Growth

Saving the edges of the Central Valley

Submitted: Jul 05, 2006

Throughout the borders of the Central Valley where cattle graze, although the great fields of vernal pools in pasturelands are being illegally taken, individuals and groups are finding positive ways to work together to try to stop the destruction of this unique ecology, home to a number of endangered and threatened species, essential for groundwater storage, open space that does not contribute to air pollution, and productive cattle land.

We include a several pieces:

"Easy on the land," by Glen Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, July 2, 2006;

The California Rangeland Resolution, an unprecedented agreement among local ranchers and their industry groups, farmers and their industry groups, state and federal resources agencies and local, state and national environmental groups, that this land must be saved. There is even one local land-use authority, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors;

A US Fish & Wildlife Service white paper, “Wetlands Creation in existing vernal pool landscapes.”

Bill Hatch
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http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/07/02/MNGOQJO6P41.DTL

EASY ON THE LAND
Ranchers and farmers, spurred by the growing market for natural foods, are finding a silver lining in the conservation cloud
Glen Martin, Chronicle Environment Writer

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Darrell Wood drove slowly across his land near Chico, a battered cowboy hat pulled down over his forehead, his eyes darting back and forth as he sized up the Black Angus cattle grazing nearby. In the back of his truck, three border collies stood at attention, ready to work.

The cattle looked in prime shape as they stood in lush pasturage dotted with sapphire vernal pools. Large flocks of northern pintails dabbled in the water, while white-tailed kites hovered overhead and red-winged blackbirds called from the sedges along the pools.

"This ecosystem is like anything else," said Wood, gesturing across the gently rolling plain that stretches all the way to the foothills of the Sierra. "Properly managed, it flourishes. Improperly managed, things start falling apart. We're doing everything we can to manage it properly."

Not too many years ago, that kind of talk might have sounded strange coming from a cattleman. But Wood represents a new breed of rancher. He and hundreds of other ranchers and farmers in California and across the nation are part of a growing private initiative that "embeds" wildlife habitat into the working agricultural landscape.

The trend is driven more by market incentives than bunny-hugging sentiments: The natural and organic food business is now a multibillion-dollar industry. But farmers and ranchers who produce for this market find they also have the opportunity to improve or create wildlife habitat on their land.

Adding to the incentive for wildlife-friendly agriculture are conservation easements -- essentially, cash payouts by government agencies or private conservancies in voluntary exchange for future development rights. The trend for such easements is bullish. In the last 20 years, about 260,000 acres of land have been protected in California through conservation easements --Â with 85 percent of that land set aside in the last decade.

Increasingly, environmentalists see easements and similar management tools -- and the ranchers like Wood who utilize them -- as key elements in 21st century conservation efforts.

"To a large degree, our society has become reluctant to fund large-scale national park and wildlife refuge acquisitions," said Dawit Zeleke, the Central Valley eco-regional director for the Nature Conservancy's California program.

Wood and his family own 10,000 acres and lease 100,000 acres from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management near the Lassen County town of Susanville, which they use as summer pasturage for their stock. They also own 2,700 acres and lease 10,000 acres from the Nature Conservancy on the Vina Plains near Highway 99 between Red Bluff in Tehama County and Chico in Butte County.

The area is considered a top priority by environmentalists because of its vernal pools -- seasonal wetlands that support several native plants and animals. The conservancy requires ranchers to pay fair market value for leased land. In the Vina Plains area, that averages about $12 an acre, said a spokeswoman for the California Cattlemen's Association.

Wood said he manages his stock to mimic the way tule elk once grazed the land.

"We allow the cattle to graze very intensively for short periods, then move them off," he said. "When the elk came through, they did essentially the same thing -- they ate everything and moved on. That keeps all the indigenous vegetation in the system. It's adapted to that kind of cycle."

When the land was managed more traditionally -- with cattle allowed to graze moderately, rotated off when the grass got shorter and moved back on when the grass grew back -- the vernal pool ecosystems suffered, Wood said: Noxious nonnative plant species, such as yellow star thistle and Medusa head, took over.

Wood's family has been ranching in Northern California since the 1860s, but in recent years he found it tough making a profit by raising and selling his cattle in the standard ways.

"Several years ago, cattle prices were at all-time lows, and I didn't know if we were going to survive," he said. "A guy approached me and asked if I was interested in raising natural grass-fed beef -- no hormones, no grain or antibiotics. I went for it. Right from the start, we got better prices than we did for standard beef."

The natural beef business has steadily expanded since 2000, and Wood's production has grown with it. He has enlisted neighboring ranchers into his operation, and the partnership now ships 130 to 160 cattle weekly, mostly to Whole Foods Markets and Trader Joe's, but also to several restaurants.

While Wood allowed he isn't getting rich, the future looks brighter than it has in some time. But if you're going to make it with natural beef, he said, profits must come from conservation easements and grants as well as cattle sales.

In addition to the Vina Plains programs, Wood's family is restoring wetlands, riparian corridors and upland sage-hen habitat on their property in Susanville, east of Mount Lassen, with funding from the National Resource Conservation Service, Ducks Unlimited, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Environmentalists have long criticized the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service for allowing excessive livestock grazing on federal lands. But grazing levels are about a third of what they were in the 1950s, said Ralph Mauck, a rangeland management specialist for the bureau's Eagle Lake district office, which manages about 1 million acres of rangeland near Susanville.

The district allows about 9,000 cattle and 5,000 sheep on its range, and ranchers are paying the district assessments of about $85,000 this year, Mauck said. Federal wildlife habitat can be improved by improving cattle range, he added.

"If it's done right, when you do one, you do the other," Mauck said. He said his agency is emphasizing management policies that incorporate wildlife values -- fencing off sensitive habitat areas, reseeding range to native plants and protecting riparian zones.

While ranching naturally lends itself to habitat restoration because the landscape is left more or less intact, intensive farming -- the cultivation of grains, vegetables or fruit -- is another matter.

To grow these crops, the face of the land must be changed radically, and usually little room is left for critters. In California's Sacramento Valley, there is one exception to this broad rule: rice lands. They can provide vast expanses of prime seasonal habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and raptors. Environmental impacts can be further reduced by growing the grain organically, or with minimal fertilizer and pesticide applications.

Lundberg Family Farms in Butte County has been a prime mover in the promotion of eco-friendly rice farming. The company and its contract growers cultivate about 12,000 acres of rice around the crossroads hamlet of Richvale, and markets a wide array of products, from organic brown rice to rice cakes, rice syrup, rice chips and rice milk.

The Lundbergs don't have any acres in true conservation easements, said the company's board chairwoman, Jessica Lundberg, but they participate in a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative known as the conservation security program. Under the program, farmers are paid an incentive to maintain and improve environmental soil and water standards on their lands over a 10-year period.

The Lundbergs enrolled 3,500 acres, comprising their core family holdings, into the program and received $45,000.

The enterprise's patriarch, Albert Lundberg, came to California with his wife, Frances, in 1937, having fled the dust bowl in Nebraska, said CEO Grant Lundberg, the grandson of the founders.

"The complete environmental collapse they witnessed in the Midwest was due mainly to terrible farming practices, and it made a tremendous impression on them," he said. "When they came out here, they were determined to improve the condition of the land, not degrade it."

The Lundbergs were at the forefront of organic grain production in California, obtaining certification for organic rice production in 1980. Today, about 9,000 acres of rice land under the family's control is certified, with the remainder managed for "natural" rice produced with minimal pesticides and artificial fertilizer.

Organic and natural rice fetch higher prices than standard rice. Another attraction, Jessica Lundberg said, is that the land fares better under organic production. The regular use of cover crops for fertilizer improves the tilth and net fertility of the soil, she said, and shunning chemicals and artificial fertilizers saves money -- and is a boon to wild creatures.

During a recent tour of the Lundberg fields, wildlife was omnipresent. Pheasants burst from ditch side coverts, and scores of ducks and shorebirds foraged in the soggy fields.

The Lundbergs also pioneered post-harvest field flooding. Throughout most of the last century, Sacramento Valley rice farmers burned their rice stubble after harvest to dispose of the straw and reduce disease pathogens. But the family always felt flooding was a better way, said Jessica Lundberg.

Such "decomp" rice flooding is now standard for the industry. It wasn't wildlife concerns that drove the trend -- rather, stringent air quality standards in the 1980s and 1990s required an alternative to stubble burning. But birds and other wildlife have been major beneficiaries of the practice.

"It attracts all the ducks and geese that over-winter in the valley," she said. "They eat the waste rice, trample the stubble down, incorporate it into the soil where it degrades. That gets rid of the straw and increases the volume of organic matter in our soil -- makes it richer and healthier."

The Sacramento Valley's flooded rice fields now amount to hundreds of thousands of acres of seasonal wetlands, said Greg Mensik, the deputy refuge manager for the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which administers six refuges in the Sacramento Valley.

Zeleke of the Nature Conservancy said educating American city dwellers about private conservation efforts will be the next great challenge for the movement.

"As the population becomes more and more urbanized, people lose touch with the essential qualities of sustainable, wildlife-friendly ranching and farming," he said. "But I think we'll see increased public access to these properties -- guided tours, fishing and camping, maybe even some new variations of the classic dude ranch. We have to get people out there so they can understand the stakes."
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The California Rangeland Resolution

The undersigned recognize the critical importance of California’s privately owned rangelands, particularly that significant portion that encircles the Central Valley and includes the adjacent grasslands and oak woodlands, including the Sierra foothills and the interior coast ranges. These lands support important ecosystems and are the foundation for the ranching industry that owns them.

WHEREAS, these rangelands include a rich and varied landscape of grasslands, oak woodlands, vernal pools, riparian areas and wetlands, which support numerous imperiled species, many native plants once common in the Central Valley, and are home to the highest diversity and density of wintering raptors anywhere in North America;

WHEREAS, these rangelands are often located in California’s fastest-growing counties and are at significant risk of conversion to development and other uses;

WHEREAS, these rangelands, and the species that rely on these habitats, largely persist today due to the positive and experienced grazing and other land stewardship practices of the ranchers that have owned and managed these lands and are committed to a healthy future for their working landscapes;

WHEREAS, these rangelands are a critical foundation of the economic and social fabric of California’s ranching industry and rural communities, and will only continue to provide this important working landscape for California’s plants, fish and wildlife if private rangelands remain in ranching;

THEREFORE, we declare that it is our goal to collaboratively work together to protect and enhance the rangeland landscape that encircles California’s Central Valley and includes adjacent grasslands and oak woodlands by:

Keeping common species common on private working landscapes;

Working to recover imperiled species and enhancing habitat on rangelands while seeking to minimize regulations on private lands and streamline processes;

Supporting the long-term viability of the ranching industry and its culture by providing economic, social and other incentives and by reducing burdens to proactive stewardship on private ranchlands;

Increasing private, state and federal funding, technical expertise and other assistance to continue and expand the ranching community’s beneficial land stewardship practices that benefit sensitive species and are fully compatible with normal ranching practices;

Encouraging voluntary, collaborative and locally-led conservation that has proven to be very effective in maintaining and enhancing working landscapes;

Educating the public about the benefits of grazing and ranching in these rangelands.

Current signers of the California Rangeland Resolution include the following:

Alameda County RCD
Alameda County Board of Supervisors
American Land Conservancy
California Cattlemen’s Association
California Resources Agency
California Wildlife Foundation
Central Valley Land Trust Council
Bureau Land Management
Defenders of Wildlife
Butte Environmental Council
Environmental Defense
California Audubon Society
Institute for Ecological Health
California Cattlemen’s Association
Natural Resources Conservation Service
California Dept of Fish and Game
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
California Dept of Food and Ag
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy
California Farm Bureau Federation
Sierra Foothills Audubon Society
California Native Grasslands Association
The Nature Conservancy
California Native Plant Society
Trust for Public Land
California Oak Foundation
US Fish and Wildlife Service
California Rangeland Trust
US Forest Service
California Resource Conservation Districts
VernalPools.org
Wildlife Conservation Board
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US Fish & Wildlife Service white paper

Wetlands Creation in existing vernal pool landscapes
04/02/2006

For the past couple of years (and probably before) we have been reviewing
and accepting the creation of vernal pool features/wetlands within existing
vernal pool landscapes as a means to address the no net loss of wetlands
policy. Specifically I am talking about the practice of creating vernal
pools in existing vernal pool landscapes where none occurred previously (as
opposed to restoring or re-creating vernal pools where it can be determined
they did occur previously). Each time we are asked to accept this practice
we have difficulty determining that this mechanical ground disturbing
activity does not significantly affect the function and value of existing
vernal pools landscapes (uplands as well as wetlands) and also result in
adverse impacts to listed species like plants, salamanders and shrimp.
Each time I see another one of these creation proposals, the densities go
up and the project seems more like the creation of a Frankenstein type
creature than "enhancing" or complimenting the processes of a natural and
dynamic ecosystem

The only compelling reason I can see for these types of creation proposals
are that this is the most cost effective approach for the regulated
community. That is, credit can be given for preserving existing vernal
pools (which are difficult and costly to develop on in the first place) and
creation can be accomplished without purchasing additional ground.

I can see no real biological benefits of this approach that do not outweigh
the impacts, nor do I see any credible scientific evidence that this is an
appropriate approach for vernal pool conservation. In fact the more and
more we analyze and discuss this issue in the scientific and academic
community, the more and more evidence is presented that we are likely
causing great harm to an existing functioning landscape. Impacts to upland
components/habitat for listed plants, pollinators, salamanders and kit fox,
hydrology, water chemistry, microclimate, etc are just a few of the impacts
that have been brought to my attention.

I know there will continue to be great debate about the pros and cons of
this practice, and we should continue have this discussion in the
academic/scientific community. It is just getting very difficult to have
this debate in the regulatory process.

Thus, my thoughts for the day. We are reviewing several of these types of
actions in the office now and we will continue to work with the proponents
to minimize the impacts to listed species and if necessary to suggest the
appropriate compensation to avoid significant impacts and likely have to
prepare additional biological opinions on the proposals.

However, in the future, my strong recommendation is to look for
restoration/creation sites that are not within existing vernal pool
landscapes. There are numerous areas where vernal pools have been lost or
impacted due to agricultural or other practices that are prime candidates
for creation/restoration. If we are asked to evaluate the creation of new
vernal pools in existing landscapes that have impacts to listed species it
will be very difficult to justify these proposals on biological grounds
without out considerable analysis of effects to uplands, wetlands,
hydrology, etc. Please, consider looking away from existing vernal pools
for your creation component. thanks

Ken Sanchez
Assistant Field Supervisor
Endangered Species
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office
2800 Cottage Way-Suite W-2605
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 414-6671

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Bravo, Rose Burroughs

Submitted: Jun 29, 2006

When, in the wake of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, the state Reclamation Board began to take a hard look at building on flood plains along the Sacramento River and the Delta, as it has the authority to do, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fired them all in September 2005.

Nearly a quarter of the governor's campaign financing, about $17.25 million, had come from developers by the time the board began to act to protect the levees and residents alongside them.

Judging from the odd comment by out-going board members, developers have big plans for the levees. One example was this from Jeffrey F. Mount, fired board member and chairman of the UC Davis department of geology.

In an interview several months ago, Mount said, "We need regional land use planning so we don't continue to build behind these agricultural levees."

Also, he said, a mechanism is needed to pay for strengthening existing levees, and flood insurance should be mandatory.

"Everything I'm saying, of course," Mount said, "will be violently resisted by the building industry."

