Growth

Below the tipping point

Submitted: May 17, 2006

This year’s Great Valley Center conference was unusually duplicitous, even by the Center’s relaxed standards. Its title, “At the tipping point,” contrasted to the presentations throughout the two days, creating a sense of cognitive dissonance attributable, no doubt, to the Center’s recent merger with the University of California.

The conference poster invited its viewers to look upward at a map of mid-California projected on the sky above a tightrope walker the soles of whose shoes were also above us. I found no one at the conference willing to think about what this poster might mean.

The conference covered every aspect of urban growth but how to slow it down. One participant mentioned the term, “carrying capacity,” once, but the panel thought he was speaking in a Native American language and forgave him for it in the interest of multi-cultural harmony.

The only two resource agencies visible at the conference were the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the state Department of Water Resources. The San Joaquin Valley was recently designated the worst polluted air basin in the US, but not one session addressed this issue, however there were sessions on mass transit, integrating land use and transportation decision making, bikes and walks, and “Greenstop: California’s first sustainable highway rest area”. (Caltrans, not a resource agency, was one of the conference’s “Silver Sponsors.”)

Water was a big topic at the conference and Tim Quinn, vice president of Metropolitan Water District, was a featured speaker and session presenter. Quinn filled the Valley audience with a sense of trust and confidence that Southern California was not interested in Valley water. Session topics included how water will shape the Valley’s future, water transfers (the debate between North and South), water quality, and prioritizing agricultural conservation easements (a UCB report, using cutting edge mapping technology to show that ag easements should be put on flood plains near levees to prevent more subdivisions – because the state has to pay if the homes are flooded).

Growth sessions included:

· Challenges and opportunities for master-planned communities
· Growing rural economies with entrepreneurial community colleges
· What every planner should know about air quality
· After the flush: Reclaimed water strategies
· Sustainable housing
· Green building: A chance for the Valley
· Timber! Modern forestry policy, practices and wildlife
· Green energy powerhouse
· Affordability in today’s housing market
· The man from Brazil, Jaime Lerner (a feature speaker, mayor of a large Brazilian city, who spoke on lower-tech mass transit)
· Land use and planning for dummies
· The Valley blueprint project: A regional approach
· Population challenges
· Wow! Look at Valley downtowns
· Wireless for rural communities
· A featured speech by former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros

Agriculture was also considered:

· Gardens as the center of a community
· Sustainable food moves beyond a niche market
· Alternative fuels: What is the opportunity?

There was also, as always with the Center, an emphasis on how to co-opt local leaders who might pop up here and there to disturb the smooth transition from San Joaquin to San Fernando:

· Grassroots lobbying – how, who, when?
· Promatoras: More than community health workers
· Strategies for engaging rural community leaders
· E Pluribus Unum: Multi-ethnic collaboration for community action

The water discussion, while at times pretending broader perspectives, was continually dragged down into the whirlpool of the Friant lawsuit. On the second morning, a group of state Assembly members – Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), Nicole Parra (D-Hanford), Roger Neillo (R-Sacramento) and Juan Arambula (D-Fresno) – gave a spirited performance of the point of view of Fresno (City and County) and eastern Tulare and Kern counties’ farmers. The Friant Water Users Authority point of view was also ably represented in every session on water during the conference. When one participant of the session on transfers asked if some of the Friant-Kern water eventually ends up “going over the hill,” he was directly contradicted by Quinn, the representative of DWR and several Tulare farmers. Quinn also said that water would not be a constraint on future Southern California growth. An urbane, sophisticated man, he also mentioned global warming, noting, however, that Metropolitan lacked adequate data on it.

This GVC conference was notable in the experience of frequent attendees of these conferences over the years for its embrace of the principle, Growth Is Inevitable and an Exciting Challenge, and its evident amnesia about agriculture – Valley Farmers Are Large Landowners. Gone was any lip service to agriculture or any awareness or wildlife species and habitat. A few sessions on medical topics substituted for any sense of environmentally caused diseases. The conference seemed to some of us to be part and parcel of what we are calling the Springtime Assault on Valley Natural Resources.

The most offensive aspect of the conference from a social and economic justice perspective was the recognition that two cultures – Anglo and Hispanic – dominate, and that the Anglo culture will get rich off development while the Hispanic is encouraged to develop Third World methods of dealing with political disenfranchisement, educational disadvantage, and health problems arising from environmental degradation. If the Hispanic leaders do not challenge development, the Center will do its best to see that some funding trickles down to local Hispanic leaders. This strategy displays the decades of partisan political experience among top executives at the Center and a heavy dose of UC flak.

The best session was E Pluribus Unum: Multi-ethnic collaboration for community action, an interesting dog-and-pony show, led by Dr. Isao Fujimoto of UCD, displaying a new generation of Valley urban minority youth, discussing strategies for dealing with ethnic gang conflicts, cultural respect, poverty, school, housing and organizing, using tools established in many cases decades ago by a long list of organizations – from Alinksy’s to the Friends Service Committee’s – to help Appalachia del Oeste. Notably missing was any sense of union organizing.

Those of us impressed by UC Merced’s drive to establish a research medical school in the Valley look forward soon to studies like: Differential Rates of Asthma among Children of Anglo-Saxon, African-American, Native American, Hmong, Laotian, Miao, Cambodian, North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, Mestizo and Mixteco Descent. We think, if GVC continues its superb work in minority communities, that it will be longer before we see an E Pluribus Unum Workers’ Alliance Against Air Pollution That Is Killing Our Children and Grandparents.

Finally, noting the food served at this GVC conference from an historical perspective, frequent attendees wondered whether the Center was losing funds or just losing interest in holding conferences.

The conference’s top sponsors included: The California Endowment, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Gerry N. Kamilos, LLC, AT&T, SJVAPCD, Caltrans, Castle & Cooke, Citibank, Comcast, P G & E, Sierra Health Foundation, Pacific Union Homes, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, KVIE, and UC Merced.

Event sponsors included a number of development consultants, Chevron, Western States Petroleum Association, Caltrans, Diesel Technology Forum, Kaiser Permanente, USDA Rural Development, HUD, several utilities, CSU Chico, some green energy companies, and others.

Perhaps sponsors such as these don’t want the Valley public to gather together and break good bread anymore. So many of them, particularly developers and their consultants (with lenders, realtors and landowners standing behind them) maintain a uniformly hostile attitude to public participation in the environmental, health and safety reviews of their projects that grossly affect the quality of life of the Valley public. But, as we learned again at the conference, experts hired by special interests always know what is best for unspecial us. Some of the Center’s top sponsors are grand philanthropists of the planning process – sincerely contributing to the campaigns of elected officials that make local land-use decisions approving the philanthropists’ own projects. This charity even extends to legal indemnification funds that protect the municipalities and counties in case members of the public sue the officials for land-use decisions that might have been influenced more by developer philanthropy than by thoughts of the Public Trust or the common good.

Nevertheless, some resourceful members of the Valley public repaired to a nearby eatery for a lively “breakout session” of their own over good food and wine on the evening of the first day of the conference.

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Grassland Water District letter to county Board of Supervisors re: amendment policies during the General Plan update process

Submitted: May 14, 2006

The following letter was submitted by attorneys for the Grassland Water District and Grassland Resource Conservation District to the Merced County Board of Supervisors for its May 2 hearing on General Plan Amendment policies and procedures during the General Plan Update process. The letter has been transcribed from a facsimile. – Bill Hatch

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo
Attorneys at Law
1225 8th Street, Suite 550
Sacramento, California 95814-4810
Telephone: (916) 444-6201
Facsimile: (916) 444-6209
E-mail: omeserve@adamsbroadwell.com

May 1, 2006

VIA FACSIMILE AND U.S. MAIL

Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced, CA 95340

Re: General Plan Amendment Policies and Procedures During General Plan Update Process

Dear Chairperson Nelson and Members of the Board:

This firm represents the Grassland Water District and the Grassland Resource Conservation District (collectively, “GWD”). GWD has been following the County’s progress toward updating its General Plan, and the issue of how land use planning should proceed during the General Plan update process. At the Board’s April 11, 2006 meeting, a detailed discussion occurred regarding possible approaches to new project applications submitted during the General Plan Update process. Additional options for the Board’s consideration are included in the staff report for Item 55 on the Board’s April 2, 2006 agenda.

Generally, GWD supports actions by the Board that slow or halt the conversion of agricultural or open space lands located in the vicinity of GWD’s service are to urban and other uses. GWD supports a temporary moratorium on Community Specific Plan (“CSP”) adoptions during the General Plan Update process with respect to the Community of Volta, in particular (Option 3A). GWD also supports reasonable measures to slow or stop conversion of agricultural land during the General Plan update process (Option 3B). GWD also believes that the Board should not allow agricultural subdivision applications to be approved during the General Plan Update process. Such temporary measures are appropriate and would protect the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of the County while the important planning processes are completed. (See Gov. Code, Sec. 65858.)

Background Information

GWD contains over 60,000 acres of privately-owned and managed wetlands located in Merced County. GWD lands, in combination with state and federal refuges and other privately-held wetlands, comprise the approximately 230,000 acre Grassland Ecological Area (“GEA”) designated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”). These lands are managed as habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wildlife.

The wetlands of western Merced County are a critical component of the remaining Central Valley wetlands and constitute the most important waterfowl wintering area on the pacific Flyway. These wetlands are acknowledged by the Merced County General Plan to be highly valuable wildlife and vegetation habitats, and international treaties have recognized the habitat as a resource of international significance. The Convention on Wetlands (also known as the Ramsar Convention) recently designated the GEA as a “Wetland of International Importance”. The GEA is one of only four such sites in California, and twenty-two sites in the country.

A study commissioned by the Packard Foundation, the Great Valley Center and GWD in 2001 found that wetlands within the GEA provide substantial direct economic contributions to the local and regional economies. The GEA receives over 300,000 user visits per year for hunting, fishing and non-consumptive wildlife recreation. Recreational and other activities related to habitat values within the GEA contribute $41 million per year to the Merced County economy, and account for approximately 800 jobs. Agricultural lands within the GEA also account for approximately five percent (5%) of Merced County’s $1.45 billion agricultural economy.

Community Plans Should Not Be Adopted or Updated During the General Plan Update Process

GWD’s concerns relating to adoption and updates of CSPs stem primarily from a long-term concern about the small, unincorporated community of Volta. Located about four miles northwest of Los Banos, Volta is adjacent to GEA, the Volta Wildlife Management Area, and other agricultural lands that provide a buffer to these sensitive wetland areas. Encroachment of incompatible uses associated with CSPs into areas near protected wetland habitats undermines both the long-term viability of the GEA and the core habitat values GWD and other entities are working to protect.

In the 1970’s, Volta was designated by the County as a Specific Urban Development Plan (“SUDP”) area. (General Plan, at p. I-7.) As a small SUDP area, the limited residential and service commercial land uses are oriented toward meeting the needs of the local rural population. (General Plan, at p. I – 11.) No Community Specific Plan (“CSP”) has ever been adopted.

Volta has been the subject of numerous proposals for large-scale residential subdivisions and has long been of concern to state and federal resource management agencies, wetland and waterfowl advisory organizations, the Merced County Farm Bureau, the City of Los Banos, GWD and other public and private entities. GWD has submitted numerous comments on other proposed projects in and near Volta, including Wilkinson Ranch, Volterra, and most recently, the Areias subdivision. These projects, had they been implemented, would have been incompatible with the long-term protection of nearby ecologically sensitive areas and the existing rural character of the Volta community.

Given that it is adjacent to GEA resources, GWD supports the redesignation of Volta to an Agricultural Service Center (“ASC”), as suggested by the current General Plan. (General Plan, at pp. I-11, VII-27.) Primarily, this is because further development of Volta would create conflicts with existing agricultural and open space uses. (General Plan, at p. I-11.) According to the General Plan, redesignation to ASC is appropriate for areas with the following characteristics: (1) lacking a full range of services; (2) stable or declining populations; (3) isolated location; and (4) agricultural service orientation to existing land uses. (General Plan, at pp. VII-27 to 28.) Volta meets all of these criteria; thus, ASC is a more appropriate designation for this rural area.

The current SUDP designation for Volta is inappropriate and will lead to encroachment of incompatible land uses into a sensitive area not suited for urban development. Therefore, GWD believes that adoption of a temporary moratorium on CSP adoptions and updates during the General Plan Update process is appropriate.

Agricultural Subdivisions Should Not Proceed During the General Plan Update Process

GWD also recommends deferring General Plan amendments that facilitate conversion from agricultural to non-agricultural uses in and near the GEA. None of the current options under consideration by the Board directly address subdivision of agricultural land (“ag subdivisions”). While Option 3B would limit approval of General Plan amendments from agricultural to non-agricultural uses (which GWD generally supports where such subdivisions would impact GEA resources), it is not applicable to ag subdivisions, which do not typically involve a change in land use designation.

Converting land currently in use for farming or grazing to ranchettes is incompatible with the long-term viability of the biological resources of the GEA. Furthermore, agricultural activities around the GEA help buffer the area for incompatible urban uses. According to a recently released report by the American Farmland Trust, nineteen percent (19%) of all developed land in Merced County is outside of city spheres of influence.
(http://www.farmland.org/reports/futureisnow/merced3.html)
Additionally, fifty-nine percent (59%) of all development within the 1990 to 2000 time period occurred in High Quality Farmland. (Ibid.)

