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Sonoma County Gazette
LETTERS - May 2018
LETTERS - May 2018

May 2018

May 1, 2018


Shooting in Sonoma

I agree totally with Kathy Byrne about that Wing & Barrel Ranch. OMG that is disgusting and sickening and I hope they are not going to be successful. Would like more information about that. To kill birds and drink OMG and individuals pay $75K to join and organizations $145K, what kind of organizations?? I have an idea of what types and I don’t like it. Our own little killing fields in beautiful Sonoma! Please say NO! ~

Judy Mikeska

Cannabis fact-checking

The letters in your April issue illustrate some serious confusion regarding cultivation of cannabis. For example, Rachel Zierdt threw out a figure of her neighbor using 38 million gallons of water a year. That is using 105,000 gallons a day! In other words, enough to cover an acre with 4 inches of water every single day!! Not possible.

I run a small family farm outside of Sebastopol. We grow 15 acres of organic vegetables and our total use roughly a few million gallons yearly.

The cannabis ordinance requires copious attention to water resources already, in addition to thorough biotic assessments for potential environmental impact! The standards are very high in Sonoma County already.

It is silly to talk about illegalizing a crop that was already illegal. Many illegal operations will simply continue illegally. The Board of Supervisors have done a great job of making the regulations very restrictive and have set the bar high. Cannabis operations that meet their criteria should be allowed to continue. 

The whole point of legalization is to eliminate the criminal element. Cannabis is already a big part of our local economy, like it or not. We need to bring cultivators into compliance to bring the industry into the light, generate jobs and tax revenues, and continue Sonoma County’s rich agricultural heritage.

Remember, Sonoma County has a Right to Farm Ordinance! This means that you live in an area that has farming, whether or not you like the farmers or the crop. I understand keeping cannabis out of residential zones, but the Ag zones are zoned that way for a reason.

After it all, remember: cannabis is a plant. It should never have been illegal in the first place.

Ryan Power, Sebastopol

Sustainability? Fake News?

Thank you for the excellent, balanced April cover story: “Wine Our Best friend or Worst Enemy?”

When the Sonoma County Winegrowers buy full-page ads in local papers headlined “Love the land and the land loves you”, touting their goal of 100% sustainability, one has to wonder. If they love the land so much, why are they using so many harmful chemicals? Sustainability? Sounds like fake news to me.

In 2015, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.” That same year, just over 46 tons of glyphosate were applied to Sonoma County vineyards.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup; the most widely sold weed-killer in the world. In 2016, a consensus statement by a group of scientists blamed the heavy and rising usage of glyphosate on endocrine disruption, birth defects, kidney and liver damage, and gastrointestinal health issues. They also found that Monsanto’s “allowable daily intakes” in the US and EU were based on outdated science.

Meanwhile, sales of organic wine are growing, significantly faster than sales of non-organic wine, with each acre yielding about $1500 more for the grapes. If our local wine industry truly wants to be sustainable they will consider your author’s recommendations to move toward biodynamic or organic/pesticide-free farming for the health and welfare of everyone, not just business profits.

Jane Colman, Santa Rosa

I would love to know...

The article written by Aleta includes the sentence...”despite how much the wine industry benefits our local economy...”

My question is simple... how exactly does the wine industry benefit our economy? Does it pay for our roads that tourists drive and bike all over to taste test? Does it pay for housing for the multitude of service workers behind the scenes...out in the vineyards working under sometimes deplorable conditions? Does it pay for our children’s education? Does it pay to keep our waters clean and clear?

As Aleta says, let’s address the elephant in the room. It’s looming large.

Our county is forever changed. It’s lost so much of its charm with the rape of the land, outrageous water usage, continued building of wineries, and more and more venues to ‘taste’ and be entertained.

I appreciate your article Aleta, thank you. ...and I personally, don’t mind demonizing the industry. It’s theirs to own.

Jude Mariah


Hi Jude, Thank you for your input on my article in the April issue. I understand your skepticism surrounding the wine industry and the apparent damage it does to our environment.

But we also must give credit where it is due. Wine has put Sonoma County on the map as a tourist destination, and whether you think that’s good or bad, it does generate revenue. All those tourists are paying taxes while they’re here, which does contribute towards road improvement, public services, human services, education, and environmental advancements. These tourists are also patronizing other businesses like restaurants, hotels, and shops, most of which are owned by locals and all of whom employ locals.

The wine industry itself directly employs 7,830 people in Sonoma County, who make an average of $16.34/hour.

There are many ways that we can criticize the wine industry, and many ways in which they can improve their business and farming practices, but to say that they offer no benefit to Sonoma County at all would be inaccurate.

My hope is that we can find a balance. Ideally, our place on the map as a wine destination would remain, but in such a way that is environmentally sustainable and not so financially top heavy.

Encouraging more winegrowers to become more biodynamic, and supporting the ones who already are, would be the first step in moving the process along towards a more sustainable future.

