Growth

Vote NO on Measure G

Submitted: Nov 06, 2006

The Central Valley Safe Environment Network urges you to vote NO on Measure G.

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

We have also attached a letter from an attorney representing CVSEN and others demanding compliance with several state Public Record Act requests to Merced County and Merced County Association of Governments that were made since the Primary Election on Measure G. We have also attached the last weeks’ letters and articles about Measure G. These attachments are printed out below for Badlands readers.

We urge you to read and share these flyers with Merced County residents before the Election on Tuesday, November 7.

The enclosed flyer explains why: this measure is the same old Measure M and Measure A you have already voted down. Merced County, one of the state's poorest counties, does not support a sales tax increase that would fall heaviest on the poorest members of our community, to pay for the developer special interests who refuse to pay for the impacts of their project.

Far from protecting the community from this exploitation of land, air quality and water, local government is its most enthusiastic supporter. But this gang can't shoot straight and a growing list of irregularities in public process surround Measure G:

It is misnamed "Measure A" in campaign literature;
It's collection is retroactive, beginning a month before the measure is voted on;
Financial contributions are comminged between measures A and G;
Procedural problems have plagued Measure G ever since you voted down Measure A in June of this year.

We ask you to read the attachment and realize how important it is for you to vote NO Measure G on Tuesday.

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network

Opponents of Measure's M and A encourage your 'No" Vote on Measure G
1-2-3: Defeat Measures M,A, and G!

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VOTE NO ON MEASURE G FLYER

Well, here we are again, folks, another election, another sales tax hike to pay for more roads to stimulate more growth, traffic and air pollution in Merced County. Measure G would also do its little bit to heat up the planet, while giving UC Merced that nice new Parkway so its folks can get out of Merced and find some real fun. The Measure G supporters have the same arguments; you and we have our same arguments. Nothing has changed. If Measure G fails, look for identical measures, X,Y and Z on the next three ballots. The politicians and their contributors want growth. Their growth doesn’t help us.

But, what kind of tax hike? Is it a half-cent or a half-percent? Can you tell from reading the County Measure G Information Guide? Does the car dealer collect a half-cent more tax or a half-percent more sales tax on the sale of a car? Does whoever wrote the measure know the difference between a half-cent and a half-percent?

Retailers! Check it out! According to Measure G, you’re going into your Christmas season obligated to start paying additional sales taxes from Oct. 1, 2006? Is that fair? Is it even legal?

And what measure are we voting on? In the information guide it is also called Measure A. Should officials this sloppy at writing laws be trusted with more pots of public funds?

Public and private developers want your government to persuade you to pay for their growth impacts on your community:

UC Merced is trying to weasel out of $200 million in traffic, police and fire impacts to the Merced community:

“In the CEQA process for the campus …local jurisdictions indentified approximately $200 million in improvements to local roads, parks and schools that they claimed would be made necessary by the new campus development, and argued that UC was obligated to pay for those improvements under CEQA. UC rejected those demands … in light of its exemption under the California Constitution.”

(UC General Counsel James Holst amicus letter to California Supreme Court re. City of Marina et al, Sept. 12, 2003

John Condren, CEO of Riverside Motorsports Park, claimed to his investors he wired local government:

“Although it’s too early to start planning a ground-breaking party, we can report that RMP has won the support of 4 of the 5 members of the Merced County Board of Supervisors … and we may succeed in securing the unanimous support of the Board once the EIR is released. In addition, RMP has secured the approval and support of State Senator Jeff Denham, US Congressman Dennis Cardoza, 5 Chambers of Commerce within Merced County, the City Councils of Atwater and Merced, and RMP has the support of the California Builders Industry Association. Added to this list are over 1,500 local Merced County citizens who have signed to be on our project update mailing/e-mail list”

(Riverside Motorsports Park, 1 January 2005 “To all our valued investors and supporters, Happy New Year!”)

Ranchwood Homes owner cozies up to a supervisor while digging a mile-long, 42-inch, illegal sewer line in county jurisdiction outside of Livingston:

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

(Badlandsjournal.com, March 10, 2006)

1-2-3: Defeat Measures M, A, and G!

Citizens Against Measure G
VOTE NO ON MEASURE G

Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County.

This represents 81,000 new homes for our county.

Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes, 400 acres
2,522-3,403 units, Willow Creek, Pacific Union Homes, 662 acres

Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes

Fox Hills - 907 units, Fox Hills Estates, north expansion
337 units, Fox Hills Estates, central expansion
1,256 units, Fox Hills Estates, south expansion

Hilmar-3,700 units, JKB Homes

Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes

Los Banos, 3 developments covering 932 acres, Ranchwood Homes 635 units, Woodside Homes 15.000 homes, Villages of Laguna San Luis, by Los Banos, 3,600 acres

City of Merced - 11,000 units, Merced University Community Plan, 7,000 units, Bellevue RanchM 7,800 units, Ranchwood Homes
442 units, Vista Del Lago, 920 units, Fahrens Creek II, 1,282 units, Fahrens Creek North. 1,093 units, Hunt Family Annexation, 4,576 units Mission Lakes, Ranchwood Homes

Other smaller projects totaling over 2,000 additional units in the works

Planada- 4,400 units, Village of Geneva at Planada
San Luis Creek 629 units, F & S Investments
San Luis Ranch - 544 units
Santa Nella - 8,250 units by 2012 (Gustine City Council minutes)
Stevinson - 3,500 units, Stevinson Ranch/Gallo Lakes Development

1-2-3: Defeat Measures M, A, and G!
Citizens Against Measure G

VOTE NO ON MEASURE G

Developers want to have you pay for growth impacts instead of paying for their impacts themselves.