GWD has commented on numerous ag subdivisions over the years because of the grave danger fragmentation of viable farmland and grazing land poses to the GEA and other natural resource values. Though the “parcelization of large holdings is discouraged: under the current General Plan, numerous ag subdivisions continue to be approved. (Agricultural Chapter, Objective 2. B.) GWD encourages the Board to also include provisions in its General Plan update procedures to limit approval of ag subdivisions and to ultimately adopt long-term policies that would effectively prevent further fragmentation of farmland and open space in and around the GEA.

Conclusion

GWD is participating in an ad hoc advisory group formed to advise local entities on Grassland-related issues. This group is called the Grasslands Resources Regional Working Group (“GRRWG”), and includes representatives from GWD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Fish and Game and Ducks Unlimited. Through the GRRWG and individually, GWD will be participating in the General Plan update process to ensure that appropriate protections are implemented to protect the incredibly valuable wetland resources within the Merced County Grasslands. We look forward to participating in the County’s planned focus groups in the near future.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the information presented in this letter. Thank you for considering GWD’s perspective on these important land use planning issues.

Very truly yours,

Osha R. Meserve

cc: Robert Lewis
William Nicholson
Grassland Water District Board of Directors
Grassland Resource Conservation District Board of Directors
Don Marciochi

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Pomboza seen splitting apart

Submitted: May 13, 2006

People in the 18th congressional district, represented by Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, ought to wake up and take notice of what is happening in the adjacent 11th congressional district, represented by RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy.

Defenders of Wildlife, a national environmental group, commissioned a poll of 402 likely voters in the 11th CD. The pollster found that 52 percent would prefer to vote for someone other than Pombo in the fall general election. "Someone else" is about all the Democrats have to offer, but it may be enough, if Pombo survives the primary.

The damage to the front end of the Pomboza is being done by former Rep. Pete McCloskey, 78, a co-author of the Endangered Species Act, which Pombo and Cardoza have been trying to destroy for the benefit of local developers, landowners, financial institutions, realtors and their relatives and friends.

The idea that two of the most obvious tools of rampant growth ever to hit Congress should have the power to change a widely respected and necessary federal law on behalf of a crowd of regional contributors (and, of course, UC Merced) proved to be a bit much for state and national environmental organizations, now busily canvassing precincts in Pombo's district.

Learned academic authority suggests that the poll might not be accurate because, after all, Defenders did it. This misses the point entirely: Defenders is there and willing to do the poll; that environmental groups have identified Pombo as the top political target in the nation.

What is policy for the groups is more personal for McCloskey, who at times says he is fighting for the "soul" of the Republican Party -- to rid it of greedy, stupid, rightwing, corrupt, environment destroying, House-rules destroying knuckleheads. He's fighting against a wing of the Republican Party who came to believe, like officials in dictatorships believe, that their personal wealth is the meaning of politics. While environmentalists have been knocking on doors and passing out leaflets, McCloskey has been attacking Pombo at every intersection in the district where he can raise a grassroots audience. His campaign has lit a thousand fires in hundreds of places. We'll see how the wildfire spread on primary Election Day, in the only poll that counts.

Pombo already knows he's in the worst fight of his life and has called on Vice President Dick Cheney to come raise money for him. But the rounds still last 3 minutes and nobody can help him in the ring with McCloskey. The people always enjoy the spectacle of a bully getting whupped. And people keep disappearing from Pombo’s corner: Libby, DeLay, Abramoff, and now, reportedly, Karl Rove, the best political cut man in the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, the rear end of the Pomboza, like the well known rodeo clown act in which two clowns play the part of one ass, is turning around and running in the opposite direction -- down to Fresno to hobnob with Westlands Water District and three other south Valley congressmen interested in throwing a monkey wrench in the confidential settlement negotiations between the Friant Water Users Authority and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Federal court has ruled that the San Joaquin River must flow; therefore the Friant-Kern Canal cannot flow as much as it has.

Shrimp Slayer claims he had no "direct jurisdiction" to intervene on behalf of the Oseguera family of Le Grand, carried off to the Bakersfield deportation holding tank and held for three weeks until their lawyer could explain they were in the process of naturalization and raise $20,000 bail. Evidently he believes he has direct jurisdiction over the amount of water that flows through 40 miles of dry river in Fresno County and into the farming districts of eastern Tulare and Kern counties and that his good offices would be beneficial to Westlands Water District.

From Shrimp Slayer's point of view, however, we could speculate that his meddling doesn't matter at all, as long as it is a far away from Pombo as possible. That's the great think about Shrimp Slayer, you may not agree with him on the issues, but you always know who he is and where he stands -- the rear end of the Pomboza running away as fast as he can.

Shrimp Slayer's behavior is said to be "smart politics," which, like "smart growth" is constantly advertised as wise and admirable decision making by influential people and those who want to be influential people now that the full violence of lawless, stupid growth has come to the 18th congressional district, which is rapidly becoming just another Tracy, with, of course, a UC campus.

Bill Hatch
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Poll says Pombo support waning

Hank Shaw
Capitol Bureau Chief
Stockton Record
Published Thursday, May 11, 2006
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060511/NEWS01/605110337&SearchID=73244256515633

SACRAMENTO - Voters may not know much about the Democrats opposing Tracy's Rep. Richard Pombo, but it might not matter, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

A survey of 402 likely general election voters in Pombo's 11th District taken last week by a well-known Democratic pollster found that 52 percent would rather vote for someone other than the Republican incumbent this fall.

Republican political oddsmaker Allan Hoffenblum, co-editor of a guide to legislative and congressional elections, was impressed by the numbers even though pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner's survey was conducted on behalf of the activist group Defenders of Wildlife.

"It's a sign of deep, deep trouble," Hoffenblum, of California Target Book, said. "It's not easy to get a voter to say they'd fire an incumbent."

Pombo consultant Wayne Johnson said the campaign's internal polling does not match the Greenberg poll, but he did acknowledge that voters are sour on Congress in general.

"The atmospherics are depressing for any incumbent in Congress right now," Johnson said. Still, he said the order of questions in the Greenberg poll could have skewed the results.

"You get people in a hanging mood and it can dramatically affect the result," he said.

Pombo's position as House Resources Committee chairman has placed him at the center of the Republicans' ethical issues in Congress.

He was among the strongest allies of indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Pombo also has come under fire for misusing the congressional mail service and for spending $5,000 in taxpayer money to take his family on an RV tour of the West's national parks.

He received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from felonious lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And though he repeatedly denies that his votes are influenced by campaign contributions, he is seen as being fast friends with oil, logging, energy and mining interests. Just over a week ago, Pombo benefited from a campaign fund-raiser in Houston hosted by several leading energy industry lobbyists.

All of this is impacting his image among the voters, the poll found. Less than one in three likely voters has a favorable view of the incumbent, who is seeking an eighth congressional term. And he's losing in test heats to both his Democratic opponents, Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton and Steve Filson of Danville.

A recent poll by the McNerney campaign showed that only 40 percent of primary voters recognized him while less than 20 percent recognized Filson.

"These guys are nobodies, and they're beating him," Pollster Ben Turchin said. "That's unheard of. I'm not saying by any stretch of the imagination that this race is over, but he's in a deep hole."

"Richard Pombo has turned the House Resource Committee into a grand bazaar where special interests ... all get favored treatment in return for campaign cash and luxury trips. The voters have finally noticed," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.

Hoffenblum downplayed any strength Filson and McNerney showed in the survey because the 11th District is still GOP turf.

"If Pombo loses, the voters will be throwing him out - not putting Democrats in," he said.

Sacramento State University political scientist Barbara O'Connor noted that Defenders of Wildlife paid for the poll - which can run $20,000 or more - largely to help raise the millions they expect to spend this year trying to defeat Pombo.

Pombo's career-long effort to overhaul the federal Endangered Species Act has made him enemy No. 1 within the environmental movement.

That said, O'Connor said she suspects Pombo is in peril.

"I don't think these numbers are necessarily out in orbit from what I've seen, but they are a little high," O'Connor said.

Hoffenblum, who had downplayed the potential competitiveness of the race before, said he might have to change his mind.

"This could really be a horse race," he said.

View details of the poll are at www.defendersactionfund.org/releases/GreenbergPollMemoMay.pdf

Contact Capitol Bureau Chief Hank Shaw at (916) 441-4078 or sacto@recordnet.com
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Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Saturday 13 May 2006

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.

During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, did not return a call for comment. Sources said Fitzgerald was in Washington, DC, Friday and met with Luskin for about 15 hours to go over the charges against Rove, which include perjury and lying to investigators about how and when Rove discovered that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative and whether he shared that information with reporters, sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said.

It was still unknown Saturday whether Fitzgerald charged Rove with a more serious obstruction of justice charge. Sources close to the case said Friday that it appeared very likely that an obstruction charge against Rove would be included with charges of perjury and lying to investigators.

An announcement by Fitzgerald is expected to come this week, sources close to the case said. However, the day and time is unknown. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the special prosecutor was unavailable for comment. In the past, Samborn said he could not comment on the case …
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Friends rally for jailed teen

Petition delivered to congressman's office

By Leslie Albrecht
Merced Sun-Star -- April 14, 2006

... In a statement released Thursday, Cardoza responded to the students' letter.

"The Congressman understands that this is a difficult situation for this family. He appreciates the concern the students of Le Grand Union High School have expressed for their fellow classmate. As a member of Congress, Representative Cardoza does not have direct jurisdiction over this case. However, he believes that everyone who enters the United States must comply with the law."
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Regrouping after near-deportation...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12178706p-12922563c.html
LE GRAND - To the United States government, the Osegueras are criminals -- immigration absconders who were arrested along with 45 other Merced County residents during a two-day immigration sweep in late March. Gloria and her children entered the U.S. illegally in 1992...applied for asylum, but application was denied. They obtained work permits through a lawyer, started the process of gaining legal status. In 2000, a judge issued a deportation order, their lawyer filed an appeal and told them not to leave the country. The motion has been pending before the Immigration Board of Appeals since 2003. At 4:20 a.m. Friday, March 30 seven ICE agents knocked on the front door of their apartment; they would be sent to an immigration processing center in Fresno, then back to Mexico. Gloria explained that the family had a lawyer and that their case was under appeal; agents said the deportation order was final. When they got to Fresno, they called their lawyer, who filed for an emergency stay of appeal. Alma's classmates rallied to support her...collected signatures on petitions asking for Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, to help the family and hand-delivered them to Cardoza's office. Finally on Cinco de Mayo, their lawyer called...bail had been set; they could leave jail... Alma will graduate from Le Grand High School.
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At the Tipping Point, A Great Valley Center Event, May 10-11, 2006, Sacramento.
Oral comments on south San Joaquin Valley water politics by different participants.

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Latest on Peak Oil

Submitted: May 11, 2006

Writing from one of the hottest real estate markets in America, where we are now hearing a giant popping sound, some are asking questions, most aren't.

Now that our leaders have planted UC Merced as the anchor tenant for Growth, what's next? We've got an university among us under daily more intense scrutiny from the Legislature for misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance with respect to the public purse -- a university with one shining "victory," its retention of shared control of Los Alamos National Laboratory for the research and development of weapons of mass destruction. We have local developers, in cahoots with local politicians, breaking every public process, land-use and environmental law to build unsightly, resource-gobbling, air-polluting subdivisions. We've got landowners who may still farm but are no longer farmers. The sheer quantity of money flowing around town is mind-boggling, but it means wealth for very few along with the destruction of old business districts in favor of new strip malls.

None of this development had anything to do with creating job places. UC Merced and what followed were nothing but a land deal. Merced may have been transformed into the last, dumbest bedroom community in California by a public university maddened by an edifice complex, and by a gaggle of enabling Valley politicians, developers, landowners and financial institutions.

Our leaders and those with access to them, throughout this process, shared common obsessions: greed and hatred of environmental law, regulation and our environment itself, which they saw as standing in their way. At this point, it is fair to speculate that greed and hatred blinded them.

The problem of what to do with blind leaders is unimportant compared to what to do to survive them and their colleagues.

Text from: http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/042706_paradigm_speech.shtml

THE PARADIGM IS THE ENEMY: The State of the Peak Oil Movement at the Cusp of Collapse

A Speech by Michael C. Ruppert for the Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma Conference
April 27-29, New York City, at Cooper Union

[This is the most important speech of my life. If you read anything I've written this year, read this - MCR]

April 28, 2006 1630 PST - (FTW) - NEW YORK -

As a matter of necessity, in the course of a turbulent and often very difficult life, I have developed a pretty warped sense of humor. As most police officers,
nurses, ER doctors, paramedics, and military combat veterans know, the
best time to find humor is when things are at their worst. Sometimes the
humor that emerges from these situations is strange, to say the least.
And yet sometimes it remains the most memorable humor of a
lifetime-humor that can actually sustain you in tough times. Humor is
energy.

Too often Peak Oil activism reminds me of a statement that I found a
long time ago in a book of famous quotations. In the section containing
the last recorded words of famous people I found a quote that has stayed
with me ever since.

The quote was simply, "We've got them now."

The person who wrote those last "recorded" words on a dispatch to his
commanding officer, General George Crook, was George Armstrong Custer.
During the course of this conference I have heard precious little
attention paid to events in the world around us indicating that Peak Oil
is about to have its global "coming out party" and what that might mean.
In almost every nook, cranny and corner of the planet, stress points are
beginning to fracture. For the past five years I have argued,
emphasized, and repeated endlessly that perhaps the biggest mistake of
all time was made on September 11th 2001, when the only real global
operational plan to deal with Peak Oil was put into effect. On September
11th we began a war, now infamously known as "the war which will not end
in our lifetimes," to decide who will control the last remaining oil and
gas reserves on the planet.

