Letters To The Editor
by AVA News Service, June 27, 2013
BYPASS: A MAJOR DISSERVICE
"Papa, I want to play!"
The first time my daughter said those words during our drive it was easy to smile and let her know that Willits was just ahead, and that we would soon stop to take a break from our drive south on Highway 101 to the San Francisco Bay Area. By the tenth time she had yelled it out, the grey hairs on my head were standing straight up. Her screaming for a play stop intensified as we passed the Willits High School. Within seconds we were piling out of the car and leaping into the playground at the Willits City Park. My wife and I drew straws to see who would be first to step up the block to get a coffee and check our work email, and to see who it was that would be charged with doing the banking chores that had been impossible to do as we left Humboldt County in the early hours before the banks had even opened.
As Humboldt County residents, such is the nature of many of our trips south, and north, along Highway 101. We know that we are not the only family on the North Coast of California that has this type of convenient and happy relationship with the amenities and activities of Willits as a logical, convenient, and pleasant stop when traveling on the Redwood Highway. It is this day-to-day reality of the role that Willits plays in the travel habits of families who live on the North Coast of California that exposes the massive four-lane Caltrans Willits Bypass Project for failing to meet the real transportation needs of our communities.
The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is proud to have supported the local community, as well as the wider coalition of Northwest California residents, businesses, and conservation advocates, that have stepped up to challenge the mega-scale Caltrans highway development underway in the headwaters of the Eel River in Little Lake Valley. Whether it be the changes in the project that were shielded from public comment since final approval in 2006, the Caltrans dismissal of resident demands that the process integrate citizen proposals into an alternative to be considered in project review, the fact that the Bypass may not actually provide substantial relief to local traffic congestion, or the sad acquiescence of state agencies in permitting the construction of a destructive project — there are a litany of reasons our organization stands firm in joining the challenge to the Bypass Project. One result of our work is that North Coast residents understand clearly that the four-lane Willits Bypass Project is much bigger, more damaging, and far more expensive than a number of other viable options that could be designed to address the real transportation challenges faced in Willits.
For these reasons, EPIC is party, along with the Willits Environmental Center, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club, to the ongoing federal litigation that is challenging Caltrans and the United States Army Corps of Engineers under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. The oral arguments on this case will be heard at the end of the second week of June, with a decision to be expected after that hearing. We are proud to have stepped up publicly to challenge this project, and to support all of the people who have shined a spotlight on this $210 million monument of disservice to the future generations.
Ultimately, the havoc our society unleashes on our natural and human communities today is the mess that we are leaving for our children and grandchildren in the future. My daughter, who now revels in the opportunity to get out of the car and run in the Willits City Park, will eventually be an adult, and I am sure she will ask "what did you do when you knew that species were going extinct at a record rate, and that our climate was beginning to unravel in a way that humans had never before witnessed?" I will, with honesty, be able to tell her that, regardless of the challenges, we tried.
We tried, and we will try again. The wetlands destroying monster that would be the overbuilt northern interchange of the Willits Bypass will hopefully never be built. If it is constructed, we will stand with our children on the overpass someday, look at the abandoned rail line, and say, "We are sorry for this mess, but we tried to stop it." There is not much solace when I contemplate what we are leaving our children, but for EPIC it means that we are proud to have supported the brave people of Willits in their effort to forge a new path forward on transportation planning at a crucial juncture in our region's history. We tried, we are trying, and we will try again, the future generations certainly merit our efforts and commitment.
Gary Graham Hughes is the executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). EPIC is based in Arcata, Humboldt County, and is active in Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity, and Siskiyou Counties.
Gary Graham Hughes, Executive Director
Environmental Protection & Information Center
Here is one that resonated: It comes from the ex-Peace Corps volunteer, turned travel writer, Paul Thoroux:
“Traveling alone is important because it is only when you are alone when you realize where you are. You have nothing to fall back on but, your own resources. You need to find your way and this is why cellphone and Skype are so bad. I imagine Peace Corps volunteers, these days, instead of writing a letter home once a month, they Skype for family talking to mom and dad. You really need to be out of touch with people at home, or you need to be on your own, so that you can meet people as you are, and as they are.”
