Tuesday, 23 July 2024


LAKEPORT – A stabbing reportedly took place Friday evening at Library Park, according to a witness account.

The incident took place at the park's boat ramp at about 8 p.m., according to Lakeport resident Harold LaBonte.

LaBonte said the victim survived, and that two arrests may have taken place at the nearby Willopoint trailer park.

He reported some confusion at the scene as patrons at the nearby TNT on the Lake restaurant hurried to leave the area.

Police officials at the scene would not release details, said La Bonte.

A dispatcher at Lakeport Police reported at shortly before 11 p.m. that no one with the authority to release information on the case was available for comment.

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LOWER LAKE – A woman who was revived after an auto accident Wednesday died of her injuries Thursday, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Daphne Kelley, 56, of Clearlake died at UC Davis Medical Center, where she had been taken for treatment, according to CHP Officer Kevin Domby.

Kelley's 1999 Oldsmobile collided with a tree at 8:01 a.m. Wednesday on Highway 29 near Diener Drive, according to CHP incident logs.

Rescue crews had managed to revive her at the accident scene before transporting her to Davis, according to Domby.

The agency reported that Kelley was driving northbound at an unknown rate of speed when her car went into the southbound lane then back into the northbound lane before going off the road and striking the tree on the driver's side.

The CHP has released no further information about the accident or what caused Kelley's vehicle to travel back and forth across the road before the collision took place.

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A sense of sadness permeates our little town. We knew what was coming, yet you keep thinking, "He's too good a man, husband, father, friend." There had to be a miracle somewhere amongst the reality that the end was approaching. The Best Neighbor Lucerne ever had left us on March 13. He put up a good fight but a Higher Power must have needed him more than us. Pinky Cantrell truly was a hero to the folks Northshore.
Pinky was always quick with a smile. But he was quicker to offer a helping hand when he saw a need that needed filling. There were plenty of "needs" in Lucerne. He volunteered at the fire house for 36 years. Any attempts at paying him for a service rendered quickly found its way into the donation jar. He served as Deputy Fire Chief, Assistant Fire Chief and was Captain of Rescue and EMT. He volunteered at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center for many, many years, doing whatever job needed doing, especially helping with commodities day. All anyone had to do was ask.
Pinky and his wife Alyce were amongst the founders of the Citizens Patrol and Neighborhood Watch. I always felt safer when I'd look out and there they went, patrolling our streets, helping to keep us safe and sound. Pinky maintained his contacts with the Sheriff's Department, Caltrans and California Highway Patrol. His drive to serve never diminished.
His love of our mountains was manifested by physical labor. How many trees did he help plant in our National Forest? Who knows, we can't see the forest for the trees he planted, but you can go enjoy the Pinky Cantrell Grove in the Mendocino National Forest. He'd like that.
Even with his own troubles he always made sure to ask how you were doing with yours. When he asked, it wasn't just a polite question, he really wanted to know because he truly cared. When he went to the Lakeport Skilled Nursing Center in Lakeport for his final leg of this journey many of the staff there finally had a chance to repay the kindness and service they had received from him during the course of their lives. Pinky's family is so grateful for the wonderful care he received there, they did treat him like the family member he had become to them.
Alfred "Pinky" Dexter Cantrell got his start in this life on July 22, 1935 in Everton Missouri to Dollie L. Calloway Cantrell and John S. Cantrell. Siblings include John H. Cantrell of Ash Grove, MoO; Lloyd R. Cantrell, deceased; Marguerite Langsdon of Springfield, Mo; Lucille Hutchison of Lubbock, Texas, and Easter Lenger of Mt. Vernon, Mo.

Pinky graduated from Ash Grove High School in 1953. He served his nation as a Marine from 1953 to 1957, serving in the Korean War. He married Minnie Jean Ball Egbert in 1957 and daughter Brenda Lee was born in 1958. Pinky moved to Lucerne in 1968 and worked as a butcher at Lakeview Market for Art Burry. He married Alyce Thedorf in 1992, loving her and her children and grandchildren. He retired from Caltrans in 1997.
The Lucerne Fire House will hold a celebration of the wonderful life of our friend and neighbor in about a month, we will keep you posted. No tears allowed.


Ben Higgins (center), USDA Rural Development's California director, and Rob Wiener of California Coalition for Rural Housing (left of Higgins) presented a grant for $100,000 to members of five local tribes on Thursday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKE COUNTY – Five local American Indian tribes have received a $100,000 federal grant to help them improve housing in their communities.

