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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

UPDATE on Aaron Vargas: Abuse on Trial for Murder

Aaron Vargas on Trial for Killing his Abuser - Ft. Bragg Community Supports Aaron

Below is a letter written by Aaron's Aunt, Rhonda Wilson - then a link to the report in the San Francisco Chronicle as well as a link to previous stories on this case. Abuse leaves victims scarred for life - and even though law enforcement focuses on physical abuse, not all abuse leaves physical evidence.

Thank you Melissa Galliani, for supplying our readers with your brother's story. This picture is of Aaron on his wedding day. This is far more than a murder trial. Abuse and law enforcement's role in how it is handled is also on trial.

This story and the thousands of tales of abuse in our society is bringing all abuse into focus as we enter coming elections with law enforcement and the laws around abuse being examined with fresh eyes through candidate platforms. Stay tuned.

On February 8, 2009, I received a phone call telling me my nephew, Aaron Vargas, had been arrested for killing Darrell McNeill. Of course my first response was disbelief followed by shock and more disbelief. Not possible, not Aaron. Aaron is kind, gentle, and caring. Then of course came the “why”? If what I’m being told is true, then why? What could possibly make this kind, gentle, caring person kill?

It is now February 10, 2010 and that is one of the questions I’ve been thinking about for 367 days. As the story has unfolded the answers to some questions have been immensely devastating. I learned that Darrell was a pedophile. Pedophile is the wrong word, let me rephrase, Darrell raped children. Darrell pretended to be a good father to Aaron’s friend, Michael. Darrell pretended to be a nice neighbor. Darrell pretended to be an upstanding citizen, a “Big Brother,” a Boy Scout leader. Darrell pretended to care for children in order to prey upon them. Darrell, who cared so much for his “little brother,” was the cause of that “little brother’s” eventual suicide. Darrell began molesting – no, molesting is the wrong word - Darrell began
raping Aaron when Aaron was eleven years old. Eleven. Take a moment to remember yourself at eleven. What were you like? What did you think? How did you feel? At eleven did you have much life experience? Aaron was eleven, Darrell was in his forties. Aaron was not Darrell’s first victim, nor was he his last.

Darrell was good at what he did.

After Aaron’s arrest many boys came forward in support of Aaron, telling of the abuse they’d endured by Darrell. In some instances it was the first time they’d ‘told’. In others it was not, they had told before, some had reported it to the police. These boys, I call them boys but they are now men in their thirties and forties, were brave enough to disclose and nothing was done. No investigation - Darrell wasn’t even approached let alone questioned. Nothing.

The days and weeks following Aaron’s arrest were days and weeks of our family continually asking ourselves, “how did we not know?” How was it possible that we had failed Aaron so miserably? The continual conversations with each of us saying, “I should have known”. Why didn’t we? Why didn’t we see it? Why didn’t we know? Seeing the pain and sadness in Aaron’s parents, in my parents, and knowing the heartbreak and despair we all felt at not doing our job, not protecting our loved one. These haunting questions led me to research child abuse and the things I learned broke my heart yet again.

I learned that the abuser is most likely to be a trusted family friend or a family member. I learned one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. That 70% of child abusers have between one and nine victims. That 20% have 10 to 40 victims. That an average serial abuser can have as many as 400 victims. That over 30% of victims never disclose the experience to ANYONE, and of those who do disclose, 75% do it accidentally. Is there comfort in knowing that our family is not alone in not knowing? No. None at all.

Learning these things and realizing the “stranger danger” that I taught my children would be of little use in most situations led to my panicked phone call to my son, who is away at Graduate school. Asking him point blank, “have you ever been sexually abused?” A sigh of relief when he responded that he hadn’t, the surprise when he asked me the same question. Thinking yes, he is right, according to the statistics it needs to be a conversation that everyone has no matter parent or child. Then remembering that 30% never disclose leads me to ask again and again to ensure that his response was truthful.

Later it hit me, what if he had said yes? What if my daughter had said yes? What if the answer had been yes, and a friend or family member that I loved and trusted was named, what would I do? In that moment I knew. In that moment I realized that I could kill. Me, a person who has never intentionally killed anything, not even bugs. Me, the person who catches and releases any insects I find in my home. Me, the law-abiding, rational person I thought myself to be, realized that I could kill.

I don’t know exactly what happened the night of February 8, 2009. From what I do know Aaron didn’t go to Darrell’s with the intent of killing him. But if he had I now understand. I understand it is possible for a good person to kill.

In these last 367 days some questions have been answered, but many others have arisen. Why didn’t the police investigate? How is it possible that we as a society allow one in four girls and one in six boys to be sexually abused? How could the Deputy DA on Aaron’s case even utter the words describing the abuse testimony as “self-serving” and “irrelevant”? Why are there so many abusers in our society? How does a person become so messed up that they can rape children? Why does our justice system not work? Why is the DA so intent on sending Aaron to prison for 50-years-to-life, knowing Darrell’s family is supporting him? How do we stop all forms of child abuse? How do we protect every child?

During these 367 days Aaron’s sister, Mindy, has been tirelessly working on his behalf. She started a website called, which provides information on Aaron’s case and on recognizing and preventing child abuse. She’s contacted numerous media organizations trying to get the word out, and she has organized several fundraisers. She’s told me of the many, many people who’ve contacted her and shared their own stories of abuse and who write to Aaron. Tirelessly she is working to bring her brother home, to raise awareness, to protect every child. She is working hard to end the silence of child abuse, and I wonder, why aren’t we all?
Rhonda Wilson
Fort Bragg

San Francisco Chronicle report can be found at: Town backs slaying suspect who tells of abuse

Article: Aaron Vargas - Truth and Justice?


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Sonoma Mountain gets a Trail

North Slope Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail Project Kicks-Off
District acquisitions totaling $12 million to connect to Jack London State Historic Park

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, acting as the District’s Board of Directors, approved five contracts totaling $391,360 to prepare for the construction of the North Slope Ridge trail on Sonoma Mountain, and to assist the District with other trail development projects at the Montini and Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserves.

“Sonoma Mountain now joins the ring of Bay Area summits that provide public access,” said Valerie Brown, First District Supervisor. “State, County and District-protected properties will be linked together by a multi-use trail that allows the community to enjoy 5,500 acres of contiguous open space.”

The agreements include services from Sonoma County Regional Parks Department for construction management of park improvements, the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council (BARTC) for trail planning and construction oversight, and the Conservation Corps North Bay for trail construction and stewardship tasks such as invasive plant control and fire abatement. Additional contracted services include engineering, surveying, and permitting work that must occur prior to construction. Construction is expected to begin early this summer and be substantially completed by late fall.

“This project will help provide local youth with meaningful work and new perspectives,” said Gary Miltimore, Sonoma County Program Director of the Conservation Corps North Bay. “They will be working alongside people that are passionate about providing safe, yet exhilarating, public access to Sonoma County’s richest natural resources.”

The proposed multi-use trail will traverse four District-protected properties, totaling approximately 454 acres and a public investment of more than $12 million, the 84-acre Sonoma Mountain Woodlands parcel owned by Regional Parks, and the approximately 1,400-acre Jack London State Historic Park. The $1.4 million construction project encompasses access road improvements, a parking area, and a 4.25-mile trail that will total approximately nine miles of trail from the proposed trailhead at Jacobs Ranch on Sonoma Mountain to the Hayfields trailhead at Jack London State Historic Park and add to the larger Bay Area Ridge Trail.

“The North Slope Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail will be a treasured link in the visionary 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail,” said Janet McBride, BARTC Executive Director. “We are thrilled that trail construction is poised to begin—this is the happy result of many years of passionate, persistent efforts among many partners.”

The California Coastal Conservancy has supported the preservation of, and access to, Sonoma Mountain by providing a total of $2,385,000 in grant funding for planning, land acquisition, and public access improvements. The Coastal Conservancy was able to release $341,666 of a $575,000 grant frozen by the State to begin the construction.

“There is no better place to experience the spectacular beauty of Sonoma County than its namesake mountain,” said Maxene Spellman, project manager for the State Coastal Conservancy. “The new trail will lead hikers into the quiet intimacy of nature and offer majestic views that take in much of the North Bay’s awe-inspiring landscape.”

“This project once again demonstrates the significance of partnerships in our land conservation efforts,” said Bill Keene, General Manager of the District. “Our combined teamwork in funding, planning, and implementing this project will provide needed jobs, public access, and protection of diverse wildlife habitats and sensitive natural resources.”

About the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District
The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. Since 1990, the District has protected more than 83,000 acres. Agricultural and open space lands have been protected through a 1/4-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit

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Santa Rosa's Roseland Community Park gets Funded

District Awards Matching Funds for City of Santa Rosa Park
Board approves $2.42 million for Roseland Creek Community Park and Trail Project

Today (February 23, 2010), the Board approved a $2.42 million grant to the City of Santa Rosa for the acquisition of 7 acres located at 1370 and 1400 Burbank Avenue for an eventual park and trail project located in southwest Santa Rosa. The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District recommended the project for funding in 2008 as part of its Matching Grant Program.

“This park is a needed asset for the community and will directly benefit the children in the Roseland School District,” said Efren Carrillo, Fifth District Supervisor. “Through the Matching Grant Program we are able to bolster local programs to make more parks and recreational opportunities available, as well as create quality environmental, educational and economic resources for the neighborhoods of our cities.”

This acquisition represents a portion of the larger 18 acres identified for park and trail development located between Burbank and McMinn Avenues, and is the first of a multi-phased project. The City is currently negotiating additional acquisitions totaling approximately 11 acres located at 1027 McMinn and 1360 Burbank Avenues and has applied for funding from the District as part of its 2009 grant program.

The site was identified as a potential park in the City’s general plan and comprises a reach of Roseland Creek, grasslands, and oak savanna. The proposed park is within a one-mile radius of four elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools of the Roseland School District, and is expected to support a variety of community activities, including environmental education and after-school programs.