• The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley, / An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, / For promis'd joy! — Robert Burns, To a Mouse.
• From ghoulies and ghosties / And long-leggedy beasties / And things that go bump in the night, / Good Lord, deliver us! — Scottish Saying
• Give me but one hour of Scotland, / Let me see it ere I die. — William Edmondstoune Aytoun
Upper Lake (Colombia I)
Last chance for public comment on offshore Arctic
Some people think BOEMRE is just a new way to say BUMMER, and they would be right.
You see, the "Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement," otherwise known as BOEMRE, is the new name for what was previously known as the Minerals Management Service (MMS), an agency so mired in corruption, pay-off scandals, and drunken, incestuous corpo-government party-bingeing, that they had to change their name.
Right now, public comment is being taken by BOEMRE on an environmental impact report (EIR) regarding the effects of expanded offshore oil exploration on the Arctic, in a huge area of ocean off the northern and northwestern coasts of Alaska. This vast Alaskan ocean is being put on the chopping block in the name of offshore oil drilling.
In the areas of the Arctic covered by the recent EIR, the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, the proposed take of marine mammals is heart-breaking. According to the report, the highest level of "take" for proposed exploration and test drilling will cost a death toll of 9,965 Bowhead Whales, 6,610 Beluga Whales, 1,720 Gray Whales, 113 Humpback Whales, 113 Minke Whales, 90 Fin Whales, 105 Killer Whales, along with 118,570 Ringed Seals and 2,568 Bearded Seals, porpoises, seals, fish, birds - and who knows what else. And these are estimates, just for the exploration phase.
This doesn't figure in for an oil spill (which is inevitable.) The report states that in every category, if the worst happens - a "VLOS" as they call it (Very Large Oil Spill) - each and every species will suffer a catastrophe. Or as they say in the EIR report: "a VLOS could have a major impact on…." (Fill in the blank, and say good-bye to your favorite Arctic mammal, including polar bears.)
To paraphrase a letter from the NRDC:
"The amount of oil and gas activity that the Fisheries Service has proposed is staggering, with up to 24 surveys and drilling operations taking place at any given time. This scale of activity will transform the Arctic: industrializing it, bombarding its wildlife populations with deafening and lethal seismic testing, and risking this sensitive ecosystem with an oil spill that, in those remote and hazardous waters, will be virtually impossible to contain."
"This environmental review does not meaningfully address the cumulative effects of Arctic industrialization on species that depend on sound for their survival, or the cumulative risk of oil spills from exploratory drilling."
You have only a few more days to submit your comments on this EIR. Please urge NOAA and BOEMRE to reject this proposal of expanded Arctic oil exploration and drilling, a proposal that the public has thoroughly rejected. Ask these agencies to adopt Alternative 1 - the "no action" alternative that says we want to put a stop to Arctic oil drilling!
For info on how to submit your comments, go to:
The deadline to submit comments is June 27th.
Please pass this info on to as many friends as possible.
MEMO OF THE WEEK
To: County of Mendocino, Department of Planning and Building Services, 860 North Bush Street, Ukiah, CA 95482.
Dear Sir or Madam:
The Anderson Valley Community Services District requests your assistance regarding our construction of a waterless pump out toilet facility at the Boonville Airport. The building is 8' x 8' in size and is planned to look like a miniature control tower, but only will serve as a toilet facility for users of the airport. There are no unusual building requirements regarding the construction of the facility in that it is standard wood-stick construction.
On our first visit to your department it was learned that there apparently are no county codes or specifications for a waterless toilet system and we were asked to locate other such systems that may exist in the county. It turns out there are many. Most, if not all, of the state parks in the county use waterless pump-out toilet systems that are contained within permanent buildings. In fact, the County of Mendocino has issued coastal development permits for those toilets located on the state beaches within the county. Additionally, this type of toilet is used extensively in the federal national park system throughout the country.
