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LETTERS to Sonoma County Gazette READERS - August 2016


LETTERS to Sonoma County Gazette READERS
August 2016

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

Recycling: More to the Story

I was reading your reporting on the County and the North Bay Corp issue... There is way more to this story (isn’t there always?) than a simple not meeting contractual agreements issue. I was at the center on Standish about a month ago and was confused by the labeling on the paper bins and asked a passing worker which to use. His answer, “Doesn’t matter. All the paper goes to China, it is shipped all mixed together,” led to a conversation about what really does happen to my carefully washed plastic (nobody wants it when oil prices are low, such as now) and glass (goes to a fiberglas manufacturer, and at the moment the only item recycled in the US).

Turns out I was talking to one of the brothers of the family that has owned the recycling company from it’s beginnings up on the North Coast. From our conversation I came away with a picture of a large global enterprise (the giant cargo ships from Asia tend to go back empty so shipping it way over there isn’t quite as ridiculous as it sounds...but there are the pollutants from the processing, and the fuel consumed, etc., that takes it from the idea of using the back of envelopes for lists and making paper mache out of newspapers, and melting bottles into new ones, to something ridiculously unwieldy and rather impossible. I felt like there is a giant juggling and denial game going on, especially with plastic. Nice concept, makes people feel good, but it isn’t really working on the scale it needs to.

The thing about having too much waste on site at Standish, as far as I can understand, addresses what comes in in the trucks, what people have put in their big blue containers...recycling has become  another word for “Let me feel righteous – just make it disappear, and let someone else worry and fuss about it...just don’t tell me I can’t buy my organic thrice-washed lettuce in those big nifty plastic containers.”

There is an enormous back story to this issue, and unfortunately we’re all involved but with most of our tiny bit of power at the beginning of the chain, when we choose, when there is a choice, what containers our purchases come to us in.

I think there is another similar backstory, maybe not quite as big, behind the closure of the green waste composting facility at the dump.  No one I have asked is willing to say where all that bio mass and potential fertility is going, all they will say is “out of county”... a loss for Sonoma County it seems to me, but why the secretiveness about it?

Not enough time, too many issues, yes?

Thank you for all your incredible work putting together the paper,


The working group meeting for Sonoma-Mendocino Joint Powers for Economic Development

I have communicated earlier with Steve Sharpe about the joint economic development plan public survey of both counties. The announcements were inadequate to roust a representative sample of opinions, simply based on the scant number of respondents. I was told that I was essentially out of luck to make any comment since the survey was considered completed.

In this case, as I formally requested, the fair and logical next move on the Board’s part would have been to re-publicize the survey and wait for further action until a representative number from all concerned (eg, the low-income, under-educated, ethnically-diverse, under-housed population who this process is ostensibly intended to help) could express their views.

Instead, a Board composed primarily of well-resourced development, construction, banking and real estate members has moved ahead in plans to secure free federal funds to set up an infrastructure supporting their business goals such as population-doubling, real estate acquisitions and undisclosed development plans of regions at risk for environmental degradation. 

The meeting is scheduled at a time when the less wealthy, who are normally working and don’t have access to Healdsburg airport, let alone access to The Tower at the Coppola Winery, are being allowed 15 minutes for public comment during this high-stakes gathering.

What is wrong with this picture? Just about everything.

We salute the intention to improve the economic amd educational status of the poor in both counties but we strongly object to back-room deal-making methods.

We are voting residents of Sonoma who rely on normal rules of governance and planning that are being subverted here and request a fair and open public process as Ernie Carpenter has requested.

Laura Morgan, MD

Police Officers: Then and Now

There is apparently a new police station at the Transit Mall in Santa Rosa.  The police cite that as fortuitous in the apprehension of the man accused of stabbing a Roxy Theater patron.  Three of the four officers were at the station and the fourth was nearby.

Two weeks ago under the 7th Street Highway 101 overpass in Santa Rosa, I saw at least seven police cars on the opposite side of the street. Homeless people do hang out there.

I’ve been to coffee houses in town where two or three police are together buying coffee. They carefully avoid eye contact with me or any other customer and resist small talk.

I can’t remember when I last saw a police officer on the street, walking.  And on occasions when I have seen one or two, their squad car is nearby and they are talking to a vagrant.  They are not strolling the street, looking in on shopkeepers.

The police used to have “beats.”  They used to get to know their neighborhoods. The law-abiding citizens used to know and trust their local cop. Police Officers used to be everywhere in town – especially in low-income areas. Now they travel in small armies, talk only to each other or to people in trouble, stay as much as possible in “safe” areas and seem aloof to any contact with anyone else.

They strike me as fearful and locked in circles that include only each other.  This polarity and paranoia is feeding on itself from my perspective.