“The acquisition of this property will bring us closer to realizing our general plan goal of increasing parkland and recreational amenities for our residents,” said Marc Richardson, Assistant City Manager and Director of Recreation, Parks and Community Services. “By partnering with the District, the City of Santa Rosa is able to leverage its resources to create an 18-acre park envisioned by the community.”

As its matching contribution, the City will provide nearly $2.8 million of city funding, grants, and professional in-kind services toward ongoing park maintenance, restoration and enhancement of the creek. The Matching Grant Program guidelines require a 1:1 contribution match from applicants, which can include direct contributions and in-kind services and materials, with no more than 50 percent of the match identified for operations and maintenance.

Both Measures C and F, approved by the voters in 1990 and 2006, respectively, provide for the Matching Grant Program. Since 1994, the District has administered and based funding for this program on available sales tax revenues. To date, nearly $28 million in matching grants have been selected for funding of land acquisition, development of recreational amenities, and restoration of open space within or near urban areas. Projects include the Town Green in Windsor, the Prince Memorial Greenway in Santa Rosa, and the 250-acre expansion of land along the Petaluma River for public access and habitat enhancement adjacent to Schollenberger Park. As the District anticipates an approximate 10 percent decline in its revenue for FY09-10, the program is budgeted at $2 million or nearly 13% of its total revenues for the year.

“Now, more than ever, this program is especially important as it leverages the resources of our city, local agency, and non-profit partners to develop parks and restore open space for our urban communities,” said District General Manager Bill Keene. “Our success relies on the ability to offer a program that responds to the changing needs of our applicants.”

About the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District
The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. Since 1990, the District has protected more than 83,000 acres. Agricultural and open space lands have been protected through a 1/4-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

David Swanson on Progressives and Politics

David Swanson: Don't Expect an Election to Change Everything
16 February 2010 by Jason Leopold truthout

When Barack Obama was swept into the White House last year on a mandate of hope and change, many progressives believed his arrival meant they could finally roll down their sleeves and wash their hands. But David Swanson was not one of them. Although he voted for Obama, Swanson, author of the recently published book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union," predominantly about the Bush years, told Truthout that "people have gone through this foolish cycle of expecting an election to change everything and then being disappointed and discouraged that it didn't."

What the popular progressive activist had to say about Obama's first year in office may be a difficult truth for many to swallow. Progressives have become increasingly frustrated with the White House during the past year over the direction of health care reform, the economy and the
fact that Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan against the advice of his ambassador to the country and has embraced many controversial Bush-era policies, such as indefinite detentions, the extension of the Patriot Act and the use of signing statements to ignore laws passed by Congress. Some progressives feel that the president they helped elect has all but abandoned

I asked Swanson whether he thought Obama made empty promises and used progressives simply to win an election. "I think to a much greater extent progressives used themselves," Swanson said in a wide-ranging interview during a recent stop on his book tour. "The thinking was he's speaking to his funders and the corporate media and secretly he's a populist. But if
you're going to be a populist you're going to be a populist upfront. You're not going to be better than your promises unless you're forced to be. And we're accepting the idea that we should replace a bad dictator with a good dictator and a president should be able to come in and change everything, never mind that the next president could come in and unchange it. So, [the
president] is the wrong place to look for a savior. We should be looking to ourselves, to serious organizing at the local level in every district, and pressuring the representatives closest to us, those in the House to impose our will on the president."

Swanson's analysis wasn't entirely critical. He praised a number of the administration's actions, including the choice of Sonia Sotomayor as Supreme Court justice, and much needed improvements to the Department of Labor. But the painful reality, as Swanson pointed out during our lengthy discussion, is that on issues of "war and peace, and distribution of wealth and abuses of power and human rights [there are] no changes." "We have more troops in the field than ever with Bush and Cheney, bigger military budget than ever, bigger war budget than ever, bases in more countries than ever, [and] expanded use of unmanned drones Swanson said. "On the big issues we care about it's a disaster. And you can't say 'I'm for this domestic program I
don't care about wars' because that's where all the money goes." Swanson's comments should serve as a wake-up call to progressives that much work remains to be done. Picking up "Daybreak" would be a good starting point.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Protecting Sonoma Coumty Land for the Future

Agreement Protects Natural Area along Highway 12
Conservation easement keeps 165-acre Danielli property “forever wild” and preserves historic agricultural use.

In an area surrounded by existing or planned residential development and vineyards, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District will purchase an easement over the 165-acre Danielli property which will keep approximately 148 acres natural and provide for 17 acres of agricultural use.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, acting as the District’s Board of Directors, approved the $1.48 million agreement between the District and Lola Danielli. The purchase price represents a 10% or $164,500 reduction of the appraised value, and the agreement eliminates the potential for development of six parcels and provides for continued agricultural and existing residential uses on the property.

“We thank Lola Danielli and applaud her family’s efforts to voluntarily preserve their land,” said Valerie Brown, First District Supervisor. “Together we’re maintaining our county’s quality of life and ensuring wildlife habitat.”

The property has been in the Danielli family since the 1940s and will adjoin two existing open space easements that will create 420 acres of contiguous wildlife habitat. Forever protected are the oak woodland, conifer forest, meadows, chaparral, and seasonal creeks that characterize the property.

“It was always the wish of my parents to keep this land open and undeveloped,” said property owner Lola Danielli. “Working with the District has allowed us to keep this land natural and protect these vital resources for future generations.”

The expanse of the property runs from the northeast side of Sonoma Highway across from the Oakmont subdivision, halfway between downtown Santa Rosa and Kenwood, to nearly a mile into the hills on the northeast side of Sonoma Valley. Elevations range from 400 to 850 feet along the property’s two ridges. Additionally, it is located within a major groundwater basin that recharges the water supply to Santa Rosa Creek.

“More than half of the nearly 83,000 acres we’ve conserved protects the County’s natural areas and critical habitats.” said Bill Keene, General Manager of the District. “By setting aside these protected areas, we are able to preserve our native plants and animals, promote clean air and water, and provide educational opportunities for the community.”

About the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District
The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District permanently protects the diverse agricultural, natural resource and scenic open space lands of Sonoma County for future generations. Since 1990, the District has protected more than 83,000 acres. Agricultural and open space lands have been protected through a 1/4-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006. For more information, please visit

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Aaron Vargas - Truth and Justice?

Truth and Justice?
By Mindy Galliani

On February 5th there was a hearing in the Aaron Vargas murder trial out of Mendocino County. Aaron is accused of killing the man who he claims sexually and psychologically abused him for many years. The purpose of the hearing was to address the motion that ADA Beth Norman filed last month which asked Judge Ron Brown to order Aaron to undergo a psychiatric examination by their expert, Dr. Emily Keram. The motion was prompted by Assembly Bill 1516, which went into effect on the first of this year. The bill requires the court to order (when the prosecution requests it) the defendant to submit to an examination by a prosecution-retained mental health expert whenever the defendant places his or her mental state in issue. Could this new bill be the reason that the prosecution asked for that fishy continuance last Fall, causing the trial to be postponed until after the new year and the new bill took effect?

Defense attorney, Tom Hudson, objected to the motion and argued on the grounds that it violates Aaron’s Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Dr. Keram took the stand to testify as to why she believes it is important that she examine Aaron. While making an effort to not even so much as glance in the direction of the sexual abuse victim accused of murder, she argued that she couldn’t thoroughly rebut the psychiatric expert’s testimony for the defense if she hasn’t examined Aaron herself. Being that she hasn’t yet examined Aaron, she sounds very confident that she is going to form an opinion that will contradict the opinion of the defense’s expert – that opinion being that Aaron has PTSD caused by the years of sexual and psychological abuse that was inflicted upon him by Darrell McNeill. ADA Beth Norman stated that she has retained Dr. Keram to rebut the defense’s psychiatric expert, and Dr. Keram reiterated the point more than once, so why would she even need to examine Aaron if her opinion has already been formed? Because that is how our dysfunctional justice system works.

Mr. Hudson wanted to find out exactly what psychological tests his client would be given by Dr. Keram. He named the long list of tests that the defense’s expert has given Aaron. These tests, and maybe more, will be given to Aaron a second time by a second expert that the defense has retained. Dr. Keram continued to argue for her need to give Aaron these tests, to which Mr. Hudson replied, “why, is three better than two?” Dr. Keram stammered, then she came up with the argument that the reports from two defense retained experts won't be sufficient because she would either need to examine Aaron herself or have a colleague who she knows will "call it like he sees it" examine Aaron. Is it that the defense's experts aren't calling it like they see it or that they just aren't calling it like she's being paid to see it? It became increasingly obvious that she is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the prosecutions arguments and she will give whatever opinion that she is paid to give.

Listening to the prosecution’s hired mouthpiece dance around the defense’s questions, for what felt like an eternity, gave me a headache and caused the bailiff to nod off. In all fairness, it may have been ADA Beth Norman’s child-like temper tantrums, in response to the Judge’s reluctance to trample over Aaron’s Fifth Amendment rights, which gave me the headache. In between tantrums she appeared to be texting on her blackberry, and I wondered who was on the other end of those texts – maybe DA Meredith Lintott was texting from her Ivory Tower, or maybe it was her cold-hearted colleague, and former prosecutor on the Vargas case, DDA Jill ‘abuse is irrelevant’ Ravitch.

The Judge finally put a stop to the song and dance when he came up with a way to get around the pesky Fifth Amendment issue – let Dr. Keram and her “call it like he’s sees it” colleague examine Aaron after he waves his Fifth Amendment rights during the trial (which begins March 22nd) in order to testify. So the prosecution will get their psychiatric examination. Dr. Keram will put Aaron through at least an entire day of tests and questions, all to arrive at the already-formed opinion that she has been paid to give. So much for truth and justice.

You can go to to read more about Aaron’s story.

