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LETTERS to Sonoma County Gazette READERS - December 2015

LETTERS to Sonoma County Gazette READERS - December 2015

Our readers let us know what's on their minds.....Please send LETTERS to

Saving Ground Water

Last evening my husband and I attended the November 16th public meeting on the winery/event center issues held at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa. Perhaps 75% of the small family owned winery speakers centered their remarks on their overwhelming economic success through personal customer marketing their wine through their own custom winery events. Very few speakers addressed the issue of water but I was one of them.  Here is the concern I expressed at the microphone late in the evening after many people departed for home.

“I am here as a spokesperson for the longevity and sustainability of Sonoma County’s groundwater.  I am also a local author and illustrator of a children’s book written for all ages: “Saving Water” on how we all can learn to appreciate, value and conserve water that is so critical in this time of severe drought.  As you can well imagine, I am passionate about saving water and I am deeply concerned about the vast amount of water it takes to support our county’s wine production. There is no way of measuring or knowing how much or how little water reserve is available in our ground water aquifer.  To allow thousands of gallons per day to be extracted for the production of wine could make this drought last indefinitely.  But there is an alternative method of growing vines.  It is a well known fact that for centuries the wine growers of Europe did not irrigate their vines.  It has been recently documented that the unirrigated vineyards’ yield may be slightly less but the quality of that wine retains the rich character of the region from which it is grown.  Let us rethink the seriousness of this water issue and make the right decision for the right reason before it is too late.”

Paula Cumming Pearce, Sebastopol


Palm Drive Detachment

The Board of Directors of PDHCD made a mockery of an important Public Meeting with their deceit and duplicity on November 2, 2015.  They spent precious time on a poorly written and inaccurate Resolution (No. 15-12) opposing the detachment of the Guerneville, Forestville and Monte Rio school districts from the Palm Drive Healthcare District.  In the end, they unanimously passed a slightly edited version of the resolution.

Then, to add insult to injury, they removed Action item 8 from the agenda.  This was Resolution No. 15-14 informing Sonoma West Medical Center that they are out of compliance with the MSA requirement of financial reporting.  This Resolution should have been considered and discussed thoroughly.  Instead, the Board accepted a last minute single page summary from Sonoma West Medical Center, Inc. and thereby dismissed the resolution entirely from the agenda.

If anyone wants to see a Board of Directors operate with complete disdain for the public that they are supposed to serve, they need look no further than the Palm Drive Healthcare District Board of Directors.

Gary Harris

Community Separators

I was surprised and thrilled to see the community separator story on the front page of the Sonoma County Gazette. Thank you so much. It is getting attention.

The whole issue was excellent, with several well written stories on so many key issues such as the Local Coastal Plan, Russian River water quality, creek clean ups! 

You are really making a difference being the voice of Sonoma County.

Teri Shore, Regional Director, North Bay
Greenbelt Alliance


Silo Thinking

We must stop being intransigent silo thinkers and instead begin to look at our community as a living system. The front-page article “Space to Breathe” is a perfect example of the unintended consequences of single-issue politics.

Who wouldn’t favor a ballot measure to “renew and expand protections from sprawl” or to “Expand the existing community separators to cover broader landscape”? The problem is that one persons sprawl is another person’s home. Where one sees protected farms, others may see chemical intensive agroindustry.

In the same issue there was a brief report on the Farmworkers’ Health Survey. Unfortunately little of the results were included but in summary the majority of farmworker families exist on starvation incomes without adequate healthcare and in appalling housing. Those thousands of protected vineyards require one worker for every five acres of grapes. If you have been following any of the housing discussions in our various cities it is clear that the NIMBY pushback is adamant and ubiquitous. Most homeowners are perfectly fine keeping their unban growth boundaries just as there are, and resist denser development, thank you very much. The high cost of housing has resulted in many of the homes that were once occupied by our workforce being converted to weekend party crash pads. Where are these families to live? 

I would love to support the Greenbelt Alliance but I cannot do so unless they take the initiative and add provisions for farmworker housing within the community separators. Such housing could become the model for the uber-green homes that we will need to build as we face the looming environmental issues that confront us. 

