Monday, 24 June 2024

News

KELSEYVILLE – Two drivers escaped major injuries Thursday after a truck carrying a load of Coca Cola collided with a small auto.


The accident was reported at about 6:27 a.m. on southbound Highway 29 more than two miles south of Highway 175/Cobb, according to the California Highway Patrol.


CHP Officer Josh Dye reported that the truck, which was driving southbound, was hit by a small Honda that was traveling north.


Clois Burns of Lakeport was driving the 2001 silver Honda four-door sedan when, for an unknown reason, she veered across the double yellow lines and into the southbound lane, Dye said.


Dennis Mcclelland of Willits, who was driving a 2003 International tractor trailer carrying the load of soda, attempted to swerve out of the way but Burns' car collided with the tractor trailer's left front.


The tractor trailer continued off of the road and collided with a large oak tree, Dye reported.


Burns was taken to the hospital and released later in the day, having suffered only lacerations and contusions, Dye said. Mcclelland was uninjured.


Both lanes of the road were partially blocked, with officials redirecting northbound traffic onto Red Hills Road while the road was cleared, according to the CHP incident logs. Dye said the road was reopened at 10:16 a.m.


Some diesel fuel was reported on the ground, and a gash was in the truck's tank. Dye said an environmental cleanup company was dispatched to the scene, but he didn't see any hazardous materials or soda spilled.


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LAKE COUNTY – The US Department of Agriculture has designated Lake and 12 other California counties as primary natural disaster areas due to extreme weather conditions.


The USDA reported that the designations were made on May 9.


Lake County Agricultural Commissioner Stave Hajik said Lake has been designated a disaster area both for drought conditions last fall and for freeze conditions earlier this year.


“The only reason we're a freeze-listed county is we're an adjacent county to a county that has freeze damage,” he said.


Two local strawberry growers and one vegetable grower are believed to have had serious affects from the freeze, said Hajik, but the damage was mostly to equipment, like sprinklers, rather than crops.


Hajik said he applied for the disaster designation for the county in March, after Tim Strong, a local veterinarian and president of the county's cattlemen's association, told him about concerns for the county's rangelands due to the dry fall and winter weather.


Hajik said he did a survey of the county after speaking with Strong, and found that the area's rangelands had indeed been damaged by lack of rain during the period of Dec. 11 through Feb. 7.


Although rain did eventually arrive, it was too late to alleviate the rangelands' dry conditions, said Hajik.


He estimated $661,000 in damage to county ranchers because of the dry weather: of that, $151,000 is for rangelands, $340,000 for damage to hay crops and $170,000 for permanent pasture.


The declarations make Lake County farmers and ranchers eligible to receive low-interest emergency loans, said Erica Szlosek, spokesperson for the USDA Farm Services Agency.


Szlosek said those who intend to apply for assistance have eight months from the May 9 declaration to do so. She said applicants must have had a 30-percent loss to their operation to qualify for the 3.75-percent loans.


Hajik said a “major” dry period in the state in 2002 made it possible for farmers to receive free assistance that they weren't required to pay back.


Strong said effects of the drier conditions can be seen around the county.


For cattlemen like him, the biggest issue is lack of grass.


“We had that real cold weather in January and we didn't have very much rain,” he said.


The last few rains helped a little, said Strong, but he added, “the damage was really already done.”


He estimated that more than 50 percent of the county's grasslands were affected.


Cattlemen who put their cattle on winter range usually pull the cows off a little early to leave some feed behind for the fall, said Strong. Less rain meant ranchers were having to pull their cows off the range even earlier, with even less residual feed left behind. Winter range depends on water for seasonal streams and ponds, as well, said Strong.


The end result is that cattlemen are cutting their grazing season much shorter and having to supplement with more hay, which means a bigger cut out of farmers' bottom lines.


Strong said he believes the full effect of the drier weather will become more apparent next fall, when he expects to see less grass.


In addition to Lake, the counties listed as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and freeze conditions last fall and this spring are Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Stanislaus and Tulare.


Counties contiguous to the 13 primary natural disaster areas also are eligible for assistance. Those counties are Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, Glenn, Inyo, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz Stanislaus, Solano, Sonoma, Tuolumne, Yolo and Ventura.


Lake County farmers and ranchers can call the Farm Services Agency office in Mendocino County in Ukiah, 468-9223, for more information, or go online for forms and information at www.fsa.usda.gov.


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The Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser leads a statewide church organization and also pastors Clearlake Oaks Community United Methodist Church. That church has been an active force in working to make the Oaks a better place. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 


CLEARLAKE OAKS – Christian activism may evoke ideas of politically conservative evangelicals for many people.