The violence building industry lobbyists and spokespeople do to the truth of the destruction they are causing to public resources, public health and to the environment was brought home yesterday at a round table where a BIA official from Bakersfield insisted air quality is better there now than it was 20 years ago. The statement echoed one made by a Fresno BIA flak last summer, claiming there was no speculation going on in the Valley housing market.

These people will lie to the public -- and they are paid well to lie -- whenever their greedy interests and desire to exploit the environment are challenged in whatever forum. Many of them, we imagine, have never had an experience of earning an honest living and in their hearts lying and earning are inextricably combined.

This week the new, all-Hun board, approved

a developer's plan to build luxury homes atop a massive new levee in San Joaquin County.

The vote by the California Reclamation Board allows the River Islands project in Lathrop to move ahead with the first phase of a development that will eventually include 11,000 homes on Stewart Tract, an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The developer is British, the Cambay Group, so presumably the atop-new-levee estates will be suitably classy for whatever elite-of-the-week the Bay Area is creating when they go on sale.

Putting aside the environmental and aesthetic destruction of this project, it is another example of colonization of the San Joaquin Valley by global capital groups. Other examples, just in Merced County, include a German aggregate-mining corporation and a Canadian development corporation, alongside all the national home-building corporations, WalMart distribution centers in the nation's top or second worst air pollution basin and the NASCAR track proposed for Atwater.

Let them breathe diesel! say the Walton heiresses.

What made life bearable for generations of low-wage workers in the San Joaquin Valley was access to nature, to the "country." The Bay Area has extruded gated pods of rich, "active seniors" to settle on what was once fairly open, accessible land for recreation in the huge, greedy rush to privatize everything, seal it off, patrol and protect it, warping the life of the older community around it.

Developers have the state over a barrel in California as the result of a court decision that charged the state for damages caused by a levee break several years ago. So the main concern of the board seemed to be how to make sure the new, British-built levee won't break, conveniently forgetting that this folly could depend on what might break well above the new "super levee" adorned with chateaux de silicon. But, before levees are strengthened along the Delta, Cambay and its bankers must build their project, or the global economic system will doubtless crumble.

Federal water runs between state levees, without which Cambay could not build their super levee in the first place. Our Hun, in thrall to developers as every politician in California, fires a board for questioning the wisdom of building on flood plains behind state levees channeling federal water. Then, after the dramatic spring floodwaters recede, here comes the project again. It arrives and is approved as if to remind us that California is now so over-built, over-crowded, its population so beyond the carrying capacity of its resources that coal-fired power plants pollute the Arizona and New Mexico to power California desert air conditioners, and its politicians and courts are so completely in development's pockets that when a levee breaks and floods houses on flood plains behind it, the state pays for the damage.

But -- Sell it and ruin it, it's only the Valley! is the battle cry of our hard-right decision-makers. Their political leader in San Joaquin County is Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, and scion on the Pombo Real Estate Farms clan. They call it the "courage" to stand against reason, ethics, economic sanity, environmental law and regulation, and the future possibilities of agriculture in the richest, most productive agricultural valley in the world. Their kind of courage is to sell off the Public Trust, subsidize the damage and endanger public health, approve subdivisions on farmland, then enthusiastically support University of California plans for a research medical school at Merced. According to some statistics, the Valley is short of physicians. UC hopes to attract research physicians specializing in pediatric and geriatric respiratory diseases to this evolving research bonanza of gasping victims of the San Joaquin Valley slurbocracy, which features all the pollution of Los Angeles plus pesticides, along with a derelict levee system.

But the board was not unanimous. Merced County's Rose Burroughs opposed the decision.

"We humans need to respect the power of Mother Nature and realize dirt levees will eventually give out," she said.

Bravo, Rose! May many elected and appointed officials follow her lead and vote their conscience, common sense and environmental awareness.

Bill Hatch
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Notes:

ttp://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/14272102p-15082546c.html

Homes approved near river with 'superlevee' protection
State board satisfied with barrier guarding San Joaquin project
By Matt Weiser -- Bee Staff Writer
June 27, 2006

State flood-control officials gave a green light Monday to a developer's plan to build luxury homes atop a massive new levee in San Joaquin County.
The vote by the California Reclamation Board allows the River Islands project in Lathrop to move ahead with the first phase of a development that will eventually include 11,000 homes on Stewart Tract, an island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The developer, British-owned Cambay Group, plans to build 224 of those homes on top of a new 300-foot-wide "superlevee" overlooking the San Joaquin River.

The Reclamation Board approved an encroachment permit that determines where private structures can be built on the levee. It reserves 60 feet of space inland from the San Joaquin River for levee maintenance.
But critics said it could open the door to more development in the Delta and expose thousands more people to flood risk.

"I believe they have insulted the public, and I believe they have permitted projects that are injurious to the public," said Tom Foley, president of Concerned Citizens for Responsible Growth, a Marysville-based group that opposes the project.

Susan Dell'Osso, River Islands project director, said the levee gives her project some of the highest flood protection in California.

"We think the proposal before you today treats us the same as other applicants," she told the board. "In fact, it's a little harsher on us, yet it's something we can live with."

The board voted 4-1 to approve the permit. RoseMarie Burroughs cast the only "no" vote.

"We humans need to respect the power of Mother Nature and realize dirt levees will eventually give out," she said. "Building homes on levees makes the hair stand up on my back with fear."

River Islands has already received approval from the city of Lathrop to build the homes on Stewart Tract.

The city also granted a grading permit that allowed River Islands to build a new private ring levee inside part of the existing federal levees on Stewart Tract. About 2,400 homes will be built inside this new levee during the first phase of construction.

The Reclamation Board has the right to review any levee alterations on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers systems.

On June 16, the Reclamation Board gave the Cambay Group approval to fill in the space between the new and old levees on Stewart Tract to create the new levee.

Monday's vote determined how much of that levee must be left accessible for maintenance and repairs.

The Reclamation Board effectively decided that only the old federal levee needs to be accessed for long-term maintenance, even though it will be partially buried by the new levee.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed with that conclusion.

As a result, Monday's action excludes private development extending 60 feet back from the San Joaquin River's edge. The rest of the levee will be open to construction of private homes, swimming pools and outbuildings.

The Reclamation Board also reserved an "excavation easement" over an additional sliver of private land up to 25 feet wide. This allows the state to access backyards to dig a trench down to the original federal levee in case repairs are required.

It will have no legal right to access the rest of the massive levee.

Les Harder, deputy director of the state Department of Water Resources, said it is unlikely levee problems would develop farther back on the levee, such as underneath new homes.

He also said that since it is likely housing will be built on Stewart Tract regardless of any Reclamation Board actions, a "superlevee" may be a good idea.

"It's my sense that this superlevee would be far better protection than anything else you have in the valley," he said.

The permit also allows River Islands to make public improvements for a recreational parkway in the 60-foot easement, subject to staff approval. This could include planting trees and building public structures like restrooms.

Board member Butch Hodgkins said this would help ensure that private structures are not eventually built across the levee, which would impede access for flood control.

"There is a common interest between flood control and public use and open space," Hodgkins said.
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http://www.calcoast.org/news/cpr0050928.html

Schwarzenegger fires flood control panel
The state Reclamation Board had begun resisting development along vulnerable levees

Nancy Vogel
The Los Angeles Times
September 28, 2005

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday fired all six members of the state Reclamation Board, an agency that oversees flood control along California's two biggest rivers and had recently become more aggressive about slowing development on flood plains.

The Republican governor replaced the members — who serve indefinite terms at the governor's pleasure — with seven of his own appointees, most with ties to agriculture and the engineering profession. One board seat had been vacant since spring.

Five of the fired members had been appointed by Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and one had first been appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, then reappointed by Davis.

Fired board member Jeffrey F. Mount, chairman of the UC Davis geology department, said he was given no explanation for his dismissal. It was not completely unexpected, he said.

"It's perfectly reasonable for a governor to want to have his own people who represent his policies on flood control," Mount said. He added, "All I know is, we made a lot of people unhappy."

When Hurricane Katrina breached levees and flooded New Orleans a month ago, the board voted to review all urban development plans proposed for Central Valley flood plains — a power it has long held but only occasionally used.

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said the appointments had been in the works for "quite some time to ensure the most qualified individuals were chosen."

"The appointees are representative of the valley and experts in engineering and water issues," she said.

In a prepared statement earlier Tuesday, the governor made no mention of the former board members but praised their replacements.

"California faces significant flood challenges," Schwarzenegger said. "To protect our communities, economy and keep Californians safe we need a comprehensive and ongoing effort to reduce these risks with better planning, new investments and improved flood infrastructure." He added that "each one of these individuals shares my commitment to ensuring these lifesaving efforts are not ignored or postponed."

State law gives the Reclamation Board substantial power to review development in the extensive flood plains along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries. The board can make recommendations that local governments cannot ignore without legal findings that justify their plans. Until the last few years, that power was rarely used.

The board had recently begun to challenge local governments' development plans. Along the Feather River south of Marysville, for example, the board balked at Yuba County's plans to build subdivisions in an area that had been flooded by a 1997 break in a levee the state was responsible for.

The state recently agreed to pay more than 600 victims $45 million as a result of that flood.

The Reclamation Board eventually reached an agreement with Yuba County to limit construction to 800 homes in the area this year. The county also agreed to waive the state's liability for future flood damages in the area, known as Arboga.

Mount and other members of the fired board have argued for tougher restrictions on home building near levees. Many stretches of Central Valley levees were built decades ago to protect farmland; they are now aging and weakening at the same time they are being expected to protect thousands of new homes.

In an interview several months ago, Mount said, "We need regional land use planning so we don't continue to build behind these agricultural levees."

Also, he said, a mechanism is needed to pay for strengthening existing levees, and flood insurance should be mandatory.

"Everything I'm saying, of course," Mount said, "will be violently resisted by the building industry."

Outgoing board members said Tuesday they had heard rumors that Schwarzenegger was contemplating changes and understood that he has a right to make his own appointments. But they were surprised that he removed an experienced board when the state faces important decisions about the safety of its levees.

"It is not a good time for a change," said fired member Anthony J. Cusenza, a retired dentist from Modesto. "There is so much going on right now with these issues."

One of the biggest challenges for the new board, he said, is reviewing flood plain development. "We were pretty tough on developers," he said. "We are not in the land use [business.] Our concern was levees. The heat we were getting was — we were adamant about not putting people in harm's way."

Outgoing board President Betsy A. Marchand, a former Yolo County supervisor, said the timing of the board's replacement "does surprise me because this board was very active…. I guess I was thinking that perhaps they were going to let us continue with our program of bringing these issues to the forefront."

Former Sacramento city manager and board member William H. Edgar said the board was also very concerned about home building where levees had not been upgraded. He said it would be difficult for the new board to catch up and address such issues now, "but we wish them well."

In the recently ended Legislative session, the Schwarzenegger administration sponsored a bill that would have created a new Central Valley authority to assess property owners for better flood control. The bill was amended to require simply a study of levee strength and repair priorities, but it still failed, in part for lack of GOP support.

Schwarzenegger's budget this year boosted levee maintenance by $26 million, reversing cuts made in the last several years. This month, he called on California's congressional delegation to seek more than $90 million to pay for strengthening Central Valley levees.

But the governor also has strong ties to the building industry. A Times analysis of Schwarzenegger's donors shows that at least 23% of the $75 million he has raised since 2002 has come from businesses or individuals involved in residential or industrial construction, development and real estate.

The California Building Industry Assn., which represents home builders, and its members are among his biggest donors. The trade group has given the governor's campaigns $180,000.

The others terminated Tuesday are retired Stockton school administrator Floyd H. Weaver and former Tehama County supervisor Burton Bundy.

The new members are Cheryl Bly-Chester, owner of a Roseville engineering firm; Rose Burroughs, owner of a livestock company in Denair; Benjamin Carter, a Colusa farmer; Maureen Doherty, a Maxwell rancher; Francis "Butch" Hodgkins, former executive director of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency; Emma Suarez, a Folsom attorney for the California Farm Bureau Federation; and Teri Rie, a Contra Costa County civil engineer.

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Comments on Del Webb Fox Hills

Submitted: Jun 27, 2006

This morning, unsurprisingly, the Merced County Board of Supervisors approved a Del Webb/Pulte Homes new town nestled between I-5 and the San Luis Canal near Los Banos. The project required an amendment of the county's outdated General Plan and, according to testimony, the first cancellation of a Williamson Act contract since 2000, when the board enacted the act.

Fox Hills will make a perfect upscale yuppie labor camp for "active seniors" our canny developers know will not be retiring any sooner than they will be retiring. The Merced public was invited to imagine the scene of active seniors wheeling off to the executive 9-hole golf course in electric golf carts, and in the magic moment of an entirely separate project description offered by its proponents during the public comment period, we were invited to believe in blue, unpolluted skies, happy seniors all wired fiber-optically to stay at home rather than commute, protected by berms from the deafening noise of the freeway, and to imagine the gentle, extremely endangered San Joaquin Valley Kit Fox ambling along the canal in a narrow "corridor" unmolested by the residents' dogs, walked along the corridor's intertwined "nature trails." It's all the latest "new" California style. Our landscapes will be watered by reconditioned sewage and our endangered species wildlife corridors will be "mixed use" and if some actively senior resident's German Shepherd bags a kit fox -- why, that's great sport! Perhaps Fox Hills of Merced County residents will form a fox club and pursue kit foxes on mountain bikes behind a baying pack of pedigreed poodles.

Faced with the high-powered consultants from the coast and the executive crew from Del Webb/Pulte Homes, who presented a final environmental impact review that was little more than a set of plans to make plans, and whose answer to every query was a smooth reply that they were in constant contact with the relevant state and federal resource regulatory agencies (safely out of public view), the supervisors were made just giddy with fabulous misstatement and joined in the fun themselves, denying that the enactment of the Williamson Act in Merced County had anything to do with mitigating the impact of UC Merced.

In fact, the Merced County General Plan is like an aging extra waitress at a Los Banos duck club. She still looks good in the right shadow, she still knows her business, and she's on the house to out-of-state developers. In the pleasant world of big money, land and extra waitresses, it is considered impolite to name the pimp. So call us impolite if we name the pimp as the Merced County Board of Supervisors.

Recently, a mysterious group called the General Plan Review Steering Committee, who claims its authority to guide a process of updating the General Plan from some board resolution in the late 1980s, made several proposals to curtail to some extent the pace of development in Merced County while the extra waitress got some medical attention. Planning consultants are now hovered over the old girl trying to figure out how to rehabilitate a working girl that has been "amended" too fast, too much, for too long. The University of California, the brute, knocked all her teeth out. Her pimp pulled all her hair out. So the consultants are working on her legs, still in good condition.

"She's still got legs!" they report ecstatically. "It's amazing considering the life she's led."

Learned and tax-paid surgeons have been summoned at the direction of the supervisors, her collective pimp, to do the nip-and-tuck magic of their plastic art. She'll soon look like a recent high school grad.

The great debate going on among consultants and the pimp is whether the hair implants should be brunette or blond. Which do nationwide developers want the most: brunette or blond extra waitresses? Perhaps this is the most important question in county economic development theory at the moment.

The old girl herself lies comatose on the table, suicidally stoned on a concoction of mind-altering substances and lies known only to duck club extra waitresses. To her, the Merced County General Plan Update Process is just another emergency ward.

