LETTERS - from Sonoma County Gazette readers in PRINT and ONLINE - December 2020

Gratitudes, indeed! First, I want to thank Vesta Copestakes for her 20 years of invaluable, compassionate, selfless service in providing Sonoma County with this amazing community resource in the Gazette newspaper.

Also, many thanks to Elaine B. Holtz for her commitment, energy, and kindness in writing her Santa Rosa column in this paper, and broadcasting on KBBF. Leslie Graves is a wonderful community organizer and event promoter, and I know she'll be a great columnist. I realized that in the nearly 10 years I've lived in Sonoma County, most of the organizations, farms, and local small businesses that I've come to know and love, are those I learned about through the Gazette. I consistently turn to this publication for accurate and factual information, whether about elections, COVID-19, climate change, and local events that may be of interest - all the more amazing that it's free!

I read your November issue, filled with gratitude for people like Evan Wiig, whose front-page article went far in setting the record straight on the benefits of Measure P, which thankfully passed (protesting for social justice throughout these last few months, I'm also grateful for the tireless organizing work of Love & Light, who did so much to get this measure passed and improve Sonoma County police oversight).

Welcome to you, Amie. I'm sure Vesta would not have entrusted handing over her labor of love, unless she believed you were the best candidate for the job. Best of luck to you, and I look forward to many more years of helpful resources for, and from, our incredibly diverse community in Sonoma County!

~ Irene Barnard — Santa Rosa

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We should lose together

Dear Toni, WSCUHSD School Board Members, et al, I first would like to say that it is heartbreaking that things have come to the point that consolidation is the only viable option for solving the district’s financial problems. With that being said, I would like to lay out what I feel is a fair plan for all of those involved moving forward. I mentioned this when I spoke at the Town Hall meeting last night, but I want to elaborate.

There is no doubt that this will be a devastating loss for the community affected, leading to more feelings of resentment. It does not feel as though we are one West County community coming together to solve the problem, but an us vs. them situation where one side will “win” and one side will “lose.”

I would like to propose that we all lose together.

This is truly a no win situation all the way around. I think that Analy, El Molino and Laguna should cease to exist as we all know them to be. Let us all grieve the loss together. From the ashes we can work together to rise as one united community where there are no winners or losers.

Form a committee, guided by adults, that is mostly composed of student representatives from all of the sites, to reinvent what they want their school to be. Let them work together to choose a new identity. This identity should include a new name, colors, mascots, fight songs and all other things that have been exclusive to one school or another. Let them decide what they want the culture of their school to be like. They are the ones who will live in the culture, so they should actively decide what that will be like.

While all of the adults are fighting over this or that, it is the students who have to live with our decisions. It is their lives who are directly affected. They would then have a once in a lifetime chance to change the direction of the future of the West County community. They can unite the West County in a way that the adults can not. They can create an environment they are proud of, want to be a part of, and want to make better. I have faith that our students will create an outstanding, exemplary blend of our currently divided community.

Of course the location will be another problem. I am not going to argue the merits of one site over the other except to say that I feel El Molino should be the site chosen. I don’t say that because I have been there for almost 30 years. I say that because it is the location that is most centrally located within the district boundaries. It is the most fair choice for all of the students and how far they will travel. To address the issue of interdistrict transfers, I say that the students in our boundaries come first. If the interdistrict transfers want to be a part of our amazing educational community, they can drive for a few more minutes.

I feel that all students should be on one campus, including the Laguna students. Our school could offer the continuation/ alternative program as a pathway or school within a school. Students will have the same identity and benefits that everyone else gets to have. I also think the district offices should be located at the same location too. We should all be in this together, saving the most money possible.

Let’s lose together, win together and create together. We are stronger together. Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my thoughts.

~ Tracy Klein — Physical Education Department Chair El Molino High School

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Follow the funding Forestville

Last week I attended the Forestville Town Hall meeting through the Zoom link 95436.org. The first thing that caught my attention was the talk of using the 'quarry money' for improvements to the crosswalk at Covey Rd. and Hwy. 116. There was also talk of completion of the trail to Steelhead Beach. I have to say that these topics have been talked about for a couple of years now and nothing ever gets done. Where has the 'quarry money' gone?? The survey along Mirabel Rd. was completed over 5 years ago! As to the crosswalk at CoveyRd. and Hwy. 116, it is the same situation.

