Sunday, 14 July 2024


UKIAH – A man tasered during a struggle with law enforcement on Monday had methamphetamine in his system, according to a Thursday report.

Christopher John Belknap, 36, a transient from Ukiah, died following the confrontation with a Mendocino County Sheriff's sergeant and a sergeant with the Ukiah Police Department, as Lake County News has reported.

Lt. Rusty Noe of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that Belknap was released from San Quentin State Prison last Saturday.

Belknap attacked a Mendocino County Sheriff's Sergeant Monday at around 8 p.m. as he was parked using his cell phone in the 700 block of S. State Street, Noe said.

While defending himself the sergeant deployed his taser and Belknap was stunned twice before he was able to disengage the taser probes. Noe said Belknap resumed his attack and was punching the sergeant when a Ukiah Police Sergeant arrived to assist.

The Ukiah Police sergeant deployed his taser and Belknap was restrained. Noe said officers were still struggling with Belknap placing him in leg restraints. Belknap became unresponsive and paramedics were called.

Noe said Belknap was transported to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Tests done at the hospital prior to Belknap's death showed positive for the use of methamphetamine, Noe said.

Belknap had a long history of drug abuse and assault including several incidents of resisting arrest, according to Noe.

In April of 2009 Belknap was contacted by sheriff's deputies and arrested for resisting arrest and breaking out a window in a patrol car, Noe said. Charges were referred to state parole and he was sent to state prison for six months on a violation.

Noe said the investigation is continuing with the Mendocino County District Attorney working with the sheriff's office and Ukiah Police.

The cause of death is still pending toxicology testing. Results of an autopsy conducted Tuesday are also pending, Noe said.

MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Fire restrictions on the Mendocino National Forest will be lifted at noon on Wednesday as a result of rain and lower temperatures in the area.

Visitors with a valid California Campfire Permit will once again be able to have fires outside of designated campgrounds, including wilderness areas, officials reported.

The fire restrictions were put in place July 31 due to increased fire danger and hot, dry weather.

Despite the change in weather, fire season is not officially over. Visitors are asked to be careful when using campfires, charcoal fires and gas stoves in the National Forest.

When you have a campfire, please do the following:

  • Clear all flammable material away from the fire for a minimum of 5 feet in all directions to prevent escape of the fire.

  • Have a shovel available at the campfire site for preparing and extinguishing campfires.

  • Have a responsible person in attendance at all times.

  • Extinguish campfire with water, drowning the fire, stirring the coals and ash, and feeling for heat or warm spots; continue the process until the coals and ash are cold.

Campfire permits are available free of charge from any Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or Cal Fire offices, including the Mendocino National Forest.

For more information, please contact the Mendocino National Forest at 530-934-3316.

LAKE COUNTY – The majority of the county's school districts showed improvement in the latest round of Academic Performance Index (API) tests, with Middletown Unified leading the county's districts in performance improvement and overall scores.

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released the statewide results last month as part of the 2008-09 Accountability Progress Report.

The API is the state's accountability system, while the federal government requires the Adequate Yearly Progress and Program Improvement. O'Connell's office reported that both the API and AYP are based upon statewide assessment results from the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program and from the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE).

Students go through the API testing in the spring.

“Our accountability report confirms that most California schools are continuing to make solid gains in academic achievement,” O'Connell said. “For the seventh year in a row schools at every level have made real progress toward the statewide API target of 800, and almost half of our elementary schools have met or exceeded this goal.”

The API is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1000 with a statewide target of 800.

The testing tracks subgroups including racial/ethnic subgroups, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, English learners and students with disabilities, which must meet growth standards for a school to meet its API growth target.

O'Connell reported that the API results also show “a slight narrowing” of the achievement gap between Hispanic or Latino and African American students and their white or Asian peers.

According to the report, 42 percent of all California schools are now at or above the overall statewide target API of 800, up six percentage points from the year before. This includes 48 percent of elementary schools, 36 percent of middle schools and 21 percent of high schools.

Statewide, all student subgroups demonstrated between 11- and 15-point improvement, O'Connell reported. African American, Hispanic or Latino, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students increased their API this year by 15 points, while the API of white students increased by 14 percentage points and the statewide increase for all students was 14 points.

