection District Chief Jim Robbins. The owner was living down the street while the house was being renovated.

The propane caused two windows – one in the front and one in the back – to bust out, said Robbins.

Although the interior of the home incurred significant damage, the home's structure appeared to be all right. 'We actually made a good save on it,” said Robbins.

The fire itself was extinguished quickly. As firefighters mopped up the scene, Brown and Robbins interviewed the owner and others at the scene to complete the fire investigation.

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



Firefighters at the scene speak with Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown (right). Brown said the fire appeared to have originated with a propane tank. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

A California Emerging Technology Fund map of broadband access in Lake County. The Upstate California Connect project is looking to update this information to understand broadband's penetration in Lake County.



LAKEPORT – Local residents, businesses and officials gathered Friday afternoon to hear an update on the effort to map broadband access across Lake County.

The county of Lake hosted the afternoon meeting at the courthouse in Lakeport, where members of California State University, Chico's Center for Economic Development (CED) explained the Upstate California Connect regional broadband demand aggregation project.

“Upstate California Connect” is a group of five counties – Lake, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter and Yuba – that partnered with CED last year to propose a work plan to the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), a nonprofit organization established by the California Public Utilities Commission to improve access to broadband in underserved communities across California.

In late 2007, a group of North Coast counties received a CETF grant to expand broadband in rural areas, but Lake County wasn't included in that effort, as Lake County News has reported.

So County Administrator Kelly Cox approached Sunne McPeak, CETF's chief executive officer, to see if Lake County could be included. Instead, McPeak suggested Lake County become the lead agency in a new study. CETF gave the county $10,000 to cover preparing the grant application.

On Friday, CED officials Margaret Schmidt and Don Krysakowski explained the methodology behind the survey that will be used to gather input across the five-county region. Lake's meeting is the last of the public meetings CED has held on the survey, which is being conducted by phone.

Representatives of education, health care, small business and the Office of Emergency Services were among those present, all of them explaining the importance of broadband for everything from curriculum to expanding local business opportunities, including clean industry and telecommuting.

Krysakowski said the CETF provided initial funding for CED to conduct an initial feasibility study of broadband demand in 12 Northern California counties between July and September of 2008. That information ultimately will be used for a larger study effort. He said CED originally was tasked to do a demand survey.

This survey, expected to go out to 1,500 people across the five-county area, will be conducted in May, with results expected at the end of June, said Krysakowski. It will look at broadband's footprint in Lake and its partner counties. In three months CED hopes to return and update the community on the survey's findings.

Krysakowski noted that satellite Internet service does not count as broadband in the survey, due to speed issues.

Ultimately, the broadband demand information the survey is supposed to measure will be collected and put into a Web site so it can be queried, and will allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to use the information to make business decisions.

Krysakowski said the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) – or the stimulus bill – has $7.5 billion to expand broadband infrastructure in rural areas. He said ARRA funding will go to shovel-ready broadband projects, but the guidelines are still being written.

The ARRA also includes $350 million for broadband mapping. Krysakowski said CEFT and the California Public Utilities Commission are the bodies responsible for overseeing those funds.

Several individuals who attended the meeting wanted to know if the survey would result in more information about who provides what services. CED officials provided contradicting information to that question: One stated that the survey results would show the services but Schmidt said it was proprietary information.

She added, “The scope for this project is small.”

Cox told the group that he feels the project is important for economic development purposes, as well as helping preserve the environment.

“I look at this as one phase of the project,” Cox said.

Krysakowski told Lake County News that the definitions of shovel-ready broadband projects aren't yet clear, but they could lead to public, private or public-private partnerships to carry out infrastructure projects that expand broadband penetration.

The stimulus money is meant to help connect rural communities. He said a business model is being examined that was used during the 1930s to help bring electricity to rural areas.

In that instance, rural cooperatives were formed to support the nation's electrification goals in the 1930s and 1940s.

