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Sonoma County Gazette

LETTERS from Gazette Readers - March 2019

Mar 1, 2019


Time to Act

Housing & Homelessness – they’re always an issue and getting worse. Education and Emergency Services are also concerning.  The world is changing – is Sonoma County keeping up?

Next July the State Courts empanel a newSonoma County Civil Grand Jury for a full fiscal year investigating these sorts of issues and some of the Jury’s own ideas.

You, a Sonoma County citizen, can participate along with 18 peers, on an adventure in County government. Be one of those who choose to volunteer; be a part-time member of local government for a year.

Apply now thru March 31 for the 2019-20 Grand Jury.


Questions? See Facebook Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury or e-mail:

Peter Andrews,President, Sonoma County Grand Jury Association

Housing: How Much & Where?

Is “planning” simply setting the number of units for building? Given the significant traffic issues, in Larkfield-Wikiup for instance, adding units without addressing the already glutted main arteries cannot be justified as addressing a “housing crisis,” since people will not be able to get either to or from their residence for work or school. Another reminder: Half of Larkfield-Wikiup burned. We’re still addressing the clean-up/rebuilding effort. To start new housing in the middle of the traffic/rebuilding problems I’d call the definition of “poor planning.” Moving the focus from an already congested area East of Hwy 101 to the large open swaths West of 101 and away from the burned area, near the SMART train station makes more sense whether its designated as “commercial” or not. But even that needs to address the traffic on Airport during rush hours BEFORE units are added. And more to the point, Santa Rosa and its environs are desirable due to the rural/recreational surroundings. If that is spoiled or traffic makes it such a nuisance to even get to or around in, I don’t call that planning. I call that handing over the future and quality of life to the pockets of developers who will be long gone to solve the problems of the mess they’ve created. The County must restrain themselves in permitting these wholesale changes to the area. And nothing I’ve seen proposed is anywhere near the definition of “affordable.”

Michael Fargo


I don’t know if I properly thanked you for connecting me with Duane DeWitt before the holidays. I’ve met with several people from the NeighborWood group and learned a great deal about the history of their work to get the City of Santa Rosa to purchase the land. They have established an impressive foundation and I and others new to the project are incredibly impressed with their can -do attitude and persistence.

Those contacts have allowed me to begin researching the conservation easements, the preliminary concept plans and what incredible potential this site has for a truly publicly accessible urban open space. It is a wonderful concept and would truly benefit all the residents of Roseland, The land has so much potential for educational use as well as providing an easily accessible, free place for people to experience the healing benefits of a natural area. I’m suggesting to Parks and Rec they further develop SouthWest Community Park which has land that has not yet been completely developed and use those areas for more turfed sports fields and sports courts. It has much more parking and is a bus hub and already has turf and courts. It’s less than a mile from the Roseland Creek site. 

There’s also 40 years of solid documentation to back up the urban open space idea and I’ve been creating fact sheets based on some of that information as well as a couple of short bibliographies about a variety of related subjects including the psychological, physical health benefits; amazing data on how regular exposure to nature including unstructured play in nature really makes a huge difference in child development in terms of cognition, social skills, concentration and physical health, concentration and observational skills. It’s basically the kind of play many of us grew up with, but so many of today’s don’t get to experience. Of course, author Richard Louv’s books, including his Last Child in the Woods, beautifully summarizes much of the above research. 

I also need to thank you for the Gazette’s yearly “Spring Gardener’s Guide”. It really is a fine resource and I was amazed to receive an e-mail from Marsha Dupres this evening noting I was even quoted in it. I’m always amazed to find myself quoted! I will admit I’ve not yet picked up my copy so have to do so. In fact, I should probably subscribe, it would be easier.

Thanks for your continued fine work on maintaining a wonderful local resource. I always look forward to reading the Gazette because it is about Sonoma County and all the interesting towns and areas. So many of us appreciate your ‘labor of love’.

Warm regards,

Virginia Hotz-Steenhoven,

Santa Rosa (Roseland)

Weather or Not

As a former newspaper editor I was struck by a couple of things while waiting with your paper for breakfast at Adele’s in Santa Rosa

First,  the story Kimmy. In New York was as well written as anything I’ve read anywhere in a while. Mo McElroy is a gifted writer. I look forward to more submissions from her. She is very talented.

