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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sonoma County Election Propositions 2010

Reader Advice & Opinions on Voting:
Propositions 19, 21, 23 and 20 vs. 27

Why Vote?
By Vesta Copestakes
There was a time when our lives were ruled by Tribal Chiefs, Kings & Queens, and Dictators. In some parts of the world that is still true. In our lifetime, people have fought long and hard to obtain the right to vote - first men, then women. There were many leaders who didn’t want this to happen because it meant people had some say in how their world is governed.

Democracy is messy. People disagree with everyone trying to push their own agenda. Many times things don’t get accomplished in a timely manner

Look at all the criticism lobbed at President Obama. Remember when he told us he can’t walk on water? That made no difference to an awful lot of people. All they do now is complain about what Omaba has NOT done.

Have you ever been on a Board of Directors or a governing body where everyone has a say in what direction we’re taking and how we get there? I have. Things move s l o w l y. It’s a miracle anything gets done at all!

Throw in “I’m right and you’re wrong” and it slows down even more while people argue. That’s Democracy.

So if you want things to get done efficiently - go somewhere that has a dictator. They get all kinds of things accomplished...their way. You may not agree, but you have no choice and no way to change it.

Here…we vote…for people who stick their necks out wishing to be our leaders and for Propositions and Measures that have the intention of making life better - or worse - for everyone.

We get to CHOOSE (aka VOTE) for whether we agree with that person or path - or not. YES/NO. Pretty simple. And this is where whether you vote or not you are playing a part in the decision-making process. Stay home and be quiet - you CHOOSE to let others make decisions for you. Don’t complain - it was your choice to not participate in the process.

We have the Right vs. Left…the Republicans vs. the Democrats…the Tea Party vs. the Progressives. Remember when the Green Party got so many votes it threw the vote Republican? People are saying the Tea Party might be doing the very same thing - throwing the vote Democrat. We don’t know until the votes are counted. What we do know is that Divide & Conquer remains true so the more fragmented our votes, the more likely whomever is at the center of the bell curve, is going to be the one celebrating.

What I would personally like to see is people voting for long-term gain that benefits everyone. Sound Socialist? That’s a word that gets bantered about a lot these days. It’s kind of the opposite of personal greed. Let’s think about what is best for ALL of us, both now and into the future.

Label it however you please, I’m a mother and grandmother and have a limited number of years left on this planet, so I think in terms of my daughter and granddaughter and the decades in front of them.

I like long-term thinking. There’s a theory that juvenile delinquents only thing short-term. I want it NOW! There are a lot of “mature” people who fit that description. If we take the time to follow a path of consequences when we make a decision, we’re more likely to make wise choices than if we think only of the immediate reward. So when I go to the polls I think long-term.

The following are articles written by people who want to influence your decision when you vote. It’s very kind of them to think enough of OUR lives to try to influence your vote because they CARE!

So whether you agree with them or not, it’s this kind of involvement in life that moves us all forward. One thing is for sure, when the votes are counted things change. If you want to be part of which direction the change takes, please VOTE!

Political Resources

Green Party of Sonoma County ~
League of Women Voters of Sonoma County ~ 555 Fifth St, Ste 300 O, Santa Rosa ~ 707-546-5943 ~
Libertarian Party of Sonoma County ~
Republican Party of Sonoma County ~ 501 Lakeville St, Suite D, Petaluma ~ 707-542-7066 ~
Sonoma County Democratic Party ~ 446 B St, Santa Rosa ~ 707-575-3029 ~
Sonoma County Registrar of Voters ~

The North Bay

Redisticting – by Income or Census?
 Proposition 20 vs. Proposition 27

By Cecile Lusby
Can citizen committees redraw assembly and senate districts? Should they? By what system or methods? In 2008 Proposition 11 passed, granting a group of ordinary Californians, not politicians, the power to redraw California’s districts. This November voters will decide whether to back Proposition 20 and grant more power to a citizen’s commission to draw new district lines with a controversial method - or to support Proposition 27, which will put an end to the committee created by Prop 11 and return power to our legislators.

The 2010 California Voters Guide compares the two proposals for change. SCG readers can go to and read for themselves.
Prop. 20 – Redistricting Based on Income
There is good news and bad news. The good news is that the commission grants the power of participation to interested citizens.

The bad news is that Prop. 20 forces strange rules on these inexperienced commissioners. A ‘yes on 20’ vote will expand the power of the citizen commission and authorize it to realign political boundaries by clustering neighborhoods according to ‘a community of interests’ as measured by income. Yes, that would be income-based redistricting. The commission’s selection criterion requires that the citizen volunteers have no previous political experience, asking only that they fill out an application that includes three essays. Alternate wording suggests that the commissioners will be ‘randomly selected.’