The ARRA funds won't result in full broadband buildout, Krysakowski said. “This is not a panacea.”

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

Officials work to pull a tractor trailer out of Blue Lakes late early on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 22, 2009. The trailer was brought back onto the roadway at around 3 p.m. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



BLUE LAKES – An early morning incident in which a semi truck went into Blue Lakes kept local agencies busy throughout Wednesday with the difficult task of pulling the truck up out of the lake.

The busy recovery scene also has led to traffic delays along Highway 20 in the Blue Lakes area, with Caltrans controlling the flow of vehicles past the curve where the truck went down the embankment. It took agencies more than 12 hours to completely clear the scene.

California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay said the crash occurred at 3:50 a.m. Wednesday.

Pedro Guevara, 39, of Stockton was behind the wheel of the Safeway tractor-trailer. Tanguay said Guevara had made a delivery at the Lakeport Safeway store and was traveling to Ukiah with four pallets of produce to deliver to the Safeway store there.

Guevara was near Midlake Road when he hit the embankment on the north side of the highway, said Tanguay. That caused Guevara to cross the highway and go down over the embankment into the lake. The truck appeared to have taken out a tree as it went over the edge.

Tanguay said Guevara survived the crash, but was trapped in the cab, which was partially submerged. Initial reports indicated the water was up to Guevara's neck with his legs pinned underneath the dashboard.

That's where two local good Samaritans enter the story.

Keith Hoyt, a member of the Northshore Dive Team, said a man living in a home across the lake heard the crash, came outside and heard Guevara calling for help. The man, whose name Hoyt didn't know, called 911 and then got in his boat and came over to the scene.

At the same time, Bruce Cottrell – a local roofing contractor – responded to the crash, said Hoyt.

Cottrell had a headlamp which he used to light the area. Then he went down the embankment and into the water, where he found Guevara trapped in the cab. Cottrell got into the cab with Guevara and helped hold his head above water.


When Hoyt got to the scene, he got into the water and swam over to the vehicle and recognized Cottrell with Guevara in the cab.

Hoyt said Guevara's leg was trapped but Guevara said he could feel his foot, so they didn't think it was broken. The cab was badly smashed up, with broken windows and a large tree limb sheered off during the truck's trip down the embankment lying across the cab.

Swimming in the dark, Hoyt was able to get the driver's side door open. Inside the cab, he something holding Guevara's leg. Hoyt used a pair of shears to cut the item, which was later discovered to be the cuff of his pant's leg which was caught on something.

Cottrell helped Guevara – who Hoyt said is a pretty big guy – get through the cab's back window and over the crushed muffler, which had a lot of sharp metal and ripped up Guevara's pants. Guevara got up the bank under his own power but with some assistance from Cottrell, said Hoyt.

Once up on the road, medics put Guevara on a backboard, treated him for a head laceration and got him warmed up, according to Hoyt.

Cottrell stayed with Guevara the whole time. “He definitely was a hero,” Hoyt said of Cottrell.

Tanguay said Guevara was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital by REACH air ambulance. There was no word late Wednesday on his condition.

Within 45 minutes of the crash, the Northshore Dive Team had placed “booms” – which look like long rolls of materials – in the water to prevent the spread of diesel fuel into the lake, said Northshore Battalion Chief Pat Brown. Hoyt said they were assisted by the resident from across the lake who had called 911.

Highway 20 was blocked for several hours in the early morning as Northshore Fire, Lakeport Fire, Cal Fire CHP, the Office of Emergency Services, California Fish & Game, Caltrans and Konocti Conservation Camp worked to clear the scene. The roadway was reopened with traffic control shortly before 6:30 a.m.

Northshore Fire and CHP were in charge of the incident, sharing a unified command, Brown explained.

In order to get the truck out of the lake the trailer had to be unloaded and the fuel removed. The embankment's thick underbrush also had to be cut away to allow the recovery operation to proceed. Brown said they had to separate the cab from the trailer in order to remove the vehicle.