On the other hand I kept running into one of my pet peeves. I used to plead with local columnists not to begin their columns with the weather. Without naming names here are a few column ledes from the February edition of the Gazette. 1 “As I write this the skies have cleared...” 2. “Yes I feel spring coming.” 3. It’s been a soggy January.” 4. “Though today feels more like spring... 5. “Spring is right around the corner.” 6. February when  early spring arrives.” And on and on. 

Nobody cares what the weather was weeks ago when these columns were written. Just get to the point. 

In fairness, every editor I worked for had his or her pet peeves. One said never begin a paragraph with the word THE.. another said go through your story and cut out half the THAT’S. Still another said there was no such thing as a first annual anything. Counting starts with the second annual.

So I put my weather report criticism in that same category. Just one of those things that bugs an old retired editor.

Hopefully, your columnists have thick enough skins to either take my criticism to heart or to just consider me a relic of the past and simply blow me off. 

My suggestion to them and anybody else who writes would be to take a close look at Mo McElroy’s work. She has something to show us all.

Pete Margolies, Guerneville

Sonoma Column

A special shout out and thanks for Stephanie Hiller’s last column in Savory Sonoma - Immigration Law & Asylum Seekers

Her reminder of what is going on at the border is profoundly important to us all. Let’s do what we can and let’s not turn our heads away from it: “They are taken to the dog house where they are put in cages. Families are kept there for three days, then sent to the Ice House where it’s super cold. Big fans blow, night and day, no one knows why, keeping the temperature in the 50’s and 60’s.” After three days they are prosecuted for illegal entry and separated from their kids....the bail up near 2500 and to 10,000... 

(Read it: Feb. issue, 2019.)

Katy Byrne


And please read Immigrant Stories by Christopher Kerosky’s December column:WAITING FOR RELIEF: My Own Journey to a Refugee Camp South of Tijuana - a guest column from Liz Linde, a Sonoma County resident, about her recent trip to a refugee camp in Mexico holding many thousands of asylum-seekers awaiting their asylum interviews at our Southern border.~ Vesta

Coastal Marathon

We are writing to oppose the Coastal Marathon that’s been proposed for Highway One on September 29.

As full-time residents of the Jenner community, we are extremely concerned about the impact this proposed event would have on our area. This event will have a negative impact on coastal businesses by closing Highway One to travelers and tourists on one of the busiest days of the year.

Closing the highway will also make the Sonoma Coast State Park inaccessible for most of a whole day, and give preference to paying marathon runners while denying it to taxpayers, citizens, and visitors who have a right to use our free parks and beaches. It will also make Fort Ross, an important historic site that brings in money for State Parks inaccessible from the south.

The expenses and energy required to provide emergency services, highway directions, cleanup, and myriad other needs of this event such as radio communications since cell phones do not work along most of the coast, could much better be used to solve problems we already have at the coast. Our roads are crumbling, our volunteer fire and ambulance services are over- stretched, our beaches and roads are littered with trash, the trails to the beaches are a shambles, and our state parks’ personnel are severely overtaxed, and our community centers struggle to raise funds to exist.

The suddenness with which news of this marathon proposal has emerged suggests that it has not been carefully planned and that no local communities have been consulted in advance.

Carol Sklenicka &Richard Ryan


My opinion on the proposed Marathon along the Sonoma coast. The coastal community not outsiders should be the ones who should decide on this event. Our county supervisors should ensure that no group can put an event this size in our area without community buy in. The community has not bought into this marathon.

The county makes money from our visitors through an occupancy tax. The coastal communities are impacted during high tourism season. We don't get much of the occupancy tax that our businesses generate. We need infrastructure investment. High-speed internet, cell phone coverage along the entire coast, road improvements, paid fire and emergency services, disaster relief funds etc. 

Instead of championing this type of investment in our community Efren Carrillo is pushing a marathon, closed highway, environmental impact so people can run and beat their personnel best. I don't buy that economical benefits they are pushing. It is a scam that benefits a few on the backs of many. If these people want exercise I have beaches they can clean. Trailheads that need maintaining. Roads need paving. Dead trees that need to be removed. Homeless that need shelter and food. If he is bored now that he is out of office there are plenty of things we need that he can use his influence and charm to help with.