Overall, Lake County's districts showed improvements. The school with the single highest API score growth was Konocti Unified School District's Blue Heron Opportunity School, which rose by 127 points to reach 582 points. The district as a whole grew by four points.

Middletown Unified School District made impressive gains for the year in its API testing. The district's overall growth was 34 points, with Middletown High School improving by 61 and Lake County International Charter School gaining 100 points.

The majority of the district's schools have API scores of 800 or above, and Cobb Mountain Elementary has the highest API score in the county – 881.

Superintendent Korby Olson noted that the API scores of Middletown High School, Middletown Middle School and Cobb Elementary School not only make them the highest performing schools in Lake County, but place them among the top performing schools in Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties.

Olson said all of the district's schools made continued growth on the API thanks to the consistent efforts of the staff and administration.

He said the teachers in Middletown have had a focus on the state standards for more than 10 years,with the focus in the last several years centering on instructional strategies to deliver the standards.

In Lakeport, where scores improved districtwide by 26 points, Superintendent Erin Hagberg said staff use achievement data to drive their instruction methods in order to meet the performance requirements.

Hagberg said teachers spend time in collaboration meetings at grade levels in order to share best practices and make sure they're on the same page, while looking at achievement data and adjusting their approach when necessary.

“I think the results of that are seen in our great scores,” Hagberg said.

Hagberg said the district is continuing to focus on closing the achievement gap for its subgroups – economically disadvantaged students and English language learners, groups which she said are of concern at districts around the county.

She credited those subgroups' improvement to the hard work of both staff and students.

“I'm extremely proud of them,” Hagberg said.

The scores for the counties districts and API testing schools follow. The most recent year's API scores are listed, followed in parentheses by the school's 2008-09 growth number.

Kelseyville Unified School District

Overall growth: -4

Kelseyville Elementary, 755 (-24); Riviera Elementary, 813 (1); Mountain Vista Middle School, 735 (7); Kelseyville High School, 688 (-13).

Konocti Unified School District

Overall growth: 4

Burns Valley Elementary, 711 (-1); East Lake Elementary, 717 (-7); Lower Lake Elementary, 729 (-22); Pomo Elementary, 718 (0); Oak Hill Middle School, 660 (-2); Lower Lake High, 665 (38); Richard H. Lewis Alternative, 706 (-37); Blue Heron, 582 (127); Carle Continuation High School, 678 (-17).

Lake County Office of Education

Overall growth: 18

Lakeport Unified School District

Overall growth: 26

Lakeport Elementary, 783 (32): Terrace Middle School, 801 (30); Clear Lake High School, 757 (10); Lakeport Alternative (Home School), 717 (23).

Lucerne Elementary School District

Overall growth: 7

Lucerne Elementary, 729 (5).

Middletown Unified School District

Overall growth: 34

Cobb Mountain Elementary, 881 (30); Coyote Valley Elementary, 813 (25); Minnie Cannon Elementary, 728 (2); Middletown Middle School, 810 (13); Middletown High School, 780 (61); Lake County International Charter School, 839 (100).

Upper Lake Union Elementary School District

Overall growth: -5

Upper Lake Elementary, 699 (1); Upper Lake Middle School, 666 (-12).

Upper Lake Union High School District

Overall growth: 3

Upper Lake High School, 701 (17); Clover Valley Continuation High School, 551 (No valid API base for 2008).

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

Yuba College's classified employees rallied outside the district's board of trustees' meeting on Wednesday, October 14, 2009, in an attempt to stop the board from cutting 56 jobs. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

CLEARLAKE – As trustees of the Yuba Community College District Board prepared to begin their regular meeting Wednesday afternoon, they found waiting for them dozens of classified employees, sporting blue and white t-shirts and signs.

“What do we want? A fair share, not a full share!” the employees chanted repeatedly in the minutes before the meeting started at the college's Clear Lake Campus on Dam Road Extension.

Close to four hours later, as the board's meeting neared its end, there would be more chanting.

“Shame on you! Shame on you!” Classified employees shouted in unison outside the meeting room following unanimous votes to accept the 2010 budget and lay off 56 classified employees across the district, out of a total of 210 members of the local chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA).

Outraged CSEA members continued to chant while the meeting went on inside. Finally, a campus police officer closed the building's windows to shut out the sound. Talk then turned to the need to recall the board.