In Crossing the Rubicon I wrote, "Events in the five-year period that
began on September 11th, 2001 will determine the course of human history
for several centuries to come." We are just months away from the end of
that five-year period. What has been accomplished?

The painful answer is: not enough.

Where are we in the real world and how do we judge our current
activities in light of real-world events? To sum it up in the words of
one of the most senior members of the Peak Oil movement I know, Jay
Hanson, "I see my worst fears unfolding right in front of my face." Jay
wrote those words just about a week ago.

Jay started the first Peak Oil website in the 1980s, almost even before
there was a web. We should listen to Jay, and I could not agree more
with his assessment; my worst fears are unfolding right in front of my
face.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the Peak Oil movement's current operating
paradigm is that, a part of the movement at least, instead of building
lifeboats in the face of an immediate disaster, is delusionally focused
on trying to build alternative-powered luxury liners that operate just
like the paradigm we as a species need to be abandoning. Not only is
this a futile effort, it may well be responsible for killing or
destroying the lives of people who at least partially understand Peak
Oil and who are trying to find the best courses of immediate action for
themselves and their families.

Some parts of this movement however-and tonight I intend to honor two
men who are leading the way-have seen the writing on the wall and are
independently taking appropriate courses of action that demonstrate both
the kind of incisive thinking and leadership that will be needed in very
short order.

Before I tell you about these men I think it's a good idea to stop for a
minute and take an inventory of the world in which we live today-right
now.

THE STATE OF THE WORLD'S ENERGY

I have observed that almost every Peak Oil conference, whether this one,
or the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, or ASPO-USA, makes only
the most superficial attempt to evaluate geopolitical and economic
conditions. These conditions, more than the rate at which supplies are
depleted, will determine how Peak Oil and collapse manifest in our
lives.

The Times of London on April 8th ran a story that should have
pre-empted every other major story that day. Headlined "World 'cannot
meet oil demand'". The story's first sentence read, "The world lacks the
means to produce enough oil to meet rising projections for demand for
fuel, according to Cristophe de Margerie, head of exploration for
Total." Later the story quoted Margerie as saying, "'Numbers like 120
million barrels per day will never be reached, never' he said."

In the last year we have seen the collapse of Kuwait 's
super-giant field Burgan; accelerated decline in the world's
second-largest field, Mexico 's Cantarell; and an overall global decline
rate approaching 8%. We have seen Saudi Arabia fail to increase
production while at the same time finding it more difficult to hide
deteriorating reservoir conditions in all of its mature fields,
including Ghawar. As of tonight, more than 30 of the world's largest
producing nations have entered steep decline.

Discoveries continue to fall off a cliff. Over the last four
years the world has been consuming 6 barrels of oil for every new one
found. Publicity stunts, such as the recent attempt to reclassify
Venezuelan tar as oil - even when applauded by dilettantes like Gregg
Palast - are having no impact on markets, prices or public policy. I
think we can safely say at this point that we will soon see an end to
the influence of charlatans and schemers like Daniel Yergin of Cambridge
Energy. (Now there's at least one bright note.) At this point, the Peak
Oil movement should avoid expending needless energy on any arguments
about whether Peak Oil is real or not. That precious energy is needed
elsewhere. We have won that debate.

Soaring commodity prices for everything from copper, to uranium,
to cement and steel are not only hampering needed infrastructure
investment, they are also making it almost impossible to build new
drilling rigs, especially deep water rigs. Commodity scarcities are the
result of overpopulation, hoarding, over consumption and nothing else.
Drilling rigs themselves are in extremely short supply around the world
and I believe we should also stay away from any debates about whether
new oil supply will even make a difference. It will not and we need only
continue to breathe in and out to see this position vindicated also.

The US government continues an unwinnable war in Iraq while
building massive permanent bases and the largest embassy compound ever
built. Not only does the US have no intention of leaving Iraq , it has
committed-whether under Republican or Democratic leadership-to staying
forever-whatever that means. The Empire's position is clear, not as a
result of what it says, but as a result of what it has done. America 's
primary plan to deal with Peak Oil is to fight or intimidate for energy
supplies wherever it deems necessary. That, of course, has forced the
rest of the world-with a few notable exceptions like Norway and Brazil
-to dance to the same sheet music. As a result, I would estimate that of
every ten units of energy (or money) expended preparing for Peak Oil
today, nine are spent preparing for war while only one is spent building
lifeboats and teaching people how to survive. This is sheer insanity.

The US government is playing a bluff hand over an attack against
Iran , which in spite of being both unlikely and risking a global
nuclear holocaust, has resulted in massive increases in military
spending all around the planet. A global arms race is now using up
energy and commodities that should be used rebuilding railroads,
enhancing mass transportation, and building renewable infrastructure to
soften the coming blows.

In the face of this, the entire world, and especially China ,
Russia , India , Germany and Japan are pouring hundreds of billions of
dollars of investment into Iran . This is one of many sure signs that
the American Empire's weaknesses are becoming visible. There is blood in
the water and blood in the water usually leads to a fight. The world, at
least as far as its pocketbook is concerned, is betting on Iran .

Russia is selling Iran lots of Tor M1 anti-aircraft missile
systems and cruise missile and high-speed torpedo technologies. China
also is flooding Iran with advanced military systems.

The US has stepped up deliveries of weapons systems and military
advisors to oil-producing regions around the world. This has been
matched by similar deliveries to the same regions by Russia , China ,
Pakistan , Saudi Arabia , Venezuela , France , Britain , India and many
other countries. A best-selling novel in China , The Battle in
Protecting Key Oil Routes, has the Chinese navy destroying a US carrier
battle group. The popular book documents a bloody contest over control
of the Straits of Malacca, that narrow channel through which most of
China 's, Japan 's, and Korea 's energy passes.

China 's Hu Jintao, clearly one of the world's only major
leaders with both plans and choices, is making direct calls on Saudi
Arabia and Nigeria as George W. Bush haplessly points to hydrogen fuel
cell cars as a solution. Don't worry about how many American people will
buy into such Bush nonsense. Worry about how many world leaders are
watching these same clips and asking, "Is that the best he can do?
America is in deep shit."

In Nigeria-the US's fifth largest oil supplier and the world's
eighth-groups of well-organized and supplied rebels are using high-tech
email, bombs, bullets and kidnapping to terrorize major oil companies.
Production is threatened on a daily basis. In a world where there is no
place else to go to replace even 50,000 barrels a day-out of the 84
million needed-the totally corrupt regime of Olusegun Obasanjo is
besieged by rebel and dissident groups on many fronts. I have no doubt
that several of these groups are being financed, trained, led and
supplied through covert arms of the US, Chinese, Russian, British,
Saudi, Pakistani and/or Indian governments.

In nearby Chad-which is the source-country for the Chad-Cameroon
pipeline delivering 160,000 barrels a day into the global mouth-as he
attempts to ward off an aggressively hungry World Bank, President Idriss
Deby is literally holding oil hostage. Knowing full well that to shut
down the pipeline would cause an estimated $10 jump in the price of oil,
he is literally telling the west, "Come any closer and I'll shoot the
oil."

At the same time, Chad is beset by rebel insurgents from
neighboring Sudan , which is China 's fifth-largest oil supplier. Both
the US and China are hip-deep in covert operations in Sudan.

On April 18, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with one of
Africa's most brutal dictators, Teodoro Nguema of Equatorial Guinea
-Africa's third-largest oil exporter, calling him a good friend of the
US . With institutional memories as short as they are, few remember that
Sir Mark Thatcher, son of Britain 's Margaret Thatcher, was nabbed last
year in the middle of a coup intended to oust Nguema.

All of Africa, especially West Africa-exactly as I predicted in
2003 ,
in Crossing the
Rubicon and
in last year's lecture series which became our newest DVD Denial Stops
Here-is
exploding with armed insurrections from the Western Sahara region to
Angola . It is West Africa where I believe we will see proxy wars likely
intensifying this year, which could trigger a global nuclear exchange in
very short order.

But murder, far more callous, is about to be perpetrated by the
Democratic Party as it enters the 2006 midterm campaigns with what is
surely-barring a miracle-going to be one of its major planks in 2008:
"Don't worry," they will promise, "the Democrats will restore cheap
gasoline for all and find a no-pain answer to all of our energy woes.
High prices are the fault of greedy oil companies and price gougers, not
a lack of supply." I can promise you now, Hillary Clinton, that if the
Democratic Party adopts this approach it will find in me an enemy that
will make FTW's editorial posture towards the Bush administration over
the last five years look like abject friendship.

American mainstream media has become absolutely and certifiably
schizophrenic on the issue of Peak Oil. Within the space of an hour, one
can watch segments acknowledging Peak Oil and Gas and the insoluble
problems they bring, and segments assuring us that there is no problem
at all if we just fix a few little things.

On April 11th The Financial Times reported that Russian
production is falling and expected to decrease-rather than
increase-rapidly over the next four years.

On April 21, Russia 's giant, Gazprom-for the second time in less
than a year-threatened to shut off Europe's only major source of natural
gas. Just a month previously, a desperate and hobbled Britain
surrendered its energy sovereignty to the European Union in the hopes of
getting better energy prices at the end of Russia 's long natural gas
supply line.

On April 24th, just a few days ago, during his state visit to
Saudi Arabia , Chinese President Hu Jintao signed a series of accords in
which China , in exchange for a larger portion of Saudi oil exports,
agreed to transfer high-tech weapons and other technologies to the Saudi
monarchy in exchange.

At the same moment that George W. Bush has announced that he will
stop refilling the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an ill-conceived
attempt to lower pump prices-a completely shortsighted and self-serving
gesture-China is in negotiations with Saudi Arabia to begin filling a
new one.

Climate Change and hurricanes not only continue apace but have
accelerated. Now that we are just weeks away from a new hurricane
season, fully 23% of Gulf of Mexico production remains shut-in after
last year's hurricanes. Recently the Department of Energy acknowledged
that most of that would never be rebuilt due to high investment costs at
mature and post-mature reservoirs. Aside from the fact that it's not
cost effective, this is also because of rig shortages. This is what FTW
warned you about almost a year ago. When and if we ever have a chance to
look back we will historically mark Katrina and Rita as the singular
moment in time when a true US economic and military resurgence became
impossible; the moment when the Empire began it's collapse. In other
words, that was the moment when the Empire passed from decline to
terminal status.

On April 4th, Dow Jones' MarketWatch reported that $6 to $7
gasoline might be coming this summer. Is there anyone in this room
tonight who does not believe that $6-$7 gasoline would be an
unmistakable sign of collapse?

And let me add an observation here. I think a good part of this
unseasonable spike in American oil prices is both caused by the switch
out from MTBE to ethanol and a classic political strategy which is to
create a bad problem and then appear to solve it so that people will
accept an otherwise unacceptable solution. This is an election year. The
elections are not for seven months. I for one do NOT think we will see
$6 or $7 gasoline this summer. I think gas prices may reach $4 or even
$5 for a short period, after which the Bush administration (say sometime
between July and September) will again tap the Strategic Petroleum
Reserve and his oil industry base will-they hope-be able to find a few
million barrels to temporarily drive prices down, give Republicans a
desperately-needed electoral boost, and feed another dose of valium to
the increasingly worn out American consumer.

But to assume that the current high prices are solely caused by
the MTBE/Ethanol switchover is to miss the fact that Britain is now
experiencing it's highest-ever gasoline prices averaging more than $8
per gallon or that Japan-according to the news agency Chugoku-has now
reached it's highest-ever price for diesel fuel at almost $4.00 per
gallon. These countries do not have MTBE rules to be concerned with.
Peak Oil is here.

There is an enormous risk lurking in all this. I mean a potentially
deadly risk.

As the effects of Peak Oil intensify there is less and less wiggle room
on the planet for any miscalculation. Worse, there is less and less room
to recover from or adjust to any "surprises" that might come along.

SURPRISES

What are some of these possible surprises?

Just one more major hurricane

A major earthquake in any oil producing region or pipeline
corridor from Russia 's far east, to Iran , to Alberta

Any one of a dozen possible side effects from global warming,
whether from melting tundra that might sink pipelines, to rising sea
levels that might endanger offshore production

Civil unrest in any oil-producing region that gets out of control
and damages more infrastructure than can be quickly repaired

A decision by Venezuela 's Hugo Chavez to redirect just 10 or 15%
of his US exports to other customers

A successful attack on Saudi Arabia 's Abqaiq terminal

Political unrest in our second-largest oil supplier, Mexico

Major unrest in the Caspian basin - another region where covert
operations are now probably the second- or third-largest GDP component
for several nations.

As I speak tonight, India is moving to supply MiG 29s to Tajikistan at
the same time that Kyrgyzstan is threatening to revoke permission for US
bases. This is a building vacuum that China , India , Russia and
Pakistan (all nuclear powers) are eager to fill. Add Iran to the list of
nations seeking increased influence in the Caspian Basin.
Another one of many reasons why the US cannot and will not attack Iran
is that-unreported by the major media-the US military has undertaken
quiet but significant military build ups in both West Africa and in the
Caspian. US military personnel have been dispatched to Nigeria and NATO
and the US Navy have begun moving into to the Gulf of Guinea. This is
pulling ever tighter on the already over-stretched rubber band holding
the US military together as it experiences a continuing, unmitigated and
unprecedented defeat in Iraq .

