Saturday, 20 July 2024


LUCERNE – As California Water Service begins the process of seeking another rate hike for the community of Lucerne, a local grassroots group that wants to see Lucerne's water locally owned has reached a milestone.

On July 17 Lucerne Friends of Locally Owned Water (FLOW) received notification that it has attained nonprofit, 501c3 status, according to Craig Bach, the group's vice president. The status went into effect July 13.

He said the nonprofit application was submitted Feb. 13. It was Lucerne FLOW's third attempt, and Bach credited this latest attempt's success to the work of retired attorney Bob Plank, who assisted in making the application.

Bach said Lucerne FLOW will now be able to receive tax-deductible donations as it moves forward in its goal of gaining control of Lucerne's water production and distribution facilities.

Charlie Behne, Lucerne FLOW's president, added, “Now we can pursue some grants and things to help us with some of the things we want to do.”

Lucerne FLOW and its sister organization, Lucerne Community Water Organization, were founded in 2005 in response to San Jose-based Cal Water's proposal to hike the community's rates 278 percent, according to Bach. Cal Water has owned the town's water system since May of 2000.

Lucerne FLOW filed for and received its incorporation status in the fall of 2006, Bach said.

Cal Water is once again seeking a rate increase of 54.9 percent, which Bach said would go into effect in 2011.

Bach said Lucerne FLOW's mission is to gain control of Lucerne's water from the multibillion dollar Cal Water, which he said is guaranteed by the California Public Utilities Commission to make a profit.

Lucerne FLOW, Bach said, is modeled after other FLOW groups, particularly Felton FLOW. That group, located near Santa Cruz, recently gained local control over their water from Cal American, a subsidiary of the European energy giant, RWE.

The effort to meet Lucerne FLOW's goal of locally owned water will be a long one, cautioned Bach.

“It's not going to be done overnight,” he said. “It's going to be a long, tedious process.”

That long process will involve going through the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) and forming a community service district. The LAFCO process is estimated to cost about $15,000, Bach said.

Behne said Lucerne FLOW has spoken to LAFCO officials to get insight about what will be involved. Beginning that phase is “probably our next big step,” he said.

Bach thinks there's a good chance of succeeding, pointing out that Lucerne FLOW has been effective.

For one, he said it's succeeded in its efforts to keep Cal Water from getting that original large rate hike, which had been meant to fund the new plant. Eventually, Cal Water received a loan from the state for the plant.

Bach believes the new plant is working, but it's still having to deal with the unique challenges of Clear Lake's water in the third low water year. “This is like the test of the plant.”

He said previous water managers have said Cal Water hasn't understood Clear Lake's unique nature. “I think it's a lot harder than they originally thought,” he said, noting that they're asking for new equipment for the plant as part of the latest proposed hike.

As Lucerne FLOW prepares to start the process, it's also busy with other community projects, such as beginning a community garden, said Behne.

It also will work against the proposed rate hike. Lucerne FLOW will work with Lucerne Community Water Organization to look at the proposed hike and form a plan to address it. The point is to make sure the community gets what it pays for, Behne said.

“Cal water has a pretty good history of getting rate increases and then not spending all the money for those purposes,” he said.

For more information about the volunteer group visit .

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


I finally got the Queen of the West Coast Blues, Sugar Pie DeSanto, checked into her room at The Lodge in Bettendorf, Iowa at about 10 a.m. July 3. We were a bit jet lagged and slightly sleep deprived, but not worried about it.

Sugar’s manager, Jim Moore, scheduled a radio interview for the noon hour, so I scrambled to my room, jumped on the bed and power napped until about just past 11 a.m. I then rose in search of some un-flight food.

The Lodge is a finely appointed Eastern Europe-themed hotel. En route to the hotel restaurant, I passed a real sleigh, originally from Bavaria, in the latter part of the 19th century that was designed for King Ludwig II by Franz Seitz. Wow, I bet there’s a blues song or two inside that velvet history, I thought. Someone should pimp that ride!

The restaurant was a surprise also. I though I’d invaded some sort of Midwestern banquet or something. I quickly picked my jaw up off the floor, rushed through a great sandwich and gave Sugar Pie a wake up call in time for the radio interview.

Like clockwork, as soon as she was fully awake, Mike Sanders, the radio producer called. He and his wife were in the lobby of the hotel. Sugar Pie advised me to send them up and after all the introductions are made, I left them to handle their business. Sugar Pie asked me to check on the status of her Band Director, Willie Henderson.

Willie Henderson is another soul-poppin’ legend. I actually met him in 2008 at the Chicago Blues Festival. I first became aware of him though in 1970 when he had a hit entitled “Funky Chicken” albeit a different tune than the Rufus Thomas track with the same title. Henderson produced many of the hits of creator of the sound of Southern soul, Tyrone Davis. He also produced hits for Mr. Excitement, Jackie Wilson, as well as the Chi-Lites, Barbara Acklin and others. He is a top notch arranger and band leader.

Willie Henderson and his seven piece band arrived at The Lodge before noon. By 2:30 p.m., we were all assembled in a basement room of the hotel for an intensive rehearsal. Though it was essentially the same band that Sugar Pie used in Chicago last year, it was really interesting to watch Sugar Pie, the cagey veteran, explain exactly how she wanted each song. Every subtle nuance was charted.

In one testy exchange, Henderson handed the horn section parts written in bass clef. When one player complained, Henderson snapped, “You’re an arranger, fix it.” (Transpose it to treble clef.)