The AVSCD would like to build this facility as soon as possible due to the urgent need for sanitation at the airport. Currently arriving pilots and passengers are forced to use the vegetation areas and this is not only unacceptable but does not project the proper image of how we want visitors to regard Boonville, the Anderson Valley or Mendocino County. A pump out facility is sanitary, has no impact on the environment and is an affordable solution to our current problem. This project has also been reviewed by the County of Mendocino Environmental Health department and they have approved it.
We have strived to design this facility to meet all requirements of the county that currently exist for access by disabled persons. The plastic above ground holding tank for waste material has been purchased from a leading manufacturer of such items and they are used nationwide in portable plastic handicapped toilet systems. We also have a licensed contractor selected to start construction.
Your timely response to our request would be appreciated and we look forward to moving to a successful conclusion of this needed project.
Joy Andrews, General Manager, Anderson Valley Community Services District
A BLATANT WASTE
At a time when California prisoners cost over $52,000 per year to house, why is Governor Brown continuing his methods of serial incarceration of low-level offenders? The yearly cost doubles when the inmate nears the age of 5 due to increased medical costs.
A three-judge federal panel has strongly ordered Brown to reduce the California prison population to 137.5% of design capacity or about 109,000 inmates. The current population is about 9,000 over that limit and the court has given the state until December 31, 2013, to meet the cap.
The prisoner population which is mandated by the court began in 2009 over the lack of medical care for inmates. Brown appealed the ruling to the US Supreme Court which affirmed the order in 2011, in essence giving the state an additional two years to comply with the court's order.
On October 1, 2011, Brown did, using billions of taxpayer funds, reduce the state prison population via realignment and Assembly Bill 109. However, Brown's scheme failed in numerous ways. First, the population was not reduced, only diverted to county lockups which the taxpayer still covers the cost. Secondly, he has successfully filled 37 out of 58 county jails throughout the state. Third, the very same attorneys who have collected millions of dollars in fees from the taxpayers have now filed a lawsuit on the counties for the very same unconstitutional level of inmate medical care that started the state prison population cap program.
I was locked up in March 2012 for low-level, nonviolent property theft crimes where no loss occurred to anyone but I still received a seven and a half year sentence that will cost the taxpayers over $200,000 in state prison hotel bills. Although Brown claims he has no low-level offenders that could be released without jeopardizing public safety, here I sit.
On January 7, 2013, Brown filed a motion to vacate or modify the population reduction order which was met with strong opposition from the court and the plaintiffs. In his official filing, Brown boasts of spending that the taxpayer simply is unaware of.
Besides the blatant defiance in not complying with the federal court order to reduce the prison population by about 9,000 low-level offenders by December 31, 2013, Brown has spent billions of taxpayer dollars in his failed attempt to remove the population cap. That taxpayer money has not bought him any political popularity. In fact, the taxpayers should be outraged at the waste of funds.
Brown is spending $128.3 million to build a 135,000 square-foot medical facility at San Quentin. How can Governor Brown possibly justify $950.37 per square foot in building costs to the taxpayers?
Brown boasts that he is opening a $840 million prison facility in July of 2013 which will increase his prison beds by 1722 beds — at a cost of $47,804.88 per bed.
Our governor wants applause for opening a 1133 prison bed facility in February 2014 that will cost $167 million or $147,396.29 per bed.
Governor Brown built a 64 bed unit that opened in February 2012 that he spent $33.7 million on or $526,562.50 per bed. Has the financial status of California got to the point where we can not blink an eye at spending over half a million dollars on a single prison bed?
Governor Brown constructed a $29.8 million, 50 bed mental health unit at a cost of $596,000 per bed.
Governor Brown spent $29.5 million on a 64-bed unit at Valley State Prison that only cost the taxpayers $460,937.50 per bed and we continue to expect different results from our government. Are we insane?
Brown is finishing a 50-bed unit at California Men's Colony at an estimated cost of $38.7 million, or just about $774,000 per bed.
Governor Brown constructed a 20 bed psychiatric unit at California Institution for Women at a cost of $7.2 million or $360,000 per bed and he opened a 45 bed unit in July 2012 at a cost of $31.3 million or $806,000 per bed.
