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Calfire Says PG&E Caused Dixie Fire; Library Tax Petition To Be Circulated

Our wet winter continues, which is all good news.

This week, Monday and Tuesday brought us a combined 1.56 inches of rain, raising our year-to-date total to 36.26 inches of precipitation. Historical rainfall average for Jan. 4 is 28.67 inches, so we’re 7.59 inches above that.

Historical annual rainfall for the Laytonville area is around 67 inches, so our current 36.26 inches is more than half of that total, and we have 3 more months where historically rain falls in double digits.

By the way, it’s time for the U.S. Drought Monitor to change its rating of Mendocino County’s drought designation from “Severe Drought” to “Moderate Drought.” The Drought Monitor rating for Los Angeles County is Moderate presumably based on LA’s year-to-date total rainfall of 8.84 inches compared to a historical annual average of 3.69 inches, which is 5.15 inches above normal. Mendo County has had 4-times as much rain to-date. I realize this data is highly relative to geographical locations, water sources and supplies, etc., but the Drought Monitor should update drought ratings so they remain a bit more accurate.

Library Tax Petition 

Mendocino County library supporters informed me this week of their intention to circulate petitions to place a tax measure on the November 2022 ballot that would add a one-quarter cent (0.25%) sales tax to fund libraries in Mendocino County. Nearly every town in this county has a “Friends of the Library” group that work, organize and fund-raise to establish brick-and-mortar libraries throughout the county. My daughter is a founding member of the Laytonville library group.

I’ll be supporting the effort to get their measure on the ballot.

Here’s a summary of the petition they will be circulating, it’s self-explanatory:

Notice is hereby given by the persons whose names appear hereon of their intention to circulate a citizen’s petition within the County of Mendocino for the purpose of placing on the November 2022 ballot a proposal for amending the current sales tax for the sole benefit of the Mendocino County Library District. A statement of the reasons of the proposed action as contemplated in the petition is as follows: 

The passage of Measure A in November 2011, with over 75% of voters saying Yes, brought about a renewal of the Mendocino County Library system. Measure A currently provides over half of total library funding and the County contributes nothing from its General Funds. Increasingly, however, the need to fund improvements for buildings and equipment threatens the financial health of the Library. We want to build on the success of Measure A by ending the existing sunset provision and increasing the tax in order to provide stable and secure funding for needed capital investment. 40% of total sales tax revenue will go to new capital improvements. When passed, the current sales tax would increase from 1/8 of one percent to 1⁄4 of one percent. 

These funds will be for the libraries only, and cannot be used by any other County department or for any other County function.

County Counsel has specified the ballot title as follows: 

An Initiative to Add a One-Quarter Cent (0.25%) Sales Tax to Fund Libraries in Mendocino County 

County Counsel has determined that the stated purpose of the initiative is as follows: 

1. To impose a permanent one-quarter cent (0.25%) sales tax for the specific purpose of maintaining and improving library services in Mendocino County; and 

2. To create a special fund for these tax proceeds to be used exclusively for maintaining and improving library services. At least forty percent (40%) are reserved for capital investments, such as building improvements. 

Cal Fire Says PG&E Caused Dixie Fire

Cal Fire investigators determined this Tuesday, Jan. 4, the cause of the Dixie Fire that burned more than 963,000 acres last year.

Officials say the fire was caused by a tree making contact with PG&E power lines near Cresta Dam. 

The investigative report has been sent to the county’s District Attorney’s office. 

The Dixie Fire started on July 13 and burned in Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta, and Tehama counties.

Altogether 963,309 acres were burned, 1,329 structures were destroyed, and 95 structures were damaged. 

This is just the latest in a series of devastating wildfires caused by the utility’s equipment

The Dixie Fire started on July 13, 2021, and grew to the second-largest fire in state history, burning over 960,000 acres and destroying over 1,300 structures. It decimated the rural town of Greenville and damaged other communities in Plumas, Butte, Lassen, Shasta and Tehama counties. It was the first known fire to burn clear across the Sierra Nevada mountain range, followed later in the year by the Caldor Fire. 

The fire caused severe damage to forestland and forced thousands of people to evacuate. 

Cal Fire’s investigative finding was not unexpected because in July, PG&E reported to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that its equipment may have caused the Dixie Fire. One of the utility’s employees responded to a power outage reported at Cresta Dam and found blown fuses and a tree leaning into PG&E equipment, with fire burning at the tree’s base. At the time, Cal Fire investigators took several pieces of PG&E equipment. 

Last year, Cal Fire investigators concluded the utility started the Zogg Fire, which burned 56,000 acres and killed four people. The Shasta County District Attorney’s Office charged the utility with manslaughter and other crimes in September. 

In 2018, PG&E’s equipment started the deadly Camp Fire in Butte County. The fire leveled the town of Paradise and killed 85 people. At trial, PG&E pled guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter.

It was also in 2018 when PG&E sought bankruptcy protection as it faced tens of billions of dollars in potential liability for wildfires it caused.

As I’ve pointed in previous columns, many survivors of wildfires caused by PG&E have been given the runaround by the electrical giant, while the state Legislature and CPUC sat mostly silent.

