Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010-12-09 Bay Area news

Be sure to check out:
Music and Culture []
World War 4 news []

- Omissions in the following articles are noted as "[ ... ]"
- Anything added by the blog's editors are shaded blue

San Pablo Bay ecology

California Native Plant Wiki
Winter Garden Guide

2010-12-03 "Planting Natives… Now’s the time” by Betsy Livingstone , from "West County Gazette"

Lots has been written lately about landscaping with natives. Why is this so important? Of course, you can save water by planting natives, but it’s really not about that. It’s more about honoring this place where we live.
It’s about supporting our natural environment by extending it into our yards; that means not only those plants out there but also the birds, butterflies and other critters that evolved with them, and the whole complex web of life from micro to macro, as we seek to find our harmonious place within it. It’s about deep beauty, the external reflecting the internal relationship.
The late October rains came abundantly this year, perfect timing for late-fall planting. The November blessing of warm dry days brings perfect conditions for finally getting our new and old potted plants out of their little prisons and into the soil.
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Got plants? Know your plants! Often they come with advice such as full sun, shade/part shade, and information about water needs. If not, look them up; Sunset’s Western Garden Book is a good source for most, and the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) has several terrific books on growing natives.
It’s especially helpful to know what kind of place they are native to. Have you seen these plants on a hike or camping trip or Sunday drive? Picture them in their home woodlands or rocky hillsides as you mentally place your plants and group them according to similar origins. I like to think that certain plants are natural friends.
There’s lots more information available online, or by talking with the friendly experts at any of our native plant nurseries or at a CNPS public meeting.
Ready to plant? First, set those pots out where you feel the plants want to be, and take your time moving them around until they seem to find their places.
When you’re ready, dig a hole that’s not much deeper than your pot is tall but a couple of times wider and with a pile of loose soil at the bottom.
If the soil hasn’t gotten saturated that far down, fill the hole with water and wait until it has percolated; if it doesn’t drain, you could have a problem unless you make a little hill to plant in, for better drainage. Or choose a different spot. This is important: most natives require good drainage.
Don’t add fertilizer unless you want short-lived plants susceptible to pests & pathogens; if you let them find their natural growth rate and form, in the right place, you will have stronger, healthier plants. By the same token, it’s not useful to plant natives with storebought soil amendments, unless used as a top mulch, because the roots might prefer to stay in the fancy soil rather than extending out into the “real” dirt.
To release a plant, turn its pot upside down and knock the plant out with one hand, while carefully supporting the soil upside down around the main stem with the other hand; a delicate operation. Sometimes the pot has to be cut or broken to free a rootbound plant.
If there’s a tangled mass of roots in the bottom of the pot, loosen them and pull them out if you can. Excess or broken roots can be cut. Spread them out a bit, and settle the plant in the hole – its soil top should be a little higher than the ground around it - and use the dug-out soil to fill in around it.
Tamp that soil down to make a shallow little moat for water. It’s a good idea to water once now, to eliminate air pockets around the roots that might cause them to dry out.
A few plants every year, an evolving landscape, seeing what works, watching the changes as the natives begin to dominate and blend, and the weeds decrease; watching the wildlife come in … it’s a process, a long-term investment in integration with the land.
The rewards are immense, and they start kicking in right away. You’ll see.

North end of Mare Island is part of the San Pablo Bay estuary, and an important stopover of birds along the Pacific Flyway, an event which brings THOUSANDS of TOURISTS into Vallejo year after year. This estuary protects our birds who are a big part of the San Pablo Bay ecology, and provides us with local birds who, for a low cost, act as bug and rodent control.
Always act to protect our ecology, and SAVE THE BIRDS by speaking up for them relating to any project at Mare Island which might affect their habitat.
2010-12-07 "FLASH--Mare Island Studios project moves forward; A familiar face returns to Vallejo" from "Your City Council Report" at []
Tonight the Vallejo City Council unanimously approved moving forward with an ERN or Exclusive Right to Negotiate with Mare Island Studios, LLC for the purchase of some 160 acres on the North end of Mare Island. Present at the meeting was studio chairwoman Carissa Carpenter and former Vallejo City Manager Joe Tanner. Tanner is acting as a consultant for the studio and helping guide negotiations with the city. At this point, Mare Island Studios, LLC will begin the process of looking at environmental considerations, design, architecture and budgeting etc. necessary to move the project forward. Mr. Tanner has a reputation for his expertise in development, something he had little opportunity to use in his contentious tenure as City Manager. It will indeed be interesting to see the role he plays as this project moves forward. Maybe seeing Tanner around City Hall will be Deja Vu...but in a good way. More detail in Your City Council Report soon! [end]

2010-12-03 "Water Rights & Fish Flows: Low Flow Project becomes Fish Flow Project” by Brenda Adelman, from "West County Gazette"
Public Environmental Review Process to Begin….
SCWA is now beginning the environmental review process needed to petition the State Water Board to PERMANENTLY lower flows to 70 cubic feet per second (cfs), a 45% decrease from what is normally a minimum of 125 cfs. Decision 1610 (D1610) is the State Law they expect to alter.
In order to fulfill requirements of California and national environmental law, SCWA as lead agency is legally required to conduct a public review of their proposal. The Notice of Preparation (NOP) is the first step in this process for the newly named “Fish Habitat Flows and Water Rights Project” and was released September 29, 2010. Comments are due by Nov. 15, 2010.
The NOP document can be found at the website: []
Download the “Notice of Preparation”. This is a 12 page description of the project, with map, and notice of meetings. There is an email link there for the submission of comments, ( or comments can be mailed to: Jessica Martini-Lamb at SCWA, 404 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa, CA 95403.
Water Quality Impacts…
Water quality impacts to the lower Russian River were not considered by the Biological Opinion, or in the Sonoma County Water Agency’s (SCWA) application to the State Board last spring for lowering summer flows in our area. Even so, SCWA repeatedly claims that lowered flows will benefit the fish. Multiple agency documents consistently allude to current flows as being “artificially elevated,” but this claim does not directly apply to fish conditions in the lower river. For the entire 2010 summer, flows at Hacienda in fact averaged 263 cfs because we had a wet year, Lake Mendocino remained full and there was more water in the tributaries. Because we had a cool summer following a wet winter, the tributaries and reservoirs had much more water in them. It appears as though low flow minimums will only work in dry years, when water is scarce. Those are times when current regulations call for lowered flows already. Furthermore, for purposes of fulfilling water supply demand of SCWA contractors, flows are never viewed as “artificially elevated”. In the Temporary Urgency Change Petition to the State, SCWA failed to consider (other than some USGS water quality studies whose results are still under wraps) the impacts on fish by either the proliferation of temperature and nutrient pollution, exacerbation of pathogen pollution, degradation of native vegetation and riparian habitat, or bioaccumulation of toxic substances. They failed to note impacts on many other bird, animal, plant, and aquatic species that call the river home. Impacts to summer recreation and the local economy went virtually ignored as well. These problems must be fully addressed before any permanent flow changes are instituted.
From “No flow” to “Fish flow”…
The short version of SCWA’s new low flow project title is called “Fish Flow Project”, as if to imply that there is some known flow that will solve the complex issues around the escalating demise of salmonid populations. For the last 30 years, we have been hearing from fishery experts that tributary habitat and ocean conditions are the prime drivers behind fishery collapse. This project addresses neither of those conditions. (Last year there were virtually no coho salmon migrating upstream to spawn in the Russian River. The Regional head of CA Fish and Game stated that he attributed the lack to ocean conditions, although he supports recommendations in the Biological Opinion.) In regard to the new name of this project, in our view, the discarded “low flow” term carries the connotation that implies water quality impairment, which under current circumstances is probably much closer to the truth than the new name. (100 years ago before dam construction, low flow may have been a natural condition to which the fish adopted, but occurred long before illegal water diversions, riparian habitat destruction, wastewater discharges, gravel mining, etc. Things are much different now.)
Closed Estuary…
In our area, the purpose of low flow is to keep the Estuary closed all summer to ostensibly allow better breeding conditions for the Steelhead. The lowered flows are considered necessary only because there are some low-lying structures that suffer flooding when the river level goes over nine feet. For years they have artificially opened the mouth (and still do) when it reaches seven feet. If those structures were lifted or relocated, they could allow the river to get much higher and “low flow” wouldn’t be an issue. Many of us believe that keeping flows around 125 cfs, as they are now, and dealing with the flooding of properties separately, makes the most sense. Ironically, the lowest building in Jenner is a State-owned dilapidated structure that sits in the water and floods at 9 feet. The Post Office, immediately next door, appears to be at least two to three feet higher. And in any case, most of the 2009 summer, the river remained open in spite of the very low flows.
Workshops for answers…
SCWA will hold three “workshops” to answer questions from the public about this project. We believe it is unfortunate that the format of having “stations” where one can talk oneon- one to staff, does not accomplish the intended purpose of addressing potential problems in advance, especially since no records of the conversations will be kept.
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Brenda Adelman is chair of Russian River Watershed Protection Committee and has worked on river issues for the last 30 years.

2010-12-04 "Napa Green program, demystified" letter to the editor of "Napa Valley Register" newspaper
How “green” is our valley? Positively verdant — not only in visual appreciation, but in the abundant growth of our ongoing county and wine industry efforts to protect our environment, long before the term “green” was a twinkle in the eye of some marketing genius. Since 1968, vintners and growers of the Napa Valley have set the environmental standards bar high to protect a valuable asset, one of the world’s finest winegrowing regions, by fonning the first and only Agricultural Preserve in the U.S. Today more than 38,000 acres of valley floor farmland are protected from development in Napa County. In 2000, to protect the Napa Valley Watershed, Napa Valley’s agricultural industry developed the Napa Green Certified Land program through an 18-month collaborative effort between local vintners, growers, and representatives from government agencies and environmental organizations. Using “Fish-Friendly Farming” principles, the program focuses on erosion control, restoration of riparian corridors, protection of native plant species and wildlife habitats, and more, to be the most comprehensive green farming and land preservation initiative in the wine industry. Landowners follow rigid standards to achieve certification through creation and implementation of a farm plan, specifically tailored to that property, which meets and exceeds compliance with certifying local, state and federal agencies. Key to the program is that the entire property is included in the farm plan, not just the vineyard. So how is Napa Green Land certification achieved? While participation in the program is voluntary, Napa Green Land is the only program that has true independent third-party verification of practices. Members from the certifying government regulatory agencies visit the property sites to visually verify that landowners are conducting the green practices as presented in their farm plan. These certifiers represent the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board, National Marine Fisheries Service and the Napa County Agricultural Commissioners Office. To date, 44,966 acres, or nearly 10 percent of all Napa County acreage, is enrolled in the Napa Green Certified Land program, of which 19,044 acres are certified Napa Green Land and 10,680 acres are planted to vineyards, equaling nearly one-fourth of all land planted to vineyards in Napa County. In 2007, in an ongoing plan to continue the vineyard-to-bottle Napa Valley wine industry environmental initiatives, the Napa Green Certified Winery program was created by the Napa Valley Vintners in partnership with the Napa County Department of Environmental Management and the Green Business program. To achieve certification, wineries must be in compliance with all state and county regulations and provide audits of their energy, water and waste usage rates. Currently, 26 wineries are certified under the Napa Green Certified Winery program and have a 75 to 90 percent recycling rate, compared to a statewide average of 50 percent. Wineries certified in the program must show continual improvement over three years in the areas of water, waste and energy reduction in order to stay certified. In September of 2010, Chateau Boswell became the first to be recertified in the program. Over 2 million cases of wine are currently produced annually in Napa Green Certified wineries. The Napa Green Certified Land and Napa Green Certified Winery Programs are proactive, assisting vintners and growers with compliance and conservation solutions, and providing an opportunity for business and government to partner for a more sustainable future for the Napa Valley. Like a drop in the pond becoming waves on the shore, enthusiasm for “green” practices is spreading throughout the Napa Valley wine industry. For further information on the program, visit (Boswell, of the Chateau Boswell winery, lives in St. Helena.)