Officials said at Wednesday's meeting that they had little choice in making the decision for the district, which has three campuses serving eight counties.


With a 2009-10 budget that anticipates $45.5 million in revenue and $48.8 million in expenses, Vice Chancellor Albert Alt reported that 86 percent of the budget goes to personnel and there are few other places to make cuts.

But union members insisted that they had tried to offer alternatives to the district, to no avail. They also charged that during the recent financial crisis the district had continued to hire administrative positions while trying to balance the budget at the expense of lower-paid employees who offer the bulk of student support services.

Close to 80 people – classified employees, faculty, students and community members – were present for the lengthy meeting, which lasted from 4 p.m. until just before 8 p.m.

Many of the classified staff had carpooled from Woodland and Marysville to be at the meeting, which included not just a budget session and discussions of potential layoffs, but appeals from many groups to save programs said to be in danger.

Library services and the MESA program were two areas members of the public brought to the board, along with complaints from students that cuts to the college were impacting their ability to meet their course requirements.

Elena Heilman, a college librarian, said library services was looking at an 8-percent cut. She questioned how they could continue maintaining a functional library with such cuts, and pointed out that those reductions included laying off the entire staff of Woodland Community College's library.

The MESA program offers assistance and support and tutoring help to science and engineering students. Students who rely on the program said it's made their education possible.

During their reports, trustees told the staff and faculty that they were concerned about the budget cuts they were facing and the possible impacts on everyone. Several of them referenced postcards and letters they're received about the proposed cuts.

“My answers aren't going to please you in many cases,” said Trustee George Nicholau, who has been on the board for nearly 30 years. “I'm thinking in terms of he whole district, and it's very difficult.”

Trustee Brent Hastey said the district is proposing a 3-percent, across-the-board cut to save all jobs, but he's hearing that employees are unwilling to consider it. “Unlike the federal government, we don't get to print money,” he said.

But classified staff representatives, during their address to the board, said they had not heard about the 3-percent cut proposal, which was mentioned later in the meeting by Yuba College Chancellor Nicki Harrington, and which they said Board Chair Alan Flory was quoted as mentioning in a newspaper article in Marysville.

Minerva Lemus, vice president of the CSEA chapter, said she and others were laid off illegally according to the terms of their contract.

She said they received verbal notices on Sept. 22 and 23; the contract requires they receive something in writing 35 work days prior to such verbal notification. Some senior employees also were laid off, when those with the least seniority must be laid off first.

The demand she laid before the board was reinstatement of all employees and, if necessary, the beginning of a process which follows the contract.

Harrington said there have been no layoff notices issued, and no one has been laid off.

Clear Lake Campus Dean Bryon Bell tried to emphasize good news items to the group during his board report, noting they have an amazing group of new and returning students.

He said said the campus was poised to take the next steps in expanding student services and programs, but that's where the bad news came in.

“There's no money for growth, there's no money even to maintain the status quo,” he said.

As he ended his report, Bell noted, “The better days ahead cannot get here quickly enough.”

Harrington told the board that the administrative budgets had been cut in half, noting they were looking at “every nook and cranny.”

However, the board didn't agree to cut its $17,000 travel budget, voting down for the second meeting in a row a motion to do just that.

Associated Students of Yuba College President Juan Cervantes had challenged the board at its Sept. 9 meeting and again on Wednesday to cut the travel budget.

Budget challenges ahead

Alt went over the district's budget challenges. He said the community college system was looking at $649 million in cuts, which translated into 10 percent for Yuba College.

Yuba took a $2.3 million hit at the end of last year after cutting $500,000 in expenses out of its $48 million 2008-09 budget. The district also has been promised $570,000 from the system office that it's not likely to see, said Alt.

He recommended a 7-percent reserve, which is less than the 10-percent level the firm handling the Measure J facilities bond sales wants to reach a better credit rating.

Alt said if the board approved the budget and layoff recommendations – which he said during the meeting were among the worst he'd ever had to offer – that he would begin meeting with CSEA and the campus police associations to make reductions as part of bargaining.

During public comment, Douglas Harris, who teaches human services classes in Clearlake, spoke to the board on behalf of district's adjunct – or part-time – faculty.