The common perception leaves out progressive, mainstream groups and churches who say that they're succeeding in furthering the goals of social justice and compassion.


To find a local expression of that part of the story, one needs look no further than Clearlake Oaks Community United Methodist Church.


The church's senior pastor is Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser, who also serves as executive director of the California Council of Churches and its sister organization for public policy advocacy, California Church IMPACT.


California Council of Churches, a nonpartisan organization based in Sacramento, received the first Father Robert Drinan Award on April 28 from the California Democratic Party, during its annual convention in San Diego.


State Democratic Chair Art Torres presented the award to Schlosser. Torres cited Church IMPACT's successful Capitol and grassroots lobbying for social justice legislation and its campaigns for statewide ballot propositions that reflect their moral values.


The Drinan Award recognizes courage in the struggle for social justice.


The California Council of Churches and California Church IMPACT represent 21 Protestant and Orthodox Christian denominations with 1.5 million members in the state. The council was created in 1913 “to educate faith communities to pursue justice through study and service, equity, and fairness in the treatment of all people, in particular those most vulnerable in society,” according to its mission statement.


"We have a different perspective on the place of faith and public policy than do conservative church members," said Schlosser. "We address policy coming from a faith perspective. We have no desire to impose our values nor to create a theocracy. We don't evangelize; we educate and advocate."


The council educates church members on the moral values involved in major public policy issues while Church IMPACT advocates for legislation and budget items on issues ranging from poverty to nonviolence and environmental protection to civil rights, Schlosser said.


Schlosser said the council's primary focus is working at the state level to create an unconventional measure of worth, “a moral economy, that includes everyone.”


IMPACT, he said, lobbies for and against legislation, applying spiritual and moral principles to legislative issues. Schlosser said the group lobbies in Sacramento for those who might not otherwise have a voice there.


“The primary part of our mission is to advocate for justice and equity for all people, especially the most vulnerable,” he said.


IMPACT also creates study guides for congregations on issues such as child care and health care.


Health care is a primary focus for the group right now, he said, which has six proposal for universal health care. They're also working on immigration reform, Schlosser said.


Church IMPACT won victories including helping secure the first part of the path-breaking clean-air act, achieving several key bills on poverty issues, and passing the state's path-breaking hate crimes legislation and women's rights bill, Schlosser said.


In addition, he said IMPACT helped convince Assembly members to vote for Assemblyman Mark Leno's same-gender marriage equality bill in 2006, giving the bill the majority it needed to pass.


In the 2005 special election, its non-partisan "IMPACT Sundays" campaign is believed to have provided enough votes to help defeat the closest two initiatives on the ballot, parental notification and the

anti-labor so-called "paycheck protection" initiative.


The Democratic Party initiated the Father Drinan award following the January death of Rev. Robert Drinan, a Catholic priest and former Democratic Congressman, who brought his values and dedication to social justice to his political work.


Schlosser said the California Council of Churches and IMPACT were deeply honored to receive the award. “Father Drinan was a model for us all. He led by example showing us that we have a duty to stand for principles that shape our public policy. He also showed us how moral courage and commitment are compatible with respect for people with differing views."


While faith organizations can accept acknowledgments from political parties such as the Drinan award, Schlosser said it's “unethical” for faith groups to give support to any political organization.


"We believe in the separation of church and state," he said. "We work closely through our advocacy organization, Church IMPACT, with legislators from both parties, and we are glad that our voice for

justice has received recognition. We would be happy to accept an award for that from anyone."


Church works for a better community


A resident of Sacramento, Schlosser drives to Lake County two to three days a week in his role of church pastor.


Schlosser became the church's senior pastor following the sudden death in 2005 of the congregation's beloved pastor, Bill Thornton, who, along with his wife, Ruth Canady, had guided the church.


Canady, Schlosser said, decided she didn't want to be the church's main leader, but would rather do pastoral work with people who were sick or otherwise in need.


So Rev. Benito Silva-Netto, superintendent of the United Methodist Church's Shasta District, contacted Schlosser, saying the church "really needed a community-minded, progressive pastor to help carry forward the church's goals for making The Oaks a better place," Schlosser said.


"I came up and preached a few times and I loved the church and they seemed to like me so here I am," Schlosser said.


Bishop Beverly Shamana subsequently appointed him as the church's pastor, he said.


Schlosser, who was ordained in 1979, said the church in Clearlake Oaks shares values with the California Council of Churches.


"The church in Clearlake Oaks and the council both look at spirituality as something that should be a positive, inclusive force in society, and not a judgmental, excluding force," Schlosser said. "The church tries to work on a very specific local level on some of the same issues."