...and a previous posting on the gazette for background and linked articles:

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Target Center and Petaluma in Conflict

The Petaluma “Target Center” Brouhaha
By Connie Madden
A lawsuit has been filed against Petaluma by Regency Centers claiming undue delays in approval for its East Washington Place project and Petaluma’s city manager, John Brown stated staff needs additional time to study implications of the lawsuit and recommended no vote be taken at the next meeting Monday, January 25th while staff completes its review. January 4, 2010 marked the first time Petaluma City Council was able to hear the project “in full” and Council called for further review by the PC and staff. To view the lawsuit, go to

The process was a necessary one, beginning with Petaluma completing its General Plan that serves as “a policy document that embodies the community’s goals and guides decisions about physical development over the long term”.

While GP 2025, 7 years in the making, marks a preference for living wage jobs so people who work here can live here (saving Petaluma medical fees for low-paid workers), a preference for pedestrian and bicycle-friendly projects and density, it also stipulates that large new projects provide a “net positive” to the economy and the community. (See Chapters 9 and 11 of the GP)
During the wait for approval, the project was reviewed by the Planning Commission and time-consuming EIR, CEQA and FEIA reports were created.

However, as a member of the Petaluma Community Coalition, which brought stakeholders in this project together for many hours of discussion, I recall scant reference to these GP preferences. Although Regency prepared a FEIA (fiscal and economic impact assessment) as requested, their FEIA showed only projected profits. There was not enough economic information to show the true costs of this project. Council members could not know what existing businesses would likely be closed due to this project (which current taxes to the city would be lost) or which suppliers to those businesses would be impacted.

Mayor Pamela Torliatt, as quoted in the Press Democrat said regarding the lawsuit “They’re being their own worst enemy if they want to get to a decision” and added the city is responding carefully to the lawsuit. Planning Commission members expressed a similar sentiment late in December when it was noted the project was basically a 1970’s shopping mall design rather than the desired mixed use, would cause heavy traffic congestion and pollution, and there is no guarantee the project would be a success a few years down the line.

Regency “one of the largest operators of grocery-anchored shopping centers. About 90 percent of its shopping centers are anchored by grocers ranking in the top three of their market,” (Wikepedia) could also presumably replace named tenants with others upon approval of the project and many Regency centers include WalMart, which, conceivably, they could invite to East Washington Place if Petaluma Target leaves. Target has stated it is “unduly punitive” for them to be asked to pay a vacancy tax should they decide to move, an agreement built into their Davis project.

It is to be noted that East Washington Place was first presented before a council which did not have a “progressive” majority and a planning commission that generally wanted the project – yet that Council did not approve the project.

Petaluma is a leader in smart growth practices and was acknowledged by Green Belt Alliance in 2007 when they voted Petaluma the top rating in the Bay Area for “Preventing sprawl; Making sure parks are nearby; Creating homes people can afford; encouraging a mix of uses; Encouraging density in the right places; Requiring less land for parking; and Defining standards for good development.”

The decision to approve a project or not to is the prerogative of Petaluma Council - the town has no obligation to hurry its process or change policy to appease Target Corporation. East Washington Place is the interface between the East and West sides of town - and residents and future residents will benefit by the best possible project for now and the 50 or so years the project will be in place.

Petaluma’s General Plan stipulates large new developments shall provide a net positive for the city. But we don't know if this project can do that. December 2009 retail data for the nation shows an unprecedented loss of over 6% from last year. That means a lot of retail stores - including chains - are closing their doors while unemployment rises across the state.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Russian River Coho Salmon get National Grant

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation today announced an award of $696,000 to the Coho Water Resources Partnership, which is working to improve stream flows and water supply reliability in five tributaries of the Russian River critical to the recovery of endangered coho salmon.

Russian River Receives Major National Grant to Benefit Endangered Coho Salmon

By Lisa Hulette, Gold Ridge RCD

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation today announced an award of $696,000 to the Coho Water Resources Partnership, which is working to improve stream flows and water supply reliability in five tributaries of the Russian River critical to the recovery of endangered coho salmon.

The number of coho salmon in the Russian River watershed has declined precipitously in recent decades. Although multiple factors have harmed the population, resource agencies have found that low flows and water diversions can be especially problematic in the Russian River tributaries.

“The severity of the coho population decline and the importance of the Russian River to coast-wide recovery efforts made the Foundation place special programmatic emphasis on the watershed,” said Jeff Trandahl, the Foundation’s executive director. “Our coho recovery investments are backed by a comprehensive, scientifically sound business plan that highlights the path to recovery.”

Initial efforts will focus on five first-priority streams: Dutch Bill, Grape, Green Valley, Mark West and Mill Creeks. Fueled by the grants, partners will work to find areas that have the greatest opportunities for better water management, solutions that knock down hurdles to recovery, and ways to finance necessary permits and on-the-ground work.

“More than 95 percent of the target watersheds are held in private ownership, and the guiding principal of this project is that water for both human uses and coho salmon can be secured through careful planning and water supply management,” said Kara Heckert, Executive Director of the Sotoyome Resource Conservation District.

The multi-disciplinary Partnership includes the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration, Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute, Sotoyome Resource Conservation District, Trout Unlimited, University of California (UC) Research and Extension Center’s Hopland GIS Lab, UC Cooperative Extension, and Sonoma County Water Agency.

“Just as the climate of the Russian River watershed can place pressures on coho and water users during the dry season, the rainy winter can provide opportunities to ameliorate those pressures,” said Mary Ann King, Stewardship Coordinator with Trout Unlimited. “One of the critical challenges is to identify the timing and mechanisms through which water can be acquired and stored to enhance streamflow for coho salmon.”

The long-term goals are to restore a more natural flow regime during the dry season, increase the number of wild coho salmon, and augment water storage capacity for a variety of land uses in each watershed.

“We are all very excited about the potential to implement creative and innovative solutions that will address the needs of both fish and people,” said Lisa Hulette, Executive Director, Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, “and we are committed to working with landowners on a voluntary basis with the primary goal of creating a collaborative foundation from which landowners and agencies will work together to create reliable water supplies for future generations.”

• The Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration (CEMAR) is a nonprofit, environmental research company. CEMAR – in conjunction with the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center -- will provide scientific and technical guidance for creating and validating water management models.

• The Gold Ridge and Sotoyome Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) are local public agencies that engage stakeholders and landowners in land management practices that promote resource conservation. The RCDs will lead initial outreach and develop the primary outreach mechanisms for communicating objectives and benefits with landowners.• The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s (OAEC) Watershed Advocacy, Training, Education, & Research (WATER) Institute was created to catalyze local and regional water policy and sustainable water management practices. OAEC will coordinate outreach and education efforts with the RCDs and provide technical guidance.

• Trout Unlimited (TU) is a nonprofit organization that has been working on water rights reform and streamflow protection along California’s North Coast for 20 years. TU will work with landowners and agencies to break through the legal and institutional barriers to progress on stream flow restoration.

• The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in Sonoma County provides university research-based outreach on natural resources management, and, in collaboration with state and federal agencies, coordinates the Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program. UCCE will provide monitoring and technical expertise related to understanding coho population dynamics in the watershed.

• The Sonoma County Water Agency is a wholesale provider of water to 600,000 people in Sonoma and Marin counties. The Agency will provide critical technical support and expertise. Funds for implementing the Russian River Biological Opinion will be used as matching funds for this project.

For more information, please visit:

Lisa Hulette
Executive Director
Gold Ridge RCD
PO Box 1064
Occidental, CA 95465
P: (707) 874-2907
F: (707) 874-9607

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Got Love? The POWER of LOVE!

Below is a collection of essays, poems, fond memories...all the elements of love. I'll be adding material that didn't fit into the print edition and - if you have something you want to add - please send it along to me at We have a lot of LOVE to spread around...'cause it FEELS GOOD! Several of our monthly columnists took the LOVE theme and added their unique perspectives - check it out!

Is it Love?
The Rule of 2 ½ Years

By Vesta Copestakes
If there’s a Universal Question all lovers want to know at the start of a romantic relationship it’s … is this “Real Love”? Bottom line…you don’t know yet. The old phrase, “Only time will tell,” is so very true, and that’s what the Rule of 2 ½ Years is all about….time.

In the Beginning…
Just falling in love puts everyone on their best behavior. You feel so good that bad moods slip away, there’s joy in your heart and sunshine at your back. This is not the “real” you and it’s also not your lover’s true self either. Each of you are in a state of enhanced you – the person you could ideally be if life didn’t have a million responsibilities.

This idealized you is why we love to be in love. It feels good, yes, but it also shows us our very best selves. If we could only stay this way through our everyday lives with all those ups and downs. But we don’t.

Which is one of the reasons why extending this enhanced state as long as possible is a really good thing. Just the joy of anticipation makes you feel excited about life. The flutter of compliments and appreciation boosts your self-esteem. “You’re so beautiful…I love being with you…let’s do (…) together, we both enjoy (…) so much, etc. etc.” Finding common ground is a total delight. We’ve found someone with whom we can share life. Wow!

Don’t get too real too fast. See what you can do to hold on to this feeling. It’s good for both of you. But don’t make any major decisions in this state – like living together – getting married – or getting pregnant. The relationship isn’t “real” yet.

Getting to Know You…
This one actually takes time. Once life starts returning to a state of “normal,” like going to work, paying bills, doing the laundry, returning to spending time with the other people in your lives, etc., you pull away from the enmeshed bond – but with the addition of this wonderful person. It’s almost like the fog clearing, letting in both sunshine and rain. This is when that cute little habit of his/hers can either stay cute or become annoying.

The time frame can be anywhere from two weeks to six months depending upon the kind of person you are. Some people literally fall head over heals, believe this is THE one – soul mate, the whole bit. Others take their time walking slowly into a relationship with great caution. No matter which kind of person you are, it still takes time to really get to know someone.

Why 2 ½ Years?
Because this is how long it takes for life to throw enough ups and downs, conflicts and conflict resolutions, etc. into the relationship so that you learn how you are together when you are at odds, when life throws you to the ground, when you are hurt and angry.

