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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

California Budget Cuts - Sad Day for State Parks

A Sad Day for State Parks

By Michell Luna, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods

Well, now we know what we face! The Governor has cut an additional $6.2 million from the State Parks budget bringing the total to $14.2 million for the 2009/2010 fiscal year.

This is devastating news for our parks statewide. We can expect to see the closing of about 100 State Parks after Labor Day.

With the economy affecting so many people, we need our parks. Our campgrounds are full because people are using our parks more then ever. Where will they go to recreate with their families during these trying times?

Our local rural communities will suffer with the loss of tourism dollars. Our local Russian River area State Parks attract over 4 million visitors a year. That represents an influx of millions of dollars into our local economy.

It's now up to us locally to come up with a plan to keep Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Austin Creek State Recreation Area, Sonoma Coast State Park, Fort Ross State Historic Park and Salt Point State Park open in the Russian River District. Our parks need our help in order to maintain services.

Stewards needs your help as we work with our local District staff to identify partners in our community who value our State Parks and will help us financially to keep them open and keep our community viable. If you are someone who thinks you can help, please contact me as I will be convening a working group of people to help with this effort.

We also need to find a stable and sustainable funding source for our State Parks NOW. If it means a ballot measure for next year, then let's do it and create a positive legacy for our grandchildren so they will not loose the chance to visit a State Park and learn about the fragile natural and cultural resources that we NEED to steward into the future!

I promise to keep you all updated as we move forward with our efforts.

Please contact me if you think you can help at


Mailing Address:
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods
P.O. Box 2
Duncans Mills, CA 95430

Tel: (707) 869-9177

FAX: (707) 869-8252



Promoting education, preservation & restoration of the natural & cultural resources of Russian River area State Parks

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

North Coast Water Board Approves Basin Plan Update

With a unanimous vote, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board approved the Basin Plan Amendment which establishes criteria for Wastewater Discharge, Storm Water Discharges and what they term. Low Threat Discharges. There was overall acceptance of every part of the Basin Plan except for issues concerning incidental runoff, which is primarily part of the Low Threat Discharge Action Plan.

There is so much documentation on this subject that is published on the Water Board web site, I'm going to link you there (below) for all the details.

Bottom line is, however, that objections to the use of recycled wastewater for irrigation, and the resultant runoff that ends up in our streams, wasn't enough to have the board hold off on passing this plan. The contention was that these chemicals, etc. in the recycled/treated water put our streams - and therefore our fish, etc., at risk because of the hormone interuptors and heavy metals that cannot be eliminated with our current treatment process.

But the board felt that there are enough monitoring systems and “BPs” (Best Practices-which are rules and regs that must be met) in place to mitigate problems. The rest of the plan is designed to protect waterways and asking the board to hold off on the whole plan for this section proved to be more than the board could do. So the Basin Plan is approved and there's more progress even if not enough progress in protecting our water.

Please learn about the details at the waterboard web site - there is much to know! for more information than your mind can handle - but take a look because there are some real gems of information in here! This is fascinating information, not just on water and wastewater, but you also learn how the people in charge create complex systems to monitor and potect water for all of us. We may not agree on everything, but much prohress has been made over the decades.There are peoole who care on both sides of this fence.


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United Way Funding for West County - LETTER

Dear Editor,

In response to Donna Roper’s letter last week inquiring about United Way’s funding decisions relative to West County, I would like to provide some context and background on our organization’s funding strategy.

United Way’s community-led funding teams carefully consider the multitude needs and concerns in our community as they make funding decisions each year. During our last fiscal year, our organization made substantial and increased funding commitments to the community, contingent on us meeting fundraising targets. However, because of the challenging economic environment, we did not meet those fundraising targets, and yet the Board made the decision to virtually deplete its reserves to uphold our funding commitments to the community. And now, because economic and fundraising challenges are expected to continue, United Way’s Board of Directors has made the prudent yet very difficult decision to reduce funding commitments for our current fiscal year.

I would like to emphasize that we remain steadfast in our primary goal: to create opportunities for a better life for everyone. We do this by identifying, analyzing and addressing our community’s needs. Sometimes this requires difficult decisions but we firmly believe that the work we are doing requires collaboration across all sectors. Working together, we can accomplish things that no organization, no individual and no government can accomplish on its own.

As part of United Way’s commitment to address our community’s needs, we are holding a series of community aspiration sessions in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties this week. This will be an opportunity to identify the current issues and needs that we face as a community. The sessions are a challenge to the community to envision how it can be an even better place to live and develop a plan to collectively achieve that vision. Details on those sessions can be found on United Way of the Wine Country’s website:

Together, united, we can inspire hope and create opportunities for a better tomorrow.

Steve Farmiloe, Chair
United Way of the Wine Country

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Russian River Flows and Photo Documentation Project

Update of River Flows & Photo Project
By Brenda Adelman

Memorial Day Weekend, Russian River Watershed Protection Committee and friends began clicking away at popular Russian River locations. Our photo project had begun and will continue weekly through the first weekend in October. We are committed to photographing Hacienda, Guerneville (Johnson’s and Dubrava beaches), and Monte Rio beaches every weekend, when recreation use is high. Several people have volunteered to photograph other popular beaches, and we will report their results in August.