Harris said they've lost 69 positions since the spring, with more to come. He estimated that adjunct faculty, many of them retirees who use the income to supplement their retirement, teach about half of the district's course offerings.

“That makes us very important. Without us what to do you have? So adjuncts matter,” Harris said.

Harris also brought the focus back around to students, without whom “none of us has any purpose here.”

He pointed out that classified employees are essential in providing support and services to students.

In order to protect their classified colleagues from cuts, Harris said the adjunct faculty were willing to consider sharing some kinds of concessions – in a proportional manner – to reduce the need for layoffs, an offer which drew enthusiastic response from the dozens of people who had sat for hours in the audience.

Mary Benson, another adjunct faculty member who teaches business classes at the Clear Lake campus, said next semester she'll be the 70th adjunct faculty member to be laid off.

Benson pointed out that as the district has neared the time for cuts it also has added six new administrative positions.

“It's hard for me to wrap my mind around why, when we're cutting so many services, administration can be growing,” she said.

The board, she added, should have considered cutting its travel budget because, despite it being only $17,000, it would have been a symbolic gesture that meant a lot to everybody.

The board voted unanimously to accept the budget before moving to accept the classified layoffs, presented in two separate resolutions based on how the positions were funded in the budget.

Teresa Paras, an instructional assistant at the Marysville campus, was one of the people whose jobs were on the chopping block. As she spoke, more than 40 fellow classified employees stood up in the audience.

Paras said her seniority might allow her to “bump” another less-senior employee, but that didn't make her happy. She said many of her colleagues are suffering from stress because of the situation.

She said the classified employees had offered the board suggestions they didn't take. Now, the board was considering laying off 56 employees. “How do you call that fair? It's devastating.”

Loretta Richard, another CSEA member targeted for layoff who works at Woodland Community College, emphasized that classified cuts hurt students.

“Balancing the budget on the backs of classified staff is a travesty,” she said.

The proposed cuts included laying off half of the Woodland campus' support staff, and the elimination of the tutoring center, which helps 500 students annually, Richard said.

Despite the outcry, the layoff resolutions both passed unanimously.

A woman from the back of the audience yelled “Shame!” after the votes.

Outside, as angry classified workers chanted “Shame on you!” to the board, Donna Veal-Spenser, a CSEA representative, wept, as other union members discussed what actions to take next.

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

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Authorities reported Tuesday that a fight between two brothers last weekend escalated into a confrontation that resulted in the fatal shooting of one of them.



Alberto Alejandro Montes, 24, is alleged to have shot to death his brother Rafael Montes, 26, during an argument last Saturday night at Alberto Montes' Pomo Drive home at the Elem Indian Colony, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Alberto Montes was arrested Saturday night, as Lake County News has reported. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on a murder charge with bail set at $500,000.

According to Bauman's report, the Northshore Fire Protection District and Cal Fire responded to the area of Sulphur Bank Drive and Pomo Drive on a report of a vegetation fire.

About 30 minutes after fire personnel arrived at the scene of the approximately half-acre grass fire located off of Pomo Drive, the sheriff's dispatch began receiving calls reporting a man had been shot by his brother during a fight about the fire at a home on Pomo Drive, Bauman said.

When sheriff's deputies arrived at the Pomo Drive home where the shooting was reported, Alberto Montes immediately came out of the home with his hands in the air and was detained without incident, Bauman said.

Inside the home, Bauman said deputies found the mens' sisters, Rebecca and Nora Montes, and their mother, Brenda Geary. Two of the women were tending to Rafael Montes, who was on the kitchen floor with a gunshot wound to the chest.

Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown said that a Northshore Fire advanced life support engine was pulled from the fire and responded to the shooting on a medical call.

Firefighters and deputies attempted to treat Rafael Montes, but he was pronounced dead at the scene, Bauman said.

Deputies recovered the weapon they believe Alberto Montes used – a .22-caliber rifle – Bauman said.

Bauman said that, according to witness statements given to investigators, Rafael Montes, his two sisters and mother had arrived at Alberto Montes' home, at which time a trash fire outside was burning. About 20 minutes later, it had gotten out of control.

Alberto Montes, his sisters and mother attempted to put the fire out, and at one point he allegedly went into the house and began arguing with Rafael Montes because he reportedly didn't believe his brother was offering any help in the situation, according to Bauman.