Does your mate support you with kindness or walk away and let you handle things yourself? Does your mate lash out in anger and hurt you with actions and words or do you agree to disagree. I could go on – but you get the idea. Time tells you how the two of you handle conflict and how you come out the other side.

If you come out feeling better than when you went in – your home. If you come out diminished in any way –bow out gently and with respect because you’re not home yet. And that’s the bottom line. Mutual respect lives hand in heart with mutual love. You’ll recognize it by the peace in your heart.

Experienced at This?
You’re mature - have been in love before and fallen to the ground in heartbreak. Do not despair! Love IS around the corner if you are open to the concept.

Whether you are new at love or have been in the soap opera of serial monogamy, there’s one basic rule that happy by yourself FIRST and you will be a better partner. Expecting someone to fill the holes in your heart is asking too much of anyone. You’ll suck the life out of them and won’t recognize the dear person once they are used up.

The phrase I used when I was determined to spend the rest of my life alone so I wouldn’t have to go through THAT again - was - the only reason I will be in a relationship is if it’s an enhancement of my already happy life. Well whataya know - here I am - eight years later with my partner who makes me feel comfortable, loved, accepted for who I am, bumps and all, and puts a laugh in my heart. I’m home.

I wish you all the same delight!

Blood Love

By Nina Tepedino
It was 1982. It was my summer break from graduate school. It was my summer visit with my beautiful boy child. I was the visiting parent and he was seven years old. When it was our time to be together, we would often take a trip in my camper truck and travel off to our favorite nature spots...just the two of us. We were sharing and giving love to each other to make up for the long separations. Our bond would usually come alive quickly.

We would travel, sleep in a tent, cook outside, hike on the beach, meet some of my friends. We would be in this timeless capsule for as long as it lasted.

Spending time with his mother.....his real birth mother, I know put serious demands on his psyche and it wasn’t always easy for him to keep centered and comfortable in his little boy head. Both of us, abandoned from another life together, would let the joy really flow during our short ecstatic reunions.

On one of these occasions, we had hiked all day and stayed up quite late. We were packing up to leave early the next morning. from somewhere in the Sierras. Before I started up the truck, he hopped in, put on his seat belt and despite the early hour, cheerfully braced himself for a new day.

I turned to him and said, “You must be so very tired from the big day we had yesterday.”
He replied, “Oh, no, I feel ok. I am never too tired for loving!”

I was genuinely startled by his poetic expression. We exchanged a radiant look between each other. That happened almost twenty years ago.

Later, in that same year, my son was present at my graduation into the ministry. I was the last graduate to speak my ten minute homily. As I reached the closing, I looked down at my son from the pulpit. I broke away from my prepared text and told the gathered audience in the San Francisco Unitarian sanctuary, the story I have just told you. For a benediction and final blessing, I added, “I hope none of you will ever be too tired for loving.” My young son’s prophetic words were shared for all to carry away in their hearts.

What is Love?

Love is what remains after
It’s been used for the umpteenth time
Like an old rag, rinsed out, squeezed,
And still gets it clean

Love is the hard work
The long haul
Long after the spit and polish
No longer retains it’s shine

Love is present regardless
Of recognition or thank you
Love is a lifetime
No ego, no strings, no conditions

Love is so easy when all is good
When the shit hits the fan
Love is what stays the night
Like a lighthouse guides you to a safe port

Love is only superficially
About physical attraction, about frivolity and joy
>Love is what sticks, it is the glue
That can mend the broken shards of this world!
--- Barry Latham-Ponneck


We Miss You...LOVE

James I. Stevenson known as “The Wind Chime Man” for over 22 years on River Road passed on to the big jam session on Jan 6th in Hospice Care at Friends House in Santa Rosa.

James had many repeat customers and more and more customers would say, “ I came here as a child and now I want you to meet my children.” He always had a big smile for every one and often helped those in need with cash and gas. He kept a 5 gallon can of gas for those out of gas and would only accept refilling the can as payment.

Sometimes he would give credit to someone who was a wee bit short of getting just what they wanted and he was almost always repaid.

He loved waiting on people and setting up his elaborate display. People would tell him, “ I know winter is over when I see your beautiful colorful display.”
James moved to Santa Rosa in 1968 to be with his lady, Suzanne E. Roach, whom he met during Expo 67 in Montreal Canada.

Last summer he was unable to set up and sell as they were repairing the mountain across the street.

James had customers from all walks of life, judges, lawyers, working stiffs, tourists from around the world, and even returning important Bohemians.

Little known by most, James was an important jazz musician in Detroit, Las Vegas and ten years in New York City. He played string bass with many famous musicians and singers including Johnny Mathis, Chick Corea, Zoot Sims, Chico Hamilton, Archie Shepp, Tom Wayburn, and many more. He then learned the piano and had his own group “The Jazz Circle.”

James [Jimmy] Stevenson was recently included in book “The Jazz Loft Project” with a full page photo of him wildly playing the piano at his loft at 821 Sixth Avenue. The Lofts were “a scene” where internationally famous photographer W. Eugene Smith also had a loft and photographed and recorded the musicians that jammed there including Thelonious Monk, Roland Kirk, and Miles Davis.

James is mentioned over 20 times and was the youngest of the jazz players to be there regularly.
James is survived by his children, Beth Stevenson Bucanhan, James Christopher Stevenson, Sherry Roach, Jerry Roach. Zip Stevenson, Scott Stevenson, and Star Stevenson. He also has 11 brother and sisters and their spouses.

Any one wishing to make a memorial donation is requested to make it to or the charity of their choice.

Suzanne Roach

My Home, My Heart,
Are One and the Same.

By Susan Clark
I grew up on a 33 acre property shared with my parents, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, 5 cousins, and one grandma. There were 3 houses, a 100 year-old barn, a large chicken house, and plenty of elbow room in between. The property contained lots of hills and dales, thick forests, open meadows, sacred groves, mysterious ravines, a babbling brook, picturesque orchards, and a natural spring. The place was intersected with well-traveled footpaths, and gravel car and tractor trails. We had 3 kinds of apple trees, 3 kinds of cherry trees, peach tree, walnut tree, plum tree, almond tree, fig tree, and wild grapes. Over the course of the years we had dogs, cats, turtles, fish, pigs, horses, cows, and 10,000 chickens!

Spending ones childhood in such a place was the manifestation of the word ‘idyllic.’ My siblings and cousins and I had not a care in the world. To look back on it has always seemed like a lovely dream out of a fairy tale. Summer days were packed with adventure from dusk to dawn. Racing up and down the dirt roads on bicycles, building forts from apple boxes, swinging across the creek on the rope swing, forging trails through the woods, exploring the spooky attic in the barn, sitting high in a tree eating fruit until you were sick, collecting rocks, collecting eggs, riding horses, exploring the creek bed, climbing the water tower, flying kites, initiating clubs, pushing each other in the feed cart down the corridors of the chicken house, building tree forts, playing baseball, having rotten apple fights, staging contests, (such as: how many seedling cherries can you fit in your mouth at one time, and it didn’t count unless you spit out the seed. I think I still hold the record with 72!) sleeping in the woods and telling scary stories, sleeping in the tree house and telling scary stories, candling eggs, picking flowers, making tunnels and mazes in the tall weeds on our hands and knees, having water fights, climbing up inside the feed silo when it was empty, playing jump rope, hopscotch, and tetherball, wearing out the seat of our pants sliding down and off the edge of the roof of the outbuildings, riding the steer, (yes, we did.) It was never ending fun.

My love affair with this property never stopped, but it did slow down considerably in the 30 years after I grew up and moved away. In the years hence, another home was built here, and five years ago I was afforded the opportunity to occupy that home. I had always felt unduly blessed to have spent my childhood here, never had I imagined I would be so fortunate as to return! That is more than any one person deserves!

My family still owns all of the acreage, and my love has been renewed and enriched. My mother and my aunt are still here, an occasional cousin is here, and my brother is here. My daughter and my two sweet little grandchildren occupy grandma’s house, and now I get to share it all with my husband.

The property has rearranged itself of course. It is neglected and overgrown, but hauntingly beautiful. Thick vines hang from the trees, and there are hardly any open spaces left. It is almost like living in the rainforest! The cement walkways are all that remain of the chicken house, and strolling down them, thick with trees on either side is an otherworldly experience. The old barn still stands, now 130, and no longer safe upstairs. Nature is plentiful in all of its forms, animal, vegetable, and mineral. You could blindfold me and plant me anywhere, and when I opened my eyes, I would know exactly where I was. Rock collecting and tumbling, bird watching, photography, and hikes with the kids are now my pastimes. I can still barely contain my desire to be outside, exploring, always exploring. And now and then, I still find myself up in a tree, looking at my paradise from a new angle, and never forgetting to thank God for my good fortune.

Goat LOVE...Chiva the LOVE Goddess
Chiva was loved by many - a testament to the joys of connection.

It was easy to boast
About Chiva, our Goat
She was often seen
On Hwy 116
We loved her a lot
Her memory on the Hadley Estate will never be forgot
Standing on her surfboard, she never knew
How many smiles she grew
We miss you so much
Along with all the other hearts you touched
Goodbye, our sweet Chiva

READ “For the LOVE of Chocolate” the tale of David Gambill's marriage of two loves - in PEOPLE in the News category.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Ask EcoGirl:Sharing your Eco Love

Dear EcoGirl: This Valentine's Day, how can I express my love for both my sweetie and the planet? Signed, An Ardent Eco-Suitor

Dear Ardent: Ah, love, love. And, luckily in this modern era, we can celebrate not just the delights of romantic love, but also our affection and appreciation for our friends, pets, wildlife, community and certainly all life on earth.

So, yes, here are some easy ways you can eco-upgrade your amorous expressions, embodying your values while revealing that oh-so-attractive eco-awareness that so many beloveds admire.

Chocolate kisses

Chocolate, one of our favorite indulgences, also unfortunately (like so many mainstream foods) is often produced in ways that harm people and the planet.