There are many more possible precipitating events that could push the
first dominoes in the chain of collapse. Any one of them could trigger a
massive and sudden descent into chaos that would catch all of us by
surprise. My position is that we cannot afford to be unprepared for
surprises. And it's probably an event we haven't thought of that will
ultimately do it. These are only a few possibilities.

THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN AND WORLD ECONOMIES

General Motors, as it stands on the brink of bankruptcy, has
announced that it lost $106 billion last year.

Ford and Daimler Chrysler are teetering not far behind GM as
Toyota is poised to become the largest auto maker in the world, bigger
in terms of sales than America 's Big Three combined.

As US News told us last December 19th, 800,000 jobs were going to
be cut last winter. The final numbers aren't in yet, but it looks like
that happened.

According to an MS-NBC story dated April 24, "The Housing Bubble
Has Popped" as inventories swell, sales decline, prices soften, lenders
are raising rates and the first signs of panic start to appear. For
those who have followed the housing bubble closely, you know that this
is a global housing bubble and that these trends have become apparent
from the UK, to Australia, to Japan. Along with falling house prices and
a drying up of credit, over-stretched consumers now face very difficult
choices as they are forced to decide between driving, eating, paying
their bills, or having a place to live. This particular collapse is just
beginning and the world economy must follow its lead.

New stories are reporting that some Americans are pawning
precious objects for gas money.

Consumer debt continues to skyrocket as the US trade deficit
continues to explode.

Bankruptcies are at an all-time high.

As Reuters told us on April 22, the Finance Ministers of the G7
nations have just announced after their recent meeting in Washington
that the dollar is going into decline.

On April 24th, Qatar announced that it will begin diversifying
out of dollars and into Euros.

On April 4th, according to Reuters, the Vice Chair of the Chinese
parliament urged that China reduce its holdings of US debt.

On February 22, the director of Norway 's stock exchange
recommended that Norway drop out of the London Petroleum Exchange
(priced in dollars) and open an oil trading bourse priced in Euros.

On January 12, Britain 's Independent announced that Norway had
begun preparations for a global environmental and economic collapse. The
story reported that " Norway has revealed a plan to build a 'doomsday
vault' hewn out of an Arctic mountain to store two million crop seeds in
the event of a global disaster. The store is designed to hold all the
seeds representing the world's crops and is being built to safeguard
future food supplies in the event of widespread environmental collapse.

In a sign of pending inflation, the Federal Reserve last month
stopped telling us what the M3 money supply was in a surefire indication
that inflation is on the way. This came conveniently after further
inflationary indicators were hidden by removing the cost of gasoline and
food from the Consumer Price Index.

On March 28, Al Jazeera warned that Asia must be prepared for an
imminent dollar collapse.

On March 26, India moved to relax all currency controls for the
Rupee. This suggests that India knows a dollar crash is coming and hopes
that the Rupee will enjoy the bounce.

China has made another adjustment re-evaluating the Yuan,
accelerating the dollar's decline.

The Asian Development Bank has announced plans to develop a
regional currency index as a preliminary step in the creation of a
Euro-like currency for Asia.

The dollar has lost six cents against the Euro in the last six
weeks.

Gold, which I have and still devotedly endorse as a safe haven
for either rich or poor, has broken through to highs not seen in 18
years. I had not expected gold to break $600 an ounce until at least
this fall. It happened weeks ago. Notwithstanding the predictable price
corrections that we will see, as a failed and broken system of gold
price suppression loses control, I think the path is now fairly clear to
$800 gold within two years or less. When Peak Oil becomes aggressive,
within the next five years, I think $1,000 gold is a certainty. As
always, I encourage FTW subscribers and anyone who will pay attention to
continue to invest in gold. To be precise, I encourage them to invest in
physical, tangible, gold bullion or bullion coins like the Maple Leaf or
Krugerand that can be kept close to home and hearth. Small gold
purchases can be made for as little as a few hundred dollars. All of the
struggling FTW subscribers who have made even tiny purchases have
benefited by seeing even their meager investments double in four years
and increase by 50% in value in just the last 18 months.

Morgan Stanley's Stephen Roach - who last year warned of an
economic Armageddon is now warning, "I continue to believe that the
American consumer is the weak link in the global daisy chain. The
combination of rising long-term interest rates and higher oil prices
puts an unmistakable squeeze on discretionary income - the last thing
overly indebted, savings-short US consumers need."

So why then has the Dow recently reached six-year highs? It's simple,
and I know that my good friend and colleague, Catherine Austin Fitts
will agree, that the DOW Jones Industrial Average has absolutely nothing
to do with measuring the quality of American life. I am reminded of one
of the most important quotes I have ever obtained for a story, that of
Dutch economist Martin Van Mourik who told the Paris ASPO Conference in
2003, "It may not be profitable to slow decline."

Indeed ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the point where every
increase in the Dow will mean that life has actually gotten worse for
Americans and riskier for the world as a whole. I described the endgame
of this irony in one of my favorite essays of all time Globalcorp
. As
M. King Hubbert wrote, and as Catherine Austin Fitts teaches, and as I
have said for so long, "Until you change the way money works, you change
nothing."

It is a shame that much of the Peak Oil movement that understands this
problem is foolishly trying to change the way money works systemically,
instead of trying to change it in the only way that time and
circumstance now permit-individually, locally and regionally. The first
and primary requirement for that to occur is for people to disengage
from the global paradigm ...

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Moratorium v. Developer guided and subsidized planning in Merced County for foreseeable future

Submitted: Apr 29, 2006

PL49-GP Update Polices
May 2, 2006

Merced County Board of Supervisors’ Agenda Item # 55
(Transcribed from Board Agenda for May 2, 2006 – BH, April 29, 2006)

TO: BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
THROUGH: DEMITRIOS O. TATUM, COUNTY EXECUTIVE OFFICER
FROM: ROBERT A. LEWIS, DEVELOPMENT SERVICES DIRECTOR

SUBJECT: General Plan Amendment Policy and Procedures during the General Plan Update

SUMMARY: On February 14, 2006, the Planning and Community Development Department made a presentation to the Board of supervisors, at the request of the General Plan Review Steering Committee, to seek direction for handling developer initiated Guidance packages for major project submittals during the General Plan Update process.

On April 11, 2006, Staff presented four modified options with one alternative to Option 3 for the Board to consider. During discussion, an additional alternative to Option 3 was presented as well. These modified options are:

1. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 1 (Allow All).
Allow any property owner to submit a General Plan amendment whether or not it involves a new or updated Community Plan. Applicants would proceed at own risk and indemnify the County. For Option 1, Staff recommends that applicants pay all staff impact costs for the effort required to process their application or provide contract services for in-house staff sufficient to complete the project.

(Continued on the next page.)

STAFFING IMPACT: The level of staff support required for property owner sponsored Community Plan efforts is minimal if the applicants pay all staff impact costs and positions are filled as required to process their application or provide contract services for in-house staff sufficient to complete the project.

FISCAL IMPACT: No fiscal impact from actions the Board takes regarding property owner sponsored Community Plan projects. The applicant is required to provide for full County costs.

CONTRACT/RESOLUTION/ABSTRACT SUBMITTED: No.

REQUEST REVIEWED BY: County Counsel __________________

ADMINISTRATION RECOMMENDATION/COMMENT: ______________________

REQUEST/RECOMMENDATION/ACTION NEEDED: Staff recommends Option 1, allowing any property owner to submit a General Plan Amendment whether or not it involves a new or updated Community Plan. Applicants shall proceed at own risk and indemnify the County. Applicants shall pay all staff impact costs for the effort required to process applications or provide contract services for in-house staff sufficient to complete the project.

Page 2.

2. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 2 (limit by Date).

Consider holding in abeyance as of May 2, 2006 any new General Plan Amendment application that requires preparation or revision to a Community Plan (generally those applications which require approval of a Guidance Package for processing). For Option 2, Staff recommends that applicants pay all staff impact costs as stated in Option 1. this does NOT include guidance packages previously adopted by the Board or those prospective projects in the works as of May 2, 2006.

3A. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 3A (Agricultural Land).

Consider processing applications for Community Plans and Community Plan updates only where the area is located on non-productive farmland (soil quality is rated lower than Prime, Farmlands of Statewide Importance and Unique Farmland as identified on the State Important Farmlands Map of the Department of Conservation). For Option 3A, Staff recommends that applicants pay all staff impact costs as stated in Option 1.

3B. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 3B (Agricultural Land).

During the time period prior to the completion and final adoption of the updated County General Plan and effective at the signing of a resolution, applications intended as preliminary steps to change the general plan designation from agricultural to non-agricultural or urban uses shall NOT be accepted unless:

· It can be demonstrated that the application will not result in a “leap-frog” development pattern.
· Will not result in a significant change to surrounding existing land uses.
· Will utilize, if granted the existing services of a full service municipal water and sewer treatment facility, and as such could be considered an infill project, causing minimal environmental impacts.

3C. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 3C (Presented 4/11/06 during Board discussion)

Applications previously accepted for processing shall continue and are eligible for amendment as needed or otherwise shall proceed unimpeded during the general plan update process; and those:

· Applications which provide infill opportunity on existing sewer and water shall be accepted, and,
· Applications which provide a timely, clear economic benefit to the county which could otherwise be lost during the ensuing time necessary for the general plan update shall be accepted for consideration.

4. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 4 (Moratorium)

Consider holding in abeyance any and all General Plan Amendment applications by adopting a resolution to hold applications until the General Plan Update is completed and approved.

After Staff’s presentation, the Board Chair opened the discussion to the public and received numerous comments and suggestions. These comments can be grouped into three main recommendations: 1) impose a moratorium on General Plan Amendment applications during the General Plan Update; 2) do not impose a moratorium on General Plan Amendments and allow all applications to be processed; and 3) those who asked the County to take all interests into account during the General Plan update and support sound development and agricultural resource protection.

After a lengthy discussion by the Board, Supervisor O’Banion made a motion to support Option No. 1, Seconded by Supervisor Nelson. Due to the absence of Supervisor Crookham, the Board decided to continue the discussion and the Second to the motion was rescinded. The Board acknowledged that public comment would again be accepted and continued the item to May 2, 2006.
---------------------------------

CVSEN NOTES: The April 11 Board Agenda Item #53 shows that neither Policy Options 3B or 3C were written down prior to the meeting. Supervisor Kelsey orally presented Option 3B at that meeting. Option 3C is yet another, fresh creation of the General Plan Review Steering Committee at some point after April 11.

It is apparent, at least at this stage of General Plan Amendment Policy and Procedures during the General Plan Update, that the Planning Department has forgotten everything about planning except the costs to its office of developer driven projects, and that the County has made sure it will be financially recompensed for its rubber stamping and indemnified against any lawsuits brought against it by the public for violations of environmental law, public process or land-use authority.

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You’d like to believe him

Submitted: Apr 21, 2006

… but you can’t.

Yes, you’d like to believe a prominent local businessman whose opinions are almost professionally written and with great authority and the appearance of logic and reason.

But, I think it would be unwise to take a recent letter in the Merced Sun-Star, “Keep to linear plan,” (April 12) at face value.

It begins, as we often do begin our analyses in the Valley, with a mythical Golden Age of universal harmony:

Editor: The city of Merced has begun its general plan update. In the 1980s the community consensus was to only allow growth north of the city. This was known as the linear city plan.

Like most such conjured moments, the myth doesn’t hold up very well under scrutiny.
The population has grown 20% from 1980-2004 . – about half of that between 2000-2006. (www.consrv.ca.gov/DLRP/fmmp/time_series_img/merced.htm - 24k - Cached -
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0646898.html).
Half the growth in 20 years, half in six. In other words, the planning horizon of the City of Merced in the 1980’s resembles Merced today about as much as it resembled north Modesto then.

The land on which the city was planning to expand – whether farm, ranch or wetland bog – was in county jurisdiction. While the city began some planning in the 1980’s, the county had to be sued to write its first general plan, in 1990, and has fought tooth-and-nail ever since against revisions, despite remarkable changes in the velocity of its growth, especially around the City of Merced. We don’t mention Los Banos. Generations of wide-eyed idealists who have asked questions – any questions – about the West Side, are told the Stories. The Big Story is how they will end up in their wretched investigative journalist car, at the bottom of either the California Aqueduct or the Delta-Mendota Canal, their skeletons waving ambiguously at the fish that ate their flesh away.

Those Westside Boys really lay it on. They get vivid on you, excite your imagination and such.

Nevertheless, let us give the businessman his sweet moment in the past: there was agreement about a direction for planning and people in Merced were a great deal more civil to one another than they are today. That’s a good enough Golden Age for me. Actually, they were a great deal more civil eight years ago than they are today. But, then, 10-percent growth in six years will irritate a lot of people, while enriching remarkably few.

With the advent of the University of California campus it (the city’s general plan) was amended to include just that land east of Lake Road, but north of Yosemite Avenue.

Perhaps, as the county found, trying to “amend” the University of California into a general plan made in and for Merced city and county is like a garter snake trying to swallow a Holstein on growth hormones. The city later broke its own ordinance about not providing sewer and water services outside its corporate limits to UC Merced. When sued, its defense boiled down to, “We’ve done it before, we can do it again, it’s UC.” Both superior and state appellate courts bought this reasoning, which amounting to the garter snake saying, “I’ve got the hoof, now I’m going for the knee.”