The U.S. Department of Agricultural Rural Development visited Big Valley Rancheria's Konocti Vista Casino Thursday to make the official presentation to the tribes, which include Big Valley, Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, Robinson Rancheria and Elem Indian Colony.

The grant funds will be used to provide training and technical assistance to assist tribes in acquiring and developing land for housing projects and related infrastructure, rehabilitating and building housing, and operating housing assistance programs, the agency reported.

State USDA Rural Development Director Ben Higgins came for the event. He said the grant is modest when considering the nearly $80 million the agency has awarded over the last seven years to help foster growth in business development, homeownership and infrastructure in rural communities.

However, Higgins said in the case of Lake County's tribes, “Money alone isn't the answer,” and that it's necessary to have an element of community leadership as well.

“There are unique and pressing problems we're looking to address,” he said, which include a poverty rate of 17 percent in Lake County, which is five points above the state average.

Also on hand was Rob Wiener of California Coalition for Rural Housing. That organization is partnering with the tribes on an implementation plan for the grant, which includes conducting an analysis to identify each tribe's training and housing needs, training in affordable housing and training for housing and community development applications.

By funding that important training, said Higgins, the grant will help the tribes plan for the future.

This is one of the first grants the agency has been able to award in this fiscal year, said Higgins, which has been delayed in Congress.

The California Coalition for Rural Housing has done numerous farmworker housing projects, said Wiener, but tribal housing is a brand new experience for them. He said the coalition hopes to see if they can get existing housing programs to work for the county's tribes.

“We see this as a wonderful opportunity to learn about tribal housing issues,” he said.

The visitors from USDA Rural Development and California Coalition for Rural Housing also had what Higgins called an “eye opening” experience.

That came in the form of a tour of Big Valley Rancheria's housing conditions, led by Tribal Administrator Anthony Jack and Linda Hedstrom, the tribe's housing director.

“We're going to dispel the myth that all gaming tribes are rich,” said Jack.

What they showed were conditions that Wiener and Higgins said were some of the worst they had ever witnessed: numerous travel trailers clustered around each other, hooked up to hoses for running water; badly dilapidated homes and trailer houses that looked barely habitable.

And yet they sit in a beautiful area looking out on the lake, on land that Hedstrom called “an incredible, priceless piece of property.”

Even the rancheria's construction department lacked heating, wheelchair access and hot water, said Hedstrom.

“All tribes around here have the same stories,” said Hedstrom.

About 200 of the tribes 860 members live on the Rancheria, said Jack. Hedstrom said many more would like to return to the rancheria to live in their native communities, but the tribe needs more land and better housing.

They're hoping to expand the rancheria, said Hedstrom. While there's prospective land nearby, she said, the owners usually ask exorbitant prices.

The perception, said Jack, is that the tribe has a lot of money thanks to the casino, but that's wrong. Due to competition, he said, “It's hard to make a buck right now.”

That's one reason why the rancheria aggressively pursues grants, said Hedstrom.

The tribe recently put in 10 new manufactured homes next to 10 newer stick-built homes along Yellow Hammer Lane. Hedstrom said they had many people on a list for those manufactured homes. The families which received the homes were determined by lottery, she said, and began moving in at the start of March.

Hedstrom said the tribe wants to hold a construction boot camp, similar to one which has been held successfully in Lake County over the past few years, in order to help tribal members learn how to assist in building their own homes.

Afterward, Higgins said, “The housing conditions here are some of the worst in the state, if not the country.”

For more in USDA Rural Development's programs, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/ca.

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Dilapidated conditions haunt many parts of Big Valley Rancheria, but the tribe is working to find grants to fund more news homes. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
One of 10 new modular homes for tribal members on Yellow Hammer Lane. Each of the homes cost about $112,000, said Big Valley Housing Director Linda Hedstrom. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKEPORT – Lakeport's acting city manager said he plans to recommend that the City Council approve the city's hosting BoardStock this year.

Richard Knoll said in an interview Wednesday that he's preparing a staff report to the council for its March 20 meeting in which he'll urge them to move forward with the event, which for the past two years has been hosted at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa.

The city hosted a public meeting March 6 to allow community members the chance to give their opinions on the plan.

At the council's request, a second meeting to gauge community opinion about the event will be held at City Hall at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20.

From the first community meeting, Knoll said the city received 23 written responses from community members that were opposed to hosting the event, and 19 that expressed support.

He said that he hoped the council wouldn't rely solely on those responses to make their decision, because he believes the event is consistent with past lake-centered events hosted in Lakeport, including boat racing and sailing events.

