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Letters (August 4, 2022)

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Everybody in my family is gone. The kids are in Idaho, whitewater rafting with one of my buddies up there. My wife is in Japan because her father is 94 years old. To visit him, she had to get a covid test at the airport because her last test was more than 72 hours before the flight. They charged her $250 for a covid test! A test that you can get free just about anywhere else. The ticket was a low-budget standby ticket, but that savings and more was lost because we had to cough up $250 for that unnecessary covid test. That's equivalent to five years of the AVA!

Oaky Joe Munson

Monte Rio

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Twice in the last few weeks letters to the editor referred to the Skunk train as a carnival ride. Even in its diminished state, the Skunk is no carnival ride. The Skunk was once, and if they ever repair the collapsed tunnel, may again be a working railroad for passengers and freight, a welcome antidote to some of the traffic on Highway 20. 

But even if the railroad only continues to carry tourists and railroad buffs and wide-eyed kids, the Skunk, unlike a carnival ride, is a working, living piece of Mendocino County history. The lumber companies that built the county’s railroads may or may not be appreciated by those of us with the benefit of 100 years of hindsight, but those railroads impacted the county in ways still being felt today, and like the rest of the county’s history deserve to be remembered. The Skunk is the last and only reminder of that past, and some people see it as an amazing real-life way to view history, out in the open where the history was born. 

The Skunk is not a carnival ride. It has been continually operated for 137 years. It’s two diesel-electric locomotives were built in 1954.The motorcar was built in 1925. The magnificent steam engine was built in 1924.The restored coaches are from the 1940s. All are operated and maintained by skilled railroad engineers and mechanics. None of these people are carnies. 

The history of the Skunk (officially the California Western Railroad) as well as the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, and the dozen other Mendocino County railroads whose tracks and all signs of where they once operated are long gone, is preserved and available to anyone interested in our county history. 

The Redwood Empire Railroad History Project, an addition to the Mendocino County Museum built with a grant from the State of California and maintained today as a self-supporting non-profit, houses a comprehensive collection of books, newsletters, historic documents, memoirs, photographs, videos, models and artifacts about the California Western, as well as the NWP and the other railroads throughout Northwestern California. We are located in the county museum, 400 East Commercial Street in Willits, open to the public most Wednesdays through Fridays. 

We even have a few books on carnival trains.

B.B. Kamoroff, Director, 

Redwood Empire Railroad History Project


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Dear AVA,

In the July 25 on-line edition there is a comment from “Robbie Wyre, Covelo” regarding some very large issues related to the current push in Mendocino County for groundwater regulation, specifically of well-operators selling (or intending to sell) their water “commercially,” and the County’s very unclear-to-me efforts to create local regulation of that enterprise model.

Mr. or Ms. Wyre seems to have a firm grasp on the recent history of state mandates about which I would like a bit more information (yes, I’ll google all that, but…) about lawsuits and potential subordination of county authority to state authority if — if something, whatever that is, and about which I have considerable doubt as to the capacity of the county to develop the necessary local management capacity, given the explanations of Mr. Shields and my peripheral view of local bickering via the AVA.

In particular, there are references to (1) a lawsuit “the Coast Keepers Alliance brought against Sonoma County this time last year”; “…the next obvious step [being] a lawsuit in Mendo County if we don’t get our act together and pass groundwater protection and controls based on science and not sidestep the equal requirements for hydrologic study for all commercial wells pre-existing and/or new”; and “what happend in Siskiyou county” viz. “the same kind of law case they did in 2018 that has set the precedent for the case in Sonoma County.”

Lake County elected officials have discussed the possible need to rework or update the local “Groundwater Management” ordinance (part of our “Municipal Codes”) which, shockingly, does almost nothing to protect the groundwater basins from over-drafting hazards, very common in the recent years of (official) drought and expanding “commercial” cannabis operations — among the many possible causes of neighboring wells “drying up.” 

In addition to that ineffective level of local “management,” Lake County also grants authority for owners of land zoned “agriculture” to develop groundwater supplies without any method of calculating whether that development will harm the preexisting domestic or other agriculture wells in the same basin, in its largely unknown process of approving “grading permits” — despite the maintenance of a notional CEQA Initial Study review process whereby the County’s Department of Water Resources’ Engineer would consider the impact of a newly permitted, water-extraction-dependent land use project on an established quantification of the particular ground water basin’s “safe yield.” 

The County Department of Water Resources claims to have the authority to act as the sole groundwater sustainability agency, in its role as coordinator of the state’s required groundwater basin management planning process for the state’s declared “moderately impaired” basin in Big Valley (Kelseyville). A major dispute over the “ownership” and management authority for extracting critical water supplies for the City of Lakeport from the as-yet-unquantified Scotts Valley groundwater basin creates the necessity for local management (and development of a groundwater sustainability agency) oversight of that basin — not yet determined by the state as contiguous with the Big Valley groundwater basin, but potentially so. 