Arthur Hills

In Support of Small Wineries

The California law that permits wineries to have tasting rooms off-site (Evan AB 1470) was authored by Noreen Evans in 2009. The purpose of the law was twofold: Allow smaller wineries to have tasting rooms so they can market direct to consumer, and 2) ease the pressure on our rural areas by encouraging wine tasting activities to be located in urban centers. Now we have tasting rooms on the square in Healdsburg and Sonoma and a few others scattered about. This can address the wine industry’s assertion that it needs to develop direct-to-consumer relationships. Marketing is indeed a challenge for smaller wineries.

Europe solved their problems with wineries as event centers in rural areas by concentrating wine tasting and other events in town centers. The wine industry could benefit by building a facility next to Luther Burbank Center, for example. It already has the beautiful Bruce Johnson sculpture park and other art on the grounds. Tourism and wine can work, but the wine industry uses a business model that not only does not work but causes collateral damage in many ways, including friction, pollution, environmental degradation, and angry neighbors. A center there would be easy to get to, put people in the center of Sonoma County and allow the true small guys to compete fairly against the global corporations.

Unfortunately, a tasting room in downtown SR is not as glamorous as a tasting room among the rolling hills of West County. But it can be a small piece of the solution.

AB 1470 also legalized the practice of allowing visitors to wineries to drink wine on winery picnic grounds. The local wine industry is not monolithic. The smaller wineries have different interests than the grape growers and large industrial-scale wineries.

Shepherd Bliss and Janus Matthes
Wine and Water Watch (

Support for Sonoma County GE Crop Ban

Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families and Our Family Farms are asking you to vote Yes in November and give Sonoma County the opportunity to join five other GE-free counties in California, further protecting local farms and landscapes from the contamination of genetically engineered pollen.

“Genetically engineered crops pose an economic threat to traditional farms. I believe that every farmer has the right to protect themselves from those threats. I’m here visiting Sonoma County to show my support for a YES vote on the transgenic crop ban coming up on ballot this fall.” Elise Higley, Director of Our Family Farms, a non profit that works to protect family farms against the threats of genetically engineered crops. She was campaign manager for Our Family Farms Coalition in 2014 that fought to win the ban against GE crops in Jackson County, Oregon. Jackson County, Oregon’s community came together and won a landslide victory on their GE crop ban despite the largest chemical companies in the world spending almost a million dollars of outside money to fight it.

Karen Hudson 


Just a Splash, But...

I am rounding out three months of residency on Big Island, Hawaii, and I have to say I have yet to get tired of watching the undulation of the waves hitting the rocks on the shore. It takes hundreds, maybe thousands, of years to wear down the jagged lava rock that at one time was hot molten magma sputtering to the surface of the sea from the ocean floor below. Watching how the surf splashes, kisses and caresses the rocks, but oftentimes slaps them hard, I am reminded of how smoothness does not happen overnight, either on a piece of lava rock or on an individual.

These last couple of weeks, I have been living in an apartment close to downtown Kailua-Kona while my friend’s house is being occupied by guests from Berkeley, California. I walk through town for some exercise each day, and appreciate how the tourists from every imaginable part of the world come here for some sun and sand. The local merchants are happy when the Pride of America cruise ship docks in the bay and brings some of the passengers to shore to buy a t-shirt, a pair of flip-flops, a meal or even an ice cream or snow cone. It is very important for the prosperity of the community. Young people, and old, work in the hotels, restaurants, shops, and touring agencies for their living. When tourism slacks off, so does prosperity here.

What many tourists are unaware of, as are many Hawaiians and retired residents who live here on the Big Island, is that every two years since 1971, there have been month-long military exercises done in the Pacific by the United States and many other countries to show countries like China, North Korea, and Russia that we are “ready” for any confrontation: On land, the sea or in air. Environmental groups have been challenging the detonating of bombs and sinking of old ships that create sonic booms affecting the whale and dolphin populations in particular. I recently signed my name to a letter to President Obama, petitioning him to investigate the damage of toxic metals to the soil, water and air surrounding Big Island and the other islands of Hawaii done by these military exercises. Known as RIMPAC, or Pacific Rim Military Exercises, one can look them up on google; they are written up as protective military measures. Yet, just as in the Middle East, the damage done to the environment from bombs using depleted uranium can be devastating to the health of those who come in close proximity.

My thought is that we need another strategy besides a war threat towards what are considered “menacing” countries. I read that if two opposing sides who need to sit down for peaceful negotiations would allow for the good will and possibility of a change of attitude in their opponents, there could be better outcomes in this regard. I trust that everyone who cares about our country, the United States, and the welfare of our planet will register to vote in local and the presidential elections with the hope for change and a better tomorrow for our young people of all races, creeds and origin. Or, you can do what Republican Jeb Bush is going to do: Not vote at all; another option is to move to Uruguay, South America. Personally, the world has been made one big mess by men; I am ready to give a chance to women leading the United States for a change. 

Aloha; come and enjoy the sun and sand of Hawaii, but come aware. Be a part of the solution by knowing what needs to be done to make the environment safe for everyone. What happens in Hawaii affects everywhere; we are all interconnected. Mahalo.   

Catherine Sagan 
Big Island, Hawaii