Knoll said city staff has come up with conditions for the event. “More than anything else, it's a rough operational plan.”

That plan calls for fencing, limited gate locations, hiring extra security personnel to augment the police staff, and requiring that the event be nonalcoholic. That last part, said Knoll, would be enforced through searches of bags and coolers, with alcohol being confiscated if necessary.

A beer garden will be part of staff's suggestion, he said, which would be tightly controlled, with no alcohol leaving that area.

Knoll said there are still other issues that need to be addressed, such as providing access to bathroom facilities for boaters, which he said was a problem at Konocti Harbor.

He said he believes the event will bring a lot of people to the county and could potentially have a very beneficial impact on the local economy.

The event will likely take place in August, Knoll said, although the timing could be more flexible in the future.

He said he's concerned about water quality, because algae blooms have happened in the past at that time – although not recently, he said.

Knoll said the council could make a decision as early as its March 20 meeting, but that he thinks they might wait until April 3, at which time Stimmel – who is currently out of the country – would be able to attend.

Local business owners share opinions

Roy Disney of Disney's Water Sports was one voice at the March 6 meeting who laid out several concerns about the event, especially the intersection of boating and alcohol.

Disney said in a later interview, “Our No. 1 concern with the whole event is safety and safe boating out on the lake.”

Alcohol, he said, “just has no room in boating.”

Disney, who has been in business locally for 25 years, said that the event is “well known for its alcohol consumption.”

While he loves the water sports competition side of the event, Disney said he doesn't believe BoardStock is a good fit for Lakeport, and doesn't think it can be converted to a nonalcoholic event.

He's also not convinced of the potential benefit to local hotels and restaurants, because August is already a peak tourism time.

For Disney, “ideal events” for Lake County include the Konocti Challenge (formerly Pedal the Puddle), fishing tournaments and car shows, which all possess a strong family element.

He said he's not alone in his concerns about the event, and that other local businesses, particularly hotels and restaurants, have told him they don't support BoardStock being held in Lakeport.

Sandra West, owner of Kelseyville's Edgewater Resort, has built a successful business on the lakeshore and been a staunch advocate of the county.

She also was at the March 6 meeting to ask questions.

West said Wednesday that she thinks BoardStock in Lakeport could be a good idea, if it has limitations and restrictions, such as making it an alcohol-free event.

She agreed with Disney that August is already a busy season for local tourism, and she would like to see the event held during the off season, such as in April or October. Like Disney, West said she's also heard from local business owners and community members about hosting the event in Lakeport, and the majority of them have “negative thoughts.”

West said she's also like to see the county hold a “safe, clean and sober weekend,” which she feels would end up attracting more families interested in having safe fun on the water.

She said she would only really support the event if it was advertised as being “safe and sober.”

“No beer gardens, none of that stuff,” she said.

West said it's her understanding that BoardStock, when it was held in Stockton several years ago, was an alcohol-free event.

She added that the promoter should waive any fees for holding the event in Lake County.

There's no better setting for the event than Lake County, she said – if it's done properly.

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A channel of the Middle Creek levee, maintained by the county. Photo courtesy of Tom Smythe.

UPPER LAKE – The US Army Corps of Engineers has removed the Middle Creek levee from its list of levees around the nation that the agency said had not been properly maintained.

In late January, the Corps released a list of 122 levees across the U.S. that it said could fail to protect against flood events due to maintenance issues.

The 11-mile Middle Creek levee system near Upper Lake made that original list, much to the frustration of local officials, who said

Tom Smythe, water resources engineer with the Water Resource Division of Lake County's Public Works Department, said Middle Creek's low rating resulted from a Corps inspection conducted in 2005.

Smythe said the county's levees are inspected twice annually by the state Department of Water Resources, and that the county has remained in compliance with the state's maintenance standards over the past decade.

The Army Corps' low rating listed issues that Smythe said had already been addressed, such as trees and vegetation along the levees, and gravel bars that have been removed.

The Corps' list also incorrectly reported that the 3.5-mile stretch of levees in the Middle Creek Reclamation District is maintained by the Department of Water Resources was maintained by the county, Smythe said.

Since that January list was released, levee districts around the state began requesting reinspections.

On Feb. 14, the Army Corps and Department of Water Resources took another look at the Middle Creek levee system, said Smythe.

The inspection went well, he said.

“The inspectors saw that the system was being maintained and the deficiencies noted in the previous inspection were being addressed,” he said. “Attitudes were positive at the end of the inspection.”