They rehearsed more than an hour. The Hotel and the Mississippi Valley Blues Association made sure all the right equipment was there; sound board, mics, monitors, drum kit, piano etc. Toward the end of rehearsal, the band was really hittin’ it. Various musicians from other bands, blues aficionados and hotel guests crept in for a peek at who was putting down the great sound.

Finally, sometime after 3 p.m. Sugar Pie and Willie were satisfied that everything was in order. We coordinated the time we were to leave for the gig and everyone went their separate ways for a few hours.

I checked and double checked my list of things to do; check on Sugar at the appointed time, double check transportation to the gig (and to the airport the following morning), recount CD inventory, grab a snack, nap, shower and boom it’s time to get moving again.

This year the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary. More than 30 acts were presented on two different stages. RiverRoad Lifetime achievement awards were given to Sugar Pie DeSanto on Friday night and Magic Slim on Saturday night. The program of the event explains it thusly:

“The purpose of the RiverRoad Award (as attested by the MVBS logo of a guitar with a river running through it) is to honor those who have devoted their lives to bringing what we call 'river' blues – music that runs deep with emotion, like a river of the soul – to anyone they meet on life’s highways. The MVBS Entertainment Committee chooses as recipients for the RiverRoad Award those bluesman or blueswomen who may not be readily familiar to audiences because they have not been recorded, recognized, or acclaimed as much as the 'stars,' but who are the true legends of the blues, the embodiment of the 'living history' of the blues. As we lose so many of those first and second-generation blues pioneers, it is important to honor those who are continuing the tradition.”

Before Sugar Pie DeSanto’s closing set of the Friday night festivities, Davenport mayor, Bill Gluba, presented Sugar Pie with a plaque and the key to the city of Davenport.

Undeterred, when the band hit at 9:30 p.m., Sugar Pie DeSanto kicked off her shoes and took the capacity crowd prisoner and give a smoldering, unbelievable 75 minute performance. To review it would require more space and time than I am can take at this moment. Be assured that the appreciative crowd danced as if no one was watching, shouted as if sanctified, demanded and received an encore from the Sugar and the band.

After her performance we went straight to the merchandise table where we sold her CD’s and Sugar Pie signed and took pictures for the adoring Blues throngs.

We were finally able to eat “dinner” at about midnight. We were transported back to the lodge where there was an after party goin’ on. Sugar Pie’s performance adrenaline took her to the party. Your CyberSoulMan went to bed. Sugar Pie called me the next morning five minutes before I was to call her as we embarked on the return home journey.

Sugar Pie DeSanto hasn’t had a charting hit in 43 years. Until now that is. Ace Records in conjunction with Island/Universal just re-released all of her Chess Records singles on a CD entitled “Sugar Pie DeSanto; Go Go Power, The Chess Singles.” When the CD was released on this past May 31, it shot immediately to No. 15 on the Billboard Blues Chart. Uncanny.

In the liner notes, the famed Chess Record producer Billy Davis sums up Sugar Pie’s talent in comparison to her record label mate of years ago, Etta James:

“Etta and Sugar Pie were opposites and had a lot in common too. They were both really livewires and loved to entertain. I even took them to do concerts in the Bahamas following those record dates. They set the place on fire. You just couldn’t stop Sugar Pie. Etta could out-sing Sugar Pie, but Sugar Pie could out-perform Etta. It’s too bad they couldn’t do more things together, but they were really on slightly different wavelengths.”

Yes, it is too bad that some enterprising promoter doesn’t book these two great blues divas together to recreate some of that livewire fire that still burns within them both. It’s certainly not too late.


Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Blind Spot, Sunday Brunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 19, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake, telephone 707-275-2233.


Soul Doubt, Blues Monday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 20, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake, telephone 707-275-2233.

Open Mike Night, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake, telephone 707-275-2233.

Twice As Good, 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 24. Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport.

Smokey Robinson in concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Spa & Resort, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Visit the resort online at .

The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31, Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks, telephone 888-77-CACHE.

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

MENDOCINO COUNTY – Mendocino County health officials are reporting that they've confirmed the first probable case of H1N1 influenza in that area.

Mendocino County Health Officer Dr. Marvin Trotter said Friday that a 25-year-old Mendocino County resident contracted the virus, and was showing a mild illness of influenza-like symptoms.

Trotter said the patient is recovering without any treatment of antiviral therapy.

Lake County's first H1N1 case was reported on June 29.

Dr. Karen Tait, Lake County's health officer, told Lake County News in an interview at that time that the new flu virus' unpredictable aspects include a propensity for spreading during the summer, at a time when the traditional flu usually doesn't appear.

The Centers for Disease Control said there have been 40,617 H1N1 cases in the United States and its territories, with 263 deaths.

California has had 3,161 cases – placing it third nationwide behind Wisconsin and Texas – and 52 deaths, placing second behind New York.

Trotter said the H1N1 influenza virus continues to cause mild illness and sometimes severe illness in persons worldwide. Symptoms include fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit), cough and/or sore throat, body aches, and diarrhea and/or vomiting.

Children and adults with underlying medical conditions such as respiratory, cardiac, HIV, cancer, chronic steroid use or women who are pregnant may be at higher risk to become ill and have severe illness, Trotter said.

Infected persons are assumed to be contagious the day before symptom onset and through seven days after onset of symptoms, according to health officials.