For example, most cacao beans (chocolate's foundation) are grown using toxic pesticides in tropical locales where rainforests were cleared to create monoculture plantations that no longer offer shade habitat to migratory songbirds and other wildlife. Plus, workers typically labor in dangerous conditions for inadequate wages.

Luckily, we have options that are eco-wiser, healthier for workers, and even tastier! So, after you learn your giftee's preferences (e.g., milk chocolate or dark, dietary restrictions, etc.), head to your local health food store and choose from their earth-friendly selection of organic, fair trade, and vegan varieties. Here are two that I recommend:

• Shaman Chocolates. My personal favorite is dark chocolate with raspberries, and all varieties are organic, fair trade, and support the cultural survival of Mexico's indigenous Huichol people. These shamanic natives have long considered chocolate sacred, using it in ceremonies "to show their love for Mother Earth." How cool is that? Look at the store or see

• Sjaaks Organic Chocolates. This local organic fair trade chocolate (made in Eureka) comes in various forms, including bars, truffles, hearts, boxes, and holiday packaging. They even have vegan choices! You can buy Sjaaks in stores, online, and at their Petaluma warehouse (by appointment). More information is at, 775-2434.

Rose blossoms

OK, so now on to the other half of this famed heart duo, roses. But certainly flowers are natural, right? Well, sadly, while they start out that way, they're often doused with toxic pesticides during growing and shipping, and regulations are less-protective than for food.

I discovered this personally many years ago, when a suitor's lovely bouquet gave me terrible headaches, and I reluctantly had to banish it to the porch, only to be viewed from afar.

Of course, whatever toxic dose I received, the workers must've risked worse, and indeed most of our cut flowers come from countries such as Columbia and China where workers have their health compromised by toxics while earning low wages and receiving scant worker protection. Yuck, who wants to encourage that? Plus pesticides are indeed found on the flowers, making them smell much less sweet.

So look for eco-flower options, starting with organic roses, at your health food store or online. See for instance pioneer Organic Bouquet,, or

You'll also see other flower labels touting ecological claims, but look carefully at their specifics. Do they actually say "no toxics allowed"? And do they have third-party certification? For example, VeriFlora and Whole Trade labels speak about the environment and workers, and perhaps they're an improvement, but they don't have strong statements about avoiding toxics. That's why I value, and encourage you to first support, the solid and clear commitments of the organic standard.

For an engaging article about workers in industrial versus organic flower operations, check out

And beyond

From here, who knows where your eco-gifting imagination might go? Perhaps an organic potted flower will fit your vision, say from Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery (, 823-1925). Or a romantic meal featuring organic local cuisine. And a walk in nature's freshness can help spark that vibrant snuggly togetherness. (More gift ideas are on my website.)

And, along the way, I encourage you to savor the joy that comes from nurturing that which nourishes us all in oh so many ways.


Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter. Email your questions about going green to for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at

Your can also become a Facebook fan of "Ask EcoGirl", to show your support and stay in touch! Join at

"EcoGirl: Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone."

© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2010. All rights reserved.

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Spirit of Santa Rosa by Nina Tepedino

I am very pleased to be the new Santa Rosa columnist for the Sonoma County Gazette. I now reside in downtown Santa Rosa, after being a resident of Sebastopol in the seventies and then again from 2003 to 2008.

Even in the seventies, Santa Rosa was not just a place we drove through on our way to soak in Calistoga. There were the Harmony Festivals, concerts with the Sonoma County Chorus as a soprano soloist, parks to walk in, good restaurants and the big new 3rd St. Cinema (which has just announced its foreclosure and struggles to survive.)

Recently, in the last few years there have been the Farmer’s Markets, the Rialto, more festivals, the Fair, gatherings and marches for Peace and Justice, the county office of education, substituting in a variety of schools throughout the Valley and the GE Free campaign, with many of us together in solidarity against the threat posed by Monsanto and the necessity to protect our local organic farms and food sources.

For the past year, I have lived in a high rise apartment building in downtown Santa Rosa, where, from my balcony, I see Mt. St. Helena, Geyser Peak, the valley, the art deco Roxy sign, the sunsets and the saved trees. I have begun to appreciate this part of our county. I am beginning to feel connected to the spirit of this small city and its surrounding neighborhoods, as I walk around, talk with people, shop on Fourth St., even enjoy the Mall, walk to the library, run into Sawyers for the newspapers (which I am very sad to report, is going out of business in May!) and practice my Tai Chi in the Burbank Gardens. So, I will be reporting with a slant for the artistic, nature, the issues that contribute to improving the life of our planet and caring for each other.

An Historical Tidbit
According to popular legend, this area was named by Father Amorosa, after baptizing a young Native American woman in a stream. Because the baptism took place on the Feast of Santa Rosa, it was the name given to the stream and later to the whole small city/town and to the young woman who was baptized. In the seventies, someone told me the name given to the whole valley by the local Pomo, Miwok or Wappo nations, which I don’t remember. It was translated to mean the Valley of Tears, where there were swamps and heavy mists. Does anyone out there know more about this early legend?

The Environment...
Our Green Spaces
This mid January seems to be the time for pruning the roses and all the flowering shrubs. During these darkest of days, it is time to prepare for Spring. Perhaps a time to do some needed pruning in our lives....a time to plant seeds......a time to find a community garden.....a time to create your own backyard plot.

In the coming months, you will be learning more about the iGROW campaign being launched by the Sonoma County Dept of Health Services in their downtown Santa Rosa offices. The iGROW campaign will be supporting home, school and community gardens. Juilliard Park area and the Burbank Historic District sponsor a community garden. I am going to have my plot there to grow much of my own food. But, more on gardens in the up-coming March issue.

Also, try to reaquaint yourself with this park and the gardens. Wonderful places to visit! Bring your camera, because if you are a lover of ancient trees and garden design, you will discover extraordinary arts of nature to photograph!

The Arts
It will be interesting to follow how the AT&T building and addition controversy will be resolved. The proposal to move the Sonoma County Museum to this more central courthouse square location would be a welcomed development.

If you have never visited the Museum, don’t wait for years to go by, like I did, before discovering its vitality and importance in the artistic life of Santa Rosa. My first deep encounter was at the Ansel Adams event last June. The museum next presents “Richard Shaw: Four Decades of Ceramics” Jan 30-May 20, 425 Seventh St. SR.

Did you know that you can attend the 2PM Saturday afternoon rehearsals of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s weekend of concerts at the Wells Fargo Center for only $10?
I plan to attend one this coming Sat-Jan 24, that features Joann Falletta, conductor in an all-American composer program. I hope some of you will able to go and listen, too.

On our next sunshine day (and yes, we will be in the light, again!) take a stroll along the Santa Rosa Creek walk/bike trail between Santa Rosa Ave. and Railroad Square, and experience the breathtaking mural art projects that now cover the concrete embankments. They are beautiful and joyous to see!

In Memoriam: Anne Marie Joergenson, 1938-2010
She was a very respected art therapist, who worked with abused/at risk children and was active for many years with Becoming Independent, a non-profit agency that assists people with disabilities. I regret that I never had a chance to meet her.

Years ago, in New York State, as a public school music teacher, we were searching for a distinctive title for a multi cultural concert my fifth and sixth graders were producing. I discovered a wonderful Haitian word: BAMBOUCHE, meaning a festive get together. I cannot sign off without saying how deeply I hope for the Haitians’ strength and the true success of the rescue mission so that they may once again have Bambouche in their families and in their lives

I know the Santa Rosa spirit will infect you and I look forward to hearing from our readers.


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Love in the Late Afternoon by Zoe Tummillo

Is there a word with more semantic dynamite than “love”? … more potential for misunderstanding? … more vulnerable to distortion? … more subject to emotional debate? Maybe, but I doubt it!

Love. Who cannot remember being in it, longing for it, missing it, regretting it, doubting it, losing it or just plain wondering about it?

It would be easy to drift into stories about romantic love -- the little things one keeps at the back of the drawer, memories or regrets that can make you cry, even after decades. Or tragic love -- the lost child, lover, friend, spouse, beloved pet. Regrets as well as secret smiles -- all easy material for writers.

But this one is about a time of love that begs a clearer, louder voice, and often doesn’t have one: Love in the late afternoon. What does it look like, and what are its many faces?

I’ve been searching my memory, and asking peers and elders about the very sensitive subject of love in its various guises, much later in life. There were smiles, wisecracks, nostalgic ramblings, and far off gazing – seemingly in search of a way to explain what love’s journey is for them, now. I appreciated their trust.

Many have the fun of enjoying a different twist on love with grandchildren. It can be great, especially when you get to hand them back over to their parents! It’s fun to see your children doing stuff they resented when we were rearing them, but which they now embrace! Love by imitation?

However, grandparents occasionally fall heir to a second round, and wind up rearing their children’s children. That particular manifestation of love is a grueling hardship for some elders; and a joy taken in stride, for others. Tested love.

Then there’s that second-chance-love (or third?) We wonder if it will come around again. The marriage that just did not last, or the death of a spouse, and there you are where you didn’t plan to be. And, sometimes as the song said, love may be better the second time around! Smarter love?

There was an ad on TV a while ago that had a young couple and an older couple walking on a path in opposite directions. They pass, and the young woman glances back -- the elders are walking close, holding hands. It is clear it warms her, and she wishes to still be in love when she grows old. Lasting love … So, what about that? What are the chances?

I have been amused at times noticing youngsters snicker and giggle as they notice a grey-haired couple (full complement of wrinkles, knobby knuckles, canes, limps, etc.) holding hands or kissing. Good grief! What are they doing acting like that! It seems impossible to kids that romantic let alone physical love could exist that late in life! How in the world can they accomplish – well, you know. They can hardly walk or stand up straight! Innovative love; that’s how! (They’ll catch on, someday!)