An updated list of levees issued by the Corps on Feb. 16 shows that Middle Creek and seven other levees around the state were removed from the list.

However, the county didn't receive an official notification of that fact, said Smythe, only finding out about it unofficially earlier this month.

Dave Killam, a spokesman for the Sacramento Army Corps office, said those levees were removed from the list after being reinspected based on information provided by the levee owners.

Killam said a new list of poorly maintained levees will be released sometime this spring.

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An Army Corps of Engineer map that showed the levees originally listed as being poorly maintained.


Alie Stout and Conrad Kiczenski at Lucerne Harbor Park, where Saturday's peace rally will take place. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LUCERNE – Conrad Kiczenski is worried – about global warming, poverty and war. And he's only 15.

Those are the major issues that will impact his future, he said.

Rather than just worry, Conrad is moving his feet.

This Saturday, the teen hopes to inspire other young people from around the county to speak out in defense of their future at a 2 p.m. rally in Lucerne Harbor Park.

Lake County's version of the “Shut Down the War Machine” rally, which Conrad and friend Alie Stout have organized, is part of a series of protests scheduled in major cities around the U.S. that same day.

Saturday, events such as the “Gathering of Eagles” rally in Sacramento, will show support for U.S. troops in Iraq. Organizers say that rally is nonpolitical.

Conrad said he first heard about the nationwide rally on Myspace.com, which has emerged as an important social forum for teens.

“I decided, we got to get up and do something,” he said.

He and Alie, 15, began making fliers and putting them up around town, although many of them were immediately torn down, they reported.

That hasn't stopped them, though. In fact, they've been out every day putting up new fliers to replace those that went missing.

This isn't the first time the teens have been involved with political action.

Alie and Conrad met while attending Upper Lake High School. Last October, they were part of a student walkout to protest the war. Alie estimates 70 students left class Oct. 5, despite the fact that they were facing “dire consequences.”

They were both hassled and cheered on by other students and community members, she said. “The positive overruled the negative by far.”

All of the teens ended up receiving detention, she said.

Since then, Conrad left Upper Lake High to study in California Virtual Academy's home school program. He said the school system doesn't motivate original thinking.

The October rally, like Saturday's, was organized largely through Conrad's efforts using Myspace.com and posting fliers.

“I just really think it's a good cause,” said Alie. “This area needs more things for teens to do that are positive, not negative.”

Still, she said she's gotten a lot of negative comments from classmates, whose views have ranged from the rally being a “dumb” idea to the more ominous opinion that it will look bad on her resume when she prepares to go to college.

“I just kinda give 'em the cold shoulder,” she said. “They can say what they want.”

Both the teens say their parents have been very supportive of their work to organize the rally.

Do teens think much about the war in Iraq, and what it might mean for their future?

Conrad and Alie certainly do, but they said other teens either don't think much about it or, worse yet, don't have any hope that they can make a difference by speaking out.

They said the kids who do think about it a lot don't appear to hang out with the popular crowd.

Conrad believes a draft may be imposed soon, because, he said, “We're making enemies faster than we can kill them.”

What would they like to see happen at Saturday's rally?

“What we're trying to do is inspire people to stand up for their future,” said Conrad.

The rally will start at 2 p.m. Saturday in the picnic table area of Lucerne Harbor Park, Conrad explained. There will be an open mike for a discussion of both sides of the war issue.

Conrad and Alie say they want people of all viewpoints to come and share their thoughts “so we can learn from them,” added Conrad.

“I want to leave people inspired, with hope that they can make a difference, because that's really missing,” said Conrad.

He said he expects a pretty good turnout of both adults and teens.

Lake County Youth Action (LCYA), a group Conrad and Alie are helping organize, will meet at noon on Sunday at the Lucerne Senior Center, to discuss the rally and possible future events.

For anyone needing a ride to the rally, Conrad suggests visiting laketransit.org/systemmap.asp.

For more info on LCYA go to groups.myspace.com/lakecountyyouthaction or email Conrad at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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


LOWER LAKE – Rescue crews on Wednesday saved the life of a woman whose car smashed into a tree, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The accident victim's name has not yet been released by authorities.

CHP incident logs report that the solo vehicle accident occurred at 8:01 a.m. on Highway 29 at Diener Drive.

Officer Kevin Domby of the Clear Lake CHP Office reported that the woman was driving north on Highway 29 north of Diener Drive at an unknown speed when the accident occurred.