Measure G Contributions
Reporting from Committee for Measure G

Alice Gilbertson Atwater $100.00
Gray-Bowen & Company Walnut Creek $250.00
Bender Rosenthal Inc. Sacramento $250.00
Jones & Stokes Ass. Sacramento $250.00
Bandoni, INC Merced $250.00
Parikh Consultants Milpitas $300.00
Cornerstone Structural Fresno $500.00
Roger Wood Atwater $500.00
Maxwell Construction Merced $500.00
Terry Allen Merced $500.00
Central Valley Housing Solutions Merced $750.00
Building Industry Ass of Central CA Modesto $1,000.00
Engeo Incorporated San Ramon $1,000.00
Moreno Trenching Inc Rio Vista $1,000.00
Stevinson Ranch-Savannah G.P. Stevinson $1,000.00
Merced Booster Club Merced $1,000.00
Delhi Properties Modesto $1,000.00
Kleinfelder San Diego $1,000.00
Circle Point San Francisco $1,500.00
Diepenbrock Harrison, A Prof. Corp Sacramento $1,500.00
Dowling Associates, Inc. Oakland $1,500.00
Wreco Walnut Creek $1,500.00
Fremming, Parson & Pecchenino Merced $1,500.00
Coldwell Banker Gonella Realty Merced $1,600.00
Mill Creek Development Alamo $2,000.00
Northern California District of Laborers Sacramento $ 2,500.00
Omni-Means, Engineers & Planners Roseville $2,500.00
Werner Co Merced $2,500.00
P G & E Corporation San Francisco $2,500.00
Jesse Brown Merced $2,698.89
Delhi LLC Pleasanton $3,000.00
Home Builders Stockton $3,000.00
Pristine Home Corporation Stockton $3,000.00
Maxwell Construction Merced $ 3,100.00
Robert T Haden Professional Corp Merced $3,200.00
Charles Lyons Modesto $3,333.32
Edward Lyons Modesto $3,333.32
Louise Bogetti Modesto $3,333.32
Lynne Bogetti Modesto $3,333.32
Jane Conover Modesto $3,333.36
William Lyons Modesto $3,333.36
Alia Corporation Merced $4,750.00
Lyons Land and Cattle Co Modesto $5,000.00
Dole Packaged Foods Thousand Oaks $5,000.00
Golden Valley Eng & Survey Inc Merced $5,200.00
Sierra Beverage Company Merced $5,500.00
Mark Thomas & Company San Jose $6,000.00
John Sessions Seattle $7,500.00
Jaxon Enterprises Redding $10,000.00
Robert Alkema/Malibu Merced $10,000.00
Team 31, Inc. Morgan Hill $10,000.00
Wellington Corp of Northern CA Morgan Hill $10,000.00
Anderson Homes Lodi $10,000.00
Calaveras Materials Fresno $10,000.00
Basic Resources, Inc. Modesto $10,000.00
Lakemont LWH LLC Roseville $10,000.00
3rd Millennium Investment Fresno $15,000.00
Ferrari Investments Ballico $15,000.00
Foster Poultry Farms Livingston $15,000.00
JBK Homes Turlock $15,000.00
E&J Gallo Winery Modesto $17,500.00
K Hovanian Forecast Homes Sacramento $20,000.00
Atwater East Investors Danville $25,000.00
Ranchwood Homes Corp Merced $25,150.00
A Teichert & Son Sacramento $27,500.00
Crosswinds Development Novi, MI $30,000.00
Antioch Aviation Ass. Sacramento $40,000.00
Brookfield Castle Del Mar $43,000.00

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

November 6, 2006

Via Facsimile and U.S. Mail

M. Stephen Jones
Auditor-Controller-Registrar of Voters
Merced County
2222 M. St.
Merced CA 95340

Jesse Brown
Executive Director
Merced County Association of Governments
369 W. 18th St.
Merced CA 95340

Re: Public Records Act Requests Regarding Measure G

Dear Mr. Jones and Mr. Brown:

This office, in conjunction with the Law Office of Donald B. Mooney, represents the Central Valley Safe Environment Network, San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and Lydia Miller. This letter serves to notify you that our clients have repeatedly attempted, via California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) Requests, over the past three months to obtain information regarding Measure G. These efforts have resulted in very little documentation, and this letter serves as a demand for compliance with the CPRA, and to notify you that there may be inconsistencies in the information provided to voters regarding Measure G. For example, our clients have not received the full text of Measure G, but have only been provided with summaries of the Measure. At this point, a day before the General Election, the public has reason to doubt that there is a full text of Measure G. Also, none of the correspondence, meeting agendas or minutes, or any other documents related to the development of Measure G have been provided. Our clients have not received any of the requested documentation or correspondence relating to One Voice, California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, the San Joaquin Valley Regional Blueprint, Great Valley Center or any other state or federal agencies and their communications regarding Measure G. Further, our clients have not received documents relating to the Merced County Transportation Alliance’s activities relating to Measures A and G.

It is not possible to confirm the nature and scope of any errors in the sample ballot or voter pamphlet information, as we have not had an opportunity to review relevant documentation. For example, the Measure G Voter Information Pamphlet contains a confusing description of the Measure G tax as a “1/2-cent” tax (pp. 24G1-24G2), and elsewhere as a “1/2-percent tax.” We have not been able to obtain and review the full and final text of Measure G, and so it is unclear whether this inconsistency is significant.

With respect to the effective date of the new tax (p. 24G5), the pamphlet says, “It will begin on Oct. 1, 2006.” It appears that the County seeks voter approval of a retroactive sales tax, but without access to relevant information, we have been unable to confirm that this is the case.

A series of CRPA requests (August, 17, August 25, September 8 ) submitted to both Merced County and Merced County Area Governments were shuffled back and forth between the two agencies and much of the information requested was not given by either agency. On August 18, 2006, both MCAG and the county Elections Office replied. Our clients received a response on September 12, 2006 from MCAG. On September 11, 2006, the County Elections Office provided a response. On September 18, 2006, our clients received a response from County Counsel. On October 5th, 26th and 27th, our clients went to the county Elections Office to view documents. Although officials made themselves available, they did not make most of the requested material available.

It appears that the Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlets contain confusing information regarding Measure G. This is of great concern to our clients, who have been working since August in an attempt to understand Measure G through review of relevant documents and records. Because of their inability to gain access to the relevant records, our client remain concerned, but do not have sufficient information to come to any specific conclusions regarding the voter information.

Our clients are also concerned about the accounting of campaign contributions for Measures A and G. These funds appear to be commingled. It is understandable that if a candidate wins a primary election or gets enough votes to gain a runoff, campaign finance accounting could roll over the amounts into the general election period. However, we are concerned that, since Measure A was defeated in the primary election, accounting that presents cumulative contribution amounts in Measure G accounts that include Measure A contributions is irregular.

With respect to these accounting issues, however, our clients have not received documents related to the accounting for campaign contributions from the County and the Cities for Measures A and G in response to the CPRA requests, and so have not been able to review and assess the accounting documents.

We urge you to provide the information without further delay. If you have any questions regarding the above, please feel free to contact me.

Very truly yours,

Marsha A. Burch
Attorney

cc: Central Valley Safe Environment Network
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Lydia Miller
Donald B. Mooney, Esq.
James Fincher, Merced County Counsel (Via Facsimile)
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Comments on Measure G
November 4th, 2006
BadlandsJournal.com
by Bill Hatch
Members of the public concerned that Merced County and Merced County Association of Governments immediately recycled Measure A as Measure G after the Primary Election defeat of Measure A, tried repeated times, via California Public Records Act requests, to obtain accurate, complete information about Measure G. Errors and inconsistencies appeared in both the County sample ballot and Measure G Voter Information Pamphlet.

Without the opportunity to view the documents before they were published, the public was unable to spot the errors and advise the County of them. Although officials made themselves available, they did not make most of the requested material available, critics of Measure G said Saturday.

The Measure G Voter Information Pamphlet, for example, calls the measure a “1/2-cent” tax on one page and a “1/2-percent” tax on another. Which is it: a half-cent sales tax per transaction or a half-percent per dollar sales tax on all transactions? local activists asked.

This is misleading “information.” If it was not deliberately misleading, the public might have provided a helpful review of this propaganda-as-information before it was sent to every registered voter in the county between Oct. 10 and Oct. 16.
The publicly funded Measure G “information” pamphlet, printed to look exactly like a sample ballot pamphlet, also informs the public that the tax will start on “Oct. 1, 2006.” If Merced County retailers, going into the Christmas season, had been allowed to review this document, they would probably have objected to this retroactive, probably illegal tax, critics of Measure G noted.

