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Op-Ed: June 2013

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Op-Ed: June 2013

Stopping the Plan

By Rose Loire

We are suing to stop Plan Bay Area, the nine county land use and transportation plan which is a violation of your constitutional rights and a shocking overreach of the experiment in regional governance. 

Our nation is a constitutional republic with a framework of direct election that rises from local government through county, state, and up to the federal level.   This framework ensures that the peoples’ rights are protected and that our voices are heard.  Plan Bay Area is designed to empower a layer of regional government between state and county, and ultimately between state and federal which renders our voices irrelevant. These regional boards are not elected by the people; the board members are selected out of elected officials who support regional goals.

Regional boards like the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) are holding the purse strings for state and federal transportation and grant dollars.  MTC and ABAG have fabricated Plan Bay Area though they claim that it was crafted in response to the needs and desires of Bay Area residents.  Most people have never heard of Plan Bay Area.  Of the seven million residents of the Bay Area approximately three tenths of one percent have participated in the so-called planning sessions. These planning sessions were tailored to elicit responses that favor high density urban development (Smart Growth), the preferred scenario of Plan Bay Area.  Those voicing a dissenting opinion were virtually ignored, labeled as NIMBYs, or as political fringe.  As a liberal Democrat, registered since 1974, I recognize this kind of smear as a way of chilling our civil rights by attempting to intimidate those who reject Plan Bay Area’s blatant violation of property rights.

PLAN BAY AREA violates the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution by taking property rights without just compensation.  By the creation of Priority Development Areas this Plan restricts 80% of residential development and 66% of commercial development to just a few small areas of your city--until the year 2040.  If your property is outside of the PDA (96% of property is outside) you will likely not be able to build or expand your building--and you won't be paid for this loss.

PLAN BAY AREA violates the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution--the Equal Protection Clause.  Owners of properties in the Priority Development Areas will receive development permits at a rate of approximately 80 times more than owners of property outside of the Priority Development Areas.

PLAN BAY AREA violates voter-approved Urban Growth Boundary ordinances.  Because the Priority Development Areas are within the UGBs but are much smaller restricted areas they are in violation of ordinances that clearly state that development must be encouraged out to the limits of city services: Urban Growth Boundaries. These ordinances are found throughout the Bay Area and cannot be changed without voter approval.

PLAN BAY AREA permanently strips all development rights from rural properties in the nine county Bay Area.  Plan Bay Area is effectively taking conservation easements on all rural lands without paying for them. 

PLAN BAY AREA restricts development rights of property within the Priority Development Areas, too.  Construction will be limited to mixed-use high density Smart Growth development.  Existing buildings are likely to be out of compliance with your city's General Plan (legal non-conforming) and permits to make additions or changes will likely not be granted.

This Plan is dependent on tax subsidies and handouts and will devastate the Bay Area for more than a generation.  Property rights are a foundation of our freedom and are non-partisan.  Join us now in stopping Plan Bay Area.

Rosa Koire, Executive Director

Rosa Koire, author of BEHIND THE GREEN MASK: U.N. Agenda 21, and executive director of the Post Sustainability Institute, is a forensic commercial real estate appraiser specializing in eminent domain valuation.  A retired District Branch Chief for the California Department of Transportation, her thirty year career in litigation support and land valuation culminated in researching and exposing the planning revolution impacting land use: UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development.

The public comment period for Plan Bay Area closed on May 16, 2013.  MTC and ABAG are expected to adopt the Plan on July 18, 2013.  Legal action is now the only way to stop Plan Bay Area.  Please donate to the legal fund at our websites.

TO DONATE, AND FOR A COPY OF OUR LEGAL OBJECTIONS, A MAP OF THE PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT AREAS, AND LINKS TO THE PLAN PLEASE GO TO:

www.PostSustainabilityInstitute.org

www.DemocratsAgainstUNAgenda21.com

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"Protect Sonoma" is doing just the opposite

A group called “Protect Sonoma” was recently formed to block the citizen’s Initiative to limit the growth of large hotels in Sonoma.  It was soon revealed to be funded by investors/lobbyists that hope to build such a hotel.