Flows can get much lower…

As you recall, the State Water Board granted the Sonoma County Water Agency the authority to lower flows down to 35 cubic feet per second (cfs) measured at the Hacienda Bridge. The goal was to save water in Lake Mendocino for the fall Chinook migration. Because we have had a relatively cool summer so far, they have not needed to do that and flows have stayed between 125 cfs and 175 cfs for the last month. 125 cfs is the minimum for a normal year, but we expect flows to go quite a bit lower when the weather heats up. We want to have a photo record over the entire summer so we can document the effects. (This is being written on July 10th.)

We want to identify flow levels, impacts on recreation, and visible water quality impairments such as invasive Ludwegia growths and large algae clumps. Most of the pictures we’ve taken so far, are from the major bridges and give a panorama view. At the same time we are keeping track of flow levels as measured at Hacienda and temperatures on the day we shoot. We found that there was very high river use during the hot weather. Over July 4th weekend, when it was fairly cool (about low 70’s and windy), recreationist numbers were much lower than the week before, when it was in the ‘90’s.

Water quality needs watching…
Water quality tests for bacteria have caused concern at times at Johnson’s and Monte Rio Beaches. Signs went up a few times telling people to swim at their own risk. We heard of one dog getting sick last weekend after swimming in the river. But bacteria data is finicky. It can be high one day and back to normal the next. One kid or pet that “goes” in the water right before a sample is taken, can skew the results that can disappear an hour later.

Also, stirring up the river bottom muck can also muddy the water and cause bacteria counts to rise. Tests are usually taken weekly, but if they get positive results, they go back again. Our advice: if you have health issues, it might be better to stay out of the water or find a remote beach somewhere where contamination is less likely to occur. If you are pretty healthy, you probably don’t have to worry much.

We are also very concerned about the large mats of algae in the river and the bright green Ludwegia growing from the bank. We are especially concerned about what will happen if the weather heats up and the river goes down. The nutrients and invasive plants are likely to proliferate.

There have been several reports of large clumps of dark green algae from Rio Nido to Monte Rio. In some cases, it has come up suddenly and actually coated the rocks on the riverbanks with muck. We were told that the Monte Rio beach concession had to rake out large amounts of algae right where they rent their canoes. We could use help photographing these conditions. Please send us dated digital photos and locations noted if you are able to help us document these conditions. So far the water quality data being collected has not really indicated problems with nutrients in spite of these conditions, so it is extremely important that we document them visually.

RRWPC has been trying to take the same photos in the same locations from week to week so we can see how the lowering of the flow affects recreational use. This is proving more challenging than we thought, since getting the exact same angle and magnification each time is difficult. Also, there are dams at Johnson’s and Vacation Beaches (about a mile downstream from Johnson’s) and they have a major affect on water levels at those locations. Nevertheless, we can still demonstrate some of the differences over the course of time, especially when flows go very low.

Noticing the impacts….
What we have noticed is that if you look at the body of the water each week between 125 cfs and 200 cfs you don’t notice a huge difference in the amount of water. But then if you notice permanent fixtures, like signs, you can see the water levels gradually going down. You can also watch people cross the river at Monte Rio beach and for most, it doesn’t even come up to their knees. In some places, large dogs can run across and not even have to swim.

So far, kayaks and canoes can still maneuver pretty well. We have been told that they start having major problems at 85 cfs. If the weather stays cool, maybe we can get through most of the summer without losing the canoe season. We saw hundreds of boats all up and down the river in the hot weather especially. It is an extremely popular past time for visitors and local residents alike.

Would you like to help?
If any of you like to photograph and have a digital camera, please send us pictures. We would like to have the photos dated and we would appreciate a description of where they were taken. You can email them to:

PHOTOS by Larry Hanson, Shula Zuckerman, Laurie Ross

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NOAA Funding for Fish - Gold Ridge Conservation

Funding for Fish
By Lisa Hulette

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (RCD) has been awarded $1.54 Million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for the Save our Salmon (SOS) Salmon Creek Habitat Rehabilitation Project. The SOS project is a collaborative vision of the RCD and Prunuske Chatham, Inc to improve instream habitat, create local jobs, and support water supply sustainability for the town of Bodega. The fact that coho salmon have been spotted in Salmon Creek for the first time since the early 90’s (photo on page 10 taken June 30, 2009 by Joe Pecharich, NOAA Fisheries) - has made this particular week the highlight of my career - and I say that with all sincerity. I really have a sense of optimism that I have kind of lost over the years working in salmon restoration.

This project demonstrates the power of partnership, said Lisa Hulette, Executive Director for the Gold Ridge RCD. In the Salmon Creek Watershed, where farming and fisheries interests have been at odds for many years, environmental conservation groups, the agricultural community and local organizations have joined together to collaborate on a project that restores critical salmon habitat, develops sustainable community infrastructure and creates jobs.

Salmon Creek is located within the Bodega Hydrologic Unit (HU) in the California Central Coast Evolutionary Significant Unit (ESU). In addition to now hosting a fledgling coho population, Salmon Creek is part of the Sonoma Coast State Marine Conservation Area, a State Marine Protected Area (MPA) (California Marine Life Protection Initiative 2007). In the face of climate change and a sharp regional decline in salmon populations over the past two years, the stakes for keeping the newly re-introduced coho going and the steelhead returning are very high. Salmon Creek watershed is becoming regionally renowned for its forward-thinking, collaborative, non-regulatory driven restoration program, and is often cited as a model for other watershed efforts.

