Mendocino County Today: October 8, 2013
by AVA News Service, October 8, 2013
SUPERVISOR JOHN PINCHES, as reported in these pages, has made it clear that he intends to challenge the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) to force them to pay Mendocino County for the water that is exported from Lake Mendocino and then sold as far south as Marin County. Sonoma County has lived off Mendocino County water since the middle 1950s because they put up the money to build Coyote Dam and the lake behind it.
PINCHES POINTS to language in Decision 1610, which governs releases from Lake Mendocino; he contends 1610 requires payment to Mendocino County if surplus water is sold by Sonoma County. But there is no mention of the item on Tuesday's Board of Supes agenda. Instead, there is a Closed Session item for “Initiation of Litigation — One Case,” which says nothing about water or the SCWA. But everyone thinks they know what the item refers to. Pinches, always an up front kind of guy, wanted to have the discussion in open session. But the only way to pry any water (or money from the sale of water) away from the SCWA, is via a lawsuit. And lawyers always like to keep those kinds of discussions under wraps. It is unknown at this time if Pinches acquiesced in the decision to hold the water discussion behind closed doors or if he would still prefer to have it out in the open where public pressure could be brought on his colleagues.
IF THE PINCHES water suit is successful, which assumes there will be water litigation, it could result in millions for broke Mendocino County. And that's why Pinches is agitating for it. It's his last big effort on behalf of the County he's served all these years.
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JOHNNY PINCHES’ LAST ACT
by Bruce Anderson
Johnny Pinches has announced he will not run for another term as Third District Supervisor. Pinches, a Laytonville rancher, has always put the broader interests of Mendocino County ahead of personal advantage. He wants to do one more big thing for the County before he retires, and it's a very big thing indeed.
Lake Sonoma is full, Lake Mendocino is a mud puddle. Pinches knows why: “We made a bad deal back in the '50s when Sonoma County got the rights to most of the water in Lake Mendocino,” he says with the directness he's famous for. “And they owe us a lot of money.”
If the supervisor can convince two of his colleagues to support him at the October 8th meeting of the Supervisors, Mendocino County will fund a lawyer to compel the Sonoma County Water Agency to obey the law, the law that says if Sonoma County sells Lake Mendocino water to other parties, Mendocino County gets paid.
What law is that?
Pinches cites Decision 1610 of April 1986 by the State Water Resources Control Board. 1610 plainly states, “If surplus water were diverted outside the two counties, the exporting party would need the approval of the party whose surplus was being exported and would have to equitably pay the owner for other surplus water from the proceeds of the export.”
Mendocino County never approved the sale of water to Marin County, and Mendocino County never got paid for the water sold to Marin County. And Mendocino County was had on the amount of water at Lake Mendocino it is entitled to.
“This is the crux of my argument,” Pinches says.
Sonoma County has been selling water from Lake Mendocino to Marin for 60-plus years. Sonoma County owns the water because they put up most of the money to build Lake Mendocino. Pinches points out that Mendocino County “never even got to vote on it,” because, at the time, Mendocino County supervisors felt no pressure to participate in the construction of Lake Mendocino and Coyote Dam. Mendocino County voters probably would have rejected the whole show because the County was sparsely populated and everyone had their own established sources of water. Which, by and large, is Mendocino County's water situation today.
Lake Mendocino was seen by the Army Corps of Engineers primarily as a flood control device, and only secondarily as water supply. The Corps controls the flows from both lakes to this day. Congress never did grant the money to round out Lake Mendocino's flood capacity and, from its 1950s beginnings, most of Lake Mendocino's water flowed south where it was sold by the Sonoma County Water Agency to Sonoma County's ever larger customer base, which included customers as far south as Sausalito.
Even after the much larger Lake Sonoma appeared in 1982 behind Warm Springs Dam erected by the Corps of Engineers it, too, was seen as a crucial flood control device, but it was also sold to voters as a recreational amenity and not a back-up water supply. Lake Sonoma supplies no water to domestic customers in Sonoma County.
Sonoma County, as Pinches insists, owes Mendocino County a lot of money for Mendocino County water diverted to Marin, and the Sonoma County Water Agency has a lot of money. The agency boasts some million total customers. Pinches suspects the Sonoma County Water Agency may be sitting on large amounts of water profits from selling Mendocino County water. And a good portion of that money should revert to Mendocino County.
Lake Sonoma has two-and-a-half times the capacity of Lake Mendocino, which is presently empty — or almost empty. Its boat ramps are closed, it's not the attractive recreational draw it usually is. Meanwhile, Lake Sonoma, 30 miles south at Cloverdale, is full nearly to its brim, and a daily hum of recreation keeps nearby businesses busy. And no matter how dry Lake Mendocino might become, Lake Sonoma remains full to the brim. As Pinches expresses Sonoma County's apparent water strategy, “If you can spend my money, why spend your own? If we can drain Lake Mendocino for free, why should we pay to tap Lake Sonoma?”
Pinches knows his water. His office is stacked with water reports and, recently, a revealing map he triumphantly brandishes.
The map is indeed startling.
It shows that almost 41 square miles of the lush watershed feeding Lake Sonoma northwest of the dam is in Mendocino County, running west nearly into Yorkville in the Anderson Valley. It's a vastness that contains virgin redwood forest and many year-round streams, a mostly uninhabited watershed nearly as pristine as the day God made it. Pinches' map shows that Sonoma County not only gets almost all the water stored at Lake Mendocino, but almost all the water Sonoma County stores at untapped Lake Sonoma comes from Mendocino County.