The Oaks is also a good place to put to the test those ideas about social justice, according to Schlosser.


"In the Oaks, it's obviously a very challenged area economically," Schlosser said, with people struggling to find employment and health care. "Those are two of the things that I see most frequently."


With the church's No. 1 priority being to make Clearlake Oaks a better place for all of its residents, it set out to identify the greatest needs and respond to them, said Schlosser.


So the church created L'il Acorns Preschool to help working families, which Schlosser said has been a "resounding success."


The needs of seniors are also apparent in the community, said Schlosser, and are another big focus for the church. The congregation itself illustrates the area's large senior population, with Schlosser estimating that more than 80 percent of the church's membership is over retirement age.


"These are primarily people who aren't retired from life," he said of his flock, adding that the congregation includes some of the most active 80 years olds he's ever seen.


The church is imbued with community spirit, he said, with many members involved in projects and working for others, including cooking meals for people and providing transportation to those who need it.


He said the list of creative ways church members support each other is endless.


That includes outreach to the community at large. The church is preparing to break ground later this year on a 4,500-square-foot community center next door to the church and preschool on The Plaza, said Schlosser.


The church plans to provide counseling, outreach and other services to the community, along with senior daycare, said Schlosser. They're also working with the firm Eskaton to build a new senior housing complex in the Oaks and with Lake County Redevelopment on the Plaza redevelopment

project.


What's next for the council


Earlier this month, the California Council of Churches joined with other national and regional faith groups to launch an initiative for a nuclear free world.


The effort came in response to a proposal by the Bush administration for a build-up in nuclear weapons, according to a statement from the council.


The council is lobbying members of Congress to reject the plan, which would require a minimum of $150 billion.


Schlosser said he can see a better use of the funds.


“It is immoral for so much money to be directed into weapons development when so many human needs are going unmet. Here in California, people need quality, affordable health care and instead the funds that could pay for it are going to an unnecessary expansion of our bloated nuclear arsenal.”


The California Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches and the National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Weapons Danger announced that they plan to spread the word about the nuclear weapons build-up over the next several months in an effort to stop it.


Schlosser called the decision to abandon peace and prepare for war “immoral.”


“California is already threatening to cut out spending for every child whose parents cannot meet welfare work hour obligations,” he said. “We are choosing to spend money on weapons, which can obliterate our civilization, rather than spending for health, education, and humanity. This is utterly unacceptable in a civilized society.”


For more information about the California Council of Churches and its activities, visit www.calchurches.org. To learn more about Clearlake Oaks Community United Methodist Church call 998-9435.


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ST. HELENA – A 3.3 magnitude earthquake hit five miles south of St. Helena on Thursday morning,


The earthquake was recorded at 9:01 a.m. at a depth of 6.2 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.


There were 100 reports of the quake to the US Geological Survey from as far away as Tracy and San Francisco from people who felt the quake.


However, the quake doesn't appear to have been noticed in the Middletown area, according to the US Geological Survey reports.


When contacted to see if they felt the quake, the offices of Realtor David Neft said they hadn't.


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Jim Paschke of Woodland with his winning catch, a 28.32-pound catfish. Courtesy photo.

 

 

CLEARLAKE OAKS – What's the biggest fish you've ever caught?


Chances are, not too many of us have reeled in a 28-pound catfish. But that's just what James Paschke of Woodland did on Friday evening, a feat which helped him win the 26th annual Clearlake Oaks Catfish Derby this weekend.


The Clearlake Oaks derby is billed as the largest catfish derby west of the Mississippi. It's hosted by the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association, said Gail Jonas, the event's chair.


This weekend's derby also had the biggest field in its history, said Dennis Locke, another of the dedicated team of volunteers who organize the derby.


In all, the derby welcomed 487 adult fishermen – and women – along with 96 children, said Jonas.


The event offered a Kids Derby for ages 16 and under. Locke said they set out to attract more kids entries, and as a result got almost twice the normal number of young competitors.


Paschke's 28.23-pound winner helped him land a grand prize of a new boat, trailer and motor.


“That's a nice fish,” said Jonas. “We've had bigger, but that's fairly good-sized.”


Many of the fish brought in for the tournament were caught near M&M Campground on the Peninsula, near Rattlesnake Island and Indian Island, near the mouth of Cache Creek, Jonas said.