Apparently, the current City Council has completely abandoned the linear city plan without any public debate. The study area they designated encompasses 40,000 acres of farmland, which does not even consider developing to the north of Merced.

The reason for the linear city is to allow development on the least productive ground, which in Merced's cases lies north of town. Most cities grow in all directions like an expanding balloon. By directing growth in a responsible way, we avoid eroding the agricultural industry, which is our economic base.

Yessir, you’re undoubtedly correct on that. The shortest way between two points for a 7-member city council, four of whom are realtors, is straight out in all directions at once. But at least some of that prime farmland you are talking about is on the city-side of the Campus Parkway, anchored at the academic end by UC Merced, anchored at the financial end by Wal-Mart’s proposed distribution center, which the same council shows no political inclination to reject. Merced air quality! Love it or leave it (if you can). If you can’t, well, you really don’t amount to much, do you.

Going north of town there are eventually vernal pools. Unfortunately an unbalanced importance has been placed on protecting them. There are 1.7 million acres full of them in California so by definition, how threatened can they be? There are 30,000 acres of easements protecting them adjacent to UC Merced, which should be enough mitigation to allow development north of town.

Now, we’re getting into it. It reminds me of interviews I used to have to do of deeply ideologically twisted public officials for their local newspapers. You could get a few minutes of fairly rational conversation out of a congressman like John Doolittle or a state Senator like Dick Monteith before it was “message time,” whereupon, with nary a blink of eye, off they went into a never-never land that could make a person feel guilty for trying to think at all.

In this instance, our code words are brought to us care of the Ol’ Shrimp Slayer himself, Rep. Dennis Cardoza. In Merced political discourse, whenever that word “balance” or its negative appears, the Slayer is nigh. Then, here comes that 1.7 million acres full of vernal pools.

Folks, guys that make a living in propaganda make a good living off figures like that. However, that old reality, like the pool-table team of Old Age and Treachery against Youth and Beauty (the bull rider and his bar tenderness), is gonna beat you in 8-ball and political history, pal.

As a result of a lawsuit brought against the US Fish & Wildlife Service by the Butte Environmental Center, Defenders of Wildlife and other groups, the Service declared a critical habitat designation of 1.4 million acres in California and southern Oregon for 15 endangered and threatened species residing in vernal pools.

The Pomboza, with whom we feel our local businessman communes, was outraged because you just can’t have the federal resource agencies poking their noses into development on rangeland containing vernal pools, particularly in eastern Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

The Pomboza, for readers new to Badlands, is a one-headed beast with four outstretched, cash-grasping claws, whose domain runs contiguously from Merced County west and north through Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties to San Benito and parts of Santa Clara and Alameda counties.

It is a proud and pompous Pomboza, at once rubbing elbows and shaking down the special interests in its districts (the 11th and 18th congressional districts of California). Although mythical figures – Pombo the Buffalo Slayer (for potting a grazing buffalo in South Dakota while attending a casino shakedown to fund Democrat Tom Dacshle’s opponent), and Cardoza the Shrimp Slayer (who vows eternal vigilance for private property rights against creatures most of which don’t live more than two months a year or go more than an inch long) – they came in on the stinking wind of special interests that brings subdivisions to farmland, not harmony, not soil fertility or economic stability.

As for the famous 30,000 acres protected by easement in Merced County, 148,000 (down from 194,000 acres) are presently under the jurisdiction of the federal critical habitat designation of the Endangered Species Act. But this was no gift from the government.

When Merced received its designation of 194,000, all hell broke loose and political pressure was applied to the Fish & Wildlife Service. The Shrimp Slayer, successor to Condit (Gary, wannabe first president from Ceres), rallied eastern Merced County landowners, with a lot of help from county Supervisor Kathleen Crookham, an eastern Merced County ranch landowner, into a real foam-mouthed moment on private property rights. This hate rally in the chambers of the county Board of Supervisors was interrupted by the critical comments of one Bryant Owens of Plainsburg, in a display of courage that is honored in the underground annals of county history.

The political pressure in Washington produced fabulous results: Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties were relieved of their burden to consult with federal resource agencies regarding the tedious subject of vernal pools if projects to wipe them out involved federal funding.

The Butte Environmental Council, Defenders of Wildlife and the California Native Plant Society, however, struck again in court. While the case lurched along, Cardoza the Shrimp Slayer, introduced two bills to strike down the critical habitat designation of the ESA. Failing twice, about the time of the ruling on the case, the Pomboza introduced the Gut-the-ESA bill, now languishing in the US Senate. One of that bill’s strongest parts is the utter destruction of the critical habitat designation for endangered and threatened wildlife species. The federal court decision restored 148,000 of the entirely lost 194,000 acres of vernal pools in Merced County that require federal resource agency oversight if federal funds are involved in projects to develop it. At least that is apparently what the designation and the ruling imply for the regulatory agencies, which would probably function more efficiently without a rightwing radical one-party House of Representatives harassing them constantly.

By not developing onto the foothills and off of the Valley floor, precious farmland will
continue to be paved over until there isn't enough left for packing sheds and processors to
stay in business. We need to be able to feed our own people. Depending on other countries for our food is suicide. Being at the mercy of the Middle East for our oil is bearable; going without food is impossible.

Lord, I love a pitch for agriculture in the spring around Easter, when rains and mists still bathe the fecund soil. But I have this strange, perverse tic in my mind: the rains and mists I see are extending the season of the dry pasture land on both edges of the Valley. I see all those calves and their mamas out there in that high, rich grass, and I wonder what the hell a cattleman has to do to qualify as an agriculturalist in this Valley. Presumably, the prominent local businessman is concerned primarily with vegetarians who take dairy products and has momentarily forgotten beefeaters. Ah, Swami Businessman, such purity! You are a credit to the Ashram of the Invisible Hand.

By not developing onto the foothills and off of the Valley floor, precious farmland will
continue to be paved over until there isn't enough left for packing sheds and processors to
stay in business. We need to be able to feed our own people. Depending on other countries for our food is suicide. Being at the mercy of the Middle East for our oil is bearable; going without food is impossible.

Also, California has the safest food in the world because it is the most regulated. With the
world's population growing exponentially, taking the best farmland out of production is
irresponsible.

It makes better business sense to retain our market share in the state's number one industry than to keep eroding it. The San Joaquin Valley's farmland should be preserved because it is the main source for the world's food supply; it should not be used simply for cheap housing.

As a great swami of the invisible hand of the free, free, free market, you give us beautifully consistent mythology, for which we, the bewildered, should be eternally grateful.

Ah, precious farmland! Yes! I believe! I see The Way!

But,Swami, I have doubts. May I discuss them?

(Hearing no answer, I will express them.)

We are so at the mercy from the Middle East for our oil, I don’t know how it can possibly end. Could we, with Israeli help, do unto Arabs as we did unto Native Americans and they are experimenting with doing unto the Palestinians, and call it something else but genocide? We are rich in propaganda resources. We can surely find new language to describe what it is we are doing to the ragheads and camel jockeys. Surely we can find a story so powerful, so good, that it will forever obliterate our conscience about, well, all those dead people over there, lying “on top of a pool of oil,” as a Catholic priest from Baghdad said just before the invasion, on pretenses that, frankly, Swami my Swami, look thinner by the day).

But, Swami, I have doubts. I used to live on an Indian reservation. They weren’t all dead. If you don’t kill every one of them, they keep talking, you see.

Also, California has the safest food in the world because it is the most regulated.

Now, Swami, I know that as your humble student of reality that you just throw that out for me to object to and that -- even if you don’t show it in your cruel, Swami way -- you will be proud of your humble student for his doubts.

The Shrimp Slayer just got finished voting for the National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005. From a people’s point of view, this thing was a real meadow muffin, brought to us by a combination of special interests irresistible (at least to the Shrimp Slayer) including the biotechnology industry, the pesticide industry, your public research universities and agribusiness, to wipe out local and states’ rights on food labeling.

It’s what you call a “pro-active special interest” bill (lots of money to be made on it by an enterprising young shrimp slayer).

But our Shrimp Slayer, the One and Only, distinguished himself even further as a moderate, “balanced” proponent of the measure. He introduced an amendment, the Shrimp Slayer’s amendment to the National Uniformity of Food Act of 2005.

Beginning with the humility that is his calling card, the Slayer said on the floor of the House:

Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume to offer my amendment to H.R. 4167, the National Uniformity for Food Act.

The vagueness of the time element was to be the key to the amendment. Ostensibly, an amendment that would allow states to petition to the Federal Drug Administration sooner than the bill’s leisurely time frame of four months, if a food danger were immanent, our Slayer suggested language that would allow states to petition the FDA to approve a national standard for new food labeling requirements, or to exempt a State from certain requirements of national uniformity – in a timely manner.

Yet, under questions from the floor, the timeliness of the manner disappeared up the spout of Pombozoism.

Ms. ESHOO. So maximum is 120 days?

Mr. CARDOZA. And this allows the FDA to act even quicker; in fact, mandates it.

Ms. ESHOO. But they have up to 4 months?

Mr. CARDOZA. In the underlying bill.

Ms. ESHOO. But that is your amendment, not the underlying bill.

Mr. CARDOZA. No, the underlying bill is 120 days.

Ms. ESHOO. And what does your amendment do?

Mr. CARDOZA. It says that it must be the quickest possible.

Ms. ESHOO. But without any specificity?

Mr. CARDOZA. Correct.

Oh, Shrimp Slayer, my Shrimp Slayer, pompous though you be, surely you are such a creep you embarrass the continuing if oppressed intelligence of your district.

Swami, you really shouldn’t listen to the Slayer. You should not borrow his lingo for letters to the editor. He is bad for your mind and for ours. But, many times, we have seen the like of the Shrimp Slayer, although usually at county fairs, down there with the games of chance, the bearded ladies and the drunken, two-fisted carnies.

It’s quaint, but is it real politics?

These are the questions you must answer, my Swami. These are my doubts. You are my teacher. Help me in my bewilderment.

It makes better business sense to retain our market share in the state's number one industry than to keep eroding it. The San Joaquin Valley's farmland should be preserved because it is the main source for the world's food supply; it should not be used simply for cheap housing.

The highest and best use for farmland is for producing food. The situation that vernal pool areas cannot be developed on must be challenged. This confines development to farmland on the Valley floor. Our starving descendants won't understand how our generation made such shortsighted idiotic choices as to pave over their safe dependable food supply in order to protect a minute percentage of the fairy shrimp.

There are dire long-term consequences to our decisions. I strongly encourage you to immediately contact the City Council and convince them to adhere to the linear city plan, which was adopted by a consensus of the community.

DANIEL F. MCNAMARA

“Our starving descendants won’t understand ….”?

Help me with my doubts, oh my Swami of economics, my main reality man.

So, the Bank of America gets into 20-25-percent loans in Latin America and Eastern Europe. They start pulling the plug on San Joaquin Valley packers. The bank – oh well – the bank is now owned by something in North Carolina. The growers? Some went to Latin America.

Where was the loyalty, Swami my economic guru? Where was the solidarity when the bank figured it could make back its principal in five years on 20-percent interest in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina or Poland, when a lowly Valley packer couldn’t pay anything like that?

Where was the sanity in the bank when they dispatched MBAs wet behind the ears but full of serious, malevolent intent, to the Pink House in Las Lomas in Mexico City, back then, in the moment when it all mattered very much, and you were selling Major League baseball caps and not thinking about much else at all, and even the shrimp slayer, was as yet unmanifested then in that long-gone Golden Age, at the time a mere impresario of lady mud-wrestling at a low-life bowling alley.

Do you know Las Lomas and Pedrigal, Swami, my Swami? Do you know the mountains of Michocan, Swami my Swami? Do you know Coahilla? Do you know the border towns? Have you ever seen the wall or the fence? Entiendes Jaripo o Rancho San Miguel?

I look left, oh my Swami. I look right. Wherever I look, I cannot find any economic system – especially in agriculture – that had any stability. But this is because of my doubt, Swami, my Swami, of which I hope you can relieve me.

Swami, my Almond-Cotton-Vegetable Munchkin Swami, save me from my doubt!

I keep thinking – it must have been some old book I once read in an unguarded moment – that economic systems require that justice run through the relations of the participants or else they collapse some day. And on that day, it doesn’t matter how good the land is. It is definitely in the wrong hands. I know that you, my Swami, never read old books in unguarded moments, so you must know the truth.

Teach me. I have doubts.

Bill Hatch
----------------

Notes:

Your Views: Letters to the Editor: Keep to linear plan
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12045268p-12801495c.html
Last Updated: April 12, 2006, 02:01:03 AM PDT

4-18-06
Merced Sun-Star
Merced leaders look at possibly updating the city's charter...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12067545p-12822084c.html
City charter, Merced's guiding document...29-page charter was established in 1949, and has been amended several times. Changes include the direct election of mayor (the council used to appoint the mayor) and term limits (two four-year terms for council members and two two-year terms for the mayor)... it can establish unique criteria for city office, doesn't face salary ceilings, can establish its own election dates and is not required to comply with competitive bidding statutes, gives city leaders more authority over land use. City Council discussed the need to revise the charter, and to include the public in the review process

http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/r1/455D1EAE-2FD6-4048-850C7613CBF17849.html

Service Designates Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Vernal Pool Species News Releases Home Page Search the News ReleasesU.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Home

ContactsJim Nickles, Sacramento FWO (916) 414-6572 The U.S. Fish and

http://www.becnet.org/nodes/issues/vernalpools/en_2005_critical_habitat_designated.htm
Home : Issues and Activism : Vernal Pools : Critical Habitat Designated
Critical Habitat Designated
Editor’s Note: This important story has received incredible press across the state.

