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LETTERS to Sonoma County Gazette READERS - January 2016


LETTERS to Sonoma County Gazette READERS - January 2016

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

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 push back is adamant and ubiquitous. Most homeowners are perfectly fine keeping their urban 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



CORRECTION: In the December edition of the Gazette we published a letter written by Rene’ de Monchy but mistakenly printed the letter-writer as Ray Holly. We apologize both to Ray and to René for the error. On the same subject Alain Serkissian checks in as follows... 

More Senior Housing Needed
I read and enjoy your paper regularly and I thought you and your readers would be interested in knowing what happened at the board of supervisors meeting on November 10, 2015 in regards to expanding our senior assisted living home in Santa Rosa. The supervisors voted 4 out of 5 against a project presented before them for the expansion of a 6 bed Residential Care Facility for the Elderly into a 12 bed residential community. This vote was a big surprise based on the needs of this county.
I thought I should clarify in this letter the outraged feelings it produced by giving you a little explanation based on facts:
The Board of Supervisors with our own Supervisor Shirley Zane spearheaded the initiative (published on the front page article of the PD in May 2015) adopted a vision for Sonoma County called “Aging Together Sonoma County” where there has been an emphasis on the needs of the elderly in Sonoma County and in response to the rapid growth of a that portion of our population demonstrated as follows:
Sonoma County has 500,000.00 citizens, out of which, today we have 20% (100,000.00) 65 and older (census, ombudsman and AAA ). This number will become 25% (125,000.00) within the next 15 years. TODAY, we only have roughly 4,700.00 beds available in Sonoma County for seniors (4.5% ), between Skilled Nursing Facility beds (1,700 beds in SNF) and Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly beds (3,100 in RCFE). These numbers show the incredible ascending lodging crisis and the lack of options that our elderly face!
In addition, Ken Porter wrote in a PD article from May 2015 that, “ elected leaders set the stage for making Sonoma County a national model for how to care for and interact with its aging population...” He goes on to indicate that “ it will be a challenge in the years ahead to find stable housing for our seniors to live “...and “ both social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality in older adults”. Even French actress Juliette Binoche stated in an interview with NPR in September 2015 that “ aging is a necessary attribute to wisdom in life” and that “we all have to embrace aging”.
In addition, this project of expansion met all the county regulations and codes with height, size, safety, traffic, parking, noise, water...etc. This project was approved unanimously in June 2015 by the PRMD staff with a favorable 5 out 5 vote by the Sonoma County Commissioners!!
The commissioners concluded that there were no valid objections presented and that the “not in my backyard” attitude was not a valid objection and that neighbors needed to realize they can no longer live in a bubble when the rest of the county is in crisis. After all of this and even stating, “we understand the needs...” the board voted 4 out of 5 AGAINST the project, listening to the incredible resistance of the neighborhood to accept compassionate senior housing in their community. Perhaps some neighborhoods are exempt from our county wide problems...perhaps some “privileged “areas in the county would not like to be bothered, and would prefer not to “see” our problems in their neighborhood…perhaps the Board feels there are the “haves and the have-nots”, and clearly some areas are the “haves”!!
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 in a residential neighborhood! Well, I suppose the care of all these seniors could instead be paid for through the County general fund? The same general fund that can’t even pay county- employed in-home caregivers a living wage?
Yes, let’s create some more unfunded mandates. Let’s ship all of our seniors over to the county-run facility so we don’t have a “ business “ in the neighborhood! 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 replace the roads, or a landscape company, 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 an extra room in your house a business? What about renting the whole house out? How about a vacation rental?
At the hearing, 2 supervisors (Rabbitt and Carillo) stated they had a real “dilemma” and “trouble making up their minds” but, had to vote against the expansion, while 2 other Board members (Gorin and Gore) stated “ good planning and great looking building”, but found the proposed project “Incompatible” with the neighborhood. Only Supervisor Zane approved the project and was outraged at her colleague’s votes.
This particular neighborhood, where a large amount of residents seem elderly themselves, has oversized homes on large parcels some bigger and taller than the proposed project!  Incompatibility? Here’s what’s incompatible: that seniors needing a care home must live in a warehousing facility with no human amenities in an institutional environment. That is incompatible with life.
We need facilities in neighborhoods, not only in institutions. As Marianne McBride, president and CEO of the non profit Council on Aging said: “the goal is total cultural changes around the aging and that this change needs to happen in EVERY neighborhood and on EVERY block”!!
I am open to any questions you might have to have a better understanding of the situation, but I hope you will consider publicizing this very unfortunate event.
Alain Serkissian, Administrator
Mirabel Lodge,
Premiere Assisted Living Community

Against Voluntourism
Children are not tourist attractions. Since the advent of so-called voluntourism, the number of “orphanages” and similar businesses has quadrupled. This has become big business in Cambodia. In addition, a foreigner showing up for a week or so and supposedly “teaching” something to these children often does more harm than good. Children form connections and then the foreigner leaves, stupidly thinking that he/she has “helped”.
This is nothing more than a money-making racket that uses unfortunate children for profit and is indeed a kind of trafficking.
A concerned citizen

Response to Letter to the editor:
While I applaud your concern over a serious and all too real situation in Cambodia, you do a grave  disservice by lumping all volunteer work in the same category.  If you had looked at the website of Anjali House ( before jumping to judgement, you would have seen that they are neither an “orphanage” nor do they have a scheme of charging volunteers to work there.  You would have also seen that they do valuable work, and contrary to exploiting children, have done a fantastic job of nourishing and protecting a very vulnerable population.  If you think that exposing children to the arts “does more harm than good”, than iI am sorry that you have such a narrow view of education.
My husband and I conduct arts workshops for disadvantaged children in Sonoma County and for the last six years in Asia as well.  The purpose of my article was to encourage more people, especially in their retirement years, to look for ways that they  can “give back” as a volunteer, and incorporate that into their travel plans.
Deborah Huth

Kudos on “Creed”
I enjoyed your review of “Creed”. It`s well-written and I especially congratulate you on never once mentioning race .                                           
G.J. Pell

Homelessness and Our Community
Any part of the population that disturbs the quality of life in a community is a problem. You can label it gang, drug activity, violent crime or homeless if effects the people that live in the community it is a problem. The drug activity and homeless are the problems in our community. They affect tourism, property values and public safety and Fire Department medical services.
Our county is doing the best they can to deal with the problem on a human and environmental level  but the majority of the citizens that live in this community have had enough and want to create a balance. I am not saying that all homeless are committing crimes but we need to help the  ones that want to help them selves and deal with rest that drink, drug, hoard and again affect the quality of life in our beautiful community.
Mark Emmett  

GMO Free Sonoma County
There is a new initiative called, “Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Prevention Ordinance.” Signatures are being gathered around the county by committed volunteers to place this initiative on the November 2016 ballot.
This ordinance would: 1) Protect the health of Sonoma County from the increased herbicide use inherent in the cultivation of GMO crops. 2) Protect farms from cross-contamination by genetically engineered pollen and seeds. 3) Allow Sonoma County to join over 30 countries worldwide, as well as seven counties in Oregon and California, who already have similar laws prohibiting the growing of GMO crops.
The FDA approved the production of genetically engineered salmon on November 19, 2015.  This salmon was created in a laboratory by combining genes from the ocean pout (eel) with genes from the Chinook Salmon. No long-term studies have been done to determine possible health effects from such an unnatural creature.  In addition to any health concerns, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that a release of just sixty GE salmon into a wild population of 60,000 could lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 fish generations.
“Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families” urges Sonoma County residents to sign petition at venues throughout the county. Go to
Pamela Gentry