The man behind Prop. 20 is Charles Munger, Jr., using three and a half million dollars of his own money for this campaign. Advocates of Proposition 20 say that it returns power to individuals rather than government. It is populism, they insist. Very few people of color are in the current pool of potential volunteers at this stage in the selection process, but there is a good representation of women, better than that in the legislature. The fourteen individuals on the citizen commission may not be politicians, but Prop. 11 in 2008 has given them rules that could produce frightening results.

Dan Lowenstein, UCLA law professor, has been speaking and writing about what he sees as the dangers of Proposition 20. He says the Citizens Commission volunteers are inexperienced, yet have been given sufficient power to force greater division in our state by establishing a community’s average wage as the basis of redistricting. For details on Dr. Lowenstein’s opinion, see

Prop. 27 – Redistricting
Based on Census

Individuals who are not happy with Proposition 20 can vote for Prop. 27 instead, which will follow traditional rules in aspiring for a balanced mix of people in each district using traditional means (census and legislative accountants). 27 will end the commission and return the power of redistricting to the California legislature. Opponents of Prop. 27 say that by disbanding the citizens’ committee, it takes away the power of individuals to effect change and that it will return more influence to career politicians, undoing the work of Proposition 11. Dr. Lowenstein would argue that the voters have elected California’s politicians, and if they offend the electorate, they will not be returned to office. Voters ultimately have the power in a representative democracy.

Another Oil Disaster: Proposition 23
“Delaying action now and waiting…will be more costly than initiating action now.” 118 PhD Economists

by Woody Hastings and June Brashares
Here come Texas oil companies flooding us with advertisements for their latest disaster for people and the environment: Proposition 23. This time, oil companies are trying to get us to believe that they are motivated by a concern about the unemployment rate in California. Are Texas oil companies, the big money behind Prop 23, motivated by concern for unemployed people in California? Quite the opposite; Prop 23 is designed to destroy one of the biggest new job machines, and strongest challenges the oil industry has ever faced - the emergence of viable, cleaner, renewable alternative energy resources.

Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro have spent millions to put Prop 23 on the November ballot and promote it. If passed, what Prop 23 would do is effectively repeal Assembly Bill (AB) 32, California’s climate change law. AB 32 aims to bring the state’s emissions of greenhouse gases back to 1990 levels by 2020, and since its adoption in 2006 has been a key force creating competition to the status quo of dirty energy. This provides a big clue to the true motivation of out of state oil industries Valero, Tesoro and Koch Industries, spending millions on Prop 23. In addition, once AB 32 is in full force in 2012, these industries will be forced to do things they’d rather not have to do, namely, clean up their act by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their refining operations and products.

“Clean Tech” adds jobs
The oil industry proponents of Prop 23 would have you believe that the AB 32 climate law is a “job killer.” It is far from that. AB 32 is a significant driving factor in the “clean tech” industry that is bucking the gloomy economic trend to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the state. The oil industry boasts that it is currently a much larger sector with big numbers of workers; however, the oil industry is not a major source of new jobs. AB 32 may force the oil industry to add positions for clean-up experts and technology, and over the long-term cause a shift in employment from oil to the clean energy sector as cleaner energy replaces oil. According to the state’s Employment Development Department, green jobs have been growing ten times faster than the statewide average for job growth since 2005. In fact, even at the lowest point of the current downturn, the only sector that was adding jobs in California was the clean energy sector, and that new growth is supported by AB 32.

Polling numbers told the oil companies that people would be more agreeable to the idea of putting AB 32 on hold rather than repealing it. Polling also showed that jobs are a key concern to voters, so the oil industry’s deceptive strategists cynically came up with Prop 23’s wording to imply that AB 32 would “kill” jobs and would only “suspend” AB 32 until unemployment reduces to 5.5% for a full year. California has reached that level of unemployment only three times, for very brief periods of time, in the past forty years. Economists estimate that it may take a decade or more for unemployment to reach 5.5% at all, let alone for four straight quarters. Therefore, Prop 23 would not merely suspend AB 32, it would effectively repeal it.

Future is in clean energy
Jobs in solar, energy efficiency retrofits, clean tech - where Sonoma County has wisely bet its economic future, help drive the county’s economic engine. John Sutter, owner of Applied Building Sciences, a Sonoma County-based company that analyzes the energy performance of homes and businesses, says that “fossil fuels are a finite resource, the easy cheap sources have been harvested and our dependence on imported petroleum endangers our national security and economy. AB 32 is not a jobs killer, it is a jobs maker – the jobs of the future, supplying what humanity will desperately want and need for many years to come.”