There were several salaried County people at this meeting giving reports and complimenting each other but, still nothing gets done.

The next report was presented by the Forestville Planning Association regarding the downtown park. A couple of photos with a scenic view to the south were shown. The reality is that I have many photos taken, from my office across the street, that show the daily scene of autos for sale, campers staying overnight and basically what amounts to a 'DOG PARK.“ We were told by the President of the FPA that the plan for improvements are going forward as long as the citizens open their heart and wallets to pay for these improvements. He made it clear that a public bathroom is a $100,000 expense that they cannot afford.

So the porta-potty becomes permanent with the Chamber of Commerce paying half the monthly cost. What a disaster!

The last commercially zoned property is essentially removed from the tax rolls. The potential for future business and resulting housing and jobs and sales tax are gone forever. Paying taxes makes you pay attention. My wife and I pay over $5,000 in property taxes each year on our 6701 Front St. property. Can any board member of the FPA say the same? Case closed.

~ Gary Harris

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Delusional Donald

Congratulations to our President-elect Joe Biden and our Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their comfortable, convincing victory over the truly terrible, corrupt racist Republican Trump-Pence ticket. America is back, and diabolical Donald Trump is done!

Like usual, dishonest Donald Trump and his dishonorable, dimwitted sycophants are lying nonstop to the American public, but fortunately a majority of Americans are nowhere near as delusional as Donald Trump. Biden-Harris won easily, and anyone not suffering from brain damage (or fascist brainwashing) is well aware of the fact that Democrats Joe Biden & Kamala Harris won.

But deranged Donald Trump continues to whine, cry, complain and compulsively lie to the point where the vast majority of Americans are just laughing at him. Traitor Trump is a plump chump who can’t stop lying, yet defeated Donald feigns outrage at not being believed. Donald, you’re a fool!

And more importantly, Donald Trump is now and will forever hereafter be known as America’s biggest loser and laughable liar. Oh yeah & by the way, enjoy prison, Trump!

~ Sincerely, Jake Pickering Arcata, CA, USA

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Creative solutions needed

First of all my largest concern and focus is on the consolidation of El Molino into the campus at Analy in Sebastopol.

And even before I talk about those issues my goal is to not make this an issue between the towns of Forestville and Sebastopol. I don’t think there is a place for division and making people right or wrong.

There has been too much division in our country over the last few years to carry this into two beautiful towns with community members that love their town and area.

This is not a battle between towns but a collaboration of how to best school our children.

There are much better and more important ideas to share and collaborate on rather than being divisive.

We have all seen the aftermath of division, fear, and separation.

So having said that I am reminded of the great storyteller, Martin Shaw, that has talked about how fear and problems have us looking straight ahead where we are hypnotized by what we see in this tunnel vision before us. He recommends looking at the margins and the edges of our awareness, outside the box solutions, to where the new creative solutions reside.

What are the creative solutions that we haven’t seen or heard yet. Those solutions that come from the creative communities that we belong to. Those need more time to evolve, those need more time to discuss. I have seen the communities engaged in this situation and they want good solutions even great solutions.

The communities need more time to come up with the solutions that will benefit all, a win-win for all, especially the kids and our education system. We need more ways to educate kids not less.

And finally here are a few of my top of mind ideas: 1. Have the El Molino campus offer more trade school options and Analy become more of an academic and pre college campus. There are many kids that want to learn a trade and go straight to work after high school. This can include Ag students interested in viticulture, farming practices, organic farms, Arts and performance classes, dance, theater, drafting, shop and mechanic skills, and any trade type classes. El Molino would also offer regular academics for those west county students that wanted to stay closer to home if they lived on the coast.

The Anly campus could focus on the college prep classes and also have some artistic classes and some trades but the focus would be on college prep.

2. Engage SRJC and Empire College to offer class space on the El Molino campus for adult classes or prenursing, or other electives in classes where students could start their preliminary class work locally and move to the larger campuses after graduating from High School.