Two large tow trucks worked to pull the truck up the steep embankment, which was completed a little after 3 p.m., said Tanguay. About an hour later, the cab was pulled from the lake, said Hoyt.

The CHP reported the roadway was clear once again at approximately 5:17 p.m.

Brown said Safeway hired a Bay Area firm to handle environmental cleanup. Though some diesel was believed to have gone into the lake, Brown said he believed the amount was very small.

Speeding isn't believed to have been an issue in the crash, said Tanguay. While it's still under investigation, driver fatigue is emerging as a possible factor.

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




Staff with an environmental firm hired by Safeway were working at the scene in a row boat on Wednesday, April 22, 2009. The semi's crushed cab is seen in the middle of the picture, partially submerged in Blue Lakes. The white




Crews work to remove diesel fuel from the truck before it's pulled up the slope. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

KELSEYVILLE – Two men suffered serious injuries in a head-on collision near Kelseyville on Monday morning.

The crash took place shortly before 9 a.m. on Red Hills Road just over a mile west of the Kit's Corner intersection with Highway 29, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.

Garcia said 46-year-old Michael Zappelli Jr. of Kelseyville was driving a blue 2002 C-1500 pickup westbound on Red Hills road, with 19-year-old Phillip Martin of Kelseyville coming from the opposite direction in a red 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix. Both men were traveling alone in their respective vehicles.

Preliminary evidence from the crash investigation appears to show that Zappelli's vehicle crossed into the eastbound lane and collided with Martin’s vehicle head-on, said Garcia.

Zappelli was not wearing his seatbelt and he sustained major life threatening injuries. Garcia said Zappelli was flown by REACH air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

Martin also sustained major life threatening injuries and was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial hospital

by Cal-Star air ambulance, Garcia said.

Garcia said both vehicles sustained substantial front end damage.

Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor, but Garcia said high speeds contributed to the severity of the collision.

Garcia said Officer Efrain Cortez is investigation the Monday crash.

LAKE COUNTY – If you're interested in seeing how much money is coming to Lake County from the federal stimulus bill, the information is now just a mouse click away.

This week, Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) launched an interactive Google map on his web site ( to highlight the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) at work in our district. The map reflects funding that has been announced to date, and it will be updated continuously.

The listing Thompson's site provides shows that Lake County is expected to receive as much as $9,388,380.

“This is a great way to track where the stimulus money is making a difference in our communities,” said Congressman Thompson. “So far, we’ve learned of nearly $80 million that will go to important projects all across our district, and we’ll continue to update our web site to keep everyone informed. By making the funding process as open and transparent as possible, we can all track how the American people’s money is being spent to jumpstart our economy and put folks back to work.”

Thompson helped draft key energy tax provisions of the bill and voted in favor of the legislation.

It's estimated that the ARRA will create 3.5 million new jobs, give 95 percent of working families an immediate tax cut, shore up the nation’s aging infrastructure and help our country shift to green energy technology.

The stimulus measure is expected to provide $31-35 billion for California to build roads and bridges, and upgrade schools, and is expected to create or save create nearly 400,000 jobs in our state, the most in the country, and 8,000 jobs in our district.

Lake County is expected to receive the following funds.

Hazardous waste cleanup:

Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine: Up to $5 million in new recovery funds for the cleanup of hazardous waste (Superfund) site at the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine in Clearlake Oaks, provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Superfund Program, administered under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) is an EPA Program to locate, investigate, and clean up the worst hazardous waste sites throughout the United States.