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

From:

Lydia Miller
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced CA 95341
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
raptorctr@bigvalley.net
sjrrc@sbcglobal.net

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto, CA 95350
sburke3105@sbcglobal.net

To:

Merced County Board of Supervisors Sent via email

Dee Tatum Sent via email
Chief Administrative Officer

Robert Lewis Sent via email
Director of Planning and Economic Development

Ruben Castillo Sent via email
County Counsel
Merced County 2222 M St.
Merced CA 95340

June 27, 2006

Re: General Plan Amendment No. 05005, Zone Change Application No. 05006, Major Subdivision Application Nos. 06002, 06003 and 06004, and Administrative Permit Application No. 06040 - To amend the General Plan and the Zoning Code by adopting an updated Fox Hills Community Specific Plan and expanding the boundaries by 850 acres, approval of three major subdivision application proposing the creation of 2,600 residential building lots and approval of an administrative permit application for community-supporting commercial development; action related to the Williamson Act are also necessary including removal from the Agricultural Preserve and a tentative contract cancellation
Proposed Ordinance: An Ordinance of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Merced amending the Merced County Code Title 18, Zoning to include Section 18.57.01, Fox Hills Specific Plan District, per Zone Change Application No. 05006

Members of the Board of Supervisors,

We oppose this project because:

1) The General Plan is so out of date and out of shape that to amend it again is irresponsible. To continue to approve projects of this size that require amendments, while the General Plan update process is on-going, undermines that process and adds to the general public distrust and cynicism toward this county administration and board of supervisors.

2) The environmental review documents on this project fail to analyze its growth inducing and cumulative impacts. The County must consider each of the proposed subdivisions in the context of all the other proposed subdivisions and face the entire effect on the environment, agriculture, air quality, traffic, water supply, public health and safety and quality of life for the Merced public and the natural resources.

3) Beyond stating there will be losses of natural resources, wildlife and agriculture, there is no quantitative analysis of the magnitude of these losses in the environmental review documents.

4) At this point in the growth of Merced County and the deteriorization of the San Joaquin Valley air basin, it is absolutely irresponsible not to carefully consider the cumulative impacts of projects to the air quality of the county.

5) Failing a county water supply plan, therefore there is no assurance that the water plan for this project will not have serious impacts on existing water supplies.

6) This project overlaps state and federal resource-agency jurisdictions and requires a National Environmental Protection Act environmental impact statement.

7) The County is deferring regulatory compliance to a later date, against the intent of the California Environmental Quality Act. Plans to make plans to have consultations with state and federal resource agencies about regulatory compliance at some point in the future, risks several possible bad outcomes: 1) the consultation doesn't take place; 2) the impacts become more narrowly defined and the mitigation diminishes. The place to address the environmental impacts and to produce the plan is in the environmental review process.

8) This project will impact the Diablo Ridgelands protection plan.

9) The Fox Hills Community Specific Plan Update (or Plan) cannot provide its promised planning guidance without an updated county General Plan or Community Plans. This document cannot be used for regulatory guidance for the prior Fox Hills project or its current expanded version. The point is that there is no planning guidance in Merced County guidance packages. We refer you back to our request for information about what Merced County means by a "guidance package." We will resubmit our request because to date, we've received no answer from the county Planning Department.

10) The land-use goals of the plan update are unrealistic and flawed because a land-use authority cannot claim these goals, policies and implementation without analysis of cumulative impacts and piecemealing, and with the routine practice of deference of mitigation -- at least under the California Environmental Quality Act.

11) There are no provisions for state mandated 10-percent affordable and low-income housing. There are no provisions for migrant farmworker housing in this project.

12) A will-serve letter from a water district receiving a federal water allotment on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley is no guarantee of a full water supply. However, it should trigger automatic federal resource agency review, both as to supply and to the potential contaminating effects of this project on the vast irrigation and drinking water conveyance system (Delta Mendota/San Luis Canal Water Authority) that flows adjacent to this project.

13) The project is employing as aesthetic amenities energy-saving technologies that ought to be mandatory, such as the subsidized California "Million solar roofs" plan.

14) The biological resource inventory project consultants totally relied on, CDFG Natural Diversity Data Bank, is a flawed research resource because it is not comprehensive. The data from this bank focuses solely on endangered species, without reference to other indigenous species in the same ecosystem. These consultants did no ground-truthing.

15) This project proves the point that the tardy adoption of the Williamson Act in Merced County was a cynical property-tax dodge by developers and a perversion of the intent of both the act and its underlying agricultural preserve.

16) The Draft Community Plan Update, the Draft Environmental Impact Report appendices, the DEIR, the Final Environmental Impact Report, the project findings and conditions, the May 24 staff recommendations to the county Planning Commission, and the June 14 addendum, taken together, present significant changes that warrant recirculation.

17) The "hold harmless agreement" shows once again provides the county board of supervisors license to behave recklessly, giving the public the perception that county government is corrupt.

18) Without Measure A funds, this project cannot guarantee the necessary transportation infrastructure to support the project.

19) The San Joaquin Partnership and the Regional Blueprint are merely more demonstrations of orchestration and fast-track streamlining -- in which Merced County Board of Supervisors, also sitting as the dominant clique on the board of Merced County Association of Governments -- is taking the lead in mass residential development in the Valley, proceeding in total denial of the environmental and agricultural devastation it is creating. This project, with significant backing from Pulte/Del Webb, is classic example of the sort of exploitive "growth" the county is approving: outside developers, outside financing, and profits flowing outside the county. There is no assurance than any local interests, beyond a few realtors and landowners, will realize any gain from this project. And there is every assurance that the public at large will be stuck for the bill on the infrastructure, will receive no mitigation for the impact on the resources, and will experience an obvious, demonstrable reduction of their quality of life as a direct result of this project.

20) Once again, the county Board of Supervisors is pandering to developers, aided every step of the way by indemnification. This county cannot enforce aggregate compliance, dairy and agricultural compliance, and has the vapors when confronted by the local bad boy developer. Nor will this county enforce any of its codes.

Therefore, this project should be denied because this county has neither the will nor the capacity to enforce government regulations nor -- being continuously held harmless through legal indemnification -- does it have any incentive to enforce any regulations.

Sincerely,

Lydia M Miller Steve Burke

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Attachments:

Letter from CVSEN

David Butcher study on Williamson Act, UC Davis, 2005.

Anti-Measure A fliers, June, 2006.

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County
Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.
Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.
Fox Hills - 907 units, Fox Hills Estates north 337 units, Fox Hills Estates, central- 1,356 units.
Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.
Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes 420 acres. Del Valle, Gallo Ranchwood, 1,000acres,
Los Banos -, Ranchwood, 932 acres 323 units, Pinn Brothers, 34 units, Court of Fountains, 2.7 acres 95 units, Woodside Homes,
City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units,
Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,
Vista Del Lago, 442 units, Weaver Development, 920 units, Fahrens Creek II, -1,282 units,
Fahrens Creek North, 1,093 units, Hunt Family Annexation,
Planada - 4,400 units, Village of Geneva at Planada, Hostetler 1,390 acres.
Felix Torres Migrant Megaplex 127 units, Park Street Estates, 31.8 acres, 200 units.
San Luis Creek 629 units, F & S Investments, 180 acres.
San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.
Santa Nella - 8,250 units - Santa Nella Village west 881 units, 350 acres,
The Parkway, phase III, 146 acres - 138 units, Santa Nella Village, 40.7 acres - 544 units,
San Luis Ranch, phase II - 232 units, 312 acres - 182 acres, Arnaudo 1 &2
Stevinson - 3,500 units, Stevinson Ranch/Gallo Lakes Development - 1,700 units, 3,740 acres.
Winton - 50 units, 17 acres- Gertrude Estates, Mike Raymond, 18 acres - 142 units, Winn Ranch
Commercial Development
WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls ….and the list goes on!

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"Del Webb Brand Sweeping Across America" -- phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=147717& p=irol-newsArticle&ID=823998&highlight

http://www.state.sc.us/ltgov/aging/docs/NewsServiceStories/DelWebbRelease03012006.pdf#search='Fox%20Hills%20Los%20Banos'

http://www.foxhillsgolfcommunity.com/index.htm

Diablo Ridge Conservation Plan -- www.openspacecouncil.org/projects/ landscape/baosc_drwg_2002.07.16_conservation_plan.pdf

Coalition Statement on the 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 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
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Houses sit on market longer than last year...J.N. Sbranti
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/12357790p-13087167c.html
Homes are taking longer to sell, but sales prices held fairly steady in May in most parts of the Northern San Joaquin Valley... Price drop in Merced County but rise in surrounding areas. In Merced County, median-priced homes sold for $364,500 in May, which was $13,500 less than April but 16.1 percent more than last year. The record of $380,750 was set in January.
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If built, Villages of Laguna San Luis homes could generate more students than already in district

By Minerva Perez
Los Banos Enterprise -- June 23, 2006

A proposed development on the outskirts of Los Baños is more than just a few homes.
It is a large-scale community project that could generate more students than the school district currently has enrolled.

Trustees from the Los Baños Unified School District got a first-hand look at the actual scope and size of the proposed Villages of Laguna San Luis during a tour of the site on Wednesday.

"I've looked at the maps of the plan but when you see it and how big it actually is... we want to make sure that schools will be available," said school district Superintendent Paul Alderete.

The proposed community located west of Interstate 5 near Highway 152 and Highway 33 has about 3,600 acres of development that will include houses and neighborhood retail stores. The entire project is within the boundaries of the Los Baños school district.

"We are envisioning a rural residential community. We want to have it (an elementary school) as a focus of the community." said Brian Vail of River West Investments, the Sacramento-based real estate management and investment company preparing the project.

Alderete said he and Vail have been in contact for the past few months and are eager to mitigate the full impact of the project on school facilities.

Since the development is still in the planning stages, Vail couldn't say exactly how many homes will be in the community but he said the environmental impact report being prepared for the project doesn't allow more than 15,000.

Alderete said that many homes could generate about 12,000 students.

The proposed community will also include plenty of open space and scenic highway setbacks.

Currently, part of the project site is sprinkled with a handful of homes, truck stops and power lines, but Vail envisions a diverse community that will attainable to all socio-economic backgrounds.

He estimated home prices would range from $250,000 to $1 million.

"We pride ourselves on the diversity we offer. Our goal is not to create an exclusive gated community, so a lower priced home will be next to a more expensive one," he said.

School district trustee Colleen Menefee said she believed people would flock to the Villages because of the project's competitive home prices and given the average price of a new home in Los Baños.

"At first I was surprised that houses were built next to power lines," she said as they drove around the handful of development near power lines. "But they [sold] like crazy - people were here overnight."

She and trustee Mario Gonzalez said they were concerned the proposed development would cement Los Baños as a bedroom community for the Bay Area.

Gonzalez said although job creation is always welcomed, the (retail) jobs the proposed community will generate is not the type of employment needed in Los Baños.

"If we are going to change from an agricultural community to a more urban one we have to have jobs that are compatible with what is over the hill," he said.

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Letter to the Merced County Board of Supervisors on the General Plan Update process

Submitted: Jun 20, 2006

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

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water (POW)
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto, CA 95350

To: June 20, 2006

Merced County Board of Supervisors Sent via email

Dee Tatum Sent via email
Chief Administrative Officer

Robert Lewis Sent via email
Director of Planning and Economic Development

Ruben Castillo Sent via email
County Counsel

Merced County 2222 M St.
Merced CA 95340

RE: 35. General Plan Update Public Outreach Efforts - authorize Website and approve composition of the six General Plan Update Focus Groups.

The public must regard the General Plan Update process in Merced County as a waste of public funds and compliance in bad faith with the letter of state law until the county Board of Supervisor offers a public explanation of how this process is connected with numerous other planning processes going on in the county and the San Joaquin Valley.

The most immediate, clearest example is the transportation plan advanced by Merced County Association of Governments, on whose board the entire county board of supervisors sits. Yet MCAG has no apparent authority to be the lead agency to decide land-use issues in Merced County. We will be interested to see how many MCAG technical and citizen advisors are appointed by county supervisors to sit on General Plan Update focus groups.

Beyond MCAG, there is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, an 26-member committee chaired by the state secretary of business, transportation and housing, San Joaquin County’s largest developer serving as vice chairman, and representatives from state government, local government and the private sector. Los Banos Mayor Michael Amabile serves on the committee.

Amabile was chairman of MCAG when he was appointed to the partnership. He is listed as chairman in the May 16 Draft 2007 MCAG Federal Transportation Improvement Program. He has apparently since been replaced by Supervisor Diedre Kelsey. Several tasks of the partnership are certain to exert such powerful influence over city and county general plans and community plans in unincorporated areas that updating these plans at this time seems to the public like a meaningless exercise.

(a) Identify projects and programs that will best utilize public dollars and most quickly improve the economic vitality of the Valley, especially those that leverage federal, state, local and private sector resources in a coordinated effort to address critical needs in the Valley.

(b) Work with members of the state's Congressional delegation and federal officials, including the federal Task Force for the Economic Recovery of the San Joaquin Valley, to gain federal support for projects identified by the Partnership as critical to the region.

(c) Partner with the University of California, California State University, community colleges, and the state's other research and educational institutions, as well as private foundations, to provide guidance, advice and encouragement in support of studies of particular interest and importance to the Valley.

(d) Review state policies and regulations to ensure they are fair and appropriate for the state's diverse geographic regions, including the San Joaquin Valley, and determine whether alternative approaches can accomplish goals in less costly ways.

-- EXECUTIVE ORDER S-5-05 by the Governor of the State of California

If the governor’s partnership, along with MCAG’s transportation plan, aren’t enough, there is another major planning initiative underway, by the eight San Joaquin Valley county councils of government, called The Blueprint Program. The eight COGs are working with the Great Valley Center on a “visioning process, which will be incorporated into a valley-wide vision … to preserve and improve the quality of life of the San Joaquin Valley.”

The description of the blueprint program continues on the MCAG website:

“Everything proposed through this process will ultimately have to be embraced by the local decision makers. The Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley established by the Governor is examining very similar issues at the regional level. The goal of the Partnership’s Land Use Working Group is to develop a macro strategy for the region; localizing the strategy is another part of the challenge. The Partnership’s macro strategy will be examined through the Blueprint Planning Process and recommendations incorporated into the regional blueprint plan.”

“Vision” in this context, the Merced County public believes, means “regional planning without reference to local, state and federal environmental law and regulation in an attempt to override them all for economic reasons for the benefit of developers, large landowners and financial institutions interested in speculating in a housing boom.”

The blueprint program is directed by the Great Valley Center, a Modesto-based non-profit corporation with no land-use authority at all.

The phrase, “Everything proposed … will ultimately have to be embraced by the local decisions makers,” is particularly disingenuous, we believe, because 1) all the major local decisions makers will be members of the committee, and 2) state and federal laws and regulations concerning environmental and public process issues significantly limit and inform their decisions.

If this is a public outreach effort, why are the recommendations for focus group composition loaded up with about 40 local, county, state and federal staff members? Staff should not be on focus groups. They should be there to offer technical support and information to the allegedly public members of the focus groups. By the logic of the model proposed by the county’s consultants, there would be no need for any public members or, in fact, for any focus groups, because you already have staff that could do the job (or not) in their own offices without bothering with the flummery of being members of focus groups.

Many of the proposed staff represent agencies that are mandated either by the state or the federal government to enforce state and federal environmental law and regulation, not to negotiate it away, regardless of their vulnerability to visions.

Finally, concerning the problem of groups that lack land-use authority making land-use recommendations, the Merced County General Plan Review Update Steering Committee comes to mind. The public is aware of its significant involvement in planning for the update process and certain land-use recommendations it made to the board of supervisors last month. However, in response to a state Public Records Act request, Assistant Planning Director Bill Nicholson replied with county records showing that a general plan steering committee was appointed in 1987 to assist development of the present General Plan, now being updated. A 19-year-old authorization seems the faintest letter of the law for this steering committee to meet away from the public for months to orchestrate the appearance of any meaningful public involvement.