Its website originally listed 16 reasons (alleged “facts”) it opposed the Initiative.  Apparently, after sober reflection it re-wrote/deleted the most blatantly untrue, leaving only the misleading.  Among “facts” deleted were the following:

“A ballot initiative is not the best way to set policy for our City; these decisions should be left up to our City Council and other elected or appointed officials in the City.”

“The Anti-Hotel Initiative is a local job and business killer – directly suppressing tourism and hurting family-owned businesses throughout the Sonoma Valley.”

“The initiative will eliminate future revenue each year to our City, funds that would help pay for essential public services and fund additional community groups.”

“The initiative would eliminate future good-paying jobs.”

“Do not place a strangle hold on future jobs and revenue for our City.”

Based on these deletions, it appears that even its opponents now concede that the Initiative:

- Is a legitimate way to set important public policy for our City,

- Won’t be a local job and business killer,

- Won’t suppress tourism or hurt family-owned businesses,

- Won’t eliminate future revenue that would help pay for essential public services and fund additional community groups,

- Won’t eliminate future good-paying jobs or place a strangle hold on future jobs and revenue for our City, and

- Won’t impact whether TOT revenue stays in Sonoma to pay for services.

But remaining claims on its website are still worth examining, so residents can judge those “facts” for themselves:

1. “Hotel proposals in the City of Sonoma should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the General Plan, not based on the formula outlined in The Hotel Limitation Initiative.”

Initiative backers agree a process is needed to guide hotel development.  The Initiative merely amends the General Plan to restrict new large hotels (more than 25 rooms) until there is a demonstrated need for them, i.e., until the City’s annual hotel occupancy rate reaches 80%.  Once that happens, any new large hotel applications would follow the same process as now, with Council as the final arbiter of all hotel applications.

Meanwhile, new hotel of 25 rooms or less could still be built, even if the occupancy rate is under 80%.  And those hotels would still be “evaluated on a case by case basis.”  It’s all clearly explained at www.preservingsonoma.com.

2. “The Hotel Limitation Initiative contains a clause that doesn’t allow for more hotel rooms unless the hotel occupancy rate exceeds an 80% average in the prior calendar year – no hotel in the City has ever reached this average and this threshold is unrealistic!

Not true.  The Initiative allows small hotels of 25 rooms or less to be built even if annualized hotel                        occupancy never hits 80%.  80% is an intentionally high threshold, to control growth of large hotels,              but is not unrealistic.  Other towns achieve that level, as a Google search reveals. 

Last year local hotels begged Council to establish a Tourism Improvement District (TID), diverting an additional 2% of potential City TOT revenue (equivalent to  $450,000) to help them fill their empty rooms and achieve that level.  With TID help, achieving 80% occupancy should be even more realistic.

That additional 2% of TOT - on top of the existing 10% TOT rate - represented a 20% increase to use solely to increase hotel room occupancy.  For the TID to return that $450,000 in TOT to the City coffers, (as hotels indicated it would do) hotel occupancy (at current room rates) would have to increase by 20% over its current 65% level.  I. E., occupancy would have to hit 78%.  

So: If 78% occupancy was realistic when hotels were asking for City help, is only 2% more - 80% - “unrealistic?”  Voters can answer that one.

3. “Police and fire services, which accounts for 70% of the City’s entire budget, depends on tax revenues from hotels and tourism. TOT (transient occupancy tax, or hotel room tax) revenues provide 40% of these funds to both departments combined, and limiting new hotels in the City would reduce TOT revenues, threatening future service levels.”

In a May 10 article in the Index Tribune, Nancy Simpson, paid spokesperson for “Protect Sonoma,” admitted: “the initiative will not stop tourists from coming to Sonoma because they’ve been coming for more than 100 years.” (italics added)

If it won’t stop tourists from coming, the Initiative could not possibly reduce/limit any of the revenue that flows from tourism, no matter what services it pays for.  To suggest otherwise is irresponsible.

Of course, only occupied rooms generate TOT.  With vacancies running 35% there are plenty of rooms to generate more TOT without adding any hotel rooms at all.  In fact, adding more will add to the vacancy problem our existing hotels have.