Members of the public also expressed concern about the accounting of campaign
contributions for measures A and G, which appear to commingle funds from both campaigns. Measure A failed in the Primary. Measure G is a different campaign by a different name in the General Election. Yet, local researchers found, the County recorded contributions to both campaigns as one campaign fund. This may be yet another irregularity in Merced County elections administration.

Another irregularity critics point out is that MCAG or the County or both of them have appointed a citizens oversight committee to monitor the spending of Measure G funds before the citizens have even voted on Measure G, which may or may not be the same as Measure A, but no one is quite sure because neither the County or MCAG have released the actual text of Measure G to the public for review. By the way, neither proponents nor opponents of Measure G, whose comments are printed in the sample ballot, were allowed to see the official text of Measure G, on which they commented.

The public is also concerned about the accounting of campaign contributions for
measures A and G. These funds appear to be commingled. It is understandable that if a candidate wins a primary election or gets enough votes to gain a runoff, campaign finance accounting could roll over the amounts into the general election period.

However, critics are concerned that, since Measure A was defeated in the primary election, accounting that presents cumulative contribution amounts in Measure G accounts that include Measure A contributions is irregular.

Critics of the county planning process are also concerned about a transportation plan promoted by the Merced County Association of Governments that is separate and unrelated to the proposed update to the county General Plan and numerous city and community plan updates now in progress. It looks like whenever lawful planning processes threaten, developers in Merced just pile on another layer of plans and more taxes on the people.

On Friday, the federal court ruled to bar certification of the elections in four Merced cities due to violations of the Voting Rights Act. County elections irregularities appear to be multiplying. Meanwhile, Rep. Dennis Cardoza sits on the third floor of the Merced County Administration building, presumably mulling his economic options as the County administration crumbles beneath his feet, noted one critic of government in Merced County.

Critics of Measure G speculated that the campaign for Measure G might achieve $1 million in campaign funding. However, the public will not know until the last campaign finance period is reported, well after the General Election.
Measure G remains a regressive tax: an increase on sales tax that will fall hardest on the poorest for the benefit of the richest.
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ARTICLES AND LETTERS IN THE PRESS THAT RAISE CRITICAL PROBLEMS WITH MEASURE G

Nov. 6, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Attachments: (2, 4 pages)
Opponents of Measure's M and A encourage you "No Vote on Measure G...Paid for By The Citizens Against Measure G

Well, here we are again, folks, another election, another sales tax hike to pay for more roads to stimulate more growth, traffic and air pollution in Merced County. Measure G would also do its little bit to heat up the planet, while giving UC Merced that nice new Parkway so its folks can get out of Merced and find some real fun. The Measure G supporters have the same arguments; you and we have our same arguments. Nothing has changed. If Measure G fails, look for identical measures, X,Y and Z on the next three ballots. The politicians and their contributors want growth. Their growth doesn’t help us.
But, what kind of tax hike? Is it a half-cent or a half-percent?
UC Merced is trying to weasel out of $200 million in traffic, police and fire impacts to the Merced community: “In the CEQA process for the campus …local jurisdictions indentified approximately $200 million in improvements to local roads, parks and schools that they claimed would be made necessary by the new campus development, and argued that UC was obligated to pay for those improvements under CEQA. UC rejected those demands … in light of its exemption under the California Constitution.” (UC General Counsel James Holst amicus letter to California Supreme Court re. City of Marina et al, Sept. 12, 2003

Nov. 5, 2006

Attachment:
BadlandsJournal.com
Comments on Measure G...Bill Hatch
...11-4-06
Members of the public concerned that Merced County and Merced County Association of Governments immediately recycled Measure A as Measure G after the Primary Election defeat of Measure A, tried repeated times, via California Public Records Act requests, to obtain accurate, complete information about Measure G. Errors and inconsistencies appeared in both the County sample ballot and Measure G Voter Information Pamphlet.
Without the opportunity to view the documents before they were published, the public was unable to spot the errors and advise the County of them. Although officials made themselves available, they did not make most of the requested material available, critics of Measure G said Saturday.
The Measure G Voter Information Pamphlet, for example, calls the measure a “1/2-cent” tax on one page and a “1/2-percent” tax on another. Which is it: a half-cent sales tax per transaction or a half-percent per dollar sales tax on all transactions? local activists asked.
This is misleading “information.” If it was not deliberately misleading...
Members of the public also expressed concern about the accounting of campaign contributions for measures A and G, which appear to commingle funds from both campaigns. Measure A failed in the Primary. Measure G is a different campaign by a different name in the General Election. Yet, local researchers found, the County recorded contributions to both campaigns as one campaign fund.

Nov. 4, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Citizens group to monitor spending....Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12973310p-13624687c.html
Opponents of Measure G say they don't trust local officials to spend their tax money wisely. Supporters of the half-cent sales tax say a citizens advisory committee will serve as watchdogs, keeping close tabs on the $446 million the tax would raise for transportation projects around the county. Who are these watchdogs? The same people who helped decide which transportation projects Measure G would fund. No new committee will be formed to monitor Measure G spending; instead, the citizens group that already advises the Merced County Association of Governments will take on the responsibility of monitoring the money. MCAG's citizens advisory committee has been in place for about 17 years, said Jesse Brown, executive director of MCAG. It's made up of 17 people who represent different regions of the county and different interests such as agriculture, water and real estate. Members are approved by the MCAG governing board, which consists of all five county supervisors and one elected official from each of the six incorporated cities in the county. They serve four-year terms, and can't serve more than two terms.

Think Valley...Regional partnership offers great promise for the future...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/274/v-printerfriendly/story/11179.html
The eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley share persistent problems: lower levels of education and income, higher crime rates and poor air quality. For the past year, 26 elected and community leaders from throughout the Valley have met to identify ways to make things better. This group, the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, was created in 2005 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a state leader who finally recognized the Valley's problems and potential. Schwarzenegger assigned his top Cabinet people to give the partnership a high priority. Schwarzenegger visited the Valley again as the partnership approved its strategic action proposal. In Fresno, the governor praised the work of the partnership and said it is laying the foundation for improving the region's economy. The five state bond proposals — Propositions 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E and 84 — represent a long-term investment in economic prosperity and in safety. Especially important for the Valley is Proposition 1B, which contains $1 billion to improve Highway 99. The partnership is advancing plans to make the Valley better. There's a sense of momentum; this is no time for us to lose it.

Nov. 3, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
County certain vote will be fair
...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12968316p-13620844c.html
Merced County officials said Thursday they're committed to upholding the rights of all local voters, and are working to ensure next week's election moves forward unhindered. The assurances follow the filing of a lawsuit earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Fresno that could halt the certification of Tuesday's election results in Atwater, Livingston, Dos Palos, Gustine and Los Banos until the cities receive a required federal approval that they've apparently failed to obtain. The suit alleges that the cities -- as well as 17 other irrigation, water, resource conservation and community service districts -- have violated the federal Voting Rights Act by failing to obtain approval from the U.S. Justice Department for more than 200 annexations and other land use changes in the county that could affect local election results.