The NOAA funding will allow project partners and landowners to move forward with multiple restoration approaches on two critical rearing reaches for endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout by installing rain catchment tanks to increase instream summer flows, planting native vegetation, and implementing other stream-related restoration activities to improve fisheries habitat.

This project is one part of a long-term watershed vision held by many groups and individuals Ð to bring the salmon back to Salmon Creek. We are thrilled that all the hard work that has been put into developing the vision, the project, and the community connections is being recognized by our federal agencies. There is a real opportunity here to make a difference for Salmon Creek watershed, for our neighbors in the town Bodega and for the fish, and we are excited to be in this partnership with Gold Ridge RCD, said Lauren Hammack, lead scientist for Prunuske Chatham, Inc.

Established in 1941, Gold Ridge RCD been a leader in promoting stewardship of the natural resource in western Sonoma County for the past 63 years. Since its establishment, the RCD has been providing educational, technical, and funding support to landowners in western Sonoma County watersheds. The RCD has been awarded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2009 Environmental Achievement Award. Similarly, the Gold Ridge RCD is the recipient of the 2008 National Association of Conservation District’s (NACD) award for Successful Collaborative Partnerships for the entire Pacific Region.

Prunuske Chatham Inc., (PCI) will be performing community facilitation, construction management, final field design and specifications as needed, and parts of the construction associated with the SOS program. PCI is an environmental design, planning, and construction firm with a strong focus on finding ways for people to live and work well as responsible participants of their local ecosystems. PCIÕs staff includes scientists, planners, civil engineers and landscape architects who specialize in natural systems, and construction crews skilled in ecological rehabilitation. Based in Sonoma County, PCI has been practicing environmental planning and restoration in Northern California since 1986.

For more information about the Gold Ridge RCD, visit:

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

WINE BANTER: John Haggard of Sophies Cellars Jul7 2009

Don’t judge a bottle by its cap…
By John Haggard

More and more, you may have noticed screw caps on your wine bottles. There are a lot of differing opinions and ideas about how a bottle should be presented and what is best to protect and preserve wine, but the use of cork in wine bottles, which goes back to the mid-1600’s is one that is hard to break. In my twenty years of fine dining service, the presentation of the bottle to the guest, the cutting of the foil and the removal of the cork is an intrinsic part of the pleasurable experience of enjoying wine with a meal because of its tradition as much as its necessity.
Let’s start with the basics: what choices are there for sealing a bottle of wine? There are three methods currently in use: traditional cork, synthetic corks (made from plastics) and screw caps.

Synthetic corks currently have the worst seal (in order to enable them to be removed). Wines exposed to air will not age. If you purchase a wine with a synthetic cork, be sure that you will be consuming it within a year or two. Synthetic corks are mostly used today on inexpensive wines.
Then there’s traditional cork. Cork is a renewable resource, and is biodegradable. A good cork, which is probably 90 – 95% of all corks, may allow a wine to age thirty years or more. But how many wines are made to age for thirty years, and how many wine buyers are prepared to wait that long on the ones that are? There is cork failure in 5-10% of wines, sometimes due to TCA, a fungus that invades the cork fibers and creates a musty smell: such tainted bottles of wine are said to be “corked”.

Screw caps do provide an excellent seal, and many tests show that wines can be aged in them. However, there are some experts who believe a tiny amount of air that a traditional cork allows into a bottle over time may actually help the aging process.

I am seeing more and more high-end wines appear with screw caps. I must admit to being one of the early skeptics, but, in my experience, it’s more a matter of great winemakers taking the screw-cap on board. I have certainly tasted some great wines in a screw cap bottle, including, most recently, the Inman Pinot Noirs (Olivet Grange and Thorn Road), 2006 Russian River Pinot Noirs retailing at $50-$60 and the Inman Rose retailing at $25-$30.

New Wine Map
We have many great wine maps in Sonoma County – there is the Wine Road wine map and the Russian River Valley Winegrowers map. Steppin’ Out Magazine does a great job of combining Sonoma / Napa / Mendocino and other Northern California wine regions in a nice glossy magazine. The new 101 Things To Do Magazine is all over Sonoma County and the wine maps are accurate. The large print makes them easy to read and there is lots of information for your friends or guests who are not familiar with Sonoma – it’s also free, as are all the aforementioned maps.

Gamay Noir Time
Perhaps, just like the much anticipated Beaujolais Nouveau from France each year (which is a Gamay) – it’s time for Paul Mathew’s new vintage of Gamay Noir. I wrote about the 2007 last year – and I think his 2008 is even better. A complex wine with herbaceous dark fruit flavors with hints of spice and bubblegum… best served cool but not cold. It is being poured by the glass at our fabulous new Boon Restaurant in Guerneville, and is available at Sophie’s Cellars (retail price $16.99). Very limited production.

Cazadero Wine Tasting
If you’re in the Russian River area on Saturday July 18th, check out the Cazadero Wine Tasting Event at CazSonoma Lodge. Proceeds benefit the Cazadero Community Club. There are some great winemakers on the ridges from Cazadero to the Sonoma Coast and they have been quite generous in supporting this event. Advanced tickets are available at Sophie’s Cellars in Monte Rio ($30). For more information, call 707-632-5255.