Besides the hundreds of millions of dollars a year that the state is diverting to counties for realignment, Brown has spent well over $1 billion and has not satisfied the federal court order. The United States of America's Constitution required Brown to reduce the population to 137.5% of design capacity. This could have been done without the serial waste of funds and without jeopardizing public safety.
Under protest, Governor Brown recently, reluctantly, submitted a plan to partially comply with the court order to the California legislature. Although the plan itself admittedly falls short of the court ordered population, Brown submits:
Allowing low-level half-time inmates that are not in fire camp to earn the additional 15% credits that the fire campers earn.
Brown proposed allowing nonviolent second-strike inmates to be reduced from 80% to 66% which is kind, considering the sentencing laws doubled their sentences to begin with.
Brown proposed allowing eight weeks milestone earning per year for each of those classes of inmates although the Department of Corrections will remain in control of what constitutes a milestone and how much time the milestone is worth. The Department of Corrections recently reduced college milestones to just one week per class.
Governor Brown requests millions more from taxpayers to rent 1600 county jail beds when he has already filled over 90% of the state's beds.
Governor Brown is requesting that the Legislature continue to pay for and leave state prisoners in out-of-state lockups even at a time when the blueprint has been set to bring them back due to high cost.
The entire situation has become insane and the taxpayers cannot continue to finance these unrealistic and unsound prison and jail policies. At this point, I don't believe that the taxpayers will object to an earlier release of a few thousand low-level inmates who are bound for release anyway. It's Governor Brown's political reputation with the law enforcement labor unions that the taxpayer is buying. Let's face facts and do the right thing -- follow the court order and quit throwing hard-earned taxpayer dollars into the wind.
My release is in about 24 months or about another $102,000 plus of taxpayer dollars depending on how you view it. I participate in college classes at my own cost to earn milestones and I will gladly volunteer for fire camp to earn additional time off my sentence. But that is up to the Department of Corrections. I am willing to correspond with anyone on the subject and would greatly appreciate taxpayer support in allowing me to earn an earlier release. I have a home and a job to go to and I will again become a productive member of society.
Michael Jordan Cooley #AM5062
Facility D, Dorm 5, Bunk 12-L.
California Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 608, Tehachapi, CA 93581
BLUM’S BIG TUNNEL SCAM
I've arranged for a well known investigative reporter, Richard Trainor, to speak on the corruption behind the bullet train, SF Bay Bridge, and other California public works projects, including the forthcoming twin tunnels boondoggle, at Tower Park Marina's Rosa's Restaurant, Sunday, June 30th, at 4:30pm. There will be a no host bar available. There will be an open Question and Answer period following the talk.
Richard has a proposal on how to stop the tunnels and I think it is worth all our time to listen to him. He claims the present environmental lawsuits that are just now starting to be filed will not be the answer.
He has taught me more about investigative journalism than I've learned in an entire career. He has the facts on how mega-rich puppeteers behind the scenes like Sen. Feinstein's billionaire husband Richard C. Blum and Stewart Resnick, along with politicians like Willy Brown are the ones who dreamed up this twin canal scheme for their benefit. I've learned that Blum owns companies like Tutor Perinni, Inc. in Sylmar that does construction and major tunnel work, and also has a controlling interest in URSconstruction company that will also be involved. The same companies always seem to get the work on these major projects. Tutor Perinni just got the contract for the bullet train even though they ranked fifth at the bottom of the list on meeting the criteria including safety! When I read that news story this past week, I told my wife, “Diane Feinstein just got richer again.”
Her husband has been fined at least three times for conflict of interest, but probably he just smiles, and continues doing the same thing. I'm sure he considers the fine a small cost of doing business with the government. Feinstein has been removed from several committees, but continues to promote her husband’s interests like her promoting “China, most favored nation,” and the twin canals.
I've been studying each member of the original Delta Blue Ribbon Task Force that “launched” the twin canals project during Gov. Arnold's administration. William K. Reilly has business interests with Blum. Reilly has been a key administrator with the national EPA and has many businesses, one of which even does business with the CIA. And locals think they are going to beat this with an environmental lawsuit. Doubtful!
