Monday, 22 July 2024


LAKEPORT – Lake County's superintendent of schools says he's willing to share whatever information he can with the grand jury in order to answer issues raised in its most recent report.

Dave Geck, who heads Lake County's Office of of Education, returned from vacation last week. The grand jury report was released on July 9, the day before he left for a scheduled trip to Alaska.

During his first week back on the job the report was the “main thing on my desk,” Geck said.

“I was really upset and mostly concerned about the issues surrounding fairness and accuracy,” Geck said of the report, which he called “inflammatory.”

The report offered two pages of findings but no final recommendations, noting that the investigation is ongoing and will continue with the newly seated grand jury.

Some of the report's findings raised issues with hiring practices, qualifications of an administrator awarded a new position that gave that person an additional $25,000 a year in salary, a pattern of “exorbitant spending” by one administrator in charge of grant programs, hostile work conditions and fear of retaliation from the office's administration.

Because of the highly confidential nature of the grand jury's work, grand jury Foreman Brondell Locke can't comment on the investigation or elaborate on the findings in the report.

Geck said he was concerned that, by listing facts and findings without the investigation being completed, “the impression is, that this is all true.”

He said he and his staff were asked to testify before the grand jury but given little information ahead of time in order to prepare. Had they known more about the grand jury's questions, Geck said they could have provided the necessary information about department policies and procedures.

Geck said he's planning to make a formal response to the report in order to “clear the air.” The response is due 60 days from the July 9 report release date.

To what does he attribute the report?

“What I believe is there are probably employees who felt they weren't treated fairly,” he said. “Whether they were treated fairly or not is a different question.”

Geck who has been in education for 34 years, said he's not sure why those employees would have taken their complaints to the grand jury, when such matters usually are handled through a process that includes representation for the employee. “So I'm not sure exactly what the intent was.”

He said he can't comment publicly about the personnel issues the report raises. But he said he's willing to share personnel files with the grand jury, and would have done so already if they had provided him with a list of files they wanted to see.

“We have information to share with the grand jury, and we will,” he said. “We're taking it very seriously what they're saying.”

Looking closer at report's findings

Geck said he and his staff are looking at the need for an internal investigation to look at the grand jury's findings. So far, there has been no meeting scheduled between him and the grand jury to discuss the matter, but he said he anticipates contacting Locke to set up a time to talk.

One of the grand jury's findings said one administrator spent more than $9,000 in one year on meal and lodging reimbursement, including expenses for people not employed by the Lake County Office of Education.

Geck said to determine if that amount was appropriate, they have to look at the program involved and what expenditures – such as travel and conferences – that are tied to the program's goals. While it may look like an excessive amount to members of the public, it may not necessarily be out of line.

“We're going to look at all of that,” he said.

Expenditures extending to people outside of the Office of Education may be either for people from other districts or members of the business community who sometimes are invited to participate in certain trips, he said.

Geck added that the state requires annual audits of the Office of Education's finances by an outside auditor.

Regarding allegations of a hostile work environment, Geck said his staff also is looking into that. He said he has never had a written complaint listing a hostile work environment or issues of mental abuse the grand jury report cited.

There are many different departments and programs in the Office of Education, he said. “It could be in a part of the organization, we don't know that.”

Geck said he also can explain to the grand jury about the administrator who received a position that gave them a $25,000 a year salary increase.

The report said the position that administrator received was a new one, created in 2007. “The position's existed in the county office for seven or eight years, so it wasn't a new position,” said Geck.

It was, however, posted internally only, which Geck said is done frequently.

Office of Education Human Resources Director Ed Skeen confirmed that the position existed previously.

Another report finding raised issues of proper certifications for some administrative staff.

Skeen said there is a “strange phenomenon” when it comes to credentialing for teachers and administrators. He estimated 75 to 80 percent of local credential applications go through his office, and his staff reviews all qualifications for those.

However, some credential applications take other routes through colleges or universities, which then send letters to the state recommending certification upon completion of a program.

It's possible in those cases, said Skeen, that the person receiving the credential may not be qualified, but his office wouldn't have access to the qualifying criteria. “We do not see every single credential application or supporting documentation.”

He was careful to add, “I'm not questioning anybody's credential status.”

Skeen said the grand jury's report identified issues to look at that the Office of Education also had identified as needing attention, although he did not specify what those were.

The grand jury's approach, he added, appears to be fair-minded.

“I think there's some validity to their interest” in some areas, he said, adding that they might be misled on other areas.

If mistakes were made, they'll be fixed, said Geck.

While the grand jury report indicated an investigation is still under way, Geck added, “The other side of the story is, we're in process, too.”

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


LAKE COUNTY – Mosquitoes collected in Lake County earlier this week have tested positive for West Nile Virus, Lake County Vector Control District reported Friday.

“This is the first West Nile activity we've had in Lake County this year,” District Manager and Research Director Jamesina J. Scott, Ph.D., told Lake County News.

Scott said this is the time of year when officials expect to see more mosquito activity and, along with it, more West Nile activity throughout the state.

The mosquitoes, Culex stigmatosoma – the banded foul water mosquito – were collected in Lakeport on Tuesday, Scott said.

She said the mosquitoes develop in backyard sources of standing water such as birdbaths, neglected pools and ornamental ponds, as well as larger sources like ditches and wastewater ponds.

West Nile Virus is a disease most often spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the California West Nile Virus Web site. The mosquitoes' main source for the virus is wild birds.

Scott said most people who get West Nile Virus from infected mosquitoes won't become ill, but about 20 percent may experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms which may be prolonged.