Barry Cogbill of Solar Sonoma County, the non-profit organization that advocates solar energy in Sonoma County, agrees. “It’s just ridiculous that these out of state deep-pocket oil companies can come into the state and do this. Clean tech is one of the few job-producing sectors. If AB 32 is shut down, there’s not going to be as much incentive”

In July, 118 PhD economists signed “An Open Letter on Clean Energy and Global Warming from Economists.” The letter, initiated by the Union of Concerned Scientists, argues against any delay in implementation of AB 32 asserting that the most expensive thing California can do is nothing. The economists argue that “the current recession and the very high unemployment rate in California present daunting challenges. Some have argued that these economic conditions warrant suspending the implementation of emission reduction policies. We disagree. Delaying action now and waiting…will be more costly than initiating action now. Acting now is more likely to limit further environmental degradation, lower the cost of mitigation, and spur innovation in renewable energy and conservation technologies.”

Growers rely on a stable climate
Perhaps people in Sonoma County care about the global climate demonstrably more than many other counties in the state because we are also keenly aware of, and care about, the micro climates. Scott Mathieson, owner and hands-on director of Laguna Farm, a popular community supported farm in Sebastopol, cares a lot about both the micro and the macro climates. “Growing food is already a difficult, risky endeavor. To have the climate shift makes things even more difficult. We farmers depend on a stable climate to grow the food that we all depend on.”

In accordance with John Muir’s famous quote about all things being “hitched” together, we find that factors that influence the global climate, ultimately affect the local micro climates as well. This matters in Sonoma County because we are an agricultural county where the slightest variation in seasonal conditions can mean the difference between a banner year for growing wine grapes and other specialty crops – and disaster.

The Bottom Line: NO on Prop 23
The bottom line: Sonoma County is motivated to address climate change. Let’s address it. Vote NO on Prop 23 this coming November 2nd and get a few hundred of your closest friends in other counties throughout the state to vote no.

June Brashares is the Green Energy Director for Global Exchange. She can be reached at Woody Hastings is an environmental professional and activist based in Sebastopol. He can be reached at 

By Vesta Copestakes
I stopped smoking pot a number of years ago when work became too intense and required too much concentration to have the drug running through my system. But that doesn’t mean I’m against it being legal.  Quite the contrary.

I smoked for years and was a “high-functioning” pot smoker. I’d work intensely for long hours then smoke to make my brain stop at the end of the day, or to lighten my mind so I could play well with friends. It was wonderful! Some people drink alcohol for the same reasons.

Alcohol & Marijuana
Personally, a puff or two on a pipe accomplishes about the same level of mind alteration as a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. People use pot in the very same way and for the very same reasons that they use alcohol. I consider them synonymous. The only difference is that alcohol leaves the body within hours and marijuana takes a good 30 days or more even if the person doesn’t feel it any more. And that’s also an advantage for marijuana because it relieves pain and nausea. It’s good to have the effect last.

On the same note – I’d put hard alcohol, vodka, whisky, etc. up there with harder drugs. They pack a wallop on both mind and body and it comes on very fast. I consider alcohol a drug. If it alters your mind, it’s a drug. Coffee is a drug as far as I’m concerned, and in my current life, it’s my drug of choice.

Humans Get High
From the time a child learns that spinning in tight circles makes them dizzy, human beings seek mind-alteration. Very few humans ever escape the desire to slip out of their normal heads into something different.

And that’s the main reason I believe Prop 19 should be passed. People get high in one form or another. Marijuana is the drug of choice for so many people, and it’s been illegal in our country for such a short period of time, I think we need to stop this prohibition now and get on to more important things.

Friendly High
What I like most about pot smokers is that they laugh but never get belligerent. A pot smoker who doesn’t stop at the laughter phase gets tired and starts moving and thinking in slow motion. An alcohol drinker often moves from fun to angry. How many domestic fights do you learn about from pot smokers? It’s an old joke that a pot smoker will raid the refrigerator while a drunk will pick a fight. Ask law enforcement who they would rather deal with under the influence!

Gateway Drug
This reason for keeping pot illegal comes up often, especially among people in the profession of helping addicts clean up their lives from drug addiction. As long as marijuana is illegal, people need to buy it from someone, and many times that person also sells other drugs. “Hey, try this!”They sell whatever their clientele wants and makes them money.

If someone could go to the local liquor store to get a pack of joints, they wouldn’t have contact with dealers. They’d choose beer, wine, something stronger or marijuana. Much simpler and the only exposure is to what is already a legal high.