Other top finishers in the adult derby were: second place, William Bhader III of San Jose, 26.15-pound fish; third place, James Champlin, San Jose, 24.63 pounds; fourth place, Josh Gouker, Marysville, 24.57; fifth place, Sheila Bird, Oroville, 24.41 pounds; sixth place, Pamela Woods, Clearlake, 24.18 pounds; seventh place, Justin Lane, Hood River, Ore., 24.05 pounds; eighth place, Donnell Thompson, Pittsburg, 23.82 pounds; ninth place, Michael Reed, Greenville, 23.19 pounds; 10th place, Joshua Lane, Hood River, 23.18 pounds; 11th place, Tommy Wheeler, Sutter, 22.85 pounds; 12th place, Steve Johnson, Oceanside, 22.51 pounds; 13th place, Gary Moore, Clearlake, 21.56 pounds; 14th place, Kerry Hamilton, Boron, 21.48 pounds; 15th place, Lee Harris, Oakland, 21.39 pounds; 16th place, Matthew Ross, Clearlake, 21.10 pounds; 17th place, John Willis Jr., Lakeport, 21.00 pounds; 18th place, Gene Shogren, Yuba City, 20.31 pounds; 19th place, Colin Johnson, Santa Rosa, 19.33 pounds; 20th place, Brad Zazzetti, Forestville, 19.26 pounds; 21st place, Ricky Williamson, Clearlake, 18.43 pounds.


Locke said everyone had a great time in spite of the high winds, which affected fishing conditions. People fished both from the shorelines and from boats, Jonas added.


She said about 70 percent of the tournament participants came from outside the county, with visitors from as far away as Maryland, Oregon, Nebraska and Montana.


The Catfish Derby is the association's major fundraiser of the year, said Jonas, helping the group fund the community's Fourth of July fireworks, assist the senior center and local schools, and contribute to the community's new park at The Plaza.


“We try to spend it where it's going to help people the most in our community,” she said.


Jonas, who estimated she has worked on about six or seven of the tournaments, said it's inspiring to see everyone pull together to make the event happen.


“Everybody just pitches in and it makes you feel really good,” she said.


The process of organizing the derbies take about nine months, Jonas said. “We start in September and we work all year.”


Which means, of course, that they have a few months of rest before the team of volunteers – which includes about 40 community members, according to Jonas – gets started on next year's event. The effort will include mailers to fisherman from recent derbies and other outreach.


More photos will be posted Monday at www.clearlakeoaks.org.


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Paschke won a new boat, motor and trailer. Courtesy photo.
 

 

 

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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – A young man who was found dead in the Mendocino National Forest earlier this spring appears to have died of natural causes, officials are reporting.


As Lake County News reported previously, a young man who was in a remote part of the forest with his father died and his body was recovered by Lake County Sheriff's Office officials March 29 near Hull Mountain.


It was later discovered that the man's body was located in Mendocino County, so the investigation was turned over to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.


The young man, identified as Jovanny Perez-Ortiz, 22, was with his father, Alfredo Perez, when he died, reported Lt. Rusty Noe, the Mendocino County Sheriff's chief deputy coroner.


Perez then reportedly walked all day to reach the Soda Creek Store near Lake Pillsbury, where he reported his son's death and authorities were called.


Noe said he was lowered from a California Highway Patrol helicopter into the area where Perez-Ortiz's body was, on a steep hillside. There was no evidence of anyone else being with Perez-Ortiz and his father, Noe said.


This week, Mendocino officials reported the final results of Perez-Ortiz's autopsy and toxicology results.


Perez-Ortiz's toxicology results came back clear, said Tia Turner of the Mendocino County Coroner's Office. Nothing was found in his system that would have caused his death, which has been ruled natural, Turner said.


Last month, Captain Kevin Broin of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said he expected the toxicology tests would play a big role in understanding the young man's sudden death, and said at the time the department would wait for those results before making a final ruling on the death.


Resolution to the case was prolonged, said Broin, because of the involvement of several agencies, including the National Forest.


Noe said Perez-Ortiz was a Mexican national, as was his father, but both had Santa Rosa addresses.


The men were in a very rugged, remote area, said Noe. “They were up in an area where most people don't go hiking.”


Those circumstances had given rise to concerns that the men were there to locate a site for an illicit marijuana garden, which has become an increasing problem in the Mendocino National Forest. Last year, the forest was the site of the largest amount of illicit marijuana seized in the state.


As to what they were doing in the remote area of the forest, Noe said, “There was really no evidence to indicate that they were there to cultivate marijuana.”


Perez-Ortiz's death has been ruled accidental, said Noe, with no signs of foul play.


Mike Ricker, a Redding-based National Forest Service special agent, assisted in the investigation.