About one in 150 people will become very ill, she said. People over age 50 and people with suppressed or compromised immune systems are more likely to become seriously ill. West Nile Virus infection is rare, but people with symptoms, including high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, should contact their health care provider immediately.

Scott urged residents and visitors to take common-sense precautions to protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes that transmit the disease. Precautions include avoiding spending time outside at dawn and dusk when the mosquitoes are active; if you must be outside, use a mosquito repellent.

She also asked community members to spend a few minutes this weekend checking out their yards and eliminating standing water where mosquitoes develop in order to protect themselves, their families and fellow community members.

Other than the mosquitoes, this year so far there have been no West Nile cases in horses, humans or chickens, and no dead wild birds, said Scott. Last year there were three dead birds, eight mosquito samples and two sentinel chickens that were positive for West Nile virus in Lake County.

According to state West Nile Virus statistics, Lake is the first North Coast county to show any West Nile activity.

In Southern California the story is different, said Scott, with numerous cases of both birds and mosquitoes found to be infected. In addition, three of the four cases of horses infected this year are in Southern California counties, with the fourth case in Fresno County, the state West Nile Virus Web site reported.

Most of the state's 29 human cases also are located in Southern California, according to state statistics.

Officials reports fewer cases this year

There have been fewer cases of humans with West Nile Virus this year as opposed to last year at this time, when 65 human cases had already been reported.

In addition to the 29 human cases and four cases of horses infected this year, there are have been 808 dead birds, 604 mosquito samples, 30 sentinel chickens and five squirrels found to have the disease statewide, the state reported.

There is no human vaccine for West Nile, although several very good vaccines exist for protecting horses, with the California Department of Food and Agriculture encouraging vaccination. That's the only way to keep horses safe, as there's no cure for the disease in horses.

Horses cases have been down over the last few years, statistics show.

Since West Nile gained a foothold in California in 2003, it has infected hundreds of horses. In its two peak years of 2004 and 2005, it infected 540 and 456 horses, respectively, according to California Department of Food and Agriculture officials. The numbers of cases in horses have since appeared to taper off dramatically due to a variety of factors, including vaccination.

Getting rid of breeding grounds

Scott said an issue of particular concern is homes with neglected swimming pools, since such pools are an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

That problem has been compounded, she said, by the statewide foreclosure crisis, with pools, fountains, water features and spas being left unattended and, therefore, becoming a contributing factor to mosquito breeding.

Vector Control has a special ally in the fight against West Nile Virus, said Scott: mosquitofish.

The little gray guppies thrive on mosquitoes, she said. “They're a good employee.”

The district makes the fish available free of charge, Scott said, for use in pools or water features that don't have chlorine or chemicals.

“If someone can let us know they've got a neighbor with a bad pool we'll come out and put some fish in it,” she said.

County residents are encouraged to report dead birds and squirrels to the state’s toll-free Dead Bird Hotline 1-877-WNV-BIRD (1-877-968-2473) or online at the California Department of Public Health’s website

If you would like to report a mosquito problem, have questions about mosquitoes or mosquito control, or need mosquito fish, please call the Lake County Vector Control District at 263-4770.

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


CLEARLAKE – A major head-on collision on Highway 53 Thursday afternoon left several people injured, according to police.

The crash occurred at approximately 2:18 p.m. on Highway 53 at the intersection with Olympic Drive, said Lt. Mike Hermann of the Clearlake Police Department.

Hermann said the driver of a Toyota Camry, driving northbound, made a left turn in front of a PT Cruiser driver southbound.

The PT Cruiser's driver had to be extricated, said Hermann. Three adult passengers in the vehicle complained of minor to moderate pain, with two of them set to be airlifted out of the county for medical care.

“There may be some major injuries, definitely some broken bones,” Hermann said.

A small infant also was riding in the vehicle, said Hermann, and it was taken to Redbud Community Hospital as a precautionary measure to check for possible injuries.

The Camry's driver also was transported to Redbud Community Hospital, said Hermann, due to complaints of pain and minor to moderate injuries.

The names of the parties injured in the crash were not yet available, he said.

Hermann said it's believed this crash was caused by inattention on the part of the driver who turned into the oncoming car's path.

The Highway 53 and Olympic Drive intersection has been the site of several major crashes, including one in June which injured several dialysis patients riding in a taxi minivan. One of the patients died the next day after having been transported to Sonoma County for care, as Lake County News has reported.

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


Charlie Musselwhite will be one of the featured performers at the Blue Wing Blues Festival, which takes place this week. Courtesy photo.


UPPER LAKE – The Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Saloon and Café in Upper Lake, along with co-sponsor Ceago Vinegarden, are pleased to announce the lineup for this year’s four-day Blue Wing Blues Festival, planned for Aug. 6 through Aug. 9.

Starting at 5:45 p.m. each evening, two great bands will perform on the veranda of the restored Tallman Hotel with the audience gathered in the intimate garden between the hotel and saloon. It’s a great time of day and a great spot to enjoy world-class music with a tasty barbecue dinner included in the price of admission.

Advance tickets are $40; $45 for the Saturday night performance. Tickets are available for purchase by calling the Tallman Hotel at 707-275-2244. Any tickets still available at the gate will be subject to a $5 surcharge.

The following is the festival's performance lineup.

– Wednesday, Aug. 6: Kathi McDonald backed by Rich Kirch and David Hayes to open followed by Twice as Good (featuring Paul Steward) with special guest appearance by the legendary Charlie Musselwhite, winner of the 2006 award for blues album of the year (Delta Hardware). Sponsors: ReMax Realty, AlloraDa Car Productions, and radio station KNTI.

