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Sonoma County Gazette
Letters to the Editor

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Feb 27, 2018


The Dangers of Rat Poison

Thanks for your recent piece on the dangers of using rat poison. These rodenticides, as pointed out by your columnist Dr. Trapani, harm other animals that eat the poisoned rodents, and have caused tremendous casualties, especially among raptors. They can also harm our pets and kids; and can spread further if seeping into groundwater.

Raptors Are The Solution ( , a Northern CA nonprofit sponsored by Earth Island Institute, educates the public on the dangers of rodenticide use, and on the role of birds of prey in our ecosystem. They also share tips on rodent mitigation, and advocate for the complete ban of these poisons in California. The health of our kids, our animals, and our ecosystem depends on it!

Irene Barnard, Santa Rosa

Don Gibble Responds

(Does Don Gibble work for Summerfield Theaters and therefore proritize their events in his Film & Theater column?)

Dear Louise,

I do not work for the Summerfield Theater (Santa Rosa). I do enjoy their popcorn and the employees, and love to talk about movies to their customers while buying snacks at the snack bar.

I also enjoy the Rialto Theater (Sebastopol) because they host the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival every year. In fact it’s coming 

up March 22nd and I will be attending. The Rialto was in my column promoting Broadway’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” starring Sienna Miller. I hope you get a chance to see “The Shape of Water” at either Rialto or Summerfiled.

See you at the movies!

Thanks, Don Gibble

We Do it All for Love

I just read an article in Sonoma County Gazette about Cocoa and Chocolate and its sources in the world and what was termed “child slave labor”. We just happen to work with Orphan Care in the Bundibugyo District of Uganda on the Congo Border famous for its Cocoa. That is the cash crop there to a people who maybe only eat 1 meal a day if they are lucky. The children cited in the article are described as captives and slaves, which may be true in some cases, but the majority are working to try to stay alive by earning a tiny wage every day. As Americans, we cannot even identify with not eating for several days, which is common for these African children and to portray our Ethnocentric Values on their attempts to survive is not ethical or right. If people reactions to this article cause those children to lose their meager income, then we are responsible for their deaths. When statements are made that “Hershey’s profits roll in laced with the tears of the children”, that is an inflammatory misrepresentation of the actual humanitarian situation there portrayed from our well fed American viewpoint.   

~ Tom Johnson - Uganda Coalition of Northern California Churches


I appreciate you bringing that perspective to this article. Very similar to the concept that growing food in unhealthy ways also feeds more people. We never know where the right place is to draw the line. Help people NOW and hurt them in the future vs. Hurt people NOW and help them in the future?

I always feel for the children who are innocent victims of what adults do to each other and to our earth. How different our world would be if we all lived by the Golden Rule. Every living being would be cherished. But that’s not realistic.

So some people will want to help by purchasing Fair Trade goods from people who are nurtured with decent wages and working conditions, and others won’t care because they want what they want, and people who produce what they want, will have something that is better than nothing.

So for the children who are alive and hungry NOW - they can depend upon the Walmart shoppers.

For the children who have parents working in Fair Trade shops who don’t hire child labor, they will have fuller bellies with happier families.

The Universe does the best it can to take care of everyone, but for many of us, we HAVE to nourish ALL people because it’s so unfair that we live comfortable lives on the backs of those who don’t.

If we could be like you and go take care of those children personally, we could do it all. But again, unrealistic. So we take care of children by donating to people like you so that you can do your good work. There is a group of students - high school and college - who travel the planet to help people…Global Student Embassy - and of course - the Rotary International. 

And those of us bound by work and family support our personal agendas by purchasing Fair Trade goods so that people are cared for the way we hope they can be cared for. A combination is the best we can do. ~ Vesta


Vesta - Thanks for sharing the letter from the man from the Church group. He brought up a common problem with boycotts. That is that in the immediacy people get hurt for a greater gain in the future. Doubtless people lost work shifts when the Montgomery bus strike was going on. They would have kept those shifts if only they’d accept being second rate citizen. Instead they demanded equality and some paid an economic cost. This was also true in South Africa during the boycott there. People lost jobs or income and the white power government came down. In Palestine the people suffer so much that they want the boycott as they have nothing left to lose. I respect the writers right to his point of view, but I don’t share it. Thanks for letting me see the letter. yours in peace through justice - Rebel

Save Some Water for Salmon and Tourists

With only 12” of rain or approximately 1/3 of the rain that we should have after one year of rain that was preceded by six years of drought brings the question of blue-green algae in the river or the drying of the river by September and the amount of water removed for alcohol production. Question: with only 1/3 the water are the alcohol producers willing to cut back on the amount of water the grapes get so that the salmon; steelhead and river tourists have some too?

Keary Sorenson

Dangerous Forests

Thank you for your on-going Gazette articles (Our County by Lunda Hopkins)and general accessibility.