Domby said the woman's 1999 Oldsmobile traveled into the southbound lane, then back into the northbound lane before going off the road's north edge and striking a tree on the driver's side.

The woman was reported dead at the scene, but rescue crews revived her, said Domby. She was transported to UC Davis Medical Center, said Domby, where she was in critical condition.

No further details about the incident were available by the time of publication.

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LAKEPORT A Clearlake man charged with the October murder of a woman he shared a home with has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

James Wade Roberts, 45, is facing murder charges for the death of Clearlake resident Ruth Donaldson, 63.

Roberts was in Judge Arthur Mann's court Monday to enter a plea, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins, who is prosecuting Roberts' case.

Hopkins said Roberts entered pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder charge against him.

Roberts' defense attorney, Steve Carter, asked for a psychologist, who had previously been appointed to Roberts' case confidentially, to be reappointed as an expert consultant, said Hopkins.

Hopkins explained the Penal Code requires that two to three psychologists must be appointed to evaluate Roberts due to the insanity plea.

He said that Mann appointed two new psychologists to the case, and will continue the hearing March 19, when a third psychologist also will be appointed.

Clearlake Police found Donaldson's body in the Mullen Avenue home that she shared with Roberts on Oct. 15.

Roberts is being held in the Lake County Jail on $1 million bail.

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LAKEPORT – City officials won a victory in their struggle to end a state-imposed sewer connection ban on Thursday, when the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board voted to lift the ban if the city met certain conditions.

Acting City Manager Richard Knoll and other city staffers attended the meeting Thursday morning in Rancho Cordova.

The hookup ban resulted from an incident last April in which the city sewer system became overloaded due to heavy rains and problems with Willopoint trailer park's sewer system.

The city tried to release treated wastewater from its system through irrigation, in order to prevent its sewer ponds overflowing, according to Knoll. Because of ground saturation, between three and six million gallons of treated wastewater ran off the site, into a Clear Lake tributary and, eventually, into the lake itself, which violating CLMSD's waste discharge agreement with the state.

Knoll said the board did decide to formally impose the cease and desist ban – which had been issued to the city on Jan. 18, at the same time as the hookup moratorium. However, it agreed to lift the connection ban, he said.

“There are a number of stipulations and conditions associated with the cease and desist order, including the fact that we have to construct 90 acres of additional irrigation facilities related to our spray disposal at the wastewater site,” he said.

That work needs to be completed by Nov. 1, he said, and would add capacity to the system.

The city has agreed to other stipulations spelled out in the cease and desist order as well, said Knoll, including completing a sewer master plan, and more plans for staffing and revenue.

The project to add irrigation is progressing, said Knoll. At the March 20 City Council meeting staff will offer a proposal from the city's engineering firm that include design and bid specifications for the project.

Last month, Knoll said, the council directed staff to begin negotiations on the irrigation facilities and another capacity-increasing project, which would build a bypass channel around the sewer system's recapture basin, allowing the city to extend irrigation, its main treated wastewater disposal method.

The regional board and the city didn't see eye to eye on everything, said Knoll, including capacity calculations for the city's sewer system. He said during his testimony at Thursday's meeting he mentioned his concerns about those calculations and the board's methodology.

Some of the regional board's staff research included using the city's draft general plan as a basis for calculating capacity, said Knoll, which isn't an accurate approach.

They also found on the city's Web site a map of proposed projects that, if built, would not all run into the city's sewer system.

The information the regional board staff pieced together led them to conclude that several hundred new homes would hook up to the system within the next few years, said Knoll.

Knoll said that's untrue, and after looking historically at the number of new home permits he reported to the board that the city is issuing an average of 12 to 14 permits annually.

Scott Schellinger of Schellinger Brothers, the company building the Parkside subdivision near Westside Community Park, attended the meeting, said Knoll. Schellinger told the regional board that if they could build and sell 25 homes in the next year in Lakeport they would be “ecstatic.” He added that Lakeport is a market that doesn't have high-volume housing demand.

With those objections lodged, however, Knoll said the city was willing to accept the board's conclusions about capacity and move forward.

“The question was, is the city out of capacity?” Knoll said. The answer, he added, based on the water board's calculations, was yes.

However, capacity will expand due to the city's planned projects, he said.

“That is the basis upon which the regional board lifted the connection ban,” said Knoll.

Knoll explained that he told the regional board that it's been a difficult year for the city in terms of the sewer issue. He said he's had to adjust his own thinking about the city's sewer capabilities.

“We've had to come to grips with the fact that we don't have as much capacity as we thought we did,” he said.