In all the palaver I’ve read about the disputes over ownership and sales of Mendocino groundwater, I’ve yet to learn what legal structure at the county level would serve to both protect fragile groundwater supplies and prevent the endless pissing contests about agriculture’s pre-eminent powers to do what they want with shared natural resources that are critical for all organic life.

There are several other references in Mr./Ms. Wyre’s comments that I will also attempt to access and grasp, especially the 2018 “Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board” case. But if you or Mr. Shields or anyone else can elucidate the gist of this issue, I would be most appreciative. The results of your skirmishes and socio-political outcomes could be of vast importance to us (non-competing homeowners) — not that we will be adequately informed by the county government, of course.

Respectfully yours,

Betsy Cawn

Upper Lake

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How to provide economical shelter for homeless people and provide the county with the legal ability to clear encampments (an ongoing problem; think the Joe Rodota Trail)? Here’s an architect’s perspective: Build an approximately 50,000-square-foot pre-engineered metal canopy with a concrete slab and radiant heating. Provide dividers to create 100 square-foot areas with a cot, and you have 500-bed facility. Provide mini storage, mobile restrooms and change areas, shower trailers and trailers for social services.

The hard cost might be $75 per square foot, $3.75 million. Call it a $6 million project at $12,000 per bed — far less than a tiny house project or other solutions to date.

Many in the homeless community prefer to be outdoors. Winter shelter space is lacking. This would address both problems.

Where to locate it? The county campus. With the county deciding against relocation to downtown Santa Rosa, structures could be consolidated creating an adequate site close to county services and bus routes, with limited residential opposition.

I expect local architectural firms would join forces on a pro-bono basis for the design and entitlement phase. Are there aspects of this concept that are problematic? Of course, but that is true of any approach.

Alan B. Cohen


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Letter to Editor: 

Democracy v. Autocracy?

How many of us regardless of political party are committed to saving our democracy “our individual freedoms” versus how many of us support an autocracy with loss of individual freedom except for the autocrat.

If someone supports a change from democracy to autocracy then with respect ask if he/she will wear a mask in public at all times if so ordered, get all covid vaccinations if demanded by the government, be relieved to not have to get informed to vote as there wouldn’t be an election requiring making a choice, and practicing a dictated religion or forbidden to practice a religion. Life would be simpler because decisions would be made by the autocrat and his/her administrators.

To envision how our lives could be ultimately controlled, see how the people of China have lost their freedoms over the years:

Let us respectfully dialogue with each other in the forthcoming months so each of us is clear what we want from our government “democracy or autocracy”and express our views at the ballot box come November.

Susan Nutter

Fort Bragg

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The thousands of signatures supporting the Citizens Initiative for the Libraries have been counted and the Initiative has been certified to be on the November ballot as Measure O. This is exciting news for the five libraries in Willits, Fort Bragg, Ukiah, Point Arena, and Covelo, the bookmobile, and a sixth library starting up in Laytonville. The County Libraries receive 1/8 cent sales tax now. This initiative would make that funding permanent and add a 1/8 cent sales tax with all the funds going to a special library account. Citizens Committee member Carolyn Schneider said, “We had many people volunteering to sit outside stores and post offices and ask for signatures, and we got to see the huge appreciation for our libraries and the desire to maintain and sustain them.” Now the Citizens Committee is planning a campaign to raise funds to inform everyone in Mendocino County about the Measure and the value of the libraries, to hold events and most importantly, to ask Mendocino County voters to support Measure O on the Fall ballot.

Janice Marcell


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Being the lost or forgotten coast is nothing new to longtime residents of Gualala and Anchor Bay. Parking, traffic, speed limits and local schools were the concerns of the day back in 1984. Today it is parks, town center, support for our business community, funding for our safety services and maintenance of county roads.

County Supervisor Norman de Vall in 1984 created a small group of residents to gather information and opinions about the community. The group was to serve as an advisory board for Supervisor de Vall. Sound familiar?

The Mendocino Grapevine [now defunct] did a story on May 3, 1984, about the “Forgotten Coast” and how our community received little or no support from the County Board of Supervisors. Same story only the names have changed.

A local committee was formed to address the community's problems. Unfortunately, 38 years later, we find ourselves on the outside looking in again. Our infrastructure continues to age, parks deteriorate, and safety services are stretched and roads crumbling.

The County is proposing a tax measure to increase our sales tax. The original premise for the tax increase was to provide funding support for water and fire safety. The amended version eliminated support for water and provided funding only for fire safety and prevention.

