Mendocino County Today: October 1, 2012

by AVA News Service, September 30, 2012

THE TWO PERSONS DEAD in Saturday morning’s Potter Valley fire have been identified as Earl McDaniels, a grandfather in his 80s, and his son Wes McDaniels, a developmentally disabled man in his 50s. The fire started around 7:30 Saturday morning in the McDaniels home opposite the Potter Valley Volunteer Fire Department on Main Street. The structure was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

ON THE BASIS of a few anecdotes in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times, the writer/reporter, Joe Mozingo, concluded that lots of Mendo’s long-time pot growers are giving up out of despair at what they say is a more heedless contemporary grower. “Veteran Emerald Triangle pot growers see their way of life ending” (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-north-coast-pot-20120930,0,6194912 ), “Pioneering marijuana cultivators in the hills of Mendocino and Humboldt counties are being pushed to the margins by the legalization they long espoused.” “There’s just been this huge influx of folks who have money on their mind, instead of love of the land,” said veteran Mendo pot grower Tom Evans. “What was once a relatively peaceful garden project in the earlier decades which helped pay the mortgage, has become a marijuana culture dominated by outlanders and criminals, punctuated by robbers, thieves, guns, nasty pit bulls, diesel generators with still the risk of a visit by camo-clad pot eradicators.” The older growers Mozingo interviewed blamed the debased pot culture with its huge gardens and large greenhouses on “liberalized” pot laws which have “ruined our business.”

MORE ERRORS are being discovered in the bills being sent to rural property owners by CalFire for “fire prevention.” The controversial “fee,” which many are calling an illegally engineered tax, is based on dubious data collected by CalFire via a combination of assessor records, Community Development records, aerial photographs, and GIS (computerized Geographical Information System) compiled by a third party “designator fee administrator.” Not only do the bills reflect taxable “habitable structures” which are clearly not habitable, but they are based on data which is months if not years old causing the bills, in many cases, to be sent to the wrong people.

ADDING PENALTY TO INJURY, the burden of correcting the errors is the responsibility of property owners who get the erroneous bills. People with inaccurate bills can file a “redetermination petition” within 30 days of receiving their bill. The petition and directions can be downloaded from the Fire Protection Fee Service Center or the State Board of Equalization Websites. To protest a fee the property owner must “attach all documentation to prove your case and make copies for your records before mailing the petition to Fire Prevention Fee Service Center, Attn: Petitions, PO Box 2254 , Suisun City CA 94585.” (And you better send it “return receipt requested.”)

THE STATE RESPONSIBILITY AREA/Calfire board is supposed to review the petitions within 60 days and notify the property owner of the decision, which may or not be the one the property owner expected. Theoretically, a corrected bill will be issued, or a decision for reimbursement if the bill has already been paid. The property owner has 30 days to pay the bill or apply for a reimbursement from the Board of Equalization.

IF THE BILL is not paid, penalties are incurred. If a fire protection fee is not paid within 30 days, penalties of up to 20% of the bill can be added every 30 days the bill goes unpaid. Liens are attached to the name listed as the property owner, not on the property itself, so an unpaid bill will show up against the owner’s credit, even if they don’t now own the property.

INFO ON THE FIRE PREVENTION FEE can be obtained from the firepreventionfee.org website or you can try calling the Fire Prevention Fee Service Center at 1-888-310-6447. (And good luck with that.) For questions about payments contact the State Board of Equalization at 1-800-400-7115. For questions about parcels, contact the County Assessor’s Office which in Mendocino County is reachable at 463-4311 or check the County assessor’s website: www.co.mendocino.ca.us/acr/

SUPPOSEDLY a guide to the fee process called the “SRA Definition Guide” is available on the firepreventionfee.org website. But according to the note on the site Sunday afternoon it’s “coming soon” — after the bills are sent.

OH, and did we mention that the money won’t really go to increasing CalFire’s fire prevention services? Instead, when the dust settles, an amount of money more or less equal to what the state collects in fire prevention “fees” will be taken from CalFire’s overall budget to help balance the state’s budget. A more cynical, not to mention convoluted and underhanded, way of balancing the state’s budget would be hard to imagine.

CALLING ALL PER DIEMS and paid time off blah blah people:

You are invited to attend the first ever Northern California Regional Transition Conference Saturday, October 6, 2012 At the NEXUS event venue 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 1010 in the Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, CA 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Meet and network with other Transition initiatives from the region, including Sonoma, Sebastopol, Berkeley, Albany, Santa Cruz and more! Be inspired by successful community resilience projects. Help take your Transition efforts to the next level; learn innovative organizing tools and methods. If you have helped to organize or have been participating in your community’s Transition initiative, or are simply interested in learning more about this thriving international movement, this is a must-attend conference. To attend, please register online here Cost is $25 (nobody turned away for lack of funds). On-site catered lunch will be available for $10.

Conference Content: Presentations, panel discussions, and hosted group discussions with expert guest speakers and experienced Transition leaders on the following topics (plus much more):

• Engaging more diverse communities in Transition — Engaging community diversity of all types, including communities of color, youth, income levels, etc.

• Creating practical projects — Successful community resilience projects and what has been learned

Transition messaging that appeals to the masses — Messaging strategies and use of media to reach a wider audience and build a more cohesiveTransition movement

• Creating effective Transition working groups — Some practical, proven methods for how to create working groups in your Transition Initiative

• Building partnerships and networking — Strategies for networking and building partnerships with other sustainability/localization organizations and projects

• Creating regional Transition projects — Creating larger projects such as Time Banks, community renewable power collectives, etc. that are regionally-focused and shared across Transition groups

• Sustaining the group while avoiding burnout and having more fun — Personal and group strategies for sustaining the work of Transition over the long haul

• Building Transition organizational capacity and acquiring funding — Tools, ingredients and skills for evolving TI organizational structures and processes for building more capacity and effectiveness

• REconomy and Transition Enterprises — What are the next steps for re-designing our community economies for resilience?

• Plus: Open Space session, Inner Transition exercises, regional networking time, and guest speakers including Pam Hartwell-Herrero Mayor of Fairfax, Kirsten Schwind from Bay Localize, Marco Vangelesti from Slow Money and many more

(If you have some special experience or expertise to share on any of the above topics, please contact Scott McKeown at scott@transitionus.org)

About the Transition Movement: The Transition Movement is a vibrant, grassroots movement that seeks to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis. It represents one of the most promising ways of engaging people in strengthening their communities against the effects of these challenges, resulting in a life that is more abundant, fulfilling, equitable and socially connected. We believe that we can make the transition to a more sustainable world. We hope that you will join us.

One Response to Mendocino County Today: October 1, 2012

  1. Jerry Burns Reply

    October 1, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Hi AVA,
    On the fire fee question, you don’t hear the whine when the home and possessions are saved.These folks should be happy to be paying for the service provided. $150.00 is a pittance compared to losing your house and all your possessions. If you build in or near the wildlands, you should be prepared to pay for protection. Why should I pay for your lifestyle choice. And yes, it is absolutely correct and fitting that the money go back to the general fund as the general fund is where the extra money comes from to fight the fires every year in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>