“When somebody is lost in the forest or injured, as it becomes more detailed, if they need more investigations done, they refer it to this branch,” he said.


Perez-Ortiz's situation was “a real sad case,” said Ricker.


Ricker said his part in the case was investigating the activities of the two men in the forest.


The Forest Service relies on the sheriff's determination on the cause of death, said Ricker.


On Friday, Ricker – who has since been working on another case – said he hadn't yet determined if he needed to continue an investigation into what men were doing in the forest.


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From left, National Guardsmen Mark Matthews, Bryon Martinez, Dave Hodgson and Vincent Torres. Photo by Ginny Craven.


 

LUCERNE – Four young National Guardsmen who are scheduled to ship out next week in preparation for a mission to Iraq were honored at an afternoon get-together Wednesday.


Spc. Bryon Martinez, 23, of Corning; Spc. Vincent Torres, 20, of Red Bluff; Spc. Mark Matthews, 22, of Santa Monica; and Sgt. David Hodgson of Red Bluff are members of the 160th Infantry Unit which will leave for Mississippi May 29.


From there, they'll be sent to Iraq, although Martinez said they're not sure when they'll ship out for their 12-month deployment.


Veterans and community members gathered at Firehouse Pizza, which Martinez opened in February. The business had barely gotten off the ground before Martinez found out he was slated for deployment to Iraq.


Martinez invited his three friends over for some pizza and beer, and when local veterans found out, they joined the group for a going away party.


The four soldiers just completed two months of training in Mississippi. Hodgson said they studied convoy security, explosive device identification and removal, and risk assessments.


“Right now our main mission is protecting convoys,” said Martinez.


When necessary, he said, they'll also do “route clearance,” which means getting rid of explosive devices planted along roadsides. Hodgson said they'll drive humvees to protect the convoys.


Vietnam veteran Dean Gotham, who came to wish the young men well, said in his day their assignment was called “rough rider” duty.


Torres, who joined the National Guard two years ago for adventure, money for school and because he “wanted a challenge,” said he volunteered to go to Iraq. “I'd rather go when I'm prepared than go when I'm not.”


Hodgson – who at age 20 has nearly four years of time in the Guard, the most of the group – also got into the Guard to help build a career.


Matthews has a wife and 5-month-old son and has been in the Guard two years. Joining the military, he said, “was something I always wanted to do since I was a kid.”


Martinez and his wife, Sabrina, welcomed a new son, Zakary, on May 19. They also have a 5-year-old son, Kameron.


Gotham said he gave the young men some advice to keep them safe.


First, keep an ear cocked on the distance, Gotham said. Stay low, don't stand around in groups.


And keep your mouth open; that helps avoid serious concussion in case a bomb goes off nearby, he advised.


Gotham said he learned that lesson the hard way, while laying in a trench in Vietnam. A bomb hit the lip of the trench, he said, and because his jaw was clenched shut, it made the effects of the concussion just that much worse. As a result, he lost the hearing in his left ear.


Since March, when Martinez left for training, his longtime friends, Thomas, Cisco and Andreas Bobadilla, have been running the pizza parlor.


Business has been good, said Martinez. The Bobadillas have agreed to continue managing the business while he's away.


Martinez said he and his fellow soldiers expect to be home by August 2008.


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LAKE COUNTY – As the state Legislature prepares to begin hearings on the governor's updated budget, there are concerns about what the proposed budget changes will do to counties, especially rural areas such as Lake County.


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his May budget revision on May 14. The $145.9 billion budget calls for $103.9 billion from the state's General Fund alone.


A report from the state Senate's Committee on Budget & Fiscal Review identified “significant changes” from the budget originally proposed in January.


In her overview of the May revision, Elizabeth G. Hill, the state's legislative analyst, estimates that under Schwarzenegger's budget, state expenditures will exceed revenues by $3 billion in the 2007-08 budget year.


Among the changes, the General Fund reserve was estimated at $2.1 billion in January, a number which since has declined to $500 million.


The shortfall comes from a variety of sources including a decline in major tax sources such as personal and corporate taxes which are expected to be down by $806 million this coming year, with sales and use taxes revised down by $500 million due to a weaker economy, Hill reported.


In addition, proposed tribal gaming revenues of $314 million in the next budget year, which are $192 million lower than anticipated.


To make up some of the shortfalls, the governor made several controversial proposals, including selling the state's EdFund, which administers federal student loan programs for both in-state and out-of-state students in higher education, eliminating a cost of living increase for Social Security and eliminating the Williamson Act subvention for counties.


Hill wrote that she believes Schwarzenegger is overestimating his budget reserves, which will result in a “significant challenge” for the Legislature as it develops a budget “that realistically reflects revenues and spending while maintaining a prudent reserve.”