City is growing too fast...RONALD ROACH ...Merced...6th letter...I have watched the population go from 10,000 people to around 71,000 now. I was one of the people dead set against UC Merced being built here. The infrastructure of roads in this town is the same as it has been for 44 years that I know of. I have watched my city services go from $46.56 Oct. 2002 to $71.56 Oct. 2006. Then also now there are articles stating the sewer plant is going to be expanded, at a cost of several million dollars more, which will double our sewer rates. have watched three school bond measures pass and are now on my property tax bill, and now talk of another one to pay for another new high school. In 2005 I witnessed the passage of a half-cent sales tax to pay for emergency services. Merced does not need more money, it needs better money management and to be held accountable for the constant waste in all departments.

Wary of Measure G ads...OTTO RIGAN...Atwater...7th letter...I just saw a portable electric blinking sign in Merced that said vote yes on Measure G. I have never been swamped by so much mail, news ads and lawn signs telling me to vote yes on Measure G. All these ads are done first class. I'm apprehensive of so much money being spent to convince me. It seems that there is more to this than fixing roads. People don't sponsor with so much money and not hope to get something in return. They aren't doing it only for a half-cent tax increase. I think there is more to this than we are told.

Nov. 2, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Lawsuit targets political jurisdictions
...John Ellis, Fresno Bee
http://dwb.fresnobee.com/local/story/12964194p-13617260c.html
Two Merced County residents have filed a lawsuit that claims multiple political jurisdictions in the county have undertaken more than 200 annexations and other related changes without federal approval, violating the Voting Rights Act...federal lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno, names Merced County, the Local Agency Formation Commission, the cities of Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Livingston and Los Banos, as well as 17 other irrigation, water, resource conservation and community service districts throughout the county. "This is the most massive example of noncompliance that I have ever seen," said Joaquin Avila, an attorney and Seattle University law professor who filed the suit on behalf of Felix Lopez and Elizabeth Ruiz. The suit doesn't seek to stop next week's election in the affected jurisdictions, but instead asks that certification of the results be delayed until approval for the changes is given by federal authorities, Avila said...also seeks class-action status for U.S. citizens of Spanish heritage who are registered to vote and are affected by the changes. A hearing has been scheduled Friday before U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger in which the plaintiffs will seek a temporary restraining order that could delay certification of Tuesday's election in the affected Merced County jurisdictions. Normally, obtaining Justice Department approval - known as a "preclearance" - is a formality. It happens more than 99% of the time, said Loyola Law School professor Richard L. Hasen, an expert in election law... "the failure to get preclearance is a problem in a lot of jurisdictions that are subject to the federal rules." According to the lawsuit, either the U.S. attorney general or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia must determine that any changes that affect voting "do not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group. "First approved in 1965, the Voting Rights Act targeted Southern states that had long used poll taxes and literacy tests to impede minority voting. In the 1970s, four California counties - Kings, Merced, Monterey and Yuba - were added. Under the act, the California counties must get federal permission for every change that affects voting. Examples include changes as small as moving a polling location or redrawing voting precincts, or as large as altering county supervisorial districts. A similar Monterey County case made news a month before the state's 2003 gubernatorial recall election...Justice Department quickly authorized the county's proposal... The latest Merced County lawsuit claims its Local Agency Formation Commission and the named jurisdictions have approved 172 annexations, 35 detachments, four formations and one consolidation without federal approval since Nov. 1, 1972, when Merced became a Voting Rights Act county...lawsuit claims Merced County's LAFCO has approved 10 Gustine annexations since November 1972 without getting the required federal approval...21 LAFCO-approved annexations for the Hilmar County Water District, 26 annexations for Los Banos and 39 annexations for Atwater - all lacking federal approval under the Voting Rights Act. Others, such as Dos Palos and Atwater, had not been served but had been alerted to the lawsuit via e-mail.

Nov. 1, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
We don't need Measure G
...Donald G. Bunch...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12960698p-13614021c.html
Measure G is totally unneeded because Proposition1A and 1B will solve the problem with our roads. If the measure was for city and county streets and roads only, then I might support it. A preponderance of the money in Measure G is dedicated to state highways that I pay for each time I buy gasoline. Who benefits from this sales tax measure? Follow the money to builders and developers.

Oct. 30, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
No new taxes
...Randy Henkle, Mariposa...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12954098p-13607996c.html
Less than 20 cents on the dollar reaches a child in school; the other 80 percent goes for administration costs...40 percent of what you make goes for taxes...Exxon-Mobil just ripped you for $10 billion this last quarter...in Merced, to be paying for 25 years for school bonds.
California rakes in about $5 billion a day in fuel tax...we are told in order to fix our roads we need another tax. Fresno...city has some extra money...trying to figure out how to spend it; get the picture? ...they hire a bunch of people to waste that money on administration costs...they will have figured out a new angle to tax you from a new direction... it is time to make our elected officials accountable to us.

Oct. 28, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
More taxes means more power for politicians
...Jim Cardoza
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12948144p-13602157c.html
Long before bilingual forms and cell phones, services like police, firemen and road maintenance were local government's top priorities. But now, no matter how fast the tax base grows, politicians routinely tell us we must pay more to sustain those vital functions...how can elected officials justify spending a dime on perks, charities and other nonessential expenditures? Pleading with overburdened taxpayers to raise their allowance would be straightforward, but not likely to bear fruit...instead, they choose to wring their hands in seemingly reflective and insightful public concern as they peddle a perception of impending crisis, such as too few cops or otherwise unfixable roadways. When voters bite the hook, the old money is then freed for use throwing around political weight. That political shell game often triumphs because it takes advantage of the widely believed fallacy that taxes are the result of need. The truth is, tax hikes are almost always about beliefs. Just five decades ago, a middle-class American family of four paid about 6 percent of their annual income in taxes of all types. Today, such a family pays well over 40 percent. This state of affairs has resulted from a combination of factors...: the politicians' desire for power, which is the ability to control money; the wasteful nature of bureaucracy, which shares the cancer cell's mission of growth for the sake of growth; and the massive power wielded by public employees unions, of which the California Legislature has long been an identifiable subsidiary. More taxes only encourage politicians to conjure new ways of expanding government. Stripped of sugarcoating, taxes are simply instruments of force used by the state to seize your money... Even less defensible is the enormous amount of resources government fritters away mindlessly within tail-chasing bureaucracies. Whereas private industry looks to streamline costs, bureaucracy's goal is to vaporize every cent in their budgets as a means of getting more next year. Presiding over such a world of waste, it is little wonder politicians view the perks and privileges they shuffle to each other as chump change. More taxes only encourage politicians to conjure new ways of expanding government. Why not insist their focus be limited to providing uncompromised essential services...

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Comments on Measure G

Submitted: Nov 04, 2006

Members of the public concerned that Merced County and Merced County Association of Governments immediately recycled Measure A as Measure G after the Primary Election defeat of Measure A, tried repeated times, via California Public Records Act requests, to obtain accurate, complete information about Measure G. Errors and inconsistencies appeared in both the County sample ballot and Measure G Voter Information Pamphlet.