Finally, police and fire services depend on taxes from ALL sources, most of it from the high property and sales taxes paid by the people who live here all year – not just tourists who go back where they came from.

4. “Sonoma has done a good job of planning for hotel growth in the City – in fact, the last hotel that was proposed within City limits dates back to 2002, more than a decade ago; we don’t need to make significant changes to existing policies.”

Developers, not the City, “plan” for hotel growth.  The existing process leaves Sonoma wide open to exploitation by large hotel developments that threaten to turn our town into another Napa or Rohnert Park. Initiative supporters think that needs to change.  The Initiative allows voters, not developers, to decide if change is needed.

5. “Only 6% of City land is designated for uses that generate jobs.”

The point of this claim is not clear.  But “uses” don’t generate jobs, customers do.  As creation of the TID proves, it is undisputed that there aren’t even enough customers to fill existing hotels.

Presumably, “6%” refers to the City area zoned for commercial hotel use.  As to “land designated for uses that generate jobs,” how about residential areas that house ordinary people, the taxpayers who most local businesses depend on for customers and employees, and without whom there is no City and no business at all?

6. “In most cases, the land use proposals fall under the environmental impact report (EIR) study requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This thorough environmental study is conducted before an appointed or elected body can even consider voting for or denying a project.” 

True.  And the Initiative won't change state law.

7. “The TOT (transient occupancy tax, or hotel room tax) is the largest source of public revenue flowing to the City’s General Fund and 100% of TOT revenue stays in Sonoma to pay for our roads, parks and public safety services.”

According to the City Manager, TOT generates only 21% of City revenue. Nonetheless, the Initiative would not reduce the amount or percentage of TOT flowing to the City from occupied rooms (in new or existing hotels), nor would it change the amount that stays in the City to pay for City services. 

Speaking of revenue, there is as yet no reliable evidence that, over and above what normally occurs with general economic improvement, the TID has generated anywhere near the annual $450,000 in diverted TOT it costs the City treasury.

8. “TOT revenue benefits many local non-profits including Vintage House, the Boys & Girls Club, Ecology Center and Community Center.”

If City Council votes to give money to non-profits, all tax sources fund that largess.  The Initiative doesn’t change that. 

However, no non-profit in the history of Sonoma has ever been given the annual equivalent of $450,000 in diverted tax money that hotels now receive via the TID to help them fill empty rooms.  This comes at a time when Council has had to reduce grants to non-profits.

9. “Sonoma does not have a hotel problem and nothing is broken!”

A 35% vacancy rate prompted Sonoma hoteliers to ask the City to create a TID in 2012 to help fill their empty rooms, at an annual cost to the City of $450,000 in potential TOT that could have instead gone into the City treasury to fund services for residents. 

That seems to qualify as “a hotel problem.” Uncontrolled large hotel growth without the demand to fill them would worsen that problem.

It is unsurprising that a hotel developer-funded group thinks nothing is “broken” about a process that leaves our City wide open to exploitation by large hotel developments that could easily turn our town into another Napa or Rohnert Park.  The Initiative lets residents decide if they want that to happen to Sonoma.

The puzzling premise of “Protect Sonoma” seems to be that the answer to filling Sonoma’s empty hotel rooms is to add more big hotels.  Apparently, its business model is “Build It and They Will Come.” 

But Sonoma already has a Field of Dreams.  While it, too, sits empty most of the time, at least it adds to the Quality of Life for Sonoma residents.  It is green, peaceful, open and scenic.  It provides recreation for all City youth, not a few rich tourists.  It generates no traffic, congestion, pollution, noise or trash, and diverts no public taxes to keep it that way.  A dream, not a nightmare.

Bob Edwards, Sonoma

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Guns, guns, guns.

How much time, energy, emotion, angst and money is going into this ongoing conversation about gun control? Has anyone, in their never ending zeal to gain points for their side, ever done any research on just how many of the ongoing terrible gun events would actually have been any different if we had even the strictest gun control program on the table today?