– Thursday, Aug. 7: Kathi McDonald and Rich Kirch followed by the great blues and soul singer Bettie Mae Fikes and the BMF Band with Levi Lloyd and Robert Watson. Sponsors: Lake Lock and Safe, Windrem Law Firm, and Zoom Wines.

– Friday, Aug. 8: Lake Blues All-Stars featuring Mike Wilhelm, Jim Williams and NEON, then the Ford Blues Band with Patrick Ford and Volker Strifler. Sponsors: Strong Financial Group and Moore Family Wines.

– Saturday, Aug. 9: “Mighty Mike” Schermer plus the incomparable Maria (“Midnight at the Oasis”) Muldaur and her Red Hot Bluesiana Band. Sponsors: Blues Express Records, Kelseyville Lumber, UCC Rentals and Ink Spot.

The Blue Wing Saloon has become “the spot” in Lake County for regular live music. In addition to music in the garden at Sunday brunch, great local bands appear in the Saloon every Monday night from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The August lineup for the “Blue Wing Monday Blues” includes:

  • Aug. 4 – Blues Farm with Dave Broida

  • Aug. 11 – The Dan Meyer Band

  • Aug. 18 – The Mark Weston Band

  • Aug. 25 – Memphis Exchange with Randy McGowen

  • Sept. 1 – Twice as Good with Paul Steward

For more information on the Blues Festival or other musical events at the Blue Wing Saloon and Café, call 707-275-2244 or visit or



Maria Muldaur and her Red Hot Bluesiana Band will perform Saturday, Aug. 9. Courtesy photo.



The Ely Stage Stop during its move last summer. The building was moved to a new site which was burglarized this week. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

KELSEYVILLE – A museum in the making has been burglarized, according to a county official.

The Ely Stage Stop, moved last summer to its new home on Highway 281 off Highway 29, was hit by burglars early this week, said Kim Clymire, Lake County Public Services director.

Clymire said his department had rented a cargo container to store tools used on the site. The container was padlocked, plywood was stacked against it and a forklift was up against that for an extra measure of security.

The suspects somehow got the forklift moved, cut the lock and stole about $5,000 in tools and gear, Clymire said.

“It's my understanding they also hit a construction site that same night,” said Clymire.

The construction site had a video camera, and Clymire said that provided the Lake County Sheriff's Office with some important evidence in the case.

Clymire called the burglary “a crying shame.”

“We're spending a lot of time and money on the Ely site,” he said.

Clymire said his department will have to purchase new tools to replace those that were stolen.

In addition to the burglary, Clymire has previously noted issues with vandalisms at parks and facilities around the county, as Lake County News has reported.

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



Lake County International Charter School second grade teacher Vanessa Halliday and her class in their classroom, which recently received a makeover thanks to Halliday's award-winning efforts to increase child safety. Courtesy photo.


MIDDLETOWN – Lake County International Charter School second grade teacher Vanessa Halliday's efforts to increase the safety of her students has made her a national standout.

Honeywell and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recently unveiled a classroom makeover for Halliday, grand prize winner of the third annual Got 2B Safe! Awards Program that recognizes teachers committed to keeping children safer from abduction and sexual exploitation.

This year, 105 teachers from 30 states were honored, including five Grand Prize winners who have created effective techniques to teach children the important safety rules in the Got 2B Safe! program.

“It is critically important that we do everything we can to protect our nation’s children from abduction and exploitation,” said Tom Buckmaster, president, Honeywell Hometown Solutions.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing during a one year period of time, resulting in an average of 2,185 children reported missing each day. Though many of these children are recovered quickly, these staggering numbers highlight the need for increased child safety programming in our nation’s schools.

In 2003, Honeywell and NCMEC created the Got 2B Safe! program to arm teachers, parents and children with vital child safety skills. This year, five Grand Prize winners received a free classroom makeover from a professional designer valued at $10,000, and 100 First Prize winners received $500 worth of school supplies. To enter, teachers submitted a lesson plan or essay demonstrating how they taught the Got 2B Safe! Four Rules of Safety.

Halliday’s Grand Prize winning essay detailed how she applied the Got 2B Safe! Four Rules of Safety in the classroom through creating a skit and song performed at their school assembly. The performance, which featured a Got 2B Safe! safety song, was video-taped for future school presentations.

“The importance of arming our educators, parents and guardians and ultimately, children with child safety tools cannot be underestimated,” said Ernie Allen, president and CEO, NCMEC. “We believe that teaching children about personal safety should be a top priority for everyone, and we are excited to partner with Honeywell on this important program that recognizes these exceptional educators.”

The Got 2B Safe! program provides four simple rules for children to follow with the help of their families and teachers. Additional information is available at

Got 2B Safe! Four Rules:

1. Check First: Children should always check with parents and guardians before accepting gifts, rides or invitations from anyone, including friends, acquaintances and people they don't know.

2. Go With a Friend: Simple and straightforward never go anywhere alone. Being with another person in public is safer and more fun.

3. It's My Body: Teach your children they have the right to say NO to any unwelcome, uncomfortable, or confusing touch or actions by others.

4. Tell a Trusted Adult: Teach your children to TELL a trusted adult parent, guardian, teacher, etc. if anyone or anything makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused.



The classroom received some updates which Halliday won in the Got 2B Safe! Awards Program. Courtesy photo.




For their last day of school, my daughter’s class had a flight experience day at Solo Flight School at the Lake County Airport Lampson Field. Each child learned about airplanes, attended a short flight school, and got to pilot an airplane from Lakeport to Ukiah where the students would switch piloting duties on the trip back (with a pilot trainer in the aircraft with them at all times, of course).