2010-12-07 "Marin County: Ban plastic, tax paper bags" by Nels Johnson from "Marin Independent Journal"

A plan banning plastic checkout counter bags and imposing a 5-cent charge on paper bags at grocery outlets was embraced by Marin supervisors Tuesday amid revisions exempting other retail businesses from the measure. Although the board took no vote on the plan, and asked the county staff to return next week with a measure giving small businesses a break, it was apparent that a five-year effort by Supervisor Charles McGlashan for an ordinance cracking down on plastic bags was nearing triumph. "You don't need to come back and repeat it all next week," McGlashan told a dozen speakers representing a range of environmental groups backing the ban. "I can read the tea leaves, and we're moving in the right direction." The board next week will introduce a new version of the measure for routine approval and schedule its adoption for Jan. 4, when a public hearing will be held. "Celebrate with us on Jan. 4," McGlashan told the crowd. Supervisors expressed varying degrees of support, with Susan Adams calling for simplification of some definitions, and Judy Arnold urging the plan be limited to businesses selling groceries, rather than covering all retail operations, a move she noted would give small businesses a break. Others nodded agreement. "I'm pleased we're here at this point," Supervisor Steve Kinsey said. McGlashan, who crafted the ordinance with help from his aide, Maureen Parton, as well as Adams and a host of civic groups, said exempting nongrocery retail operations from the ban would still allow the county to "cover 90 percent of what we wanted." McGlashan called the measure "a great piece of legislation," saying it would cut county storm drain, park and related litter cleanup costs and "send an economic signal to help us change our habits," while giving businesses an incentive to participate, granting them a nickel for bags they now distribute without charge. He noted a bag ban and 5-cent fee enacted last year in Washington D.C. has worked well. The ordinance affecting unincorporated-area grocers could be used as a model by Marin cities, officials said. As it stands, the county proposal is similar to a state plan to ban plastic bags and charge a nickel for paper bags, legislation that was rejected this fall. Marin officials expressed hope Sacramento legislators will reconsider the plan next year, especially as a hodge podge of plastic bag bans sprout across the state. A plastic bag ban is already in effect in Fairfax, and similar moves are under review in other Marin cities, including San Rafael and Mill Valley. San Francisco became the first California city to ban single-use plastic bags in 2007, and others followed suit, including Palo Alto, Malibu, Manhattan Beach and, most recently, Los Angeles County. The Marin measure would: Ω Bar grocery stores from dispensing single-use plastic bags at the checkout counter and require them to charge at least 5 cents for a paper bag made with recycled content. Bags used for produce would be exempt. Ω Apply to all retailers selling groceries. Ω Take effect Jan. 1, 2012. Enforcement would involve periodic inspections by the county Department of Weights and Measures, which already makes the rounds to check retail measuring devices, checkout tallies and the weight of measured foodstuffs. Scofflaw retailers would receive an "educational" letter, and face re-inspection fees based on labor costs of $114 an hour during follow-up visits. Repeat violators would face infractions and penalties ranging from $135 to $440, based on county costs. Boosting the bag ban Tuesday were the Marin Conservation League, Sierra Club, Green Sangha, Surfrider Foundation, Sea Stewards, Save the Bay and other groups, including the county Youth Commission. Advocates say 19 billion plastic bags are used each year in California, but fewer than 5 percent are recycled, the rest fouling the environment and threatening wildlife, or costing $25 million to send to landfills where they do not decompose. County officials say Marin residents use 138 million bags a year, an avalanche of garbage weighing an estimated 540 tons. Save the Bay estimates 1 million plastic bags end up in San Francisco Bay each year, and McGlashan Tuesday waved one he plucked from a Mill Valley creek. "The fact is Marin public sector agencies pay too much to clean these things out of storm drains," he said.

Solano County [Vallejo, Vacaville, etc.]
2010-12-08 "Vandals strip copper wires from lights at Vallejo's new sports complex" from "Times-Herald" newspaper
The show is still going on at Vallejo's new Dan Foley Sports Complex, though vandals stripped copper wires from its lighting system, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage, Greater Vallejo Recreation District General Manager Shane McAffee said. GVRD staff spotted the damage to the sports complex Monday morning, he said. Vandals struck sometime after Saturday night. GVRD secured an electrician and bought nearly $2,000 worth of wire so that children could use the weather-proof soccer field Monday evening, McAffee said. More work will be needed to make more permanent repairs to the lighting system, he said. GVRD called Vallejo Police Department to report the crime but an officer did not come out, McAffee said. Besides the soccer field, the complex, which opened less than a month ago, includes baseball and softball fields with artificial turf so that games can take place year-round, he said. Costs of building the facility came from grants and park dedication fees collected on new development. "It's really disappointing when you put so much time and effort into making the community better and some drug addicts or gang members come in and destroy something for the community," he said.

2010-12-08 "Vallejo schools' dropout rate 'unacceptable,' says Busselle" by Lanz Christian Bañes from "Times-Herald" newspaper
Almost half of Vallejo ninth-graders don't graduate four years later. "That's unacceptable. That's absolutely unacceptable," said Tish Busselle, spokeswoman for the Vallejo City Unified School District. The state released derived dropout and graduation rates for the 2008-2009 school year Tuesday. About 57 percent of Vallejo public school students graduated in 2009. The dropout rate was about 49 percent. Statewide, the four-year derived dropout rate rose from 68.5 percent to 70.1 percent, while dropout rates increased from 18.9 percent to 21.7 percent. The state's calculation of a derived dropout rate factors in the new data system, which was introduced two years ago and tracks individual students, and the old system based on each district reporting its own dropout numbers. During the 2005-2006 school year, more than 75 percent of Vallejo students graduated while the four-year dropout rate was about 27 percent. Numbers may add up to more or less than 100 percent because some students -- such as those who take special education classes, move out of state or pass high school equivalency exams -- neither graduate nor drop out, said Jack O'Connell, California's superintendent of public instruction. The district's dismal dropout and graduation rates have been among the reasons for reforms undertaken in recent years, many coming to fruition soon. For instance, to combat the often rocky transition from middle to high school during which many students drop out, the district has begun to restructure ninth-grade education. The changes are expected to take full effect in the fall. Ninth-graders will be segregated from the rest of the student population at Bethel and Vallejo High schools. Additionally, those ninth-graders will be further divided into small learning communities with a team of core teachers that can better monitor each student's development. A summer program between eighth and ninth grades is also being established to help students catch up on work or pursue enrichment courses. As soon as the ninth-grade program committee finishes it work, the district will pursue the restructuring of the three remaining high school grades, Busselle said. Another large percentage of students drop out during their senior year. "Research has shown that kids today don't always have any thought about tomorrow, so that when they get to 11th and 12th grade and realize they need to make choices, often there are choices closed to them because they didn't make decisions earlier," Busselle said. Dropout and graduation statistics can be found on the state Department of Education's website at in the Data and Statistics section.

2010-12-08 "Student dropout rate climbs in Fairfield, across Solano County" from "Daily Republic" newspaper.
Registration required for viewing, they make you pay for articles: []

Contra Costa County [Concord, Richmond, etc.]
2010-12-06 "Martinez juvenile hall counselor charged with 49 counts of child molestation and possession of child pornography" from "Martinez Gazette" newspaper
A mental health counselor working with youth at the Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall in Martinez for the past several years faces life in prison after the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office charged him with 49 counts of child molestation and possession of child pornography on Monday. Police and the District Attorney’s Office said more victims are expected to come forward as news of the man’s incarceration and details of the charges circulate. Thomas L. Perez Jewell, 53, of Pleasant Hill was arrested on one count of possession of child pornography on November 18 and booked into the Martinez Detention Facility; his initial bail was set at $1 million. An ensuing investigation by Pleasant Hill Police, aided by the F.B.I., into Jewell’s home computer files led the D.A.’s office to amend the original single complaint to 46 separate counts of child molestation and one count each of child porn possession, posing a child for the purposes of taking pornographic pictures and showing pornography to a minor, said Assistant District Attorney Dana Filkowski on Monday afternoon.
“Given the defendant’s profession, he had access to children and we want to make sure that anybody that may be a victim or witness has an avenue to immediately report that. There might be more victims, and we need to seek justice,” said Filkowski.
According to Pleasant Hill PD Lt. Dan Connelly, the investigation into Jewell began when Martinez Police Detective Dave Mathers received a tip from an unknown source; he and his colleagues conducted an “undercover operation … [that] identified Jewell as a … resident who received and distributed child pornography.” Mathers did not immediately return calls seeking additional information into the genesis of the case and the PHPD is now the lead agency for the case. Filkowski said she couldn’t comment directly on whether Jewell had a criminal record, however, she specified she “didn’t have any information that [Jewell] has a prior criminal history relevant to the charges.
He is not charged with any enhancements,” which would occur if Jewell had a prior strike on his record. A week before Thanksgiving, just after 7 a.m., Martinez, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek detectives served a search warrant on Jewell’s home on Massolo Drive to look into allegations of child pornography possession. “Detectives found a very large amount of child pornography on digital storage devices at the residence,” said Connelly. Area F.B.I agents were brought in to sift through what police described yesterday as thousands of photographs and videos depicting child porn.
One minor in particular is discussed in the amended criminal complaint, identified under the pseudonym John Doe, and Filkowski said the molestation occurred over the past three years. Doe is now aged 15; Filkowski declined to state whether the victim was a past or present resident at the John A. Davis Juvenile Hall facility at 202 Glacier Drive, where Jewell worked.
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Jewell maintained a visible presence on the Web; his Facebook page and company website are easily located. In addition to his CCHS employment since January of 2002, as stated on his Facebook page, Jewell operated a consulting business – aimed at both adults and teens – entitled YES Enterprises since January of 2003. As the homepage describes, “YES ENTERPRISES offers individualized Anger Management Courses, workshops, trainings, life coaching, and mentoring to Troubled Teens, Awakening Adolescents, and Juvenile Offenders. What’s more, we offer Life Coaching, consultations, integral workshops and trainings for Adults, Parents, Counselors, School Sites, Teachers, Administrators, Probation Officers, Juvenile Hall Counselors, Residential Treatment Facilities, Group Homes, and Community Organizations.” The site states Jewell’s business is based in Martinez with a satellite office in San Antonio, Texas, and offers to “travel the United States and the world,” in order to offer his advertised expertise and workshops in the areas, among others, of aggression, replacement, goal setting, self-esteem building, moral reasoning, parenting classes and self-awareness. On the calendar section, the site indicates Jewell was scheduled to conduct workshops in Los Angeles and Orange Counties from November 22-26; San Antonio, Texas on January 15-19, 2011 and on the island of Guam in February of 2011.
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Jewell’s website states he received a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from John F. Kennedy University in 2000 and a B.A. in Philosophy from San Jose State University in 1985. On Monday, Jewell’s bail was increased to $5.8 million and he remains in custody. Investigators urge anyone with information on the case or possible victims to call a dedicated PHPD tip line at 925-676-1273. “People can call and leave a message and a detective will get back to them within one business day,” said Connelly.