For example, would Sandy Hook have maybe not happened had these gun control measures been in effect? Would the legally-purchased guns that the perpetrator “borrowed” from his mother not have been available to him?

Yesterday I read about a tragic suicide of a young girl right here in Sonoma County. Did she go out and somehow acquire a contraband .22 pistol, or was it perhaps an entirely legal one she “borrowed” from someone? Would more gun rules have stopped this terribly sad event?

These kinds of events are in our newspapers almost daily. How many of them would have had different outcomes had all these new gun rules been in effect?

Has anyone done the research? How about it? To somebody out there who has the resources to do so, follow up on all of the horrific gun events that have made the news in the last year and see just how many would have not happened had there been all of these proposed new gun rules. The results might just be the most important decision-making tool this debate has seen yet.

In addition to all of the above kinds of cases, criminals who use guns in the commission of their crimes generally don't buy them at gun shops, so all the new rules in the world will not apply to those in our society who should absolutely not have them. Unregistered guns are available to anyone who wants one, especially to those who know where to look.

I am definitely not trying to make a case for easing gun rules. Our world would be a better place had guns never been invented. But it's time for some reason and logic to enter the discussion, and to date, I've seen only emotion driven by one tragic event after another.

I believe the bottom line is that our leaders don't have a clue as to how to control this situation, so they are just trying to appease us by carrying on this endless and fruitless discussion that promises us a fix, some day. I don't believe that the NRA is advocating criminal behavior any more than the serious anti-gun side is trying to take guns away from hunters and others who have a valid and peaceful reason to own them. But it's just natural that when the debate keeps getting juiced up with more and more tragic events, enhanced journalism and distorted stories from both sides, that all rationality evaporates and each side begins to approach extremes.

I fully agree that something needs to change.  But making more rules just doesn't seem to be the way.

“Think out of the box” comes to mind.

Thank you for what you do!

Skip Thomsen

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Ho$pitals from Hell

Dear Vesta.

Having been raised in Europe where we have single payer health care, it completely blows my mind that Americans have been robbed of this service by corporate greed.

So now one has now to buy insurance from robber corporations that own doctors and hospitals. Hospitals are not altruistic establishments. In many cases they harbor killer bacteria, and if bungling does not get you the bacteria will. As Dr. Lister said, it is all a matter of cleanliness. Hospitals are run to literally squeeze every dime out of you that they can. Ask yourself if the little paper cup in which your pills are given to you is really worth, $1.98

Recently my relative went to a hospital with a sore throat. There was no ear nose & throat doctor on call, so instead of having a doctor look into her throat, they put her in a cat scan for several thousand dollars, and then decided to send her to another nearby hospital where the ear nose and throat doctor could see her. Though the other hospital was only 25 minutes away an ambulance was called for her to transport her for close to $1000 she and I said no, I will drive her there in my car. They almost kidnapped her and drove away in the ambulance with me following.

In the other hospital the doctor looked in her mouth, gave her an anesthetic and lanced an abscess in her throat. No doubt it had to be done. She came home the next morning with a request that she return the next day and see the doctor.

On the next day the doctor was in her private surgery and wanted $250, for the visit, naturally we did not go. The bill we received from the two hospitals was close to $30,000. We were totally shocked. That summer since we have family in Europe we returned and my relative went to her own doctor. He told her that it was a botched job because her tonsils should have been removed. Since this was not done another life threatening abscess was almost certain to come, and the removal of tonsils would have prevented it. He removed her tonsils and it cost nothing. SINGLE PAYER.  It would have been cheaper to fly to Europe to have the work done than to go to a local American Hospital.  When are we going to wise up and learn as the EU has, that health care is a human right that ensures us the health with which to pursue our happiness.

Tony Adler

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IDIOTS ON BICYCLES

By James H. Bowden

My first bike was a Firestone, a present for my eighth birthday. It had fat tires, two cross bars, generous handlebars, a broad seat with springs, coaster brakes, a one-speed transmission, and a basket in front. I loved it and rode it everywhere, to school, in the countryside, through woods and streams. One day I rode home with my girlfriend on the crossbar, and her schoolbooks and a new puppy in the basket. I mean, it was built for that! I was able to climb some pretty steep hills too, but I did envy those with a gear shift. These days I ride a bike with a seven-speed planetary hub. It’s total simplicity: there’s just one little lever you work with your thumb. The derailleur—a French invention—is clunky and never works right. Who the hell needs eighteen speeds anyway? It’s typical French overcompensation.