While Mendocino County gets nothing but an annual mud puddle at Lake Mendocino.
There are, of course, vested interests in Mendocino County happy with the present water arrangements. The portion of Lake Mendocino's finite waters owned by Mendocino County — a measly 8,000 acre feet (less than 20%) — is administered by the Russian River Flood Control District. Ukiah, for instance, does not use its full share of its allocation. There is also a confusing multitude of water districts from Ukiah to Redwood Valley to the north, and to Hopland to the south, each with its own water policy. But while areas of inland Mendocino County may be complacently satisfied that they have enough water to keep their customers happy, Sonoma County is positively jubilant with the present arrangements. It gets free water it gets to sell for enormous profits while Mendocino County gets just enough water to route to a relatively small number of users between Redwood Valley and Hopland.
Perennially parched Cloverdale, just over the Sonoma-Mendo county line, seems unaware it borders a huge, virtually untapped reservoir to its immediate west at Lake Sonoma. Cloverdale is always looking for water to serve its growing town. And right here in Mendocino County some 1500 home sites in Redwood Valley can't be developed because the Redwood Valley Water District doesn't have the water to supply additional hook-ups.
And Sonoma and Marin just keep on getting bigger and bigger.
“I don't want an opinion,” Pinches insists, referring to his forthcoming pitch to his fellow supervisors for a legal water warrior, “I want someone who will go to bat for Mendocino County on this. We take people to court all the time when they don't pay the County for this or that, but we're letting Sonoma County get away with this? This time I'm going right to the public. I need two votes to move it forward.”
NOTE: The above is intended simply to explain Supervisor Pinches' earnest attempt to defend Mendocino County's interests. It is obviously not an attempt to delineate how the water delivery system and flood control works, never mind describe the seemingly myriad agencies involved. We agree with Pinches that at a minimum, Mendocino County should expect Sonoma County to abide by the 1986 agreement that says any sales Sonoma County makes to any agency outside Mendocino and Sonoma counties, Mendocino County should be compensated. If the supervisors agree, and we see no reason why they shouldn't agree, and agree unanimously, compensation from Sonoma County for illegally diverted water would more than cover the expense of a water attorney.
Releases from Lake Mendocino are determined by the Corps of Engineers. The primary mission of the Corps is flood control. There always has to be room in Lake Mendocino for Big Rain years. Year round, downstream water flows from Lake Mendocino down the Russian River to the area of Wohler Bridge in West Sonoma County. At Wohler Bridge, the Sonoma County Water Agency diverts the flow to itself, selling the water from Mendocino County to its million or so customers, including customers in Marin County.
SHERIFF ALLMAN got approval from the Board of Supervisors on September 23 to apply for a $10 million state grant to add a large new unit to the Mendocino County Jail. The County will have to put up $1 million of the $10 million (unless the state decides to lower the County portion to $500k). Allman told the Board that the new (third) unit “will rectify problems we are experiencing with housing and providing programs to inmates.”
THE SHERIFF explained why the new unit is needed:
“The jail facility is maintenance intensive. Walls have holes from rust, walls and ceilings leak during the winter months, chronic heating and air conditioning problems, plumbing leaks and circulatory problems. Past planning provided inefficient and ineffective housing unit types. We utilize the ‘pigeon hole’ method (inmates are placed in wherever there is an empty cell) for the mentally ill and maximum security inmates. The correct type housing units were not built (in the existing jail). We have chronic crowded conditions in the Women’s Jail because this portion of the jail was not built large enough and lacks enough maximum-security cells. The maximum-security inmates are housed in cells that were built for medium security inmates. The locks [originally meant for libraries, not jails] can be defeated and assaults on other inmates and staff have occurred. The lack of inmate program space and other competing program requirements severely impedes access to Inmate Programs such as; religious, substance abuse, and educational for maximum security inmates. Attorney client visits are extremely difficult because of a lack of visiting space for confidential visits. On occasion, the attorney leaves without seeing their client. The local defense Bar and Public Defender has complained about the current conditions. Due to the severely mentally ill inmates being housed in many locations within the facility [upwards of 25% of the inmates], it makes it difficult for mental health staff to treat them in a comprehensive and focused manner. Because of competing programs (showers, visiting, etc.) it is very difficult for corrections staff to ensure all legal requirements are completed.
“IT IS OUR PLAN to build three maximum-security housing units. This (new) building will be located between the two existing buildings. All housing units will contain sufficient program space for Inmate Programs. A mental health/medical office and exam room will be shared by the housing units. In addition, a visiting center for attorney visits and family members will be built. Expansion of dry and frozen food storage in the kitchen will be necessary. It is our assessment that this plan will resolve all of the major concerns with exception of the maintenance problems in the current facility.
“IN ORDER TO MEET the required 5% match, if we are approved, the County will have to set aside $500,000 in a restricted budget line item to comply with the terms of the lease-revenue bond agreement. If the State rejects the request for the reduction, then it means $1,000,000. The building itself will not be the most costly expense; the staffing will be the biggest concern. The staffing allocation for this building will be an additional eight correctional deputy positions. Sheriff’s Office financial staff has projected this additional cost to be as follows: Year 1: $957,527; Year 2: $998,872, and Year 3: $1,042,248.”