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine & Cheese Market in Monte Rio, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open 11am – 7pm, closed only on Wednesdays.


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Efren Carrillo: Our Sonoma County July 2009

July Topics include:
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)
Russian River Redevelopment
Monitoring the Russian River
Russian River Estuary Plan
Energy Retrofit Program
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Sunset Beach River Park
Graton Park planning

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds are beginning to make their way into Sonoma County. One of the most visible and exciting programs funded by this effort is the Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps, which will provide summer jobs for 332 14-24 year olds. The program was organized and developed by Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), Human Services Department and the Workforce Investment Board. Approximately 27 crews working with 22 environmental organizations and city and county departments will help restore critical habitat throughout Sonoma County. They will earn $8 an hour, while learning about our ecosystem and receiving training to help them qualify for a Work Ready Certificate.

Retired Fifth District Supervisor, Mike Reilly, was instrumental in organizing the youth jobs program even before good news came about federal funding. He spent considerable time consulting on the program, and later procuring and delivering tools to the various worksites. Thank you, Mike!

Other ARRA funds($17.5 million so far) will see our road crews doing preventative chip sealing of major arteries, Airport terminal expansion and increased security, additional retraining efforts for the unemployed, improvement of disabled access to public facilities, the purchase of natural gas fueled busses, criminal justice services, and a new rapid response program to help reduce homelessness.

Our Russian River Redevelopment (RRROC) meeting on June 11th focused on how redevelopment financing works and various ways that redevelopment can boost revitalization efforts. Approximately 40 persons representing the public and special districts attended the meeting. Following a Community Development presentation (CDC), staff and I responded to questions regarding a wide range of topics with most of the focus on redevelopment tax increment financing, how it works, how it impacts special districts, and how to apply for redevelopment assistance.

CDC is moving forward with two new activities to help local businesses in and around Guerneville. The Banners and Baskets Program, coordinated with the Russian River Chamber, will feature flower baskets and vertical banners to be placed on street lights advertising Russian River area activities and events. This will provide a visual “welcome sign” and invitation to area residents and tourists to spend time in the downtown area.

Also, CDC will be funding business consulting services through the SRJC Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to Redevelopment Area businesses. The SBDC will sponsor workshops and one-on-one consulting services through the program.

RRROC elections will be held December 18, 2009. Five seats are up for election, and candidate filings are open between August 20-September 14, 2009. Interested parties should contact Al Lerma, Redevelopment Associate at 707-543-7523.

As part of an effort by SCWA to monitor our Russian River during the summer, a float trip was organized to transit the lower reach of the river by canoe. On a beautiful day, we joined the River keeper, Don McEnhill, representatives from our State Legislators’ offices, and Linda Burke to view the condition of the river up close. Our journey will be repeated in August to compare conditions and gauge the impacts of low flows ordered for this season by the Water Quality Control Board. Increased monitoring of bacteria and nutrients in the river has begun for the summer, and you can see the results at:

Our June meeting in Jenner was attended by nearly 100 local citizens concerned about the new Russian River estuary plan. Panelists included Dr. Bill Hearn and Monica DeAngelis (Biologists with National Marine Fisheries(NMFS)), Michele Luna (Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods), Norma Jellison (Seal Watch), and Jessica Martini-Lamb (SCWA).

The Biological Opinion and resulting impacts on sandbar management by SCWA were discussed in depth. As part of their efforts to comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, SCWA will be collaborating with the Stewards on a monitoring plan of the seal haul out site, which is the largest in Sonoma County. This plan will be submitted to NMFS for review and public comment.

Upcoming meetings and events:

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, City of Santa Rosa, and PG&E will host a launch of its new Energy Retrofit program on July 17th & 18th from 6-8pm at Sheppard Elementary School. The program includes incentives and rebates aimed at assisting low income households increase the energy efficiency of their homes. Representatives of the Sonoma County Energy Independence program will attend with information
Our newest regional park, Sunset Beach River Park, is on the Russian River, between Forestville and Guerneville, just west of the Hacienda Bridge. This latest link in the growing chain of public river-access parks operated by Regional Parks offers day-use visitors access to swimming, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing. The park features a paved parking lot, restrooms, picnic tables, and a ¼ mile accessible gravel trail to the edge of the river. Please join us for the official opening of Sunset Beach River Park on Thursday, June 16th at 5:30 pm…see you there!

A Graton Oark planning meeting will be held at the Graton Fire Station on Saturday, June 18th from 10am until noon. This gathering will bring together the community to discuss the possibility of a future pocket park at the GFD site when the station moves to its new home in the next few years. Your input and comments will be heard by representatives of Regional Parks and the Open Space District. For more information contact HolLynn D’Lil at 829-9440.


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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

J.D. Kaiwi - Forestville Icon - Died July 7, 2009

J.D. Kaiwi - Forestville's resident volunteer and social butterfly, died unexpectedly July 7, 2009 of Swine Flu and heart complications.

J.D. is the kind of person who shows up wherever people are gathering for a good cause or just community get-together. Always cheerful and full of energy to help out, he's been part of so many benefits and volunteer efforts over the years he was voted as Forestville's Volunteer of the Year in 2008.