Jay Beckwith, Healdsburg

Kudos to MacKenzie

We have so enjoyed reading MacKenzie Nekton’s Occidental Oriented column. She has done a great job of calling out the current happenings while treating her readers to interesting little side bits and observations. How fortunate we are to have such a bright, dedicated and articulate high school student in our community that is willing to take the time to put together a community news column for the local newspaper. 

Full disclosure we’ve known this outstanding young woman for many years- but felt compelled to call out her professionalism and reflect a bit on her development as a human being. Thank you MacKenzie, and thanks to your parents, for serving the community in such a thoughtful and caring way. We’re counting on you to be a kid too- on your way to doing great things for the world.

Denny Rosatti and Kellie Noe
Sebastopol, formerly of Camp Meeker


A letter in last months’ Gazette (Mirabel Lodge Expasnion), was incorrectly attributed to Ray Holley. Below is the letter that was SUPPOSED to have been published - written by Rene’ de Monchy. My apologies to Ray Holley who got caught in the mix of too many email conversations included in one email.


Tuesday’s (November 10, 2015) Supervisors’ decision to uphold the neighbors’ appeal and thereby deny the expansion of the existing 6-bed residential care facility for the elderly in the Willowside neighborhood adjacent to the Santa Rosa Golf Course exhibits both a lack of vision and a lack of fortitude.

Having apparently some awareness of the pending senior care housing crisis looming in the near future, two of them (Carrillo and Rabbit) profess to have “struggled” a bit with their decisions to vote against the facility, while Gorin and Gore stated quite simply that the 12-bed facility would be “incompatible” with the neighborhood.  

Shirley Zane was correct in being outraged at her colleagues’ votes.  And, as she pointed out, she is the only one with 20 years of experience in dealing with this issue. Well, it won’t be long before the others (or their successors) will be soaking up quite a bit of experience too.  Due to the baby-boomer aging bubble and the fact that we humans are generally living longer these days, there is a huge increase in the need for senior residential care facilities already knocking on our doors – and it’s going to get much worse.  History has clearly shown what happens when the Supervisors persist in kicking the can down the road instead of dealing with issues as they arise:  Under-funded mandates like employee pensions and benefits, for example.

Leaving aside the abhorrent resistance of the neighborhood to accepting compassionate senior housing in their community and the addiction they display to misrepresenting facts to their petty advantage – and being unwilling to discuss the issues, it is the Supervisors who should be ashamed of themselves and whom I address here. As we speak, Hungary is rejecting the Syrian refugees for ‘not being Christian enough.’  Trump wants to deport 11,000,000 undocumented immigrants to Mexico and build a huge wall. Our Supervisors think a 12-bed senior care home is “incompatible” with a country club community of 160 nice homes on large lots.

Has our collective xenophobia now come to include aging?  How can care homes for seniors be cast as “incompatible” with our neighborhoods? By regarding them as businesses. “ We don’t want businesses in this residential neighborhood!”

Well, then I suppose the care for all these seniors could instead be paid for through the County general fund, right?  The same general fund that can’t even pay County-employed in-home caregivers a living wage, right?  Yes, let’s create some more unfunded mandates.  Let’s ship all the seniors over to a County run facility so we don’t have to have a “business” in the neighborhood! Maybe the old hospital property on Chanate Road would be a good place.  But wait – the neighborhood already has stated their opposition to using the facility for housing the homeless, so they probably wouldn’t want senior housing there either.

Running a private senior care facility is no more a business than PG&E or Comcast supplying electricity or phone service to the community.  It is no more a business than a paving company hired to repave the neighborhood roads, or a landscaping service, or a fence builder, or an appliance repair person, or a house painter.  And yes, these services all require that money changes hands because there are costs involved, salaries to be paid, and an owner who also needs to make a living.  For that matter, is renting out an extra room in your house a business?  What about renting the whole house out?  How about a vacation rental?

We weren’t proposing a bar or a restaurant or a retail store.  We were proposing a residence for 12 elderly folks who need a home where they can be cared for. 