Sonoma County [Santa Rosa, Petaluma, etc.]
2010-12-08 "Neighbors put brakes to East D bike plan in Petaluma" by Lori Carter from "Press-Democrat" newspaper
Neighbors in the East D Street area were surprised to see a final-sounding item for the next Petaluma City Council agenda: a resolution to "approve of the final project design and authorizing construction" of a pilot bicycle boulevard project.
In the only public meeting on the matter, in October, the vast majority of 60 people in attendance raised objections to the plan to replace stop signs with yield signs and traffic circles at three intersections on a quarter-mile section of East D Street between Payran and Wilson streets. "The neighborhood has never had public notice to come in and have their opinions carry any weight," resident Dale Axelrod told council members Monday night. "This process is not transparent." Wilson Street resident Dave Libchitz noted that no one outside of staff, not even the council, has apparently seen a final design. "Who came up with the final design? It couldn't have been the City Council," he said. "The public certainly has not had the opportunity to weigh in on the final project." He urged the council to step back and seek public input. The Petaluma proposal, which is similar to Santa Rosa's interim bicycle boulevard project, would make bike-friendly changes that include removing stop signs, narrowing intersections and installing yield signs and traffic circles. And like Santa Rosa's Humboldt Street, the East D Street proposal has been a lightning rod for controversy since its inception. Santa Rosa's 1.5-mile pilot project, which is estimated to cost $800,000 at completion, is in jeopardy given the makeup of the incoming, less bike-friendly Santa Rosa City Council. Petaluma received a $50,000 air-quality grant to make bike-friendly changes to East D Street and has so far spent about $10,000 on the planning. Concerns about Petaluma's project include pedestrian safety and whether replacing stop signs with yields would help or hinder traffic flow as cars and bicycles try to share the road. Some residents have said another street would be more appropriate, given the mix of homes and businesses on East D Street. After hearing the concerns of Axelrod and Libchitz, Mayor Pam Torliatt directed city staff to schedule a neighborhood meeting before the Dec. 20 meeting to show them exactly how the traffic circles would work and look. The council meeting agenda wording also was changed to assure an open public discussion. "I'm just one person in the neighborhood that feels that this is really going to be unsafe to remove the stop signs from these intersections," Axelrod said, warning the council to expect a large crowd at the meeting. "Traffic circles are fine -- keep the stop signs," he said.

2010-12-08 "Sebastopol OK's medical pot gardens" by Bob Norberg from "Press-Democrat" newspaper
An ordinance that sets rules for how medical marijuana patients can grow their own received final approval Tuesday by the Sebastopol City Council. When voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, it allowed the cultivation and use of medical marijuana, but it didn’t set standards. Under Sebastopol’s ordinance, patients and caregivers can grow marijuana at their homes with the maximum number of plants limited to 100 square feet of leaf canopy. The city also will allow the creation of up to two gardens in town by medical marijuana dispensaries, with a maximum of 750 feet of leaf canopy, and two additional gardens of the same size by collectives of patients and caregivers for their own use, not for sale. The gardens must be inside a house or outbuilding or in a yard with solid or opaque walls six feet high and with a locked gate. It also provides that police will investigate home medical marijuna gardens only upon complaints about such things as odor or public safety issues. The ordinance was read for the second time and approved in a 5-0 vote. It takes effect in early January.

2010-12-03 "Battle Against Sprawl: Costs Outweigh Benefits" by Martin J. Bennett, from "West County Gazette"
Rohnert Park is now the epicenter for the battle against sprawl and big box development in the North Bay. In April, the Rohnert Park Planning Commission unanimously denied the proposal by Wal-Mart to enlarge its existing discount store into a 167,000 square- foot supercenter. Wal-Mart appealed the decision to the city council and in July the council, after more than five hours of public comment, voted to approve the project. Council member Jake Mackenzie was the lone dissenting vote. A broad coalition of labor, environmental, and community organizations from across the county organized a grassroots campaign against the supercenter. This yearlong effort included canvassing most households in the city, tabling at local supermarkets, and phone banking city residents. Hundreds of opponents packed both the planning and city council meetings, and the coalition delivered more than 4000 signatures to the city council from residents opposed to the project. Following the city council vote, Sonoma County Conservation Action and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit challenging the approval of the EIR and the project. The coalition is continuing to make the case to the community that the costs of the project far outweigh the benefits. Impacts are Regional The economic and environmental impacts of the proposed supercenter are regional and extend beyond the City of Rohnert Park. The controversy raises fundamental questions about future growth and the necessity for proactive city and regional planning to promote equitable and sustainable development. Development in Sonoma County is inevitable. According to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), the population of Sonoma County will increase by twenty-three percent over the next twenty years. In 2008, voters approved a landmark initiative to meet this challenge, creating the twocounty SMART train that will run on tracks adjacent to Highway 101 from Cloverdale to Larkspur. The buildout of the train system provides the opportunity for city-centered ‘transitoriented development’ (TOD) around the fourteen SMART train stations-- development that could accommodate ninety percent of the projected population growth. Transit-oriented development is densely-built, mixed-use development within one-half mile of transit stations, accessible by bicycle and foot, and with a variety of retail, office, and small businesses. Through land-use planning and public funding, municipalities can promote development near transit stations that includes good jobs paying family-supporting wages, affordable housing for all income groups, open space, and walkable neighborhoods. The proposed Wal-Mart supercenter located a quarter of a mile from the site of the planned Rohnert Park SMART train station is a direct threat to such careful and appropriate planning. Opponents of the Wal-Mart supercenter believe it undermines compact and equitable development in Rohnert Park, and violates the city’s general plan, which mandates access by residents to neighbourhood supermarkets. The project undercuts transit-oriented development’s efforts to reduce low-wage work, support local business, tackle global warming, and lay the foundation for a robust regional economy. Working Poor Nearly one third of the workforce in Sonoma County are currently ‘working poor’ and do not earn a self-sufficiency, or ‘living wage.’ According to the Insight Center for Community and Economic Development in 2008, two parents working full-time to support two children in Sonoma County must each earn $14.90 an hour or $62,940 a year to pay for food, housing, medical care, child care, and transportation. Sonoma State University economist Robert Eyler reports that the supercenter will contribute to job quality decline and increase the problem of working poverty. According to his analysis, the county will lose 105-211 jobs--mostly good jobs that pay hourly wages for full-time workers ranging from $17.67 per hour at Pacific Market, a local independent grocer, to $23.36 at Raley’s and Safeway. The Wal-Mart supercenter will employ 450 workers, and, according to the company, the typical full-time worker at Wal-Mart earns $12.10 an hour. Traffic Impacts With regard to global warming, the supercenter will have adverse effects on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. In order to comply with AB 32, a 2006 state legislative measure, all nine cities and the county have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions twenty-five percent by 2015. However, the Eyler report notes that Pacific Market will close if the supercenter is built, and its 8,000 customers will drive an extra 28,400 miles each week to shop for groceries. Further, Stacy Mitchell, author of Big Box Swindle, reports that vehicle miles driven per customer will increase because a supercenter draws shoppers from a greater distance than a discount store. Indeed, since Wal- Mart’s rapid expansion in the late 1970s, miles traveled per household to shop has skyrocketed by three hundred percent, while total household driving increased by seventy- five percent. Local vs. National Suppliers As for local business, there are sixty local suppliers that provide produce and merchandise to Pacific Market, and more than seventy supply Oliver’s, the largest grocery in nearby Cotati. Wal- Mart suppliers, on the other hand, are nearly 100 percent national and global firms (and that means increased truck traffic into the county). The ‘Go Local’ movement has demonstrated that patronizing local businesses ensures that more dollars remain in the community. Studies by Civic Economics demonstrate that locally-owned firms produce two to three times more economic activity within the local economy than national chains --including locally-retained profits, wages paid to local residents, purchases from local suppliers, and contributions to local nonprofits. Equitable Development The Wal-Mart supercenter will undermine transit-oriented and equitable development in the North Bay. To accommodate population growth and to promote sustainable SPRAWL cont’d from page 12 development, all cities along the 101 corridor in Marin and Sonoma counties must prioritize the creation of good jobs and affordable housing near SMART train stations. A favorable outcome of the lawsuit could force the City of Rohnert Park to revisit the decision to approve the Wal-Mart expansion. Two planning commissioners who voted against the Wal-Mart expansion, John Borba and Amy Ahanotu, werecandidates for the city council this fall. The battle to halt the supercenter is far from over. Martin J. Bennett teaches American history at Santa Rosa Junior College, serves as Co-Chair of the Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County and is on the board of Sonoma County Conservation Action. For more information about the Wal-Mart superstore campaign go to: [http://www.]

Napa Valley
Students and the friends held a "die-in" to show solidarity with the people most in need of the passage of the DREAM Act...
2010-12-02 "Students pretend to die to keep DREAM alive" by REBECCA HUVAL from "Napa Valley Register" newspaper
Twenty students lie motionless on the ground in front of the McCarthy Library at Napa Valley College on Thursday, their graduation gowns on the brown walkway and demonstration posters clutched to their chests, elevating slightly with each breath. The students aren’t dead, but they’re pretending to be. Sophomore Veronica Plaza was about to study inside the library when she stopped to figure out the scene. “They’re all on the floor,” she said, looking the students standing at the back, each holding a letter to spell “No human is illegal.” “They’re dead like their dreams, I guess.” Plaza was right. The students are a part of the newly formed Napa Valley DREAM (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors) Act Coalition, a collaborative effort between 13 student groups to support the DREAM Act. The act would provide a path to conditional permanent residency for high school students without U.S. citizenship, and it was reintroduced in Senate on Tuesday. The coalition held a “Dream In, Die In” demonstration to represent the students who have given up their dreams, or let them die, because they couldn’t get residency status after graduating from U.S. schools. “Without the DREAM Act being passed, you’re killing people’s dreams,” said Marissa Castañeda, an organizer of the Napa Valley Dream Act Coalition. Castañeda went to a DREAM Act summit at UC Berkeley with another Napa Valley College student, and they were inspired to bring the social activism of a large public university back to Napa, she said. “The Napa Valley College campus is not really involved, and it doesn’t have the feel of a college campus where people are standing up for a social justice issue and doing something about it,” Castañeda said. But the DREAM Act unites Napa students, she said, because “Napa is built off immigrants, and the wine industry functions off it.” The students organized a series of events for DREAM Week, which will culminate in a trip to join a DREAM Act rally and march in front of the federal courthouse in San Francisco on Friday. They hope to raise awareness about the act and push for its passage before the end of the year. On Thursday, about 30 students from 13 student groups attended the hourlong demonstration, and onlookers commented on the diversity of the crowd. With signs and graduation caps in hand, they marched to the cafeteria, where they played dead again for several minutes. A few of “dead” demonstrators wore stethoscopes around their necks to signify the dead dream of becoming a doctor. “When they walked in, it caught everybody’s attention,” said Nicol Stephenson, a junior. “I like how it’s multicultural, and not just Hispanic. That’s awesome.” Katie Zachry, a freshman, was demonstrating, but not because the issue impacts her own status. “The DREAM Act doesn’t affect me because I can still get a scholarship, but I see my cousins, friends and strangers, and I see them struggling to get by.” Without residency status, college students can’t apply for many grants and scholarships. But events like the “Die In” make undocumented students feel more comfortable on campus, students said. “They see other undocumented students are marching, and they shouldn’t be scared of protesting at school,” said Yadira Chavez, a sophomore. “It’s a safe space.” Freshman Ashlee Jones was walking through the cafeteria when the demonstrators marched inside. She didn’t know much about the DREAM Act, she said, but she stopped to listen and learn more because “apparently, it’s important.” [video hyperlink:]
2010-12-02 photograph by Jorgen Gulliksen from "Napa Register" newspaper showing Napa Valley College students holding a "Die-In" in front of the McCarthy Library and the cafeteria

The "Die-in" has gotten the attention of enablers in the Tea Party Militia who'd rather assassinate these student's reputations...
2010-12-06 "College Marxists at DREAM Act Rally: 'Let’s Make This Congress Scared of Us'!” by Jim Hoft
Students at Napa Valley College held a “Die-in” protest on December 2nd in support of the DREAM ACT. One of the radical youths urged the crowd, “Let’s make Congress Scared of Us!” The speaker was a member of EZLN a Mexican rebel movement.
What a lovely bunch. Just what America needs.
P/Oed Patriot has more on EZLN.
Let’s make these Marxist goons citizens!

