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LETTERS to Sonoma County Gazette READERS - October 2016


LETTERS to Sonoma County Gazette READERS
October 2016

Gabbi Lemos

Here’s a case shouldn’t have gone to trial.  And ALL charges had been dropped...until Gabbi filed a civil suit.

How many hundreds of thousands of dollars did this cost the taxpayers to defend Deputy Marcus Holton- Again?!

Sitting in the courtroom it did not take long, watching a seriously biased Judge Midgivy, to recognize this trial was never going to be about Justice.

This was retribution for two women who screamed at a Deputy.  Deputy Holton became enraged and this burly, 215lb. man tackles Gabbi who weighs 107lbs. to the ground and grinds her face into the pavement.

Gabbi Lemos and her mother were guilty of using foul language and egregious language to which there is no defense, but it’s not a crime.  This case was clearly about Police Brutality but Judge Medgivy took the onus off  Deputy Holton and shifted it to the victims. 

Holton’s past actions of excessive force are not new nor allowed in a court of law thus the jury won’t know and because the DA refuses to hold Officers accountable, be assured this County will have to defend this deputy in the future.

Marni Wroth

Hello Vesta,

I really enjoyed “More Than One Life To Live” in the August issue. Lots of helpful information. Another way to save the landfill: Bring your own container to restaurants for your leftovers. 

Marlene Cullen, Petaluma

Grieving Loss

I’ve been thinking about your question about a memorial for your dead loved ones. It is so individual   Sharing memories, crying together , laughing at good memories. Lots of candles and music. Photos to honor them. Planting a rose bush or tree in their memory...

A man at Richard’s father’s memorial   said:  “We think he’s gone but it’s like a ship that sails out to sea - when you can’t see it anymore it doesn’t mean that he’s not there. We just can’t see him.” 

Then I came across this poem by Henry Van Dyke:

“I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts

for the blue ocean. 

She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud 

just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast, hull and spar 

as she was when she left my side.

And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. 

Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”

there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “

Here she comes!”

And that is dying...”

So sorry for your loss. 

Elizabeth Naegle, Forestville

Rent Control & Eviction

John Lowry’s “Sonoma County Housing, Crisis and Hope, part 2” column lays out 17 possible policy options for increasing the supply of affordable housing in Sonoma County.   

For some reason, the list omits Rent Control and Just Cause Eviction protections — even though Santa Rosa’s City Council recently enacted both.   (Real estate developers and wealthy property owners have mounted an aggressive repeal campaign.)  

Any discussion of affordable housing remedies needs to include these major, very newsworthy and current solutions.    

David Hoffman 

Dear David,

I appreciate your comment that rent control and just cause should have been on my list of policy options.  I didn’t discuss them because I was focused on policies that would add to the supply of housing, especially rent restricted affordable housing, the kind I was involved with building at Burbank Housing.  And each section of what I wrote was well over the length of a typical Gazette article.  

As far as my views on rent control and just cause are concerned, I support the policies that Santa Rosa has adopted.  I’m a skeptic about more regulation, since I think so much of it has unintended consequences.  But the housing situation has become so dire for low income people that we’ll just have to deal with the consequences as they appear.   

I would prefer to see rent limited by an abundant supply of affordable housing, but that is not he case.  As mentioned in what I wrote, with costs increasing and financial assistance falling, there is much less of it being produced. Perhaps the argument could be made that we should be prepared to see the expansion of rent control measures because we’ve failed to maintain a healthy supply of affordable housing…Maybe an idea for another article.    

John Lowry

People Who Pick Grapes

Recently I saw a copy of “Sonoma” magazine. Near ads for multi-million dollar homes, expensive wines, expensive vacations and designer clothes and jewelry, there are photos of people who are picking grapes. In her “Letter from the Editor,” Catherine Barnett writes, “Coming home from a late-night dinner, it is not unusual to see bright lights illuminating a path of endless darkness.” She neglects to say that there are people picking grapes beneath those lights. She goes on to write, “The shapes are hard to discern. The faces, hidden by caps and hoodies are obscured by more than shadows.”  

Guess what, Catherine? These “shapes” are actual people who have been in the vineyards since three a.m. and work until noon or later doing back breaking work and do not receive a living wage.They aren’t nameless entities. Some of the photos are of men in their fifties and sixties and one man is seventy three. These are the people who make it possible for so many in the wine industry to possess great wealth.These people deserve kindness and respect, not to be spoken of as if they are invisible.

I suggest that in the next issue of “Sonoma” some of the people in those photos be interviewed. Let them speak about their lives and families so they aren’t just bent shapes in the dark night.