The argument escalated to the point where Alberto Montes allegedly went to his room, got the .22 rifle and returned to confront his brother, Bauman said.

Rafael Montes, who reportedly had been drinking, taunted his brother to use the weapon and Alberto Montes is alleged to have fired one shot, striking him in the chest, Bauman said.

Bauman said an autopsy on Rafael Montes is scheduled to be performed on Wednesday morning at the Napa County Coroner’s Office.

The grass fire believed to be the source of the argument was contained after after about an hour, with fire units clearing the scene shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday, Bauman said.

Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins said Tuesday that the Lake County Arson Task Force was investigating the fire.

Arson investigators had turned over to the sheriff's office the information they had. Robbins said they didn't know who lit the fire in a small pile of trash next to the house.

“Our investigation will continue a little bit on it,” he said.

Alberto Montes is tentatively scheduled to be in court for arraignment on Wednesday, according to District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

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CLEARLAKE OAKS – Arson investigators are looking into the cause of a small, fast-moving wildland fire that was reported about an hour before a shooting at the Elem Indian Colony on Saturday evening.

It took firefighters about an hour to contain the fire, which was reported on Sulphur Bank Drive at about 6 p.m. Saturday, according to Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown.

Fire response included three engines and two chief officers from Northshore Fire, mutual aid equipment from Cal Fire – including three engines, one dozer and a chief officer – and a mutual aid engine from Lake County Fire Protection District, Brown reported.

The fire started in the colony and burned towards the Bradley property, Brown said. The fast rate of fire spread was due to 20 mile per hour winds coming off of Clear Lake.

Shortly before 7 p.m., a shooting occurred at the colony. Brown said fire personnel were involved in firefighting operations and did not witness the incident.

A Northshore Fire advanced life support engine was pulled from the fire and responded to the shooting on a medical call, Brown said.

He referred further questions on the incident to the Lake County Sheriff's Office, which did not respond to inquiries on Sunday. For more on the shooting, see Clearlake Oaks man arrested for murder .

Clean up and mop up on the fire continued until 9 p.m., Brown said.

The rainfall led to a downed tree that hit Cobb resident Roger Kinney's home on Tuesday, October 13, 2009. Photo courtesy of Roger Kinney.



LAKE COUNTY – Tuesday's heavy rains were welcomed by many around the county, but the big fall storm also brought with it car crashes, landslides and downed trees.

The National Weather Service predicted between 3 and 7 inches of rain would fall through Wednesday morning. A flash flood watch also was in effect through Wednesday morning for northern Lake County.

Concerns about the storm and its impacts around the state led Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office to direct state departments and agencies to prepare to respond to emergencies.

Caltrans crews were clearing drains and debris and posting warning signs where possible, and officials urged motorists to delay trips when possible and drive very carefully if they are on the road as crews may not have reached a particular area yet.

Cal Fire officials also reported that crews were on standby for emergency response, and had been busy responding to numerous vehicle crashes and downed power lines around the region on Tuesday.

The slippery road conditions led to numerous crashes around the Lake County, according to the California Highway Patrol. Late in the day, one woman's pickup was reported to be partially in the lake at a location along the Northshore.

“The roads are pretty slick out there,” said Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins, whose department had responded to some of the accidents reported on Tuesday.

In areas along Highways 20 and 29 loose boulders were reported to be blocking lanes, the CHP reported.

Lake County's Department of Public Works reported that Elk Mountain Road at Soda Creek was closed during the day to all traffic due to a landslide. The road was expected to be reopened by midnight Wednesday morning.

The wet weather also led to some downed trees.

One, in particular, fell on Cobb resident Roger's Kinney's home on Tuesday. Kinney said he wasn't sure of the exact damage caused by the falling tree.

One of the storm's important benefits is replenishing Clear Lake and the county's creeks.

US Geological Survey stream gauges showed dramatic increases in stream volume in many of the areas around Lake County. Clear Lake's level also showed a marked improvement over the course of Tuesday.

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SACRAMENTO – On Sunday, the last day for him to decide the fate of hundreds of pieces of legislation, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed five bills by Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) but vetoed two others.