His passing gives us a good opportunity to ponder how important is it to show our appreciation for people's efforts while they are still with us. Not even 50 when he died, J.D. was chosen as the perfect candidate for recogntion in our small community. Volunteers are a vital part of any small town without the services of an incorprated area. From serving food at Hollydale Community Club events to picking up trash at the annual Forestville Youth Park BBQ, J.D. has been a dependable source of positive contributions.

In 2008, the Forestville Planning Association provided grant money to hire J.D. to be our downtown clean-up man. It was just a small fund, but J.D. took to the task with his usual passion, and our downtown looked a whole lot better for his efforts. Merchants and residents appreciated his efforts so much they tried to fund him for 2009. We were just getting ready to raise money to hire him again when we learned this news.

Mornings at Bo'z Cup Coffee cart on Mirabel Road, days at Speer's Market, and late afternoons at Rotten Robbie gas in downtown Forestville will not be the same without J.D.'s daily banter. People who have been in contact with J.D. should get checked for Swine Flu to make sure they didn't contract the disease from spending time with him.

If there's anything we can learn from J.D., it's live the best life you can, give with all your heart and remember that giving recognition to people who make your town a home is vital. Do it now. You never know when they might be taken from you.

Thanks J.D. for all you have done for our home over the years.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Slow Dance - Live before you Die

This is a poem written by a teenager with cancer. I'm passing it on or two reasons. One is because her message is good for everyone. Two is because a very dear friend was taken to the hospital with heart problems today and the last I saw him was in an ambulance. He says he'll be OK and I pray that is true. He has lived his life fully, loved well, shared much and I know he'd have no regrets if he died today. That's a good way to live. - Vesta

Slow Dance

Have you ever


On a merry-go-round?

Or listened to

Slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a
butterfly's erratic flight?

Or gazed at the sun into the

You better slow down.

dance so

Time is short.

The music

Do you run through each day


When you ask How are you?

Do you hear

When the day is done

Do you lie
in your
bed< >With the next hundred chores

Running through
your head?

You'd better
slow down

Don't dance so

Time is

The music won't

Ever told your
We'll do it

And in your

Not see

Ever lost

Let a good
friendship die

Cause you
never had time

To call
and say,'Hi'

better slow down.

Don't dance
so fast.

is short.

The music won't

When you run
so fast to get somewhere

miss half the fun of getting

When you worry and hurry
through your

It is like an unopened


Life is not a

Do take it

Hear the

Before the song is

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sonoma County Programs Win National Awards

Three Sonoma County Programs Win National Awards
By Jim Toomey

Three Sonoma County programs were selected to receiveAchievement Awards from the National Association of Counties (NACo). NACo will present the awards during their national conference, being held July 24th through 29th in Nashville, TN.
The programs being honored are:
- Circles Across Sonoma – Sonoma County Probation Department
- Health Action – Sonoma County Department of Health Services
- Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Sustainability Initiatives – Sonoma County General
Services Department, Energy & Sustainability Division.

Circles Across Sonoma is the nation’s first county-wide implementation of a gender responsive service program for girls involved at all levels of the local juvenile justice system. Program services are built upon the Girls Circle format, a promising practice model recognized by the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The Circles Across Sonoma Program offers the elegant solution of a consistent, structured, research based program delivered to girls throughout the continuum of juvenile justice, even as they return to their communities and homes. Circles Across Sonoma represents a major step forward in creating a gender responsive system for the Sonoma County. The program has enrolled 456 girls with a remarkable 73.2% completion rate.

Health Action began in 2007 as a health action council sponsored by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS). Health Action’s over-arching mission is community health improvement. Building on widespread interest and commitment, DHS has convened a diverse, multidisciplinary group of key community leaders to identify priority health and health care issues, and to develop specific recommendations on local approaches to promote the health of both the community and the health care deliver system. Since its inception, Health Action has; assessed data on health issues impacting Sonoma County, developed criteria focusing its efforts, developed an initial set of health improvement strategies, received public input on those strategies, and obtained Board of Supervisors approval of its Action plan for 2009 through 2012.

In the arena of climate protection, Sonoma County has created an aggressive and successful program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, motivated by the county’s commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint and to operate in a sustainable way. The program includes a climate protection action plan, an energy project concentrating on facilities and self-generation, and a regional climate committee, comprised of all cities and agencies within the county. Important components of these comprehensive programs include, but are not limited to; collaboration between multiple agencies and jurisdictions on a common goal, the installation of a 1.4 megawatt natural gas fuel cell, the replacement of more than 260 gas powered vehicles with hybrid and electric cars, lighting and water conservation retrofits at facilities, and the creation of an AB 811 program to finance energy efficiency and conservation projects on residential and commercial properties throughout the county.

More information about these programs may be obtained at the following links:
Circles Across Sonoma:

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Overcoming Disability: Inga's Story

PHOTO by Penny Wolin.

Inga’s Story
by Bianca Llamas

What Inga remembers most about waking up that day was the white. It surrounded her, but it was not the comforting white of billowing clouds or down comforters, but the cold stark white that spoke of starched ironed bed sheets and disinfectant.

It was a surreal setting where nothing made sense. All she could remember was who her family was and her job. She was told later that the accident occurred when she was celebrating with her boyfriend in downtown Vilnius, Lithuania. The holidays had passed and winter was raging on.