I went to the airport to support my daughter but, being the eternal epicurean, upon arriving at the airport I immediately noticed “There’s a restaurant here!”

For those of you that remember the Sicily’s in Lakeport and Kelseyville, this place is owned by the same people. They have been at the airport since last November and I’m thrilled to have found them. There is something for everyone on this menu. Pasta, salads, steaks, seafood – without a doubt, you will find something that you will like.

The décor is unique. I started off noticing the stereotypical Italian red and white table clothes, but that design element is mixed with pub-style beer promotional neon lights, aviator artwork and some photos of celebrities that have visited their establishment. It’s a little bit of everything that tells the patron just who they are, and it’s funky and fun.

Something I took note of (because as a critic I look for these kinds of touches) is the server presented all of the women I was with (yeah, it’s a tough life) their menus first, and took their orders before mine as well. He also served all of the women before me. To me, that is the sign of a really high-class place because that is a business that knows proper etiquette. That alone makes me respect an eatery because restaurant protocol is a dying art.

Complementary dinner rolls and butter were served while we were waiting for our meal. We also ordered some drinks from their well-stocked bar.

Since my wife makes an awesome Fettuccini Alfredo, I ordered the Prawns Alfredo; I thought it would be interesting to compare them. The shrimp was perfectly cooked and had an appropriate amount for the dish.

As a matter of fact, everything was perfectly cooked. The sauce was fantastic – the only difference that I could tell between Sicily’s Alfredo sauce and my wife’s is that my wife’s includes onions, Sicily’s Prawns Alfredo is THAT good! Remember, my wife edits these columns for me so I have to watch out that I don’t say it’s better than my wife’s but the insinuation is there, got it?

I ordered some deep fried calamari on the side, and it came with French fries; both were crisp and good tasting. I came back another day by myself because I liked my first lunch there so much, and this time I had the Buffalo wings. They come in either a half order (six wings) or whole order (12 wings) with a blue cheese dressing on the side. They come to the table a presented on a pure white plate, and the wings themselves are a beautiful color of red sprinkled with gorgonzola cheese. The presentation really made something as simple as Buffalo wings seem posh. The wings are perfectly seasoned with a spicy hot, but not insane, sauce.

And there’s a bonus to eating here. Not only do you get to enjoy a really good meal but you get to watch aircraft take off and land while you eat. It’s like dinner and a show, although it’s a little more hair-raising when you’re watching your 13-year-old daughter landing an aircraft on a windy day.

So now since discovering this new location, I’ve been there twice for lunch and will definitely someday come back later in the day, because the dinner menu looks even more impressive. They claim “Best Steaks Around the Lake,” and after looking at their dinner menu I’m champing at the bit to go there for an evening. Just listen to these offerings, quoted from their menu ...

Rib Eye Gorgonzola: Tender, juicy 14 ouunce grilled steak topped with Gorgonzola cheese and a special blend of herbs and spices.

Peppered Filet: Tender, juicy 10 ounce beef tenderloin rolled in fresh cracked pepper and glazed with a balsamic cabernet reduction.

I’m drooling like a mountain lion looking at a flock of three-legged sheep just thinking about having dinner there! Then there’s the seafood entrees, the veal, even eggplant parmesan ... Criminy! I’m going to have to get a small apartment nearby just to be close enough to eat everything on their menu that I want to try!

The prices are more than fair for the quality of food and service you are getting, and they do accept reservations which I think are always a good idea. They’re open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner, Sundays 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and they’re closed on Mondays.

If you are interested in the flight experience that my daughter’s school attended, you can call Solo Flight School at 707-U-CAN-FLY (822-6359)

And no, I’m not including my wife’s Fettuccini Alfredo recipe today. I can’t. She’s closely guarding that recipe.

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.


The 12-woman jury deciding the fate of a 23-year-old San Francisco man in a complex month-and-a-half-long murder trial has completed its first week of deliberations.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins said late Friday that the jury in the trial of Renato Hughes had gone home after wrapping up its first week of deliberations.

The high-profile trial was moved to Martinez earlier this year. After a jury was seated last November, a visiting judge granted a change of venue over concerns that Hughes could not get a fair trial.

Hughes is facing two murder charges for the deaths of his friends, Rashad Williams and Christian Foster, on the morning of Dec. 7, 2005 during an alleged break-in at the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds and his girlfriend, Lori Tyler.

In addition, Hughes is facing an attempted murder charge for the beating of 17-year-old Dale Lafferty with a baseball bat and the assault on Edmonds who was hit with a shotgun.

Hughes didn't actually wield the pistol that killed Williams and Foster – it was Edmonds who pulled the trigger – the bat that left Lafferty with permanent brain injury, allegedly used by Williams, or the shotgun that Foster is alleged to have used to hit Edmonds in the face.

However, because Hughes is alleged to have been part of a break-in at the house of Shannon Edmonds, he's being tried under the provocative act doctrine, which holds a person responsible for any deaths that occur during the commission of certain violent crimes that can result in a lethal response.

As such, the other assaults also are being charged against him because they were provocative acts conducted by his companions, who Hopkins alleges were part of a “crime team” seeking to steal medical marijuana from Edmonds.

Hopkins and defense attorney Stuart Hanlon gave their closing arguments in the case on July 24, as Lake County News has reported.

The two men hammered away at the weaknesses in each others' cases during closing arguments.

Hopkins emphasized that the three men were at Edmonds' home with the intent to commit a crime, that they took weapons and little money, and weren't there to buy drugs, as Hughes said in his turn on the stand.

