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Sonoma County Gazette
LETTERS to Gazette Readers

LETTERS to Gazette Readers - April 2017

Apr 1, 2017


Villainizing the Victims

It’s understandable that Sandy Metzger wants to defend her son, owner of the Rio Nido Roadhouse but appealing to the Court of Public Opinion with her version of the facts does not address the issues I brought to the attention of the Gazette readers last month - that lashing out at people with disabilities who are forced to go to court to have their civil rights enforced does a disservice to everyone. (Disability is equal opportunity.)

The issue, as I pointed out, is not that there are law suits brought against businesses because of their architectural barriers, but, rather, that almost a half century after state laws were passed requiring business to be accessible to everyone, and more than a quarter century after the ADA required businesses to remove their barriers and congress provided a tax credit for barrier removal, these state and Federal laws are still being violated.

That is the issue, and it’s one of attitude. It’s obvious that it’s impossible to remove bigotry and prejudice with the stroke of a pen. However, it would help if we demand that the media stop blaming people with disabilities who still find it necessary to take businesses to court, and to instead ask why, after all these decades, too many businesses persist in discriminating against people with disabilities. And, we need to ask ourselves why more people don’t question the media’s biased reporting.

In respond to Ms. Metger’s attempts to shame me publicly, I have to say that I haven’t filed 100s of law suits, but I should have. That would mean that thousands of people with disabilities would not have to experience the humiliation and damage of exclusion.

In addition, I want to respond to Ms. Metzger that I am proud of my friendship with Richard Skaff and the non-profit charitable organization, Designing Accessible Communities (DAC) which he founded. Since the 90s, he and I have sat on numerous state, Federal and national access advisory committees, donating thousands of volunteer hours to help create a built environment that includes everyone. Richard, other access experts and I have provided hundreds of seminars for enforcing authorities, businesses, architects, builders and others, including organizations of people with disabilities to help achieve compliance with Federal and state laws requiring access. 

Thank you, Vesta, for providing this opportunity to respond to the inaccurate and negative comments about Richard and me, and for providing a platform to speak out about the rights of people with disabilities.

HolLynn D’Lil, author

Becoming Real in 24 Days


have to respectfully disagree with your opinion. (OPINION: Villainizing the Victims 3-17 Gazette) On the subject of (to quote your article), “The reporter faulted Mr. Skaff for never going inside the Roadhouse”. Hmm, what’s he been doing for the last year plus that the wheelchair accessible ramp has been in place?

On the subject of (to again quote your article), “The reporter, Paul Payne, doesn’t state that the ramp was installed 43 years after CA Health and Safety Code 19955 was passed, requiring access be provided WHEN businesses remodel. Well, not to single out any other businesses, but I worked for a lodging facility who took that long to provide ADA compliant access to two of its 46 rooms.

I know someone who used to make money at doing the very thing which Mr. Skaff does. She would attempt to access facilities in Southern California, then threaten to sue if they were not ADA compliant. (Yes, she is confined to a wheelchair). She’d get a cut of the settlement money, and the lawyers would get rich. Seems as though Mr. Skaff is doing the very same thing, given that he has no inclination to visit/patronize the business that he’s busy suing. 

How many businesses has he sued? How many businesses would actually get his business if they were compliant? Having my life experience and personally knowing how that game is played, perhaps that makes me jaded, but in this case, I think Paul Payne is right on point.

Of course, opinions differ, and everyone has different life experiences by which to measure and judge a story.

- Gregory Smith


Ms. d’Lil was a board member on Skaff’s organization. She and Skaff sued many businesses together.

Karen Cox


Having sat in that court room and listened to testimony from witnesses, it’s difficult to read this slanted opinion. I understand that businesses need to get up to code...But Skaff seems in the business of suing. Period. This is what I ascertained after hearing the testimony from people who swore on the Bible that they had been pressured or threatened by Mr.Skaff. I think the article in the Press Democrat hit the nail on the head.... 

Robbi Bryant


San Francisco ICE in Sonoma County

I am a Sebastopol resident and a public school teacher who is very concerned about the impact of the SF ICE Field Office on our community. Would you please consider signing this petition calling on the Sonoma Board of Supervisors to create an SF ICE Oversight Board to help protect our children, families and our community values?

The news about ICE actions and ICE’s institutional culture continues to be troubling. Claims that there won’t be mass deportations should not soothe us as the legal authority and the institutional will for mass deportations clearly exists. However, even if a single non-violent undocumented parent of one of our Sonoma County schoolchildren gets deported it will be a tragedy, but an entirely preventable and unnecessary tragedy---a tragedy planned, paid for, and imposed by armed agents of our federal government.

On average 13% of all California schoolchildren have at least one undocumented parent. A significant percentage of Sonoma County’s students or their families are now directly targeted by the federal government. This harms all of us.