The Students for Democratic Society of Napa Valley College are NOT Marxists. You can ask them yourselves, or study their written materials. They don't advocate some "big-government dictatorship", they're anti-Fascist!
According to an SDS of Napa Valley member, the woman being labeled a "Mexican Rebel" is NOT A MEMBER OF EZLN!!! A dangerous lie to spread about her, perhaps to inspire some local Tea Party Militia member to check these students out, especially after these claims of rebels in the midst.
EZLN is is a non-violent protection force for the native-americans of Chiapas against the savage and cruel racism of the hispanic Mexican government, and by ACTUALLY CONFRONTING the process of fascism, the EZLN are doing something far more awesome than the Tea Party Militia funded by trans-national corporate executives...
In the following Tea Party Militia article, the author knows nothing about anybody, which is odd because he seems so smart. For example he calls the EZLN "communists", and while EZLN is a autonomy movement for the Indigenous cultures of Chiapas, the idea of communism is that workers are sovereign.
But leave it to a Tea Party Militia member to not notice the difference.
2010-12-06 "Marxist Student at Dream Act Rally: 'Lets Make This Congress Scared of Us'." by Patch W. Adams St. Louis, Missouri, "Proud Tea Party Militia Member".[]
Here is a video of a "Die In" Protest that was held by Napa Valley College Students on December 2nd in support of the DREAM ACT. It's Bad enough that one of the Speakers believes that there are 2 SENATES in Congress....(wow).... But then another Speaker goes on to say that they need to make Congress "Scared" of them. They finally end the Rally with words from the Communist Rebel EZLN spokesperson Sub Comandante Marcos. (According to the You Tube Description) Aren't these the types of Students we want to Give Amnesty too??? The Democrats Think So.... *UPDATE* The First Speaker claims to be a Member of the Marxist Group called Students for a Democratic Society(SDS). The SDS may be better known as the organization in 1969 from where the Weather Underground was spawned.

Tea Party Militia is funded in-part by money from the "Koch Industries" transnational corporation [hint, they're not strictly "American"], founded by Koch, a 1960s White-Nationalist political powerhouse from the USA whose legacy is inherited by his 4 sons, who use their billions of dollars to fund fascist forces and political parties in over 60 regions across the world.
Back in the 1960's, SDS was one of the groups in the USA working with the "Negroes" before "Black" became an identity, protecting minorities and poor folk against the White-Nationalist militias and governments in the States of Alabama, Mississippi, California and elsewhere.
White-Nationalists in the corporations and the Federal Government then began nationally coordinated death-squad operations against SDS and other groups, escalating the situation into a small-scale civil war by the early 1970s between White-Nationalists and the resistance, a time which saw a tiny faction of SDS members and enablers create their own national militia... Even President Nixon was anti-Jewish and ordered the Huston Plan while preparing to round up certain minorities, it was dangerous times.
Do you know which way the weather is blowing?

For more about the Tea Party and the white-nationalist militias, check out:
2010-11-22 "The Tea Party's Armed Extremists" by David Neiwert
In places like rural Montana, the Tea Party is working hand-in-glove with Patriot movement radicals — many of whom have close ties to white supremacists and anti-government armed militias
[ ... ]

2010-12-03 "Family calls for independent probe of shooting death" by Kerana Todorov from "Napa Valley Register" newspaper

The family of Richard Poccia, who was fatally shot by Napa police in front of his Alta Heights home Sunday, is calling for an independent investigation of his death. With family members present, criminal defense attorney John Runfola held a news conference in San Francisco Friday evening questioning law enforcement’s accounts of the incident. Runfola said he wanted access to police evidence in the slaying of 60-year-old Poccia. The Napa County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the police shooting. Napa sheriff’s investigators said Poccia, who had been reported to be suicidal, pulled a knife on Napa police officers after he came out of his house on the 1400 block of Meek Avenue with his hands in the air. At the news conference, Poccia’s wife, Samanda Dorger, said her husband was suffering from depression, but had not threatened to harm himself or others. A longtime friend, Michael Fradella of San Jose, said Poccia was depressed, but not suicidal. Media reports that he might have been threatening to police were “so far from the truth about him,” he said.
[ ... ]
The Napa County Sheriff’s department on Wednesday said Napa police Officer Nick Dalessi shot 60-year-old Poccia with a rifle as another police officer, Brad Baker, fired a Taser as Poccia “reached for his waist band and produced a knife.” The fatal shooting occurred in mid-afternoon after friends called police to report that Poccia was suicidal, had guns in his house and may have fired a shot through a bedroom wall, the Sheriff’s Office said. According to a friend who had visited him, Poccia had said that any intervention by the police or emergency responders “would end badly,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a written statement.
[ ... ]
“After speaking with officers for a time, Mr. Poccia’s demeanor changed and he reached for his waist band, producing a knife,” the sheriff’s office said. “The officers believed their lives were in danger, and one officer with a Taser and another officer with a rifle, fired simultaneously. Mr. Poccia died at the scene from a single gunshot wound.”
[ ... ]

Marin County
"AG Summit Marin Brand in the Future" by Andrea Blum from "West Marin Citizen" newspaper
West Marin food and dairy producers want Bay Area consumers to know their food comes from Marin’s local farms. The subject was one of many concerns and desires expressed at the Marin Agricultural Summit at Walker Creek Ranch last weekend. The summit attracted over 100 people and was the second of its kind in 13 years. Supported by the county and organized by the University of California Cooperative Extension and other local non-profits, the summit proved that Marin’s agricultural community has come a long way in the last decade. “They came prepared and they know what they want,” said David Lewis, director of the UC Cooperative Extension. “People are at a later stage, more evolved and know what they need to do to be successful.” The inclusive conversation, ‘world café’ set up, explored local concerns and ideas in agriculture. “ Where do you see Marin agriculture going?” asked the moderators in the daylong summit. Break out groups ensued and ideas flowed. Read more... Some key points expressed included the need for a Marin County label much like the “California Cheese” label or even the Marin Organic designation but without elevating one type of production over another. In other words, the grown in Marin label would not be an organic identification, but instead a Marin exclusive product. There was also huge support for a co-packaging and processing facility where producers could go to package and distribute their products. One ongoing concern at a similar level is the need for a meat processing plant, whether mobile, or fixed. Dr. Shermain Hardesty, an economist from UC Davis, spoke of her research in the field and the possibilities of a slaughterhouse in the area. “It’s likely a regional facility is more viable than a small-scale facility,” she said. Hardesty’s research looks at developing possibilities for a slaughterhouse somewhere on the north coast of California, she said. She is also responsible for research, education and outreach programs related to alternative food marketing systems, small farms and cooperatives. “ There is considerable demand at the retail level for meats that have been humanely raised without hormones or antibiotics,” she said of her research. She also noted that the demand for organic and grass fed is not as strong as far a regional retailers go. Regulations and the permit process is still an ongoing obstacle for farm operations and production. Producers are looking to streamline the process. Brian Crawford, Community Development Agency Director did review how to successfully permit an agricultural project in Marin County. But still, as seen with a recent project proposed by Lagunitas brewery owner Tony Magee, even stellar projects in the eyes of the county have trouble getting started at all levels of government and regulation. “They want the process less cumbersome,” said Lewis. Dominic Grossi, president of the Marin County Farm Bureau said what takes months in Sonoma County could take years to permit in Marin County. He used new barns and new cheese facilities as an example. “One suggestion was to a least have someone in the Planning Department with an agricultural background,” said Grossi. So it’s no surprise that the summit, organizers and participants said, was a success and an essential conversation for planning West Marin’s agricultural future. Half the land in Marin is agricultural and as a whole, contributes nearly $50 million to the local economy annually. Milk from Marin County is the biggest commodity supplying the Bay Area with 20 percent of its milk- not to mention the 850,000 pounds of shellfish produced each year. West Marin is no minor player on the agricultural scene. While the tradition has been around for over 125 years, it’ the innovation in all sectors of production that will keep it viable- whether it’s Warren Webber and the first organic farm, or Cowgirl Creamery model for cheese sales or the Hog Island Oyster brand. Many operations have proven to be models around the country. “Marin producers are really looking into the future,” said Lewis. But to do that he said, a key need is succession and estate planning so the farms can be passed to future generations. For Lewis and his team, the next step will be coordinating relationships an partnerships for the producers to help with marketing and connecting the consumer. Supervisor Steve Kinsey, who gave the opening remarks said the summit “was an incredibly well received event due primarily to the thoughtful preparation David [Lewis] and his team put in.”

Alameda County [Oakland, Berkeley, etc.]
2010-12-08 "Justice for Derrick Jones supporters take over Oakland City Council Meeting" by Jason Meggs
During the December 7, 2010 Oakland City Council meeting, outraged and grieving family members, friends and members of the public demanded to be allowed to speak during "Open Forum" at the beginning of the meeting. When the council refused, supporters chanted to the front and Derrick's father spoke along with several others. Later many more spoke. The council's response was to offer to agendize the topic for a future meeting.
Reportedly Derrick was shot eight times in the back by Oakland Police Department officers on Monday, Nov. 8. He was unarmed. Supporters emphasize he was a small business owner popular in the community. This reporter did not find the video of last night's meeting in any web archive.
The most surreal thing happened after this tense and passionate take-over: the Council's program continued with the Employees' Choir, who took the stage and sang us songs of hope, joy, love, peace, and holiday cheer with costumes to match. We were asked to jangle our keys along to one song, which many did happily. The contrast between what had just happened and what was now happening was palpably profound. Jaw dropper.
Derrick's father addresses the Oakland City Council by Jason Meggs Wednesday Dec 8th, 2010 12:15 PM