Trotter said if a person experiences any of these symptoms is it is recommended that they contact their doctor, stay home from work, school and social gatherings for approximately seven days.

He urged people to cover their cough, wash their hands with soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when no hand washing source is available, get rest, reduce stress and eat healthy in order to reduce the risk of contracting the H1N1 flu this summer.

Clear Lake High School teacher Oscar Dominguez is the 2009-10 Lake County Teacher of the Year.


LAKE COUNTY – The county's best teachers were recently honored with special recognition for their achievements.

Clear Lake High School instructor Oscar Dominguez was selected as the Teacher of the Year for 2009-10.

Each year the county's school districts select one outstanding teacher as their District Teacher of the Year. A Blue Ribbon Committee of community leaders then interviews these candidates.

This year's committee members were Wally Holbrook, Madelene Lyon, Brock Falkenberg and the Lake County Teacher of the Year for 2008-09, Joyce Paiva. The committee was chaired by Chris Thomas, county deputy superintendent of schools.

The criteria for selection of the County Teacher of the Year is based upon the state and national requirements. These include professional development activities, commitment to the improvement of the educational system, personal attributes, creativity and ability to communicate ideas effectively as well as professional skills in delivering curriculum and instruction to students.

Dominguez holds degree in plant pathology from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. He went on to teach elementary school, middle school and high school in Tornillo, Texas, where he gained recognition for his outstanding teaching when he was honored in 2002 as the El Paso Times Teacher of the Year.

Dominguez began his teaching career in Lake County in 2002.

Clear Lake High School Principal Steve Gentry gives Dominguez high praise. “Oscar is an outstanding teacher because he is able to combine a focus on students as individuals and a focus on learning for student achievement. He contributes the time and energy to do both successfully. He is a life-long learner, continually expanding his use of technology in and outside of the classroom and expanding his knowledge of science.”

Dominguez holds his students' attention by applying science to various real-life situations.

Each semester his biology students participate in a variety of environmental projects with West Lake Resource Conservation District, Bureau of Land Management, Robinson Rancheria Environment Center, Clear Lake State Park or the Lake Mendocino Army Corps of Engineers.

“He involves his students in real-world application of science – GPS location of fish beds, raising and releasing steelhead, restoring streambeds, cleaning lakes and campgrounds, lab activities at the Marine Mammal Center, seminars at UC Davis – the list seems endless,” said Gentry.

CLHS class of 2009 Salutatorian Taylor Whipple said that Dominguez calls all of his students “friends” and he often shares stories about his past and his family with them.

Joining Dominguez are the outstanding District Teachers of the Year for 2009-10: David Leonard, Middletown Unified School District; Deanna Madeson, Kelseyville Unified School District; Cynthia Ott, Konocti Unified School District; Hank Smith, Upper Lake Union Elementary District; and John Woods, Upper Lake Union High School District.

Dominguez, along with the District Teachers of the Year, will be honored for their exceptional achievement at a dinner this fall.

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

Editor's note: The following letter is presented in its entirety. Text that is underlined, bold and in capitals represents Hopkins' formatting.

When I recently took over the prosecution of the case involving the collision between a sailboat and a motorboat in 2006 on Clear Lake, I was asking the question: Why do so many people support drunken sailors on the lake at night with their running lights off? It was very disturbing to find out the answer to that question, because it appears people are believing the information out there in the media that is wrong, false and misleading. That is disturbing enough on its own, but even more disturbing is that people have made up their minds based on that information and are not waiting to hear what evidence is presented in court.

The key thing for people to remember in this case is that the evidence in a criminal case is not what others repeat and what the media puts out or what the “Spin Doctor's” have to say; it is what is testified to in court in front of the jury. Once both sides of the case have had a chance to question the witnesses, the facts often change. It is important to keep an open mind and wait to see what the evidence turns out to be.

I have been reviewing the evidence, the photos, the transcripts, the reports, and talking to witnesses. I have been reading the law and the rules regarding water vessels, and reviewing the laws with respect to boating under the influence. I have been going out to the lake and seeing where witnesses were and asking about what they say they saw. I have also spent time carefully looking over the two boats involved.

There are some major areas of the case where the evidence that I have reviewed needs to be stated, so that the community understands the issues in this case. I have waited until the jury panels have all come to court and have been instructed by the court to avoid media about the case, so that this information will not affect them. It is important to remember that all of this is still needs to be heard in court.


The defense keeps posting a chart designed to show that more people saw the lights on than off, so I did my own chart and found that TWELVE PEOPLE saw NO RUNNING LIGHTS on the sailboat at the time of the collision. This number includes three people on the sailboat, including the defendant Mr. Dinius. It also includes three people in the motorboat and six people on the shore or in the water who saw the collision occur.


The other people the defense counts as having seen running lights on the sailboat were ON SHORE at least 40 MINUTES BEFORE THE COLLISION. None of these witnesses saw the collision. Then the defense counts the people who saw CABIN LIGHT, which DOES NOT SATISFY THE LEGAL REQUIREMENT FOR RUNNING LIGHTS.

Everyone who saw the collision saw the running lights of the motorboat clearly.