Without the opportunity to view the documents before they were published, the public was unable to spot the errors and advise the County of them. Although officials made themselves available, they did not make most of the requested material available, critics of Measure G said Saturday.

The Measure G Voter Information Pamphlet, for example, calls the measure a "1/2-cent" tax on one page and a "1/2-percent" tax on another. Which is it: a half-cent sales tax per transaction or a half-percent per dollar sales tax on all transactions? local activists asked.

This is misleading "information." If it was not deliberately misleading, the public might have provided a helpful review of this propaganda-as-information before it was sent to every registered voter in the county between Oct. 10 and Oct. 16.

The publicly funded Measure G "information" pamphlet, printed to look exactly like a sample ballot pamphlet, also informs the public that the tax will start on "Oct. 1, 2006." If Merced County retailers, going into the Christmas season, had been allowed to review this document, they would probably have objected to this retroactive, probably illegal tax, critics of Measure G noted.

Members of the public also expressed concern about the accounting of campaign
contributions for measures A and G, which appear to commingle funds from both campaigns. Measure A failed in the Primary. Measure G is a different campaign by a different name in the General Election. Yet, local researchers found, the County recorded contributions to both campaigns as one campaign fund. This may be yet another irregularity in Merced County elections administration.

Another irregularity critics point out is that MCAG or the County or both of them have appointed a citizens oversight committee to monitor the spending of Measure G funds before the citizens have even voted on Measure G, which may or may not be the same as Measure A, but no one is quite sure because neither the County or MCAG have released the actual text of Measure G to the public for review. By the way, neither proponents nor opponents of Measure G, whose comments are printed in the sample ballot, were allowed to see the official text of Measure G, on which they commented.

The public is also concerned about the accounting of campaign contributions for
measures A and G. These funds appear to be commingled. It is understandable that if a candidate wins a primary election or gets enough votes to gain a runoff, campaign finance accounting could roll over the amounts into the general election period.

However, critics are concerned that, since Measure A was defeated in the primary election, accounting that presents cumulative contribution amounts in Measure G accounts that include Measure A contributions is irregular.

Critics of the county planning process are also concerned about a transportation plan promoted by the Merced County Association of Governments that is separate and unrelated to the proposed update to the county General Plan and numerous city and community plan updates now in progress. It looks like whenever lawful planning processes threaten, developers in Merced just pile on another layer of plans and more taxes on the people.

On Friday, the federal court ruled to bar certification of the elections in four Merced cities due to violations of the Voting Rights Act. County elections irregularities appear to be multiplying. Meanwhile, Rep. Dennis Cardoza sits on the third floor of the Merced County Administration building, presumably mulling his economic options as the County administration crumbles beneath his feet, noted one critic of government in Merced County.

Critics of Measure G speculated that the campaign for Measure G might achieve $1 million in campaign funding. However, the public will not know until the last campaign finance period is reported, well after the General Election.

Measure G remains a regressive tax: an increase on sales tax that will fall hardest on the poorest for the benefit of the richest.

Bill Hatch

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Federal judge rejects developers' efforts to negate vernal pool species' protection

Submitted: Nov 03, 2006

Butte Environmental Council * California Native Plant Society Defenders of Wildlife * San Joaquin Raptor and Wildlife Rescue Center

For Immediate Release
November 3, 2006
Contact:
Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife, (916) 201-8277
Barbara Vlamis, Butte Environmental Council, (530) 891-6424
Carol Witham, Calif. Native Plant Society, (916) 452-5440

Court Invalidates U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Exclusion of Nearly 900,000 Acres of Vernal Pool Critical Habitat

Developers Efforts to Strip Protections Rejected

Sacramento, CA -- Yesterday, Federal District Court Judge William B. Shubb issued a major ruling overturning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) decision to omit 900,000 acres in 11 counties from its 2005 final rule designating critical habitat for 15 imperiled vernal pool plants and animals. Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands found throughout California. Judge Shubb also rejected industry’s attempt to overturn the protections for more than 800,000 acres that FWS did protect as critical habitat.

The court agreed with the six conservation organizations involved in the case that FWS failed to look at whether its decision to eliminate critical habitat protections for vernal pool grasslands in Butte, Fresno, Madera, Merced, Monterey, Placer, Sacramento, Shasta, Solano, Stanislaus, and Tehama counties affected the future recovery of the vernal pool species.

In sending FWS back to the drawing board, Judge Shubb accepted the central argument of the conservation organizations that in excluding vernal pool critical habitat within 11 California counties, FWS continued its long history of failing to consider the essential importance of such designation to the ultimate recovery of the vernal pool species. With more than 90 percent of California’s vernal pool wetlands already destroyed, meaningful habitat protection is essential to ensuring that the species not only avoid extinction, but recover to the point where they can be taken off the endangered species list. FWS has 120 days to issue a new critical habitat rule.

“This is a big victory in the longstanding effort to protect and recover vernal pool grasslands,” stated Kim Delfino, California program director of Defenders of Wildlife. “This decision makes it clear that Fish and Wildlife Service cannot ignore the recovery needs of species when designating critical habitat.”

The court also rejected almost every single argument by the building industry’s challenge to FWS’s decision to designate more than 858,846 acres of vernal pool grasslands as critical habitat. Ironically, the court did agree with the builders that FWS failed to explain adequately why it excluded UC Merced and a Highway 99 project in Tehama County from critical habitat—both of which were 11th hour exclusions directed by Department of Interior political appointee, Julie Macdonald. Macdonald—a civil engineer by training—was recently the subject of a major expose in the Washington Post for her consistent rejection of staff scientists’ recommendations to protect imperiled wildlife. Macdonald has a history of improper meddling in vernal pool issues, and a previous critical habitat rule had to be redone after she inserted economic analysis that vastly exaggerated the potential costs of designation.

“We are elated that the court rejected the challenge to FWS’s decision to designate more than 800,000 acres of vernal pool grasslands as critical habitat,” stated Barbara Vlamis, executive director of the Butte Environmental Council. “At least for those grasslands, the developers will have to ensure that their projects will not undermine the future recovery of these 15 imperiled plants and animals.”

This recent decision is only the latest in a decade long effort to protect vernal pool grasslands under the Endangered Species Act. In August 2003, the Bush Administration issued a final critical habitat rule for vernal pools in which it excluded more than one million acres and six counties on economic grounds. In January 2004, the conservation groups successfully challenging the 2003 rule resulting in the court ordering FWS to reconsider its exclusions. In August 2005, FWS issued its new final rule excluding nearly 900,000 acres of grasslands. In December 2005, the conservation organizations filed suit challenging FWS’s exclusion of the five counties.

“As vernal pool grasslands are ripped up, they are replaced by sprawl,” stated Carol Witham of the California Native Plant Society. “Designating vernal pool grasslands as critical habitat will not stop sprawl, but it will make developers and local governments think hard about how their land use decisions impact the future recovery of these unique 15 imperiled plants and animals.”

The court ordered FWS to reconsider its decision to exclude the nearly 900,000 acres and eleven counties and issue a new critical habitat rule in 120 days. The current critical habitat designation of more than 800,000 acres of vernal pool grasslands remains intact.