Late love is all around us! I saw it just the other day in Mary Jane’s eyes, when she looked across the table as Bob adjusted his oxygen. And again, in a doctor’s waiting room, an old man lifted his wife’s shaking hand and kissed it. On a park bench, a frail old lady stroked a scrawny cat and told it stories about “back then” when she had other cats. Unselfish love …

Love doesn’t just go away because bodies and minds start to wear down and scream at us at “inconvenient moments.” It’s just a little tougher to hang on to that special warmth from a fire that has been stoked for 50 or 60 years!

But, you know, compared to some of the stuff that comes along at our ages, love’s a piece of cake! Crank up the gyri, and use your imagination!

Zoë Tummillo is a Business & Marketing Consultant/Trainer/Commercial Writer, dba COMMUNICATION CONCEPTS, in private practice since 1974. In addition to Commercial work, she writes “Senior Momentum: A Series of Situations”; and essay memoirs of growing up first generation Italian American: “Pieces of My Path”. To contact her -- email: Phone:707-869-1726


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Water Everywhere: John Haggard's WINE BANTER

Water Everywhere by John Haggard
Despite the abundant welcome winter rains we’re experiencing, the truth is that we have to plan for a sustainable future, one where we can live in harmony with our beautiful surroundings, River and the endangered Coho and waning Steelhead, and no matter how much it pours, we just don’t have enough water.

The past few years, I’ve been asked a repeated question, for which I’ve always hesitated to become too involved in for fear of alienating grape-growers, winemakers and all those persons who rely on our scarce water: what can winegrowers do as part of the solution for Sonoma County’s future?

Dry-farming is a method of keeping vines alive over the first three to five years with minimum water, while they develop tap roots capable of reaching a depth where there is moisture year-round. One great example of a “dry farmed” vineyard is “Precious Mountain” located in Cazadero, owned by Lyndon and Donnie Schatzberg. The vineyard produces much smaller clusters, however, with more concentrated flavors. The prestigious Williams Selyem winery exults this vineyard designate pinot noir as one of their finest examples of what Sonoma Coast pinot noir can be.

About twenty years ago, while working for Silks Restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco, I met a gentleman who had just returned from Oregon State and was preparing to leave the following morning to go to Napa Valley. The subject foremost in his mind was the prevalence of “phylloxera” which was consuming rootstock across the Pacific Northwest. I’d never heard of this pest, “phylloxera” and he explained how the demise of these vineyards would cause a mass re-planting onto rootstock resistant to phylloxera such as the Georges de Latour: this meant the end of numerous dry-farmed vineyards at the time.

Then, let’s fast-forward to just seven years ago when I witnessed two vineyards that had been dry-farmed and were in the middle of being uprooted for no other reason than to chase a trend of planting pinot noir. Whereas this has happened numerous times since the late 1960’s, it was the first time that I felt a passion for having lost a dry-farmed vineyard which would be replaced by one requiring irrigation during the hot summer. I was also sentimentally attached to these vineyards, as it had been the first winery I’d worked at some twenty-five years before, and I always found myself returning to the winery to try the latest release from these old vines.

This is when I really started paying attention to so many lost dry-farmed vineyards, and actually started mourning them like a lost a friend. It’s approximately the same time I read an article in a national magazine about the US’s most polluted rivers and, to my horror, the Russian River was listed as the sixteenth most polluted river in the country. As a life-long fisherman, I recognized that the trend was no longer sustainable for uprooting these older vineyards, essentially wiping away years of vineyard growth that had become water independent, in exchange for new thirsty vineyards.

While dry farming is a way to mitigate the use of water in viticulture, another practice putting a heavy burden on our river is the use of water for frost protection – perhaps the return of “kerosene pots” in the vineyards as used in the past, to keep vineyards from freezing…

Mounting lawsuits aim to force the hand of Sonoma County’s water agencies which oversee the use of water for frost protection and pending laws are going to change the rules when it comes to farming. In the coming years and the loss of the ability to use water for frost protection, we’re certain to see price swings in wines from year to year.

Small family farmers will shoulder the biggest burden with new restrictions. I do acknowledge that answers are not simple, but just as we can all make a difference for our planet by changing light bulbs and driving less, our winegrowers have the ability to adapt to more sustainable practices – I hope more of them do.

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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Alexanders at Timber Cove Inn - Restaurant Review

Alexander’s – At Timber Cove Inn

As I thought about Valentine’s Day and a romantic setting for dinner, I pictured the waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing along the Sonoma County coast line. There are several outstanding dining experiences available along the coast, but we often think of them being too far and inaccessible. A bit of research on the web and I settled on Timber Cover Inn which is actually only about 15 miles north of Jenner. I think nothing of driving 45 miles to lunch in central Marin. Alexander’s Restaurant is less than 30 miles from my home in Forestville. In researching the Timber Cove Inn I found reasonable winter room rates so deciding to treat myself on this assignment. A friend joined me and we spent Saturday night and enjoyed both dinner and breakfast Sunday morning at Alexander’s.

Alexander’s is an intimate dining room with a view of the ocean and a central fireplace. The staff is both professional and friendly and you feel very welcome there. Chef Jon Mortimer trained at the Horst Mager Culinary Academy and then studied as an apprentice in Geilo, Norway and Fiesole, Italy before he become a corporate chef in the United States. He opened two restaurants in Idaho featuring a French/ Latin fusion in his culinary style. In the fall of 2008 he began the new restaurant at Timber Cove where he has established a signature cuisine incorporating products of the area’s ranchers, fisherman, farms and winemakers. Riley Huddleston (see picture) is the Executive Sous Chef who was trained at the New England Culinary Institute and worked at quality restaurants in Manhattan and Seattle before going to Boise where he opened his own restaurant, the Boise Fry Company, which he still operates.

Both men contribute to creating a menu that addresses their motto, “Where Earth Meets Ocean.” For my dinner I selected the Butternut Squash Soup with crisp leeks and crème fraiche ( $ 7) and the Sonoma Lamb Shank: cabernet braised, sun dried tomato, Yukon Gold potato, root vegetables and tomato jam ( $26). Also on the ‘earth’ side of the menu was Creek Stone Ranch New York Steak with steamed asparagus, au gratin potatoes and cabernet demi glace ( $28) a Pork Loin dish ( $24) and Wild Mushroom Fettuccine with Chanterelles, black Trumpet, porcini Crème fraiche, shallot , root vegetable, and squashes ( $19). The Ocean side featured fish soups and salads ($12 to $15), Swordfish, Cioppino, Salmon Roulade or Corvina Sea Bass ranging from ( $25 to $27).

The breakfast menu Sunday morning included five house specialties, four options from the griddle, four egg and omelet selections and fresh fruit/yogurt/cereal choices. I chose the Eggs Benedict ($12.50). The service was good and the food (and the coffee) was fresh and hot. I like that. The lunch menu along with soup and salads, features five sandwiches or burgers ranging from $9 to $15, and three pastas ranging from $12 to $14, plus Dungeness Crab Cakes for $15.

Chef Mortimer is a wine connoisseur and pairing wine with food is an important aspect of his culinary art. The wine list is quite extensive and more that I can cover in this article. Chef Huddleston has a special interest in spices. He is introducing into his dishes new spices that he is getting from his father who is currently working in the Middle East. He feels spices, like a good wine, should be well balanced.

Alexander’s features monthly Wine Maker Dinners, Jazz and Martini Nights, Musicians for Holiday Events, Concert Series for Summer on the Outdoor Stage, Locals Night the first Friday of each month featuring a musician and special meal, and is planning joint ventures with Gualala Art Center. To learn more about the ongoing events you can go to

I had a wonderful pre-Valentine treat. My friend Barbara Lavaroni and I entertained two friends, the Lamberts from Sea Ranch, who joined us for a glass of wine Saturday afternoon. We played a game of ‘Rummikub’ and had a nice drink from the bar in the spacious lounge of the lodge before dinner. We shared a charming rustic room with two comfortable queen beds and a fireplace. Our meals were delicious with generous portions and a great presentation. The tab for all of this cost us each $183.84. Of course, we could have just driven up for dinner (or breakfast) and not stayed in the Inn, but once in a while you should do something special for yourself. You deserve it.

Timber Cove Inn is located at 21780 North Coast Hwy 1 in Timber Cove, CA. The phone is 707 847 3231.


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LETTERS on Sonoma County Issues

Gazette readers tell us what is on their minds and how they hope their opinions will influence our decisions and actions. Thank you readers! Please send LETTERS to and VESTA Publishing, 6490 Front St #300, Forestville, CA 95426

Hi Vesta,
This is Amie, from the former Natural Connections store in Occidental. I’m loving the GAZETTE more and more, and would like to suggest a new regular feature (of course I have my own motives, as you’ll see below). You know how newspapers show photos of homeless dogs and cats needing adoption? Well, I’m thinking it would be great if you could run a similar feature for local people looking for local part-time work.

I’m 65, and my lovely part-time job at Natural Connections disappeared when Lorraine retired and closed the store at the end of last March. Since then, I’ve been looking for a similar part-time job in a similar retail setting, with no luck. I’ve spread the word, advertised on WaccoBB and other online jobsites, taken my resume into every store on Main St. in Sebastopol and Forestville (several have said “We’d hire you in a minute if we were hiring,” but then somebody’s best friend or relative gets the next job), but no luck.

I don’t need a big career; I don’t want to stock shelves at J.C. Penney for minimum wage; I just need a nice little part-time paying job selling things or helping people out in one of the many ways my past experience has taught me.

I would love to give Gazette readers a chance to hire local, experienced and job-worthy people like me.

Thanks again for all you do.
Amie Hill if you'd like to offer Amy a job!

Bohemian Grove Logging
As many now know, the plan to log valuable stands of timber at the Bohemian Grove property in Monte Rio, California was signed off for approval by CALFIRE on December 29, 2009. This development, characterized by Judge Bill Newsom as a “thinly disquised plan...” to log “one of the last two great stands of old-growth” has disappointed more than a few, both Russian River residents and many of the environmentally conscious community.