Pamela Singer, Occidental

Farmworker Overtime 

After reading articles about winery resistance to paying overtime to farm workers in the local papers, I was appalled and ashamed at the position of Taft Street Winery and industry Spokesperson Mike “sustainable winery” Martini’s remarks objecting to paying winery workers overtime as required by every other employer in California.  He says “It’s a math game”.  Well, the math game is called a living wage for those folks working in his vineyards.  Here’s the math: the extra cost of an overtime premium spread over an entire vineyard is less than $20 per ton which translates to about 20 cents a bottle of average $20 wine.  That’s 1%.  

Farmworkers pay their transportation, housing to the labor contractors and when the harvest ends, they are sent packing.  Doesn’t sound very sustainable to me, Mr. Martini.  That “math game” has a human cost.

And double shame on State Senator Mike McGuire who ducked out on the vote in Sacramento so he wouldn’t have to tell his winery donors that he voted for it, and could tell his constituents that he didn’t vote against it.  Shame on Sonoma County Wine Country.  It shows the Sustainable claims of the Wine Industry for just what it is, a green-washing marketing ploy.  I just bought my last bottle of Taft Street Wine and will be glad to pay pennies more for my next Sauv Blanc to make up the overtime premium difference.

Reuben Weinzveg, Sebastopol

It’s math game for people working as well. But I get the part about some weeks people work 20 hours - some they work 60. I have had the same issue. If wages were totalled monthly instead of weekly, it would make a difference. We have rush times and slow times. Not like a business that has a steady 40 hour week. ~ Vesta

Climate Science

Opinion writer Tish Levee asserts that “the vast majority of climate scientists believe that human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are making a discernible contribution to global warming.”  That is probably untrue but, regardless, is not relevant.

All competent climate scientists know that humans contribute to climate change through land-use change (e.g., urbanization) and pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. But there has never been a poll asking experts the only question that matters from a policy perspective: do the relevant scientists agree that our greenhouse gas emissions will cause dangerous climate change? Only if it is likely to be dangerous should this be a public policy concern. 

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) reports list thousands of peer-reviewed references in leading science journals that shed doubt on the science underlying the climate scare. The NIPCC demonstrates that today’s climate and weather are not extraordinary; there is no convincing evidence that human activity is causing climate problems.

As a result of the unjustified belief that we know the future of climate and, even more outrageously, that humanity controls it, relatively little money is available to help the poor adapt to climate change today. Of the roughly $1 billion spent every day across the world on climate finance, only six per cent is devoted to helping vulnerable societies adapt to climate change. The rest is spent trying to stop climatic events that might someday happen. This is the real climate crisis.

Tom Harris, B. Eng., M. Eng. (Mech.)
International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC),
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Note: ICSC is not right wing (our participants come from across the political spectrum) and are not lobbyists or ‘shills’ for industry of any sort.

Search and Seizure 

I wish I could tell you the many ways Donald Trump is utterly unfit to be president, but I am limited to 200 words. Yet again, as an example of Trumps ineptness, we are reminded of the Donald’s ignorance of the US Constitution by his recent call for the broad use of stop and frisk. 

What Trump does not understand is that the 4th Amendment, applied to the states by the 14th, provides protections against unreasonable search and seizures. The standard for stop and frisk is reasonable suspicion. This minimum standard, determinable only on a case by case basis, is both subjective and objective. It means that a police officer may rely on his intuition and perception but also needs a slight objective factual indicator that unlawful activity is afoot to justify detaining an individual. Trump’s call to relax this slight standard is a stepping stone towards a police state. What next Donald? Will you call for searching our homes without a warrant or probable cause? In my view given our military might the real threat to this nation comes from the ignorance within not from explosive external forces. 

Gene Colombini, Santa Rosa

West County Detached

On September 7, LAFCO (the government board that oversees special districts in Sonoma County) voted “quickly and unanimously” to allow the Russian River area to detach from Palm Drive Healthcare District.

Commissioners felt that “the Health Care District failed miserably in its responsibilities promised services and ignored repeated requests for transparency and openness in dealing its tax-paying constituency.” (Quotes from Sonoma West Times & News)

I spoke at the LAFCO hearing in support the right of River residents to detach from the district.  For too long, the River areas have paid nearly half of the District’s taxes but received few services in return.

We need Palm Drive board members who demand fiscal discipline, accountability transparency. As an engineer, small business owner and longtime school board member, help restore trust and accountability to our District.