Thank you again for your response. ~ Aleta Parseghian


Grape Cultivation

I wanted to thank you for your well written and researched article on grape cultivation. I’ve been a local anti-pesticide advocate in Sonoma County for several years (focusing mainly on getting pesticides out of schools and parks) and have started to slowly educate myself on the status quo in grape growing.

I went to Pam Strayers talk in Sebastopol a couple weeks ago (perhaps you were there?) and was very glad to see your well-timed article in the Gazette.

I’ve been working on Sonoma County Conservation Action’s Toxic Free Future campaign and could see some of those efforts focused on grape growing/worker’s rights in the future. I know there are a handful of other nonprofits that would also be interested in working on this issue. Keep me in mind if you decide to pursue this work further.

Thanks again! Megan Kaun


Balanced Perspective

I am surprised and delighted to hear this healthy and balanced perspective, so notably lacking in public forum and local politics. My compliments to the author.

Thank you for publishing this!!


Laura Morgan

Keep Compost at Home!

Thank you for all your hard work. I have enjoyed watching the growth of the Gazette, a truly “local” paper.

I’m writing to take exception to the advice of S. Y. of Grab’N’Grow, et. al: in the 3/18 15th annual G.R.G. It is so dated now & was bad advice when “en Vogue” to route roof runoff off premises to storm drains! Dig a “drywell” or 2, keep it on site, replenish the aquifer! Creeks overflow from runoff, are polluted unnecessarily.

The same principle applies to the pruned material, keep it on site; start a compost pile! Do not send it miles away for processing; then buy back as a soil amendment with petrofuel both ways. “I don’t care where it goes, as long as it’s away” is for Ostriches, not the informed!

Lastly, the bit about aggregates; compacted material is great but after a few years of leaf litter on loose stones you get weeds which can be a real pain to remove.

Thanks for your time,

Albert Bruin, the Composter

(40+ years, winner 1st - 4th/ Best of Show Compost, 2010 Sonoma County Harvest Fair, for Bayer Farm/Juilliard Park C.G., only time ever entered in competition.)

Albert, you are correct - In the previous year I had two articles on how to divert roof off into swales that replenish the groundwater system.

As to yard waste - people in housing developments rarely have room for yard waste - even I take it to be composted since it takes a good two years to naturally compost the material - I don’t have the patience for a composter Out here in the woods we have rat issues so try to keep rat attracting piles at a minimum.

As to loose stones - I am not fond of them, either - I use crushed shale on my paths and did when I had landscaping clients - but there are people who want the look of loose rocks - and putting landscaping fabric under the rocks does nothing to discourage weeds.

I ran an article a few months back on the difference between mulch and compost. I like to mulch with compost personally.

I’m totally in love with Bayer Farm - so you are one of the magic people who makes that place thrive! Thank you! ~ Vesta

Riparian Restoration

I am writing to call attention to the good work of the Russian Riverkeeper, because of their monumental efforts in watershed restoration. Specifically in bank stabilization projects on privately owned properties where erosion was once a problem. 

It is great to see a non-governmental organization and private land owners working together to restore healthy riparian conditions in the Russian River watershed. These types of restoration projects are essential in maintaining healthy water conditions for people, salmonids, and the wildlife of our watershed.   

I am writing this letter in hopes that property owners will consider restoring riparian buffer zones where stream banks have been degraded.  A trend like this could reduce the amount of sedimentation and aid in the recovery of the watershed.

Eric Woodruff

Bicycle Safety

It’s a great and wonderful thing to see so many on bikes. Think of how good that is for our precious planet and its carbon footprint. In the past few weeks I have almost been hit twice by a young cyclist. Once, at a blind corner on the West side of Sonoma and once walking out of an Orthopedic office in Sonoma on First St. West. Both time these kids were going too fast on a sidewalk and seemed to be not aware. Bike safety should be a big part of our community outreach. If kids are going to be on sidewalks they need to be so aware of walkers and maybe get off their bikes when near Dr. office exits and blind corners. Bike safety begins at home.

Do we need more bike paths?

Joy Bennett, Sonoma

Exceptional Choice

Vote-by-mail ballots for the June 5th election will be in the mail soon. My vote for Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor (CRA) is going to Deva Marie Proto.

For the last five years, I have held the position of Executive Assistant in the CRA department. I don’t voice my political opinion lightly and do so having extensive and first-hand experience working with Deva Marie.

Deva Marie’s track record is impressive! With unwavering dedication to her staff, she has led office efforts to become more efficient with technological improvement, even winning awards in this regard. Deva Marie has Implemented a new Clerk/Recorder system and electronic recording. She has restored and protected the county’s grantor/ grantee books and has become a Certified Elections Official.

These are just a few of the many achievements Deva has brought to the department. Her passion as a public servant and leader are remarkable. As you make your choice for Clerk-Recorder-Assessor, a vote for Deva Marie is a vote for a qualified candidate with integrity who embraces the challenge and will be a leader that we can be proud of.

In the current political climate, we are very fortunate to have a choice as exceptional as Deva Marie Proto.