2010-12-06 "Obama administration warns Oakland on pot farms" by Michael Montgomery from "California Watch"
The Obama administration has warned Oakland over the licensing of four giant pot farms, saying the plan is in violation of state and federal law and could trigger multiple legal actions against the city. Officials from the Justice Department’s civil division and the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco delivered the blunt message to Oakland City Attorney John Russo, according to two officials who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to talk about the meetings. “The warning is clear: These are illegal, large-scale pot growing operations, with Oakland planning to get a cut of the illicit profits,” said one official.
City Attorney Russo confirmed that Justice Department officials raised objections to Oakland’s marijuana cultivation ordinance in separate meetings last month. “They've expressed their concerns that the path Oakland is taking is in violation of the law,” Russo said in a statement. He declined to discuss details of the meetings or disclose the identities of the other participants. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco did not respond to phone messages. At issue is a controversial ordinance, approved by the Oakland City Council last July, to license four “industrial” facilities to cultivate and process marijuana and sell the product to medical marijuana dispensaries around the state. If Oakland issues permits and the facilities are built, they could be the largest of their kind in the world.
In November, Oakland voters approved a measure that imposes a 5-percent business tax on all medical marijuana operators, including future pot farms, opening a potentially lucrative revenue stream for the city. Supporters say the plan is carefully crafted to comply with Proposition 215 and subsequent legislation, which allow for marijuana to be cultivated “collectively or cooperatively” by patients with a doctor’s recommendation. More recent guidelines drawn up by Attorney General Jerry Brown call for a closed-circuit cycle of “marijuana cultivation and consumption with no purchases or sales to or from non-members.” Even though pot remains illegal under federal law, the Obama Administration has taken a hands-off approach to California's medical marijuana operators so long as they are in unambiguous compliance with state law.
However, after closely studying the Oakland plan some federal officials have concluded the ordinance violates state law because it treats pot farms as distinct business entities for tax purposes, thus severing the direct connection between cultivator and patient that underpins the legal standing of a medical marijuana collective or cooperative. “Oakland would be on the hook for violating state and federal law,” said one official who foresees possible civil and criminal litigation if the pot farms go into operation early next year as planned. The Obama administration’s challenge to Oakland over large-scale marijuana cultivation appears to be part of a broader federal effort to bring order to California’s booming medical marijuana industry following last month’s defeat of Proposition 19, the initiative to legalize recreational pot. Eight days after the vote California’s four U.S. attorneys met with DEA and Justice Department officials to develop a plan to deal with some of the loopholes and gray areas in the state’s medical marijuana program, according to two officials briefed on the discussions.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said the Nov. 10 meeting focused on a "state-wide federal enforcement strategy" for marijuana but declined to provide details. “My responsibility is not to enforce state law. But I do have a responsibility to enforce federal law, which means putting an end to people who use the cover of 215 to try to violate federal law. And there are efforts underway to try to tighten that up,” Wagner said. Federal officials are particularly concerned about operators who are using medical marijuana as a cover for money laundering and illegal shipments to other states.
Wagner cited a recent case PDF [] in which several Fresno-based growers are accused of cultivating thousands of pounds of pot under the state’s medical marijuana program, then shipping the product illegally to drug dealers in Boston. “We are working hard to send a clear message to law enforcement authorities, federal and state and local, that we are determined to go after this kind of activity and bring more cases,” he said. Wagner declined to say whether targeting Oakland’s pot farms was part of the new federal strategy. But two sources said the city ordinance was discussed in detail at the Nov. 10 meeting.

San Francisco city
2010-12-08 "Newsom's homeless policy failure" by Tim Redmond from "San Francisco Bay Guardian" newspaper
I have no reson to dispute the figures in the Chron this morning [] showing that Mayor Newsom has moved 12,210 people off the streets of San Francisco, 6,692 of them placed into supportive housing and 5,518 shipped out of town with a free bus ticket. Randy Shaw, who has a city contract to run some of the hotels that Newsom is using for formerly homeless people, says Newsom has the "best record [on the issue] of any mayor in the United States" And still the Chron laments, there are still homeless people on the streets: Yet many of San Francisco's neighborhoods remain plagued with panhandlers, and residents and tourists alike complain of feeling scared or just plain disgusted. Let me suggest one possible reason that there's so much panhandling still going on: Even the formerly homeless who now have residential hotel rooms don't have enough money to eat. That's because Newsom's signature "Care Not Cash" measure took money away from welfare payments and shifted it into housing. These days, general assistance pays just $59 a month. Try living on that. Even with food stamps (which don't buy you meals if you don't have a kitchen to cook in) the money the city pays out is too little. So people beg for more. Yes, there are people who panhandle to buy money for drink and drugs. Reality check here: People -- homeless or otherwise -- are going to drink and do drugs in this city. Give them enough money in a monthly welfare check and they'll use that instead of bothering the tourists. Panhandling isn't easy or pleasant; people don't do it because they want to. They do it because there's no other way to get money. (And please, my trolls: Don't tell me that these folks should "get a job." There are currently five unemployed people for every job opening in America, and it's worse in San Francisco.) Of course, now that Newsom has decided to evict the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council recycling center []-- a place where homeless people can legally make a little money without panhandling -- the problem's going to get worse.

2010-12-07 "Legal fight brewing over HANC Recycling Center eviction" by Rebecca Bowe from "San Francisco Bay Guardian" newspaper
The Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) Recycling Center, located at the Kezar Triangle in Golden Gate Park, received a 90-day eviction notice following a Dec. 2 Recreation and Park Commission meeting approving plans for a community garden in its current location. However, tenant lawyer Robert De Vries, who is representing HANC, submitted in a Dec. 2 letter to Rec & Park Commissioners that HANC could not legally be made to vacate until the end of June. The eviction has prompted an outcry from progressive groups, environmental organizations, and other HANC supporters, who turned out en masse at the Dec. 2 meeting and voiced strong disapproval over the proposal. It now appears that the issue may wind up in court. “HANC has no intention of vacating the premises any earlier than legally required,” De Vries wrote to Rec & Park Commissioners. “HANC is also not willing to allow disruptive construction work or other activities to go forward on the leased property while it is in possession.” In an earlier memo to Rec & Park Commissioners, city staff proposed issuing HANC a 30-day eviction notice, which would have ousted the recycling center by the end of December. That timing was significant, because it would have occurred under the administration of Mayor Gavin Newsom, a proponent of the eviction, who will vacate office Jan. 8 to be sworn in as Lieutenant Governor. Citing advice from the San Francisco City Attorney, the memo noted that Rec & Park could proceed with a 30-day eviction without commission approval. But that initial advice was erroneous, City Attorney spokesperson Matt Dorsey told the Guardian, because it did not take into account HANC’s quarterly rental payments. Since the organization pays rent once every 90 days, instead of once a month, it cannot be evicted with just 30 days notice, according to state law. Once it was informed of HANC’s quarterly payments (by city staff, not De Vries’ letter, Dorsey said), the City Attorney advised Rec & Park that it should extend the eviction notice to 90 days. The extra 60 days doesn’t just buy HANC time, it gives them hope. Newsom will be in Sacramento by then, and it’s possible that he could be replaced with an interim mayor who’s sympathetic to their cause. De Vries, however, contends that 90 days is still too soon, and that HANC can't legally be evicted until June 30, 2011. HANC’s original five-year, fixed-term lease ended on June 30, 2001. Since then, it’s been paying rent to the city every 90 days. De Vries wrote that under state law, this arrangement means that "the lease is automatically renewed" for one year, and that it's renewed annually since 2001. California courts have found that “a tenancy from year to year is created where a tenant holds over after the expiration of a former lease for one or more years and pays rent,” De Vries wrote in his letter. His analysis is based on his reading of California Civil Code Section 1945. “I don’t really see any other interpretation, frankly,” De Vries told the Guardian. In his view, by issuing a 90-day notice, “they’re putting something into the statute that isn’t there.” The City Attorney’s office rejects De Vries’ analysis, and insists that the eviction notice is legal. “The lease does not expire on June 30,” Dorsey said, “and Rec & Park delivered a proper notice of termination.” If this dispute winds up in court, it’s possible that the question won’t be settled until June of 2011 anyhow.

2010-12-07 "Chronicle employees told to accept "substandard" contract" by Steven T. Jones from "San Francisco Bay Guardian" newspaper
After some tough talk about resisting a “substandard offer” from San Francisco Chronicle management, the California Media Workers Guild has decided to urge Chronicle workers [] to approve a new contract offer that is “essentially the same company proposal” that workers resoundingly rejected just last month. The vote is set for Dec. 13. Guild representative and longtime Chronicle writer Carl Hall told the Guardian last week that “they basically stiff-armed us” and “refused to negotiate any compromise since October” in contract talks. “We see it as insulting, irresponsible corporate behavior given everything staff has done,” Hall told the Guardian last week. He told us workers planned to rally against the Chronicle and enlist the help of the community, readers, and local labor leaders. “The company is just not listening, so we're going to have to get a louder voice to achieve that." The Guild's campaign included online testimonials [] from various Chronicle employees, including conservative columnist Debra Saunders [], who began her missive by writing, “I am probably the last person Chronicle readers would expect to see standing up for a union.” But since then, the Guild has essentially capitulated to management's demand for a status quo contract, arguing that it's the best they can get for now despite the 106-29 vote against that contract. “Since then, however, the economy has deteriorated even further, and other media companies in the Bay Area have announced fresh concession demands. At the Chronicle, many Guild members said they were ready to fight, but most recognized it would take some months to build up a potent campaign and public support,” the Guild wrote in a statement on its website. "Given those circumstances, the commitee decided it would be better to accept the current proposed changes -- and continue mobilizing in advance of the next round of talks." Guardian calls to the Chronicle's Publisher's Office were not returned.

Santa Cruz county
2010-12-02 "Drum Circle Approached by Police Yesterday on the Levee" by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
Drum Circle Dave sent me a report of police action against the Drum Circle yesterday in the early evening. Here's the gist of it.
Hey Rob! It was about 7:15 pm Wednesday night behind India Joze on the levee, 15 or so drummers or so and a crowd of at least 25 people were accosted by an SCPD squad car. It stopped about 50 feet from the drummers and crowd and shined its spotlight on the crowd. Police then advanced on foot towards the crowd. I had already loaded drums on my bicycle, and was ready to roll away down towards Broadway bridge along the levee path. Some minutes later, I saw an "unmarked car with its lightbar going" parked in a slanted position, blocking the driveay of the India Joze parking lot. It looked like more than two cars were confronting the car. Not wishing to be harassed and ticketed, I left. Peace... Dave
If anyone has more details, please post them. The Drum Circle has been relentlessly harassed by downtown merchants and police in the last six months. When I last visited the Wednesday Farmer's Market Manthri Srinath's Lulu Carpenter's coffee stand was sitting on the ground previously used by the community and the drum circle for their weekly festival and feeding. The gentrification and exclusion of poor people and community activity has nothing to do with traditional Farmer's Market activity and sales.

Previous stories:
"City runs off Drum Circle again, cuts down trees and cements AREA CLOSED signs along levee" []
"Street Performers Guild Meeting" []
"Sing a Song? Go to Jail" []

2010-12-06 "Homeless Services Center Colludes With Police and City Attorney" by HUFF ( rnorse3 [at] )
Homeless Services Center Colludes With Police and City Attorney in Papering Over Shelter Shortage, Punishing Protesters: Why Not Admit That The Homeless Shelter Was Full This Summer ? Why Withhold Information from the Public & the Poor ?
Homeless Services Center Monica Martinez has stonewalled on this issue for months. The flier is self-explanatory. At a public meeting Sunday night, she again tried to put a happy face on the Homeless Crisis, aggravated by the criminalization of poverty in Santa Cruz through such laws as the Sleeping Ban, the Sitting Ban, the Panhandling Ban, the Singing Ban, and the Smoking Ban.