You won't win this battle with simple email “sign here” letters to Brown. Once the construction is started, this battle is finished and the death of the Delta begins with the 35 mile canals ripping through the middle of the Delta. You'll cruise to Mildred Island, only to find it a construction site with a 300 foot dock for barges and night lights for 24-7 construction noise like you see on freeways under construction on I-5 and 99. This will go on for 10 years and shut down scenic highway 160 and greatly impede arterial highways 4 and 12 that serve the Delta.
I don't see the yacht clubs or any of the marinas doing anything significant to stop it. Brown and his minions have to be smiling — unfortunately. It's the new politics of America where the people don't even get to vote on how to spend $50 billion.
HE DESERVED IT
As a property owner on Mill Creek Drive. I could list a litany of circumstances where Harold Moore used more force than necessary. I seem to recall that one neighbor had a restraining order against Mr. Moore. More than once, for no valid reason, Mr. Moore verbally threatened hired contractors on our restaurant property. In my opinion Mr. Moore probably deserved what he got and more.
PENURY, NOT PECUNIARY
Mr. Anderson and Mr. Scaramella,
Thank you for printing my translation of Manuel Vicent's article entitled “Red Line” ("Línea roja").
With your permission, I would like to correct an error.
The paragraph as it appears reads,
There came a moment when the visible poverty, the poverty of every day, crossed a red line beyond which the fall into collective pecuniary was occurring in a flood. The wave engulfed a great part of the middle class including many who could no longer count on the support of their families, or those who preferred maintaining their pride at the cost of being hungry to seeking charity.
The word “pecuniary” should be “penury".
Manuel Vicent writes a column for the Spanish newspaper, El País. He is also the author of more than a dozen books. I am currently reading his Four Aces (Póquer de ases), a collection of short verbal portraits of 31 writers. I plan to translate several or all of them.
All the best,
Louis S. Bedrock
Ed note: We should have caught that. Sorry, Louis.
Dear Editor —
With the SF Giants in a proverbial slump, happy days are few & far between. Closing pitcher Sergio Romo doesn't have many save opportunities because by the 9th inning there's nothing left to save.
But Romo nonetheless continues to shine in his off-mound accomplishments. A new ice cream flavor — Sergio Romo's Mexican Chocolate — is being created & marketed by Petaluma's Three Twins Ice Cream store. Founder of the business, Neil Gottlieb, is collaborating with Romo to help raise funds to support changing immigration law. This stems from Romo's bold t-shirt statement, “I Only Look Illegal", which he wore at the Giants' World Series Victory Parade. It caught Gottlieb's attention and sparked the unusual collaboration.
Romo was born in Brawley, CA, to parents who entered the country illegally. Despite being considered “illegal” as well, Romo went on to excel at baseball & got good enough to earn the honor of closer in the 2012 MLB World Series, won by the Giants in part thanks to Romo. He pitched the final inning and got the final out in the final game, then jumped into the catcher's arms to celebrate, followed by his signature reared-back whole-body joyful laugh at the universe.
Next, Romo showed up at the victory parade in downtown San Francisco & greeted the throngs with the famous immigration reform statement — "I Only Look Illegal" — emblazoned on his t-shirt. “It Only Tastes Illegal” is how Romo's new chocolate flavor will be pitched. I sure would like to wear one of those t-shirts in solidarity. Mexicans pick the food that feeds the region, help raise our children, add to the economy & contribute to the culture as a whole. My aunt, who taught Spanish & English, used to say, “We couldn't make it without them."
Indeed! Nor should we want to. We need them to complete ourselves.
THE CRIMINALITY OF CALTRANS
The superb presentation by the Little Lake Valley Defenders:
• Will Parish, investigative journalist and tree sitter, a.k.a. Red-tailed Hawk
• Amanda Senseman, tree sitter and climber, a.k.a. The Warbler
• Ellen Drell, Co-founder, Willits Environmental Center
• Christian Martin, Realtor, Slide and graph explanation of how Caltrans cooked the books to produce misleading traffic statistics.
• Short film by Julia French: “How Caltrans Sold the Willits Bypass.”
This presentation is so compelling that it can serve as an integrity test for politicians.