I must say I was alarmed by the call to preventive arms against West County wildfires. You did a good job in raising the spectre. However, I am confused by the terms you used in the “act now” paragraph.

What are you suggesting by the phrases “reducing regulatory burdens”, “mobile biomass-to-electricity project”, the conversion of “dead-standing trees into green power”??

Perhaps you didn’t mean it this way but it sounds as if you have been discussing zoning variances and timber harvesting with large parcel owners in the coastal zone. Could you please clarify your thoughts and/or intentions in this regard.

My concern is contextual. The Local Coastal Plan is being revised right now, after a series of contentious public workshops in 2015. During those meetings-particularly the one in Timber Cove-a number of participants pointed out that the Ag component proposed re-write had loosened criteria for approved activities on Ag land--such as promotion of Sonoma County agricultural products, even when the products were out-sourced from the land parcel itself. Many of us felt that, like Ratna Ling, the commercial press in Timber Cove approved by the county, this opened the door to further commercial enterprises in the coastal zone. PRMD staff did not respond then or since to address those concerns.

One impact of the fires has been to lead the BOS to relax housing regulations, allowing more construction and temporary housing--on ag-intensive parcels, for example. This is understandable but also sets a precedent that will change the landscape and undermine prior zoning regulations into the future.

When I read Lynda’s paragraph on taking action to reduce West County fire potential, her language was unclear and referred to undefined projects that sounded potentially out-of-keeping with the environmentally protective intent of the original LCP. 

Given the background concerns above, the current struggle to convince the BOS to implement basic ordinances in winery and cannabis activities instead of approving them over the protests of local residents, and the article’s leading language, there is concern that another erosion of rural and natural habitat is in progress.

There you have it. Lynda’s article raised the red flag of fire anxiety, complete with numbers of residents at risk in West County, and followed it with inscrutably-worded proposals potentially at odds with the intent of our original LCP.

I look forward to clarification and further dialogue.

Thanks for opening the door!



Hi Laura,

I try to tackle new topics each month in my column. The folks who work on forest and watershed policy are at the table — this is an extension of the Watershed Collaborative’s work, which was publicly presented before the Board of Supervisors and is available on the County website.

The Watershed Collaborative is comprised of public agencies and local non-profits and community activists. Anyone actively working on environmental issues in Sonoma County is welcome to participate in the Collaborative. The Collaborative will be integral to the development and implementation of a healthy forest initiative. 

If you hear of anyone who has concerns feel free to refer them to me for clarification or invite them to participate in the process.

I haven’t heard any concern expressed by SCCA or Greenbelt Alliance or folks who are actively working on these issues. I’ve testified about forest health at state hearings and brought it up repeatedly at Board of Supervisors meetings, so there are many ways to learn my perspective on the matter, not just through my Gazette column. 

You mentioned winery events. Unfortunately the fire has pushed back a number of issues, and winery event policy is now expected to be postponed until next year, along with the LCP update. It’s unfortunate, in my opinion, but our resources are strapped as we face down an $80M shortfall over the next 4 years. 

I’m not sure what you mean by “hamstrung CACs” but I’m happy to discuss. I believe deeply in citizen participation in government processes. 

Also, you mentioned the LCP... unfortunately the LCP update has been pushed to 2019 due to PRMD’s increased workload from the fire. I’m personally frustrated by this especially given that VRBO’s are currently entirely unregulated in the Coastal zone, but the PRMD’s work plans are determined by the board majority and not individual supervisors. 

I have definitely not been discussing timber harvest plans with any large parcel owners nor do I support zoning variances... and I honestly don’t think my statements would support jumping to those particular two conclusions.

The shadow of the campaign rhetoric and toxicity is long, I suppose. But I do absolutely acknowledge that I was short on specifics.

To provide a little more detail, I’m working on a Healthy Forests and Rural Safety initiative withState Sen. Mike McGuire’s office, local environmental organizations, and sustainable foresters like Fred Euphrat and Matt Greene who are committed to increasing carbon sequestration and enhancing watershed health through sustainable forestry practices. We face regulatory challenges even with implementing shaded fuel breaks to protect rural communities — and to be clear, a shaded fuel break does not mean clear cutting a swath of forest to protect a town, but rather managing shrubs and undergrowth along specific pathways so that a fire is less likely to move into the upper story and that firefighters could potentially access the area in event of a fire.

Because the north coast forest is primarily privately owned and highly parcelized, small landowners cannot afford to manage their forests at all. Part of this is due to (lack of) economy of scale and part of this is due to compliance costs. Regulations are geared towards large commercial landowners and do not offer best practices for small landowners or an ability to opt into a community forest model which could allow sales of carbon credits in exchange for subscribing to best practices and a shared management model that would ultimately enhance carbon sequestration and habitat.