“Now that FWS must consider the benefits to the recovery of the 15 vernal pool plants and animals from designating critical habitat, we believe that the Fish and Wildlife Service will no longer be able to justify its decision to exclude half the vernal pool critical habitat acreage,” stated Lydia Miller of the San Joaquin Raptor and Wildlife Rescue Center.

Protein-rich invertebrates and crustaceans, as well as the roots and leaves of vernal pool plants provide an important seasonal food source for waterfowl as well as other non-migratory bird species. According to the California Academy of Sciences, Pacific Flyway migratory birds and 19 percent of all wintering waterfowl in the continental United States take respite in vernal pools.

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Pombo: sincerity, depth, conviction

Submitted: Nov 01, 2006

To put the story below in layman’s terms, Pombo, knowing in September he would have a tough race for reelection, still put $25,000 from his RichPAC into the prodevelopment Tracy mayoral candidate, Vice Mayor Brent Ives, running against Celeste Garamendi, the slow-growth candidate, who is John Garamendi’s sister. John, now state insurance commissioner, is running for lieutenant governor.

Maybe separate appearances by both the President and his wife trump a slow-growth Garamendi in the district. Maybe Mrs. Bush will provide a bumpito to get Pombo back even with the Democrat, McNerney, a man whose name people have spelling correctly.

Pombo’s supporters include the Tsakapoulos family, who have development interests in Tracy that include Tracy Hills, the proposed project on Corral Hollow Road that will adjoin UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s proposed level 4 biowarfare laboratory. Many Democrats backing Phil Angelides, Angelo Tsakapoulos’ protégée, believe that publicity during the Primary about the millions Tsakapoulos dumped into Angelides’ campaign got him the nomination and destroyed his chance for election.

Badlands has consistently held that Pombo is a straight shooter who acts forthrightly on his fundamental political belief: that whatever is good for the Pombo Family real estate interests is good for America and the World. In this contribution to the Tracy mayoral campaign, Pombo was being absolutely consistent. The Number One American value in Pombo’s political philosophy is promoting growth that increases property values of land around Tracy that is owned by the Pombo Family. Some may find this a narrow political philosophy, but it has always been evident that RichPAC himself has held it deeply and sincerely and is even willing to sacrifice campaign cash to protect Pombo Family real estate interests.

Maybe, Mrs. Bush's appearance will make up the difference. Anyway, if an incumbent in San Joaquin County can’t find a way to steal at least two percent of the vote, he does not deserve to be an incumbent in San Joaquin County.
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Oct. 31, 2006
Modesto Bee
Cash for ads to beat Tracy mayor hopeful
http://www.modbee.com/2006/election/story/12957342p
Robin Hindery (AP)
TRACY — Rep. Richard Pombo has contributed $25,000 from his campaign fund to defeat a Tracy mayoral candidate who favors a slower approach to development. Pombo, who has extensive land holdings in the area, is a longtime proponent of development there. The seven-term Republican's donation is part of a larger effort by prodevelopment groups to protect their interests in the rapidly growing city. Tracy's population has more than doubled since 1990. The city emerged from its agricultural past to become a haven for Bay Area transplants searching for affordable housing. Pombo's donation came from his Washington, D.C.-based political action committee, Rich PAC. On Sept. 25, he transferred $25,000 to the independent Hat PAC of Sacramento to help fund television and radio advertising against Democratic mayoral candidate Celeste Garamendi. Garamendi is an outspoken champion of slow growth in Tracy who helped lead a successful fight in 2000 to pass a law that slashed planned residential development by half. Her family's connection to Pombo stretches back to 1992, when he narrowly defeated her sister-in-law, Patti Garamendi, in his first bid for Congress. Pombo's campaign did not return calls Monday. Garamendi's opponent, Vice Mayor Brent Ives, has pushed for a deal to let two development companies skirt the slow-growth law in exchange for at least $40 million for new public sports facilities. The companies would be allowed to build as many as 9,700homes, starting in 2012 when Tracy's cap on new building ends. One of the developers, AKT Development, is owned by the influential Tsakopoulos family, whose members also have donated a few thousand dollars to Pombo's re-election campaign this year. Garamendi said the unprecedented $25,000 donation is allowing special-interest groups to sway the election. "The PACs are laundering money in order to provide a shield to development interests," she said. "This is a new low, bringing the corruption of Washington to our small community of Tracy." She said she pledged not to accept any money from political action committees. Hat PAC's contributors include Manteca-based AKF Development and Northern California grocery store operator PAQ Inc. Those groups have helped Hat PAC spend nearly $58,000 on anti-Garamendi advertising over a one-week period starting Oct. 11, according to the committee's campaign finance records.

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Measure G press update

Submitted: Oct 30, 2006

Merced, among other Valley counties are producing measures for the General Election to increase sales taxes to pay for roads. These roads -- as the top contributors to these campaigns, public officials, and everybody else knows -- will not reduce traffic congestion. But, business is business, and Measure G supporters don’t care about consequences. They will just pave the way for more growth and more traffic congestion. That’s why hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to convince the public to vote against its own interests for more growth, more traffic, worse air and, not so indirectly, utility-rate hikes – because development does not pay for itself or provide stable employment at any wage. It is a boom that busts.

But, our congressman tells the local McClatchy outlet his latest vision, which some say he stole from Jerry McNerney as part of a move to distance himself from Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Crook-Tracy:

"I believe we can make this area the Silicon Valley of renewable energy,” Cardoza said. “There are technological advances that could come out of this university that we are not even contemplating." – Merced Sun-Star, Oct. 27, 2006.

In one sentence, the Incumbent Boy manages to trivialize the San Joaquin Valley, Silicon Valley, renewable energy and technological innovation and invention.

The San Joaquin Valley is the “Silicon Valley of Agriculture.” It remains in the forefront of agricultural technological innovation – at least while it has enough agricultural land to be worth the effort.

Every local growth hustler in America has been claiming Silicon Valley can be transported to his or her little burg or rust bowl – but there is only one Silicon Valley.

UC Riversides, Irvines and Merceds may multiply by land-deal boondoggle, but there is only one Cal.

Real inventors of alternative energy technology tend to be like brahma bulls in milking barns, not good little academics or “one voice” politicos.

Urban sprawl does not "another Silicon Valley" make.

The Pomboza (Pombo/Cardoza) continues to want one thing: real estate development. It is about the least innovative policy imaginable for the San Joaquin Valley.

Measure G creates a moving target for development by opening up new growth corridors. In the process it makes a mockery out of planning, the county General Plan update and all the other community and special urban development plans.