The Interior Department (Interior) released their second, final Vernal Pool Critical Habitat (VPCH) Rule for 15 vernal pool species found in California and southern Oregon. This Rule (www.becnet.org) is a result of litigation filed by Butte Environmental Council, the California Native Plant Society, and Defenders of Wildlife over the elimination of more than one million acres of VPCH in 2003 for the 15 endangered and threatened vernal pool plants and animals.

In this Rule, some acreage was restored to counties indiscriminately omitted in the 2003 rule. For example:
“We are pleased that Interior was able to include some lands in counties previously excluded in the 2003 rule, yet their analysis leaves them vulnerable to further legal challenges,” stated Barbara Vlamis, Executive Director of Butte Environmental Council.

http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/local/states/california/14341553.htm
Today in the Times
Posted on Fri, Apr. 14, 2006email thisprint this
White House reduces size of habitat set aside for frog
By Michael Doyle
McCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration on Thursday dramatically shrunk the land deemed crucial for survival of the California red-legged frog, a threatened amphibian paddling at the center of a national debate.

City sued over homes approval...Loretta Kalb
http://www.sacbee.com/content/community_news/elk_grove_laguna/v-print/story/14245198p-15063462c.html
A group of Elk Grove homeowners and a state agency each have sued the city of Elk Grove over its approval of a 670-home project that one lawsuit claims will "pave over.. vernal pools and wetlands." One suit, filed March 24 by a group of homeowners at Quail Ranch Estates, adjacent to the planned Vintara Park project, says the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it declared that an environmental impact report was not needed for the site...the city declared that the environmental effects of the project by Centex Homes would not be significant. The lawsuit filed by the Quail Ranch Homeowners Association said the effects of the project would be significant, and that the project "will pave over significant areas of vernal pools and wetlands." The other suit was filed by the California Department of Transportation on March 27 and contends the city violated CEQA by failing to study the project's impacts on the state highway system. The Quail Ranch suit cited Centex Homes and Sacramento County Sanitation District 1, which owns the land and has as one of its board members City Councilwoman Sophia Scherman, as having a stake in the issue. The homeowners' attorney, Donald B. Mooney of Davis, said the next step is a mandatory settlement meeting, which should be scheduled later this month or in early May.

Bill would block housing inside 200-year floodplains...Jim Sanders
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/v-print/story/14245560p-15063711c.html
Assembly Bill 1899..."It asks local governments to make responsible decisions when approving new homes behind levees in the Central Valley," said Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who crafted the measure...bill would require cities and counties, before approving new subdivisions, to receive clearance from the state Reclamation Board that the houses would be outside the 200-year floodplain within five years of approval. "We think it's an anti-growth bill," said Michael Webb of the California Building Industry Association. Valerie Nera, representing the California Chamber of Commerce, said AB 1899 could slow construction of much-needed affordable housing. Countered Wolk: "I believe that affordable housing that's under 10 feet of water no longer is affordable." AB 1899's next stop is the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

Democrats, GOP at odds over proposed food safety bill...Dogen Hannah
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/email/news/14385396.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
At issue is a bill the House passed last month that opponents contend would do away with stringent food safety standards that many states, including legislative trend-setter California, have had in place for years...bill would pre-empt much of California's 20-year-old Proposition 65, which requires food containing chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects to bear warning labels, contend opponents. Feinstein. If the bill becomes law, "the precautions that now exist in California and dozens of other states would be dumbed-down." Opponents counter that states' attempt to set their own standards or to push for tougher national standards would be subject to a Byzantine and open-ended approval process. The bill's proponents, including Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, contend that uniform, national standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would protect people in every state and bolster consumer confidence."He believes that consumer protection throughout the country is paramount," said Pombo spokeswoman Nicole Philbin. "This law is important because it protects citizens equally."

http://www.vote-smart.org/speech_detail.php?speech_id=158791&keyword=&phrase=&contain=

Public Statements

Speaker: Representative Dennis A. Cardoza (CA)
Title: National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005
Location: Washington, DC
Date: 03/08/2006

NATIONAL UNIFORMITY FOR FOOD ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - March 08, 2006)

Bill would block housing inside 200-year floodplains; Assembly panel clears proposal that critics say will stifle Valley growth
Sacramento Bee – 4/20/06
By Jim Sanders, staff writer

Large swaths of Central Valley floodplain could be barred from future housing construction under a proposed state law that cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.
Assembly Bill 1899 would not allow new Central Valley subdivisions on levee-protected lands likely to be inundated by a severe flood with a one-in-200 chance of occurring in any given year.

"It asks local governments to make responsible decisions when approving new homes behind levees in the Central Valley," said Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who crafted the measure.

| »

The Lagoon

Submitted: Apr 16, 2006

Representatives Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, and George Radanovich, Bankrupt Winemaker-Mariposa, are proposing a National Agricultural Science Center for Modesto and have introduced a bill in Congress for funding. They argue that because Modesto has produced more ag politicians since World War II than any other city in the US, Modesto deserves this national center.

In order to shore up his political standing, the one-party, rightwing House of Representatives leadership recently appointed Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, vice-chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Congress is debating a new, 5-year Farm Bill, Pete McCloskey is nailing Pombo’s corrupt hide to every Grange Hall and political club wall in the 11th Congressional District, and Pombo’s handlers have moved the cattle trailer that used to sit one field west of Tracy’s last subdivision that announced “Pombo’s Real Estate Farms.”

Pombo and Cardoza, known collectively by local farmers as the Pomboza, have made a career for themselves whipping up private property-rights rage against the federal Endangered Species Act. Cardoza and the rest of Merced County’s farm-loving political leadership graciously bestowed the Williamson Act on all unincorporated Merced County, claiming deceitfully that it was to be “mitigation for UC Merced.” Merced is the last major agricultural county in the state to get the Williamson Act, which is proving to be a boon for developers buying up ag land at reduced property taxes all over the county.

The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, so highly praised for being pioneers in Valley irrigation in the early years of the last century, every year convert their historic mission more and more to water and electric utilities to slurb development. The smaller Merced Irrigation District dreams the same dream.

The hypocrisy and greed for prestige, credit and honorifics displayed in this proposal is preposterous. Developers, aided every step of the way by local political leadership, are paving over north San Joaquin Valley agriculture as fast as the next “guidance package,” “programmatic EIR,” and quicker than a county planner can say “mitigated negative declaration.” In the process, they are creating an air pollution disaster that is already costing millions in lost production on the remaining agricultural land.

Yet, as a world-class laboratory for everything wrong with agribusiness, no place could be better suited than Modesto (if the former site of the Shell ag chemical lab in Ripon is not a contender). Here is a farming region with no more farms. There is no sense of distinct place left in this farming region. Nobody who farms this land can afford to love this land anymore. Although estates and mansions rise from some of these fields, there is little evidence of real care for real place left. Essentially, there are no more farms, only acreage. In this region you can’t hear the cows moo on the mega-dairy factories, the meadowlarks warble, or the sounds of tractors or crop dusters for the constant background roar of commuter traffic and the real estate adding machine in town, dinning the air with the Great Kah-Ching as it calculates the development value of each acre of farm and ranch land for future slurb.

What the Shrimp Slayer and the Bankrupt Winemaker are proposing is a science museum that will obscure the truth of the disaster of agribusiness even when it is all slurbed over. The McClatchy Chain is enthusiastic.

But the real reason Modesto deserves the center is because of the leadership roles county residents have had in state and national agriculture, Wenger said.

Richard Lyng and Anne Veneman served as U.S. agriculture secretaries as well as state agriculture secretaries, Wenger noted. Henry Voss, Clare Berryhill and Bill Lyons all served as state agriculture secretaries.

"No other county in the country has had that kind of leadership," Wenger said.

You bet. And if any other county had that kind of leadership, they might not have been quite as quick to brag about it. Lyng wasn’t a farmer, he was a rich, politically connected seed dealer. Veneman, daughter of a state legislator, gained the nickname “Mad Cow Annie” when, during her tenure as secretary of the USDA she managed almost to completely bury the mad cow disease story and any serious investigation of it, probably with health consequences it will take many years to realize. Voss and Berryhill were farmers, and -- if memory serves --gentlemen of proto-Pombo political orientation. Lyons failed to get the UC campus on the Mapes Ranch, which he inherited. So he bought 530 acres in the path of development of UC Merced. Asking for annexation to the City of Merced, he appeared before the city council in jeans and plaid shirt as a simple family farmer; but he had his suits handle the deal at the county Local Agency Formation Commission. Lyons is a developer, not a rancher, who bought his state ag secretary post fair and square with a huge fund-raising effort on behalf of Gray Davis’ campaign.

About the only thing the Badlands editorial staff could contribute to this monument to agricultural ruin in the San Joaquin Valley would be to suggest that outside the national center there should be a statue of a Holstein cow about two stories high. “Annie,” the blurb might read. “She lived one year. She made much milk and fast food. Before she died, she wasn’t quite herself.”

Talking it over further, the Badlands editorial staff came up with a counter proposal, a wax museum dedicated to the superb San Joaquin Valley agricultural political leadership from which agriculture has so greatly benefited. Although there are many possible names, the staff decided that, in the vernacular at least, it probably would be called simply, “The Lagoon.”

Pombo’s recently disappeared cattle trailer would be parked outside, proclaiming again, “Pombo Real Estate Farms.” (There is no more completely sound bitten mind in the Valley than the ol’ Buffalo Slayer’s.)

In the lobby, we see a superhuman sized figure -- one hand outstretched to receive, the other full of cash to bestow – a wax likeness of Tony “Honest Graft” Coelho.

Entering the darkened hall, at the first exhibit, backlit behind glass, the visitor would encounter the Mr. and Ms. UC Merced Gallery and would be plunged into the Science Motif, but in a folksy style. This would be an old-timey musical scene, as befits our agricultural heritage, subtitled, “One Voice for The Great Kah-Ching.” At the center of the ensemble would be a barbershop quartet labeled “The Bobbies” (Ayers, Carpenter, Rucker and Smith). The conductor would again be ol’ Honest Graft himself. Musicians would include former Rep. Gary Condit, Lover-Ceres, on fiddle, the Shrimp Slayer on bass, and former state Sen. Dick Monteith, Halfback-Modesto on guitar, conducted by Mike Lynch, with a buggy whip.

Motion-activated, the Bobbies would break into an original song in four-part harmony with one word: “Kah-Ching,” sung to the tune of Abba’s 1960’s hit, “Money.”

Beside them would be an all-woman choir, dressed in white robes, each with a golden halo. Although the wax here would be melted into an angelic blob, a few faces would shine out with holy grace: Supervisor Kathleen Crookham would be the most distinguishable, one hand tastefully strangling a fairy shrimp.

They would be accompanied on harp by Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the Cowgirl Chancellor herself. Her hat would be of that very, very special shade of royal blue issued to UC administration officials in lieu of the indictments for fraud and corruption they should receive. Her blouse would be of royal blue and golden stripes. Her authentic cowgirl vest would be made of bobcat fur. Her square-dance skirt of royal blue would be decorated with golden dollar signs interspersed with medical cadeusises. Her boots would be made of black bear-cub hide.

The landscape painted on the curved wall behind them would be filled with depictions of subdivisions completed and under construction with Phase One of the UC Merced campus, radioactively glowing on a low hill, like a Ronald Reagan holy city for all the right Americans and none of the rest of us. There would also be artistically rendered swollen creeks and our Mr. and Ms. UC Merceds would be standing knee deep in dirty water.

In the corner would be only a sign but no wax figure – “Our Governor, the Hun, Who Didn’t Come to the UC Merced Opening.”

The next exhibit would be strobe lit and flickering, but there would be enough intermittent light to make out the figure of former Gov. Gray Davis, an electrical plug in hand.

The third exhibit would be nothing but glass enclosed smoke. The sign would read, “Air Quality.” There would be a black box with a button on it, marked “High-Tech Fix.” When visitors push the button, they would hear the sound of a hospital ward of children coughing, but the smoke would not disappear. Sponsors of this exhibit would be the Gentlemen Start Your Engines Association, the Arkansas/China Trading Hong, the International Foundation for the Preservation of Dirty Diesel Engines, the Make Me SuperRich Developers Association, the Maybe Someday UC Merced Medical Institute for the Study of Childhood Respiratory Disease, the Alliance of Fully Indemnified San Joaquin Valley Local Land-Use Authorities, and the huge membership of the San Joaquin Valley We Don't Give and Damn and Can't Do Anything About It Anyway Society.

Another exhibit would be labeled “FALFA – We Are Always on the Winning Side.” This would be a single, monumental, lumpy piece of wax from which the faces of our prominent spokeswomen for agriculture and smart growth would vaguely emerge – Carol Whiteside, Holly King, Merced County Supervisor Diedre Kelsey, Diana Westmoreland Pedroza, etc.

Yet another exhibit, labeled “Almost the First President from Ceres and Family,” would show the interior of an ice cream franchise in an Arizona strip mall and the Condit family, capped and aproned, scooping ice cream to a group of unemployed construction workers.