The Wiggins bills that he signed were:

  • SB 2, which authorizes a vote of the Pierce's Disease and Glassy-winged Sharpshooter Board on whether the industry assessment should be continued needs to be passed in 2008. PD and the Glassy-winged Sharpshooter continue to be a problem for California winegrape growers. Industry funds are a key component, along with state and federal funds to pay for research and containment. This bill is sponsored by the Family Winemakers of California, the California Association of Winegrape Growers), and the Wine Institute.

  • SB 215, which requires local agency formation commissions to consider "sustainable community strategies" before making boundary decisions. Local agency formation commissions (LAFCOs) control the boundaries of cities and special districts, operating under the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act and are considered by the courts to be the "watchdog" over these boundary changes. One of the purposes of LAFCOs is to "discouraging urban sprawl." To guide their boundary decisions, LAFCOs must adopt "spheres of influence" for cities and districts, designating their future service areas and boundaries. LAFCOs’ boundary decisions must be consistent with these spheres of influence. SB 215 is supported bu the California Association of LAFCOs, Mendocino LAFCO, Planning & Conservation League, Sonoma LAFCO, and Trust for Public Land.

  • SB 260, which increases the cap on the fee assessed on each gallon of motor oil manufactured in California from two cents per gallon to five cents to cover the costs of administering the existing California Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards, Petroleum Products Program. The motor oil fee has not been increased in 29 years (1979). The current rate is not sufficient to cover the costs of the current program. SB 260 is sponsored by the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association.

  • SB 620, which requires a compulsory survey during the time of re-licensure in order to monitor the Osteopathic Doctors' (D.O.s) workforce. In 2001, AB 1586 (Negrete McLeod) required the California Medical Board to administer a compulsory medical doctor (M.D.) physician survey with re-licensure. The survey includes information regarding: weekly hours in patient care, practice zip code, training status, self-designated specialties, and Board certification. The survey has provided a total count of physicians by specialty (i.e. primary care or specialist) statewide, and by county. SB 620 would require a similar compulsive survey for the D.O. Board in order to provide more information on all primary care physicians practicing in California in order to better address recruitment and retention of physicians, and to identify services needed in specific regions. SB 620 is sponsored by the Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons of California and supported by the California Medical Association.

  • SB 635, which allows Sonoma County to increase a number of fees for the purpose of funding domestic violence prevention programs. SB 635 will also extend Solano Countys Family Justice Program until 2011. The purpose of raising the fees for marriage licenses, certified copies of marriage certificates, fetal death records, and death records issued by the county clerk, is to fund oversight and coordination of domestic violence prevention, intervention and prosecution efforts. Currently, similar pilot programs exist in Alameda and Solano but are subject to sunset in 2010. The program would also sunset for Sonoma County in 2015.

The Wiggins bills that he vetoed were:

  • SB 158, which would have required health insurance plans that currently cover cervical cancer screening, to also provide coverage for the genital human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for girls ages 11 - 26. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is also the only known cause for cervical cancer.

  • SB 272, which would have updated academic and career counseling statutes and trains career and vocational education counselors to advise students of all their postsecondary options (including career technical education, multiple pathways, or college education). The California education counseling statutes have not been updated in over two decades. By updating the education counseling statutes and specifying the roles of career counselors, SB 272 would enhance existing counseling programs in order to better address the academic and career needs of students. Furthermore, SB 272 would encourage school counselors to obtain training opportunities to learn about innovative concepts such as multiple pathways and Career Technical Education (CTE).

Visit Wiggins' Web site at .

The Clarkes' museum includes a carnival display that, with a few coins, springs into motion. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



NICE – Behind the brightly painted blue door of a former firehouse along Highway 20 is a new and unexpected attraction: A lunchbox museum and collector's emporium.

Step into the newly opened Clarke's Collectibles and Lunchbox Museum and you'll be greeted by Debbie Clarke, a smiling and energetic woman whose enthusiasm for the wonderful stuff of childhood has coalesced into a colorful and magical new shop.

She and husband Duane transformed the former Nice Firehouse into a shop and museum that is part carnival, part walk down memory lane. It features more than 100,000 collectible items for sale, including dolls, television and movie memorabilia, and toys.

For the last 24 years, Clarke has collected lunchboxes, beginning with the first one that she and husband, Duane, purchased together at a flea market in 1985. It was a lunchboxes featuring teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman that is now nestled amidst the hundreds of other reminders of trips to the school cafeteria.