Bicycling can be great. You get fresh air, exercise, and quiet—if you ride in the country. Until recently, the Chinese all rode bicycles, and they rode bikes with high handlebars so they could sit up and see where they’re going. When I was a kid, no one in my little town had ever seen a racing bike, but one day my buddy and I saw one parked by the drugstore. We stared at it in horror. The thing had a knife-edge seat, skinny tires, a bunch of sprockets, a maze of cables, and—worst of all—totally weird little handlebars that curved down instead of up. How the heck are you going to see where you’re going when your butt is higher than your head? We agreed the thing was a monstrosity, shook our heads, and pedaled away on our comfort machines.

That was my first negative experience of a bicycle. Of course, a racing bike does have its proper place. If you’re going to race in the Tour de France, you should ride a Tour de France racing bike. The rest of you bicyclists should wise up and ride something sensible. Also, there are hazards to avoid, and to assist you in identifying them, I’ve compiled a little list of problematical bicyclists:

The Downhill Deathwisher. I was driving down Mt. Tamalpais, in Marin County, not long ago. Suddenly, in my rearview mirror, I saw a lanky guy on a racing bike gaining on me. He was obviously in a hurry to get down the mountain, because his legs were pumping furiously. Maybe he had to go to the bathroom. I heard him shouting and saw him waving his hand. “Move it, or pull over!” I did not speed up and there was no place to pull over. If I had a blowout or hit some gravel I could go plunging over the side. The next thing I knew, he was alongside me, grim-faced and angry, mouthing obscenities. Then he vanished around a curve. Good riddance! Incidentally, I’ve read medical accounts about those hard, skinny, seats. Men get prostate problems from them. They have difficulty maintaining an erection, and they dribble when they urinate. Perhaps there is some justice in the world!

The Car Door Impacter. I just love to read stories about bicyclists in heavy city traffic who get miffed when someone opens a car door and they smash into it. They are so furious! What did they expect? Drivers have more important things on their minds than bikers. They’ve just found a parking spot and are late for an appointment. When they checked the rearview mirror, no cars were coming. Bicyclists are essentially invisible to motorists. The intelligent biker (if there is such a thing) will assume that the driver of a parked car will swing his door open just as the biker starts to pass, and be guided accordingly.

The Backroads Defiant Pedaler. This daredevil lives even more dangerously than the Car Door Impacter. Any number can ride at once, but too many spoil the fun. Best is two or three bikers, with at least two of them riding abreast, on a road that is scarcely wide enough for one car. The most fun is when you’re being passed by a car and another car comes in the opposite direction. The driver must then hit the brakes or the gas in a panic. It is up to the biker to remain cool and aloof, taking no interest in the driver’s dilemma.

This is a true story about two people who weren’t daredevils, but met their maker anyway. A middle-aged couple, longtime bicyclists, were tooling along the right side of the road, following all the rules. They were going single file, wearing colorful clothing, in full daylight. They weren’t weaving back and forth. If they had been, it might have been better for them, since it could have attracted attention.

They probably heard the approaching car, but assumed it would go around them. Unfortunately, the car was driven by a lone young woman who was searching for a cassette tape on the seat next to her. With her eyes off the road for two or three seconds, the car drifted to the right. It was not a pretty sight. The young woman was unharmed, at least physically.

The Dark Trickster. While driving at night, you’ve probably run across an invisible creature who believes he is protected from harm by a magical shield. If you’d like to be a Dark Trickster, it’s a no-brainer. Just wear all black clothes and remove the lights and reflectors from your bicycle. Some bikes are made this way, curiously.

Now that a motorist can’t see you, the fun begins. Try to judge his speed carefully so you can cut across in front of him when he’s almost on you. (Warning: you lose your Dark Trickster rating if you get hit.) With any luck, the motorist will lose control and smash into a tree.