Three parties were tested for alcohol BY TAKING A BLOOD SAMPLE AT THE HOSPITAL. Nobody was given a Preliminary Alcohol Screening breath test at the scene or anywhere else. The most reliable test for alcohol in the blood is the blood test itself. Mark Weber, the sailboat owner, and Bismarck Dinius, the defendant, were taken to Sutter Lakeside Hospital north of Lakeport. Russell Perdock, the motorboat operator, was taken to Adventist Health Redbud Hospital in Clearlake. The collision occurred shortly after 9 p.m. It takes 25 minutes to get to Sutter and 20 minutes to get to Redbud from Konocti. MARK WEBER was tested at 11:15 P.M., RUSSELL PERDOCK was tested at 11:30 P.M. and BISMARCK DINIUS was tested at 12:05 A.M. Weber and Perdock were tested on April 29, 2006, and Dinius was tested on April 30, 2006. Rumors that Perdock was not tested for over 24 hours are not true. WEBER TESTED .18%, DINIUS TESTED .12% and PERDOCK TESTED .00%. The legal limit is .08%.

The Sergeant who transported Perdock to the hospital put the wrong date on the blood sample taken by the Nurse. The defense has tried to make it sound like the date on the sample was correct and Perdock was delayed in giving a blood sample. The Sergeant in charge of the investigation at the scene will testify that he assigned the other Sergeant to take Perdock to the hospital the night of the collision. The Sergeant who witnessed Perdock’s blood draw took the sample to the Sheriff’s substation in the early morning hours of April 30, 2006. The Detective in charge of evidence will testify that the sample taken to the DOJ lab and tested is the one he picked up early afternoon on April 30, 2006. The hospital medical records confirm that Perdock was treated the night of the collision and remained there at the hospital for treatment for some time. Witnesses observed Perdock still at the hospital, not being transported home by the Sergeant; and Perdock’s ex-wife will testify that she drove him home, not the Sergeant. The defense claim that Perdock did not give blood until 11:30 p.m., the night of April 30, 2006 is physically impossible.


All we have are estimates, guesses and speculation. We cannot prove the speed of the motorboat.


There are rumors that the sailboat was anchored or just sitting in the water. Those are not true. EVERYONE ON THE SAILBOAT SAYS IT WAS UNDER SAIL AND MOVING.


Part of my review was designed to determine what charges I think should be pursued against Bismarck Dinius. Included in my review were the transcripts of the depositions, Insurance Company investigations and the settlement reached in the civil suit. I am satisfied that the civil suit settlement resolved the issue of liability among the parties for the death of Lynn Thornton. The question is whether there is a need to pursue criminal negligence charges in addition to and over and above the civil suit settlement. I have determined that the Manslaughter charge against Mr. Dinius should be dismissed and will make a motion to do that at the next court appearance Tuesday, July 21.

Mr. Dinius is still charged with Boating Under the Influence causing bodily injury or death with a prior conviction of DUI. An issue in that charge is whether his failure to make sure the running lights required by law were displayed while operating the sailboat was a substantial factor in the cause of the death of his passenger. It doesn’t matter that there could be other causes of death unless they were not foreseeable. The Judge who heard the evidence at the Preliminary Hearing has already ruled that the speed the motorboat was traveling was reasonably foreseeable on Clear Lake at night, and the chance of a collision with a sailboat not displaying the running lights required by law would also be reasonably foreseeable. The defense has asked the new Judge to review that ruling twice and the ruling still stands.

We have a serious problem in Lake County with boaters of all types operating while under the influence. We need to avoid the tragedies of serious injury and death that have occurred on Clear Lake. Hopefully, this tragedy will cause boaters to think of the consequences and dangers of boating under the influence and choose to not operate any watercraft while drinking or taking drugs or prescription medicine that affects their ability to handle the watercraft as well as a sober person.


I requested a review of this case by the Attorney General’s office before it was filed. They determined there was no conflict for the District Attorney. They have had two other opportunities to take over the prosecution of this case when the defense filed motions and have not. In the Attorney General’s motion filed with the court, they make it very clear that the law says that a District Attorney can investigate and prosecute a case involving local law enforcement officers.

There are some who think that a law enforcement agency cannot be trusted to pursue the truth in a case involving a fellow officer and are very quick to be critical of anything done in that case. I can speak from personal experience from having reviewed those types of cases, and having looked at the facts involved, and I have found the investigations and perspective of the investigating officers to be very professional. The key is to look at what was done in a particular case and come to conclusions when all the facts are known. Unfortunately, in this case too many conclusions have not been based on the facts, but on rumors and misinformation in the media.

I take my responsibilities as District Attorney seriously. In my 37 years in the criminal justice system as a Public Defender and a Prosecutor, I have formed a healthy respect for our Constitution and a strong belief in a system of justice that does not presume people to be guilty. I work tirelessly to find the truth. It doesn’t matter to me who people are; it matters what we can prove they did. I have authorized the prosecution of four Lake County law enforcement officers charging criminal conduct, and still people think they can just claim that we don’t file against cops. But we cannot convict a person, just because they are an officer, if the facts do not support guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury of 12. Attempting to convict a motorboat operator of manslaughter, when we cannot prove the speed of his boat and he collides with a sailboat operated by drunken sailors at night without their running lights is not going to succeed. It will not convince a jury to vote for guilt just because the motorboat operator is a law enforcement officer, and that seems to be the suggestion of a lot of people.

I believe that a prosecutor never has to fear the truth. My goal in this case is to get to the truth. As you can see, I have already discovered that the truth is different from what people have been led to believe. When this trial has concluded, the District Attorney’s office will have checked every aspect of the case and its investigation to assure that the evidence presented has met our standards of truthfulness and professionalism. If we reach a different conclusion than another law enforcement agency, then that is what we go with. The final product will be a result of what we independently determine.