Hookups to the sewer system would be able to take place again after Nov. 1 once the city fulfills the regional board's stipulations, said Knoll. That will allow Schellinger Brothers to move forward with permits, including four that were pending for new family homes.

Knoll reported Rick Kemp at the Sears on Main Street also had wanted a building permit for a new business in his plaza, which while in the county would flow into the city sewer system.

With the regional board's willingness to lift the ban based on the city's proposed capacity projects, the city now has new hurdles, said Knoll.

The irrigation and bypass channels, together, are in the million-dollar range, said Knoll.

“How we're going to pay for it is going to be the challenge,” he said.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. The House of Representatives on March 14 passed four measures during Sunshine Week that promote and preserve open government, including a bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act.

"Today, Congress took an important step towards restoring openness and transparency in government," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and a co-sponsor of the bills.

"Over the past six years, the Bush administration has done everything it can to operate in secret, to avoid public scrutiny, and to limit congressional oversight. I am pleased that Congress is reversing this course by passing four critically important good government bills with strong bipartisan support," he added.


The bills passed and the votes were: H.R. 1309 (308-117) to strengthen FOIA and improve public access to government information; H.R. 1255 (333-93) to nullify an executive order limiting access to presidential records; H.R. 985 (331-94) granting improved protection to federal whistleblowers; and H.R. 1254 (390-34) to require the release of presidential library donor information.

– H.R. 1255, approved by a vote of 333-93, makes clear that presidential records belong to the American people, not the president who created them. The Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007 will nullify a Bush executive order which gave former presidents – and their heirs – nearly unlimited authority to withhold or delay the release of their own records. If it becomes law, this legislation will ensure that a complete historical record is available to researchers.

– H.R. 1254, approved by a vote of 390-34, will require organizations that raise money for presidential libraries to disclose information about their donors. This will eliminate a major loophole that allows presidential supporters to secretly give millions in support of a president’s legacy while that president

– H.R. 1309, approved by a vote of 308-117, will strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and improve public access to government information. One key element of this legislation would restore the presumption of disclosure under FOIA that was eliminated by the Bush Administration in 2001.

– H.R. 985, approved by a vote of 331-94, offers improved protections to federal whistleblowers who report wrongdoing to authorities. Federal employees and contractors are privy to information that enables them to play an essential role in ensuring government accountability.

Lake County's Congressman Mike Thompson voted yes on all four of the laws.




WASHINGTON, D.C. Ten years after Congress enacted the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA), only one in five federal agencies actually complies with the law, according to a new survey released today during Sunshine Week by the National Security Archive.

Passed in 1996 and effective in 1997, E-FOIA ordered federal agencies to post key records online, provide citizens with detailed guidance on making information requests, and use new information technology to publish information proactively. The act's intent: Expand public access and reduce the burden of FOIA requests.

But most federal agencies do not follow the law, according to the National Security Archive's government-wide audit, "File Not Found," conducted with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Open Government Survey systematically reviewed agency Web sites to cover all 91 federal agencies that have Chief FOIA Officers and the additional 58 agency components each of which handles more than 500 FOIA requests a year.

Key findings are:

– Only one in five federal agencies (21 percent) posts on the Web all four categories of records that the law specifically requires;

– Only one in 16 agencies (6 percent) posts all ten elements of essential FOIA guidance;

– Only 36 percent of agencies provide the required indexes of records;

– Only 26 percent of agencies provide online forms for submitting FOIA requests;

– Many agency Web links are missing or just wrong - one FOIA fax number checked in the Knight Survey actually rang in the maternity ward of a military base hospital.

"Federal agencies are flunking the online test and keeping us in the dark," said Thomas Blanton, the Archive's director. "Some government sites just link to each other in an endless empty loop."

"Public access on the Web to government information is the only long-term solution to the backlogs and delays that undermine the FOIA today," said the Archive's general counsel, Meredith Fuchs. "This audit plus Congressional oversight should provide a wake-up call to the agencies."

Fuchs cited the Education Department and NASA as "E-Stars" with excellent FOIA Web sites, and the Air Force, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Veterans Affairs as among the dozen "E-Delinquents." Last week, the Archive faxed the top FOIA officer at each of the E-Delinquents with advance notice of the Survey and the critical findings specific to that agency.

"It's appropriate that this important news is being released during Sunshine Week, when millions of Americans will be able to see it," said Eric Newton, vice president of the journalism program at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. "People need to know when their government is not obeying its own laws."

Download the full report at www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB216/index.htm.


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