Let's start with the Willits City Council and the County Board of Supervisors. Who is willing to view and listen to the presentation?
First cull by the Integrity Test. Integrity requires courage, the courage to be wrong, the courage to admit it, the courage to refuse the privilege big corrupt money buys.
Second cull. You who saw the presentation. Are you willing to change your opinion based on evidence you didn't know or didn't bother to research? Or do you prefer Group Think in the company of all the other lackey politicians?
Next in line are the regional politicians. Is there any integrity out there? The courage of conviction? Backbone? Do the group thinkers of the political class believe that Caltrans and the boys should be permitted to bulldoze and drain an important wetland/woodland of the Pacific Flyway? The Sonoma County Land Trust just received a five million dollar grant to restore wetlands. Some years ago the City of Freemont was forced to restore a wrongfully developed wetlands by the combined forces of NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers on the basis of marsh protection embodied in the Clean Water Act. Save the Bay is currently arguing to save a large area of San Francisco Bay for wetlands restoration. The villain corporation is Cargill who covets the land for housing development. On the international scene, The Nature Conservancy is fund raising for marsh restorations.
Hubris stalks the corporate class, the obscene money bigwigs. These people believe they can buy most any politician to achieve their ends. So far this seems to be true. Therefore they believe it is not necessary to listen to their constituents who are forced to live with the consequences of disaster development.
“I have never felt so much despair.” spoke Amanda Senseman, the yellow warbler, after awakening on her 70-foot high platform to a ferocious decibel level from chainsaws. What she saw was all the Spanish moss-bedecked woodlands clearcut to the ground. She was viewing a war zone. Traditional Pomo basketmaker and forager present in the audience for the Defenders' presentation eloquently mourned for her stolen land, crying because the destruction of her homeland continues.
People like to say that the US Legal system is the best in the world. If this system is so worthy of uncritical praise, how is it that one man, a judge, formerly a lawyer, alone decides whether a whole ecosystem, the Little Lake Valley, is protected or is destroyed. Yet it is the residents of the valley and its environs who must bear the consequences of bad, no, rotten planning. In insurance law, I discovered by reading innumerable case law decisions that the judges rule 90% in favor of insurance corporations when individuals sue, no matter how valid the plaintiff's argument.
Judges routinely fix cases by eliminating evidence to narrow the terms of debate. This seems to be a standard practice. Judge Jeffrey White has already taken an important step in fixing the case for Caltrans. His refusal to sign an injunction to halt Caltrans on its destructive path violates an important principle of law – that the public who owns and finances the court system has a right to bring forward all the issues of bad planning and its component — internal governmental, judicial, and agency corruption. The public has a right to read the text of the lawsuit and to offer a Friends of the Court, Amicus brief to present issues and scholarly opinions not otherwise offered. Judge White claimed he would reconsider his failure to sign the injunction if he were presented with additional evidence, yet he does not provide an avenue for that to occur. In the meantime, his failure has been enormously costly to the taxpayers, citizens of the Valley and to the ecosystem itself which will now have to be restored. Judge White should be removed from the bench for his disrespect for the intent and spirit of the law. Our legal system is hopelessly corrupt. Judge White is an example of that corruption.
Every environmental organization plus informal citizens groups agree that migratory birds are disappearing. Pesticides and industrial agricultural practices are an important reason. But the primary reason, all agree, is habitat destruction. This is a crime. Therefore, I propose that Judge White be challenged and removed for good cause. All the issues in their entirety need to be considered.
Caltrans must be stopped. Now.
Dorotheya M. Dorman
ROPE LOCK’S NOT FOR LOGS
I read Bruce McEwen’s June 12 article (“The Slungshot-Rope Lock”) with great interest as it mentioned my company a couple times. It seems as though DA's office got some erroneous information. The closest Mr. Barnett came to working for us was an application he submitted in January of this year. I have been in logging for over 40 years and had never heard of a “Rope Lock” until I read Mr. McEwen’s article! Maybe the reason Mr. Barnett wasn't hired here was because of his belief you can tie down loads with rope.
Mike Anderson, Anderson Logging Inc