To me this event is a big distraction. We are dealing with major impacts from a flood and energy is being used on putting on a marathon. Every high season locals put out the welcome mat and deal with the impact on resources. When the season is done we are left with the aftermath. The earth cannot take the constant trampling. Our water resources are limited and drained. Our roads need repairs. Money spent on rescuing the tourists from themselves could of gone to provide services for locals. The rains or fires come and let us not forget the shaking ground that is soon to come. No let us come up with more creative ways to make money off the coast. When will you give back to the people and the land.

I trust and implore that our county and state agencies will realize that our roads are for transportation not events. That the roads along the Sonoma Coast are not ideal for this type of public event. That the timeline they want the road closed is unreasonable. I look forward to them saying no to this type of use of our roads.

Francesca Scalpi


Jenner Resident

Equal Justice and Compassion?

I have a strange story to tell: Last November a family of four assaulted two male employees of a Santa Rosa mobile home park with a baseball bat, a car, and a shovel--all deadly weapons. A terrified 14-year-old girl witnessed the entire attack.  Both men were badly bruised and missed several days of work.  The perpetrators have remained free and hostile and have continued to make threats, either overt or implied. Neighbors are living in fear. 

And now comes the strange part: District Attorney Jill Ravitch and Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner have taken no action despite (1) the victims’ submission of full medical reports and actual photographs of their injuries, and (2) a police recording of the phone call in which the young witness reports, in real time, the violence taking place right before her very eyes. And how does Ms. Ravitch respond to this evidence?  “Evidence?” she shrugs, “What evidence?” (I paraphrase).  Apparently, at some unidentified moment in the past, crime photographs ceased to be evidence. Another major problem, Ms. Ravitch says, is that she is unable to “corroborate the victims’ statement.” So why does she refer to “the victims” if she has no evidence that they were victims? And how can she be “aware of the 14 year old’s [sic] statement” but claim, “We do not have an eyewitness.” So what was the 14-year-old girl if not an eyewitness?  Furthermore, according to Ms. Ravitch, “the suspect has witnesses to corroborate his statement.” Let’s get this straight:  There never was a “the suspect.” All four members of the family participated in the assault, and if one is a suspect, all are suspects. It would appear that District Attorney Ravitch is not even familiar with the details of the violent attack that has terrified an entire neighborhood, yet she reassures us about “the work that we have put in to try to build a case.”

Unfortunately, I am not at liberty now to say how I learned about Ms. Ravitch’s comments. Full disclosure may depend upon how many citizens question Ms. Ravitch about her conduct of this case.

Ronald Hennessey, Santa Rosa 

Green New Deal

Today I joined a group of other activists to present Congressman Mike Thompson the gathered petitions for a Green New Deal. It’s really disturbing that Democrats are going to such great lengths to not mention that the Green Party has been pushing a solid Green New Deal for a decade that they (Democrats) are starting with an outline, with their media cohorts trumpeting that it will take years to formulate the full plan. This is a red flag. If this was truly about caring, they would be moving forward with the Green Party version, but instead they’re going to drag this out so that they can pretend the Green Party wasn’t involved. We don’t have time for this. The minorities and working families we are trying to advocate for don’t have time for this.

I went there with the intention of calling Mr. Thompson out for his pro-military votes and for anti-environmental votes such as voting three times to weaken the Clean Air Act. When we got there, we realized he wasn’t there, so we spoke to his staff instead. I left him A) what I had written to read to him B) Another copy of my letter challenging him to debate and C) A copy of the Green Party version of the Green New Deal. Here is a copy of what I had intended to say to him:

“Today our planet is in grave danger, not just from nuclear war, but it is being destroyed as we speak by deforestation, oil drilling, not just in the middle east but in the Gulf of Mexico, South America and Canada. Fracking is causing millions of pounds of poisonous acids to be dumped into our ground, and therefore water supplies. Meanwhile, Flint, MI’s water supply has been poisoned for 5 years, while Nestle has been allowed to take public water from nearby Lake Michigan and sell it back to the public for billions of dollars in profits.