Jon E. Hopkins is Lake County's district attorney.

ST. HELENA – A Friday fire destroyed a residence in St. Helena.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Pete Muñoa said the fire was reported at 5:25 a.m. Friday on St. Helena Highway in the unincorporated area of Napa County.

Firefighters from Cal Fire, Napa County Fire, St. Helena City Fire and Calistoga Fire departments responded to the incident, Muñoa said.

Two people were at home at the time of the fire and safely evacuated prior to the fire departments' arrival. Muñoa said no injuries were reported.

The first firefighters on scene found the home to be fully engulfed, and went into a defensive attack in fighting the fire, according to Muñoa.

He said the fire destroyed the 2,500-square-foot residence and burned a small amount of vegetation.

The total damage estimated to the structure and contents is approximated at $700,000, Muñoa said.

Investigators from the Napa County Fire Marshal’s Office and Cal Fire believe the cause to be accidental but the fires still is under investigation, he added.

Linda Kelly of The Gourd Gallery (center) and fellow artists and craftspeople give County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox the Star of Lake County Award that Harbor Village Artists won in March on Saturday, July 18, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LUCERNE – During a Saturday afternoon reception the artists and craftspeople of Harbor Village Artists celebrated their first anniversary in business.

The little artists colony, which celebrated its grand opening last October, is housed in four little Alpine-themed shops at 6197 East Highway 20, next door to Lucerne Harbor Park.

The county redevelopment agency purchased and renovated the property, and conducted a search for artists who applied for the storefronts.

The four shops that now make their home there are The Gourd Gallery, Pomo Fine Arts Gallery, Lakeside Art and Konocti Art Studio/Gallery. All of them moved in and opened last July.

Joan Facca, who shares space at Konocti Art Studio/Gallery with Judy Cardinale, Meredith Gambrel and Richard Seisser, said the shop is visited by many people traveling along Highway 20, and they've seen “a lot of interest” and positive feedback regarding the original paintings they offer for sale.

However, Gambrel noted, the economy has meant not as many people are buying art.

It's the first time they've had a storefront, and Facca credit the county for its support. “The county's been great.”

Over at Pomo Fine Arts Gallery, Luwana Quitiquit has on display a variety of handmade American Indian crafts, from jewelry to baskets to buckskin clothing, gourd and abalone art, and drawings.

Quitiquit, an acclaimed Pomo basket weaver, also has a big bearskin gracing one wall and a Pomo tule boat hanging from the ceiling.

Lakeside Art, overlooking the lake, features has everything from custom jewelry by Lynn Hughes to hats made by milliner Toni Stewart, and artwork by Patricia Oates, Diana Liebe, Paula Strother and Anja Koot.

The Gourd Gallery, the only gourd-only shop in California, includes work by sister Linda Kelly and Sandi Coelho-Davis, and Marilyn Crayton. They also feature guest artists and classes.

In March, won the Stars of Lake County Award for new business of the year.

On Saturday, the group presented County Administrator Kelly Cox with the Star award they received as a token of thanks for the county's assistance. Cox said the award will displayed at the county offices.

The shops are open Wednesday through Sunday. For information call 707-274-2346 or the shop numbers: Konocti Art Studio/Gallery, 707-274-1033; Lakeside Art, 707-274-1393; Pomo Fine Arts Gallery, 707-349-9588; or The Gourd Gallery, 707-274-2346.

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



Milliner Toni Stewart offers original, handmade hats at Lakeside Art. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Original and unique gourd art is for sale at The Gourd Gallery. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's unemployment rate in June ticked upward slightly while the state's overall rate remained unchanged.

The Employment Development Department released its monthly report on the state's unemployment numbers on Friday.

In June, Lake County's unemployment rate was 15.7 percent, giving it a statewide rank of 50 among the state's 58 counties. That's up slightly from 15.6 percent in May, when the county ranked No. 48.

California’s unemployment rate was 11.6 percent in June, the same as it was in May.

The state's unemployment measured 9.5 percent in June of 2008, compared to 9.9 percent in Lake County that same month.

The U.S. unemployment rate increased in June, rising to 9.5 percent, officials reported.

Marin County had the lowest unemployment in California in June, with 8 percent.

Lake's neighboring counties had the following ranks and unemployment percentages: Colusa, 53, 17.6 percent; Glenn, 49, 15.6 percent; Mendocino, 9, 10.1 percent; Napa, 3, 8.8 percent; Sonoma, 11, 10.2 percent; Yolo, 17, 11.1 percent.

Statewide, nonfarm payroll jobs declined by 66,500 during the month, according to Employment Development Department data based on two separate sources – a federal survey of 5,500 California households and a larger survey of 42,000 California businesses.

The agency reported that nonfarm jobs in California totaled 14,285,000 in June, a decrease of 66,500 over the month, and a year-over-year change decrease of 766,300 jobs, or 5.1 percent.

The federal survey of households estimated that the number of Californians holding jobs in June was 16,348,000, a decrease of 40,000 from May, and down 737,000 from the employment total in June of last year.

An estimated 2,146,000 Californians were unemployed in June, 7,000 less than the previous month, but up by 850,000 compared with June of last year.

The Employment Development Department estimated that were 14,285,000 jobs in California in June, a net loss of 66,500 jobs since the May survey.

Eleven categories reported job losses in June totaling 66,500 jobs. They included natural resources and mining; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; educational and health services; leisure and hospitality;

other services; and government.