Kelseyville Unified School District: $532,000 in recovery funds is estimated for Kelseyville Unified, including $154,000 for Title 1-A and $378,000 for implementing provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Konocti Unified School District: $1,907,000 in recovery funds is estimated for Konocti Unified, including $1,139,000 for Title 1-A and $768,000 for implementing provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Lakeport Unified School District: $735,000 in recovery funds is estimated for Lakeport Unified, including $343,000 for Title 1-A and $393,000 for implementing provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Lucerne Elementary School District: $80,000 in recovery funds is estimated for Lucerne Elementary, including $21,000 for Title 1-A and $59,000 for implementing provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Middletown Unified School District: $439,000 in recovery funds is estimated for Middletown Unified, including $128,000 for Title 1-A and $312,000 for implementing provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Upper Lake Union Elementary School District: $302,000 in recovery funds is estimated for Upper Lake Union Elementary, including $165,000 for Title 1-A and $138,000 for implementing provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Upper Lake Union High School District: $111,000 in recovery funds is estimated for Upper Lake Union High, including $43,000 for Title 1-A and $67,000 for implementing provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


Robinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians: $37,100 for energy efficiency and conservation projects; $15,457 in recovery funds for crucial health and human services programs that help to provide care for children and prevent disease. These funds will also support child care services for more families whose children require care while they are working, seeking employment or receiving job training or education.

Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians: $25,000 for energy efficiency and conservation projects;

$5,109 for child health care services.

Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians of the Big Valley Rancheria: $25,000 for energy efficiency and conservation projects.

Lower Lake Rancheria: $25,000 for energy efficiency and conservation projects.

Law enforcement:

Clearlake Police Department: $30,746 of Recovery Act 2009 funding is available through the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. This funding will be used to help communities keep their neighborhoods safer with more cops, prosecutors, and probation officers; an increase in radios and equipment; and help for crime victims and more crime prevention programs for youth.

Lake County: $89,385 of Recovery Act 2009 funding is available for Lake County law enforcement and criminal justice assistance through the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.

Other agencies:

– Emergency Food and Shelter Program: $29,583 of recovery funds is available to Lake County for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, provided through a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.

Thompson has also created a guide to grants that are available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for local government agencies and non-profits that is available on his website at:

This guide will also be continuously updated as more information becomes available.

Life is dynamic. That said, your estate planning documents should not be entirely static.

They need to be adaptable to deal with life’s changed circumstance – some of which may be foreseeable and others unpredictable. Specifically, flexibility is desirable in regards to (1) who steps-in to manage your affairs during periods of disability and death; (2) whether to allow for Medi-Cal/SSI gifting; (3) whether assets may either be held in trust and otherwise distributed/used (rather than outright cash distributions); and (4) what say your beneficiaries are allowed over their shares of your estate. Let us now examine each area.

Over time, or with later events, it is possible that the person(s) whom you named to manage your financial and personal affairs may not then be either able or willing to carry out these responsibilities. Hopefully, you named worthy alternatives. In addition, however, it may also be desirable to authorize these selected persons themselves to name their own replacements should none of your other named alternatives be available.

If desired, Medi-Cal gifting powers need to be incorporated into your trust and/or power of attorney. For married couples their community property (so-called marital assets) presents a planning opportunity in regards to eligibility for long-term nursing home Medi-Cal benefits. That is, specifically allowing for (e.g., enabling) the “transmutation” of community property assets into the separate property of the well-spouse would facilitate matters while protecting both, in the event that one needs to qualify for Medi-Cal (e.g., for long-term nursing home care) and the other stay at home.

Furthermore, for those who desire that their assets be transferred to their children (not spouse), prior to death, in order to become eligible for Medi-Cal sooner and to preserve their children’s inheritances against later estate recovery by the State (in regards to Medi-Cal and/or SSI benefits received) it is even more important to express these wishes in an enforceable manner — such as by authorizing an agent to make gifts from your estate to desired persons.

Gifting implicates both the welfare of the person making the gifts and the children (usually) receiving the gift (as an advance on their inheritances). As Medi-Cal law is in a state of flux, your trust and/or power of attorney needs to be carefully crafted. Naturally, the person(s) whom you entrust to make these gifting decisions needs to have the good judgment, understanding and integrity to use this gifting authority wisely.