He detailed the crime scene and pointed to a getaway car, Hughes' DNA evidence found at the scene and eyewitness accounts to build the case for a robbery gone bad.

Hanlon, in turn, questioned the lack of blood evidence on a shotgun the prosecution has alleged was the same one used in the robbery; Hughes reportedly had a cut hand and Hanlon said his blood should have been on the gun if he had been carrying it. He also argued for the presence of a fourth individual, known as “Dre” to Hughes.

But Hanlon especially focused on Edmonds, who he alleged reloaded his pistol to continue shooting at Foster and Williams as they ran from his home. Both men died from wounds they received as they fled; Edmonds also said he shot Foster in the back as he lay on the ground, which Hanlon said was proved by forensic evidence.

He called Edmonds a “cold-blooded” killer, who had reportedly told police watching Foster's pants fall down as he ran away was “funny as s***.” But shooting young men in the backs, Hanlon emphasized, was no laughing matter, and was an indication of Edmonds' sense of vigilante justice.

On July 25 Hopkins offered his rebuttal to Hanlon's arguments, and then Judge Barbara Zuniga gave the jury instructions before adjourning for the week.

Out of five days this week Hopkins said the jury probably did about three days of deliberation, because some of the days the jury was only in session part of the day.

The jury asked to have Hughes' testimony, given on July 17, reread to them Friday, which took most of the day and may not have been completed, said Hopkins. It was the only thing they requested other than some exhibits.

Jurors are set to be back in the Martinez courthouse to continue deliberations on Tuesday, Hopkins said.

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


SACRAMENTO – California’s Ocean Protection Council staff this week released a draft strategy to reduce and eliminate ocean litter by banning plastic bags and containers statewide.

In support of the OPC’s historic resolution last year to eliminate marine debris, the draft recommendations also call for plastic manufacturers to recover and dispose of their products and for product user fees to be assessed.

“There is no question that these kinds of steps are critical if we’re going to address the issue of marine debris in a serious way,” said state Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman. “The release of these proposed recommendations will continue our open public dialog on this issue and enhance the discussion about how we may best work together to reduce the threats to our ocean and coast.”

The release of the OPC staff draft strategy is designed to set the stage for actions that, when implemented, will have far reaching benefit for ocean health.

If accepted by the OPC, most of the recommendations would require legislation to be enacted.

The implementation strategy identifies three primary approaches that California should take to eliminate marine debris.

California should: (1) establish a “take-back” program for many types of product packaging that would require plastic packaging manufacturers to take these products back and dispose of them properly; (2) institute a statewide prohibition on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene takeout containers; and (3) impose fees on other packaging.

OPC staff is seeking comments on the draft implementation strategy in writing by Aug. 21. Staff will incorporate changes to the draft based on comments received.

The OPC is also soliciting public comment during its meeting Sept. 11 at 9 a.m. in Half Moon Bay. An updated recommended strategy that will include public input will be presented to the OPC for its consideration at this meeting.

On Feb. 8, 2007, the OPC passed a marine debris resolution that identified 13 recommendations for reducing and preventing ocean litter. The council noted that this litter, commonly known as marine debris, harms hundreds of marine species, from birds that eat small pieces of debris and feed it to their young, to marine mammals that get entangled in larger pieces.

According to the Long Beach-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, 60 to 80 percent of the world’s ocean litter is made up of plastic. In some areas, 90 to 95 percent of the marine debris is plastic.

State and local governments spend millions of dollars every year on ocean litter cleanup. In fiscal year 2006, Caltrans spent $55 million to remove litter and debris from roadsides and highways. Uncollected, most of this will ultimately drain into the ocean.

Marine debris also negatively impacts California’s $46 billion tourism-based ocean-dependent economy. Despite an ongoing effort for decades to reduce ocean litter, the proliferation of plastic debris has increased exponentially.

California communities are not alone in recognizing plastic bags as a significant threat to the marine environment. Several states, including Alaska, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington are considering plastic bag prohibitions. China, Australia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Tanzania, and several other countries recently banned plastic grocery bags. In 2002, Ireland imposed a tax on the distribution of plastic grocery bags that resulted in a 95 percent drop in plastic bag use since the tax was implemented. Whole Foods Market recently stopped offering plastic bags in its nearly 300 stores.

Full and partial polystyrene food container prohibitions have been implemented in many California cities including: Alameda, Aliso Viejo, Berkeley, Calabasas, Capitola, Carmel, Emeryville, Fairfax, Hercules, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods, Los Angeles, Malibu, Millbrae, Oakland, Pacific Grove, Pittsburg, San Clemente, San Francisco, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Scotts Valley and West Hollywood.

The counties of Ventura, San Mateo and Sonoma have also imposed some kind of prohibition as have the cities of Rahway, N.J., Portland, Ore., and Freeport, Maine and Suffolk County, N.Y.

For a copy of the draft implementation strategy or instructions for submitting comments to the OPC, visit the Web site:

To view the OPC’s Feb. 8, 2007 marine debris resolution visit



SAN FRANCISCO – Fifty-one percent of Californians favor more oil drilling off the coast – a 10-point increase since July 2007 – according to a statewide survey released by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

This is the first time since 2003, when PPIC first posed the question, that more Californians favor offshore drilling than oppose it (45%), a shift caused in large part by a surge in support among Republicans. It is also one of many reactions to soaring gas prices that the PPIC survey reveals. The survey was conducted with funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and is the eighth in a series about Californians and the environment.