So what’s next? With such approvals, there’s a thirty day window to file appeal via legal means. Who better to tell the story than John Hooper, organic farmer and past member of the Bohemian Club. John knows the Bohemian Club property and its trees far better than many, and as an owner of forestry stands himself, he has a strong sense of how forests can best be managed.
A wealth of information, including professional testimonials, forestry reports, and forestry management statistics relevant to the Bohemian Grove NTMP is available for review at

Shoppers from all over Sonoma County are extolling the benefit of having a Wal*Mart SuperCenter selling groceries in Rohnert Park. The benefit is simple: low prices. The trade-offs are much more complex -- and far outweigh the benefits. Low price comes at a high cost.
There are many reasons to be concerned with the presence of a Wal*Mart in our community, especially an even larger one than exists now. Wal*Mart is a mega-corporation that is fully capable of destroying a local economy, that pays its employees poverty-level wages, that actually encourages its employees to apply for food stamps and other taxpayer-supported programs for the poor, that puts pressure on its third-world suppliers, that is viciously anti-union, etc. I think we must educate our community about it. Sure they have low prices, and lower-income shoppers probably like having a Wal*Mart nearby. But we must consider how Wal*Mart achieves its low prices, and the potentially disastrous consequences of a SuperCenter in our community.

In Cotati/Rohnert Park, a Wal*Mart SuperCenter will undoubtedly mean driving some local markets out of business (e.g., Pacific Market, Oliver’s Market), and bringing the attendant blight to the shopping centers which they anchor. Across the nation, on the average two grocery stores fold in a community for every Wal*Mart SuperCenter that goes in. Shopping centers that these grocery stores anchored tend to enter decline, and urban blight increases. The SuperCenter, of course, does create jobs, although they are predominantly “junk jobs”. The net effect on the community is a decided negative. There is no net gain in jobs, and the quality of available jobs decreases. Wal*Mart workers are among the “working poor”, who receive subsidies from taxpayers because they don’t get paid a living wage. There is no enhancement of tax revenues to the local jurisdiction since groceries are not subject to sales tax in California. Finally there is the issue of Third World sweatshops where goods sold in Wal*Marts are manufactured. There is an ethical issue about supporting the exploitation of low-wage workers in other countries.
Rick Luttmann, Rohnert Park

Letter to the editor
The humanitarian tragedy in Haiti is perhaps one of the worst disasters in human recorded history that even a fully developed rich nation such as the United States would have trouble dealing with. Haiti as the poorest nation in the western hemisphere is in a much greater tragic situation. A lack of first rate hospitals, trained medical professionals and even no military have made the earthquake disaster even worse. The situation in Haiti should be a lesson for all nations of how important disaster readiness and preparedness is to their national security.

Los Angeles California is said by scientists to have a 99% chance of a major earthquake involving the San Andreas Fault in Southern California in future years. In a matter of a few years Los Angeles could be seeing a “Haiti” type of natural disaster. Lessons learned should be studied by our nations disaster experts and changes should be made to prepare the United States for such events otherwise such disasters will be similiar to Bosnia, Haiti and 9/11 style of mass disasters.
Kevin Beck
Henderson, Nevada


Geyser Soup,
The recent news that Santa Rosa no longer will dump any waste water into the Russian River was greeted with a major sigh of relief! Zero river discharge at last!! It will all get sucked up by the geysers, boiled and turned into “free” electricity. Couldn’t get any “greener” than that!

Well except for the chlorine. Why not skip that awful, chemical and dump the waste water untreated into the blessed bowel of mother earth? The electricity will not “taste” any different! One caveat: suppose there ever were some kind of major eruption? Would our whole county then get “fertilized” in a boiling shower of you know what?
Earl T. Hemming

Dear Vesta,
In the “Dear Readers” column of the January 7th issue, you say the following: “But like many businesses, you either grow or die. Stagnation leads to death no matter what the living entity.” This is a widely held belief that bears closer examination. If every business has to continually expand in order to be successful, then eventually all the expanding businesses will entirely fill the available markets, and there will be no further room for expansion. What then? Clearly this is a self-limiting strategy.

Other than expanding into new markets, businesses grow by swallowing other businesses. Again if we follow this out to its conclusion, we will end up with one single business supplying everything to everyone. In some major industries we are very close to that right now. Of course, these extremes will never be reached, but it must be clear that the idea of constant growth as a long -term plan is unsustainable.

Neither is it true that living organisms grow constantly or die. Stagnation , or as I would rather call it, a steady state, does not hasten death, and neither does unconstrained growth delay death, in any living organism. In fact the only organism I can think of that does pursue this policy is a cancer cell, which will eventually kill its host.

Even if it were in fact true for living beings, a business is not a living being except in a very general metaphorical sense. In this context there is one very salient difference; living beings have a built-in aging process which leads inevitably to death. Businesses do not. A business can survive as long as it shows a sufficient surplus after its expenses, whether it is expanding or not. The parallel case is not true of a living organism. No matter how healthy a life it lives, or how well it is fed, it will eventually age and die.

It seems to me that a small business could be very successful if it provided a useful service for its customers and paid its staff and owners an income that enabled them to live comfortably, year after year at the same level. It is true that they may have to adopt new technology, but this does not necessarily imply overall growth. What puts pressure on small businesses is the presence in the market of large companies with deep pockets which are determined to expand at all costs. But their expansion is not driven by the needs of the business, it is the result of greed on the part of their owners.

Please note that I am not saying that growth is never a good business strategy; it may be necessary for other reasons, but it is not a necessity for the survival of the business.
This is but one of a whole plethora of common sayings that slide easily off the tongue and are used to guide our actions, that are simply not true, or are true only in a very limited way. They serve the interests, or justify the actions, of those who have power in the current way society is structured, and wish to maintain and consolidate that power. Those of us who feel that the distribution of wealth and power in our society has reached a very dangerous imbalance, would do well to examine the way in which our everyday language works to support the system and constrain our ability to conceive of other ways of doing things.
Patrick Brinton

Hi Vesta
I just wanted to commend you on a BEAUTIFUL issue. We love soup at our house and that picture and the colors were so pretty and the article rocked. We are saving the article and going to investigate some of these soups too. Good work girlfriend

Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Cotati
The city of Cotati maybe soon permitting a medical marijuana dispensary on Redwood Dr. Given a choice of business philosophies and ethics, what would be best for Cotati?

One of the two potential dispensaries is Starbuds Group which manages marijuana dispensaries while establishing an educational scholarship trust with 100% of its profits. They pay living wages to all levels of employees, pay local, State and Federal taxes, and document vendor income with 1099’s. They offer 100%* transparent records of all business transactions to the public and authorities. Products are tested for pollutants, THC content, CBR content, mold contamination, and harvest quality. Public safety is managed by camera placement in multiple areas and security personnel. They serve only verified medical cannabis patients who follow State and local laws. The Award-winning owner is Mark Gustely and currently is a California State Contractor, license #932953 and prior #810762, in good standing, and is complying with all local and State regulation, laws and the Attorney General Jerry Browns recommendations.

So wouldn’t any city prefer a business that pays its taxes, builds in safety, pays living wages and returns the profits to the community? We’re asking that the City of Cotati to fully research their options when choosing the ONE business who will be licensed to operate a medical marijuana dispensary within city limits.

*Patients names encrypted to protect privacy.
Mark Gustely, owner, Starbuds Group,

Hello Vesta,
Below is a letter to all readers of the Sonoma Co. Gazette which deals with a timely issue facing Sonoma Co. (and the State of California) now.

I would very much appreciate if this could make it into the coming edition of the paper so that more people can be alerted to this situation. It has received hardly any media attention that I am aware of and most people do not even know that a wireless device will soon be installed on their homes whether they like it, or agree with it, or not. There are major public health concerns to this as well as financial and ‘security’ ones (wireless devices are easily interfered with by other types of signals for one thing). Thank you very much!
Christina Sophia, Graton

Dear Readers,
Do you know about “Smart” meters & are they really smart?

Or is this clever marketing of the new wireless meter that PG&E wants to put on every house & business just to convince us to accept this change without any question and without any public hearings? I’m all for appropriate technology which enhances the lives of the majority. But the wireless meters will not provide this enhancement and in fact may endanger our health, safety & bottom line. For one thing, these are/will be vulnerable to hacking, not to mention the fact that wireless devices can be easily interfered with by a variety of other frequencies.

There is already a class action lawsuit filed against PG&E concerning the meter’s accuracy, & public complaints about this (people say their energy bill greatly increased while their usage did not change). This is occurring in places like Bakersfield where they already have the meters installed. Sonoma County is slated for installation next month though very few people know anything about it. Did you see anything on your bill about this coming change? I didn’t. Those of us who are aware of it are not only concerned about the possible financial effects from likely inaccuracy of these wireless meters but the far reaching public health ramifications which may manifest over time with exposure to additional electromagnetic-radio frequencies 24/7.

And the negative effects are not only on humans. There is plenty of documentation for this as I explain below.

I must say that those of us who are concerned and taking action toward a moratorium on the new meters till safety is satisfactorily demonstrated, are also interested in promoting wiser energy usage, but this does not appear to be the wise way and will simply bring upon us more big brother type control. The meters, in combination with newer appliances will allow PG&E in the future (or “the powers that be” -whoever they may be) to SHUT OFF YOUR POWER or appliances when THEY DEEM NECESSARY without your knowledge or consent!

We are going in the wrong direction here by INCREASING our wireless exposure while in Europe they’re busy getting rid of it! Why? Here’s a few of the health related facts: Wireless “smart” meters will emit millions of new electromagnetic RF signals every day. Exposure to electro smog is documented to have major biological effects on living tissue, including wildlife such as birds & bees. Exponential increase in the use of wireless technologies poses serious health concerns as the Bio initiative Report - recognized by the European Parliament - demonstrates many negative health effects including cancers. The Utility Reform Network in S.F. & State Senator Florez are calling for a moratorium on these meters again, slated for installation in Sonoma County in February.