Sacramento metropolis
2010-12-08 "DA Files Hate Crime Charges in West Sacramento Cab Beating" by David Greenwald from "People's Vanguard" news site
Two men accused in the beating of Sacramento cab driver Harbhajan Singh in the early morning hours of November 28, 2010 were arraigned on Tuesday afternoon, charged with hate crimes, according to a release from the Yolo County DA's Office. Pedro Ramirez, 41, and Johnny Morales, 33 have been charged with felony assault and hate crimes, according to the release. In a statement released by Mr. Singh through his spokesperson Amar Shergill at the Shergill Law Firm in Sacramento, they say that the Felony Assault charge also includes a Great Bodily Injury enhancement, and there was an additional charge of criminal threats. "Mr. Singh is grateful that the Yolo County District Attorney's Office and the West Sacramento Police Department have moved quickly to address this brutal attack," said Mr. Shergill in a Monday statement. "They have sent a clear message that attacks fueled by racial, ethnic or religious hatred will not be tolerated in our community." Early on Sunday morning, November 28th, Sacramento cab driver Harbhajan Singh was attacked by two of his passengers in a neighborhood in West Sacramento. According to eye witness reports, during the beating the two men repeatedly threatened to kill him, while calling Mr. Singh "Osama bin Laden." This assault left Mr. Singh with multiple facial lacerations requiring stitches, bone chips in his nose, eye injuries and bruising along his rib cage. Mr. Singh, a Sikh-American, believes that had he not gotten away, his attackers would have killed him.
Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, who represents much of Yolo County including West Sacramento, has long been an advocate of enforcing hate crime laws. “Brutalizing any innocent individual is wrong, but to do so because of someone’s actual or perceived racial, ethnic, sexual, or religious membership is particularly heinous,” said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada. “These difficult times require that all community members remain vigilant and report any suspected bias-motivated crime to area law enforcement.” Last week, she commended the quick work of authorities on this matter. “I commend the partnership among local and federal authorities and community members in the quick apprehension of the suspects in this tragic hate crime,” said Assemblymember Yamada. “As we seek justice for Mr. Singh, let us turn the anger and hatred he experienced into an opportunity for community education and dialogue.”
The incident has also captured the attention of the Sikh and Muslim communities concerned about the rising level of hatred and violence against their communities. “The swift action of law enforcement to label this a hate crime and use their resources to find and charge these individuals sends a clear message that hate will not be tolerated in our communities,” said CAIR – SV (Council on American-Islamic Relations - Sacramento Valley) Executive Director Basim Elkarra.
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2010-12-02 "DA Appears to Remove Hispanics From Galvan Jury" by David Greenwald from "People's Vanguard" news site
Opening statements began on Wednesday in the third iteration of the trial of Ernesto and Fermin Galvan, charged with resisting arrest and battery stemming from a West Sacramento incident in 2005. Both earlier trials - one in October 2007 and the other in February of 2010 - ended in hung juries. Jury selection on this case began on Monday, but on Tuesday things got interesting as both sides, after reviewing the lengthy questionnaire, began the process voir dire. Some controversy arose when Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequiera, representing Fermin Galvan, objected to several of Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Palumbo's "peremptory" challenges. In a criminal trial both the defense and prosecution get 20 “peremptory” challenges, in which they may excuse a potential juror without giving a specific reason. However, Ms. Sequeira objected that 10 of the prosecution's challenges were against minorities, mostly Hispanics. Basically, she argued that DDA Palumbo systematically dismissed many of the potential Hispanic jurors.
Ms. Sequeira filed a Batson-Wheeler motion. According to two federal cases, a Batson-Wheeler error occurs when peremptory challenges to remove prospective jurors are based solely on group bias, with the presumption that jurors are biased merely due to the fact that they are members of an identifiable group distinguished by race, religion, ethnicity, or other similar grounds.
According to a Supreme Court decision in which the motion was filed by the defense, "the defendant must make out a prima facie case by showing that the totality of the relevant facts give rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose."
Moreover, "once the defendant has made out a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the State to explain adequately the racial exclusion by offering permissible race-neutral justifications for the strikes." However, the trial court gets to make the determination as to whether the defendant has established such a case. In this case, Ms. Sequeira argued that any apparent biases these people exhibited were no worse than those of several prospective jurors who were white.
This motion was discussed only outside the presence of the prospective, and eventual, jurors. Judge Fall has denied each instance of this motion, finding no sufficient evidence of discrimination, but the grounds for the defense’s objections are recorded, preserving the issue for appeal.
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Central Valley [Fresno, Modesto]
"Human Rights Day in Fresno"
December 09, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM, at Fresno City Hall (Mariposa and P street)
Contact: Al Williams, alphonsowill62 [at], (559) 647-7165
Human Rights Day - The homeless and their allies will gather at Fresno City Hall.
They will call on the city to provide basic public services for the homeless - drinking water, portable toilets, and trash bins. They will demand these services for as long as we wait for city officials to fulfill their promise to end homelessness (as stated in the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness). There will be a rally at 6 p.m.
The larger the rally the more pressure their will be on City Hall to change their policy and begin to treat the homeless with dignity and respect. Some homeless people and their supporters plan to spend the night on the City Hall lawn and you are welcome to join them. If possible, bring a sleeping bag, or blanket to donate to the less fortunate. The group will also be collecting canned food, and hygiene supplies for the Homeless.
There will be a press conference on Friday, December 10 at 10 a.m. which you are also invited to attend.

2010-12-06 "Masked Protesters Disrupt Police Accreditation Meeting"
On December 6th, a group of about 15 protesters marched into the Modesto Police station during a public meeting chanting, "Cops, Pigs, Murderers!" The group was dressed mostly in black and wore masks bearing the likeness of two people killed by Modesto Police and Stanislaus County Sheriff's in September of 2010, Francisco Moran and Rita Elias. The meeting was held to discuss if the Modesto Police Department will again receive accreditation from CALEA (a national organization founded by cops and for cops), which the department won three years ago. The meeting (which started at 6pm) had a very low attendance, with many of the audience being police both in-and-out of uniform and representatives from other city government departments. Gaining accreditation means that police departments supposedly meet 'standards of excellence' in their cities, compared to other police departments. In Modesto, this is laughable, being that the department has killed numerous people in 2010 alone, and is currently being investigated for corruption and police brutality. An out-going police sergeant recently sent out an email detailing the department's method of "beat and release," stating that police would beat people only to leave them at the local hospital. A subsequent email was published by some anonymous police officers in Modesto, backing the email, and stating that numerous complaints from within the department itself have protested abuses to the chief and others — all to no avail. It goes on to mention several officers by name for abuse and murder — one of them an officer involved in the shooting of Francisco Moran, who was armed with only a wooden spoon when he was shot down.
Holding banners reading "Fire to the Prisons! Revolt on the Inside, Revolt on the Outside!," "From LA to Oakland to Modesto, Resist Police Terror, 209 Rise Up!," and "RIP Francisco Moran, RIP Rita Elias," the protesters first rallied outside, then marched into the police department to disrupt the meeting. They heckled and shouted down the first couple of speakers, including head Sheriff, the hated Adam Christianson. At one point, Chief Mike Harden got up in front of the accreditation meeting and declared that he would have anyone shouting "arrested." Several people got up and addressed the crowd from the group, stating the idiocy of even considering issuing accreditation to the Modesto Police while they are being investigated for corruption and brutality. The meeting was quickly over, only lasting about 1 hour, and the group then marched out. We also found the comments of the head of the NAACP to be equally pathetic. He claimed that the problem with the police was one of 'bad apples,' and that the NAACP would continue to support MPD as long as it continued to dialog with them. Clearly, the NAACP needs the police just as much as the police need it. Both groups work with each other, in order to appear that one is hard on the other - when both groups have no interest in any real change. The NAACP continues to offer false opposition and criticism that gets us no where. Their comments tonight only further address this reality. Protesters gathered at the accreditation meeting not because they believed that the committee would "bring justice," or "hold the police accountable," but because we wanted to disrupt the meeting and expose it as the farce that it was. We achieved this tonight. Our action is complemented by the following. According to, earlier in the day, a banner was dropped on the freeway in Modesto stating "Modesto to Greece, COPS KILL, Revolution not Investigation!" This brought attention to the ongoing revolt in Greece, kicked off in 2008 in part due to the police murder of a young man in December, and connected it to ongoing struggles against police violence in the local area. The post online read: "On Monday, 06 December 2010, a banner was dropped in Modesto over a busy freeway during the morning commute hour. The banner read: \\\"From Modesto to Greece, Cops Kill. Revolution, Not Investigation!\\\" This was done in solidarity not only with comrades in Greece, as December 6th is the two-year anniversary of the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos in the Exarcheia district of Athens, but especially with those resisting police violence and murders locally. The investigation of the Modesto Police Department will not change anything. It is in resisting the police on our streets here, in Greece, and everywhere that we will find freedom."

Norcal [Mendocino, Humboldt, Yurok and Hoopa, etc.]
2010-12-06 "Militia searches for missing Northern Calif teen" from "The Associated Press" newswire

REDDING, Calif.—A Northern California militia group is combing caves, mines and cemeteries in search of a 15-year-old girl who has been missing for a month. The Northern California State Militia over the weekend took to the snowy reaches of Shasta County north of Redding in search of Jean Marie Berlinghoff, who disappeared Nov. 10. Authorities believe she is with her uncle, 44-year-old Charles Berlinghoff, who was once convicted of misdemeanor child molestation. He is wanted on a $100,000 warrant charging him with keeping his niece from her parents. Acquaintances say the elder Berlinghoff has a fascination with the types of places the militia has been searching. The militia describes itself on its Web site as a group of "citizen soldiers" trained in backcountry skills such as wilderness search and rescue. ——— Information from: Record Searchlight,

2010-12-06 "MLPA Attempts to Ban Traditional Tribal Gathering along North Coast" by Dan Bacher from "Indy Bay" newswire
A panel appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to implement his controversial Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative will consider amending a motion that will, in effect, ban traditional harvesting by Indian Tribes until the legal authority to regulate the Tribal uses is clarified by the State of California and California Tribes. This amendment will be discussed at Schwarzenegger’s Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) meeting this Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 10 am via teleconference. BTRF members will be distributed between locations in Crescent City, Eureka, and Fort Bragg, in a thinly-veiled attempt to prevent a unified protest by tribes, fishermen and environmental activists.
“The MLPA is trying to ban any and all gathering along our coastline, including NO TRADITIONAL gathering whatsoever, in marine protected areas,” said Georgiana Myers, organizer of the Klamath Justice Coalition and Yurok Tribal member. “I urge people to speak out against this insane idea of taking away what is not theirs to take!” Yurok Tribal representatives and other North Coast Tribes expressed strong opposition to the original motion four, the “Enhanced Compliance Alternative,” by Gregory F. Schem, at the October 25-26, Blue Ribbon Task Force, (BRTF) meeting in Fortuna. They did so on the specific grounds that once the BRTF started changing the unified proposal, “it would be an invitation to make further changes,” according to a draft letter to BRTF Chair Cindy Gustafson by Thomas O’Rourke, chairman of the Yurok Tribal Council. The unified proposal, developed by Tribal, fishing and environmental stakeholders in a long and grueling process, included the recognition of traditional Tribal subsistence and ceremonial uses in a process that has been characterized by conflicts of interests, institutional racism, and the violation of numerous state, federal and international laws. This recognition was only made possible under the pressure of non-violent direct action in Fort Bragg on July 21, when over 300 people including members of 50 Indian Nations, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, environmentalists, and immigrant seafood workers peacefully took over the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting to protest the MLPA’s violation of Tribal rights.
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“Our worst fears have already been realized,” said O’Rourke. “The proposed additional motion for BRTF consideration is: ’only include proposed allowed uses with a moderate-high or high level of protection for any MPA…all proposed uses with a moderate moderate-low or low level of protection would not be included.’” “Almost all of the Native American traditional subsistence gathering species have been characterized as moderate or less in the level of protection,” said O’Rourke. “The net result of the motion and clarification would be the IMMEDIATE TERMINATION of Native American marine harvesting rights. The Yurok Tribe notes that you cannot fairly characterize yourself as being a supporter of Tribal Rights when your first action is to immediately terminate those Native American rights.”
[ ... ]
The Yurok Tribe requests the following substitute motion be adopted: “The BRTF intends that Native American and recreational uses be continued in all North Coast Region MLPA designations until such time as the California legislature allows for separate Native American subsistence marine gathering.” The MLPA’s panel’s attempt to terminate Tribal gathering rights is a clear violation of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Article 32, Section 2, of the Declaration mandates “free prior and informed consent” in consultation with the indigenous population affected by a state action ( The amendment also violates Article 26, Section 3, that declares, “States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.”
The Yurok, Tolowa, Kashia Pomo, Cahto and other North Coast Tribes have harvested seaweed, mussels, abalone and other marine life in a sustainable manner for thousands of years in the inter-tidal zones of the North Coast. There is no evidence whatsover that this traditional activity has “depleted” any species to warrant closures. Recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters and grassroots environmentalists are all appalled by the MLPA’s attempt to renege on the unified proposal and the protection of tribal rights. Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said, “Schem’s amendment is outrageous. I have no idea what he is thinking. This amendment circumvents the local process.” Schem, the sponsor of the controversial motion that would in effect ban tribal gathering, is no stranger to charges of conflicts of interest under the MLPA Initiative. During a Fish and Game Commission meeting earlier this year, Bob Fletcher, former Deputy Director of the DFG, claimed there was evidence that two members of the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force, Bill Anderson and Greg Schem, agreed “to sign off on everything else” in return for not putting a reserve in an area where both had marinas and business interests, according to Jim Matthews of
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For more information about the Coastal Justice Coalition and Klamath Justice Coalition, contact:
Georgiana Myers, Coastal Justice Coalition: (707) 951-5548, sregonlady [at]
Frankie Myers, Klamath Justice Coalition: (707) 951-5052