SUPERVISORS PINCHES & GJERDE were somewhat irritated that the Board was given so little time to consider the proposal and its budgetary implications. (Allman replied that they had been working on the grant application for a while and that the timing is controlled by the State, not the Sheriff.) They were also concerned about how the Sheriff would handle the funding of the additional corrections staff for the new unit. (No one addressed how the additional $1 million in annual operation and maintenance costs would be budgeted after the new unit is built, but that’s estimated to be four or five years out, if the project goes forward.) Gjerde wanted to know if or when the existing, aging jail would be replaced. (No answer; not part of this application.)
PINCHES WANTED TO KNOW how the Sheriff came up with the $10 million price tag when there isn’t a design in place. (Answer: Standard $500 per square foot jail cost was used.) Pinches said several times that his colleagues should take such large projects very seriously (since he will have retired from the Board by the time it gets going), but didn’t object to the idea itself. If the state approves Allman’s grant application in January, the County would have to come up with the County share ($500k-$1 million) and design and construction could begin as early as 2014. That money would come from the County’s $9 million-plus reserve fund.
AND MIKE MAKES FOUR. Mike Tobin is the fourth announced candidate for 3rd District supervisor: Holly Madrigal was first out of the gate; then Tom Woodhouse and Clay Romero; now Tobin, 54, a Mendocino County native and a retired cop who worked for both the Ukiah Police Department and the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department. And Arno Gassen says he's running. Of the four, Tobin seems closest in worldview to the popular Johnny Pinches, the man Tobin would be replacing if he's elected. The three male candidates seem unaware that Ms. Madrigal gets an automatic vote from the large population of Mendo women who auto-vote gender no matter who the woman candidate is. Female candidates are good for at least ten percent of the vote in any Mendocino County election. Put, say, Abe Lincoln, against one of the Manson Girls in a race for any Mendocino County office, and the Manson girl would pull a reflexive ten percent. Chuck himself would probably get about 5% of the Mendo vote because he identifies as an environmentalist and, of course, he's a population control activist.
AN ORTNER ITEM is scheduled for 1:35pm just before closed session, which makes it look like someone, (probably County Admin), doesn't think there is much to talk about with the new mental health contracts. (Ortner is the owner, basically, of one of Mendocino County's freshly privatized mental health organizations.) We think it's all quite suspicious, and hope the Grand Jury is also following it. Ortner operates a “secure facility” in Yuba City to which seriously disturbed Mendo persons are sequestered at the rate of more than $800 a day. Pinnizzotto was hired from Ortner two years ago as Mendocino County's mental health director. He was instructed to privatize the County's mental health services. Guess who got one of the most lucrative contracts? Pinnizzotto's old boss, Ortner.
BACKGROUND, more formally in the County's chaste description: “On May 21st the Board approved two contracts to privatize the County’s Mental Health services. The adult services contract was awarded to the Ortner Management Group (OMG) and mental health services for children was awarded to Redwood Quality Management Company (RQMC). The contracts took effect on July 1, 2013. Services are currently transitioning from Mendocino County HHSA Behavioral Health to OMG and RQMC. This report will cover an overview of the transition process up to the current day and will outline accomplishments and adjustments. Participants in this presentation will be from HHSA, OMG and RQMC.”
IN OTHER WORDS the contractors will report on themselves. According to the accompanying staff report, the Yuba City-based Ortner Management Group has subcontracted the actual “service” to several local non-profit organizations who have the following caseloads:
Manzanita Services, Inc. — 52 clients, 2.0 Care Managers total (currently)
Ford Street Project — 9 Clients, 1.0 Care Managers total (currently)
Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center, 30 Clients; 1.5 Care Managers total (currently)
(Supervisory staff not included in above staffing numbers)
Private providers (Therapy) — 13 clients
Medication only clients — 210 clients currently managed by Mendocino County BHRS (Behavioral Health and Recovery Services) to be transitioned to OMG Medication Management providers.
THE ABBREVIATED TUESDAY PRESENTATION will include a fancy report with lots of dazzling colored graphs and charts breaking down OMG’s caseload into every category you can think of (age, gender, race, geography, insurance source, etc.) But there’s no list of problems to be dealt with, no comparisons of staffing or client levels before and after privatization, no mention of the number of persons not served, etc. In other words, the Board will be told by the contractor that everything’s going as well as can be expected.
THERE'S TEN MINUTES of public expression allotted, but if history is any guide, no dissent is likely. The presentation of the fancy-schmancy charts and graphs will easily take up the 25 minutes set aside. But from what we’ve heard and read, some of it in these pages, there is lots to talk concerning the shift from County run mental health to privately run mental health. Children's mental health was already being contracted out to Redwood Children's Services with no complaints, so it is no surprise that Redwood has continued in that role without any major problems that we are aware of.
THE PRIVATE CONTRACTOR for adult mental health services, the Yuba City-based Ortner Management Group (which probably Ortner and his wife), is another story altogether. Among the issues we know of regarding Ortner (OMG! — as some are referring to them) are those related to OMG’s contracts with community non-profit agencies with a track record of filling the void in county services. What little has historically been done for the County’s walking wounded has largely been done by places like Hospitality House on the Coast, and Ford Street Project and Manzanita Services inland. We hear that Ortner is trying to force down the price of the contracts with these subcontracted agencies by questioning their professional qualifications and knowledge to do the job. It sounds like Ortner is trying to squeeze them out so it can keep more of the profits for not providing services to the mentally ill adults, especially the ones listed in their own charts as “indigent.”
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GINA SORIA’S COMPLAINT Re: Anna Shaw (wife of Mental Health Board Chair Jim Shaw) who is now Executive Director of the Hospitality House, the Wellness Center, and the Hospitality Center, the new contractors for Mendocino County Mental Health on the Coast.