Lampposts, buildings, & telephone poles will host the wireless repeater infrastructure to serve the new wireless meters, which will be installed in or on every home & business. These will add yet another layer of radio frequencies (RF) to our homes and environment and will emit RF signals throughout the day and night. In light of the lack of FCC safety standards for chronic long term exposure to RF and in light of the call for the precautionary principle for wireless technology from global scientists, environmental agencies, advocacy groups and doctors, we call upon concerned citizens to take swift and massive action in order to bring the following requests to the County Supervisors and City of Sebastopol early next month in the form of a petition.

Please educate yourself on this issue which concerns all of us and help us support
a moratorium delaying the installation of the meters in Sonoma county by signing the petition at:

In the petition we are asking for:
1) a thorough investigation of the PG&E wireless meter proposal and potential health risks of them through public hearings.

2) PG&E to be required to submit a characterization study of the smart meter system planned for Sonoma county & Sebastopol.

3) The Smart Meter health and safety study PG&E commissioned to be made available to the public.

4) Customers to be able to “opt out” of the program and finally,

5) to place a 6 to 9 month moratorium on all new wireless installations to allow time for a thorough scientific review.

Thank you very much for your support!

Proposed Winery In Sebastopol
The Best Family Investment Group LLC would like to become my new neighbor. They want to move in across the narrow country lane from my home of the past 20 years and build a winery complex that would include a building that is nearly a football field long, 1/2 football field wide, and 4 1/2 stories tall. Further ingratiating themselves to me they intend to host parties with up to 150 guests, 17 times a year and serve 100 guests daily in a separate 5,000 square foot wine tasting room. If that’s not enough to have me quivering in anticipation of their arrival, they are even going to truck in enough grapes to crank out 26,500 cases of wine AND they’ll have operations going 24/7 for several months of the year. What more can I possible hope for? I can’t wait till they’re in so we can have each other over for tea, borrow a cup of sugar, you know, just do the kinds of things that good neighbors do for each other. I hope my tears of joy don’t get the welcome cake soggy when my new neighbors rip out the apple orchard that has been growing here in the scenic corridor since 1925. Good riddance to those pesky old apple trees. Welcome to my new neighbors, the kind that most people only get to dream about.

Just think of it, a wine bottling plant right next door operating all night along. How lucky can one get?

What must I do to become the recipient of all this good fortune?

I must hope and pray that on March 2nd the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will vote to amend the General Plan twice, rezone 2 parcels and throw in some special policy voodoo so my special neighbors can build a winery complex on an undersized lot outside my bedroom window. Oh, I almost forgot, I also need the Board of Supervisors to accept the MND instead of requiring an Environmental Impact Report. I certainly wouldn’t want to delay move-in day just to do a silly study to see if this project could in some remote way have a potentially significant impact on the environment and surrounding area. If this precedent is set any resident of Sonoma County can look forward to the day when they too can have a neighbor like this.

Seriously folks, this project does not belong here. This project does not fit here. This project is not wanted here. Creating an island of Diverse Agriculture land-use with no buffer to the surrounding residential properties would create an area of conflicting land use which is the exact opposite of the goal of our General Plan and zoning laws.

Can you say: Square Peg, Round Hole!

Contact your Board of Supervisors. Tell them to VOTE NO. Attend the Public Hearing on March 2, 2010 @ 2:10 p.m. 575 Administration Drive Santa Rosa.

Eileen & Thomas Morabito

Dear Vesta
A word of praise and thanks is in order to Dr. Gonzales and the staff of Palm Drive Hospital.
On Saturday January 9, after an overzealous start to my New Year’s exercise regime, I went to
the Emergency Department with chest pains. I showed the receptionist my Medicare card, and she walked me back to see the nurse. In a very short time, I had an EKG, a portable chest x-ray, and lab work and then began to wait for the results to be read by Dr. Gonzales. I remember only a nurse named Mark, but all the other workers and technicians were attentive, friendly, and professional. One by one each test came through as normal and I went home after two hours with instructions for a diagnosis of chest strain.

We are lucky in West County to have such an excellent hospital to serve our community.
Cecile Lusby

Target Center Sues Petaluma
Regarding The Brown Act violation that never happened and other allegations by Target Corporation:

I guess these big guys don’t care a shred for a thing called the Petaluma General Plan, the document we worked on together defining the directions and land uses we intend for our largely independently-minded and pro-SMART Code town. No mention of that in their letter to Mayor Torliatt - or any discussion from them that I’ve heard. And yet it is our painstakingly prepared plan for land use for our city. 7 years of planning went into creating a General Plan that suits our whole town.

That Petaluma has vision was acknowledged by Green Belt Alliance a few years ago when they voted us to be the most environmentally sound city in the Bay Area after introduction of our Petaluma Central Specific Plan. We had a plan then and we didn’t just lose it all because a major corporation is having a tantrum.

After years of personally submitting comments to our newest General Plan, speaking at council and being active in Petaluma Independent Business Alliance and the Petaluma Community Coalition to help create better land use policy, I am not surprised but nevertheless appalled that Target could #1 tell our town how it should use the shopping center - we should, according the them, behave exactly like other “guests” in other towns. A big assumption that people here wouldn’t want to bicycle or bus it to the center. But worse, they are out and out accusing our council members of a violation of the Brown Act by holding a meeting of 4 council members.
This meeting never took place according to Vice Mayor Glass - and I’ve had reason to believe his word for years now.

Several friends have argued that Regency was polite and put up money so we should do whatever they want. I still hold development is a privilege, not a right - and we shouldn’t just cave into Target’s demand that we skim over our process and policy so they get the development they want. This is the center of our city we are talking about and we deserve the time and care needed to get to a good project that has at least a chance of serving the needs of the “guests” who would use it. And then there is that other question, the one gnawing at me: since neither Target nor Regency gave us more than scanty economic data, we don’t have even a foggy idea of which existing Petaluma businesses, downtown or otherwise, will go out of existence due to this project. We don’t know the true costs of this project and Regency and Target are making no attempt to help us get there that isn’t legislated.

Not a friendly way to behave, developers. I know you feel we try your patience, but you try our whole plan for our future - our General Plan that stipulates large new developments shall provide a net positive for the city. We just don’t know if this project will do that. December retail data for the nation shows a loss of over 6% from last year! That means a lot of retail stores - including chains - are closing their doors. People are changing their buying habits all over including buying online - and many huge chains are disappearing forever. Will we end in a few years with a ghost mall? Not likely - but it could happen. That and blight where stores now owned and operated by our neighbors. Where’s the happy ending? I’d really like to know.
Connie Madden

Those Who Serve, Deserve
I am a WW@ Navy veteran. I was discharged in 1946 from a naval hospital after returning from the Pacific. Since then, I have been receiving outstanding medical care from Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco for many years. I am an avid supporter of the VA and the thousands of veterans who have used their services.

The health care reform debate has polarized our country into at least two opposing factions, those who support the right of all Americans to receive basic health care, and those who are fearful of government run medical care. As someone who has received the benefit of government run health care, I can tell you there is no comparison about the quality of service I have received with the VA compared to private hospitalization. At the VA I receive all my medications for free, or a small Co-pay. I have had quadruple bypass surgery, and numerous operations at no cost to me and my family. I use the local VA clinic on a regular basis, and my vital signs are monitored daily at home using the latest in medical technology. Right now, we are deadlocked about what to do as a nation.

I have a possible solution to part of the problem of providing some of our citizens some form of health care. There are at least 47 million Americans with no health insurance. And many more millions that have inadequate insurance to cover the most basic of health care, many of whom are veterans. I propose that the VA open its doors to all veterans and their families to receive health care from the VA. We have thousands of citizens that have served their country since WW2, i.e… Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, etc. Why not let them buy into a Veteran Health Care Program? With funding from Congress, expand the facilities and services provided by the VA. Veterans could buy into a medical plan directly from the VA. This would provide revenue for expanding VA services. The cost would be affordable and many would be able to take advantage of it if they choose. From my own experience, at a local hospital, waiting for transfer to a VA hospital, I was billed for medications that I never received. When I reported it to medicare, the hospital changed the bill right away.

This country always talks about how much we appreciate the service and sacrifice of our military men and women. Well, lets do more than give them a parade once or twice a year. We can expand the GI Bill to allow our veterans access to the VA. Let’s honor their service with something meaningful like health care for them and their families.

Opponents of much needed health care reform in this country would find it difficult to argue that our veterans do not deserve this type of government run program. I am sure that many who have served, would greatly appreciate the option of have an inexpensive way to receive quality health care from the VA
Miguel Acuna

Senior Momentum Feedback
Although I don’t consider myself so ancient, I am generally the oldest person present, wherever I go. I have ample opportunity to be exposed to the abuses described by Zoe Tummillo in her column “Abuse a la Carte”. I have not experienced problems such as she describes. Rude treatment has been around for a long time, and is not necessarily related to the age of the recipient. It is rare that I am mistreated, and when it happens, I will respond appropriately.

In Guerneville, where I shop as much as possible, I have only praise for the merchants, in particular, Dada’s True Value Hardware, Safeway, Lark, and The Mercantile. Nobody talks down to me, patronizes me, or otherwise mistreats me. Safeway personnel are always helpful and pleasant, with one exception, that the Safeway Pharmacist, quite a few years ago, was so shockingly rude to me that I have not since then used the Safeway Pharmacy.

I am pleased with Lark and The Mercantile, where I find good and pleasant help when I need it. The young people at Dada’s Hardware are very pleasant, helpful, smiling, enjoying what they are doing. I enjoy shopping there. My remarks equally apply to Costco, Best Buy, CitiBank, and about anywhere I go. Occasional rudeness may occur, it is generic, not based on my age, fueled generally by the aggressive ignorance of the perpetrator
Richard Wayland

Dear Vesta,
Let me just say a public thanks to the great management and staff of Sprint in Sebastopol. For several years now, they have filled the printing and stationery needs of the Interchurch Pantry of Sebastopl at no cost to us. So this is a little shout out to our community to support a local business that walks the walk.
Cecile Lusby, secretary

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