Socal [Los Angeles, San Diego, Shoshone, etc.]
2010-12-01 "3,600 LAUSD workers 'bumped' to new jobs" By Melissa Pamer from "Contra Costa Times" newspaper
A day after more than 1,000 Los Angeles Unified office clerks, grounds workers and classroom aides lost their jobs, several thousand more reported to new work sites Wednesday in a mid-semester version of "musical chairs," as one school district official called the upheaval.
More than 3,600 nonteaching staff members were "bumped" from one position to another - and in some cases assigned to campuses on the far side of a sprawling school district - in the latest round of budget-induced personnel moves.
On Tuesday afternoon, district workers protested outside a Board of Education meeting, calling for the LAUSD to save jobs using a portion of $103 million distributed to the school district from the federal jobs bill. "The money is earmarked to preserve and create jobs," said Susan Gosman, president of Los Angeles Chapter 500 of the California School Employees Association, or CSEA. "In the meantime, we have people who are hitting the streets." In a letter to employees Wednesday, Superintendent Ramon Cortines said the federal money was needed to save more than 2,000 positions in 2011-12, which he called "an even more difficult year." Using one-time funding now would be "grossly irresponsible," he wrote. "We are attempting to bring stability during these turbulent times. If we don't use these dollars in 2011-2012 to preserve jobs, then our challenge becomes worse, rather than better," Cortines wrote.
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This week's layoffs occurred mid-semester in part because negotiations with classified unions continued from summer into the school year, district officials said. And the district's three separate systems for seniority records required bumping calculations to be done by hand, said interim Personnel Director Ann Young-Havens. "These 1,000 have been here five months longer than they would have been, so it can be looked at as half-full and half-empty, I guess," Young-Havens said of the layoffs.
For Anna Ciaramitaro, who was let go after five years as an attendance clerk at San Pedro High School, the promise of stable government employment has evaporated. Now she thinks LAUSD as a whole is "mind-boggling." "The schools cannot run without the clerks," Ciaramitaro said. "They're the backbone of the schools." In addition to the 1,023 who lost jobs, about 1,600 were demoted or had their hours or pay cut. Another 2,040 were assigned to new positions, but kept their previous wages.
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2010-12-04 "When layoffs come to L.A. schools, performance doesn't count" by Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith from "Los Angeles Times" newspaper [,0,4822071.story]
After the budget ax fell, hundreds of the district's most promising new instructors were laid off. Campuses in poorer areas — such as Liechty Middle School in the Westlake neighborhood — were disproportionately hurt
John H. Liechty Middle School opened in 2007 in Los Angeles' impoverished Westlake neighborhood with a seasoned principal, dozens of energetic young teachers and a mission to "reinvent education" in the nation's second-largest school district. The students had come from some of the lowest-performing schools in the city. But by the end of the first year, their scores on standardized tests showed the most improvement in English among district middle schools and exceptional growth in math, according to a Times analysis. "It was a dream job," said Monique Gascon, who taught English and history at Liechty during its first two years. "We had a lot of autonomy as teachers, we had a lot of support from administration and the kids were really learning. We could see the progress."
But when budget cuts came in the summer of 2009 — at the end of the school's second year — more than half of the teachers were laid off. Among those dismissed were Gascon and 16 others who ranked in the top fifth of district middle school instructors in boosting test scores, The Times' analysis found. Many were replaced by a parade of less effective teachers, including many short-term substitutes. By the end of the last school year, Liechty had plummeted from first to 61st — near the bottom among middle schools — in raising English scores and fallen out of the top 10 in boosting math scores.
"Everything we worked those two years to instill is gone," said Amanda Uy, a math and science teacher who was laid off and now teaches part time at a private school. "It's really tragic."
Quality-blind layoffs are just one vestige of seniority rules introduced decades ago to promote fairness and protect teachers from capricious administrators. Enshrined in state law and detailed in teachers' union contracts, the prerogatives of seniority continue to guide many of the key personnel decisions made in public schools across the country, including pay and assignments. The effects are most keenly felt by students during layoffs.
[ ... ]
The issue has gained momentum as tens of thousands of teachers nationally have been dismissed without regard to their abilities and research has established that veteran instructors on average are no better or worse than their less experienced colleagues.
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California Republic
2010-12-03 "California's education outlook: huge classes, restive students, overworked teachers" by Sharon Noguchi from "San Jose Mercury" newspaper []
After the Legislature opens a special session Monday to discuss how to close a $6 billion hole in the current state budget, schools are likely to endure another big mid-year blow. And then comes the really bad news: the need to reconcile a projected $19.5 billion shortfall for 2011-12, partly by cutting education. Here's the likely result: "Schools will become more and more like prisons and less and less like schools," said David Plank, a professor of education at Stanford University. "You'll have huge classes, restive young people and overworked teachers." Sound drastic? So is the budget crisis. Soon after he is sworn in next month, Governor-elect Jerry Brown will have to present a budget for 2011-12, a year that likely will be worse than any that California schools have endured in modern history. The deficit is so huge that educators and officials either can't think about it or can't believe it. That denial stems partly from successive years of cutbacks, when schools made do and Sacramento staved off disaster with accounting tricks, a bond, temporary tax increases and Uncle Sam's stimulus funds.
Now, even as state tax revenues continue to plunge, those options are exhausted. Part of the problem, educators say, stems from Californians' mantra about education that sounds like a Target-slogan: expect more, pay less. California already spends nearly the least per-student in the nation on K-12 education,
and has among the largest class sizes, and per-student the fewest counselors, librarians and administrators. How much worse could it get? Among possibilities that school officials are raising: A school year, already trimmed by five days in some districts, shortened by another week. Layoffs of counselors, librarians, athletic directors, coaches -- and an end to after-school athletics. Dozens of districts declaring insolvency. The system of state schools going into federal receivership. Besides the $6 billion hole in this year's state budget and a 2011-12 state shortfall pegged at $19.5 billion by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office, schools are staring at even more: $1.7 billion the state deferred from this fiscal year to next. The end of about $2.2 billion in federal stimulus funds. A $2 billion drop in what the state guarantees education through the voter-approved Proposition 98. Edgar Cabral, a policy analyst for the LAO, calls the outlook "dire." Some districts, he said, may go insolvent. The immediate reason for the fiscal distress is that tax revenues are down, while costs -- built-in salary increases for teachers, hikes in health insurance and utility costs -- keep rising. In addition, California has a "structural deficit" -- its services cost more than its taxes bring in. And the Legislature's putting off tough decisions, for example, by deferring payments to school districts, add to schools' plight. If the Legislature doesn't come to agreement in this month's special session, it will hand off the hard decisions to Brown and a new Legislature convening in January. With the political difficulty of raising revenues, the state will likely face more budget cuts. And because K-12 education comprises about 40 percent of state spending, it will be nearly impossible to balance the budget without greatly increasing revenues -- a tough political challenge -- or inflicting deep cuts in education. Neither Brown nor many state and school officials want to speculate on how -- and how much -- schools will be cut. State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, one of the Legislature's education experts, said the coming year is "truly scary." For starters, he thinks the Legislature may simply write off the $1.7 billion it promised to pay schools next year for costs incurred this year. And, he said, it may further cut into the school year, as it did before, allowing districts to trim the 180-day school year by five more days, to 170 days. The Legislature passing off tough decisions, like whether to shorten the school year, angers local educators. "If they don't want to fund a 180-day school year, they should mandate that for everybody," said Stephen McMahon, president of the San Jose Teachers Association. It's unfair for less-wealthy districts like San Jose Unified to have to impose unpaid furloughs when wealthy districts keep the longer school year, he said. The state also may cut back on the per-student payments to districts, while extending them some budgetary flexibility of using state monies where needed rather than for specific programs like busing or gifted-and-talented education. The budget picture is so grainy that no one has specifics. But supposing a $4 billion cut -- which would be less than half of what education's proportional share of next year's projected shortfall would be -- districts would lose $644 per student. For San Jose Unified, that comes to a $20.6 million cut to a district that's already bumped up class sizes, eliminated librarians, music, art and other programs. The district's budget chief Ann Jones said, "There is no way education can bear that." To save enough simply by reducing the school year, the state would have to cut back to 150 days, said Ron Bennett, president of School Services of California, which advises school districts. "I think a federal judge would be on your doorstep if the state of California proposed doing that." Without additional revenues or other solutions, "We're looking at scorched-earth kind of policies," he said. But educators are ever the optimists. Whatever happens, "the sun will come up tomorrow and kids will come to school," Jones said. Jerry Kurr, budget chief for the East Side Union High School District, said school budget officers sometimes say, "We can balance any budget. Just give me a large tent and a couple of teachers." He notes that the state sets no maximum class size for high schools. But however California cuts education, the likely result, Plank of Stanford said, will be "less and less learning will go on."