A word of caution: watch out for the vicious driver playing his own favorite game, called “Hit and Run”. He is looking for you.

In conclusion, just remember that bicycling is perfectly safe, because you can always count on a driver to avoid hitting you—unless he’s in a hurry, distracted, drunk, high, blind, or talking on his cell phone.

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Which fluoride gives kids the most lead?

Study Finds Correlations Between Fluorides in Water and Lead Levels

From Roger Masters, Professor Emeritus at Dartmouth College, NH and head of foundation for Neuroscience and Society and  Myron Coplan, Chemical Engineer and consultant, 1999

Sodium Fluoride and silicofluorides (hydrofluosilicic acid in most U.S. drinking water) ‘have very different biological effects, and silocofluorides may be very dangerous” reports Roger Masters as published in the Journal of Environmental Studies, August 1999.

Masters’ team analyzed a survey of over 280,000 Massachusetts children,  finding that levels  of lead in children’s blood were much higher in towns with silicofluorides than in those towns without fluoride or those treated with sodium fluoride.  

They also found higher rates of ADHD, learning disabilities, violent crime and those using cocaine at the time of arrest.

Toxic heavy metals such as lead, manganese and cadmium, combined with prenatal or neonatal developmental insults, dietary deficits, and stress damage the brain structure and down-regulate essential neurotransmitters.

Lead and other toxic metals are retained in bone and astroglial cells in the brain, which have long-lasting effects on fetal and early childhood development and behavior.

It was also found that silicofluorides can increase the transport of heavy metals across the gut-blood and blood-brain barriers, increasing rates of toxic uptake and behavioral dysfunction. 

Conclusion to the study comments on the brain...the very sensitive chemical organ in the body.  It says that discussions of toxins have been on cancer and disease, and there is a need to study ADHD, alcoholism, substance abuse and crime in the latest biology and neiroscience of early development and brain function with the fluoride.

Complete report fond on Dartmouth News Office of Public Affairs 603/646-3661 or on a pdf from  Arlene Goetze at photowrite67@yahoo.com

Excerpted from  ‘Study Finds Correlations Between Fluorides in Water and Lead Levels’

N.B.   Hydrofluorosilicic acid was introduced in the 1950s and is the fluoride type most used in the 2/3 of U.S water that is fluoridated.  It is a toxic waste from phosphate fertilizer. 

**  In Texas, 2010, tankers carrying this form of fluoride must have Warning Signs on the trucks:

Danger Poison:  Do Not Take Internally.  Avoid breathing fumes or vapor.   Avoid contact with skin, eyes, mouth and clothing.

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We, the Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County are writing to support opening up our County Transit contract for the bidding process this coming year.  Veolia, the French company currently under contract, is in violation of International Human Rights Laws by operating bus lines through the occupied West Bank on roads that are off limits to the Palestinians who live there.  These bus lines transport Israelis from Jerusalem to the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. International law also prohibits the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory, which is what Veolia is doing by connecting the settlements to Israel.

This company (Veolia is the 33rd largest corporate employer in the world) also operates the Tovian Landfill where Israeli waste is dumped onto Palestinian land.  On July 24, 2012 the County of Sonoma Commission on Human Rights heard testimony by Ruth Otte, executive vice president, marketing and communications of Veolia Transportation North America. She stated that “We do not have any ownership or interest as Veolia Environmental Services in that contract any more.”  Despite Veolia’s repeated claims that it divested from the landfill in 2011, on January 17, 2013, the Israeli Ministry confirmed that Veolia is the sole owner and operator of the Tovian Landfill.Ö

In the 1980’s the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors made a principled decision to divest from South Africa.  The Peace & Justice Center now would encourage the Board of Supervisors to disqualify Veolia from the contract renewal process due to its participation in human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.  The $7 million contract to operate our County Transit System, a important community resource, should be awarded to a company or agency that upholds human rights and make it possible for our tax dollars to go to an entity that does not violate international law. 

Gary Melrose, Board Member, Sebastopol

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