To be perfectly clear, this means selling ecosystem services — the greenhouse gas sequestration capability of forest land — rather than timber. And a shared management model that enhances ecosystem services. That’s the model I am interested in. 

Dead standing timber is prevalent throughout the north coast and the dead biomass could be chipped and converted into electricity via mobile cogeneration plants. This means turning dead standing trees - which are currently a huge fire hazard - into energy, and then compost. 

I had more details about the proposal in the original version of the article but because the initiative isn’t officially public from McGuire’s office yet, I couldn’t include those details by the deadline, which is why I was forced to write a hasty and slightly vague summary. That, and the crazy hours we’ve all been putting in since the fire which means that I’m always running late on columns! (Luckily Vesta is endlessly patient with me!) 

Hope that was clear. Again writing quickly at the end of a long day, before an early morning. If you have any questions I’m happy to meet or chat over the phone. 

Lynda Hopkins

Cannabis Grow Sites

When I attended your candidates night in 2015 at the Sebastopol Grange,, a west county resident told how the wells in his neighborhood had gone dry unttil they neighbors reported the illegal cannibas operation and the county put them out of business at which time the wells began regenerating water for the neighbors.

Under current methods, if this operation had a permit (and I understand it is pretty easily obtained with no real environmental impact or hearings), that operation might still be depriving the neighborhood of its water supply.

I intend to attend the February 28th meeting of the Advisory Board (which is heavily weighted by LLC s representing the out-of-area cannabis growers to protest the widespread permitting of cannabis operations in neighborhoods where they depend on ground water for their very survival. I intend to ask how the county will support home owners who find themselves in such a situation where they might not have a source of water for their meagerest of needs.

I know of no other type of business that would be allowed to create such an adverserial condition in otherwise quiet, law-abiding neighborhoods.

I will also question the fact that the “Advisory” Committee does not keep public records of its meetings. I will question how the Grand Jury might investigate the workings of such a group should it be in question (and I seriously believe it will be).

I am not opposed to cannabis as a medical treatment, or of its occasional usage. What I regret (and I think a great many Californiians will regret in the results of approving cannabis usage in the state) is the proliferation of these operation in our neighborhoods and places we consider safe before cannabis inclusion. It appears that the county believes that all the money it will realize from “Cannabis” operations will solve its financial woes. I would suggest that is not quite the case: in fact, I don’t think the proper evaluation of the entire picture is being studies in the very least. Who is doing the math: if it takes 6 gallons of water per day (365 days a year) X ??? # of plants, how much ground water will be used for what size of operation?These statistics I discovered after the west county gentleman revealed what happened in his neighborhood... I then researched the matter and if you look at the April 2014 issue of Mother Jones magazine (in which they quote the Santa Rosa Press Democrat) , you will find these astonishing statistics. All this in spite of the fact that I understand one of the owners of the PD is an investor in the Cannabis industry.

We already have grapes sucking up a huge amount of our water reserves...what can we expect. How much will the county be willing to spend to keep its ground water citizens from dry wells?

Charlene Stone, Santa Rosa

This is increasingly part of the discussion and I remember the fellow from the water board talking about the high water use of Cannabis because it is a shallow-rooted annual. But my understanding is that cannabis grown with hydroponics uses considerably less water. Perhaps this will force crops indoors, and if that’s the case, into industrial-zoned lands - away from neighborhoods and wells. ~ Vesta

Kudos to Diane McCurdy

This letter has a more promotional purpose than a critical analysis. I was so in favor of this Book Review by Diane McCurdy. I bought and read Being Mortal by Atul Gwande as soon as it was published in 2014. I have loaned it to many and have advised many to purchase and read this book. It may be one of the most recent books of great importanceto have been written. It has valuable information for all generations and the generations to come.

I agree with McCurdy’s description of the author’s concern for the dignity of death, but I also strongly believe the book is also a plea for the dignity of elder LIFE. The decades of almost criminal elder care abuse has been exposed! The average nursing home design or “old people’s homes,” have been indicted as they should be. Along with Dr. W Thomas, from his book, A Lite Worth Living, who sets forth a new age in facilities for the elderly, by promoting and revolutionizing the design and programs for group residential living. No matter how long we live on this planet, we deserve a quality of life with artistic surroundings, gardens to admire and grow food in, music, art, animals and organic food.

We deserve an invigorating social life and opportunities for skills, wisdom and our passion for living. We deserve a life which holds a future WORTH living. We do not need to only consider the demise of our death. We need a Life with pursuits, social life, art, laughter, activities and perhaps even a new career! Atul Gwande’s book, Being Mortal is not only about opportunities for improving the quality of care for advanced illness. It is also an inspirational serious discussion for the quality of care for institutionalized elder living settings. There is a bright star and a gem of great wisdom to be discovered in this timely review by Diane McCurdy.

Nina Tepedino, Sebastopol


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