The entire vision/planning effort underway in Merced is ludicrous if viewed from the position of the Merced public. The focus groups are to be composed solely of government staff and special interests (with two possible exceptions). The largest developer in the county, the University of California, is not even mentioned. Official silence on the subject of UC, its own sovereign land-use authority, on issues of local and regional planning and vision, does not reassure the public. To the public familiar with the process of siting the UC Merced campus, this silence merely means that UC will be operating behind closed doors, as usual.

In the second week of June, Mintier and Associates, consultants hired by the county to prepare the General Plan Update, interviewed a number of stakeholders “to provide an opportunity for community leaders to identify keys concerns and expectations for the updated General Plan.”

Sincerely,

Lydia M Miller Steve Burke
-----------------------

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 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
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Additional reference material:
Where do “growth” profits go? – Badlandsjournal.com, June 17, 2006
Reply to a local planning official – Old Badlands Archives, Dec. 21, 2004

| »

Where do "growth" profits go?

Submitted: Jun 17, 2006

I have a dumb question I am proud of. It is so dumb it is worthy of a citizen of the new Appalachia, as the San Joaquin Valley is known in fashionable political circles. None of the smart people in charge of our Merced County growth are talking about this question, at least in public. And if you don't want to live in the shade of a speculative real estate boom, why -- for Land's sake, son, -- you can go straight back to the old Appalachia, at least as far as our fashionable political circles are concerned.

None other than the president of the University of California said UC Merced would be a high-tech and bio-tech engine for growth, and the implication behind his statement was that no community could ask for anything better than such a thing as that because growth raises all boats and brings the long-sought universal prosperity where pies fall from the sky and money grows on trees.

But, where do the profits from all this “growth” go?

Merced County is in the midst of a speculative housing boom. The local paper reports that, “Housing prices have soared to 77 percent above where they should be,” but a housing industry consultant said they should sink “about 35 percent to 40 percent over a period of three years.”

But the essence of a speculative boom is that is bust, as much a part of it as that 77-percent over value, cannot be predicted. From a speculator’s viewpoint, however, it’s a fair guess the housing prices are just about where they should be – maybe a little low, but not bad if you can flip the property before the bust.

Since most of the investment comes from the outside, would the capital and its profits (or losses) return to the outside? Where does the money go that developers paid farmers and ranchers for their land? Pretty places in the mountains and on the seashore? Farm or ranchland in some other, cheaper state? Where does the money a homeowner receives for his or her house go? If you sell your farm, ranch, or house, it seems logical to assume your money goes with you, elsewhere. What economic incentive would there be for local people who had just sold to buy agricultural land or a house in Merced County at the moment? Wouldn’t they want to go raise some other community’s real estate values? Or would they just blow it on golf, cutting horses, really expensive SUVs or trips to Thailand? Has there been any real public benefit from all this money? Has there been any thought that all this investment and profit should produce some public benefit?

It’s clear that one dumb question leads to others, even dumber.

UC Merced’s vice chancellor for money raising, John Garamendi, Jr., announces a big increase in donations to the school now that the campus is open. Does that money benefit the people of Merced? Nope. Primarily, it gratifies the prestige cravings of the donors, UC research, and UC staff after the large cut for administrative fees is taken. If donors want to benefit the educational progress of the people of Merced, isn’t the best bang for the buck still Merced College, which educates local students in practical skills and transfer credits so that they can attend universities and colleges later?

As far as the Great Merced Speculative Housing Boom is concerned, is that a genuine, huge, Perotian sucking sound we hear?

All that obstructs the glorious flow of the boom are the niceties of the land-use laws. But, if Merced County is nearly devoid of the kind of entrepreneurs who created new industries and jobsites, it is exceedingly rich in the kind of politicians and planning departments adept at getting around the niceties of the law.

To begin, everybody who is anybody in Merced County is his or her own planning department.

There are the county and the incorporated cities, which actually have legally constituted planning departments.

There is UC Merced, which had a completely separate planning department until recently. Now they have turned over development of their UC Community to Lennar Homes, a national home building and another de facto planning department.

There is the county Public Works Department that planned the Campus Parkway.

There are large projects like WalMart and the Riverside Motorsport Park, which create their own plans and count on their own political influence to drive them through the legal land-use authorities. Others in this category would include: Gallo’s Yosemite Lakes, Toronto-based Brookfield Homes, KB Home Central Valley, Inc., Florsheim Land, LLC, Crosswinds Development at Bellevue Ranch, the Gallo/Kelley Stevinson new town, and Ranchwood’s Geneva at Planada. This by no means exhausts the list.

Greg Hostetler’s Los Banos-based Ranchwood Homes is in a class by itself, the local boy who pay wages to other local boys and girls. But, nonetheless, some dumb questions about Ranchwood arise. Does Ranchwood operate on its own money? If not, where do its investor profits go? Los Banos? San Jose? San Francisco? Los Angeles? Chicago? Hong Kong? Does being the local developer mean Ranchwood should be granted dispensation from every local, state and federal environmental law and regulation and public process? Or just the laws it wants to break? Who, for example, granted dispensation to Ranchwood to disk or deep-rip several thousand acres of habitat for endangered species? Who excused Ranchwood from installing a 42-inch sewer trunk line from Livingston, entirely in county jurisdiction, without any county permits, to open a corridor for residential development from Livingston’s pathetic sewer plant all the way to Stevinson? What planning department actually authorized Ranchwood to build settling ponds that flooded this winter in Franklin-Beachwood?

There is also the special category of Fox Hills, a new town near Los Banos, one of whose developers is Steve Sloan, also chairman of the Merced County Planning Commission.

There is the Merced County Association of Governments (McAg, as some locals call it) which claims the land-use authority to act as the lead agency and planning department for an entire transportation plan for the county. Although MCAG tries, and reported having spent $420,000 on its latest multi-year campaign to get Merced County citizens to raise their sales taxes to pay for UC’s roads, it has still not added successful political campaign consulting to its resume of expanding powers. McAg’s latest transportation plan would remove 2,000 acres of Valley agricultural land. Now, what has that got to do with the county’s existing General Plan?

There is Gov, Schwarzenegger’s San Joaquin Valley Partnership (whose vice chairman is San Joaquin County’s most prominent developer), which will define what areas between Lodi and Arvin will become exempt from environmental law and regulation for the purpose of development.

Finally, there is the Great Valley Center (known to some as the Great Valley Economic Development Corporation) a non-profit corporation acting as a regional planning agency to push an eight-county council of governments to create a blueprint of those same areas to be exempted from environmental law and regulation.

All this goes on in the bureaucratic stratosphere while the legally constituted land-use authorities stall on updating their general and community plans, the legally compliant documents that include local public comment that are supposed to guide how these jurisdictions want to grow. Merced County has been so completely dominated by UC, by developers and by grifting hordes of planning and environmental consultants, that its officials no longer even see its citizens and their diminishing natural resources, much less hear public doubt. But, hey, how about that Measure A?

Isn’t the speculative housing boom in Merced County “trickle up and out” economics? It has corrupted and destroyed the land-use authority of local government, charged with balancing the impacts on existing citizens from speculative housing booms, their busts and consequences.

This growth boom creates a magnet for chain retailers, extracting more profits from the community, driving local retailers out of business, making downtown a haven for antique franchises -- all perfect according to the impeccably stupid ideology of the far right business community, dominated by developers and realtors. Who benefits when people who should not have tried to buy homes on adjustable rate mortgages cannot meet their balloon payments, meeting instead their natural predators, the foreclosure vultures? Is there anything less conducive to civic harmony than the naked hand of the real estate marketplace?

Ironically, the workers that have probably realized some benefit from the boom have been those farmworkers able to find work in construction. Personally, I would be skeptical of the ability of a tomato picker to construct a roof gable that doesn’t leak, but who cares in a real estate boom? For the rest of Generation Me, when the real estate deal bottoms out, it will be back to McJobs. While local government planners mutter about preserving land for industry to improve the jobs/housing ratio, some members of the public wonder if the owners of parcels zoned for industry are simply getting a property tax break while they hold the land for residential development.

Speculators and developers have bought thousands of acres of Merced farmland and realize a state subsidy on property tax under the Williamson Act. County supervisors only voted in the Williamson Act in 2000, 35 years after the act was established to help farmers keep their land in agricultural production. It was sold politically under the entirely bogus theory that it would be “mitigation for UC Merced,” language not appearing in the legislation nor contemplated in its intent. However, it was very popular among a select group of large landowners and land speculators, who, by 2000 could not be distinguished one from the other. The late passage of the Williamson Act in Merced County, for corrupted reasons, raises the question of what Merced farmers and ranchers might have been able to achieve with 35 years of property tax savings, had supervisors supported agriculture from the act’s inception.

Watching the founding of UC Merced led some members of the public to revise their entire theory of the American university, deciding that there are really only two divisions left: Science and Technology incubating new high-tech, bio-tech engines of growth; while all departments of what was once called Humanities have become nothing but propaganda incubators. Could a university with a beginning as destructive as UC Merced ever produce anything but weapons of mass destruction? We put our hope in Rep. RichPAC Pombo, R-Tracy and his local supporters: let those super patriots become neighbors of UC’s new level-4 biodefense laboratory. We prefer not to. There is something about proximity to Ebola that does not inspire confidence in a UC education.

After nine months of campus operation, UC Merced’s chancellor, provost, one vice chancellor, its environmental compliance officer and the dean of social sciences have fled. Why? It’s just another dumb question.

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

6-16-06
Merced Sun-Star
Planada...Chris Collins...In Brief
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12326846p-13059086c.html
PLANADA
Planada board to hold meeting about development
The Planada Municipal Advisory Council will host a meeting June 29 to discuss the proposed Geneva Estates development.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Planada Community Hall at the Senior Annex Building.
For more information, call 385-7366. -- Chris Collins

Hot housing likely to cool...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12326842p-13059033c.html
Housing prices have soared to 77 percent above where they should be, which means Merced is "at risk for a price correction," according to the study released earlier this week by financial services company National City and economic information company Global Insight. When prices dip, they'll probably sink about 35 percent to 40 percent over a period of three years, said DeKaser.Developers and real estate agents alike have been forced to slash prices lately.

Grand Jury scolds planners over service...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12326844p-13059085c.html
A report released by the Merced County Civil Grand Jury accuses the county Planning Department of poor customer service, using faulty computer records, and refusing to carry out an order issued by the five-member Planning Commission.
UCM pledges increase fourfold...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12326841p-13059087c.html
Fundraising efforts at UC Merced this year have drawn the most private support in the university's history, with total donations for the year at more than $19 million, according to university officials. Of the 612 gifts made by 462 private donors this year, the largest - at $5 million - will support the university's proposed medical school. The national corporation that made the donation will be publicly announced soon, said Garamendi. Systemwide, UC has brought in more than $1 billion a year for the past five years, according to the UC Office of the President.

| »

After another week of flak

Submitted: Jun 11, 2006

If for some reason, one finds oneself trying to look at things while standing somewhere in
grass roots, one of the first problems met is smoke generation. Part of learning the lay of
the land involves locating the local, regional, state and national smoke generators operating
near the grass roots one stands in. In other words, what flak, generated by whom, is smogging
local communications with propaganda for whose profit?

Public relations, as it is called, is among our newest professions. Related, and somewhat
newer, are our "environmental consulting firms," known in some circles as "bio-stitutes,"
because they sell their science for fees. If the grass roots in which one stands are
withering, there are biostitutes ready and willing to declare with scientific authority that
the withering is only in the eyes of someone who happens to be standing in grass roots in
the path of development.

One of the worst examples of smoke generation, combining science and PR, is promotion of
genetically engineered seed, crops with patented gene modifications in their seeds whose
pollen spreads the modified genes around the surrounding countryside. The GMO corporations
seem to be companies run almost entirely by their PR departments, with a few scientists in
the lab shotgunning strands of DNA with foreign genes to "see what sticks." Of course,
any farmer knows who ever asked any pesticide salesman why any pesticide worked, only to
receive the answer, "We don't know but it sure kills bugs," there is virtually no
environmental or even agricultural concern involved in the "corporate culture" of the giant
pesticide companies now producing GE seed.

If one's grass roots are in the San Joaquin Valley, the mental smog comes from a variety of
smoke generating equipment, some of it old, some of it new. Pesticide and fertilizer
companies have been promoting their ever-changing products and extracting their profits from
the Valley for decades. Farmers have come and gone, the entire scale and crop mix of Valley
agriculture has changed, but the pesticide (now GE-seed) corporations go on, immortal,
fictional persons that they are. Sometimes it takes a word from afar, even from as far as the
North Dakota wheat deal, to remind us that seed is life, corporations are just pieces of
paper. Some of the commodities -- dairy, cotton, rice, poultry, some fruits -- are old and
possess venerable smoke machines. An odd, and oddly unacknowledged aspect of our economic
system is that although the PR of its biggest winners has never failed to preach the holy
mystery of the market and competition, while doing everything they can to control their own
markets and protect their own government subsidies. The current one-party, far-rightwing
House of Representatives is a psychotic case in point. Taking big telecommunications' firms
money, they vote against enshrining in law the principle of neutrality on the Internet,
proving again the old political adage the the only truly free market in America is Congress,
where everyone is for sale. They call that being conservative and even godly when in fact it
is just religiously sanctified graft.

The grass rooter may take the privilege of remaining skeptical about the economic benefits of
market control and subsidies on certain agricultural commodities. Likewise, he may take a
skeptical position on various governmental strategies to keep land in agricultural production
rather than letting it go to the developer's blade. California's Williamson Act and
Agricultural Preserve laws, which provide a property tax subvention to farmers and ranchers,
has probably been the best law for preserving agriculture in the state -- not that it has not
and cannot be perverted by developers planting large, newly acquired parcels in crops of
convenience (grapes and almonds are popular) waiting for the right time to build the next
subdivision. Meanwhile, of course, this business strategy add to the supply of the commodity
they are growing, lowering the price for everyone else trying to make a living growing that
commodity.

There is the additional strife among generations in farming families that works its mischief. Families get tired of the struggle to make a living with each other on farms. Selling is a good way of settling up. It's an amazing thing to the urban supporters of agriculture, but farmers do not always love their farms. Another factor is the low social status of farmers, which can be attributed more to the eyes of those who hold themselves above farmers than to farmers themselves, although farmers play status games among each other, too. For a number of reasons, farmers in the Valley seem more conventional than farmers on the coast, for example, although this is a more recent phenomenon than it appears. Valley history is full of stories of colorful, inventive, incredibly creative farmers. The chances are they are still out there, but for some reason, they are not as visible as they once were to the public.

In a place where rapid urban development is occurring, farm commodity groups develop forms of
thinking that would be better taken to a competent psychiatrist for examination and reflection than taken to the public as policy. The skeptical grass rooter can entertain the idea that farm commodities in the US are in a longterm crisis caused by input prices ratcheting ever upward while commodity prices continue their languid wave-like motion in the middle of the graph. Sooner or later, commodity by commodity, despite whatever help the government can and does provide, that rising line bisecting the price graph from lower right
corner to upper left corner cuts through the wave-like motion of commodity prices. Once it cuts through the surface, the gap grows over time. During price troughs farmers are forced out of the commodity; and during peak prices they pay off their mortgage and wait for another price fall. If the commodity is heavily subsidized, it only awaits a new chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture like Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, for the axe. Although Pombo has not yet been named chair of the agriculture committee, it seems that is the plan if the wind-power consultant doesn't beat him after McCloskey placed a few
bandilleras and picks in his neck in the primary.