"I WAS ONE of very few employees at the Coast Community Center who did not get fired by Anna Shaw and the sole employee at the Center before it closed on December 31, 2010. In July of 2010 while I was still working there as case manager for the Shelter Plus Care Program, Anna placed the entire burden of collecting all the data numbers for the Center on myself, so that Anna was able to write the largest grant that would maintain the Center. I felt Anna was pushing me far beyond a normal workload. Meanwhile, Anna was also working simultaneously at the Hospitality House and spent more time there than she did at the Coast Community Center. In October of 2010 Anna was let go from her job at the Coast Community Center because of budget cuts and lack of funding; therefore Ukiah was planning on closing the Fort Bragg office.
"I NOTICED several incidents of unprofessionalism and how Anna is not a 'people person'; Anna is not truly interested in the welfare of the homeless, mentally ill, and dual diagnosed. I felt that Anna was out for herself. Before the Community Center closed with Anna already gone, I asked Ukiah if I could keep my old, worn computer for my daughter for school, which they agreed to give me. The day before the Community Center was to be officially closed Anna sent Robert, the manager from the Hospitality House to the Center at 7:30am with several men before the office was open to pick up all the things that the Hospitality Director (Anna) wanted, picked up my computer leaving client files thrown all over the floor. Several times my Executive Director tried to call Anna throughout the day with no result. I finally confronted Anna about the issue; she promised she would get me another computer which she never did. On this day I truly felt as if I had been raped, my files were thrown all around on the floor (files of confidentiality), I could not wrap things up with my clients or prepare for files to be handed over to my superiors.
“ANNA ALSO took several items without permission from the Coast Center before it was to close. Important for my clients and the families with children were gift certificates to Harvest Market from the Mendocino Community Children’s Fund given to the Community Center. Anna took them to the Hospitality House. When I asked for several, Anna demanded that the families that wanted them had to give signatures in order to get them from Anna. Those certificates should never have been in Anna’s hands after leaving the Coast Community Center. — Gina Soria, Fort Bragg
THE COUNTY AND THE CITY OF UKIAH are also scheduled for a joint meeting at 5:30 Tuesday afternoon at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center for a workshop on tax sharing. The bottom line here is that Ukiah was a lot more interested in sharing when it looked like a mega mall was going into the County at the old Masonite site. But voters turned down Measure A, written by Developer's Diversified Realty (DDR), the corporate owners of the Masonite site. Measure A would have bypassed the planning department and the EIR process by approving the mega mall at the ballot box. But DDR, which had no understanding of the local social and political landscape, spent a million bucks and lost in a landslide. As part of the Ukiah Valley Area Plan, the County kept industrial zoning at Masonite, paving the way for the City of Ukiah to make a deal with Costco. And now that it looks like Costco is getting ready to go into the Redwood Business Park, Ukiah is not so keen on sharing. City reps have been saying Costco will be open next August. And 100% of the sales tax will be going to Ukiah, so who needs an agreement?
TUBBS FOUND GUILTY. A Mendocino County jury Monday morning returned a guilty verdict against a Fort Bragg man accused last December of beating to death a five-month-old baby girl. Wilson L. “Josh” Tubbs III, 39, faces a state prison term of 25 years to life. He is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 13 by trial Judge John Behnke in Mendocino County Superior Court. Tubbs was convicted of the death of infant Emerald Herriot by a jury that deliberated last than two full days. Tubbs showed no emotion Monday when the verdict was returned. Public Defender Linda Thompson, Tubbs’ attorney, patted him on the arm and said, “Hang in there.” For Assistant District Attorney Paul Sequeira, the jury’s verdict Monday was a swift conclusion to a case that was prosecuted under state legislation specifically addressing deaths of children under eight years of age. Sequeira said legislation enacted in the mid-1990s zeroed in on child abuse cases resulting in deaths. “Before that they could be extremely difficult because prosecutors had to address issues of intent and implied malice associated with conventional murder cases,” said Sequeira. Now, as in the Tubbs’ child-killing case, if prosecutors can prove that the physical abuse at the hands of the child’s caregiver led to great bodily injury and death, a conviction can result in the same sentencing standards as in conventional murder cases. The Tubbs case is a near perfect example, said Sequeira. Baby Emerald Herriet — a relative of the Tubbs family — had been in Tubbs and his family’s care for about a month when he brought her on Dec. 2 to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital. She was not breathing and had bruises all over her head and face. Tubbs claimed the baby had accidentally fallen from a changing table the night before. Tubbs testified in his own defense hat he delayed seeking medical care because the child didn’t appear seriously injured. But earlier in a recorded interview with police investigators, Tubbs had said that the night before he slapped the side of the baby's head with an open palm and shook her so that her head twice whipped back and forth. Tubbs’ taped admission came after he was told the fall he described couldn’t have resulted in two skull fractures, bruising all over the baby’s head and face and severe accumulation of blood between the skull and brain. Tubbs took the witness during the trial to recant the story, contending that he lied to investigators because “I knew they were looking for a specific thing, and if they didn't get it from me that they were going to get it from somebody else, so I told them what they wanted.” (District Attorney’s Press Release)
TAKE A STAND FOR THE WILLITS WETLANDS