As the national debate intensifies over how to respond to rising energy costs in a lagging economy, Californians report that they are changing their behavior. The number of workers who drive to work alone has dropped 11 points in five years (73% 2003, 62% 2008). Nearly seven in 10 residents (69%) report cutting back significantly on their driving, and nearly three in four (74%) are seriously considering a more fuel-efficient car the next time they buy a vehicle.


Despite the pain at the pump, residents are concerned that global warming is a threat to California, which has the nation's toughest goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Half of Californians (52%) say global warming is a very serious threat to the state's economy and quality of life, and more than six in 10 (64%) say its effects have already begun, a 7-point increase from 2005.

But here, too, a partisan divide exists, with nearly seven in 10 Democrats (67%) saying global warming is a very serious threat, compared to about half of independents (49%) and just one in four Republicans (25%).

Similarly, 74 percent of Democrats say the effects of warming have already begun, compared to 64 percent of independents and just 41 percent of Republicans. Majorities of Californians say governments are not doing enough to address global warming at any level – federal (66%), state (51%), or local (52%). However, opinion is again divided along party lines, with less than half of Republicans saying that federal (43%), state (29%), or local (33%) governments are not doing enough about global warming.

The barrage of bad news about the economy has not dampened residents' enthusiasm for taking immediate action against global warming.

Eight in 10 (80%) believe steps should be taken right away, a percentage that has increased 7 points since 2003. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents express this view.

Californians disagree with the notion that state leaders, who must fill a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, should wait to implement AB32, the 2006 law that set goals to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly six in 10 (57%) say the state should take steps right away, while a little over a third (36%) say that government should wait until the economy and budget have improved.

"Tough economic times have not diminished the importance of environmental issues for Californians," says Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC. "The environment is seen as a matter of health and well-being, and residents don't want to cut corners there."

"At the same time, Californians are living with the financial hardship of higher gas prices, and they're changing their behavior. They're driving less, which is an environmental win because auto emissions increase global warming. The issue for the state's leaders is to transform Californians' values and their day-to-day economic challenges into a policy that moves the state forward."


Three in four Californians (76%) say that increases in gasoline prices have caused financial hardship in their households. A majority of workers (62%) report that they drive alone to work, but more workers are carpooling (17% today, 13% 2007). Since last year, about the same percentage of workers report walking, bicycling, or working at home (13% today, 12% 2007), or taking public transit (7% today and in 2007), perhaps reflecting that these commuting choices are not available to all Californians.

Those who are richer and older are more likely to drive to work alone: An overwhelming percentage (70%) of residents with household incomes above $80,000 are solo commuters, compared to less than half (44%) of those with incomes under $40,000. While more than 68 percent of Californians between ages 35 and 54 drive to work alone, 52 percent of Californians between ages 18 and 34 do. Among Californians who drive to work alone, 31 percent own or lease an SUV and 6 percent own or lease a hybrid.


How should the nation meet its energy needs? The new support for offshore oil drilling (51% today, 41% 2007) has come from all adults – Republicans (77%, up from 60%), independents (44%, up from 33%), and Democrats (35%, up from 29%). Still, most Democrats (60%) and half of independents (50%) oppose more drilling.

Support for building more nuclear power plants has also increased. Four in 10 (44%) residents support it and half (50%) are opposed. The partisan divide is wide on this issue, with Republicans supporting it (66% in favor, 29% opposed), independents slightly in favor (51% in favor, 42% opposed), and Democrats opposed (60% opposed, 34% in favor).

But there is bipartisan support for alternative proposals to meet the nation's energy needs. More than eight in 10 Californians (83%) support federal funding for research on renewable technologies, such as wind, solar, and hydrogen. Across political parties, more than three in four voters agree with this view.

Seven in 10 Californians say automakers should be required to significantly improve fuel efficiency in cars, even if this increases the cost of buying a car. This view also has strong backing across party lines, with support from 81 percent of independents, 80 percent of Democrats, and 68 percent of Republicans.

Visit the PPIC's Web site at


CLEARLAKE OAKS – Sheriff's investigators are looking for an 18-year-old Clearlake Oaks resident who they want to question relating to a Wednesday night stabbing.

Detectives are trying to locate James Thomas Hubman, one of five suspects in the case, according to Chief Deputy James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Several other suspects, most of them juveniles, have been taken into custody in the incident, said Bauman, but the person actually responsible for the stabbing has yet to be identified.

Bauman reported that deputies responded to the area of Schindler and Fourth Streets in Clearlake Oaks on Wednesday shortly after midnight on a report of a fight between several juveniles and an adult.

When deputies arrived on the scene they found 32-year-old Jason Allard standing in front of his house on Schindler, with a towel applied to his waist, where he told deputies he had been stabbed, Bauman said.

Bauman said that, a few moments later, deputies were alerted to another disturbance a short distance away on First Street that appeared to be related to the stabbing.

While Northshore Fire District Rescue personnel responded to treat Allard, Bauman said additional deputies responded to a residence on First Street where a woman told them a group of juveniles had just run into a house and were yelling inside.

Bauman said three subjects – 19-year-old Ernest Raymond Knight, a 15-year-old juvenile and another 16-year-old juvenile, all of Clearlake Oaks – were detained.

Knight and one of the juveniles had sustained minor injuries, according to Bauman; all three also were under the influence of alcohol and it was clear to deputies that they had been involved in an altercation.

Based on the investigation officials concluded the fight started when Allard and two friends confronted the group of at least five subjects. Bauman said one of the subjects reportedly threw rocks at Allard’s trailer on Schindler and the ensuing argument escalated to the point of Allard retrieving a cane from his home.