RichPAC, the political strong arm of a San Joaquin County clan of ranch realtors, knows exactly what to do when agricultural inputs rise too far above agricultural prices: sell the land to the developer and import the fruits and vegetables from some other country. It is a popular, practical approach to any agricultural crisis, at least in California, assuming no way for agriculture to evolve out of its crisis. The farmer is caught between the prospects for his commodity and the Pombo approach. This leads to hysterical contradictions in the public utterance from farm groups, as land ownership becomes more important than agricultural production in their family budgets. HBO could do a comedy series on it.

A minor form of flak that occurs within agriculture is the condemnation of farming by organic gardeners or truck farmers. The conventional, commercial farmers get it from all sides. Yet, one of the things they say that rings true is that it is not a good idea for the United States to become food importers just to pave over good farmland for subdivisions.

Development flak is funded by a consortium of interests -- construction unions, building contractors, aggregate mining firms, engineering firms, hordes of consultants serving all development's needs, developers themselves, and the manifold branches of their financial investors. These are largely statewide, national and even international operations, and the larger ones all have flak departments or consultants, ready for a fee on instant notice to flood a promising real estate market in the midst of a speculative housing boom with
flak-to-order for the issue at hand (Measure A in Merced County, for example).

It is when we get to the propaganda of large landowners that the smoke generator is hard to see from the grass roots. However, keeping with a skeptical view, it is possible that the landowning interest is so entrenched in local government it virtually needs no lobby or propaganda, at least to persuade the land-use authorities. The Merced County Board of Supervisors, for example, seems to possess a comfortable quorum of ranch and farm owners whose properties are not far from the path of urban growth, and the chairman of the county Planning Commission is one of the largest land-owning developers on the west side of the county. Some might consider this connection to sizeable tracts of private property -- in view of the de facto pro-growth policies of the board -- to represent what used to be called in a more democratic era "a conflict of interest." But we don't live in a very democratic era, there is a huge amount of money flowing into Merced County in real estate speculation, possibly even a larger amount of money is flowing out of the county, and it is definitely not polite in governing circles to mention the "C-word."

Yet, there are still other forms of flak billowing up in the Valley. There are the "public information" operations emanating out of state and federal bureaucracies like the regional boards for air and water quality and the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Air and water quality in the Valley is deteriorating. The water board recently announced a huge coup: it levied a multi-million-dollar fine against Hilmar Cheese for ruining water quality in its area. Then the water board permitted Hilmar Cheese to sink deep injection wells to pump its waste deep below the surface. The state air board is limited to stationary sources of pollution. The grass rooter looks at this regulatory truncation and speculates that it must be the result of a high level of special interest investment in the free market of politicians, because it certainly doesn't make any sense in terms of the common good or the Public Trust. The federal BOR, which controls federal water projects, has agendas utterly beyond the comprehension of mere mortal grass rooters. Why the BOR produced so much propaganda against the US Fish and Wildlife Service's discovery of the damage done to wildlife at the Kesterson preserve as the result of subterranean drainage of heavy metals from west side farms is still difficult, 20 years later, to understand from a grass roots perspective. Does the BOR just hate birds or fetuses in general? Does the BOR take a pro-cancer position? Can wildlife biology and the BOR exist on the same planet? The mild-mannered Valley grass rooter shudders to think what went on in the free market of congressmen when biological whistles started tooting at Kesterson.

There is also the flak produced by the water districts and irrigation districts, these public agencies that behave so often like private corporations and over whom there is so little real public oversight. They all have marvelously glossy brochures, pamphlets and magnificently jargoned, lengthy reports that could put a grass rooter to sleep before finishing reading the executive summary. There is no subject in California history over which there has been more political conflict (not to mention the gun battles) than water. As a result, water propaganda represents perhaps the most opaque, obscure, slithery official jargon in the state.

Reading California water policy documents conjures up the image of what happens to the San Joaquin River halfway across Fresno County, where it disappears below the sands of the river bed for 40 miles. There has always been too much missing to make sense of it. And when the San Joaquin resurfaces, it meanders northward beside two canals flowing south.

Nevertheless, it is extremely gratifying that so many earnest people, connected to the real sources of information about issues vital to our region are willing -- at other peoples' expense -- to do our thinking for us. It is so gratifying, actually, that it seems as if some people have forgotten how to think without the aid of flak, contenting themselves with parroting the last opinion to which they were exposed.

In our area there is also University of California flak, in a class by itself. First, UC appears to believe that it invented and hold patents (no doubt in fruitful win-win, public-private partnerships) on the truth. Secondly, as manager of two national laboratories of weapons of mass destruction, whatever it says and does not say
carries with it the authority of National Security. For both reasons, UC is very certain what people should know and what they should not know about UC. UC flak is the most impenetrable obstacle to comprehension in the local flak environment because it constantly changes its story depending on what it thinks simple peasants need to know. UC flak games with history -- its own or anything it thinks it ought to control -- are among the most bizarre in the flak industry. The intent appears to be to completely deny the existence of history, at least any other version of it but the current line promoted by the UC flak-du jour, for whatever
the advantage of the moment it is for UC. Perhaps in the highest echelons of UC, they actually believe history is over. Another view might be, however, that as it develops a new generation of nuclear weapons, it simply believes history is UC.

Finally, there is the effortless repetition of flak in the local press.

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12289754p-13025572c.html
6-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure A: Road fixes to take longer...Leslie Albrecht

While the county can charge developers impact fees to cover the cost of new residents' impact
on roads, those fees can only pay for projects related to new growth, not maintenance
projects like reconstructing Livingston's Main Street.

... because, obviously new residents in Livingston won't be using Main Street like old
residents do?

This is an example, taken from an article that is supposed to achieve a professional journalistic "objectivity" about Measure A, which recently failed. Instead, it is mindless regurgitation of developer flak, the main purpose of which is to disguise by any and all means available the fact that development doesn't pay for itself. In the speculative real estate boom Merced County is now experiencing, two things that under no circumstances can be said by public officials or local media organs are: a boom busts; and development doesn't pay for itself.

Another example:

UC names committee to look for new chancellor of Merced Campus...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12295105p-13030135c.html June 9, 2006
UC President Robert Dynes has named a 14-member search committee that will advise him in
selecting the successor to UC Merced founding Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, who is set
to leave the university's top seat Aug. 31. Three UC Merced faculty members, two UC Merced
students and four UC regents are among the committee members, who are scheduled to meet for
the first time at the university later this month ...

The article continues on its gagged path, announcing that a "diverse" committee including one
representative from the Merced community, will choose the new chancellor. The local representative is none other than Bob "Mr. UC Merced" Carpenter, who has never represented anything but local business -- mainly real estate -- interests from the beginning of the first committee he set up to lure UC to Merced to induce the present speculative development boom.

But, of course, the reporter doesn't know this, because she is perhaps the seventh reporter at the paper to have covered UC Merced since Carpenter was dubbed by a predecessor, "Mr. UC Merced," and her editors have forgotten or simply don't care.

The story mentions in disconnected paragraphs that the top two UC Merced administrators have both left. In fact, that is the story and the question Why? screams for some response. But, as in all stories generated by UC flak, the public gets no answer. Why is Larry Salinas, UC Merced's top flak, on a committee to select a new chancellor at all? Who really runs that campus?

How about Carpenter, Regent Fred Ruiz and Salinas for a guess? An insurance agent, a frozen food tycoon and a professional flak man. The ingenue who has inherited the Blessed Beat doesn't ask who the Hun replaced with Ruiz on the Regents and what was the nature of that insult to farmworkers.

This is a university? Or is it a shell waiting to be filled up with substances too dangerous for the Livermore Valley?

Our problem in the Valley is that the various contending creeds, expressed in propaganda, don't jibe with our history, experience or daily reality. In fact, taken as a whole, they don't produce a coherent path for the human mind. Agriculture, in particular, is currently producing masses of contradictory claims, all commanding our belief (but perhaps increasing our disbelief). In the face of these contradictions, developers and the investors behind them come with a very simple political remedy to all our confusions: sell the land. Lately, we have been seeing farmers who have become developers, along with the well-known path of developers holding land in agriculture until the next boom comes, producing distortions in the supply of the commodity they choose to farm.

But, considering local projects like the WalMart distribution center, Riverside Motorsports Park, and UC Merced, the average grass rooter must remain quite skeptical about whether they will deliver any of their proposed promises for the common good.

But flak is beautiful, anyway. It does all your thinking for you, it promises you wonderful things, and gives you an unerring guide for correct opinions -- and never mind if, taken together, it make any sense except for the people who pay for the flak. The thing to admire is that flak is so smooth and shiny next to your own lumpy, half-finished opinions riddled with unanswered questions and doubts -- those niggling things in the mind that flak deals with so effectively by completely ignoring them.

Flak is also very flattering. Flak cares about you. Flak invites you to join its side, always the "good" side, urging you to march forward to wealth, prosperity and security. Flak is so nice you forget to ask why these talented, clean, wholesome citizens would be working so hard to send you these warm, smiling messages that do your thinking for you. Flak is thought in a chauffeured limousine.

Nevertheless, we are privileged at the moment to get a glimpse at what happens with the American profession of propagandist itself falls under attack, in the following brace of articles from CommonDreams.com.

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

Notes:

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0608-21.htm
Published on Thursday, June 8 2006 by the Center for Media and Democracy

Confronted with Disclosure Demands, Fake News Moguls Cry "Censorship!"
by Diane Farsetta

Be afraid, be very afraid! If television stations are required to abide by existing regulations and label the corporate and government propaganda they routinely pass off as "news," the First Amendment will be shredded, the freedom of the press repealed, and TV stations will collapse overnight!

At least, that's what the public relations firms that produce and distribute video news releases (VNRs) and other forms of fake news would have you believe. PR firms are banding together and launching lobbying and PR campaigns to counter the growing call for full disclosure of VNRs, the sponsored video segments frequently aired by TV newsrooms as though they were independently-produced reports.

This alarmist campaign comes as no surprise; the PR industry is like any other business interest. And if there's one thing business is good at, it's avoiding meaningful oversight ...

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0609-31.htm

Published on Friday, June 9, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Framing Versus Spin
by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson

Two weeks ago, Rockridge published The Framing of Immigration by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson, an analysis of the framing surrounding immigration used by progressives and conservatives, as well as a discussion of framings not being used, but which would reveal important truths. Late last week, the DailyKos leaked a memo by Frank Luntz, the Republican messaging strategist, advising Republicans how to talk about immigration. If you want to compare what Rockridge does with what Luntz does, this is your chance ...

| »

Notes on random evidence of the people's voice

Submitted: Jun 08, 2006

Several rapidly growing counties, including Merced, put sales-tax increases on their ballots in the June 6 election earmarked for transportation improvements. Costly mailers, paid for by developers, road construction companies and their unions, explained to the voters that without this "self-help" fund emanating from the county, CalTrans would not be likely to fund their projects. The voters seemed to ask why development doesn't pay for itself. (1)

In Humboldt County, voters passed a measure to prohibit outside special interest contributions to local political campaigns. Humboldt's forests are largely held by outside corporations, the largest and most belligerent being Maxxam's Pacific Lumber Co., which recently funded a recall campaign against newly elected DA Paul Gallegos, who had the gall to sue the lumber company for back taxes. Gallegos also won reelection. (2)

In Mendocino County, a supervisor who claims to be impeccably green but recently closed down a mill to develop it on the outskirts of Willits, lost to John Pinches. Hal Wagonet, the loser, narrowly defeated Pinches in the last election. Pinches' margin of victory was greatly aided by local citizens against Wagonet's development plans. (3)

In Placer County, rapidly developing Lincoln-based Supervisor Robert Wagonet beat back a challenge funded by the Tsakopoulos family, irritated that he had held to proper planning processes on a Tsakopoulos development in his district that would have featured at its center a "world-class university." (4)

Former Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Oakland, won the primary for Oakland mayor (to replace Jerry Brown). Alameda County is having to hand count its ballots so it is not yet certain whether Dellums will have to face a runoff election in November. Dellums took courageous stands on national defense spending and on the right of Palestinians to exist. (5)

Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy received 62 percent of the Republican vote in the 11th congressional district against former Rep. Pete McCloskey's 32 percent. McCloskey came, as a former Marine officer and lawyer, to defend the Constitution against the one-party, far-rightwing that has advanced Pombo so rapidly in the House. He came from out of the district as a co-author of the Endangered Species Act and several other key environmental laws, and as co-founder of Earth Day, to cause Pombo, co-author of the gut-the-ESA bill now stalled in the US Senate, as much political harm as possible. McCloskey came to do battle with Pombo as a Republican, to save the soul of the Republican Party.

It is doubtful McCloskey knew much more about the real estate manias of San Joaquin County, the basis of the power of Pombo and his extensive Pombo family clan of ranch realtors, than does Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, House Minority Leader, who backed the loser in the Democratic Party primary. The core of the district, San Joaquin County, is mysterious to Bay Area types. But Pombo needed 70 percent to scare away big Democratic Party money. If the Democrats can bring themselves to back the winner of their primary, Jerry McNerney, and run a decent voter registration drive, the could continue wounding Pombo and possibly beat him.

However, there is a sense Democratic Party treachery may be afoot in poor old San Joaquin County. The Democrats may be keeping their money for a state Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, campaign for Congress in two years. Meanwhile, if one follows the Delta press, it appears that Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Pelosi, both San Franciscans, are too chummy with Pombo by far. (6) (7)

Oakland Mayor and former Gov. Jerry Brown walked away with the Democratic Party nomination for attorney general. State Senator Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, his opponent, threatens a harsh campaign on Brown's record. Fresno doesn't like it that Brown marched with Cesar Chavez and created the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. So what, Chuck? (8)

With an infusion of $8.6 million from the Tsakopoulos family, state Treasurer Phil Angelides defeated state Controller Steve Westly, a Silicon Valley magnate who funded his own campaign. Angelides, a former Sacramento developer and protege of Angelo Tsakopoulos, has also been a long-time Democratic Party funder and has served as state chairman of the party. His knowledge of Wall Street, through investment of billions in state retirement funds and his involvement in the many billions in bonds by which the state now finances itself -- because development doesn't pay its way -- may be an asset for the state government. Whether that expertise translates into assets for the state's people is a mystery. We think it is unlikely that the Tsakopoulos family will not receive some benefit for their generosity in the primary campaign. (9)

Voter turnout was generally, wretchedly low. Arnold the Hun was voted in on a "progressive reform" platform, a purely nostalgic confection of the public relations profession aimed at conjuring up images of Hiram Johnson and Teddy Roosevelt in the Age of Bush, Tom the Hammer, Pombo, Cunningham and Jack Abramoff and the K Street Project. Yet, the feeling for reform is genuine in the populace, if only it can sort out the flak to get to its best shot for a little bit of it. The people might conclude that Angelides serves too many masters. At least with the Hun, you know he serves only one master.

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

Notes:

(1) Measure A: Road fixes to take longer

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12289754p-13025572c.html

By Leslie Albrecht
Last Updated: June 8, 2006, 01:58:29 AM PDT

… "It's devastating," said District 2 Supervisor Kathleen Crookham, who starred in television ads promoting Measure A, the half-cent sales tax that would have raised $446 million for transportation projects throughout the county.

The initiative fell 795 votes short of achieving the two-thirds majority it needed to pass, leaving Merced County leaders disappointed and wondering what kept voters home.

A May 19 poll showed 71 percent support for the initiative, but those numbers failed to materialize on Tuesday.

It wasn't only in Merced.

Transportation tax initiatives in Monterey, Solano and Napa counties all went down in flames. (Merced's fared the best -- Monterey's measure got 56 percent, Napa's got 52 percent, and Solano's got 45 percent.)