Inga Lizdenyte, 32, did not know where she was when she woke up. She had been in a car accident, but she didn’t remember it. The result was the loss her legs and the paralysis of her left arm.

Inga had no recollection of the accident. Later, she was told that the driver was speeding, at 100 miles per hour. The roads were slick with ice and snow. The driver lost control and careened into light pole. He died at the scene. At the time of impact Inga’s legs were sliced in half, just above the knee.

Her life seemed a blur. It was not until a few weeks later that her father told her that the driver who died in the accident was her boyfriend, Dalius. After hearing his name she understood.
“Dalius always liked to drive fast,” said Inga.

To most of us it would seem incomprehensible, losing both legs and a boyfriend at once. Yet now Inga reflects that she was able to handle the news fairly well, no doubt due to the morphine the doctors were filling her with.

After being released from the hospital Inga went back home to live with her family, but things were not the same. Like physical therapy, learning to live with a disability and the looks in the eyes of old friends who never knew what to say or do. It took about a year of being stuck in her room to be motivated to take hold of her situation.

“I couldn’t leave my room because I had to wait during the process of home modification. I made the request right away but it took about a year before anything was done.”

“I couldn’t take the humiliation of being carried down the only flight of stairs from the elevator to the ground floor…I only left the house for doctors appointments and rehabilitation therapy”. Life as she had known it seemed to no longer exist. Inga felt that she had lost the freedom she had rarely even given a second thought to.

But Inga was strong. Adjusting to her new life was not easy. She had been forced into a world that required her total dependence on others. Eventually with the combination of therapy and motivation, Inga decided to get on with her life.

“I wanted to live, not exist,” said Inga.

Things were looking up when an American prosthetic expert was able to create two prosthetic legs, enabling Inga to walk again.

But only for a year.

Her thighbone was growing back, a painful process some amputees experience. The pain made it impossible for Inga to wear her prosthetic legs.

There is no longing in Inga’s voice when she describes choosing to use a wheelchair. She is content and happy with her life. Inga’s pristine happiness is what sets her apart from most people and people who have suffered an injury resulting in disability. Part of this happiness is due to her job, Public Relations and Volunteer Coordinator at Disability Services and Legal Center also known as DSLC.

“One of the reasons I love working at DSLC is because this agency helps people like me to become independent and live their lives despite their disability. I have seen, smelled, felt, heard and tasted every emotion that these people are dealing with. I know what it feels like when you cannot live your life as everyone else only because you don’t have access or opportunity due to your disability. DSLC is the primary resource for people who have to go through difficulties as I did. I want the community to know that there is a place where they can get help if they or their family members have any difficulties because of disability. I can share my own personal story with them to hopefully inspire them to take hold of their lives.”

Anyone can find Inga in her office, dubbed “the fishbowl”, working away while listening to up beat electronic music.

Her upbeat attitude and energy is infectious. She admits that she may overwork herself by taking on too many projects but is always satisfied with their outcome.

Inga has a worldly presence and when speaking with her you can only think of how amazing she is. Fighting losing battles and overcoming her past, Inga may be the strongest person you ever meet.

“I could feel sorry for myself, but what use would that be. I am thankful for everything I had to go through, and what has happened to me has made me only stronger. I love my life and my job. I have a purpose and that is to help others like me”, said Inga.

If you have any questions regarding the services provided by DSLC call DSLC, 707-528-2745 or check out their website

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Vagabond - The Art of Living Homeless - Kerry Echo

Kerry Echo lives on the streets and has a blog for her essays. I appreciate her perspective on life so I am including one of her essays here - with a link to her web site so you can follow her journey. - Vesta

Love is Not All
By Kerry Echo

Love is not meat or drink, but it can get very, very lonely being homeless without it.

Most homeless people have no roof whatsoever, and those of us who do are living out of a car, truck, or van, which barely provides enough room for one person. Assuming two people could get along under one small mobile roof, there is still the problem of lack of privacy with having to situate the "roof" on a side street or in a parking lot. Truly, I wish I had had a choice about listening to Sheila and Brian argue, break up, kiss, and make up every few days.

The homeless are up early and turn in early to avoid encounters with the housed and the police. There are just too many logistics to handle as it is, and the police can rattle your nerves even when they park next to you at Seven-Eleven. And I can live without the nervous, faux cheeriness of the housed when they have an unexpected encounter in a public washroom --- I only have my bra on so far and I'm brushing my teeth. Somehow, they want to chatter at such a time, perhaps to pretend that I am just like them. Except for the homeless part.

It is not that often, though, that I meet the middle- and upper-middle class housed. Most of the time the public restrooms are empty, and I can relax and enjoy the breeze coming through the open-roof structure and look out at the tree tops. One public washroom has dovecotes, whether by accident or design: instead of a single pitched roof, there are two pyramidal roofs separated by a breezeway, each with its own skylighted pavilion perched at the top. Doves can be heard flying around the empty, upper interior. They have taken over the roofs and nest on top of the walls separating the toilets, which places the humans doing their business on the first floor.

The birdsong of the mourning dove permeates my earliest memories, so having this particular, familiar bird attendant upon my toilette is a luxury and a joy. Even if the biggest problem with having birds in the attic looks nasty --- the excrement that has dripped down and dried on the upper walls --- it seems fitting.