Driving Under the Influence
I don’t care what mind-altering substance someone chooses, drinking and driving, smoking and driving, snorting and driving…it’s all going to impact a person’s ability to drive well.  No one’s going to convince me that a drunk driver is better than a driver high on marijuana.

Against the Law
It was against the law to drink, buy or sell alcohol during the famous Prohibition that started organized crime. I have an impressive essay by George F. Will on my website that’s all about the unintended consequences of Prohibition. And one of the unintended consequences of making marijuana illegal are drug cartels growing thousands of plants on public and private land. You make something illegal that people want and someone with a criminal mind is going to see that as an opportunity to make money.
If marijuana is legal, not just in California, but across the nation, it becomes an opportunity for legal entrepreneurs and large corporations like cigarette companies to make money. That becomes a win/win rather then the lose/lose we currently have.

And on a personal level, gardeners can grow their own without fear of getting ripped off or arrested. A few plants in the vegetable patch is all a normal person ever needs. Prop 19 has a very reasonable quantity allowed and it’s certainly enough for anyone.

Tax Benefits
This is a common topic and many of us have been preaching for years that we can balance the budget on the taxes placed on marijuana. Addictive substances like alcohol and cigarettes are taxed and some of that money goes toward paying for the negative impacts of these addictive substances. The health consequences of both of those cost our country billions of dollars in lost days at work as well as medical expenses. We need money to pay for the expense of these other health and society hazards!  We need money to bring our economy back to strong.

I don’t know what the taxes are on a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of wine, but I bet the taxes on a pack of joints would be about the same. And then there’s income taxes. Marijuana is a huge industry and much of the income generated never gets taxed. If the people working in the industry were paid legally they would be taxed legally. We need that money!

Vote YES on Proposition 19

It’s time to end this stupid prohibition that doesn’t stop people from using the drug. Millions of people across the planet choose marijuana over alcohol as a way to alter their minds. So what! Let them.
California is not the only state that is going this way, so it’s just a matter of time before the entire country looks at the benefits of legalizing marijuana, especially in the face of the monetary gain we can achieve that could get us out of our massive deficit.

Remember, marijuana smokers invented the Make Love Not War slogan. Maybe we could achieve world peace through mellowing out. It’s a thought…

Landlords Liability for Prop. 19 Gardens

By Richard C. Koman, Esq.
Proposition 19 “legalizes” marijuana for personal use, right? So tenants should be free to grow their personal pot gardens and their landlords should have no problems with that.

Well, not exactly. First, let’s take a look at what Prop 19 legalizes and what it doesn’t. On the question of personal use, if the voters pass the initiative, it will be legal for individuals to possess up to one ounce for personal consumption, smoke in private spaces and grow a pot garden for personal consumption up to 25 square feet.

So does that mean that tenants can start clearing weeds for their “25 for 420” as soon as they move in to a rental? Definitely not. The proposition clearly states: “Cultivation on leased or rented property may be subject to approval from the owner of the property.” (Proposed Health & Safety Code section 11300 (a)(ii).)

In other words, tenants need their landlords’ approval to do what they would be able to do freely if they owned the property themselves. This raises some interesting issues. Indeed it puts landlords in an absurd Catch-22.

Marijuana is still a controlled substance under federal law. Regardless of what the state law says, growing ganja is a crime. And homeowners who know their property is being used for illegal drug cultivation are subject to having their property seized by the federal government under civil forfeitures statutes. The government doesn’t even have to file a charge or obtain a criminal conviction. They just have to show probable cause of the property’s (home’s) involvement in the “crime.”

The only defense to property seizure is that the homeowner had no knowledge of the use.

So, as a landlord, are you going to put in writing – say, a legally binding lease agreement – that your tenant can grow marijuana on your property??? Even an oral agreement would defeat the ignorance defense. Given the risks, any landlord would be certifiable to put consent in writing and well-advised not to give oral consent, either.

Now, you say, those federal seizure laws are aimed at large-scale grow houses, not 5x5 plots of pot. And, you might add, the Obama Administration has vowed to respect California’s medical marijuana laws, so isn’t there little risk that the feds are going to come after individual homeowners for a tenants personal use garden, legal under state law?

Actually the Dept. of Justice directive under Attorney General Eric Holder says that prosecuting medical marijuana is not a priority but that prosecuting non-medical use remains a priority. And, anyway, that policy might change when President Sarah Palin appoints Christine O’Donnell as the next attorney general.

Large corporate landlords could be looking at thousands of plants being grown on their complexes. Suddenly, the benign-sounding phrase “consent of the property owner” becomes untenable.