Last April, the CPUC ordered “enhanced oversight” on PG&E after the company failed to remove and trim trees from its most at-risk power lines. But as I’ve reported for years, the CPUC has mostly failed in its primary responsibility to regulate PG&E. For example, the Commission for nearly a decade granted extension after extension to PG&E allowing it to defer mandatory maintenance by removing and trimming trees and vegetation growing too close to its overhead infrastructure.

AT&T, Verizon Moving Forward With 5G Plans, Thumbs Noses At Feds

As a former airline employee and labor leader, I can tell you that two cellular corporations need to be brought to heel immediately.

AT&T and Verizon aremoving forwardwith their 5G expansion plans — despitea request from the U.S. government to delay the project.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT). want the rollout delayed, concerned about possible impacts on airplane and airport controls.

But the companies have refused, claiming that 5G technology is “every bit as essential to our country’s economic vitality, public safety and national interests as the airline industry.”

“France provides a real-world example of an operating environment where 5G and aviation safety already co-exist,” the CEOs wrote. “If US airlines are permitted to operate flights every day in France, then the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States.”

Who gives a damn what the French allow?

These two mega-corporations act as if they are beyond the reach of the U.S. government.

The FAA and DOT, when it comes to airline safety issues, have a long record of mostly looking out for the interests of the public. In this case, the feds are concerned about 5G interfering with airplane instrumentation and avionics, not exactly minor concerns. For example, avionics includes such things as communication systems, navigation systems, aircraft flight-control systems, fuel systems, collision-avoidance systems, flight recorders, and weather systems

Both agencies should immediately change their “request” to an order.

We cannot allow these global market conglomerates to ignore if not usurp federal jurisdiction over their operations.

Tweety Musk

Just think, Time Magazine, for some inexplicable reason, named Elon Musk as their “Person of the Year.” So Musk went to his Twitter Machine and fired off a couple of salvos to a pair of U.S. Senators who had the temerity to suggest that Musk wasn’t paying his fair share, if any, of taxes.

He wasn’t about to leave that kind of effrontery unchallenged.

So what was The Person of the Year’s response when Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said he should “actually pay taxes.”

Musk Tweeted, “You remind me of when I was a kid and my friend’s angry Mom would just randomly yell at everyone for no reason. So please don’t call the manager on me, Senator Karen.” 

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted a general theme he’s long held, arguing that the “extremely wealthy pay their fair share.” Musk tweeted back, “I keep forgetting that you’re still alive.”

I have to admit, I get a kick out of Musk, the guy does have a sense of humor, and he’s a hell of lot more interesting than others of his Masters of the Universe ilk 

But he’s also an obnoxious, bloviating prick whose loyalty lies not with the Good Ol’ USA but with the borderless Bad Ol’ Global Village where One-Percenters thrive. 

 (Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, observer@pacific.net, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)

7 Comments

  1. George Dorner January 16, 2022

    Is there any assurance that the present Measure A money has not been illegally diverted from library expenditures? With that assurance in place, I am all in favor of the new library tax.

    • Stephen Rosenthal January 16, 2022

      I’m very pro-library but equally anti any new tax. If I recall correctly Boss Angelo and her lackeys on the BOS tried to divert Measure A funds for other purposes. Two or three Library Directors were disappeared by this cabal after they and the Library Commission exposed the chicanery and tried to get the money, which eventually was returned to the library. If I got any of the details wrong, I’m sure The Major will correct them.

      At any rate, like you, I’m very conflicted about this proposed tax measure.

  2. Bye-bye Carmel January 16, 2022

    How could anyone ever prove or refute the proper use of the money?

    • Jim Shields January 16, 2022

      All good points which is why this proposed measure builds a super-solid lock box to protect and, I believe, prohibit any attempt to divert tax proceeds from the special library fund the measure creates.
      Here are the actual lock box provisions which are clear and unambiguous:

      To impose a permanent one-quarter cent (0.25%) sales tax for the specific purpose of maintaining and improving library services in Mendocino County; and
      To create a special fund for these tax proceeds to be used exclusively for maintaining and improving library services. At least forty percent (40%) are reserved for capital investments, such as building improvements.

      • Mark Scaramella January 16, 2022

        I would like to support a library sales tax measure. But there are several reasons to be skeptical:
        This Board of Supervisors is not showing the kind of management or backbone that would lead some voters to support any new money for them even if it’s in a lockbox.
        Not one Supervisor has shown any serious commitment to library spending oversight.
        There is no “supplement, not supplant” provision.
        The Library Advisory Board has not demonstrated that the last library sales tax measure was spent for objective “improvements.”
        There’s nothing stopping County admin from either 1) delaying the spending and sitting on it to make the books look balanced, or 2) overcharging the Library fund for support services just because there’s money there.
        There’s no specific list of “improvements” that the money must be spent on.

      • Mark Scaramella January 16, 2022

        PS. Don’t forget that Mendo figured out a way to spend $5 million for a $1 million house — “a Crisis Residential Treatment facility,” a house that some observers have noted is not well built — and brags about it as some kind of accomplishment. Then we heard today that even though they held a well-hyped “grand opening” it’s not open yet because the contractor Mendo picked has some kind of licensing problem.

  3. George Dorner January 17, 2022

    Actually, there’s more than Measure A expenditures to audit. The county should have a total audit of its budget when the present CEO departs. That allows the new CEO a fresh start, as well as finally allowing the public knowledge of county expenditures and revenue.

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