The Palm Drive District must focus on community health programs that benefit our entire community, with established partners like the West County Health Centers. I support creation urgent care centers, improved ambulance services, senior healthcare, mental health, preventive and wellness programs as the most effective use of our scarce healthcare.

Jim Horn, Sebastopol


Low Flow Project

I own Russian River Adventures in Healdsburg.  I run self-guided raft trips in SOAR canoes down the Middle Reach of the Russian River between Healdsburg and the Wohler Bridge.  I am a fortunate stakeholder in the well-being of our river, and am lucky to be able to stand in the river almost everyday from May through October!

Before I tell you why I oppose the implementation of the EIR draft, let me say that I am a true environmentalist: not someone who is an environmentalist except when it affects me economically.  I would support the EIR if sound science was used, and if climate change were not so terrifying and not all taken into account in this EIR.

I want our fish to survive as much as I want tourism and a strong economy in Sonoma County  to survive.

The problem is that the EIR talks about low flows saving the fish, but low flows will have a disastrous result on water quality.  Last year we faced the lowest water levels and the highest climate temperatures in history. Combined w/ excessive nutrients in the water, toxic blue green algae bloomed for the first time in our river.

My company was Ground Zero for the outbreak.  When a Golden Retriever died on our trip, it led to the full-scale media outburst which decimated tourism up and down the river over Labor Day weekend 2015 and for weeks later. My business in Sept 2105 fell by over 50%!  

Long time employees, used to working through Sept and Oct, were laid off right after Labor Day.  Another thing that most people don’t know is that 2nd dog also died of BGA….it was my dog, my constant companion.  She died within one hour of ingesting BGA. At the time of her death, we knew nothing about the toxin, and wouldn’t know the truth about her untimely death until over a month later.

There was also a tremendous impact on the bio-diversity that live along the river.  During the summer of 2015, on our section of river we found dead deer and dead pig in the river, we saw river otters having seizures on riverbanks. This is absolutely true!!  This is the result of BGA.

This year, as part of a BGA task force I am among the first people to receive notice of BGA, so that we can responsibly handle this with our customers.  Even at .1 part per billion Public Health is required to alert the public via press release to the presence, regardless of the amount of BGA. When this happened this year, we immediately began to receive cancellations

For me, the primary condition for accepting the EIR low flow requests is to FIRST reduce the amount of nutrients in the water.  Some of the most harmful sources of nutrients are from dairy, cattle, and pig farms, and faulty septics from summer homes from Healdsburg to Jenner.

Implement laws that reduce nutrient flows into the river from ALL known sources. 

The amazing thing about tourism is that we have a huge, huge economic impact and very small environmental footprint compared to other economic engines our our county.

Hundreds of 1000s of tourists choose to visit Sonoma County because our county is marketed as a top quality destination.  Lowering the flows of the Russian River will degrade our water quality during peak tourist season.  Certifying the EIR is voting to lower of Sonoma County standard of excellence to a new standard of mediocrity.

There is no need to rush into certifying the EIR.  Please vote based on the overwhelming wishes of your constituents.

Larry Laba, Healdsburg


Ah Election time again. Candidates Local, State, National seem good at saying how bad their counterparts are without saying what they have accomplished. Do we want leadership that bad mouth, or blame others for things not getting done?

Are Big Signs, or even lots and lots of signs all over; a sign of solid leadership skills? It is a sign that they have lots of money to spend and blighting the landscape is their message. Does it show conservation or resource management? If they spend lots of money getting elected will they suddenly stop spending money once elected? “Being on the fence” once said you were neutral or undecided... what it really means at election time is that if the candidate's sign is not on a fence or private property then it is in the roadway or public property where for the most part it does NOT belong!!!

Candidates are not supposed to post signs wherever they feel like it and take no responsibility for their actions...or are they?

Look at your Property Tax Bill.  What did your leaders decide you should spend and for how long? If there is a big chunk of change on your tax bill does it show fiscal responsibility? If there are three or more taxes for the same entity does that show budget oversight? Are there other resources that could have been tapped? Are incumbents bragging about passing tax measures and spending your money?

If someone is great at spending money just getting elected, will they stop spending once in office? If they get lots and lots of endorsements are they part of a machine or obligated in any way to their team of supporters?

Perhaps we should vote for those who spend less, who are into true conservation of resources, and put out a few signs, fewer mailings, are self funded, and not seeking endorsements from all angles and groups; and do not damn others but take responsibility for their own decisions and have a history of responsible leadership and involvement.

Please vote and make your OWN informed decision.

Eric Kirchmann