She has 700 lunchboxes in all, most of which line the walls. Extras are for sale.

Look closely and you're likely to see the lunchbox you carried to school as a child – this reporter did.

One of Clarke's treasures is a Beatles lunchbox she picked up at a small junk store in Clearlake a few years back for 25 cents. During the peak buying season at Christmas, Clarke has seen the same lunchbox go for as much as $1,000.




Debbie and Duane Clarke's lunchbox collection includes several depicting favorite western television shows of the 1950s and 1960s. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



When eBay came along, Clarke's collecting went to another level. “Then it got really crazy,” she said, noting she bought about 250 lunchboxes on eBay alone.

Clarke joined eBay's passionate collectors team in 2005 and was featured in a short eBay film in Chicago in 2008. She's also been the subject of many articles, with the shop's opening now gaining more attention around the region.

Clarke said she's fascinated by the social history that's portrayed on the lunchboxes. As an example, she's noticed that boxes produced during the Vietnam War seemed to have more of a pro-military theme.

She' especially fond of the TV show-related lunchboxes, which feature every genre – from Roy Rogers and “Gunsmoke” to “Kung Fu,” “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Nancy Drew.” Plus there are plenty of Disney and Star Wars boxes.

Then there is the collection of Ponytail boxes. Ponytails, popular from the 1950s to 1980s, were cardboard coated with vinyl in which little girls stored their dolls. Because the cardboard can be easily ruined, it's hard to find them in good condition.

Clarke also has vinyl lunchboxes that, like the Ponytails, are extremely rare because they were easily ruined.

“These are the rarest kind you can get and they cost a lot more,” she said, pointing to a display of the vinyl lunchboxes.




In addition to the lunchbox collection that's part of the museum, numerous lunchboxes also are offered for sale. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



These and numerous other items for sale not just at the shop by on Clarke's eBay page.

Then there is the carnival theme, with a display at the back of the store.

A friend of Clarke's worked at Sonoma County's Recycletown, and happened to be there one day when a man came in, bringing with him animatronics that his father had built for Playland by the Sea in San Francisco.

The man intended to rip out the metal innards of the robotic characters to put them in the recycle bin, but Clarke's friend intervened and they were saved.

One of the characters, an animated bear with a hot dog cart, now resides at the back of the store, next to a giant Laughing Sally which the Clarkes acquired from artist Poe Desmuke, who also did a large carnival themed painting on the shop's ceiling.





This animatronic bear from San Francisco's Playland by the Sea was headed for the trash heap at Sonoma County's dump when a friend of Debbie Clarke's rescued him. He now makes his home in the carnival display at the back of Clarke's Collectibles and Lunchbox Museum. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Drop 50 cents into the slot and Sally is happy to laugh up a storm, as the bear and other characters move, blink, even stick out their tongues while a neon carnival sign flashes “Open.”

Adding an extra measure of authenticity is that Laughing Sally's mirth is a tape of the original Laughing Sally, which Clarke got from Sheldon Steinberg, who owns the antique plumbing shop The Elegant Bowl, located in the old livery stable next to the Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe in Upper Lake.

It was through Recycletown that Clarke also got ahold of a large shipment of Star Wars-related items that were donated after George Lucas moved his movie production headquarters into a new facility in the Bay Area.

Opening the store took about a year, said Clarke.

The genesis of the project came about around seven years ago.





Memorabilia for sale includes items featuring the Beatles. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Clarke had grown up in Lake County and attended Lower Lake High, but had moved to Sonoma County where she was a history teacher in Healdsburg.

One day as she and her husband were driving through Nice, they saw the old firehouse and he said he'd love to own such a building. And it just so happened that when they stopped to look at the building it had a “for sale” sign.

The couple, who between them have three grown children, later sold their home in Sonoma County and moved to Nice full-time. Both of them recently retired and then began their next career as shop proprietors.

While Duane Clarke is the artistic one in the family – designing and painting the building's colorful interior – Debbie Clarke turns her enthusiasm toward her job as curator, sharing her knowledge with anyone who is interested.





An important part of the collection and the store is the offering of rare Ponytail vinyl boxes, used to store dolls. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



They've also created a library for people to look up their item's value.