Sincerely, Park Guthrie



Sheriff Collaboration with I.C.E.

Sonoma County’s IOLERO (Community Advisory Council) is Unanimous: Sheriff Must Pull Back on I.C.E. Deportations of Immigrants

Immigration police collaboration is deadly for all our communities. This policing coalition makes our communities vulnerable to more abuse, exploitation and crime. Demanding separation of enforcement powers and accountability to the communities they serve is reasonable and doable. The more they continue on this path, the more they are destroying their own future and the capacity for a political solution to this. The police, ICE and other security forces and political entities that administer the systems cannot continue for long like this long without consequences for their own rights and freedom. Our communities, us, we, have a long memory and will always remember all our fallen, all our jailed, deported and disappeared, the injustices and police abuse committed against our persons where we live, work, worship, study and play.

Arnoldo Garcia



Defensible Space - NOT my property…HOW?

e Gazette for the month of March and will be implementing the many suggestions you (CalFiire Battalion Chief Marshall Turbeville) made on what to do to insure a “defensible space” from wildfires.

One subject that needs to be address by Cal Fire, local Fire Departments, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department and the Sonoma County Supervisors would be the homeless encampments that seem to have been left out of the equation. You stated in the beginning of that article:

“ Sonoma County “dodged a bullet” during the last couple years of dry weather regarding wildland fire. Wildland Fires started throughout the region, yet they were extinguished early by local fire fighters.”

  One of those fires “extinguished early”was near our home, in Monte Rio’s heavily forested area between Northwood and the town of Monte Rio and was started by a homeless couple. We lucked out because someone saw the smoke from across the River and the Monte Rio Fire Department and Cal Fire got on it right away.

This could have been a disaster. Some encampments are visible and most are hidden behind heavy foliage during the Summer months yet we have been told that “homelessness is not a crime” and the authorities that be say their hands are tied.   

My question: does Cal Fire have any authority to go into these encampments, being it on private property, county property, state property or federal property and serve some kind of “cease and desist” order. Fining the homeless would be futile but these people are putting all of us in real danger. How do we protect ourselves against the mounting possibility that these fires get started by the homeless?


Doreen Atkinson

Thanks for your email. CAL FIRE has the ability to enter private property if there is a fire or to investigate the possibility of a fire. I recommend you report all smoke and fires to initiate our response. If a campfire, cooking, or warming fire is found, we will need to determine if it is safe and if trespassing is involved. We do not enforce trespassing. If the fire is not safe, we will extinguish and take (or request SCSO) appropriate enforcement action based upon if we are able to identify a responsible person. 


Marshall Turbeville


(707) 529-2523

I appreciate your help for getting back to me concerning the homeless encampments. I will be addressing the Sheriff’s Department regarding this subject.

Just to clarify a little bit more. The Sheriff would need a “Trespass Action Form” to enter a property and according to your statement in your previous e-mail, “CAL FIRE has the ability to enter private property if there is a fire or to investigate the possibility of a fire”. I would think any illegal camping by a non-property owner in a wooded area, not designated for camping, has the potential of a “possibility of a fire” and should be investigated by Cal Fire. 

Now if there is no “Trespass Action Form” on file by an absentee property owner on a vacant property with the Sheriffs Department and Cal Fire deems it a potential fire risk, what then?

Does CAL FIRE have the ability to impose a warning or fine on the property owner for not maintaining their property against fire hazards? 

Would that include County property and State property?

Some homeless encampments are on County Property. The County has chosen to ignore both fire hazards to our wooded area and pollution issues to the Russian River which I feel needs to be addressed by the State Fish & Game. I was hoping that Cal Fire might be the agency that could get some action to motivate the County to start protecting our environment against wildfires. Seems all hands are tied or pointing at each other and the danger continues to build in this area.

Maybe Supervisor Hopkins can answer my next question--Can the County also file a “Trespass Action Form” with the Sheriff Department or are they exempt? I’ll also be asking the Sheriff’s Dept. this question!


Doreen Atkinson

It is my understanding that CAL FIRE can enter any/all property to investigate/enforce a fire or potential fire.

If a person is safely (clearance, in attendance, etc.) having a fire/campfire, then we will need to determine if other laws are being broken such as whether they have the property owner’s permission or not. The “Trespass Action

Form” is specific to the Sheriff’s department for enforcing trespassing. If the property is owned by the

State (not CAL FIRE), I think CAL FIRE will also need to work with CHP as they are the state agency with law enforcement jurisdiction on state property. For county property, I believe we can treat it the same as private property, just the County is the owner. 

We do not have the ability to post a warning. CAL FIRE’s jurisdiction is specific to wildland vegetation and clearance around residences.

Marshall Turbeville

CAL FIRE, (707) 529-2523



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