Another area is flexibility in the distribution/use of your estate. That is, whether your estate “may be held in further trust” (e.g., such as a special needs trusts or an asset protection trusts), or “may be used to purchase a single premium annuity”, or “may be used in some other specified manner(s).” These considerations may become important should your beneficiaries later-on develop creditor problems, or become disabled (especially if needs based government benefits are involved). Having “no flexibility” to deal with changed circumstances may mean that the plan will proceed regardless and with undesirable results.

Next, consider giving your surviving spouse, or your other beneficiaries, a so-called “special power of appointment” so they can redirect inheritances amongst a “limited class of beneficiaries.” Why? If circumstances significantly change, then they can reallocate the estate distribution scheme in a more appropriate way. One example, amongst many, involves your surviving spouse reallocating your trust estate amongst your children, so that if any child becomes more needy, then they receive a greater share than other more fortunate children.

Lastly, if circumstances change while you are still alive and competent it is better that you carefully review your estate planning documents and amend them as needed. But, otherwise, if this does not happen, hopefully your existing documents are drafted so as to allow an appropriate response to the changed circumstances.

Dennis Fordham is an attorney who practices in Lakeport. He welcomes your calls to reserve a seat to attend the next free public educational seminar on the topics of wills, trusts and estate planning, and special needs trusts. Call him at 263-3235.

LAKE COUNTY – Local stargazers – get ready to start your day early on Wednesday.

The annual Lyrid meteor shower will be visible over North America on Wednesday, April 22, according to the National Aeronautic and Space Administration.

It's on that day that Earth will pass through a stream of dust given off by Comet Thatcher, NASA reported. Each April Earth passes through the comet's trail of debris.

Coincident with the meteor shower this year, the crescent moon and Venus will converge for a close encounter in the eastern sky. Viewed from some parts of the world, the Moon will pass directly in front of Venus, causing Venus to vanish, according to Dr. Tony Phillips of NASA.

The University of North Carolina's Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute reports that the Lyrids are best viewed between midnight and dawn from a clear, dark location with a good horizon.

Look to the northeast to find the meteors appearing to radiate out of the constellation of Lyra the harp. Binoculars or telescopes aren't needed. Then, as dawn approaches on April 22, note the brilliant planet Venus just to the left of the rising moon.

Lake County residents – along with other North American residents – will be favored with a full-blown eclipse or “occultation” when, around 5 a.m. Wednesday, Venus will disappear behind the mountainous rim of the Moon and reappear 60 to 90 minutes later, NASA reported. The occultation will be bright enough to see in broad daylight.

The Lyrids form the oldest recorded meteor shower, with observations of the Lyrids noted for at least 2,600 years, NASA reported. A Chinese account from 687 BC described the shower as having “stars that fell [like] rain.”

The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute reports that Comet Thatcher was first discovered in 1861, and revolves around the Sun every 415 years.

Flakes of comet dust, most no bigger than grains of sand, strike Earth's atmosphere traveling 110,000 mph and disintegrate as fast streaks of light, NASA reported. A typical Lyrid shower produces 10 to 20 meteors per hour over the northern hemisphere, not an intense display.

Occasionally, however, Earth passes through a dense region of the comet's tail and rates increase five- to ten-fold, NASA noted. In April 1803 there was a particularly dramatic appearance with a rate of about 700 meteors per hour. In 1982, observers counted 90 Lyrids per hour. Because Thatcher's tail has never been mapped in detail, the outbursts are unpredictable and could happen again at any time.

This year the Lyrids are predicted to reach a peak of about 20 meteors per hour on Wednesday, the institute reported.

NASA said Comet Thatcher spends most of its time well away from the planets, and is nearly immune to significant gravitational perturbations, which may be why the debris stream has remained stable and the Lyrid shower has been observed for so many centuries.

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