The largest number of jobs lost in June, 13,700, came in the professional and business services categories.

Educational and health services increased by 1.1 percent, adding 19,500 jobs.

Ten categories showed job declines over the year, totaling 785,800 jobs lost. They included natural resources and mining; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government.

Trade, transportation and utilities employment showed the largest decline on a numerical basis, down by 190,500 jobs, for a decline of 6.6 percent, according to the Employment Development Department.

The largest decline on a percentage basis, 18.6 percent, came in the construction division, which lost 147,100 jobs.

During its June survey, the Employment Development Department found 820,387 people received regular unemployment insurance benefits, down from 839,960 in May and up from 457,193 in June of 2008.

New unemployment insurance claims totaled 86,016 in June, compared with 67,579 in May

and 56,359 in June of last year, according to the report.

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

LAKE COUNTY – District Attorney Jon Hopkins said Friday that he intends to drop a felony vehicular manslaughter charge against a Carmichael man who was piloting a sailboat involved in a fatal collision three years ago.

However, Hopkins said he'll still move forward in prosecuting a charge of felony boating under the influence charge causing great bodily injury against Bismarck Dinius, 41, who is facing trial later this month in connection to the April 29, 2006, boat crash that took the life of 51-year-old Willows resident Lynn Thornton.

Dinius' blood alcohol level allegedly was 0.12, according to a blood test result the prosecution will present. The legal limit is 0.08.

“I'm glad that he is moving to dismiss the manslaughter charge. That's the right thing to do,” said Victor Haltom, Dinius' attorney.

Haltom added, however, that the remaining charge still contends that Dinius caused Thornton's death.

Dinius was steering a sailboat belonging to Thornton's boyfriend, Mark Weber of Willows, on that April night when it was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's chief deputy. Perdock was not charged in the case.

The District Attorney's Office charged Dinius with felony vehicular manslaughter with a boat and felony boating under the influence of alcohol.

Dinius also is facing two misdemeanor charges – driving with a blood alcohol level over 0.08 and driving while under the influence. Haltom said those two charges are “lesser included offenses” that appear in prosecutions where there are felony DUI charges.

“Mr. Dinius could only be convicted of those if the jury rejected the felony charges,” he explained.

Hopkins – who last month took over prosecuting the casing himself – said on Friday that next Tuesday he'll enter a motion before visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne to drop the vehicular manslaughter charge.

Jury selection has been under way over the last few weeks, with testimony expected to begin on July 28.

Dropping the manslaughter charge won't change the trial going forward, as the charges haven't yet been read to the jury, said Hopkins.

Haltom is concerned about the felony boating under the influence charge, which he said is essentially the same as manslaughter. Both carry lower and middle terms of 16 months and two years, respectively, while the boating under the influence charge carries a maximum prison term of three years, just one year less than felony manslaughter.

“There remains in this case an absurd and ridiculous and unsupportable felony charge against Mr. Dinius which is being presented to a jury by a man who has clearly not read and digested his own file in the case,” said Haltom.

On Friday, Hopkins issued an open letter explaining his decision in the case. To see the letter in its entirety, click here: District attorney offers open letter to community on sailboat case .

“I'm floored by this letter. I've never seen anything like it,” said Haltom. “We're in jury selection and he's throwing out a letter like this.”

He said he was struck by the hypocrisy of issuing the letter, just a few months after the District Attorney's Office sought a gag order on principals in the case. Byrne denied the motion.

Haltom said Hopkins' Friday letter is riddled with false and incorrect assertions. He further alleged it omits many pieces of important information, with Hopkins not addressing scientific evidence, talking to some witnesses in the case – such as Hans Peter Elmer, a retired law enforcement officer who alleges that he saw Perdock's boat traveling at a high rate of speed – or discussing Perdock's speed or any of the issues about his involvement.

Neither do Hopkins and Haltom agree that a previous driving under the influence conviction against Dinius can be introduced during this prosecution.

In his letter, Hopkins explained that he reviewed the findings of a civil lawsuit regarding Thornton's death. That was was settled before going to a jury; Haltom said the insurance for Dinius, Weber and Perdock paid out nearly $300,000 each, with Weber and Dinius each receiving five-figure settlements.

In civil cases, a jury determines comparative negligence and a percentage of fault, which isn't done in criminal cases, said Hopkins.

He told Lake County News on Friday that he's satisfied that the civil suit resolved the liability issue for Thornton's death.

“I wanted to make sure responsibility was taken, and it was,” he said, adding there's no need to pursue the criminal negligence aspect in the form of the manslaughter charge.

Last month, Hopkins personally took over prosecuting the case from Deputy District Attorney John Langan.

While he said he “can't really say anything” about his reasons for that move, he said he has taken a hands-on approach to investigating the collision.

“It really helps to be able to go out and see where people were, talk to them about what they saw and just get a more complete understanding of what was involved,” he said.

“We're finding things out as we go,” he added, explaining, “You never get the whole picture reading reports.”

Haltom has consistently pointed to Perdock's alleged culpability in the case, accusing him of driving his power boat as fast as 60 miles per hour and having access to evidence in the case – from the boats to his own blood samples to copies of 911 tape that had been reported missing. He's also brought forward witnesses who claim to have seen Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa in the hours before the crash.

Dropping the manslaughter charge, Haltom suggested, could be an effort by Hopkins to reduce the evidence produced at trial about Perdock's culpability. “That ain't gonna fly,” Haltom said.