Incompatibility?  Here’s what’s incompatible:  The notion that seniors needing a care home must live in a warehousing facility with no human amenities in an institutional environment in a city. That is incompatible with life.  We need facilities in neighborhoods, not only in institutions. And neighborhoods will have to adapt.

Rene’ de Monchy

Peace in Syria 

I am in Vienna, Austria, with my German friend, Walter, to celebrate my birthday. We do what many tourists do: attend a Mozart concert; visit museums and art galleries; see the entire panorama of the city from high up the St. Stephan Cathedral, and eat authentic Austrian cuisine. The day before leaving, we go to the state of the art railroad station to purchase our railroad tickets to the Vienna Airport. While there at the station. I go to the women’s restroom, and, coming out of a stall, I see a woman in a burka about to lift her soiled, unshod foot into one of the handwashing sinks. An attendant rushes over and shouts at her in German: “Verboten!” – Prohibited, Forbidden, not allowed!!!” The woman immediately drops her foot, puts on her worn shoe and walks out of the restroom. On the station’s polished marble floors there sits about 40 refugees: men, women, young teens, children and infants – all waiting. The children play on the escalators – a new game – tumbling off at the bottom to climb again the other side. Four little girls run around the shiny glass elevator playing tag, laughing, totally oblivious of their parents’ preoccupation and situation. Walter offers his sandwiches for the train to a man and his family. The man refuses, either from not knowing German or out of caution. At that moment, there is an announcement over the public address system in German and then in English: All trains for Germany have been indefinitely postponed. Angela Merchel, Chancellor of Germany, has spoken out about the humanitarian need for all countries to open their borders, and Germany is one of the few European countries of the European Union doing so. Word spreads quickly; Germany will accept refugees and so they come – by the thousands. Now it is almost winter here in Europe. What to do with all the refugees? They need bathing facilities, warm shelter, food, to learn the German language…a very big problem with so many to care for. And so Germany closes its borders, too, for the time being.

But the problem is not with the Syrian refugees invading the West. If these people had a choice, I would imagine they would prefer to be home in familiar surroundings, hearing their language, War is not the answer for Syria and the Syrian refugees, nor is it for the other countries where war is causing people to flee their homelands.

Please write to your congressperson about this need to find immediate internal peace in Syria. Thanks.

Catherine Sagan, Graton

Housing Needed

A little over a year ago I wrote to the Gazette about the trouble I was having finding a place to live. Growing up in Sonoma County, then spending over a year homeless with my father,, sleeping in tents in Bodega Bay and finally packing it in and moving to a scuzzy Ukiah trailer park when nothing opened up for us was a terrible way to say goodbye. My dad died in that trailer, and I hung in for three more years in Ukiah, but my place was dangerous and my landlord even more so. Showing up without calling first is bad; doing so and then grabbing me at every opportunity is worse. I had to leave.

I work and pay taxes but have never made three times the rent in any place I’ve lived; I still pay it in full and on time each month. I need a place to stay, but also a place to LIVE--for the last decade I’ve been digging through boxes and bins, unable to unpack in a cramped trailer or any of these rooms. I would rather be in Ukiah, since citizenship there would get me moving on the waiting list again, and it’s a compact, pedestrian-friendly downtown, which helps a lot when you don’t drive or own a car. However, in the interest of simply clearing out of where I am now, I’m interested in any and all leads you might have. I’m clean, quiet, and need to be a short walk from food shopping at a bare minimum to get by. Everything I own is currently split between a 9 x 12 bedroom, two sets of plastic shelves (1.5 x 3 x 6) and a small hall closet (which is admittedly crammed full), so a larger bedroom could easily hold it all. 

This is a crummy time of year to be looking, as it’s likely to be a stormy winter. Please let me know if you have a space or know of a space that might work. Thanks so much for your help.

Heather Seggel

Dear Vesta,

I was really saddened to read such a negative book review of one of my favorite authors, Elena Ferrante, in the November issue of the Gazette. It is the first time I have felt so strongly about a piece, and have written the following letter as a response. Thank you for publishing such an important community magazine that gives every reader a voice!