One day while doing my toilette, I was surprised by two very well-dressed women, so well-dressed it was startling. They were in skirts and high heels, made-up, perfectly coiffed, and wearing expensive jewelry. There was a pleasant hint of perfume in the air that spread like an aura throughout the washroom. We exchanged greetings as they entered and each took a stall. I continued washing my face.

"You ladies are really dressed up for the public washroom this morning!"

"Oh," said one of the ladies as she left her stall, "We're Jehovah Witnesses."

There is usually an internal "uh-oh" response whenever I hear Jehovah Witnesses since they are generally so pesky, all but ramrodding their way through your front door and into your living room. But, of course, I do not have a front door or anything else resembling a house. I decided in that moment to be all the person I am, to be bigger than my reservations, and to stay open and honest.

By now I was brushing my teeth. It seemed a little awkward, but the ladies stayed a while to chat. Most of the chat was about their missionary work. I told them I respect their belief as I do all beliefs, which turned out to be an opening for one of them to ask what my belief was. I told them I am spiritual, that I have outgrown religion, that I love Jesus, but I want to be able to communicate with everyone on the planet regardless of their belief.

My answer elicited a pause; I think it impressed them because no one can honestly deny the need to relate to all people. They may also have been relieved not to have to defend their own belief, as I am sure they meet with plenty of diatribe against the JWs. At any rate, the two well-dressed women took their leave; and I have to say I liked them. My impressions of people include a disaster scenario and whether they could weather a storm with me. I do not want to hear, "I broke my nail!" when we all need to be bailing water. These women were tough on the inside. I could tell.

A few mornings earlier as I had just finished in the washroom, a car drove into the parking lot blaring the sound of the Beatles. So few radio stations play the Beatles anymore and, where I live, no one listens to them. It was unusual. Then my friend, Sheila, pops out of the car and runs over, as usual, lunging at me with an enormous embrace.

Unless by way of a well-honed internal guidance system, I never know how Sheila finds me. She behaved as though she expected to see me right there right then. Even uncannier is the fact that I am not staying out by the yacht club anymore where Sheila last saw me, but further south in Mission Bay.

Sheila's lover is still in jail, and she is pining away. She is pining so much she decided to go back to school to become a nurse, maybe to keep busy. But Sheila always sounds a little drunk, so I am hoping she succeeds despite her boyfriend and the addiction. Unfortunately, because she pops into my life unannounced, I usually have something else to do and must leave her company sooner than I would like. That was the case a few days ago. Sheila is no longer homeless, but she still retains some of the footloose habits that homelessness engenders; and I will see her again.

One of the subtle effects of homelessness over time is to make a person more truly herself. I have been given back to myself through this simple way of life, which has few distractions. I tend to be completely honest, even honest about dishonesty on the rare occasion that I must employ it. One of the most important features of this new integrity has been a progressive ability to be in the present moment much of the time and to make the best of my surroundings and everything in it.

I am no longer fixated.

It is remarkable when I review my life to see how often I denied my reality. I was always waiting for the perfect friend, lover, sister, brother, mother, job, apartment, exercise plan, vacation, and the list goes on. I was in the future and stuck in the past, unable to love what I had; and I am only beginning to enjoy imperfection as the capstone of things rare and extraordinary.

Letting go of fixations --- who can be my friends, who can be my lover or soul mate, who is interesting or not --- has allowed me to accept the things around me and experience them in greater depth and detail. The narrow romantic-love vision of the 1950's household of my childhood no longer applies under my present circumstances and may be, in fact, obsolete. Certainly, if one is looking to live life to the fullest and have the experience of joy, there is no other way but to leave oneself open to the excitement of possibilities and to a childlike fascination with what might happen next.

For example, bird visitations are a regular feature of the outdoor shower at public restrooms. One day, a silly gull perched on the shower wall was behaving just as my beloved, deceased dog would have and seemed to stand guard overhead while I washed. In fact, I came to believe my beloved dead dog was inhabiting a bird body. Fantasy? Magical thinking? Perhaps, but the experience was real and something I will never forget.

Then there are the elusive Bob, Steve "the Wonder," and my girlfriend, Sheila, exotic creatures in their own right. If I look for Bob or Steve or Sheila, I cannot find them. They just appear and our relationships continue, renewed and updated. These people have blessed my life with the richness of their personalities.

There is nurturance in relating to everything around oneself. There is a sense of belonging, a feeling of security, and love that comes with it. It is not just what one gives or what one gets, but the relationship itself, the in-betweenness, that brings joy to me. That third element is what I seek, that subtle energy of life between and among all living things, the gravitational pull that draws us into one strange, wonderful whole.

Love is Not All
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

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A Bit of Musical Pleasure for You - Why Not!

African Thunderstorm

This fun YouTube video features a 1980s pop classic. The rock band Toto scored their biggest hit with Africa in 1982. The song is instantly recognizable. But it has been reinvented.

Perpetuum Jazzile is an a cappella jazz choir from Slovenia. It’s hard to think of something further from an ‘80s rock band. But their version of Africa may best the original. The group has amazing voices.

But the beginning of this video is really striking. Group members simulate an African thunderstorm with their hands. It’s really something to see and hear.

Life is Fun when you take the time to enjoy it!