Sooner or later, the Federal Highway Administration must look at funding more highway construction in the nation’s second-worst air pollution basin. Measure G is part of a political game to make the FHA look away from Valley air pollution for as long as possible.
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Oct. 29, 2006

Fresno Bee
Keep our tax dollars at home...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/274/v-printerfriendly/story/10060.html
If we don't help ourselves, our money subsidizes other counties. There are plenty of good reasons for Valley voters to approve transportation sales tax measures on Nov. 7... There are 10 counties with transportation sales taxes on the Nov. 7 ballot. Eight are in the Valley; the exceptions are Santa Barbara, Amador and Orange counties. Fresno and San Joaquin counties are voting on renewals. Kern, Tulare, Madera, Merced and Stanislaus are voting on new measures. Seventeen counties already have such taxes in place. All are in the Bay Area or Southern California, with the exception of Fresno and San Joaquin counties. Most of those taxes are set in place for many years; Los Angeles' tax is permanent. Vote "yes" on Measure T in Madera County, Measure R in Tulare County, Measure I in Kern County and Measure G in Merced County. Vote "yes" on Fresno County's Measure C. Keep our tax dollars at home to work for us, not our neighbors on the coast.

Oct. 28, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
More taxes means more power for politicians...Jim Cardoza
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12948144p-13602157c.html
Long before bilingual forms and cell phones, services like police, firemen and road maintenance were local government's top priorities. But now, no matter how fast the tax base grows, politicians routinely tell us we must pay more to sustain those vital functions...how can elected officials justify spending a dime on perks, charities and other nonessential expenditures? Pleading with overburdened taxpayers to raise their allowance would be straightforward, but not likely to bear fruit...instead, they choose to wring their hands in seemingly reflective and insightful public concern as they peddle a perception of impending crisis, such as too few cops or otherwise unfixable roadways. When voters bite the hook, the old money is then freed for use throwing around political weight. That political shell game often triumphs because it takes advantage of the widely believed fallacy that taxes are the result of need. The truth is, tax hikes are almost always about beliefs. Just five decades ago, a middle-class American family of four paid about 6 percent of their annual income in taxes of all types. Today, such a family pays well over 40 percent. This state of affairs has resulted from a combination of factors...: the politicians' desire for power, which is the ability to control money; the wasteful nature of bureaucracy, which shares the cancer cell's mission of growth for the sake of growth; and the massive power wielded by public employees unions, of which the California Legislature has long been an identifiable subsidiary. More taxes only encourage politicians to conjure new ways of expanding government. Stripped of sugarcoating, taxes are simply instruments of force used by the state to seize your money... Even less defensible is the enormous amount of resources government fritters away mindlessly within tail-chasing bureaucracies. Whereas private industry looks to streamline costs, bureaucracy's goal is to vaporize every cent in their budgets as a means of getting more next year. Presiding over such a world of waste, it is little wonder politicians view the perks and privileges they shuffle to each other as chump change. More taxes only encourage politicians to conjure new ways of expanding government. Why not insist their focus be limited to providing uncompromised essential services...

Complain, or change the way campaigns are run...Jim Boren
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12948146p-13602167c.html
Elections have become the province of the special interests and political professionals. That has driven down voter turnout and increased political cynicism. A survey released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California says voters are discouraged in this year's campaign because the candidates aren't talking about issues that concern them. David Schecter, an assistant professor of political science at California State University, Fresno, says voter turnout is going down for several reasons other than negative campaigning. Many voters don't think their vote counts and others are frustrated with the political system...also points out that gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts limit competition and interest in those races.

Spending out of control...Ted Brodalski...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12948147p-13602176c.html
...school districts demand money from new home buyers by intimidating the builders to pay higher fees. They get funding per student from Sacramento. They demand money using school bonds to correct deferred maintenance and build new schools. There is never enough money to meet their demands. The bonds are directed at real property. This is the topper that is asking for our vote for a constitutional amendment and statute to create a statewide parcel tax of $50 per parcel (Prop. 88). No one in education wants to talk about the broken school spending.

Oct. 27, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Politicians ruining state...ROBERT C. SHERWOOD, Los Banos...Once again the rulers of perpetual debt (the California state government) are spending more than we pay them to spend. Business is good in California...the gas tax is up higher...Property taxes are up higher... state sales tax revenues are higher...state even got about $400 million income tax from the sale of Google stock... If our local officials don't succumb to this coercion and get the voters to pass a local sales tax increase for good sounding causes like schools or roads, then we are not a "self-help" county and cannot receive matching funds or other funds that are long overdue. That compares to a thief offering to sell you back the goods he has stolen from you at a half-percent more than the price that you have already paid for the goods. Remember the "pothole tax" a few years ago? This doubled the road taxes and was supposed to keep them fixed. What did the state do with that money? Remember the state lottery? Vote no on any tax increase because it is never enough.

Oct. 25, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Measure G half page ad...too large to send out
A6 Wednesday, October 25, 2006 LOCAL&REGION Merced Sun-Star, Merced, Calif
Vote Yes! on G...Myths and Truths about Measure G paid for by Merced County Transportation Alliance...FPPC #1281519
Myth Truth
The Cities and County already have money in their budgets for roads....Yes...most general fund money budgeted...
The gas tax should pay for our roads..............................................................Yes...CA gas tax...money allocated based on population.
The State of CA should pay for Hwy. 99...........................................................Yes...we can't wait that long...
The State of CA will take Measure G money for its own projects................No...Measure G is a locally approved and a locally controlled tax...
All Measure G money will go toward highways..............................................No...approx. 1/2 of the funds divided among all cities and uncorporated areas throughout the County for local street and county road repair
There is no Measure G money for local projects...........................................See above response.
Measure G will pay for new roads needed as a result of all new
development.........................................................................................................Projects chosen for Measure G funding include maintenance and improvements to EXISTING roads
County legislators will use this money for projects other than
transportation.......................................................................................................Measure G is a special tax...can ONLY be spent on the transportation projects and programs that VOTERS APPROVE.
The majority of voters don't support a transportation measure..................In June...62.8% voted in SUPPORT...we need two thirds...67%.

Modesto Bee
Want good roads in Merced? It'll cost nearly $50 million...Ellie Wooten...Community Voices
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12933540p-13590144c.html
The simple truth is Merced's streets and roads are not aging well. The solution is to keep the roads in shape with regular maintenance and repair...there is a gap between the amount of roadwork that needs to be done and the money available. Until we obtain the money, there will be rough roads ahead.

Oct. 24, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Road initiative misleading...David A. Bultena, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12929954p-13586799c.html
I recently received a copy of the voter pamphlet for Measure G...first page marked "24G1" and noted first of all, at the top it says "Measure A." I think Measure A was the last attempt to pass the sales tax. under "Measure A," the text asks the question, "Shall Merced County voters approve a one-half cent transportation?" Note that it says "one-half cent" and not "one-half percent." In the paragraph titled "Summary," the same language is used a second time. It seems to me that there is a great difference between collecting a half-percent sales tax and a half-cent sales tax. ..with all the high salaried people in charge of the county, members of the supervisors, etc., someone would have been smart enough to know the difference between the income from a "half-cent" sales tax and a "half-percent"sales tax.