Join us for music, speakers, workshops and delicious food at the October 12th rally “Take a Stand for the Willits Wetlands” 12 noon to 5:00 PM sponsored by the Coalition to Save Little Lake Valley. Speakers include Julia Butterfly Hill, Sherry Glaser, Swami Beyondananda, Barbara Kennedy from the Save Richardson Grove Coalition, and Mike Fitzgerral, Tribal Chairperson from the Sherwood Valley Rancheria with music by the Farmers Market Band, the Real Sarahs, Raging Grannies, the Jand Band, Blue Sky Pie and more. Here are a few of the other activities planned: Send a “Last Chance” message to Governor Brown: There is still time to scale-back the design of the northern interchange of Caltrans Bypass freeway to save some of the wetlands area and reduce the size of the 2,000 acre mitigation plan. All participants in Saturday's rally will be encouraged to write letters, or sign postcards to send a strong message to Governor Brown asking him to scale-back the Willits bypass and stop the largest wetlands destruction in northern California in fifty years. Oak Tree Planting Workshop: Many people have been gathering acorns this fall season and we will be potting them out during the oak tree planting workshop. The workshop will discuss how best to gather the acorns, sort, germinate, sow, care for, and then pot out the oak tree seedlings. Hand-outs will be available and everyone will be encouraged to take home acorns for planting. Wetlands Healing Ceremony: The Rally for Little Lake Valley will include a wetlands healing ceremony with religious, spiritual and community leaders. The ceremony is linked with the gathering at Sonoma State University “A Celebration of Water and Belonging” hosted by the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. The water from Little Lake Valley will be sent to this ceremony where it will be combined with water from many places across the United States and other countries including Egypt, Lebanon, Sweden, India, Nepal and then returned to the rally site. Rally participants should bring water from the creeks, ponds and other water sources in Little Lake Valley. All of these waters will be poured together during the wetlands healing ceremony. The Coalition to Save Little Lake Valley has requested that some religious and spiritual leaders, along with members of the community, be permitted to deliver this water to the wick-drained wetlands area as part of the healing ceremony. There has been a large amount of destruction in the wetlands area, and serious disrespect shown for sacred and burial sites. It is hoped by the rally planners that Caltrans can honor the request for a couple of hours on the wick-drained wetlands to carry out the wetlands healing ceremony. How to get there: Park and walk, bike or shuttle from Recreation Grove Park to the rally site Â½ mile north of Willits on Hwy 101. For more information contact Robin Leler 459-0155 or Sara Grusky 367-5202, email firstname.lastname@example.org or website at www.savelittlelakevalley.org (Sara Grusky, Green Uprising Farm at Blackberry Bend, Milk from Floppy and the flock; fruits and vegetables sustainably grown. No artificial pesticides or fertilizers — ever!
OIL LOBBY HAS SPENT OVER $45 MILLION IN CALIFORNIA SINCE 2009
by Dan Bacher
A new report released by the American Lung Association reveals that the oil industry lobby, the biggest corporate lobby in California, has spent $45.4 million in the state since 2009.
The report was unveiled at a crucial time in California environmental politics — just a couple of weeks after Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 4, the green light to fracking bill, and less than 10 months after a network of so-called “marine protected areas” created under the “leadership” of a big oil industry lobbyist and other corporate operatives was completed on the California coast.
"As a visitor to this blog, you know that the American Lung Association in California Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing produces compelling reports on Tobacco Money in Politics to highlight the money the tobacco industry spends lobbying state officials,” according to William Barrett (http://blog.center4tobaccopolicy.org/?p=1485). “Just as tobacco companies pour millions into lobbying and public relations to deflect attention away from the dangerous health impacts of smoking, oil companies are investing a fortune on lobbying to undermine clean air policies and protect the market for their polluting products.”
Through June of 2013, Big Oil has spent over $5 million on lobbying California policy-makers — and that doesn’t include donations to political campaigns, according to Barrett.
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the lobbying organization for California oil interests headed by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, has spent over $20 million since 2009.
WSPA is again leading all spending to influence California politics. The association spent the most of any organization in first six months of 2013, $2,308,789.95, to lobby legislators and other state officials, according to documents filed with the California Secretary of State. (http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Lobbying/Employers/Detail.aspx?id=1147195&session=2013&view=activity)
Chevron, the state's largest and wealthiest corporation, is not far behind, spending over $1.3 million in the first six months of 2013. The company is infamous for its environmentally destructive practices in California and throughout the world.
The San Ramon-based company, falsely portrayed in its omnipresent ads as an “environmentally friendly” company, is responsible for one of the largest environmental disasters in history — the deliberate dumping of a massive amount of oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon. Chevron was found guilty in February 2011 and ordered to pay $18 billion to clean up, according to the Rainforest Action Network. The judgment was upheld by an appeals court in January 2012. (http://ran.org/chevrons-toxic-legacy-ecuador#ixzz2grovNXMs).
"Given the major oil lobbying push in the Capitol at the end of the legislative session in early September, it will not be a surprise if this trend holds,” Barrett forecasted.
"Imagine spending $20 per minute, every day, every week, every month for over four years,” added Barrett. “Sounds impossible doesn’t it? Well, California’s oil industry lobbyists in Sacramento have done just that. Since 2009, oil lobbyists have spent $45 million to keep us addicted to fossil fuels and maintain a monopoly over our transportation choices. Sound familiar?”
The blog closes with a quote by the association's late President and CEO, Jane Warner: “Much like tobacco companies want to keep smokers dependent on their deadly product, the oil industry wants to keep California dependent on oil — an expensive, dirty and limited resource that damages health.”