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PG&E's Reliability Pruning - the Down Side

PHOTOS: “Reliability Pruning” last year on Austin Creek Rd from 3-mi bridge to hwy 116

PG&E's Reliability Pruning runs into Protests in Cazadero




and/or Judith Rost: 707-632-5988


While I do understand and appreciate the importance of safety around 12,000 volt power lines, you must recognize the negative impact that PG&E's recent "Reliability Pruning" program is causing.

As you know, I am a California tree contractor, Lic. #909691; you may review my resume at

During the last several years, the scientific community has established the components behind the growth pattern of redwood trees, including groundwater recharge and transpiration. The
University of California at Berkeley has been involved in the studies at the Van Alstine grove in Occidental, which showed that the reason redwoods grow so tall is the limbs up and down their trunklines, on which the sun bakes the foliage and draws moisture to the upper crown.

The negative impact of PG&E's program is that when these limbs have been stripped, the crown will grow exponentially as a result. Those limbs remaining on the upper crown will, in a short period of time, be MORE apt to break and fall on power lines.

Another issue of serious concern is that wind tunnels are being created by this program, especially in the Austin Creek-Cazadero Highway area. Extremely hazardous situations are going to be affecting private property and causing higher insurance rates, decreasing property values and increased risk of trees falling and tops breaking off.

Again, I appreciate PG&E's intentions of minimizing winter power outages; however, this is the wrong approach.

Thank you for your attention.


Darrell B. Sukovitzen
The Tree Climber
CCL #909691
(707) 887-1017

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Sonoma County Homeless Census 2009

Sonoma County Homeless Census

By Jenny Abramson
The Sonoma County 2009 Homeless Census and was conducted in two parts, which differed significantly from previous counts in 2005 and 2007. The first part, a census of homeless individuals and families, was undertaken on January 23rd, 2009. The second part was a survey of 600 homeless people. The new methodology is superior in terms of numerical accuracy of the census and the value of the qualitative information obtained from survey respondents.

A total of 3,290 homeless individuals were found through canvassing of 86 census tracts throughout Sonoma County and via surveys of emergency shelters, transitional housing facilities, jails, hospitals and residential treatment facilities. The 2007 census located 1700 homeless individuals. Most of the increase is due to the use of a different methodology rather than the economic downturn, says Peter Connery, Vice President of Applied Survey Research (ASR), a Watsonville-based social science research firm, and lead researcher on the project.

The 2005 and 2007 Unsheltered Homeless Counts focused on engaging homeless individuals with a series of special events supplemented by street outreach teams. This year, homeless guides were hired and matched with community volunteers to conduct a walking canvass of the county’s 86 census tracts in the early morning hours. The count was conducted by observation only, and no attempt was made to interact with the homeless people they saw. The concurrent census of emergency shelters and transitional housing was comparable to those in years past. About $2 million in federal grants comes to Sonoma County each year through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is requiring the count. ASR has conducted more than two dozen homeless counts in the past decade and was contracted by the Sonoma County Community Development Commission to lead the 2009 Count. The 2009 Census and Survey data will set a new baseline to support Sonoma County’s efforts to address homelessness.

The vast majority of the people located were single adults. Very few unsheltered homeless families were found. The number of people counted at emergency shelters and transitional housing facilities increased by more than 30% over the 2007 count, during a period when the bed capacity shrank by 11%. Shelter providers reported being full to capacity for much of the winter.

Although service providers have noted increased demand, and homeless people report that there are many new homeless faces on the street, the new survey method has more to do with the increased total. “In other communities that we’ve surveyed repeatedly with the same methodology, the number of literally homeless individuals does not appear to have increased dramatically,” said Connery. The report notes that only a very few of those surveyed (1.3%) mentioned foreclosure of their own property as a cause of their homelessness, while 4.5% responded that their landlord took their home off the rental market for whatever reason, including foreclosure. Job loss is noted as the primary event (34% of respondents) that led to homelessness.

Connery cautioned against comparing data generated by the 2009 Census and Survey to that of past years. “The methodology is so different, I would advise extreme caution against comparing anything but the shelter data,” he said.

Key findings of the new study include:
• More than 75% of local homeless people became homeless while living in Sonoma County.
• Nearly 70% of those surveyed responded they could not afford housing.
• 13% of adult survey respondents were veterans of the US military.
• 3% of homeless individuals are living with HIV/AIDS, compared to .23% in the population at large.
• About 30% of survey respondents reported experiencing mental illness; 42% reported substance abuse; and 10% of respondents reported developmental disabilities.

Connery suggests the most striking findings in the data involve “the recalcitrance of the chronically homeless—and the huge number of challenges and disabilities that the vast majority of the homeless population is struggling with.” More than ¾ of survey respondents reported at least one disabling condition.

The comprehensive report on the census is posted on the Sonoma County website at

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Riggy Rackin - Somewhere in Between

Hi Everyone !
I am so happy to tell you that today I am finally bringing forth a project reflecting my life's work in an album titled Somewhere in Between.

It defies categorization and covers the genres of my journey: English Folksong, Renaissance Art Song, English Country Dance instrumentals, Irish Sea Songs, American Country and Pop ballads.

Stellar singers and musicians provide top-notch support, while veteran producer Jeff Martin has made magic of it all!

The CD and samples are easily available thru my website:
or you could Download Somewhere in Between if that's your preferred way to gather your music !

Thanks so much taking time to look & listen.



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