Tenants, I don’t think you’re going to get your landlords to consent to your personal pot gardens under the new state law. That means tenants will grow gardens without consent, just as they do now. I doubt that police forces will be interested in prosecuting growers within the 5x5 limit regardless of whether it’s legal or not, but the issue for tenants will become this: When the landlord finds out, can she evict you for illegal use of the premises? Can a lease forbid you from growing your personal stash?

Under current law, it’s pretty clear that growing marijuana on the landlord’s property would subject a tenant to eviction on the grounds that they are creating a nuisance. Would the fact that the growth is approved by state law forbid eviction in a state court? Nope. I think you’d have to have a clause in a lease – or a least a signed letter from the landlord -- that permitted the personal-use garden in order to combat the nuisance eviction.

Under the terms of Prop. 19, consent of the landlord can be required. Thus, it seems clear that leases can specifically refuse to allow pot gardens.

Finally, it is OK that the law treats tenants and homeowners differently? Since a “leasehold” gives the tenant exclusive control of the premises and since the personal use garden is a legal activity under state law, why should landlords be given the right to infringe on that right? Since a lease is a contract the parties can waive many legal rights – the right to smoke, for instance. Only a few rights – the right to habitable conditions, say – cannot be contracted away.

The right to pot is not a particularly compelling one, indeed under federal law, it’s not right at all, so tenants will find themselves signing away that right, unless they can find a landlord who agrees to let them keep their pot rights. Good luck with that.

Richard Koman is an attorney who lives in Forestville. His practice includes landlord-tenant law, personal bankruptcy and civil litigation. Contact him at (707) 544-5354 or

By Michelle Luna
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods

Once considered to be the best in the nation, California’s 278 state parks now rank among the country’s most endangered sites. How did they go from the best to endangered? Call it death by a thousand cuts - in this case, budget cuts. Our parks are falling apart because of persistent underfunding.

Repair Backlog Tops $1 Billion
Roofs and sewage systems in state parks leak, restrooms aren’t cleaned regularly, trails are washed out and campgrounds and visitor centers are shuttered. The repair backlog in California state parks tops $1 billion, and it’s growing. As if that weren’t enough, twice in the past two years, the state parks were on the verge of being shut down. Only last-minute budget reprieves kept them open. Last year, nearly 150 state parks were shut down part-time or suffered deep service reductions because of budget cuts, and more park closure proposals and budget cuts are expected this year. 

On Sonoma Coast there were many day-use and camping areas closed, which affected our local economy. Business owners in Jenner, Fort Ross and Timber Cove reported drastic reductions in revenue during the months when these popular areas were closed.

Trust Fund Stable Funding
That’s why Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Coastwalk and over 400 groups are supporting Prop. 21, California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010. Prop. 21 will protect state parks and conserve wildlife by establishing a Trust Fund in the state treasury that could only be spent on state parks, urban river parkways, wildlife, natural lands and ocean conservation programs.

Free, Year-Round, Day-Use Pass
Funding will come from an $18 annual State Park Access Pass surcharge on all California vehicles, including motorcycles and recreational vehicles. Larger commercial vehicles, mobile homes and permanent trailers will be exempt. California vehicles will receive free, year-round, day-use admission to all state parks, in exchange for a new $18 annual fee that will support state parks and wildlife conservation. In comparison, park visitors currently pay up to $125 for an annual pass or $10-$15 per day at most parks.

Safeguards Protect Funds
Spending from the Trust Fund will be subject to oversight by a citizens’ board, full public disclosure and independent annual audits. Money from the general fund – currently spent on parks – will be available for other vital needs, like schools, heath care, social services or public safety.

Parks Strengthen the Economy
Ensuring stable and adequate funding for state parks and wildlife will strengthen California’s economy, improve public health and protect natural resources.

State parks, which include historic sites and state beaches, attract millions of tourists every year. Those visitors spend $4.32 billion annually on park-related goods and services in California – or an average of $57.63 in the surrounding community on each visit, according to a recent study. Parks also entice visitors to exercise and lead healthier lifestyles, and they contribute to the public health by protecting forests and natural areas that are sources of clean air and water

Join the Coalition
State parks are priceless public assets and vital legacies for our children and grandchildren. Please help protect them by joining the coalition at Check the website for the growing list of supporters.

Locally, this initiative is supported by the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, Russian River Chamber of Commerce, Coastwalk, Landpaths, Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sonoma Land Trust, Fort Ross Interpretive Association, Sonoma Petaluman State Historic Parks Association, and Valley of the Moon Natural History Association.

Stewards and Coastwalk will be organizing some Days of Action locally and if you are willing to help please check our website for details or email

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