While this report is invaluable in exposing the oil industry's monetary influence in California politics, the association fails to mention one of the largest, most explosive environmental scandals of the past decade — the key leadership role that, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, played in creating fake “marine protected areas” in California.
Background: Big Oil's Big Grip on California Politics
A media investigation by the Associated Press and truthout.org recently revealed that oil companies are conducting fracking (hydraulic fracturing) operations in federal waters in the fish and wildlife-rich Santa Barbara Channel, where a 1969 oil spill polluted coastal waters and beaches with millions of gallons of oil. “Federal officials cannot even say how often fracking has happened in California’s offshore waters,” a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity said.
The recent relevation that California's coastal waters are being “fracked” takes place in the larger context of the oil industry's enormous influence on California environmental processes. The oil industry, now the most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, exceeds corporate agribusiness, the computer and software industry, the film and television industry, the aerospace industry and other major corporate players in California politics in the power that it wields.
The association now has enormous influence over both state and federal regulators. Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians.
Robert Gammon, East Bay Express reporter, revealed that before Governor Jerry Brown signed Senator Fran Pavley's Senate Bill 4, Brown accepted at least $2.49 million in financial donations over the past several years from oil and natural gas interests, according to public records on file with the Secretary of State's Office and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/fracking-jerry-brown/Content?oid=3726533)
"Of the total, $770,000 went to Brown's two Oakland charter schools — the Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute,” said Gammon “The other $1.72 million went to his statewide political campaigns for attorney general and governor, along with his Proposition 30 ballot-measure campaign last year.”
While feigning opposition to the bill even after oil industry-friendly amendments effectively eviscerated the already weak legislation, Reheis-Boyd issued a statement on September 20, the day the Brown signed SB 4, gloating about how the legislation will clear the path to expanding the environmentally destructive oil extraction process in California.
“While SB 4’s requirements went significantly farther than the petroleum industry felt was necessary, we now have an environmental platform on which California can look toward the opportunity to responsibly develop the enormous potential energy resource contained in the Monterey Shale formation,” said Reheis-Boyd. (http://www.wspa.org/blog/post/statement-wspa-president-catherine-reheis-boyd-signing-sb-4)
Cover-up of oil lobbyist's role in marine 'protection' continues
The oil industry not only exerts influence by direct contributions to political campaigns, but by getting its lobbyists and representatives on key panels like the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force.
Inexplicably, reporters from the mainstream media and most of the “alternative” media, in their reporting on fracking, the oil industry and the network of so-called “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative, have failed to mention a crucial component of the industry's influence on California politics — how the head oil industry lobbyist, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, oversaw what passes for “marine protection” in California.
I'm puzzled as to why these reporters omit any reference to one of the biggest environmental scandals of the past decade, one that has a direct bearing on the fracking of California — the fact that Reheis-Boyd served as chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” in Southern California. She also served on the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast task forces from 2004 to 2011, from the beginning of the process to the end of the process. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)
Why don't these publications acknowledge that Reheis-Boyd served as a state official in a process that created fake “marine protected areas” that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering? If this isn’t a major conflict of interest, I don’t know what is!
State officials and representatives of corporate “environmental” NGOs embraced the leadership of Reheis-Boyd and other corporate operatives who served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces to create “marine protected areas” that fail to actually protect the ocean. By backing her leadership as a “marine guardian,” they helped to increase the influence of the Western States Petroleum Association and the oil industry.
The California Coastal Commission and other state officials acted “surprised” when FOIA documents revealed that Southern California coastal waters have been fracked at least 12 times — after the proverbial fox was guarding the hen house since 2004. Well, independent investigative reporters like David Gurney and myself warned, again and again, that this would happen when an oil industry lobbyist was in charge of marine “protection.”
Why are both the mainstream media and much of the “alternative” media so afraid to even mention one of the biggest environmental conflict-of-interest scandals of the past decade in California? Something is very, very wrong here.
For more information about the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, go to: http://intercontinentalcry.org/the-five-inconvenient-truths-about-the-mlpa-initiative/
THE BIG BUSINESS LOBBY BEHIND BART MANAGEMENT
by Darwin Bond-Graham
In July, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers went on strike for four and a half days resisting the concessions demanded by the District's management. After a 60-day cooling off period implemented by the Governor, it appears another strike is imminent. If it happens a strike will cripple the movement of hundreds of thousands of commuters in the Bay Area.
On October 3 a business lobbying organization released a poll claiming that Bay Area residents are in “overwhelming agreement” that BART workers should accept the current contract proposal offered by the transit system's management in order to avoid another strike. That offer would actually amount to a pay cut for most BART employees, but it was described in the poll as a “raise of 10 percent.” The survey's overall design seems geared to elicit a result favoring BART management. No doubt this is because the business lobby that paid for and helped engineer the poll has an interest in driving down labor costs and freeing up BART's revenue for system expansion. Behind BART's managers this powerful business league has stood throughout the labor conflict, and now its members are getting directly involved.
The lobbying group that paid for the poll is the Bay Area Council, or BAC. The BAC was formed in 1944 as a coordinating committee of the region's biggest banks, construction companies, manufacturers, oil giants, and real estate corporations, most of them headquartered in downtown San Francisco. The impetus to create the BAC stemmed from the frustrations of elite corporate executives who, during World War II, worried that the Bay Area's fragmented geography and multitude of county and city governments would prevent the creation of grand transit and industrial projects. The war time boom minted huge fortunes for these tycoons, but they feared northern California's auto-driven sprawl would diminish real estate values in their cherished urban core, San Francisco, and further that it would drive up operating costs for their companies as their white collar employees, and some of their peer companies, dispersed to the suburbs.