3. If there is unused class space on the ElMolino Campus, offer these rooms for rent or other educational endeavors.

4. To save money in the short term consolidate the administration of both schools into one administration body that runs both schools.

These are just a few options and these can be adjusted in many ways to add students and funds to the district.

Many community members I have talked with have more ideas that are feasible and possible.

I trust the School Board with pause and realize this decision will have huge impacts on kids, towns, and communities. There are more issues involved than just the money.

I believe in an abundant universe and we have to do our work to uncover the ways to have both thriving towns and schools.

~ Brian R. Martens — brianrmartens.com

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Best wishes!

What a delightful, colorful intro to your communities as the Gazette’s new publisher!

Yes, Vesta is a force of nature...great nature, good humor, generous spirit and a surplus of skill, energy and guts to have built the jam-packed Gazette by sharing her vision and its purpose as a community herald with writers, advertisers and readers of all needs and persuasions. You’re making your own mark now in gathering and sharing our community voices, diverse interests and ambitions too. I’m eager for your success, Amie, and look forward to seeing more of all that the Sonoma County Gazette offers.

With warm regards and best wishes for the well-being of us all,

~ Maureen Lomasney — Graton CA

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Locals come together to oppose logging plan

Locals in Guerneville, CA, have joined forces to oppose a plan to log 224 acres of Redwoods and Douglas Firs near the Russian River and Scenic Highway 116.

The proposed Silver Estates Timber Harvest Plan was filed with the California Department of Forestry (CAL FIRE) on July 9 and is currently under review. If given the green light by CAL FIRE, the plan will mean extensive logging just half a mile from the tourist town of Guerneville. It will extend across forested hillsides bounded by Neeley Road, Mays Canyon Road, the Russian River, and the Bohemian Grove.

The site contains the tallest Redwood tree in Sonoma County, the Clar Tree, estimated to be 340 feet high and around 2,000 years old.

It also provides habitat for several sensitive species, including the Northern Spotted Owl, bald eagle, osprey, blue heron, and the Thompson Big-Eared bat.

While CAL FIRE and various other agencies are reviewing the plan, residents and businesses in Guerneville are concerned that the logging will add to the existing serious fire risk, increase landslides, destroy habitat for endangered species, pollute the Russian River, impact tourism, and negatively alter the forested view from downtown Guerneville and Scenic Highway 116.

To raise awareness about the proposed logging and its impact, residents have created a group called the Guerneville Forest Coalition (GFC). The GFC has raised concerns with Supervisor Lynda Hopkins and prepared a report on the geological hazards. GFC has a website, guernevilleforestcoalition.org, and a Facebook Group with over 170 members.

To date, more than 200 public comments objecting to the logging plan have been emailed to CAL FIRE at santarosapubliccomment@fire.ca.gov.

CAL FIRE is the agency that will make the final decision whether to approve the plan.

GFC member Susan Joice, a homeowner on Neeley Road in Guerneville, said: “Many people assume that logging reduces wildfire danger. But the tall, fire-resistant Redwoods provide cooling canopy shade to the forest below. The leaves collect moisture from the fog and drip water onto the forest floor. Logging these natural treasures dries out the flammable smaller trees and brush and leaves behind woody debris, creating a tinderbox of fire fuels.

“With global warming, fire season is longer, hotter and dryer every year.

The Forest Practice Rules that regulate commercial logging are obsolete. They inadequately cover climate change and are not strict enough about requiring cleanup of flammable fuels created by logging.

The Silver Estates land is already a mess of bio-fuels left behind from previous timber harvests. Even scarier, the land is dotted with homeless camps using illegal campfires. The landowner has failed to keep the land fire-safe for the local community. Guerneville could become another Paradise if CAL FIRE does not impose stricter regulations on the logging industry.”

The GFC found that 45 of the 224 acres to be logged are on landslide areas along Neeley Road and Mays Canyon Road. It fears that taking out the large trees will increase soil erosion, run-off, and road blockages on these crucial escape routes during fires or floods.

The landowners behind the Silver Estates Timber Harvest Plan, the Roger and Michelle Burch Revocable Family Trust, and their company, Redwood Empire, have been involved in a number of environmental lawsuits, including a five-year battle to log in the Gualala River floodplain.

~ Guerneville Forest Coalition

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