The group reportedly charged at Allard one by one, Bauman said, and several of them were struck with the cane by Allard. At one point, Allard lost control of the cane and when he dove to the ground to retrieve it, several of them reportedly jumped on him.

The group then fled and when Allard returned to his home, he realized he had been stabbed in the lower right area of his back, Bauman said.

Officials transported Allard to Redbud Hospital and then to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital by air ambulance where he was treated and released, Bauman reported.

Knight and the two juveniles detained on First Street were ultimately arrested and booked on misdemeanor charges of battery. Bauman said a fourth suspect, a 15-year-old juvenile from Clearlake Oaks, was located two hours later at his home on First Street and arrested for misdemeanor battery as well. None of the suspects required medical treatment.

Bauman said sheriff’s detectives are currently trying to locate Hubman, the fifth suspect in the case, for questioning.

The case is still pending investigation, Bauman said.


PFC Ivan Wilson during his tour of Afghanistan. He died July 21, 2008, in that country, and was posthumously promoted to the rank of lance corporal. Courtesy photo.


CLEARLAKE – The knock that came at Denise Wilson's front door early on the morning of July 21 would change her life – and that of her family – forever. {sidebar id=91}

The 41-year-old mother of three opened the door – which is decorated with two yellow ribbons and framed by two small US flags – to find two US Marines acting as messengers.

The news they brought was the worst the mother of a Marine could expect – that her 22-year-old son, Ivan Wilson, had died earlier that day in Afghanistan, on his second tour of duty in the Middle East.

She said she wakes up often in a cold sweat now, as if anticipating that knock again and again.

But this time when she wakes, it's the voice of her 3-year-old son, Nathaniel that she hears, telling her, “Momma, everything is going to be OK.”

Denise Wilson's son Ivan was the first member of the US Armed Forces from Lake County to die in the current war in the Middle East.

This Sept. 12 would have marked the third anniversary of the day, back in 2005, when he got to the US Marines training center in San Diego and put his boots on the yellow outlines, sealing himself into the brotherhood of the Marine Corps.

His route to that day had included a brief stint at College of the Redwoods; living in a tent city in Seattle, where he'd veered off a planned trip to work on the fishing boats in Alaska; and other places he'd sought to make a place for himself but where his family said the fit just wasn't right.

“Life was hard for Ivan,” his mother said.

So he turned to the Marines, a place many young people have looked for opportunity.

A Marine recruiter, Sgt. Michael Archer, sent Denise Wilson an email July 27, recounting his first meeting with her son on a rainy morning in December 2004 in a Middletown deli.

“Ivan was one of the most respectful and delightful young men I ever had the pleasure of working with on my recruiting tour,” Archer wrote.

Denise Wilson, with 19-year-old daughter Jackie at her side, reads through the e-mails from Archer and many other young men who knew her son – known to them variously as “Willy” or “Juggernaut” – and whose lives he obviously touched.

They remembered him variously as a brave and respected Marine, someone whose sense of humor and friendship made their service easier, and a good young man whose life ended suddenly.

One young Marine, Corporal A.W. Tombleson, said that, had it not been for Ivan Wilson – who laid down M16 rounds as well as explosive rounds to cover him in an exposed position – he wouldn't have survived. Lance Corporal Matthew Perry called him “an outstanding friend,” still another Marine who only signed his name as “Quinn” called Ivan Wilson a “hero amongst the proud and few.”

“I just don't believe that he's gone,” she said of her son, who she called “Sonny Boy Ivan.”

“It's not fair,” she said. “This shouldn't happen ... It just hurts too much.”



PFC Ivan Wilson (center) with his unit at Twentynine Palms, California. Courtesy photo.


The shaping of a young life

Ivan Wilson was born in Sonora on May 29, 1986, and he grew up in Clearlake, living with his family in an apartment on Old Highway 53.

His mother said he attended local schools, eventually wrestling and playing football at Lower Lake High, where both he and sister Jackie were in the SERVE Academy, an academic program with special focus areas including emergency response. He would graduate in 2004 from Clearlake Community School.

He briefly attended College of the Redwoods. “It just didn't work out for him so he came home,” Denise Wilson said.

Ivan Wilson wasn't afraid to try different things, and his mother never faltered in backing him up. “I supported him in everything he did.”

Joining the Marines was a path he took to get his life straightened out, a decision he made “when other things just weren't working out in his world,” his mother wrote in a prepared statement. It was a decision, she said, that he felt was one of the best choices he'd made in a very long time.

After joining the Marines Ivan Wilson the man began to take shape.

He spent January to August of 2007 in Iraq as part of the Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment's Fox Company. During his time there some of his Marine friends were seriously injured in a bridge explosion, Denise Wilson said. Ivan Wilson himself was scraped up in a building explosion, but otherwise came away unhurt.

When he returned home on leave, he kept his thoughts on what he'd seen in that country mostly to himself, his mother said.

“Ivan didn't really talk about it much at all,” she said. “When he came back he was a different person.”

He started working on his issues with alcohol, which had gotten him into some trouble, including an arrest earlier this year. His mother said he was continuing to address his problems and was optimistic about the future.

Ivan Wilson also was eager to see the world – beyond his Middle Eastern tours. “He wanted to go all over the world,” his mother said, and was looking forward to traveling around Europe after his enlistment was up.

His mother said he talked about being a lawyer or an optometrist, and possibly reenlisting in the Navy in order to pursue a career as a pharmacy technician. Sister Jackie said he hadn't shared a lot of details about his future plans.