"These prospects were greeted with exaggerated gloom in San Francisco,” wrote Melvin Webber in a 1976 study of BART. Webber was the founder of Berkeley's Transportation Center, and an influential author of an early analysis of BART's impact on the region. Webber found the origins of BART in both the financial and political interest of San Francisco's wealthy elite:
"Surely, no other American city is as proud and narcissistic-no civic leaders elsewhere so obsessed by their sense of responsibility for protecting and nurturing their priceless charge. The idea that San Francisco might go the way of Newark or St. Louis was utterly abhorrent. And so it was, as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce proudly reported in a multi-page advertisement in Fortune, that the civic leaders of San Francisco and their neighboring kin initiated a major effort to keep the Bay Area from going the way that cities of lesser breed were headed. The campaign was masterful in both conception and execution."
Alan Browne, a senior vice president at Bank of America who participated in this masterful campaign to establish BART said the problem was, “essentially just a breakdown on the movement of people,” from the hinterlands to the urban core.
Joining Browne was Adrian Falk, the president of S&W Foods. Falk helped raise funds and coordinate the 1962 ballot campaign to launch BART. S&W Foods, today known as Del Monte, the $3.8 billion corporate agribusiness giant, is still headquartered three blocks from BART's Embarcadero Station. After helping wage the successful public relations campaign for BART's creation, S&W's Falk became the first president of BART's board of directors.
Falk told the local newspapers quite frankly that the main purpose of BART was to create the necessary people moving infrastructure to benefit the wealthy downtown corporations already located in San Francisco. “Certain financial, banking, and industrial companies want to be centralized, want to have everyone near each other,” said Falk. “They don't want to have to go one day to Oakland, the next day to San Jose, the next day to San Francisco.” (See John Dickey's Metropolitan Transportation Planning, 2nd Edition, 1983, p. 378).
BART's first general manager was a former executive with the Western States Oil and Gas Association, John Pierce. The oil industry's dominant West Coast driller and refiner, Standard Oil of California, was at the time headquartered two blocks from BART's planned Montgomery Street Station. Support from oil companies was just one sign that BART was never meant to reduce freeway traffic and reliance on oil. The Bay Area's freeways were still planned to expand in size by multiples. (Years later Standard of California, broken off the larger oil monopoly and renamed Chevron, moved to San Ramon, far off the BART line.)
Executives of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Crocker National Bank, all with their headquarters just blocks from BART's planned stations running along Market Street, were instrumental in the campaign to create the transit system. For example, Bank of America CEO Carl Wente was the chair of the BAC's rapid transit committee and chairman of the fundraising effort for the ballot measure that funded BART.
More than a few of the BAC's corporate members made fortunes off the construction of BART.
No sooner had BART collected its first pot of sales tax revenue in 1958 then the District's leadership paid Bechtel and Tutor to design the railway. Bechtel's offices were again both located just blocks from where the planned funnel of BART trains would dump workers along Market Street. Bechtel, the giant engineering and construction company then busy building petroleum and nuclear plants around the world, later landed the contract to build BART's tunnels and tubes. More recently Tutor was paid over $600 million by BART to build the SFO extension, and millions more to build the South San Francisco and San Bruno stations. The S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to this day funds the Bay Area Council.
Bay Area banks underwrote the bonds for BART, skimming millions off the discount fees and interest payments secured ultimately by regressive bridge tolls and sales taxes.
Again, Bank of America's Alan Browne provides a candid description of how BART's lucrative financial and construction contracts were divvied up between San Francisco's business lobby. “As it worked out,” said Brown in a 1988 interview, “Bechtel saw a chance to do the engineering work, and Kaiser was also involved in the idea of selling concrete and steel and engineering. PG&E could sell power; Chevron, if they took cars off the freeways, they'd be replaced with other cars. So that was another factor, and they all could see that they were going to benefit."
As for Bank of America, Browne understated the benefit the San Francisco financial behemoth reaped from BART's construction and operations:
"We were pretty good at investing. We weren't as successful in bidding for the securities [BART bonds], and I used to be amused because all of our competitors in the banking world had no part at all in the growth and development of the BART concept. But when the bonds were finally approved and were being offered for sale, they were in there with both feet. So they were trying to prove something. All that we were able to obtain out of the spoils of victory were being made the trustee and fiscal paying agent. Which was not a big item, but it was one thing."
That one thing was profitable enough for Bank of America. Other financial institutions made millions over the years financing BART, and Wells Fargo and Crocker National (merged into Wells Fargo in 1986) saw their downtown San Francisco fortunes boom.
The foundations established by these banks currently funnel dollars to support the Bay Area Council's activities, including the recent poll it paid for about BART. Bank of America Foundation, US Bank, and the Wells Fargo Foundation all channel money to BAC.
Is it any surprise then that the Bay Area Council, a big business lobbying group, with its origins in the campaign to create BART and finance it with regressive sales taxes and passenger fares, would sponsor a poll today pressuring BART's workers to accept pay cuts?
Today the Bay Area Council continues to to be the mouthpiece for some of the same mega-corporations that built and benefitted the most from BART, including Wells Fargo, Bechtel, Clorox, Bank of America, and the hospital giant Kaiser that was spun off the industrial conglomerate of the same name years ago. More than a few of the current members of the Bay Area Council have a strong financial interests in cutting the compensation of BART employees in order to free up more revenue for costly system expansions.