But, in addressing those accusations against Perdock, Hopkins said, “They don't have any proof of anything. They have a bunch of wild speculation.”

He said he's made it a point for his office to investigate those allegations seriously, “and I have to date found no evidence that supports any of those claims.”

Hopkins added, “I've turned over a lot of rocks and there's nothing underneath them.”

He did not indicate any charges would be filed against anyone else in relation to the case.

As testimony gets set to start later this month, Haltom said he intends to file a motion seeking a “jury view.”

He's asking Byrne to consider allowing the jury to be taken out on Clear Lake by pontoon boat at night so they can see a sailboat maneuvering “at various distances and under various lighting conditions.”

His motion notes that lights on other vessels and shore lights can be indistinguishable at night and “it is difficult for people to be made to understand this phenomenon unless they experience it firsthand.”

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




This column sounds best if you read it with an Italian/American accent.

They may say “Leave the gun, take the cannolis” but I think you may want to leave the crust and take the pizza sauce.

I blame the TV chefs. They all seem to do and say the same thing; there is very little originality amongst them. I can count several who have done a show on pizza and said, “The key to a great pizza is the crust.” Whaddaya talkin’ about? After all, if you wake up in the morning after any kind of party where pizza has been served the one thing you will find is buckets full of leftover pizza crust.

The purpose of the pizza crust is a lot like the purpose of pasta, it’s simply the vessel that brings a sauce and other ingredients to your face. So I always listen to these TV chefs praising the virtues of pizza crust and think, “Aaaay! Whatsamattafah you?” Nobody orders a pizza because of the crust unless something in particular is done to the crust to make it more appealing.

But remember that it’s the additions which are being ordered, not the crust itself. The pizza crust is only desirable if it is stuffed with cheese, sprinkled with herbs, or encrusted with some other thing. Nobody orders a pizza “Extra cheese, pepperoni, and extra crust” or says “Let’s go to Tessio’s pizza place since he has the best crust.”

No, folks, the key to a great pizza is the sauce. Some pizza restaurants have realized the importance of pizza sauce and are so proud of their sauces that they put the sauce on the top of the pizza. Some say it’s pride, some say it’s a marketing ploy; I say it’s pizza so have fun with it.

Pizza is best when all of the ingredients are of good quality and there are some very decent quality ready-made pizza crusts you can purchase at the grocery store. From there you select your quality cheeses, meats, veggies – whatever toppings you like on your pizza – but these ingredients are single notes in the pizza. The only thing that can be really controlled and experimented with is the sauce.

I often think that too many pizza sauces taste good on the spoon but get lost on the pizza, so for my recipe I used much larger amounts of herbs and spices than most pizza sauce recipes call for. I want the sauce to have a chance of being tasted on the pizza, not just be some tomato based lubricant for the other ingredients. Big flavors – now that’s the key to a great pizza!

There is a lot of debate among chefs about whether you should cook your pizza sauce or not during the making, and I’m a big proponent of cooking it so you can pull those flavors out of the dried herbs. I also use wine in the sauce and cooking helps remove that winey taste. I like to use an Italian-style wine for this since “I know a guy” at Rosa D’Oro Winery, and why shouldn’t you use a nice Italian wine for an Italian recipe? I used their 2007 Sangiovese for the recipe and served what was left with the pizza.

When making this pizza sauce recipe be sure to use freshly grated Parmesan; if you use something out of a can, “Why I oughta!” That’s like using powdered lemonade instead of lemon juice in a recipe. I finely grate the cheese with a microplane zester (available at The Kitchen Gallery) and you should use three tablespoons of the cheese if it’s tightly packed, or half a cup if loosely packed.

In view of the fact that I use salt packed anchovies and Parmesan cheese in the recipe I omitted salt as an ingredient, but if you don’t want to use anchovies then you will want to add salt to taste. Just remember to do it when the sauce is finished or you could end up with a tomato-based salt lick.

Almost as if it was planned this way, the average pizza will need one quarter cup of sauce and your average ice cube tray makes cubes in one quarter cup size. Freeze your pizza sauce in ice cube trays, and once frozen remove them from the tray and put into a plastic bag and store in the freezer. This will make portioning easier, and when you’re ready to make a pizza simply take out a cube, let it thaw and then spread it out on your crust. If you are a home canner you can put your pizza sauce up, but use smaller jars so they will be easier to portion.

One footnote about the ice cube trays: the molecules for oil and plastic are very similar and they bind with each other very easily and it is very difficult to separate them, so if you freeze the pizza sauce in plastic ice cube trays they may very well be stained red for life. You may want to purchase new trays to freeze the sauce in.

One last note: Your stovetop WILL be covered in pizza sauce by the end of this. “Sorry ‘bout dat.”

To all of those TV chefs that learned something today ... Fuggitaboutit!

Pizza Sauce

1 six ounce can tomato paste

1 cup tomato juice

1 cup red wine

½ cup grated Parmesan (loosely packed)

1 clove garlic, finely diced

1 anchovy filet or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional of course)

2 tablespoons honey

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon celery seed

¼ teaspoon fennel seed

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix everything together except the olive oil in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (uncovered). Let reduce for half an hour until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, process through a food mill or your favorite strainer to remove seeds. Add the olive oil and stir together. Makes 1 ½ cups of pizza sauce.

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.

POTTER VALLEY – A Potter Valley woman was arrested Thursday evening after she allegedly bit her ex-husband.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that Tammie Szupello, 31, was arrested for allegedly inflicting injury on her 34-year-old ex-husband, a Lakeport resident.