Diane Stiles


John Mutz for Sheriff

I am writing in support of John Mutz’s candidacy for Sheriff of Sonoma County. John has just the experience and skills that our community needs at this time.

The Sheriff’s Office plays a vital role in our communities, and our officers and our county deserve the kind of leadership and support that John Mutz can provide. John brings to the job a depth of experience, including leading a large police organization through very difficult times, and training other law enforcement professionals across the country in mediation and community-focused policing. His approach to policing emphasizes creating and enhancing trust and engagement with citizens and community partners, as well as improving working conditions and morale for officers.

He has extensive experience in law enforcement in culturally diverse communities, and will work to create a department that emphasizes service to our communities. He will place an emphasis on officer training and development, community-based policing, and communication with community members and organizations. I have known John Mutz as a neighbor for several years and trust him to do an outstanding job as our Sonoma County Sheriff. For these reasons, I endorse John Mutz for Sheriff of Sonoma County.

Sincerely yours,

Richard H. Levin


Picture this:

Young children, who have working parents and want so much to get to the library for a project. They are too young to go on their own and have a project deadline. An elderly woman with both Parkinson’s and dementia who only goes between the bed and her walker but loves to read.

These are the very great reasons why the Free Library is such a wonderful gift and convenience for our community. Not all of us can jump into a car and get to the library. Those cute little book boxes scattered in our community are a wonderful thing for so many.

Please rethink taking them away and think what they GIVE to so many less fortunate. I visit Denver, Colo from time-time and they have the same thing in many locations. It’s a great thing!

Joy Bennett, SonomaOPEN LETTER T

OPEN LETTER to Ms. Ravitch

Re:  the Killing of Branch Wroth

I am Branch Wroth’s mother.  I’m will not be accepting your invitation for a chit-chat in your office before you release a statement to the press.  I wish I had faith enough in our system to think that the press release would be objective and fair. Instead, it will likely follow the pattern I have seen many times over: the report will vilify the victim of a police shooting, in this instance my son, with no understanding of who he was. And, it will vindicate the two officers,Sean Huot andDavid Sittig-Wattson, who killed him. Such has been the ongoing pattern of the DA's office, an informal policy which ensures re-election, but allows police to operate with impunity. As such, I expect no justice to come from this meeting.

The heartache in this family is nearly unbearable, and some days we simply succumb.  Branch’s father and I are forever broken; Branch’s siblings are still in disbelief. Friends devastated. Grief strangles us. If these cops and you could possibly grasp the great suffering you have caused, I believe, all of you would fall to your knees and cry and ask forgiveness.

The DA's office will provide only a narrow accounting of what happened.  But, real justice must address these questions and concerns, and many others.

1. Why would officers kill a man who was asking for medical assistance?  

Branch was in distress when officers arrived on the scene at the Budget Inn, and police officers reported that Branch stated he had been "poisoned."

The reasoned, humane response would have been to call an ambulance.  The police know basic first aid, but they lack the training and licensure to make a medical assessment. And yet they did just that, when they ignored Branch's request for help.

Instead, the officers, upon learning his name, discovered Branch had a misdeamenor, and became sidetracked from the medical emergency.  By not seeking competent medical expertise, they placed Branch's life in further danger. In short, there was no due diligence by the police to ensure the safety of my son.

2. Branch was tazed to death over a misdemeanor

The Taser's manual states clearly that the product can cause death and great bodily harm, and these risks compound exponentially, "if someone is in medical distress."  Branch clearly was. My son is dead because the officers did not exhaust all other options before using a Taser. Let me repeat: they tazed and killed a man, who was harming no one, who was pleading for medical assistance. The FDA classifies Tasers as a firearm.

3. The DA's office will focus on Branch and ignore the real question

I suspect you will call Branch’s death a tragedy, but you will never admit it was preventable, except to lay the blame at Branch’s feet. Your only responsibility is to determine whether the officers violated local state and federal laws.

Instead, the issue must be: did the officers follow what should have been good, sensible policy when confronted with an individual in either a medical or mental health crisis? The officers carelessly chose to focus on compliance, when medical distress was the real issue.

4 . The County and Rohnert Park responses to police shootings lack human decency

Branch was killed around 3 p.m.; however, we did not know of his death until some eight hours later. We never saw our son's body. We had to file in court to ensure the autopsy was videotaped, a necessary precaution since this County does not separate the Coroner's office from the Sheriff's.

Following the police-killing of Andy Lopez, a task force recommended a critical incident liaison be established to assist families in navigating a horrendous tragedy. No liaison exists, however.  The silence surrounding my son's death is bound, in part by legal constraints. But, the system has lost its basic humanity and denies shattered families even a modicum of compassion.

Branch was a son, a father, a brother, and an uncle and a friend to a great many people.  He was respected, deeply loved and a great big heart of a man. My deepest hope is that truth will prevail.  I know that takes a long time, sometimes, but just as in the Andy Lopez case, the real truth is coming to light, slowly but surely the truth will prevail for Branch also.

Marni Wroth


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