At the same time, some General Fund expenditures are expected to go up significantly. Hill's report notes that Schwarzenegger has added $624 million in budget expenditures in the May revision, including money to pay Proposition 98 obligations for education.


Modest economic growth is predicted in the budget, though Hill notes there are uncertainties due to the housing market – lighter sales, dramatically increased foreclosure rates along with lowered selling prices – and gasoline prices.


North Coast legislators Assembly member Patty Berg (D-Eureka) and Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) both criticized Schwarzenegger's May budget revision.


“California deserves a government that puts people first, a government that protects the environment, plans for the future and takes care of our families and our children,” said Berg, chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “The budget the governor gave us falls short of that goal.”


Wiggins cited several concerns, among them social programs.


“What I heard was a message that it would be OK for us to again cut services and assistance to seniors, the disabled, the homeless and the mentally ill – not something I had hoped to hear during a time of ‘bipartisan cooperation,’” she said.


Social programs could be hit hard


Schwarzenegger proposes to help offset that, Hill reported, with the $185 million in savings from suspending the cost of living increase for the elderly and disabled Social Security Income and State Supplementary Program recipients.


That proposal could affect the more than 10,000 people in Lake County over the age of 65, according to US Census numbers.


David Miller, Wiggins' spokesman, said Schwarzenegger “prefers that we repay $3.1 billion to Wall Street, about double what we have to, instead of ensuring that we are able to provide for the needs of poor kids, the disabled or the elderly. Or for that matter, instead of ensuring that that cities, counties and school districts have the resources they need to serve the people in their communities.”


Kelly Cox, the county's administrative officer, is a veteran of dealing with county budgets and how they're affected by the overall state budget. He said it's still too early to know the full impact of Schwarzenegger's proposals on Lake County's fiscal picture for 2007-08, especially the actual dollar impact.


However, he did say Social Services, Child Support Services, health and mental health services, and other county services could stand to be affected by Schwarzenegger's proposals.


Williamson Act proposed for cuts

 

The governor also expects to save $40 million by cutting the Williamson Act program, another area that could immediately affect the county.


The Williamson Act was created by the state Legislature in 1965 to help preserve agricultural and open space by discouraging “premature and unnecessary conversion to urban uses,” according to the state Department of Conservation.


The act helps protect nearly 16.9 million of the state's 29 million acres of farm and ranch land through 10-year contracts, which result in landowners saving an estimated 20 to 75 percent in property tax each year. In order to enter into a Williamson Act contract, a landowner must have an “agricultural preserve” of 100 acres or more – which can be a number of smaller parcels combined, the Department of Conservation reported.


Cox said the Williamson Act would be one of the first areas of impact.


“We would immediately lose approximately $70,000 per year in general fund revenue from discontinuance of the Williamson Act/Open Space subvention and future Williamson Act contracts would certainly be at jeopardy,” said Cox. “In fact we could be forced to initiate proceedings to cancel some of the existing contracts.”


According to the state's Division of Land Resource Protection, Lake County has 49,504 acres enrolled in the California Conservation (Williamson) Act. Of that number, 5,866 acres are listed as prime agricultural land.


Wiggins, who was been working to redefine and expand the Williamson Act through her bill, SB 562, was also critical of this part of the governor's budget.


“The governor has received a lot of press for his efforts on behalf of the environment, but his budget shows that when it comes to spending a small amount of money to preserve our agricultural land from being converted to golf courses or Super Wal-Marts, he doesn’t put his money where his mouth is,” she said.


She added that Schwarzenegger's plan shows “he clearly wants local governments to pay the tab for the entire {Williamson Act] program.”


Presidential primary a costly addition


One area where Cox expressed concern was the proposal to delay state reimbursement of the cost of the early presidential primary election to fiscal year 08/09. That proposal, while farther out, could have ramifications on the 2007-08 budget, he said.


“This will be a costly additional election the county will be required to conduct which is entirely due to action recently taken by the governor and state legislature,” he said. “It is being proposed that the county cover the entire cost of that election and not receive any state reimbursement until the following fiscal year.”


He added, “That certainly won't help balance our 07/08 budget we need to be reimbursed in the same year the expense is incurred. In fact, they should be providing us with the necessary funding prior to the election.”


Cox said he's not sure when the budget picture for the county will become more clear, although be believes more information and clarifications will be coming “on a piecemeal basis” in the coming weeks.


He added that what the governor proposes isn't what the legislature ends up approving, so there's no telling at this point what the final budget will look like.