A few anti-tax groups campaigned against the Solano and Napa measures, but Merced's saw no organized opposition except for some fliers inserted into newspapers two days prior to the election.

"The fact that we lost millions and millions of dollars by just a few percentage points is just unbelievable," said Crookham. "It was local people who made the decisions about which projects it would fund.

"Why they didn't go to the polls and vote for what they wanted just leaves me baffled" ...
------------------------------------

(2)
http://www.eurekareporter.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?ArticleID=11963

Measure T passes with 55 percent majority
by Rebecca S. Bender, 6/7/2006

Humboldt County sent a message to out-of-area corporations looking to throw their weight around in local elections Tuesday night: Go away.

Measure T, also called the Ordinance to Protect Our Right to Fair Elections and Local Democracy, would prohibit non-local corporations from donating to county elections.

“We’re really excited!” enthused campaign co-manager Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap said close to midnight on Tuesday. “We’re very proud of our community — but we’re not surprised!”

As of press time, with 94 percent of precincts reporting, Measure T was ahead with 54.97 percent of votes stacking up in its favor and 45.03 percent against.

Absentee ballots, reported shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m., fell along a similar divide, with 52 percent yes votes and 48 percent no, giving an initial indication of which way the vote might go.
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(3) http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/local/ci_3909566

3rd District voters choose Pinches' Colfax leading in 5th district race
By KATIE MINTZ The Daily Journal

John Pinches and David Colfax look to be the likely 3rd and 5th District supervisors following Tuesday's election...

With 100 percent of 3rd District precincts reporting, Pinches was the unofficial winner of the 3rd District supervisor seat with 54 percent of the votes...

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(4)
http://www.thepresstribune.com/articles/2006/06/07/news/top_stories/05weygandt.txt
Weygandt wins county supervisor race Tuesday

By: Joshua W. Bingham, Gold Country News Service
Wednesday, June 7, 2006 10:09 AM PDT

Through receiving 70 percent of the votes with 92 percent of the precincts rep-orting at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday, Robert Wey-gandt clearly was elected to his fourth term as District 2 Supervisor on the Placer County Board of Supervisors ...

Simmons estimated his team spent about $380,000 on the campaign. Weygandt, however, estimated the Simmons camp spent twice as much as his own.

Causing much media coverage was the fact the Tsakopoulos family, major developers in the area, donated $100,000 to Simmons' campaign on May 31.

Although a Placer County Elections Division spokesperson relayed that, according to late contribution reports, while $118,500 was given to Weygandt's campaign and $232,251.83 was given to Simmons' campaign between May 25 and June 2, a true receipt of how much money was spent wouldn't be available until required in a report later in the year...
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(5)
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/06/08/BAG46JAKDK1.DTL&type=politics
ELECTION 2006
Oakland Races
Dellums leads, but counting not over
Christopher Heredia, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Ron Dellums was winning Oakland's mayoral race by the slimmest of margins Wednesday, but with thousands of absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted one by one, the outcome was nowhere near assured.

The former congressman, who gave what sounded a lot like a victory speech Tuesday night, had just 125 votes more than the 50 percent majority needed to win the election outright, election officials said Wednesday.
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(6)
http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=POMBO-06-07-06

Primary vote shows 'vulnerability' for Pombo

By MICHAEL DOYLE
McClatchy Newspapers
07-JUN-06

WASHINGTON -- Republican Richard Pombo could pay a price for his victory in his most challenging Republican primary ever.

It all depends on what the meaning of "win" is.

The seven-term congressman from Tracy, Calif., did handily defeat his GOP challenger Tuesday, former congressman Pete McCloskey, 62 percent to 32 percent. In a general election, that would be a more than comfortable margin.

But in a primary, facing a 78-year-old challenger who only recently had taken an apartment in the Northern San Joaquin Valley congressional district, the win could be spun in several ways. Not all of the interpretations favor Pombo.

"The result shows a serious vulnerability, but no more than that," Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said Wednesday. "At a minimum, it means that the Republicans will have to put money into this race, which they certainly did not want to do."

Money is certainly abundant. Helped by his perch as chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo reported raising $81,300 in just the past week. All told, Pombo has raised more than $1.7 million this election cycle.

But it wasn't just the congressional candidates pouring money into the race. In an interview Wednesday, Pombo estimated that the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, among others, spent several million dollars attacking him with ads. Some even ran on expensive San Francisco stations, a rarity for a San Joaquin Valley race ...
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(7)
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/06/08/BAG46JAFDG1.DTL&type=politics
11TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Pombo basks in his decisive victory
30 percentage point win over McCloskey 'pretty convincing'
Greg Lucas, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Rather than proof of weakness, Rep. Richard Pombo's 62 percent- to-32 percent primary victory over former Rep. Pete McCloskey just as likely signaled how strong the seven-term Tracy Republican will run in November.

Pombo benefits from a district centered in his home San Joaquin County with 44 percent GOP registration to 37 percent Democratic and a challenger in favor of increasing taxes -- including gasoline -- whom Pombo defeated handily two years ago.

"People can dream all they want but it was a pretty convincing win," said Wayne Johnson, Pombo's chief political consultant. "We stopped our advertising two weeks out because we didn't see what the point was."

Environmental groups, angered by the House Resources Committee chairman's desire to weaken the federal Endangered Species Act, spent more than $1 million to defeat him.

They, and national Democrats, see Pombo as vulnerable, particularly if voters carry through in November on an anti-incumbent mood showing up in public opinion polls.

"He isn't motivating his base. He's got a large anti-Pombo vote within his own party," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, which spent more than $400,000 against Pombo in the Republican primary ...

"Pombo won the primary by more 30 points. And for anyone who thinks that's a blow to him you have to look at Pete McCloskey," said Bob Giroux, a former Democratic campaign consultant, now lobbyist. "McCloskey was known in the district but he's also a legend. You could put him in San Bernardino and he'd still get 32 percent" ...

But Pombo is likely to zero in on McNerney's support for increasing a number of taxes.

In a survey on the Project Vote Smart Web page, McNerney said he supports slight increases in alcohol, cigarette, inheritance and gasoline taxes. He wants large increases in capital gains and corporate taxes.

"On just about every issue, he is on the wrong side for the district," Johnson said. "I've never seen a political suicide note this long."
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(8)
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/08/us/08brown.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Jerry Brown Wins Nomination for California Attorney General

By JESSE McKINLEY
Published: June 8, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO, June 7 — Jerry Brown, the former governor of California and the current mayor of Oakland, handily won a Democratic primary for state attorney general on Tuesday, setting up a fight with a lesser-known but well-financed Republican candidate.

Skip to next paragraph
Related
Narrow Victory by G.O.P. Signals Fall Problems (June 8, 2006)
Schwarzenegger Voices New Confidence (June 8, 2006)
This Time, Jerry Brown Wants to Be a Lawman (June 5, 2006)With all precincts reporting, Mr. Brown had received 63 percent of the vote versus 37 percent for Rocky Delgadillo, the city attorney of Los Angeles. The Republican candidate, Chuck Poochigian, a state senator from Fresno, was unopposed.

On Wednesday, Mr. Poochigian blazed through a series of interviews, promising a serious challenge to Mr. Brown, the son of a former governor, Edmund G. Brown Sr., and a three-time presidential candidate who has spent nearly four decades in politics.

"My biggest challenge is overcoming Jerry's name advantage," Mr. Poochigian, 57, said in a telephone interview from Sacramento. "But Jerry has a bigger challenge to overcome, and that's his record."

Mr. Brown embarked on his own campaign tour, barnstorming through the state on a private plane, traveling from Oakland, across the San Francisco Bay, to a pair of Southern California stops in Burbank and San Diego; then north to Sacramento; and south again to Bakersfield and Los Angeles.

Along the way, Mr. Brown ventured to Mr. Poochigian's turf in the Central Valley to address police officials. At every stop, he sought to remind voters of his credentials, including his "practical hands-on experience" as a governor and a mayor.

"I've been an independent leader, not just an appendage of narrow partisan politics," said Mr. Brown, 68, before boarding a plane in San Diego. "I'm running against a man who has basically been a staffer or bureaucrat or a legislator. He's never run a darn thing."

But Mr. Brown said he expected a tough campaign, and predicted that Mr. Poochigian would use negative advertisements to try to paint him as being out of step with average Californians.

Mr. Poochigian promised to run "a truthful campaign," but he was already hammering Mr. Brown for a recent spike in crime in Oakland. "In the case of Jerry Brown, the truth is going to hurt," he said.

In the election to determine Mr. Brown's successor in Oakland, the former congressman Ron Dellums appeared to have won, although officials were still counting the ballots.

Mr. Poochigian has $3.3 million in his campaign chest, aides said, and has already raised more money than any other Republican running for statewide office except Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But he probably faces an uphill battle in a state that often votes Democratic. Mr. Brown's vote total among Democratic voters on Tuesday was just 771 shy of what Mr. Poochigian received from all Republican voters.
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OFF AND RUNNING
'NEW ERA': Angelides opens campaign after joining Westly in a unity pledge
Carla Marinucci, Tom Chorneau, Chronicle Political Writers

Thursday, June 8, 2006

M

Sacramento -- Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took to the skies and roads Wednesday, kicking off what's expected to be a pricey general election contest and a raucous debate over who can best protect California's future.

Angelides, on a state fly-around that began just hours after he was declared the winner of a bruising primary battle against state Controller Steve Westly for the party's gubernatorial nomination, promised to bring Democrats together in a unified campaign to lead "a new era of progressive action in California."

"I'm full of hope and optimism ... about what this state can be," said Angelides, surrounded by supporters including Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Democratic lieutenant governor nominee John Garamendi.

In a ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel near Universal Studios, Angelides and Westly declared unity, clasped hands, shared a brief hug and tried to downplay the vitriol that dominated the primary campaign.

Westly said Angelides is "committed to the environmental values" of the Democratic Party -- a statement in stark contrast to ads Westly ran during the past week accusing Angelides of playing a role in the dumping of millions of gallons of sludge into Lake Tahoe.

Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, who for months has appeared at events designed to showcase his gubernatorial policies and status, also went into full campaign mode ...

"The other side is talking about the future; we are building the future," he said. "The other side is talking about all the problems California has; we are solving the problems" ,,,

Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, the president of Sacramento-based AKT Development and daughter of developer Angelo Tsakopoulos -- who with her father donated $8.7 million toward the Democratic candidate's effort to an independent expenditure campaign -- said yesterday that her family was "absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do" and was "enormously proud" of Angelides' win.

But in an interview with The Chronicle, Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis said "I don't know" if the Tsakopoulos family will play another major financial donor role in the general election.

She said the primary effort was aimed at helping firefighters, police officers and teachers get out their message of support for Angelides and level the playing field for the treasurer in his battle against the wealthy, self-funded Westly.

"Phil Angelides is now the Democratic Party candidate -- and the Democratic Party is going to do what it needs in this election," she said. "The party is going to support him" ...

Just how quickly Democrats can recover from the wounds of a bloody political primary competition and turn full attention to Schwarzenegger was openly questioned by former San Francisco mayor and radio talk show host Willie Brown in the state Capitol.

"I think probably Westly will be able to do it -- I don't know about Angelides," Brown said. "He's the one who's most offended" ...
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Some things to think about on Measure A

Submitted: Jun 04, 2006

URGENT

City of Merced Measure C raised sales tax to 7.75%. With passage of Measure A, Merced City sales tax would be 8.25%. A half a cent less than the highest sales tax rates in the state. Sales taxes fall hardest on people with fixed incomes ( senior citizens and citizens with special needs) and low incomes. Merced leaders constantly repeat that Merced County is poorer that Appalachia.

So why are they asking us to pay close to the highest sales tax rate in the state?

Rankings by per capita income of California’s 58 counties whose sales tax measures are mentioned in articles below (http://www.answers.com/topic/california-locations-by-per-capita-income):

1st -- Marin ($44,962)
4th -- Santa Clara ($32,795
5th – Contra Costa ($30,615)
7th – Alameda ($26,860)
8th – Santa Cruz ($26, 396)
9th – Napa ($26,395)
21st – Solano ($21,731)
23rd – Sacramento ($21,142)
27th – Monterey ($20,265)
39th – San Joaquin ($17,365)
42nd – Stanislaus ($16,913)
49th – Fresno ($15,495)

54th – Merced ($14,257)

One proponent of Merced County’s Measure A advanced the following argument:

Small price, big benefit...Connie Warren, Merced...Measure A will increase the Merced County sales tax by one-half of one cent per dollar: This means an increase of 5 cents on a $10 purchase. You would need something in the $1000 range before the increase would impact a 16-year-olds (allowance driven) buying power. Ever heard the phrase "New York minute"?

In fact, Measure A would add 50 cents to a $10 purchase, not a nickel. If Measure A sales tax passes, the City of Merced would have a one(1%) percent tax increase within a year.

It is also important for Merced County voters to note well (from the articles below) that, once these sales tax measures are voted in, local governments come back again and again asking for extensions for them and additions to them.

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
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Mercury News
Sun., June. 4, 2006
Support health and transit; vote for ethical leadership...Mercury News Editorial
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/opinion/14739038.htm
Nothing on Tuesday's ballot is more important to Santa Clara County than approving Measure A. The additional half-cent sales tax will finance badly needed road and transit improvements as well as help preserve the county's public-health system, which under current state and federal funding trends is spiraling toward disaster.
The last Measure A sales tax in 2000 was supposed to cover the local share of the costs of bringing BART from Fremont to San Jose and improving other mass transit, including the bus system. Nobody predicted the subsequent plunge in the local, state and federal economies after Sept. 11, or the failure of the local economy to completely recover.
Money from all sources now is short, but the need for transportation improvements -- including road improvements that were not part of the last measure -- is as strong as ever. And the cost of building mass-transit systems will only increase if we don't build now for the future.
The same plunge in revenue from all sources now endangers the health and social-service safety net that the county has provided for decades.
As the pot of money shrinks, the need for county public-health programs grows greater, from threats of a pandemic to growing numbers of people needing expensive, publicly funded emergency room care because they can't afford routine doctor visits. There is no sign that the state or federal governments will remedy the health care crisis in this decade or even the next. If we want a sure safety net here, we need to pay for it.
Measure A would take our sales tax to 8.75 percent, tying Alameda County and several other cities as one of the highest in the state. But contrary to what a group of anti-BART opponents of this measure say, business leaders from large and small companies strongly support this tax. They believe that a good transportation system and a healthy community are as essential to the business climate as they are to our quality of life. And they join an amazing coalition of labor leaders, social-service and housing advocates and other community leaders urging a yes vote on Measure A.

6-3-06
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Santa Cruz seeks sales tax hike...Shanna McCord
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2006/June/03/local/stories/05local.htm
SANTA CRUZ — City leaders are preparing to ask voters to boost the sales tax in Santa Cruz to 8.5 percent, a quarter-cent increase. Santa Cruz would join San Francisco as one of the few cities in the state with an 8.5 percent sales tax, among the highest sales tax rates in California. First, voters must choose to make permanent the temporary quarter-cent sales tax hike known as Measure F, approved in March 2004 and set to expire in 2009. Second, voters must approve the proposed additional quarter-cent hike. Both would be on one ballot measure.

6-3-06
Merced Sun-Star
Attachments(4):
VOTE NO on Measure A Tax....Merced Sun-Star Flyer Insert
Front - flyer insert
MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!
REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!
In 2002, the Citizens of Merced County VOTED DOWN the Measure M road-improvement tax. Merced County and its cities went right on approving thousands of new homes. This RECKLESS action is destroying hundreds of miles of our existing streets and roads because development doesn’t pay for itself.