Following additional training, he was deployed in April to Afghanistan. Communications from, and about, that experience were even more guarded, Denise Wilson said.

She said her son promised that, when he came home, he would tell her more. “They couldn't tell us a lot,” she said, due to security reasons.

She did know he was training friendly Afghan forces during his time in Afghanistan. She would later discover, through e-mail messages from his friends, that he was increasingly taking on a leadership role, asking to “take point,” a term for the most exposed position in a military formation.

In his messages home he was upbeat. In the weeks before his death recounted that “we blew some stuff up” to celebrate July 4, and he was happy to have received some head phones and a video game.

Despite an explosion near his position the night before, on July 10 Wilson told his mother in an e-mail, “Life is good right now.”

He continued, “Last night was explosive quite literally. Everybody is all right though. To you the story would probably make you really concerned for our safety, though we were pumped. There will be plenty of stories to tell when I get home. Like I said before this deployment is crazy and I'm loving it. Send my love to the family.”



Denise Wilson set out pictures of her son, a candle, his dog tags and other mementos on Wednesday, July 30, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


In the heart of the insurgency

Because he was so far from home, and his activities kept so secretive even from his family, it has taken time to piece together the events surrounding his death.

A letter to Denise Wilson from Lt. Col. Richard D. Hall, Ivan's battalion commander, tells part of the story.

The Marine was on patrol in the village of Naw Zad, Afghanistan, located to the north of Lashkar Gah, capital of the southern Helmand province, Hall's letter stated.

Ivan Wilson was fatally injured by an explosive, and was treated at the scene, Hall said. While being transported to the medical facility at Britain's Camp Bastion, Ivan Wilson's hopeful young life ended, despite the efforts of his fellow Marines, according to Marine Edwin “Doc” Daniel, who wrote Denise Wilson.

“He did not suffer,” Hall wrote Denise Wilson. “I tell you this because I thought you would want to know.”

The US Marine Corps told Lake County News that following his death, Ivan Wilson was promoted from private first class to lance corporal.

As a rifleman, Ivan Wilson was security for Lance Corporal Daniel Burmeister, a machine gunner who e-mailed Denise Wilson to say he was preparing to dismount from a seven-ton truck, with Ivan Wilson 30 meters ahead of him, when he was hit by the explosive. “I prayed for him right away when I found out that he was hit.”

A United Nations report an area in the heart where opium poppy cultivation activity is extremely high.

It's also the heart of the insurgency, Dr. Tom Gouttiere, director of the University of Nebraska's Center for Afghan Studies, told Lake County News in an interview.

In southern Afghanistan, including Helmand province, what Gouttiere called the “Neo-Taliban” – insurgency forces including former Taliban fighters and new members – are waging war against coalition forces.

The opium poppies in the area form an important funding source on the black market for Neo-Taliban and Al Qaida, and the groups fight to protect the crop, Gouttiere said.

Marines take on the tasks of going in and being a kind of an attack force in critical, crucial areas,” said Gouttiere, including Helmand, which also is the site of critical electrical grid and hydroelectric projects.

Intense fighting has taken place in the area in the last few months. The Associated Press reported on July 17 that a senior Taliban commander had been among 10 insurgents killed in an air strike in Naw Zad district.

Since Ivan Wilson's death, several more British soldiers have been killed in Helmand province as well, according to British media reports.

As Hall would write to Denise Wilson in a followup e-mail, “We chose a dangerous profession.”

He led from the front and that is why he is not here today,” Denise Wilson said.

First Lt. Curtis Williamson, spokesman for the First Marine Division, told Lake County News that Lance Corporal Ivan Wilson's awards included the Combat Action Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.



On Wednesday, July 30, 2008, Denise Wilson and daughter Jackie look over some of the e-mails they've received from Marines since Ivan Wilson's death in Afghanistan on Monday, July 21, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


Reconstructing lives

Ivan Wilson's little sister, Jackie, is a bright teen who was home on summer break from college when the news of her older brother's death arrived.

She's studying at St. Mary's College in Moraga, considering a sociology major and psychology minor.

Denise Wilson stands by a little altar of sorts to her son set up in the kitchen – photos of him from high school and later in the Marine Corps, a set of his dog tags and a small Marine on a key chain he gave to her and to his father, Chris, who lives in Clearlake also.

She looks at the pictures of her son, and then at her daughter, and worries that Jackie will be OK when she goes back to school.

Little Nathaniel – “Nate Dogg,” a name his older brother and no one else got to call him – doesn't quite understand yet. Her eldest son loved his little brother, Denise Wilson said, showing a picture from Ivan Wilson's basic training in which he holds up Nathaniel.

The whole family is working on holding it together, and they have the support of other Marine parents, friend and neighbors, and the community. On Wednesday morning Denise Wilson received a call from Congressman Mike Thompson in Washington, D.C., asking how he could help.

She said she's grateful for all the letters and notes. “I'm just thankful for all those people,” she said.

Denise Wilson's grief is free of ideology or any hint of a political stance. She's just a mom, still not believing her firstborn son died thousands of miles away.

“I can't take back what happened,” she said of her feelings about her son's death. Of the war, she added, “I think it needs to end soon or come to some resolution.”

First and foremost, she loves her children, and wants to support them.

So, what if Nathaniel came to her in 16 or 17 years, wanting to follow in his big brother's footsteps, and join the military?

She said she wouldn't tell him no.

“I would be supportive of anything my kids wanted to do,” she said.

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



Jackie Wilson's cat, Esther Lou, naps on the family's dining room table next to a photo of the late Lance Corporal Ivan Wilson on Wednesday, July 30, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




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