The Orrick Herrington & Suffcliffe law firm was paid a pretty penny in 2010 bond as counsel to BART on a $129 million sales tax bond flotation. Orrick law is a member of the BAC. Last year Orrick earned another pot of money on BART's $240 million sales tax bonds. BART is a big client for Orrick. Every time the transit district needs to borrow money it's likely that Orrick will be paid to help structure a deal.
The trustee on most of BART's bonds is US Bank, a member of the BAC, which basically inherited the business from Bank of America.
In 2009 BART's board of directors fed at least two $15 million dollar contracts to URS Corporation, another member of the BAC, for various engineering and construction work related to the system's expansion. In 2007 URS won a $10 million contract from BART to manage construction upgrades of BART's elevated train lines. URS makes a lot of money from BART's capital budget, having helped build three BART stations. A vice president of “corporate strategic planning” with URS currently sits on the Bay Area Council's board of directors.
The real estate developer TMG Partners has multiple projects that will be affected by BART's investments of public funds. Just earlier this year the San Francisco Business Times straightforwardly published an article about TMG entitled, “Landlords snap up sites near BART, Muni stops.” On its web site TMG says its vision is to “take advantage of [an] under-construction BART station,” by building an 1,100 unit apartment complex with a hotel in San Bruno where real estate values are poised to climb thanks to BART. (http://www.tmgpartners.com/portfolio_the_crossing.html) TMG's chairman and CEO Michael Covarrubias is a board member of the Bay Area Council, and his company is a corporate member.
Another member of the BAC, the engineering company CH2M Hill, was awarded a $25 million contract earlier this year to advise BART on vehicle maintenance and refurbishment. CH2M Hill's prime contract includes multiple subcontractors like BAC members URS and Arup North America.
The Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman law firm is another Bay Area Council member with deep financial links to BART. Pillsbury has been paid millions by BART to lobby for the transit agency in Sacramento for many years. A Pillsbury partner Robert James has represented BART in real estate deals around planned stations. Robert James is a board member of the BAC.
Bay Area Council member Citibank has underwritten multiple BART bonds in prior years. Citibank has also sold BART complex financial derivatives like the 2004 interest rate cap that cost BART $245,000. Citibank's Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann is a BAC board member.
And of course joining all these CEOs whose companies do multi-million dollar business with BART on the board of the Bay Area Council is BART's general manager Grace Crunican.
JACKSON DEMONSTRATION STATE FOREST Temporary Trail Closure Seasonal Road and Campground Closure Fort Bragg– California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Mendocino Unit is closing the “Trestle Trail” between Camp 8 and JDSF Road 1070 on Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) to mushroom picking and other recreational activities, effective immediately. This trail will be closed until the end of the rainy season, as a precautionary measure in an attempt to slow the spread of Phytophthora ramorum, the invasive pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Death. Additionally, all JDSF campgrounds have closed for the season and seasonal roads will be closed to vehicular traffic by October 14. Seasonal roads are closed to protect them from damage during wet weather. Information regarding Sudden Oak Death on JDSF or the closures is available at the CAL FIRE Fort Bragg office located at 802 North Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA (707) 964-5674 during the following hours: Monday from 8-12 & 1-5, and Tuesday-Thursday 8-12. Or on our website at: http://calfire.ca.gov/resource_mgt/resource_mgt_stateforests_jackson.php Multiple uses of JDSF for a wide variety of activities that benefit the public, the economy and natural resources are what our demonstration forests are all about. (CalFire Press Release)
ON OCTOBER 5, 2013, at about 3:20pm a Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy was parked near a stop sign in the 21000 block of Meadowbrook Drive when he noticed marijuana odor coming from a red Toyota pickup which had come to a stop near his position. The vehicle also had an uncovered load in the back and no front license plate. A traffic stop was initiated and the driver, Desmond Ray Spiker, 30, of Willits, was contacted. Spiker admitted he had been smoking marijuana as he drove past the Deputy. When asked if there were any other illegal items in his vehicle, Spiker told the Deputy that there may be a methamphetamine smoking pipe under his seat. The interior of the vehicle was subsequently searched. The methamphetamine smoking pipe was never located but a plastic baggie containing approximately 1/2 gram of crystal methamphetamine was found under the driver's seat. Spiker was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $10,000 bail. (Sheriff’s Press Release.)
PETITION AGAINST BIRD SLAUGHTER IN EGYPT
Please send this message to at least three other people. If each person sends it to three more people, after 19 multiples of three, the message could reach one billion people! Do the math. In spring 2013, the world's public has learned about the shocking extent of bird trapping in Egypt. During autumn migration of birds a continuous line of bird trapping nets extends over more than 700 kilometres along the Egyptian coast of the Mediterranean. Every autumn an estimated 140 million migratory birds are being caught there. Birds arriving after their exhausting non-stop journey across the Mediterranean Sea have hardly a chance to reach their wintering quarters in Sub-Saharan Africa and to return back to Europe next spring to breed. Please support the efforts of NABU, the BirdLife International partner organisation in Germany, to take action to bring this issue to the world's attention and to help Egypt to put an end to this nightmare by signing the petition below. It is directed towards both, the Egypt government and the German government, asking to take action and provide support to stop the bird slaughter. To sign the petition go here: https://www.nabu.de/tiereundpflanzen/voegel/zugvoegel/jagd/aegypten/15711.html Please sign the petition in the form. When you have entered your details press "Abschicken" to send your data.
Ed & Elaine Oberweiser, Fort Bragg