Reverse - flyer insert
Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County
Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.
Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.
City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units,
Commercial Development
Wal-Mart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls
….and the list goes on!

Letters to the Editor Merced Sun-Star B2 Saturday, June 3, 2006
Measure questions...Ronald Ashlock, Atwater...Measure A, the half-cent sales tax...leaves serious doubts...Citizen Oversight Committee only has auditing and advisory rights. To whom do we turn...if money going for private benefit. Who is the Transportation Alliance and the Alliance for Jobs? and who has spent all the money for the vigorous campaigns to pass this measure...mailers and television ads?

Leaders are the problem...Marvin R. Wallace, Merced...Measure A must be defeated...Measure A will mean a Merced sales tax of 8.25 percent on every dollar we spend to purchase merchandise. For years we've been paying premium prices for gasoline...because of the huge federal and state fuel taxes... Those funds were intended to maintain the roads... Between sales tax, income taxes, and property taxes, we're all being made poor by the tax and spend inefficient people voters have put in office.

Officials should do job...Pat Shay, Atwater...Measure A should NOT be passed. I am very concerned that local elected officials support this proposal. If they had been doing their job in the first place...Why should tax payers in Merced County pay TWICE to maintain roads?

Vote no to developers...Bobby Avilla, Stevinson...Measure A is being funded and driven by developers. Developers are pay for studies on roads, financial feasibility studies for incorporation (Delhi), pay for the costs to lead steering committees...(Stevinson). If developers can pay to make sure they can keep on paving over our farmland...let them also pay for the infrastructure...

Small price, big benefit...Connie Warren, Merced...Measure A will increase the Merced County sales tax by one-half of one cent per dollar: This means an increase of 5 cents on a $10 purchase. You would need something in the $1000 range before the increase would impact a 16-year-olds (allowance driven) buying power. Ever heard the phrase "New York minute"?

Let's look out for selves...Margaret M. Randolph, Merced...As an advocate of Measure A...it is also true that in order to compete for those funds with other counties it is necessary to step up to the plate and become a "self-help county."

6-1-06
Modesto Bee
Incomes in valley keep pace with rest of state...Ben van der Meer
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12259133p-12997240c.html
Merced County moved up in rankings of the state's 58 counties, to 50 from 52. Snaith and Mark Hendrickson, president of the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce, said the University of California at Merced, being built at the time, did play a role...he expected Merced's upward trend to continue as the university, which opened in the fall, develops and a motor sports park and Wal-Mart distribution center come on-line.

Modesto Bee
Sales tax in trouble...Tim Moran...5-31-06
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12254662p-12993245c.html
A proposed initiative for a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects in Stanislaus County appears to be in trouble, according to the Modesto Bee-California State University, Stanislaus, poll. Slightly less than half the county voters polled in mid-May said they would support the tax... planned for the November ballot, needs a two-thirds majority to pass. Many proponents are watching to see how the Merced County transportation sales tax initiative fares on Tuesday, Madison said.

Fresno Bee
A crucial consensus...Editorial...2-28-06
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/11873741p-12645476c.html
The group planning an extension of Fresno County's Measure C has overwhelmingly signed off on a spending plan for the half-cent transportation sales tax...plan must now be approved by each of the county's 15 city councils, the transportation authority itself, and finally by the Board of Supervisors. If all goes well, it will appear on the November ballot. This is not a new tax, but the extension of the current one. The original Measure C was passed in 1986. Its 20-year run expires next year...effort to extend the measure failed in 2002... extension would run for another 20 years.

Measure C plan is approved...Russell Clemings...2-25-06
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/11848579p-12561582c.html
The committee working on plans for extending Measure C — Fresno County's half-cent transportation sales tax — finished its work Friday by approving a plan that devotes large shares to public transit, local street work and major highway construction...proposal goes to the Council of Fresno County Governments, which consists of mayors or other leaders from each of the county's 15 cities and the county Board of Supervisors. Then it will be submitted to each city council, the county Transportation Authority and the supervisors. A final vote on whether to place the extension plan on the November general election ballot is expected to be made by the Board of Supervisors sometime this summer.

Committee hones Measure C...Russell Clemings...1-7-06
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/11663200p-12391447c.html
A committee drawing up plans to renew the Measure C transportation sales tax made its last major decisions Friday. committee also voted to add to Measure C's expected proceeds by devoting 75% of Fresno County's state highway funding to Measure C projects over the next 20 years. But it left details vague on another supplement — a proposed fee that would be charged to new development for road impacts. Like the current Measure C, passed by voters in 1986, the extension would be for 20 years.

Sacramento Bee
Arena's strategy for tax assailed...Terri Hardy...5-27-06
http://www.sacbee.com/content/sports/basketball/kings/v-print/story/14261224p-15074828c.html
A strategy to finance a new Sacramento arena with a quarter-cent sales tax approved by a majority of voters would likely violate state law, according to the author of the state proposition that outlined how such levies are imposed. Any proposed sales tax to be used for a specific purpose, such as an arena, would need to be approved by a two-thirds vote -- not the simple majority that arena backers have stated, said Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association on Friday. "If this (proposed) tax is intended to pay for an arena, it's a special tax requiring a two-thirds vote."

Stockton Record
Plan to put Measure K back on ballot nears OK...Erin Sherbert...4-23-06
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060423&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=604230313&SectionCat=&Template=printart
STOCKTON - Transportation leaders are poised to approve a plan to place a major transportation tax renewal proposal on the November ballot despite wavering support among Ripon city officials. The San Joaquin Council of Governments, the county's transportation planning agency, on Thursday will consider adopting the new spending plan for a renewed Measure K, the county's half-cent sales tax voters passed in 1990. Without renewal, it would expire in 2011. If voters renew Measure K, it will generate about $2.5 billion over 30 years. If the COG board adopts the spending plan, it will go to the cities for final approval from their councils, as well as the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. The county government and four cities - one has to be Stockton - must approve the spending plan before it can be placed on the ballot. Ripon city leaders say they believe more of the tax money should come back into local coffers instead of paying for regional transit and highway projects, said Ripon Mayor Chuck Winn, who sits on the COG board.

Supervisors ready for battle over Measure K...Greg Kane...3-28-06
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060328/NEWS01/603280321&SearchID=7324639488627
Measure K, half-cent sales tax adopted by San Joaquin County voters in 1990, is expected to generate $750million for county roads by the time it expires in 2010. The San Joaquin Council of Governments, the county's primary transportation planning agency, wants to bring a $2.5billion, 30-year extension before county voters in November.

San Francisco Chronicle
Voter's guide to the June 6 California Primary...Michael Cabanatuan, Simone Sebastian, Patrick Hoge...5-28-06
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/INGNKJ2GIR1.DTL&type=printable
Separate measures to raise sales taxes in Napa and Solano counties by one-half cent to fund transportation improvements in the only two Bay Area counties without such self-help taxes for streets, highways and public transit. Approval by better than two-thirds of those voting is required. Napa County -- Measure H: $537 million over 30 years...county's first attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Solano County -- Measure H: Would raise $1.6 billion over 30 years... county's third attempt to pass a transportation sales tax.
Napa, Salano counties to vote on sales levy...Michael Cabanatuan...5-15-06

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/15/BAGS8IRUB01.DTL&type=printable
Seven of the Bay Area's nine counties have sales taxes that raise money for transportation improvements. Residents of Solano and Napa counties will face separate ballot measures on June 6. A two-thirds majority vote is needed for the measure to pass. In Santa Clara County, where voters in 1984 passed the state's first transportation sales tax, community leaders are trying a different approach. Voters are being asked to approve a half-cent sales tax to fund general county services -- affordable housing, health care and transportation, including the proposed BART extension to San Jose. A simple majority vote is needed for the measure to pass. Eighteen of the state's 58 counties have transportation sales taxes, and the residents of those counties combine to make up about 80 percent of the state's population. Measure H is Solano County's third attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Napa County voters are being asked to approve their own Measure H, also a 30-year, half-cent sales tax measure. It is the county's second attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Santa Clara County's Measure A also proposes a half-cent sales tax that would last 30 years...
Contra Costa Times

Measure would benefit transportation projects...Danielle Samaniego...5-31-06
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/email/news/14705571.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Solano County is hoping the third time is the charm for a sales tax to finance transportation improvements needed throughout the region. Voters have rejected similar measures twice. Measure H would authorize the Solano Transportation Improvement Authority to impose a half-cent sales tax for 30 years to fund traffic safety improvements, projects and programs identified in the county's transportation expenditure plan.

Mercury News
Tax increase advocates raise more than foes...Barry Witt...5-26-06
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/14672741.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Measure A - The campaign for a half-cent increase in Santa Clara County's sales tax reported Thursday that it raised more than $1.3 million in 10 weeks, with much of the cash coming from the county's biggest labor union, major Silicon Valley employers and contractors working on the planned BART extension to San Jose...that needs 50 percent, plus one vote to pass, there are no restrictions on how county supervisors can use the estimated $160 million a year in new revenue the tax increase would provide. If approved, the county's sale tax rate would be 8.75 percent, tying Alameda County for highest in California.

Monterey Herald
Measure A campaign picks up big boosters...Larry Parsons...5-26-06
http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/montereyherald/living/community/14677167.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
The campaign to pass Measure A, the half-cent transportation sales tax on the June ballot, is picking up major financial support from expected sources -- Monterey County's agricultural, tourism and construction industries. Measure A would impose a half-cent sales tax for 14 years to raise an estimated $350 million for regional highway and transportation projects. Opponents contend the tax would be a wasteful burden on county residents for a badly conceived, pork-barrel package of highway projects and other transportation programs.Two of the biggest contributions to the Measure A campaign came from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, $25,000, and Granite Construction Co., $20,000.

Tax measures articles...Modesto, Santa Clara, Napa, Solano

Modesto Bee
Sales tax in trouble...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12254662p-12993245c.html
A proposed initiative for a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects in Stanislaus County appears to be in trouble, according to the Modesto Bee-California State University, Stanislaus, poll. Slightly less than half the county voters polled in mid-May said they would support the tax... planned for the November ballot, needs a two-thirds majority to pass. Many proponents are watching to see how the Merced County transportation sales tax initiative fares on Tuesday, Madison said.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/31/EDGDOIJLR81.DTL&type=printable

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Invest in valley's future
-
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MEASURE A, the half-percent sales tax increase on Santa Clara County's June 6 ballot, should get a "yes" vote from every voter with an interest in Silicon Valley's transportation and health-care systems.

Measure A is proposed as a general-fund tax because those require only a simple majority to pass. (In 1996, a similar measure eked by with just 51.8 percent of the vote.) But its backers are lobbying for the annual revenue increase of up to $180 million to fund public health and transportation improvements.

This strategy worked well in the 1996 measure -- the county Board of Supervisors respected the voters' wishes, and virtually all of the funded projects, such as the construction of a new interchange at the junction of Highways 101 and 85 in Mountain View, were completed on time and on budget.

To ensure the same results, Measure A's backers have written it in a responsible, thoughtful manner. An independent citizens' review committee will report progress to the community. There's a 30-year sunset clause. Because Measure A is the result of nearly two years of brainstorming with different interests -- business and labor groups, families and religious organizations -- it has an outstanding slate of sponsors. Its biggest supporter is the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents 200 of the valley's largest companies.

The only problem with Measure A is it will lift Santa Clara County's sales taxes to 8.75 percent. But this is the path we've set out for ourselves in California, where local governments have few places to turn for revenue.

Our roads, buses and hospitals are worth the investment. We recommend a "yes" vote on Santa Clara County's Measure A on June 6.

Page B - 8
URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/31/EDGDOIJLR81.DTL

VOTER'S GUIDE TO THE JUNE 6 CALIFORNIA PRIMARY
BAY AREA MEASURES
- Michael Cabanatuan, Simone Sebastian, Patrick Hoge
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/INGNKJ2GIR1.DTL&type=printable

Sunday, May 28, 2006

TRANSPORTATION TAXES
What's on the ballot

Separate measures to raise sales taxes in Napa and Solano counties by one-half cent to fund transportation improvements in the only two Bay Area counties without such self-help taxes for streets, highways and public transit. Approval by better than two-thirds of those voting is required.

What they would do

Napa County -- Measure H: Would raise $537 million over 30 years to pay for local street and road maintenance and improvements; widening and improvement of Highway 12 through Jamieson Canyon; a commuter trip-reduction program; express bus service from Napa to Fairfield/Suisun City; a mobility program for senior citizens; pedestrian improvements and a Napa downtown transit center. This is the county's first attempt to pass a transportation sales tax; voters approved an advisory measure in 2004.

Solano County -- Measure H: Would raise $1.6 billion over 30 years for a new interchange at the junction of Interstates 80 and 680 and Highway 12 in Cordelia; widening and improving Highway 12; new commuter rail service to and from the Bay Area and Sacramento; expanded Vallejo Baylink ferry service and expanded express bus service serving all Solano County cities. This is the county's third attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Measures in 2002 and 2004 received a majority of votes but fell short of the two-thirds requirement.

Fiscal impact

In Napa County, would raise the sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.25 percent beginning Jan 1. In Solano County, would raise sales tax from 7.375 percent to 7.875 percent beginning Oct. 1.

-- Michael Cabanatuan

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SCHOOL TAX AND BOND MEASURES
What's on the ballot

A dozen school and community college tax and bond measures in the Bay Area that would raise nearly $2 billion for school repairs, remedial education programs and classroom technology upgrades. Nine school districts in the region are seeking voter approval of parcel tax and bond measures, while three community college districts -- Peralta, Contra Costa and Foothill-De Anza -- have bond measures on the ballot. Bond measures need 55 percent approval to pass. Parcel tax measures need two-thirds.

What they would do

Oakland Unified -- Measure B: The $435 million bond measure is the largest school tax measure in the region. It is the second of three bond measures the district says it needs to fulfill a $1 billion wish list of school improvements -- the first measure, which raised $303 million, was approved in 2000. Measure B would replace hundreds of decaying portable classrooms on campuses throughout the district with permanent buildings, according to district officials. Some of the portables date back to the 1970s and are suffering from rot and water damage.

"Who knew (back then) that you were going to need phones, intercoms and computers; things that in many classrooms are now regular resources," said Jody London, co-chair of the Yes on B campaign. "We need to give these kids nicer facilities."

Tamalpais Union High School District -- Measure A: Voters in the Marin County school district will consider an $80 million bond. About $20 million would go toward rebuilding a 22-classroom building at Tamalpais High School that was closed in August because of mold. Another $15 million would go toward reconstruction of swimming pools at the district's three comprehensive high schools to give them the depth and size necessary for more athletic competitions, according to district officials.

Fiscal impact

If approved, the Oakland measure will cost residents a maximum of $48 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

The Tamalpais district measure, if approved, will cost residents a maximum of $19 per $100,000 of assessed property value. -- Simone Sebastian .

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NAPA LAND-USE COMPENSATION
What's on the ballot

Measure A would require property owners in Napa County to be compensated for property value losses resulting from new county policies. Sponsored by the Napa Valley Land Stewards Alliance, it is supported by the Napa County Republican Party. It is opposed by most of the county's political leaders, the Napa Valley Vintners Association and the Napa County Farm Bureau, police and firefighter unions, business chambers and environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Greenbelt Alliance. A majority vote is needed.

What it would do

Measure A would require that the county financially compensate property owners if their land is devalued by future county regulatory or policy decisions. County supervisors could avoid paying for impacts of their actions by getting their acts ratified by voters, or by exempting specific property owners. The measure grew out of a successful 2004 referendum campaign that nullified a county ordinance restricting development near streams. Critics said the ordinance's definition of watercourses needing protection was so expansive that it would have rendered significant portions of properties unusable.