Just before 7 p.m. Thursday Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to 12090 Eel River Road in Potter Valley on a report of a domestic violence incident.  

Deputies arrived at the Potter Valley area and contacted the victim, who reported he had been assaulted by Szupello after he arrived at her residence to drop off their children.  

Prior to the victim leaving the location, he was contacted by Szupello and during a physical encounter she bit the victim on his arm, the sheriff's office reported.

The victim only received superficial injuries and medical services were not summoned.  

Szupello was arrested for domestic violence and booked at the Mendocino County Jail, according to the sheriff's office.

LAKE COUNTY – Even though gas prices aren’t as steep as they were last year, federal, state and local officials are reporting that gas usage and driving overall are down.

Late last month, the state Board of Equalization released a new report on the first quarter of 2009, which is the 12th consecutive three-month period in which Californians used less gasoline. The report also shows diesel use is down.

The Board of Equalization monitors gallons of gasoline and diesel sold through tax receipts paid by fuel distributors.

“For three full years now consumers have cut down on the amount of fuel they use. High gasoline prices, use of more efficient vehicles and the downturn in the economy are all likely contributors to this trend,” said Board of Equalization Chairwoman Betty T. Yee.

In the first quarter of 2009, Californians used 213 million gallons less than the first quarter of 2008, which is a decline of 5.6 percent, according to the Board of Equalization report.

In addition, the agency reported that, for all of 2008, California gas consumption compared to the previous year declined 4.1 percent, a much larger decrease than the 1.0 percent drop in 2007.

The report also compared gas consumption between March 2008 and March 2009. This March, Californians used 1.3 billion gallons, down 30.2 million gallons compared to the previous March.

The Board of Equalization noted that the average California gasoline price at the pump in March was $2.24 per gallon, a 38-percent decline from the average price the same month last year when it was $3.61. Gasoline sold at the lower price in March 2009 generated approximately $211 million in sales tax during that month, an estimated $137 million less than was generated in March 2008.

Diesel consumption also is down. The Board of Equalization's recent report noted that diesel use was down 11.6 percent in the first quarter of 2009 from the first quarter in 2008.

California diesel consumption decreased 8.3 percent in 2008, which the agency said reflects the impacts of the national recession that is associated with much less freight movement on California roads and highways.

Approximately 619 million gallons of diesel fuel were sold in California in the first quarter of this year, which the Board of Equalization reported is 80.9 million gallons less than the first quarter of 2008.

The year-over changes in diesel consumption in the state were less than those seen with gasoline. Diesel fuel sold in March 2009 declined 0.5 percent over March 2008; the total used was 240 million gallons, which is 1.3 million gallons below the previous March.

The Board of Equalization credited declines in diesel consumption – despite a steep decrease in prices – to the effects of the recession. In March, California diesel prices were $2.14 per gallon, down 47 percent compared to March 2008 when the average diesel price was $4.01 per gallon.

Local gas sales and impacts on travel

Doug Gearhart, Lake County’s pollution control officer, said the Lake County Air Quality Management District gathers information on retail gasoline sales as part of its annual permitting. That information, he noted, doesn’t include agricultural use.

From March 2008 through March 2009, there were 21.6 million gallons of gasoline sold in Lake County. The previous year, March 2007 to March 2008, there were 24 million gallons of gasoline sold locally, Gearhart said.

He said the 21.6 million mark is likely the base usage for Lake County residents.

“With all the summer wildfires our tourist traffic was very low,” he said.

Driving declines in rural areas like Lake are outpacing those seen in urban areas, according to a report by the federal Department of Transportation.

The agency noted that the United States is into its second year of a decline in mileage.

The agency reported that there were seven billion fewer miles traveled this past January than in the same month the previous year, or a 3.1-percent drop. The agency reported that this was the first “ back-to-back“ decline for January since 1981-1982.

That’s part of a much larger trend of declining mileage, which started in December of 2007, the same month, incidentally, as officials reported the US recession began.

From December 2007 through January 2009, there were 122 billion fewer vehicle miles traveled than the period of December 2006 through January 2008, the Department of Transportation reported.

More recent numbers for April show that travel on all roads and streets is estimated to be 249.5 billion vehicle miles, up by 0.6 percent, or 1.4 billion vehicle miles, over April 2008. However, cumulative travel miles for 2009 is expected to be down by 1.1 percent, or 10 billion vehicle miles. The year's cumulative estimate is 933.2 billion vehicle miles.

Cynthia Harris, a spokesperson for AAA of Northern California, said the trend of driving and traveling less has been going on for several years.

Harris said normally there is a 1-percent annual increase in the number of travelers. “For the last year there has been a decrease, and that’s the first time since 9/11,” she said.

The reasons, said Harris, are high gas prices and peoples’ uncertainty over the economy.

She said people are still traveling for holidays, but are going shorter distances. When they do travel, they tend to stay with friends and family or come back the same day. That means less time in hotels, and more people driving instead of flying.

In July 2008, gasoline peaked at nearly $5 a gallon, said Harris. Yet, even though gas prices have gone down, people didn’t return to their previous levels of travel.

She said it’s likely due to caution that people now have, knowing that gas prices can spike. Consumers are savvy, and have caught on to the volatility of gas prices, she said. “People are very leery of that.”

The result, she said, is that the entire spectrum of the travel industry has been affected.

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

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