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Sonoma County Gazette
Letters to the Editor

Gazette Readers Respond to Articles and Issues

Sep 27, 2017


Human Waste Pathogen Problems in our River

Septic Systems, Redwood Boxes, and Cesspools [the unmentionable names] Comments about the recent presentation by State Water Board.

Unfortunately, there’s no mention in the PD of this recent “event”.

Lynda Hopkins was there, a lone bright light in the West County; but where was PRMD, a sister organization if ever there was one on septic compliance along the River.

The State came in, ineptly and inexcusably unprepared to TELL the ~200 West County residents in attendance at the Guerneville Vets Hall, what the State was planning to do over the ensuing eighteen months to eradicate E-coli from the Russian River.

A laudable goal, but that is where the two groups parted ways: science, methods, and corrections were all in question. Inept as the State group was, they did succeed in framing the discussion such that eradicating R/R e-coli was an agreed, worthwhile public goal. They were short on numbers, but if 1200 parcels each invest $40,000, we’re talking about close to $50-million. Are there better things to do with that much money?

Another question about the goal is, “After spending the $50 million, will the BOS, or anyone else, be happy to drink a glass of water from the River?” I think not. $50 Million is a lot, but their plan doesn’t address the agricultural run-off (and cows), urban spills and storm run-off, and the homeless contribution, especially after a flood. The direct input of 150 homeless people in Monte Rio is far more than a factor of ten to the load of 1500 residents with septic systems. Further, after spending the $50 million, who will know the difference, besides the septic engineers. You can buy many compostable toilets for $50 million. You could sign a ten-year service-lease to install 1,000 portable toilets up and down the River. Monte Rio Park & Rec bought a monster aboveground water treatment system for $250,000 rated to be able to service 100 people. We could buy 100 of these systems, scattering them up the River and have an equal amount of money left over for maintenance.

One idea raised by the public was: wouldn’t some sort of tiered system be better in allocating “guilt”; some sort of “guy & his family come up from SF 1-2days a month” is very different than a “non-resident landlord VBRO’s to parties of eight every week”. By another scale, tourist dollars, the VBRO-guy is our economy savior, and the retired, fire- fighter week-ender is a drag on the [real estate] market.

Playing the scientist for a second, it might seem the higher above-riverbank, the more guaranteed the impact [Newton’s gravity and all that]; and conversely, the less high especially at 600 feet, the lesser the impact.

The State says, -- solutions are to be locally County-driven. This means that our merry band of engineers can pontificate about what should be done, but have provided no means to enforce compliance, in fact, when asked the question said, “Tell us your system works fine and you will get a PASS!”

Peter Andrews, Monte Rio

Hate cannot drive out Hate

Please do not take the Homeless Task Force name in vain. This organization did plenty for homelessness; homeless court and sober Sonoma to name a few.   

What your task force sounded like, if I discern from the article accurately,(River Community Advocates 9/17)was more like the Downtown Vigilantes. I gather that there were no homeless persons represented in this meeting. How dare you call yourself “a community with solutions”.   

Supervisor Hopkins heard from this Municipal Advisory Council with 16 groups , none of which represented the homeless. And was this survey given to anyone who had the experience of homelessness?   

I commend the funding to prevent homelessness by low income workers, but this funding is offered for the homeless. Seems like the hospitality industry ought to be raising wages; what this looks like is using taxpayers money to line their pockets.   

I work with the homeless here in Santa Rosa. The problem at the river is exacerbated by unrelenting sweeps here in Santa Rosa, Homeless Hill and 6th St. undercrossing. Where are they to go?   It is obvious that we are not going to build this issue away, nor will we criminalize this issue away. The police cannot handle our social issue this time. Arrests and misdemeanor fines make it more difficult for a person to get shelter.

Encampment will continue if people need to sleep, eat and reside. The next time it may be you; gentrification is happening. Have you asked yourself where you will go when your shelter gets pulled?   

Demonizing the homeless only removes the condition from your minds. I suggest that you begin to do this work with humanity and dignity. Is it possible you could use the CHAP program around the river and supply those underrepresented individuals with porta pottys and garbage collection?

With support, encampments do work as with Rememberance Village (formerly Camp Mikeala). WE are having an housing crisis, let’s take a good look around.   

Anita LaFollette

You may not have read the Watershed Cleanups article, or been aware of Clean River Alliance’s work with offering trash service to homeless camps as a way to keep the river cleaner. People living in the camps are cooperating,  and several are also accepting weekly visits from community health care providers. This is happening not just along the Russian River but also up in north county. And probably a few other places I am not as intimately aware of.

I’m sure you are aware that homelessness is not just economic. Mental and physical health as well as substance abuse plays heavily into this problem, so it’s not just housing that will solve it. Finding people willing to rise out of substance abuse, and mentally and physically ill people being served by support that provides stability and care is also part of solutions people are trying. Each individual has a unique story so it’s not as easy as building structures and providing services. Volunteers and healthcare providers are very aware of the complexities since they encounter the challenges in their work.

Many volunteers put their time and energy into serving homeless people in all our communities. When someone takes an offered helping hand and uses it to rise out of their predicament into a fully-functions life, that’s when the reward comes for those who help. We never know which person will be the one who takes that hand and uses the help provided.

The Homers Task Force is comprised of very dedicated volunteers committed to finding solutions that work. They do not expect to be able to help every person because many people refuse help. Those who turn down help don’t want the strings of expectations that are attached to the help. But others use the help and welcome it on many levels.

Thank you for your letter, Vesta


This notion that if you put a homeless person in a house you will have a home. Flower gardens will bloom. Neighbors will share cooking recipes. And really all those in the vaguely sane spectrum of thought can pat themselves on the back.

Of all the things the go on with homeless people a house is the last burden they need or many want. Their psychology is so destroyed that unless you create a chemical straight jacket they will never keep a roof over their head by choice.

Until you step away from the hubris of your own design for your own happy self that should of course make others happy you can’t begin to have the empathy of what they need. Homeless people are quite often homeless because horrific things happened to them in homes and your solution is to put them back in a home ??? Seriously ?

Chris Tognini


Personally, I think families should take care of their own like they did when I was a kid. If the person doesn’t want that...then so be it. Same as that person not using the shelters for reasons of their own. Charity begins at home....not at the government or state office.

Donna Martin Seep

Fife Creek Restoration

We had an amazing “Give back Tuesday”, September 19th at the Rainbow ! We raised $1285 towards Fife creek restoration! And had one $500 donation from The Marks once again! And on the 20th Scottie of Cazgal soaps brought us a check for another $500 she wanted to donate in the name of her Mom that has passed Joyce Scott! And also on the 20th Lynne Phillips donated yet another hundred dollars!

I would like to put out a THANK YOU to our amazing community supporters listed above and not always listed! Bless you all from Friends of Fife Creek! We are on this Fife creek restoration to “no end” and so appreciate all your support! Last but not least a huge thank you to Vesta and the Sonoma County Gazette!

Vira, The California Mermaid


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