E. Brennan

Who is Diane McCurdy?

As a fan of Elena Ferrante, I read Diana McCurdy’s book review Who Is Elena Ferrante? in the November issue of the Gazettte “with gleeful anticipation” (to use her words). Yet nearly half of Ms. McCurdy’s review focuses not on the novel My Brilliant Friend, but on the publicized enigma surrounding the true identity of the author Elena Ferrante. The fact that Ms Ferrante had declined to do book tours, to sign first editions, and to provide interviews leads Ms. McCurdy to conclude that “this reticence only enhances the mystique probably doing more to promote sales than a more ordinary route would”. If I understand this sentence correctly, Ms. McCurdy is calling into questions whether Ms. Ferrante’s wish to remain private may well be a clever marketing ploy. I direct Ms McCurdy, and any other interested readers, to read an interview with the elusive Ms. Ferrante in the Spring 2015 issue of The Paris Review to answer this question for themselves.

I regret to say that McCurdy’s book review struck me as pejorative and high school-ish in tone. The novel was tedious, boring? How so? Good persuasive writing requires the use of factual details to back up opinions. While the question is not whether or not Ms. McCurdy liked or disliked the novel, my objection is to her lack of precision in words like “boring” “tedious” and “I felt like nothing was happening”. If Ms. McCurdy’s review had been written by a high school student, it would have been sent back for revision. She would have been required to include evidence for her opinions taken from the novel itself, as students are being instructed to do with Common Core education all over Sonoma County schools.

 But Ms. McCurdy’s book review was not written by a high school student. Boring, tedious? Then why read it? If I found a book so tedious and boring, I would most certainly put that book down altogether and begin another. Why review it? Why not review the book you just finished that you just can’t wait to tell other people about?

My Brilliant Friend opens the reader’s eyes to a world many of us know very little about, the miserable outskirts of Naples after World War II. “I feel no nostalgia for our childhood,” Elena, the narrator, says early on in this, the first novel of the series. “It was full of violence.” In fact, this theme of domestic violence is a thread that runs throughout the entire novel, and not one character remains untouched. Yet while the world of this impoverished community is depicted as harsh and bleak, the author does provide a counter balance of hope. This comes in the form of knowledge—its possibilities and its limits – for it is a schoolteacher who single-handedly spots the budding talent of both Lila and Elena and encourages them to study their way to independence in order to escape the misery of their current circumstances, as well as to break out of the cycle which prepares them for nothing more than a future as oppressed housewives. How the two young girls react to this challenge has repercussions for them, as well as their families, friends and the entire close-knit community as well.

Among other things, this book offers a sustained study of envy. Intense friendships include unspoken rivalries between “best friends” –  and in the novel this occurs between the two young girls Elena and Lila. “My friendship with Lila began the day we decided to go up the dark stairs that led, step after step, flight after flight, to the door of Don Achille’s apartment.” The novel begins in Ferrante’s wonderful economy of language, as she beckons readers to follow her, step, by step, flight by flight, up the dark stairwell of childhood to answer the question, is envy an emotion that can sometimes be mistaken as love?

“We climbed slowly toward the greatest of our terrors of that time, we went to expose ourselves to fear and interrogate it.” Ferrante’s novel explores in intimate detail the deep complexity of female friendship. As I was reading I wondered, where in my life was this dark staircase; and who did I follow, or lead, to the top? What was waiting for us when we arrived, and how did we react to it?

“At the fourth flight, Lila did something unexpected. She stopped to wait for me, and when I reached her she gave me her hand. This gesture changed everything between us forever.” By the novel’s end, I felt inspired to look back on my own life, reflecting on the people and events that have led me to become who I am today; the profound changes and challenges along the way that have split my spirit apart; the profound changes and challenges that have sent it back to me and made me whole. How little many of us know about ourselves, Ferrante’s novel suggests. How perplexing our mental souvenirs and icons. To discover that what we have been doing, in the end, was what we had always done.