The “42-Inch Sewer Trunk Line from Livingston” would be an artist’s rendering of a long line of Ranchwood earth-moving equipment digging and covering a ditch from the Livingston sewer plant to Stevinson, across county roads and a Merced Irrigation District canal. When visitors push a red button, marked “Merced County Planning Process,” the following message is played:

Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you!

“Village of Geneva Meets Planada Natives” would depict a touching scene in contemporary rural class relations. The above-mentioned Hostetler, top dog in the Geneva deal, in US Calvary officer drag, surrounded by assorted lesser developers in golf clothes, is seen presenting a snow-cone machine (marked “$600 or more”) to local officials of the unincorporated town of Planada, attired in buckskin and feathers with smiles painted on their faces.

Visitors seeking more information on this exhibit would push a button and hear a short dialogue.

Question: What do you get when you cross a school board with a sewer district board?

Answer: A piss poor receptacle for slush fund contributions! Or as Robert Frost might have opined: Something there is that doesn’t love a snow cone machine that sends a chilling public records act request through frozen coils and spills its donors’ check stubs in the sun, exposing accounting gaps big enough to squeeze through the whole ball of wax.

In “DC Does Deacons of Merced,” visitors observe a wax phallus representing male members of the Merced County unregistered, tax paid lobbyists of the “One Whine” crowd in Washington. After a hard day of pimping for federal highway funds for the UC Campus Parkway, they are artistically rendered priapic while ogling strippers, getting the real feel of Beltway politics.

“The Milking String Shakedown” abstractly represents the Valley dairy industry as a doleful, huge-headed Giant garter snake, its mouth full of money, coiled at the feet of the Pomboza, a one-headed creature with four hands reaching down to grab the cash. The huge head is composed of suits decorated with brands – United Western Dairymen, Hilmar Cheese, Gallo and assorted other mega-dairycrats. As the visitors’ eyes follow the snake back toward the tip of its tail, rubber boots begin faintly to emerge in the design, as back-to-front the entire industry is neatly packed and arranged according to the sizes of dairy herds. Pushing the informational button, visitors hear a simple statement: “No 3-cent per hundredweight tax!”

“The Lagoon: A Wax Museum of San Joaquin Valley Leadership” is a work in wax and in progress. However, we think our concept is sound and already more fully realized than its competitors, and we humbly petition the Pomboza for federal funding for this public, grassroots project.

Bill Hatch
--------------

Notes:

Ground broken on ag center bill...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12041403p-12797891c.html
The bill is in the hopper to authorize spending federal money for the proposed National Agricultural Science Center in Modesto. Cardoza, D-Merced is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa... ag center is proposed as an interactive, high-technology exhibit designed to explain to people of all ages where food comes from, and agriculture's relationship to the environment and to technology. "I believe it is important for the community to invest in this," Cardoza said. As for when federal money might become available, "It will take a little while," Cardoza said. Allocating new federal money for the center probably isn't realistic, he said. "We are going to have to find an existing pot of money," Cardoza said.

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Resistance to slurb grows in Merced County

Submitted: Apr 14, 2006
At their June 13 meeting, supervisors will take a vote on one of five options for how to handle developer-driven growth. Those options range from leaving the system as it is to enforcing a moratorium on any growth that requires changing the general plan. – Chris Collins, Merced Sun-Star, April 12, 2006

Although the general reader of the Merced Sun-Star would not have been able to figure it out, the supervisors had a proposal to vote on Tuesday and they continued the hearing on the issue in the face of determined, well-organized resistance. Local resistance is mounting against incomprehensible and destructive planning idiocy brought about by the arrival of UC Merced and its induced speculative growth boom. The particular idiocy the supervisors were discussing Tuesday is a scheme to simultaneously hire consultants to update the county General Plan – the countywide planning guidance package – while continuing to approve amendments to the existing, out-dated general plan. The latter amendments are developer-written planning guidance packages. This creates a race between county land-use planners trying to create policies and rules for the development of unincorporated, largely agricultural land, and private developers breaking existing and yet unformulated policies and rules for private profit by slurbing farm and ranch land.

It must be added that California planning idiocy is not unique to Merced. The City of Oakley approved a 4,000-unit development six feet below sea level and under a Delta levee, recently. Oakley is being sued by environmentalists. However, the collectively destructive behavior of California local land-use authorities makes their decisions no less idiotic. From a public viewpoint, one could say there is danger in numbers in this planning insanity. The sytem is completely broken from a public health and safety perspective, but it will keep on going on until the public has the guts to stand up against the developer bullies.

Everyone has their favorite examples of this process. Our favorite is the 42-inch sewer trunk line emanating from Livingston, headed for Stevinson without a speck of environmental review to blemish its perfect sheen of greed and political corruption between the City of Livingston, its benighted sewer plant beside the Merced River, a large, terribly influential local landowner and the most gonzo developer in the county. Another is the deep ripping of thousands of acres of seasonal pasture land near Le Grand full of vernal pools and tributary streams to navigable waters of the US done without any permitting or notification of state and federal resource agencies, which it was the obligation of the county to do.

Below is a letter to the county Board of Supervisors from attorney Marsha Burch, who has tried several environmental cases in recent years in Merced County, on the plan proposed to the supervisors by the county General Plan Steering Committee. The public has so far been unable, through a state Public Records Act request, to view documents that would explain who are the members of this committee or the minutes to its meetings.

Below Burch’s letter, we have included the Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process, which calls for a moratorium on growth not already permitted until the county General Plan is updated, and an end to the corrupt practice of developers paying local land-use authorities legal bills when the public sues the land-use authorities for rubber-stamping slurb.

Bill Hatch
-----------------------------

April 11, 2006

Via Email and Facsimile (209.726-7977):
Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced, CA 95340

Re: Proposed General Plan Amendment Policy and Procedures During the General Plan Update Process – set for public hearing April 11, 2006, Item No. 53

Dear Supervisors:

This office, in conjunction with the Law Office of Donald B. Mooney, represents the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and other groups, and these comments supplement comments previously submitted regarding the above-referenced agenda item. Thank you for this opportunity to provide you with these comments. These comments are submitted just prior to the hearing in large part because our clients have been working to obtain documents relating to the above-referenced item, and have been entirely unsuccessful. The general plan steering committee is apparently meeting, having discussions and making recommendations, and our clients have been unable to obtain a single document regarding the dates or times of the meetings, nor have they been able to locate any minutes or written records of the meetings. The public has not had an opportunity to understand what choices are actually before the Board today. Additional information must be obtained in order to inform the public, and it would seem that the Board would also be interested in receiving all relevant information before making a decision on this important policy issue.

1. It is unclear what is before the Board

It is unclear whether the Board is being asked to select a policy from the four proposed by staff, or to approve the Guidance Packages that apparently triggered discussion of these policy issues. If the Board intends to approve any Guidance Package(s), the public has not received notice of that fact, and has not had an opportunity to comment. Further, if the Board intends to approve any application or request that would grant a right or entitlement, CEQA review has not been undertaken. It is difficult to comment on an agenda item so vague that it is impossible to determine exactly what is being proposed.

In addition to the confusion resulting from the agenda item itself, our clients have attempted to obtain documents relating to this item, including making Public Records Act Requests, and have not been able to get a single document. We do not have enough information at this time to make form an informed opinion on the subject, but it appears that the steering committee “meetings” may be in contravention of Brown Act requirements. This issue must be thoroughly considered in the light of day, and the public deserves the opportunity to understand, consider and comment upon the various options available to the County with respect to conducting a cost-effective and legally adequate update to the General Plan.

Finally, this item was continued from the February 14, 2006, meeting, and it would seem that additional information would have been gathered in order to inform your deliberations. There appears to be no staff report or additional information. We request that you continue this item in order to obtain the information you need to inform your decision, and to allow the public to receive information necessary to understand the issues.

2. Processing General Plan Amendments During the General Plan Update Process will Result in Staff and Consultants Working at Cross-Purposes

With respect to the substance of the policy issues, allowing privately funded general plan amendments to proceed during the time when County staff and consultants will be working on a comprehensive general plan update will result in the public purposes of the update process being contradicted by profit-driven efforts to amend the outdated General Plan before the update is completed. We urge you to fully support the General Plan update effort by protecting it from potentially contradictory plan amendment efforts.

At this time, we do not believe that the Board or the public has sufficient information to make a determination on this issue. In fact, this is one of the most complicated issues currently facing the County, and you have not even received a staff report. If the item before you today involves approval of specific applications, that has not been made clear, and necessary materials have not been available. If this truly is consideration of a policy to be adopted for use during the General Plan update process, adequate information regarding the number of projects in the pipeline that will be effected by this policy, and there has not been an honest evaluation of the negative impact the privately funded General Plan “update” will have on the County’s General Plan update. We urge you to continue this item, or adopt a policy that will protect the General Plan update process.

Very truly yours,

Marsha A. Burch
Attorney at Law
131 South Auburn Street
Grass Valley, CA 95945

cc: Clients
-------------------------------

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

We call for a moratorium on County General Plan amendments, variances, minor sub-divisions changes to existing projects, zoning changes, and annexations of unincorporated county land by municipal jurisdictions, MOU’s and developments with private interests and state agencies, until a new County general Plan is formulated by a fully authorized public process – and approved locally and by the appropriate state and federal agencies.

The continual process of piecemealing development through amendments, willfully ignoring the cumulative impacts to infrastructure and resources, for the benefit of a small cabal of public and private special interests, is illegal and reprehensible conduct on the by elected and appointed officials of local land-use authorities.

We also call for a permanent moratorium on indemnification of all local land-use jurisdictions by private and public-funded developers.

Indemnification is the widespread, corrupt practice in which developers agree to pay for all legal costs arising from lawsuits that may be brought against their projects approved by the land-use authority — city or county. Without having to answer to the public for the financial consequences of decisions made on behalf of special interests, local land-use authorities can be counted on to continue unimpeded their real policy: unmitigated sprawl, agricultural land and natural resource destruction, constant increases in utility rates, layering of school and transportation bonds on top of property taxes, and the steady erosion of the county’s infrastructure.

Adopted 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development Co.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club
Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge VernalPools.Org
California Native Plant Society
Stevinson Citizen’s Group
San Bruno Mountain Watch
San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of “Eco-Justice” — the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.

P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341
---------------------

Notes:

4-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
Some call for moratorium until general plan is updated...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12045253p-12801466c.html
Merced County's comprehensive "general plan" approved in 1995 to guide the county's development is outdated and practically useless; it's irresponsible to continue to use it to direct new growth in the county. But large developments are moving forward and more are on the way. The county is in the beginning phase of a three-year process to form a new general plan that will reflect the current population and level of development in the area...supervisors are trying to figure out how to handle development under the wings of the 11-year-old plan. Deidre Kelsey..."I'm disappointed it's not already completed. We have a general plan that doesn't reflect the realities of our county." O'Banion said roadblocks to new development would hurt the county. Nelson said "We know we need to preserve our prime farmland, but we already have protections in the general plan." Representatives from the building industry and the Merced County Chamber of Commerce don't want the system to change and oppose a moratorium on growth. At their June 13 meeting, supervisors will take a vote on one of five options for how to handle developer-driven growth... options range from leaving the system as it is to enforcing a moratorium on any growth that requires changing the general plan.

Environmental group sues to block below-sea-level housing tract...Patrick Hoge
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/04/12/BAG2PI7JVS1.DTL&hw=environment&sn=008&sc=545
Oakley's plan to allow 4,000 new homes on land that is behind levees and 6 feet below sea level. In the suit filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, the Greenbelt Alliance said Oakley failed to adequately consider the potential for levee failures or to require mitigations for numerous likely impacts of urban development on the Hotchkiss Tract in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The suit also says that urban storm water, which under the development plan would be captured and treated in artificial lakes, could contaminate drinking water supplies used by millions of Californians. Critics, including state officials, environmentalists and academics, say that urbanizing such floodplains is unwise. Developers are nevertheless pushing to build in numerous flood-prone areas around the state, with nearly 40,000 homes planned behind levees in the cities of Lathrop (San Joaquin County), Oakley and Stockton alone.

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Letter against planning by developer written guidance packages approved in secret

Submitted: Apr 11, 2006

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto CA 95350

County of Merced
2222 “M” Street
Merced, CA 95340
(209) 385-7654
(209) 726-1710 Fax

Dee Tatum
Chief Administrative Officer
ceo@data.co.merced.ca.us

Robert Lewis
Director of Planning and Economic Development
rlewis@co.merced.ca.us

Ruben Castillo
County Counsel
rcastillo@co.merced.ca.us

Merced Co. Board of Supervisors
dist1@co.merced.ca.us etc.

Re: Item # 53 on April 11 Board meeting agenda

Dear Supervisors,

We would like to register our objections to Item # 53, General Plan Amendment Policy and Procedures during the General Plan Update Process, and direction on how property-owner sponsored General Plan Amendment applications should be treated during the General Plan update process.