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LAKEPORT – Officers from nearly all of Lake County’s law enforcement agencies on June 2 will team with about 30 local Special Olympics athletes in a run to bring the Northern California Special Olympics Torch to Lake County.


According to volunteer Kristina Navarro, about 25 officers from the California Highway Patrol, the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Probation Department, District Attorney’s Office and Animal Care & Control, as well as both the Lakeport and Clearlake Police Departments, will participate in the ceremonial running of the “Flame of Hope.”


Similar torch runs are being held throughout cities and towns in Northern California, Navarro said, which will lead to the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Northern California Summer Games.


The Flame of Hope run helps raise awareness of Special Olympics programs and the many athletes who those programs benefit.


There will be five routes for the Law Enforcement Torch Run around Lake County, Navarro reported.


– The Torch Run kickoff will begin at 10 a.m. on Second Street and Clover in Upper Lake, during Wild West Days; that segment of the run will end at Main and Highway 20 at 10:45 a.m.


– The second segment will take place in Clearlake, from Austin Park to Moran's Pharmacy on Lakeshore, from 11:15 to 11:45 a.m.


– The run then moves to Middletown, traveling from Middletown High School to Perry's Deli on Calistoga, lasting from 12:15 to 1 p.m.


– Route four takes place along Main Street in Kelseyville from 1:30 to 1:40 p.m. Runners will travel from Westamerica Bank to Patti's Petals.


– The final leg of the run takes place in Lakeport between 1:50 and 2 p.m. along Main Street. That segment will begin at Natural High school and end at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Martin Street, during the People Services Chicken-Que.


All runners are being asked to come to the closing ceremonies at the fairgrounds.


Those desiring to participate in the run can do so by completing a registration form. For a $25 registration fee, participating runners will also receive a special torch run T-shirt and a ticket to the Chicken-Que.


Proceeds from the torch run will to toward support of the Lake County Speical Olympics program.


For additional information, contact CHP Officer Josh Dye at 279-0103, or Navarro at 349-3689.


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


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Students get to inspect the REACH helicopter. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

LOWER LAKE The early morning air was quiet and cool only moments before the distinctive sound of the 830 horsepower turbine engine could be detected.


Flying into the Lower Lake High School football and track field was REACH Air Ambulance's familiar Red Bell 407 helicopter, which circled the field before gently touching down in front of the home team seats.


Twenty-two students from Doug DeSoto’s Public Safety Program recently were treated to an up-close look at one element of what are known as “First Responders” in the Public Safety and Law Enforcement community.


On board the REACH copter is a host of cutting-edge technologies. Literally anything that is found in a hospital emergency room is crammed into the $3 million aircraft. Also on board were Nurse Anna Blair, paramedic and crew chief Terry Gowen and pilot Dennis Smith.


The three crew members each spoke of their respective duties as well as their educational backgrounds. Students were invited to sit in the pilot’s seat and otherwise examine the workings in fine detail.


The 40-minute visit was, fortunately, uninterrupted by more serious matters and the group was treated to a take-off and fly-around that showed off the pilot's considerable skill.


The REACH Air Ambulance services have transported thousands of patients and celebrates its 20 anniversary on Thursday, May 24 at Lampson Field, 4615 Highland Springs Road. The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The public is invited.

 

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REACH nurse Anna Blair talks to students about her job. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 


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SACRAMENTO – A flurry of activity has been going on in the state Legislature, as deadlines begin to loom for legislators.


David Miller of Sen. Pat Wiggins' office said legislators are working to be ahead of the deadline, which arrives in about three weeks, by which time they must move their bills out of the house of origin – either the Senate or Assembly – in order to continue through the process of becoming law.


Last Thursday, the State Senate approved five of Wiggins' bills, sending the measures off to the Assembly for consideration.


Only one measure, SB 1016, required a voice vote (36-0 in support); the remaining bills were approved as part of Thursday's consent calendar.


Highlights of the five bills are as follows:


– SB 108, which seeks to expand the types of non-profit organizations that can allow wine sales orders to be taken by wineries at their events to include “civic leagues”, “social organizations” and “voluntary employees’ benefit associations.”


Among the examples of the kinds of organizations to be added if SB 108 becomes law are the Kiwanis Club, League of Women Voters, Lions Club, and the California Retired Teachers Association. Expanding the list will benefit non-profit groups, consumers and wineries, enabling individuals to order wine that may not be readily available and helping wineries to build brand awareness.