Fiscal impact

Critics say Measure A would wreak havoc on local land-use planning and produce a tidal wave of expensive litigation that could drain funds from other county programs. Administrative and legal costs alone could be almost $3 million annually, not including awards for successful damage suits, according to an analysis that the county commissioned. Backers say such claims are overblown.

-- Patrick Hoge

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URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/INGNKJ2GIR1.DTL

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©2006 San Francisco Chronicle

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

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Vote No on Measure A Tax

Submitted: Jun 03, 2006

URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT

A flyer against the Merced County Transportation Tax Measure A appeared in the Merced Sun-Star Saturday morning. We have included it below and attached it to this message.

We urge you to read and share these flyers with Merced County residents before the Primary Election on Tuesday, June 6.

We should not use a sales tax to raise money for transportation funds to benefit special interests because a sales tax has an unfair impact on lower-income residents. (1) Merced County ranks fifth from the bottom of California’s 58 counties in per capita income. (2)

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
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VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!

REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!

In 2002, the Citizens of Merced County VOTED DOWN the Measure M road-improvement tax. Merced County and its cities went right on approving thousands of new homes. This RECKLESS action is destroying hundreds of miles of our existing streets and roads because development doesn’t pay for itself.

VOTE NO on Measure A because it doesn’t fix the problems. It adds to them! The intent of this tax measure to improve highways 99, 152, 59, and 33, and to build the Mission Ave. Interchange, is to attract more urban growth, not to fix local potholes. The only “economic engine” helped here is the profits of developers who want you to pay for the impacts of their projects while they plant the last crop in the San Joaquin Valley- subdivisions!

VOTE NO on Measure A because the county General Plan is an absurdly outdated, non-compliant hodge-podge of amendments and conflicting goals and policies. About 20 citizens’ groups petitioned the Merced County Board of Supervisors to slow growth until county and city general plans and community plans are legally compliant. Special interests – not the public – are controlling the Merced County planning process. Use your vote to send a message to government highway funders that these special interests do not speak for us!

VOTE NO on Measure A because UC won’t pay more than $350,000 to cover the $200 million cost of it’s impacts to local streets, parks and schools. Measure A will be used to finance the Mission Ave. Interchange off Hwy 99, the Yellow Brick Beltway to UC Merced and west to Atwater. This will hasten sprawl and will eat away productive agricultural land. This UC beltway will draw business away from downtown Merced. The Mission Ave Interchange will become the location of a Wal-Mart Distribution Center, bringing in about a thousand diesel trucks a day to increase our air pollution.

VOTE NO on Measure A because it is a matching fund gimmick created by special interests. Your supervisors have used your tax dollars to create a lobbying group called the One Voice Committee that speaks for special interests, not for you. VOTE NO on Measure A to tell state and federal highway funders “One Voice” speaks for special interest, not for you.

VOTE NO on Measure A because the sand and gravel trucks supplying these proposed highway projects tear down our county roads and degrade our waterways. Spending dollars on new roadways instead of for maintenance and repair of existing county roads and city streets is a misappropriation of public funds for special interests.

VOTE NO on Measure A because you’re tired of government by and for special interests – from UC Merced to local, national and international development corporations – making land deals for their profits and your losses. An estimated 100,000 new homes are already in the planning process in Merced County.

VOTE NO on Measure A because you will have no vote on the projects it will fund. Special interests have already decided how that money will be spent and will continue to decide how it will be spent.

VOTE NO on Measure A now and you may prevent Measure Z later, as special interests continue to pile on special taxes for schools, water, sewer, electricity, parks and recreation, libraries, solid waste, emergency services, police and fire protection – like Measures S, M and H, and the Merced City Hotel Tax for a UC Olympic-size swimming pool.

PAID FOR BY MERCED COUNTY RESIDENTS AGAINST MEASURE A
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VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County
Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.

Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.

Fox Hills - 907 units, Fox Hills Estates north 337 units, Fox Hills Estates, central- 1,356 units.

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes 420 acres. Del Valle, Gallo Ranchwood, 1,000acres,

Los Banos -, Ranchwood, 932 acres 323 units, Pinn Brothers, 34 units, Court of Fountains, 2.7 acres 95 units, Woodside Homes,

City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units, Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,

Vista Del Lago, 442 units, Weaver Development, 920 units, Fahrens Creek II, -1,282 units,

Fahrens Creek North, 1,093 units, Hunt Family Annexation,

Planada - 4,400 units, Village of Geneva at Planada, Hostetler 1,390 acres.

Felix Torres Migrant Megaplex 127 units, Park Street Estates, 31.8 acres, 200 units.

San Luis Creek 629 units, F & S Investments, 180 acres.

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

Santa Nella - 8,250 units - Santa Nella Village west 881 units, 350 acres,

The Parkway, phase III, 146 acres - 138 units, Santa Nella Village, 40.7 acres - 544 units,

San Luis Ranch, phase II - 232 units, 312 acres - 182 acres, Arnaudo 1 &2

Stevinson - 3,500 units, Stevinson Ranch/Gallo Lakes Development - 1,700 units, 3,740 acres.

Winton - 50 units, 17 acres- Gertrude Estates, Mike Raymond, 18 acres - 142 units, Winn Ranch

Commercial Development

WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls

….and the list goes on!

Measure A gives the green light to all this proposed new residential and commercial development!

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

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Notes:
(1) http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072554096/student_view0/chapter_15/economic_naturalist_exercises.html
Sales taxes are regressive taxes. This means that the proportion of income paid in taxes declines as income rises. That is, people with low incomes pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than people with high incomes. But what makes a sales tax regressive?
People with low incomes tend to spend a high percentage of the income they receive. At higher income levels, people begin to save (not spend) larger parts of their income. A person is able to save (not spend) part of their income only after they are able to take care of buying necessities like food, housing, clothing, and medical care. Therefore, low-income consumers will spend most of their income while higher income consumers can begin to save more and more.
Since a sales tax falls on income that consumers spend, and low income people spend a larger part of their income, the sales tax falls more heavily on low income consumers. This makes the tax regressive ...

(2) http://www.answers.com/topic/california-locations-by-per-capita-income
Merced ranks 54th in per capita income among California's 58 counties. Only four counties have lower per capita incomes.

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

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More benefits of a UC campus in the Valley

Submitted: Jun 01, 2006

The University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which UC manages, recently announced plans to build a level-4 bio-defense lab near Tracy. Level-4 labs store the most dangerous diseases known to man -- Ebola, dengue fever, Lassa fever and "other illnesses for which there are no known cures." (1)

Opposition to UC Davis establishing a level-4 lab in Davis was so strong -- including a unanimous vote against it by the Davis City Council -- that the federal government dropped plans to fund a $59-million National Biocontainment Laboratory there in September 2003. (2) Opponents argued that such a lab would be an attraction to terrorists and that UC doesn't have adequate security to obstruct them from spreading the lethal contents of a level-4 bio-defense lab to contaminate the surrounding community.

Proximity to a UC campus, former UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey never tired of repeating, creates an ambition to go to college. It also creates a fear of UC weapons-of-mass-destruction research and mistrust of the bland assurances of adequate security.

At least one Tracy city councilwoman, Irene D. Sundberg ... "noted that the city abuts Site 300 -- as the possible location for the second lab is known -- and new housing is planned nearby.

"'The (UC Regents) should be putting it in their backyard and not mine,' she said."

Whose backyard the most dangerous, incurable illnesses in the world should be stored, is the question being argued in federal court. Livermore-based Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment has appealed their case to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, after their district court suit to stop UC from locating the facility in Livermore. CARE argues that it is madness to locate such dangerous substances in such a heavily populated area, where, in case of accident, under certain wind conditions, plumes of deadly diseases could blow all over the Bay Area, where a number of regents live.

Meanwhile, enter the sheer magic of UC flak. The closer you get to weapons of mass destruction the more magical becomes the UC flak. UC is saying:

By contrast, researchers at the second (Tracy) lab would concentrate to a greater degree on natural- or terrorist-caused agricultural diseases, but might also have the authority to work on extremely virulent human diseases such as Ebola, research on which is not permitted in the lower-ranked lab.

UC mentions hoof-and-mouth disease, for example, keeping the door open for anthrax, Ebola, etc, of course.

The situation seems to be that if UC/Lawrence Livermore wins its appeals court case, the deadliest human diseases will be stored and studied in the Bay Area, the most densely (human) populated area in northern California, while hoof-and-mouth disease, for example, will be studied in the San Joaquin Valley, which contains the densest population of cows in the nation.

This is undoubtedly why our wise leaders invited UC to establish a campus in Merced. This is the kind of enlightened, scientific guidance we dumb farmers need down here in the Valley.

My personal favorite from the selection of UC flak was:

"Lawrence Livermore has a long history of safely and securely working with biological agents," Colston said. "There are hundreds of these facilities in the United States with proven track records."

This rises to the level of fabulously fatuous UC Flak. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported in 2002:

On March 14, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) detailed their research priorities for countering bioterrorism. Their broad goals include increased funding for treatment, diagnostics, and vaccines, as well as projects in applied immunology and genomics. These include studies on how pathogens affect humans as well as the genetics of biowarfare agents. [10] The NIH also plans to construct six to 10 new biosafety level-3 and-4 facilities to supplement the seven level-4 facilities that already exist or are nearing completion. In response, several other countries have announced plans to build their own high-containment facilities. This is a recipe for disaster. (3)

Here's the political dilemma. Suppose Councilwoman Sundberg is able to rally as many opponents to the establishment of a level-4 bio-defense lab on the outskirts of her town as citizens of Davis were able to muster to oppose a level-4 lab in the middle of their town on the UC Davis campus. It would seem, in view of several factors, that UC Merced would be the next logical step for UC to take to get the millions in federal grants.

As a university, UC Merced is floundering badly. It appears, according to intermittent word from students, to be operated like a genteel prison camp. Its course offerings are meager, some would say eccentrically high-tech. Its chancellor has just quit. Its vice chancellor spent most of her career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Its provost departed precipitously for University of Nevada Las Vegas two weeks ago. UC Merced has posted no information on its search for a new chancellor.

First, UC Merced was going to be the UC campus for all the Valley's Hispanics, who according to UC, wouldn't move away from home to go to college. Then it was going to be the environmental campus. This was the period of the Sierra Nevada Institute and the big Nature Conservancy easement program. In fact, due to vicissitudes in the careers of Gov. Gray Davis and Rep. Gary Condit, D-Ceres, UC was unable to fully complete the railroading of all local, state and federal environmental laws and regulations the campus violates, leaving the actual location of future phases of UC Merced up in the air. Lately, more of its flak has been about being a "bio-tech engine of growth."

Labeled both a "land deal" and a "boondoggle" in the state Capitol, so far UC Merced has produced nothing but a huge speculative real estate boom in eastern Merced County, from which various regents and legislators and their families have personally benefited, along with local landowners, developers and realtors. The huge amount of investment capital in the area is flooding in from elsewhere, the same elsewhere where the big profits will go.

What if Tracy develops some backbone? Now that so many Pombo Real Estate Ranches have been filled up with Bay Area-commuter, labor-camp subdivisions, Tracy shows more signs of regarding itself as a part of the Bay Area every day. They may well argue among themselves quite eloquently and persuasively that the best place for a level-4 bio-defense lab also studying hoof-and-mouth disease should be the second largest dairy county in the United States, Merced.

Whereas San Joaquin County supervisors and Tracy City Council members may choose to dodge their patriotic duty to accept a level-4 bio-defense lab, one has no doubt about the patriotism of Merced County supervisors on anything pertaining to UC Merced's memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

That only leaves the problem of providing the amenities to attract the top-notch scientists we need to study hoof-and-mouth disease, Ebola, Lassa fever and other fatal, incurable diseases in our neighborhood. Our local leaders, speaking with One Voice, have already taken a positive step in this direction -- improving the roads to UC Merced. Next Tuesday, our leaders invite one of the poorest counties in the state to vote for a sales tax increase -- the most regressive tax possible -- to raise transportation funds.

With leadership like this, Merced should get a level-4 bio-defense lab in less than a year. And what a boon it would be to our stay-at-home minorities, our cows, and our environment!

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

Notes:

(1) San Francisco Chronicle
Livermore considers bio-defense lab in Tracy. Proposed research site might store deadly human diseases...Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/BAGLSJ3NVT1.DTL&type=printable
The University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which are already pushing for federal court approval to store and study dangerous microbes at the Livermore lab, have expressed interest in building a second bio-defense lab near Tracy -- a lab that could experiment with even deadlier bugs...if approved and funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the 50,000-square-foot facility near Tracy could come with a ranking of "Biosafety Level Four," a status granted in the United States only to biological labs that store and analyze the world's scariest pathogens, both human and animal -- and lab officials refused to rule out the possibility that they'll study human diseases as well. The proposal for the second lab angered Tracy City Councilwoman Irene D. Sundberg, who noted that the city abuts Site 300 -- as the possible location for the second lab is known -- and new housing is planned nearby..."The (UC Regents) should be putting it in their backyard and not mine." UC officials expressed interest in the possibility of constructing the Tracy facility in a March 31 letter to Homeland Security. UC officials refused to release copies, explaining their letter is "confidential and proprietary" and releasing it might leak secrets to potential competitors for the project. "Lawrence Livermore has a long history of safely and securely working with biological agents," Colston said. "There are hundreds of these facilities in the United States with proven track records."

(2)http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/7356341p-8300182c.html
Huge blow for UCD's lab quest
University fails to win key federal funding.
By Pamela Martineau -- Bee Staff Writer
September 5, 2003

UC Davis' bid for a proposed biolab suffered a crushing setback Thursday when federal officials denied the university funding for a critical research consortium that would have operated out of its proposed facility.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services named eight institutions that will receive five-year grants to operate Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) where scientists would study infectious diseases and defenses against bioterrorist attacks. University of California, Davis, was not among the grant recipients ... Most opponents say they fear the lab could become the target of terrorists and could spread dangerous pathogens through the community through accidents or safety breaches. Marches and silent protests also have been staged to oppose the project ... Don Mooney, an attorney for the group Stop UCD Bio Lab Now, said he has read the NIH's request for proposals for the National Biocontainment Laboratory thoroughly and he believes UC Davis' loss of the Regional Center of Excellence "should be the end" of the biolab proposal. Davis City Councilman Mike Harrington agreed ...

(3)http://www.thebulletin.org/article.php?art_ofn=so02choffnes
Bioweapons: New labs, more terror?
By Eileen Choffnes
September/October 2002 pp. 28-32 (vol. 58, no. 05) © 2002 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

(4) http://www.counterpunch.com/zeese06012006.html
June 1, 2006
Return of the Petri Dish Warriors
A New Biowar Arms Race Begins in Maryland
By KEVIN ZEESE
... Expansion of Bio-Weapons Activity Will Make America, and the World, Less Safe

Not only is this a multi-billion dollar misuse of federal funds, but it will encourage our adversaries to develop similar programs, lead to the invention of new, infectious agents and increase the risk of diversion of U.S. made bio-weapons to our adversaries. If the government really want to increase the safety of Americans the U.S. would invest in the public health system, strengthen international controls and work to remove pathogens from the face of the earth, rather than creating new ones.

The only modern bio-weapons attack was the use of anthrax in letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy at the time the Patriot Act was being considered. There is no question the anthrax used in this attack was produced in the United States and came through Ft. Detrick. The type of anthrax used was the "Ames strain," with a concentration and dispersability of one trillion spores per gram--a technology that is only capable of production by U.S. scientists...

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