Our objections include but are not limited to:

· It is unclear what guidance packages are or how they will be used; however, guidance packages cannot be used as a substitution for an adequate and updated General Plan, because they have undergone a public review process or environmental review under California Environmental Quality Act
· This is piecemeal development
· It goes against the direction of the existing, outdated General Plan
· It streamlines the conversion of agricultural land
· The need today is to update the General Plan before proceeding with growth
· The procedures surrounding this policy and procedure violate public process
· This policy and procedure invites development to define the next General Plan
· Public testimony on this policy and procedure at the Feb. 14 board meeting is not reflected in the nearly identical April 11 proposals or in a staff report, which both proposals entirely lack
· This policy and procedure violates the Lesher Consistency Rule under California Environmental Quality Act and is an open invitation to inconsistent planning
· The General Planning Steering Committee has violated and continues to violate the Brown Act (please see attachment) in direct, specific ways including but not limited to being unable to obtain steering committee minutes or agendas at the front desk of the Board office or being able to obtain a file on the steering committee at the front desk of the Planning Department (copies of request forms submitted at public hearing).

Because of these fundamental flaws in the proposal presented in Item 53 of the April 11 board agenda, we urge the board to take no action or adopt the Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning.

Respectfully,

Lydia M. Miller
Steve Burke

Cc:

Badlandsjournal.com
Interested parties
---------------

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

We call for a moratorium on County General Plan amendments, variances, minor sub-divisions changes to existing projects, zoning changes, and annexations of unincorporated county land by municipal jurisdictions, MOU’s and developments with private interests and state agencies, until a new County general Plan is formulated by a fully authorized public process – and approved locally and by the appropriate state and federal agencies.
The continual process of piecemealing development through amendments, willfully ignoring the cumulative impacts to infrastructure and resources, for the benefit of a small cabal of public and private special interests, is illegal and reprehensible conduct on the by elected and appointed officials of local land-use authorities.
We also call for a permanent moratorium on indemnification of all local land-use jurisdictions by private and public-funded developers.
Indemnification is the widespread, corrupt practice in which developers agree to pay for all legal costs arising from lawsuits that may be brought against their projects approved by the land-use authority -- city or county. Without having to answer to the public for the financial consequences of decisions made on behalf of special interests, local land-use authorities can be counted on to continue unimpeded their real policy: unmitigated sprawl, agricultural land and natural resource destruction, constant increases in utility rates, layering of school and transportation bonds on top of property taxes, and the steady erosion of the county's infrastructure.

Adopted 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development Co.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club
Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge VernalPools.Org
California Native Plant Society
Stevinson Citizen’s Group
San Bruno Mountain Watch
San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders.

P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341
-------------------------

Relevant Provisions of the Brown Act
§ 54953. Requirement that meetings be open and public ...

(a) All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency, except as otherwise provided in this chapter...

Joiner v. City of Sebastopol (1981), 1st Dist. 125 Cal App 3rd 178 Cal Rptr 299
... The exclusion from the definition of"legislative body" under former Gov C § 54952.3, of a committee composed solely of membersof the governing body of a local agency which were less than a quorum of such governing body,had no application under the circumstances.

San Diego Union v City Council (1983, 4th Dist) 146 Cal App 3d 947, 196 Cal Rptr 45.
Although a charter city has complete control over its municipal affairs and has direct constitutional power to determine the compensation of its officers and employees (Cal. Const., Art. XI, § 5, subds. (a), (b)), the Brown Act (Gov. Code, §§ 54950 et seq.), requiring open meetings of the city council when salaries of nonelected city officers or employees are discussed and determined, does not impermissibly infringe in any manner upon this authority. Rather, the procedural nature of the Brown Act's guaranty all meetings of a governmental body be open to the public unless expressly exempted by statute, designed to eliminate much of the secrecy surrounding the deliberations and decisions on which public policy is predicated, addresses a genuine and pure matter of statewide concern...

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Winter storms drive Killer whales up Delta to Capitol

Submitted: Apr 07, 2006

Facing the peril of potential flooding of many new subdivisions built on flood plains, Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, introduced a bill to make it mandatory for homeowners to buy federal flood insurance for homes built where there is an annual one-in-200 chance of flooding. Presently, the state is on the hook for flood damage. Jones' bill required mortgage lenders to make certain homebuyers had flood insurance.

Mortgage banking lobbyists defeated the bill's enforcement provision in the Assembly Insurance Committee Wednesday. They argued that, as a result of Katrina, the federal flood insurance program was probably bankrupt so why buy federal flood insurance.

It's an absurd argument but lobbyists at public meetings have to come up with something to conceal the deal going down in private. Evidently, bankers believe they have a right to profits from their "creative" mortgages and to an endless speculative housing boom, more of it inevitably encroaching on flood plains in the Central Valley.

While developer sharks circle the Legislature daily, we don't often see the killer whales come up the river and dance on their tails. Jones, regardless of the fate of his bill, should be thanked for flushing out a bit of the financial system behind CalGrowth, Inc, which rules this state today in an absolute style not seen since the days of The Railroad.

Nine of the 10 members of the committee are from Southern California. They watched safely from the riverbank as Jones' bill and political reason were devoured by greed. While this is a perfectly normal spectacle at the state Capitol, some interest was added by the rising level of the river in which the lobbyist feeding frenzy occurred.

Seal count:

How they voted against the critical enforcement provision of AB 1898.

Yes

Ron Calderon, D-Montibello
Dario Frommer, D-Los Angeles
Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach
Sally Lieber, D-Santa Clara
Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara
Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana

No

John Benoit, R-Riverside (vice chair)
Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont
Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia

Abstained

Juan Vargas, D-San Diego (chair)

------------

Meanwhile, the local whining industry goes on per usual. Local government permits building on flood plains and goes whining to state and federal governments for "relief" when flood plains flood. Poor little Merced, whose city and county governments constantly raise the salaries and benefits for, at least, their "top" employees -- it just can't buy protection from floods, no matter how much money its public officials are investing in real estate.

Our leadership, in an economy fatted on every kind of government funding from cotton subsidies to UC Merced that still cannot produce enough work for its citizens, is adamantly against any government intervention except one kind: when state or federal funds flow into local coffers like Mariposa runoff.

The flood game is going to get worse due to the number of acres uphill and upstream from Merced that have been paved over and roofed over by the UC Merced-induced building boom.

Local leadership's first play in the flood game is to try to convince itself and the
remaining speculators that they are trying to do something and that floods will never,never happen again in Merced.

Its second play is going to be to blame environmentalists and natural resource agencies for floods. About the only people dumb enough to buy this are going to be real estate speculators still in this market, going nuts losing money. But a lot of them work for the county so this fable has a good start. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Vernal Pool Shrimp Slayer-Merced, is going to be whining to the leaden heavens as the rain comes down that flood damage is anyone's -- absolutely anyone's -- fault but his, beginning with railroading the UC campus through without proper environmental protection.

Local leadership is going to disappear behind its pointing fingers. You'll see a strange creature, something like a Sea urchin, rolling in and out of the county administration building, all fingers, no faces, no names. Or perhaps you'll see it floating down an MID canal, because MID isn't a flood control agency.

Absolutely the only thing real about this farce is flood water.

Bill Hatch
-------------------

Merced Sun-Star
Estimates at $9.72M for flood damages...Doane Yawger
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12026735p-12784522c.html
First estimates from flooding earlier this week in Merced peg damage at $9.72 million...total is certain to go up as more homes, farms, businesses and public facilities are assessed.

County still awaiting disaster relief from governor's office. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, told Schwarzenegger that flooding was overwhelming local response capabilities...state assistance is needed and warranted. Ted Selb said the MID's canals sustained considerable damage...city crews were cleaning out culverts and removing obstructions from pipes to open up waterways, cleaning mud and debris off streets...water rose into streets and into some yards this week...crews Thursday morning cut a 40-foot swath in Sandy Mush Road to let water
drain on wetlands and nonproductive farmland.

Builders, schools can't reach deal...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12026741p-12784550c.html
On Tuesday, four school districts and the 26-member Building Industry Association of Central California walked away from the negotiation table again without a deal. In recent months, every major housing project before the city and county have been met with calls from educators to impose building moratoriums. March 10 offer by builders to pay the Merced City School District $3.55 per square foot for new developments. State law requires at least $2.48
per square foot...district made a counteroffer of $4.39, which was turned down by the BIA. In the meantime, construction and land costs have climbed substantially, and the buying power of funds collected for new schools has diminished...district says it will face an $88 million shortfall needed to build new facilities in the next 10 years if fees aren't increased.

We can prevent floods in future...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12026750p-12784512c.html
We have a sense that the finger-pointing has just begun. Merced Irrigation District officials and County Supervisor Deidre Kelsey say the disaster could have been avoided if the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers had finished water control projects. It's clear that a flood like Tuesday's can be avoided if the right people get together and make important decisions. Next time, a flood could be more catastrophic and cause injuries and even deaths. Our leaders must find a way to make sure there isn't another "next time."

http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/story/14240239p-15060058c.html
Editorial: Banking on clear skies
Mortgage industry weakens key flood bill
Sacramento Bee -- April 7, 2006

Mortgage banking in California is a multibillion-dollar business. It has thrived with the state's real estate boom and the proliferation of homes built in the low-priced floodplains of the Central Valley.

This industry also is enormously exposed. If and when a major flood occurs, the banking industry will be saddled with waterlogged, worthless homes. As in New Orleans, foreclosures will be rampant. Someone will be left holding a very soggy bag.

You might think that mortgage banks would support - or at least want to discuss - a measure to require flood insurance on vulnerable properties. Instead, the industry is using the same deceptive tactics it employs to sell questionable products (such as zero down payment, interest-only loans) to kill a bill by Assemblyman Dave Jones of Sacramento.

Before Wednesday, Jones' AB 1898 made federal flood insurance a condition of obtaining a mortgage in areas with a one-in-200 chance of flooding in any given year. Jones' bill would have required mortgage lenders to enforce the provision, which made sense because lenders have as much to lose as homeowners.

Unfortunately, the banking industry seems more concerned about short-term profits than long-term survivability. Mortgage bankers worry that an insurance requirement would scare off prospective home buyers. They used some highly deceptive arguments to effectively gut AB 1898 ...
---------------

GOP lawmakers revive Auburn Dam debate; SAVING SACRAMENTO DURING FLOOD AT ISSUE
San Jose Mercury-News – 4/7/06
By Erica Werner, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Key Republican lawmakers said Thursday that building a dam on the American River

at Auburn is the only way to protect Sacramento against catastrophic flooding that might occur once every 500 years.

But the head of the California Department of Water Resources cautioned against losing focus on flood-control projects now under way that are meant to give 200-year protection to the region.

Sacramento is now protected at only the 100-year level -- the lowest of any large urban area in the nation.

``Our focus right now in the state is that we need to be sure we get these improvements and not get distracted by the next debate over Auburn Dam,'' Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow testified at a hearing of the House Resources Committee's subcommittee on energy and water.

``The debate in the past has actually delayed investment in flood improvements in the region,'' Snow said.

Before Snow spoke, committee chair Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Stockton, and subcommittee chair Rep. George Radanovich, R-Fresno, both spoke in favor of an Auburn Dam, underscoring growing congressional interest in reviving the controversial project years after it seemed to be abandoned for good ...
----------------

San Joaquin River Continues To Rise; Mossdale Mobile Home Park Evacuated
KCRA Channel 3 (Sacramento) – 4/7/06

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Heavy runoff from recent storms is expected to tax the San Joaquin River in the coming days, state water officials said Thursday.

The river near Vernalis west of Modesto will likely reach flood stage within about five days or so, said Gary Bardini of the state Department of Water Resources.

At the Mossdale Moblie Home Park, near Manteca, a residents are packing up their belongings and moving out as the river continues to rise. A mandatory evacuation is in effect for the area.

"We've got good weather and that's going to make people wait as long as possible ... sometimes you have to get your feet a little bit damp before it's time to move," Lathrop-Manteca Fire spokesman Jim Monty said.

Reservoirs that feed the San Joaquin are nearing capacity in many cases, making significant water releases necessary. ..

"Our goal is to try to maintain flows at a level that the flood control system should perform adequately," said Bardini, noting that officials are most concerned about the San Joaquin.

But officials are also expecting more wet weather. Another storm will hit the region late Friday, with rain lasting off and on over the weekend.

Longer-range forecasts show more rain in the coming week as well.

"The good news, of course, is that we are in a break right now," said Elizabeth Morse of the National Weather Service. "The bad news is that it ends tomorrow."

Morse said the coming storm will hit hardest in Central California south of Interstate 80.

Thunderstorms are possible, posing a problem for some areas that are already saturated.

"The problem with showers and thunderstorms is that you can drop quite a bit of precipitation in a short period of time," Morse said. "Half an inch of rain in 30 minutes is going to be a real problem in some of the areas where we already have standing water."

Snow levels from this cold storm in the Sierra will remain relatively low, so officials do not expect the problem of huge runoff caused by rain falling on snow.

"Overall, this is a much more gentle system," Morse added. "Unfortunately, it's coming right on the heels of a pretty potent system."

In Calaveras County, those evacuated from about 100 houses in the La Contenta subdivision earier in the week were allowed to return home on Thursday.

A small dam at La Contenta, located near Valley Springs, threatened to fail on Tuesday. Crews have reinforced the dam with sandbags and plastic sheeting.

Thanks to calm weather Wednesday night, the Tuolumne River crested below flood stage in Stanislaus County Thursday morning.

People in the area were particularly worried about the area where Cry Creek meets the Tuolumne. The water, which surpassed levels seen during huge January storms, rose to within feet of a few homes.

In the Sierra, resorts reported a heavy blanket of new snow. At Mammoth Mountain in Mono County, the resort reported 23 inches of fresh snow, resulting in total depths of up to 264 inches in some places. #

http://www.kcra.com/money/8511490/detail.html

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