Masons Marina

I live and work in Bodega Bay and have been a Sonoma County resident for 27 years. My husband, (a Sonoma County native) is a Bodega Bay business owner and the bulk of his work is on the Sonoma coast. I walk Doran Beach several times a week and speak to hundreds of beach goers. The beauty and tranquility of this area is 

why people come here from all over the world. I (along with several others) regularly pick up trash on Doran Beach. This summer I averaged 30 gallons of trash a week.

My main concern about  Masons Marina and any Bodega Bay proposed project is the impact on wildlife, the ocean, and the surrounding environment. I have a couple of questions and comments to add to Monday nights conversation regarding Masons Marina.

QUESTION: The overall consensus of the community attending the meeting was that commercial fishing should be the main focus of Masons Marina. On page 9 of the County of Sonoma Regional Parks Staff Report, Bodega Bay Opportunities, dated January 14, 2013, under the heading, Summary of Interim Recommendations, sub heading, ‘Mason’s Marina’, the first bullet point states, “Commercial berth rentals will be phased out”. The 5th bullet point states, “Mason’s may be demolished to provide for such future uses.” Is this still the intention of Regional Parks and if not, where can I get an updated plan document?

COMMENT: Section Two: Potential Long-term Strategies of the document mentioned above, there are 6 bullet points. The 5th is, “Increase tourism and create a vibrant tourist economy.” No where is fishing mentioned in this list. The 6th bullet point is, “Contribute to improvement of local economy” which makes no mention of the fishing industry and is rather ambiguous.

QUESTION: In this same document under Bodega Bay Center for Outdoor Opportunities and Learning (Bodega Bay COOL):

2nd paragraph, “In addition to the onsite educational facilities, the Center would coordinate programming, link with shuttles and trails, and cross promote the other existing and forthcoming scientific and educational centers in the region, such as the U.C. Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory & Reserve, Monte Rio Watershed Educational Center, Occidental Adventure Day Lodge, and the future visitor center of Jenner Headlands Preserve.” Caryl Hart mentioned at Monday nights meeting that Regional Parks has “backed off” the Gateway Project in light of the upset of the Occidental community over the project. Is there a revised copy of this document to reflect that shift? 

COMMENT: Reading through this document it’s no wonder people are concerned that Regional Parks is trying to nudge out the fishing industry and put it place an “Adventure Center” which does, in my opinion, sound very ‘Disneylandish’. The concern that the county views Bodega Bay as a “cash cow” is very real and must be addressed head on. I understand the dilemma of the county needing to find viable funding to renovate Masons Marina but you’re not going to get far if people feel manipulated or lied to (as did the Occidental community).

Forming an advisory committee for this project that reflects the community seems to be a solid place to begin. This committee should include people from all walks of life here in Bodega Bay. The members should be willing to commit to attending and contributing to each meeting. Members should commit to objectivity and to stay open to community input.

Final thoughts:

• Bodega Bay and Doran Park in particular are already overwhelmed with spring/summer/fall tourists. Traffic, road safety, impact on wildlife, impact on the beaches (trash) and environment are already heavily burdened by this influx of tourists. Encouraging more tourism/people will further burden all aspects of life for those who live, work and visit Bodega Bay.

• Safety of tourists and residents of Bodega Bay must be addressed. Our understaffed and overworked fire department cannot keep up with the summer demand. The tax payers of Bodega Bay are already carrying the brunt of the cost. Charging outside residents for emergency calls seems in order to offset the costs.

• Transparency: Make Profit and Loss statement and all financials for Masons Marina public. Create an online forum for conversation and input about this project.

I appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on this project. As a Bodega Bay resident I look forward to working with the community and Regional Parks to come up with a solution that will enhance the financial viability of Masons Marina and our fishing industry. I believe we can accomplish this task while keeping the wildlife, ocean, and tranquil environment a priority.

Thank you,

Darris Nelson, Bodega Bay

UPDATE: In response to community input, Regional Parks decided to defer the feasibility study and to focus in improvements, including finding a vendor to operate the mini-market.