Even though they've just opened full-time, they're already had a lot of interest, especially from visitors traveling along Highway 20. Many stay for hours at a time.

“They're finding stuff from their childhood,” she said.

She's also seen visitors come in a little down and leave in a better mood after experiencing the colorful displays.

Clarke's Collectibles and Lunchbox Museum is located at 3674 E. Highway 20. The shop is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or private tours can be scheduled by calling the shop at 707-274-9175.

Visit their virtual museum online or contact them through their Web site at . The site also features a video of Laughing Sally.

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




Star Wars memorabilia is among the offerings at the shop. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.






The shop has been renovated over the past year as the Clarkes prepared for their opening. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

UKIAH – A man who attacked a Mendocino County Sheriff's sergeant and subsequently engaged in fight with law enforcement officers died after he was tasered.

Lt. Rusty Noe of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said the fight involving the male subject – who was not identified – occurred on Monday at 8:30 a.m.

The enraged male subject walked up to a Mendocino County Sheriff's sergeant, who was parked in the 700 block of S. State Street in Ukiah, and attacked the sergeant with his hands, Noe said.

Noe said the man struck the sergeant in the face and head numerous times, but the sergeant was, at some point, able to deploy his Taser, causing the suspect to fall to the ground.

The suspect continued to fight and was able to resume his attack on the sergeant when a sergeant from the Ukiah Police Department arrived to assist, Noe said.

The fight between the suspect and the two sergeants continued and then the Ukiah officer used his Taser to subdue the suspect, according to Noe.

Noe said both officers were able to handcuff the suspect and were waiting for additional assistance when the suspect quit breathing.

Fire department personnel responded and the suspect was transported to the Ukiah Valley Medical Center where life saving efforts were continued. The efforts were not successful and the suspect was pronounced dead, said Noe.

Detectives from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, the Ukiah Police and the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office responded and conducted a combined investigation into the death. Noe said the District Attorney's Office is the primary agency in the investigation.

The identity of the suspect is pending the notification of the next of kin, Noe said. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave and are not identified at this time pending the investigation.

Alberto Alejandro Montes, 24, was arrested for murder on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009. Lake County Jail photo.



CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Clearlake Oaks man was arrested late Saturday night for murder.

Alberto Alejandro Montes, 24, was taken into custody just before midnight by the Lake County Sheriff's Office, according to booking records.

He's charged with one count of murder, with bail set at $500,000, plus an additional felony charge of bringing a weapon into the Lake County Jail.

Earlier Saturday evening, sheriff's deputies, Clearlake Police and Northshore Fire paramedics responded to an incident at the Elem Indian Colony in Clearlake Oaks in which a male subject was reported to have been shot in the chest.

Northshore Fire has arrived at a location on Sulphur Bank Drive at the colony at about 6 p.m. to fight a three-acre wildland fire, according to Battalion Chief Pat Brown.

Brown said Northshore's personnel were busy with firefighting operations and didn't witness the incident.

However, Brown said an advanced life support engine was pulled from the fire and responded to the medical call for the shooting at the colony.

Brown referred questions about the shooting to the Lake County Sheriff's Office, which did not respond on Sunday to requests for more information about the arrest or the shooting.

The victim in the shooting, which occurred shortly before 7 p.m., died. By that time a suspect already had been taken into custody.

Montes, whose profession is listed as a cook, was booked into the jail at 12:20 a.m. Sunday, according to jail records.

A tentative arraignment date for Montes has been set for Tuesday.

KELSEYVILLE – A Saturday afternoon crash near Kelseyville resulted in major injuries.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the crash occurred on eastbound Highway 175 on the way to Cobb, one mile from Kelseyville, just after 1 p.m.

A motorcycle was reported to have gone off the road and into a nearby field, according to the CHP.

The CHP said another vehicle was involved. That vehicle had gone 20 feet off the roadway.

The collision resulted in both of the highway's lanes being blocked for emergency vehicles, the CHP said.

Officials said the roadway was reopened just a few minutes before 2 p.m.

The identities of those involved and the extent of their injuries was not available Saturday, although the CHP reported major injuries.

A CHP unit in Santa Rosa was dispatched to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital to conduct a blood draw in the case.

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

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