– SB 560, which seeks an assessment of the adequacy of services provided to the blind and visually impaired residents at the Veterans' Home of California at Yountville. Amended slightly since its introduction in late February, SB 560 would require the Little Hoover Commission on California State Government & the Economy to submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature by Sept. 1, 2008, assessing the adequacy of services provided to the veterans residing at Yountville.


– SB 562, which seeks to amend the Williamson Act’s definition of “agricultural commodity” to add plant products used for producing bio-fuels, as well as to redefine "open space use" under the Act to add land enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program or Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.


The Williamson Act conserves agricultural and open space land by allowing private property owners to sign voluntary contracts with counties and cities, enforceably restricting their land to agriculture, open space, and compatible uses. In return, county assessors must lower the assessed value of the contracted lands to reflect their use as agriculture or open space instead of the market value.


“Growing crops for bio-fuels is a recent phenomenon in California, but is clearly an agricultural use,” Wiggins said. “Similarly, enrolling property for federal land conservation subsidies and cost-sharing payments is clearly an open space use. My bill would allow the Williamson Act to keep pace with changes in our agricultural industry while adhering to the constitutional principles behind the Williamson Act.”


– SB 813, which seeks to clarify that a provision in the state elections code pertaining to the death of a candidate prior to a vote of the people applies only to primaries and not runoff elections.


The 2006 election for Mendocino County District Attorney featured three candidates running in the June primary: incumbent Norm Vroman died just 47 days prior to a runoff election. County officials invoked one provision of the election code (Section 15402) requiring that the ballots be counted but were subsequently sued over whether another provision rendering the election null and void (Section 8026) should have been invoked instead.


The Appellate Court ordered a special election that negated the results of the primary, setting a new precedent given the intent and history of Section 8026. “In light of the turmoil resulting from the 2006 Mendocino County D.A. race and the subsequent lawsuit and court ruling, I introduced this bill to clarify once and for all that Section 8026 does indeed apply only to primary elections,” Wiggins said.


“My bill would further clarify that if a candidate dies within 68 days of a run-off election, Section 15402 applies to govern the results of that election. The Legislature never intended Section 8026 to apply to run-off elections and doing so results in unnecessary costs, delays, and added confusion for voters.”


– SB 1016, which would create incentives for local jurisdictions to divert 50 percent or more of their solid waste away from landfills through source reduction, recycling and composting.


According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, cities and counties diverted more than 46 million tons of solid waste from landfills in 2005 for an estimated statewide diversion rate of 52 percent. The CIWMB notes that almost 70 percent of jurisdictions have received approval for their diversion rates while about 30 percent have either been granted a time extension or are on compliance orders.


SB 1016 would provide an incentive to cities and counties with diversion rates in excess of 50 percent by easing some of the requirements in their annual reports to the CIWMB.


For more information about Wiggins and her legislation, or to contact her office, visit http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.


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WASHINGTON, DC – On Thursday, a key provision to reduce waste and abuse of reconstruction funding for Iraq and Afghanistan was included in the 2008 Defense Authorization bill and passed through the House by a vote of 329 to 27.


The provision was based on a bill introduced by Congressman Mike Thompson in the last three Congresses called the War Funding Accountability Act.


"Accountability is no longer optional for the federal government," Thompson said in a statement. "Americans deserve to know where their tax dollars are going, and Iraq and Afghanistan are no exception."


Specifically, the Defense Authorization bill requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report every six months on the handling of contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Thompson's office reported. The GAO will report on the value of contracts, how the contracts were awarded and whether the contracts are achieving results.


The bill also expands the authority of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction to include all reconstruction funding regardless of source or fiscal year.


"We've found that contractors in Iraq charged $45 per case of soda and $100 per 15-pound bag of laundry," said Thompson. "Brand-new $85,000 trucks were abandoned if they had minor mechanical problems. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that $8.8 billion was handed over to Iraqi ministries with virtually no tracking of what it was spent on. Meanwhile, families and communities are raising money to send our service members armor and supplies."


Thompson said the Defense Authorization is meant to make sure tax dollars to to where they belong -- “protecting our troops, not lining the pockets of contractors.”


He added, “This bill will scrutinize every single contract and contractor to ensure it's in the American public's best interest."


The provision was strongly supported by the Blue Dog Coalition, of which Thompson is a member. This group's sole purpose is to promote fiscally responsible government spending.


This action comes on the heels of a damaging report issued by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction detailing continued and egregious abuses in the government's funding of the war in Iraq, Thompson's office reported.


Inadequate facilities and non-functioning equipment built by highly paid contractors, insufficient monitoring of government contracts and billions of dollars unaccounted for due to inefficiencies and bad management are just a few of the examples of waste, fraud and abuse detailed in the report.


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