2010-12-08 "Dropout rate for Calif. black students hits 37%" by Jill Tucker from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
More than a third of California's African American public high school students dropped out before graduation day, a startling number and one that's on the rise, according to 2009 data released Tuesday. The 37 percent African American dropout rate, up three percentage points from the prior year, was far above that of any other ethnic subgroup. Hispanic students had the second highest rate at 27 percent. Locally, San Francisco cautiously celebrated a 9 percent overall dropout rate, a stark contrast to Oakland's 40 percent, numbers still under review for accuracy. The statewide statistics highlight a pervasive achievement gap in test scores and graduation rates that persists despite focused efforts to boost the academic performance of black, Hispanic and low-income students, state education officials said. Overall, 22 percent of state students dropped out of high school, according to the new data, up from 19 percent the year before. The numbers are more than a year old. They were released several months later than usual because of problems ramping up a new system that can follow individual students' progress in California public schools, even if they move, said state schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell.
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2010-12-06 “10 Things Charter Schools Won't Tell You” by Sarah Morgan
1. We're no better than public schools
For all the hype about a few standout schools, charter schools in general aren’t producing better results than traditional public schools. A national study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford found that while 17% of charter schools produced better results than neighborhood public schools, 37% were significantly worse, and the rest were no different. (Not that public schools are perfect, as many parents know.
See our earlier story, “10 Things Your School District Won’t Tell You,” for more. []
A host of other studies on charter school outcomes have come up with sometimes contradictory results [].
As with traditional public schools, there are great charters – and some that aren’t so great. “There’s a lot of variation within charter schools,” points out Katrina Bulkley, an associate professor of education at Montclair State University who studies issues related to school governance. “In fairness to organizations that are running high-performing schools, many of them are very frustrated with the range of quality, because they feel that it taints charter schools as a whole,” Bulkley says.
2. Our teachers aren’t certified.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, charter-school teachers are, on average, younger and less likely to hold state certification than teachers in traditional public schools. In a 2000 survey, 92% of public school teachers held state certification, compared to 79% of charter school teachers.
A 2008 survey found that 32% of charter school teachers were under 30, compared to 17% of traditional public school teachers. Charter schools often recruit from organizations like Teach for America that provide non-traditional paths into the profession, and more-experienced teachers who already have jobs in traditional public schools may have little incentive to give up the protection of tenure.
Relying on relatively untrained, inexperienced staff may have a real impact in the classroom. “A lot of them don’t have classroom management skills,” says May Taliaferrow, a charter-school parent.
3. Plus, they keep quitting.
As many as one in four charter school teachers leave every year, according to a 2007 study by Gary Miron, a professor of education at Western Michigan University, and other researchers at the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
That’s about double the typical teacher turnover rate in traditional public schools. Charter schools typically pay teachers less than traditional public schools do, and require longer hours, Miron says. Meanwhile, charter school administrators earn more than their school-district counterparts, which can also make teachers feel underpaid, he says.
The odds of a teacher leaving the profession altogether are 130% higher at charter schools than traditional public schools, according to a 2010 study by the National Center on School Choice at Vanderbilt University. That study also found that much of this teacher attrition was related to dissatisfaction with working conditions.
Higher turnover is inevitable with a younger staff – and the ability to get rid of ineffective teachers, says Peter Murphy, a spokesman for the New York Charter Schools Association. “There needs to be more turnover in district schools,” Murphy says. “Instead, what you have is this rigid tenure system where teachers are not held accountable, and children suffer.”
4. Students with disabilities need not apply.
Six-year-old Makala was throwing regular tantrums in school, so her mother, Latrina Miley, took her for a psychiatric evaluation, eventually ending up with a district-mandated plan that stated the girl should be taught in a smaller class where half the students have special needs. The charter school’s response, Miley says, was to tell her she could either change her daughter’s educational plan, or change schools. She moved Makala to a nearby public school – where, she says, teachers have been more effective at managing her daughter’s behavior issues. The school says it can’t talk about specific cases.
Critics say charter schools commonly “counsel out” children with disabilities. While a few charter schools are specifically designed to serve students with special needs, the rest tend to have lower proportions of students with special needs than nearby public schools, according to a review of multiple studies conducted by the University of Colorado’s Education and the Public Interest Center. Charter schools also appear to end up with students whose disabilities are less expensive to manage than those of public school students.
A Boston study, conducted by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, found that 91% of students with disabilities in the city’s charter schools were able to be fully included in standard classrooms, compared to only 33% of students with disabilities in the traditional public schools.
5. Separation of church and state? We found a loophole.
Charter schools are public schools, supported by public tax dollars. But among the thousands of charters nationwide are schools run by Christian organizations as well as Hebrew and Arabic language academies that blur the line between church and state. “What would not be tolerated in a regular public school seems to be tolerated when it’s a charter school,” says Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University and the author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” Even if these schools aren’t explicitly teaching religion, “it’s potentially segregation by religious preference,” Bulkley says.
6. We don’t need to tell you where your tax dollars are going.
An investigation by Philadelphia’s City Controller earlier this year uncovered widespread financial mismanagement among the city’s charter schools, including undisclosed “related party” transactions where friends and family of school management were paid for various services, people listed as working full time at more than one school, individuals writing checks to themselves, and even a $30,000 bill from a beach resort charged to a school.
Financial scandals have come to light in schools around the country, but what’s more troubling, says advocate Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters in New York City, is that charter schools have opposed state audits of their finances.
The New York Charter School Association won a lawsuit against the state comptroller last year, with the court ruling that the legislature had violated the state constitution when it directed the comptroller to audit charter schools. Charter schools in the state are already overseen and audited by at least two other agencies, Murphy says. “We have never objected to being audited, being overseen, and being held accountable. In fact, this organization has come out in favor of closing low-performing charter schools,” he says.
7. We’ll do anything to recruit more kids…
Walking around New York City, it’s impossible to miss the ads on buses and subways for the Harlem Success academies, Haimson says. The school is legally required to reach out to at-risk students, and it has been opening new schools over the past couple of years. However, some schools elsewhere have gone beyond marketing. A charter school in Colorado gave out gift cards to families that recruited new students, and another school in Louisiana gave out cash.
8. …but we’ll push them out if they don’t perform.
The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools have been criticized for high rates of student attrition, in part because it’s the struggling students who are more likely to leave schools mid-year – so if more students leave charters, that churn could boost a school’s scores. A KIPP study released in June found students leaving at rates comparable to the rate at which students leave traditional public schools – but, according to Miron, that study ignored the fact that KIPP schools don’t then fill empty slots with other weak, transient students the way traditional public schools do. “Traditional public schools have to take everybody,” Miron explains. “Charter schools can determine the number they want to take and when they want to take them, and then they can close the door.” Miron found there was a 19% drop in enrollment in KIPP schools from grades 6 to 7, and a 24% drop from grades 7 to 8. Some charter schools lose 50% of a cohort each year, Miron says. And in some cases, students can be explicitly pushed out of a charter school for failing to meet the school’s academic or behavioral standards – an option that’s not available to a traditional public school.
9. Success can be bought.
Some of the most successful charter schools are also some of the wealthiest. Harlem Children’s Zone, for example, had over $193 million in net assets at the end of the 2008-2009 school year, according to its most recent IRS filing. The organization’s charter schools spend $12,443 per student in public money and an additional $3,482 that comes from private fundraising. That additional funding helps pay for 30% more time in class, according to Marty Lipp, spokesman for the organization. It’s great to see schools that have the resources to spend lavishly to help children succeed, Bulkley says, but it’s difficult to see how those schools can then be models for traditional public schools largely constrained by traditional public budgets. “All schools should get what they need,” Lipp says, but adds, “You give two people $10 and they spend it different ways, so it’s not simply about money.”
10. Even great teachers can only do so much.
Much of the public debate over charter schools focuses on teacher performance and the ability to fire ineffective teachers – something that’s more difficult at a traditional public school where teachers are typically union members. While it’s true that teachers represent the most important in-school factor affecting student performance, out-of-school factors matter more, Ravitch says. “The single biggest predictor of student performance is family income,” she says. “I certainly wish it were not so, but it is.” Children from higher-income families get a huge head start thanks to better nutrition, a larger vocabulary spoken at home and other factors, she says. The narrative that blames teachers for problems that are rooted in poverty “is demoralizing teachers by the thousands,” Ravitch says. “And you don’t improve education by demoralizing the people who have to do the work every day.”

2010-12-08 “San Jose Unified may restore furlough days, cut adult education” by Sharon Noguchi from “San Jose Mercury News” newspaper
Faced with choices ranging from tough to terrible, San Jose Unified School District officials are considering making drastic changes in 2011-12, including slashing adult education. To the hundreds of adults struggling to get by while trying to reach the starting line for job training, proposed cuts to their basic skills and English classes feel like the last dream-crusher.
"This will destroy families," said Darsha Riley, 34, a mother of four who's working to become a medical assistant. Irene Gonzalez, 34, who's endured ups and many downs since her husband died 2½ years ago, is barely getting by while she learns to become an administrative assistant. "We're practically homeless," she said about herself and her four children. "We really need this program."
District officials, trying to ensure that all students at least meet state academic standards, are considering creating a middle school academy, reinstituting summer school for failing students and adding back five days of instruction taken away through furloughs this year. All that, however, would require cutting adult education by two-thirds, or $3.5 million.
Those programs are offered through the Metropolitan Education District, a joint-powers agency of six school districts. If San Jose Unified's school board, which discusses the proposal tonight, adopts it next month, MetroED would close two of its three schools. Classes such as English as a second language, GED preparation and basic skills -- the precursor to working on a high school diploma -- could disappear.
"We are a K-12 district," San Jose Unified Superintendent Vincent Matthews said. He recommends that the district focus scarce resources on its own students, particularly struggling ones. That would mean paring down MetroED's student body from 7,300 to 2,000 students, including those who dropped out of high school or never went at all and are seeking to get basic education. The courses already have waiting lists of more than 50 students, said assistant principal Carolyn Richardson, who thinks of her school as "the school of second chances."
In addition to basic education classes, MetroED offers such courses as painting, quilting and bridge for senior citizens. All those "50-plus" classes would be eliminated under the proposal. San Jose Unified's proposal, coming on top of state cuts, has spawned the worst budget crisis in MetroED's 43-year history. "It's pretty extreme in a community that really needs these services" said MetroED Superintendent Paul Hay.
Teacher Susie Berger's two-dozen-plus students range from those who can't read to those nearing eighth-grade education level. All are adults, some of them immigrants illiterate even in their native language, some who veered off the education track as youngsters. But in class, they focus intently because, like Riley, they're goal-driven. All showed up at MetroED either to get on track to qualify for a job, find a better one or to be able to help their own children learn. Like other districts, San Jose Unified has siphoned away funds once mandated for specific purposes -- arts, music, busing -- to shore up general education.
Now, with other sources mostly tapped and the district facing possibly $16 million in midyear cuts this year, adult education is an inviting target. In addition to the savings from adult education, the district proposes tapping into $6 million in one-time federal money to meet its budget. "A lot of people are facing a lot of anxiety," said Marisa Merino, 46.
Many of the MetroED students survive on CalWORKs grants -- $561 per month for a single parent with one child -- while trying to get through school. "I'm showing up every day working as hard as I possibly can to achieve my goals," said Mira Gilliam, 33.
Before starting at MetroED, she said, "I was in the house alone all the time, depressed and didn't want to do anything." "We teach the most fragile of the population, the most in need of education," said Marti Rao, a curriculum specialist. Berger sees students progress from being too intimidated to speak to being able to talk for a couple of minutes in front of the class. "The twinkle in their eye when the light goes on, when they can tell a noun from a verb or they stand up and recite a composition they've read," she said. "It's very gratifying."

2010-12-03 "Chemistry regulation called a step backward?" Wyatt Buchanan from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
A coalition of environmental and health organizations has accused the Schwarzenegger administration of gutting a proposed regulation intended to ensure consumer products contain chemicals that are safe for human use and the environment.
The regulation would implement California's Green Chemistry Initiative, a program to identify harmful chemicals in products such as toys, makeup and household cleaners, and in product manufacturing. The state Department of Toxic Substances Control is overseeing the planning for the initiative, which would force manufacturers to replace harmful products with safer alternatives.
On Thursday, the coalition members said the agency abruptly revised a section of the proposed regulation to benefit the chemical industry. Coalition members said the changes, which include limiting the focus of the regulation to three specific types of products at the start of the effort, could reverse progress.
[ ... ]
Members of the coalition also are concerned that the regulation does not apply to multiple points in the supply chain, puts the burden of proof for toxicity on the regulators and not manufacturers, and exempts from scrutiny products that contain less than one-tenth of 1 percent of certain chemicals, such as lead and bisphenol A.
[ ... ]
The leader of a coalition of chemical industry companies that has been involved in the effort called any notion that the changes were a sweetheart deal for business "totally bizarre."

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