Now the final version is to provide revenue for the county's general fund that the Supervisors will determine the best use of the money.

The Board of Supervisors can earmark some funds toward fire prevention but no guarantees. The preponderance of the new revenue can be used at the Board's discretion. So anyone who purchases products or services in Gualala will be contributing to the increase County sales tax revenue. I wonder if any of these new revenues will be directed to help restore Bower Park and support our safety services in Gualala or will history repeat itself?

Kevin Evans


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There is a day of reckoning coming up for the people who run the city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. The major water sources for the area are Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino. Both are about half full without much relief in sight. We are going to be rationing soon — that is for sure.

At the present time in Santa Rosa, several projects are under construction, mostly prefabricated multistory apartment buildings with hundreds of units. Planned projects will add thousands of new apartments and houses. These are not low-income units. Each apartment will have five or six people and three cars, minimum. Clean up after work, and that’s 10 showers a day per unit. That is dishes and clothes for five. Where will the water come from? Where will all of the cars park?

Student Government Day isn’t going to pass for success when the water is all gone. The Board of Supervisors and city don’t care what we think. Supervisor Chris Coursey wanted to build a Taj Mahal so they could have nicer offices. If you want to see how it should be done, drive down to Marin County and look around.

David Haynes

Santa Rosa

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Once in awhile something really rotten happens in the US Senate. Yesterday forty-one US senators, led by Pat Toomey, R, PA and Ted Cruz, R,TX, blocked a veterans’ healthcare bill. Many are outraged fhat veterans of wars dating back to the Vietnam War, including Iraq and Afghanistan, are now dying from lack of care. The carefully crafted bill which had taken years to craft was blocked on the one foot line by a retiring senator, Toomey, who will never have to face the public again after this current term. 

On top of this disgraceful act of cowardice and dishonor to our “bravest and best”, CSPAN filmed the “gutless wonders,” apparently miffed by Pres. Biden’s and the Democrats’ passage of a climate bill, fist-bumping in glee like schoolboys in a schoolyard celebrating an act of hazing some poor fellow student. While brave vets continue dying of cancer and other service connected ailments. Many vets were exposed to toxic chemicals serving beside burning garbage pits. 

Frank H. Baumgardner, III

Santa Rosa


Next Saturday, August 6, everyone who shares an interest in Sonoma County’s colorful past is invited to the second Finding History Day. It will be held at the Finley Community Center, 2060 W. College Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95401 from about 10 AM to about 2 PM. Speaking presentations will be 9:30-2:30. Presented by the Sonoma County Historical Society. Five years ago this event was presented by the Sonoma County Regional Library. Numerous local historians and experts on northern California’s past will be speaking. T hirty-three historical organizations and others will have tables with items on display. Free admission. All are welcome.

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Gavin Newsom is eyeing the White House? Is he the best Democrats have for the presidency — a hypocritical, do-nothing governor?

Remember the Employment Development Department debacle, with $22 billion being sent to prisoners? Remember how he closed the schools (except for private schools so his children could continue), businesses, restaurants, beaches, parks, hairdressers, and barbershops during COVID? Ahem, that was while he hobnobbed with friends at the French Laundry in Yountville.

He has done zero about forest management or water storage. We have the highest sales taxes, the greatest number of homeless people, huge crime issues with progressive district attorneys letting criminals out of jail. Fewer than half our children read at grade level, and only one-third can do math.

Newsom brags about California’s economy being the fifth largest worldwide, but the state is falling apart. We have clogged freeways and 1,000 miles of potholes. Gasoline prices are highest in the country. “Nearly 300 corporations have moved their headquarters out since the beginning of 2018,” according to Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. California lost one congressional seat because hundreds of thousands of residents fled the state.

It’s all on Newsom.

Sandy Metzger

Santa Rosa

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As the country enters the grip of a recession, the denials are pouring in as usual from Team Biden.

They propose more government spending as a means to cure inflation. Of course, inflation hasn’t affected them one iota. They travel at taxpayer expense, so no pain at the pump; they dine in the congressional dining room, so no notice of the price increases at the grocery store. They are surrounded by security at all times, so no notice of the rampant crime throughout the land.

These people live in an alternate reality, and they either cannot or will not acknowledge a problem even when it stares them in the face.

The American people feel it all on a daily basis, and we have had enough. I don’t want to wish away time, but November can’t come soon enough.

Bo Madden

Jupiter, Florida

One Comment

  1. Pat Kittle August 6, 2022

    “Team Biden” indeed.

    He was obviously senile in his famous basement BEFORE he was (s)elected.

    Very little is known about his “team,” but they all pass muster with the Israel lobby, so don’t give up hope — we’ll start that war on Iran yet!


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