Our best protection against the poisoning of our atmosphere are our rain forests, which convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. But we are deforesting our rain forests, just as sure as we are deforesting Angwin. The rain forests are being destroyed, not just for agricultural products such as palm oil, but also for animal farming, which is another major source of our planet’s woes. Animal farming accounts for a massive amount of our planet’s pollution, but we, the people, are simply not being told this.

We are also not being told that the #1 polluter in the world is the U.S. military. U.S. hegemony in Africa, Asia, Central and South America are not just killing people who were never a threat to the United States and destabilizing governments in places we have no business in being, it is literally destroying our planet.

As all of this destruction has been occurring, the poor and working classes in this nation are struggling more and more because federal spending into the economy always seems to favor the very wealthy or more military spending, which is still favoring the very wealthy. Government assistance, social security and veteran’s benefits need a raise. And the people need jobs. Not part time, low benefit jobs, but good jobs that can support a family. We are destroying our people, as well as our planet.

Mr. Thompson, you have voted for this destruction every time you have voted to increase military spending. You have also voted to pave Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, to erode the Clean Water Act (several times) and to encourage hunting trophies from threatened species, such as the polar bear or African elephant.

WE are the threatened species now, Mr. Thompson. Our planet will recover, with or without human beings, but we ARE making it uninhabitable. And it will remain so for thousands of years if we don’t do something fast. This has not just been allowed to happen, by the federal government, it has been encouraged. And this has been a bi-partisan effort, which has gotten worse over the last few decades. The construction of more and more weapons, for sales to the Saudis or to Israel, has only made things worse.

These are just a few of the issues that I thought we should discuss when I first challenged you to debate in 2018, during the primary, but most recently in a letter that was sent to all four of your offices and printed in at least four of this district’s newspapers. Some might think you have positions that you cannot defend.

It’s not too late to do the right thing, Mr. Thompson, but it is getting down to the wire. I urge you to support the Green Party version of the Green New Deal, which is very detailed. Thank you. “

If you want to read the Green Party version click

Jasno Kishineff

AOC Racism

Media’s witty, catchy denigration of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ name to the initials “AOC” clearly indicates how deeply embedded racism is in our National fabric, our National DNA. This opinion from a Citizen who agrees with most of the Congresswoman’s criticisms of our shared Country (heck, we were even both born in the Bronx), but vehemently disagrees with her plan to get there.

First, AOC, is usually pronounced in audio/visual media in English sounding letters -“Aayy-Oooh-Cee”.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is fluent in at least two languages, English & Spanish. Spanish is the American language she uses most. Consequently, if you’re going to reduce this amazing Jeffersonian Democract ‘new blood’ to initials, at least say them correctly.

In Spanish, AOC is pronounced, “Ah-O-Cey”. Far different than the English version. If you said the Congresswoman’s initials in English to one of her constituents who only speaks Spanish (and, remember that one of America’s greatnesses is that we, unlike every other country, have no official language) that constituent would have no idea who you were talking about. Say her initials correctly, in Spanish, it is likely her constituent will light up in understanding. At that point you have made our Country and Democracy stronger.

Second, audio/visual media’s approval of using AOC, and pronouncing it in English, nakedly shows institutional racism is part of our Country. Even media stars of color, women and Spanish speakers on English TV, who know better and will call out any hint of racism, even in circumstances when none exists, pronounce Ocasio-Cortez’ initials incorrectly. Happily, most Spanish language broadcasts use the Spanish initials.

What I’m curious about, what drives this Country to distraction, is the reason why English speaking media have adopted “Aayy-Oooh-Cey”? Answer: Racism.

Is the diminution of her name just coincidental, or because she is a woman? Of color. Are broadcasters frustrated by the correct pronunciation of her name, or are they dismissing Spanish as a valid American language? Are broadcasters pronouncing her initials in English because it’s ‘easier’, or, do they think it unimportant to pronounce her initials in Spanish?

Have the respect and cultural sensitivity to say “Ah-O-Cey”. And, if you think this racism is limited to Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, ask California Senator Harris how to say her first name.

Chris Berkheimer





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