Vote down higher taxes...Wayne Hein, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12929955p-13586809c.html
Utopia is soon to descend upon our Merced community, according to the proponents of Measure G. For the third time in four years, the "powers that be" are trying to brainwash the voters that this tax issue is a "must!" nine major donors have given approximately $130,000 for convincing purposes. Aren't some heavily funded developers anticipating with glee that if passed the measure will give a boost to their development activities? And where is the limit to the sales tax? Proponents say that it is only -- repeat only -- a "few dollars" per year. Isn't that what the same voices said when the last sales tax increased to our current amount? Must Merced be in the same class as San Francisco and San Rafael? And when we are told in a few years that a need (?) exists, and a bond is needed for the funding, can we not expect the same voices to tell us that the added amount would be "only a few dollars?"

Measure G not the answer...Robert Wood, Atwater...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12929956p-13586797c.html
Measure G is back again and I don't like it at all. I voted against it in June, I voted against it in 2002, and I'll vote against it again on Nov. 7. Special interest groups are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make voters believe that more taxes is the answer. Take all the gas tax money that we pay at the pump and spend it where it is supposed to be spent, on the roads! The message is, nothing gets done unless we say yes to Measure G. I say take some of the thousands of dollars that is spent to push this unnecessary tax and use it to fix our streets. Please don't let our local government put a gun to your head with this tax increase. Tell them to fix our roads with the money they already have. Twice before, we told them the answer is no. Vote no on Measure G and say no one more time.

Oct. 22, 2006

Stockton Record
'Taxpayers not only have subsidized, but will continue to subsidize, developers'...Dario Marenco
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061022/OPED02/610220306&SearchID=73260638368660
In 1990, when Measure K was placed on the ballot, one of the key features presented to voters was that a regional transportation impact fee would be placed on all future developments...15 years late, San Joaquin County Council of Governments is just now implementing this feature with a minimum fee of $2,500 for every new home built. That means developers have pocketed - and taxpayers have unnecessarily paid - at least $200 million for developments the past 15 years. If Measure K passes again...taxpayers not only have subsidized, but will continue to subsidize, developers...there are various loopholes in the Measure K renewal resolution that would enable developers to avoid paying the regional transportation impact fees under certain circumstances....costs... The San Joaquin Council of Governments, a 26-employee agency with an annual budget of $4.3 million, spent $86,000 for travel and conferences in 2002... Both Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, have staffs that cost our taxpayers over $1 million to represent these identical interests. Obviously, we already have professional, well-paid representatives in place in San Joaquin County and Washington, D.C., to protect and work for these same county interests. How then is a one-week, 50-person, $90,000 trip to Washington, D.C. - organized and promoted by the Council of Governments but paid for by taxpayers - justified to make our interests known?

Oct. 21, 2006

Merced Sun-Star

Your Views: Letters to the Editor:
B2 Saturday, October 21, 2006 Merced Sun-Star

Community at stake
Editor: We must do something locally to make the necessary improvements to our roads. Voting yes for Measure G is the answer. It's not just the porholes -- it's the long-term economic vitality of our community that's at stake. Having adequate and well-maintained roads is vital if we are to continue to meet the needs of our existing business community and citizens and continue to attract new business to Merced County.
If we truly want to preserve our quality of life, vote yes on Measure G.
Bob Carpenter, Merced

Who should pay road tax
Editor: Why more taxes to pay for streets, roads and highways? Why should law-abiding citizens in Merced County or any county be asked to pay more taxes to repair streets, roads and highways? They are already paying one of the highest gasoline taxes of any state in the United States and using more gasoline than any other state and the gasoline tax is supposed to be used to build and repair roads
Those who ought to be charged extra to pay for streets, roads and highways are the law-breaking speeders who ignore all posted speed limit signs. However; there is practically no visible law enforcers on any of our streets, roads and highways. My wife and I recently drove all the way across the United States and only saw three highway patrols. We went from Atwater to Gallup, N.M., before we saw the first highway patrol.
Just think of how many millions of dollars in fines that could be collected each day if the millions of California speeders were stopped every day. Hardly any drivers are obeying the posted speed limit signs, not only the drivers of autos, but truck drivers as well.
Never will I vote for a tax to repair streets, roads and highways until this situation is corrected. It is no wonder that so many people are being killed in auto accidents at the speeds they are traveling on the highways.
Lloyd 'Lefty" Stepp, Atwater

Fresno Bee
Group disputes EPA air ruling...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/v-printerfriendly/story/8888.html
Environmentalists last week accused air authorities of ignoring pollution violations in their haste to acknowledge a milestone cleanup of dust and soot in the San Joaquin Valley. Earthjustice, an Oakland-based legal watchdog, threatened a lawsuit over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's finding on Tuesday that the Valley has not violated the dust and soot standard in three years. Earthjustice lawyer Paul Cort said authorities disregarded readings last November that showed violations in Bakersfield and Corcoran. Earthjustice's allegation refers to secondary monitors used to help forecast daily pollution warnings, district planning director Scott Nester said. The monitors are in Corcoran, Bakersfield and Tracy, and they are not part of the federally sanctioned network. Kerry Drake, associate director of the EPA's regional air division, confirmed that the readings from the secondary monitors don't count unless they have been operated in accordance with federal regulation.

Oct. 20, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Your Views:
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12916106p-13574265c.html
Roads not safe for cyclists...Dough Fluetsch, Merlock Athletic Association, Merced...2nd letter...The roads, due to budget constraints of our city and county officials, have been deteriorating to the point where safety has become a major concern for cyclists. Measure G will enable each community within Merced County to address safety issues for bicyclists and drivers alike.
Re-inventing the wheel...Beverly Quigley, Merced...3rd letter...I have a simple question regarding Measure G... Doesn't Measure G basically request that I pay those taxes again (matching funds)? Why would I pay for one purchase twice? What happened to the monies I've been paying for 13 years?

Oct, 19, 2006

Merced Sun
Builder outlines coming shops...Leslie Albrechthttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12911855p-13570464c.htmlA shopping center so grand that its creators call it a "power center" was the star attraction at a Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce event updating members on new commercial development Wednesday...breakfast gathering highlighted several developments -- some still just concept drawings, others under construction -- that will shape Merced's shopping future...so-called "power center" is the Merced Gateway Park, a 133-acre regional shopping center slated for construction between Gerard Avenue and Mission Avenue on the east side of Coffee...center would offer world-class shopping on par with Fresno's River Park shopping center. Street in southeast Merced...include office space, hotels and possibly a movie theater. The site is now pasture land that's belonged to Pluim's family...shopping center will sit next to 196 condominiums that developer Matthews Homes plans to build at the corner of Gerard Avenue and Coffee Street....a half-mile to the west on Gerard Avenue is the site where Wal-Mart wants to build. Other projects highlighted at the chamber breakfast included: • A 15-acre shopping center planned for Yosemite Avenue between El Redondo Drive and Compass Pointe Drive (between R Street and Highway 59) in North Merced. • A 26-acre shopping center across Coffee Street from Merced Gateway Park called Merced Forum... • A neighborhood shopping center now under construction at Yosemite Park Way and Parsons Street

County expects voter turnout to be strong...Corinne Reillyhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12911857p-13570484c.htmlTwice as many Merced County residents are expected to cast ballots on Nov. 7 compared to last June's primary election. As of Wednesday morning, 92,826 people are registered to vote in the county...expected to climb until Monday, the last day to register to vote in the November election. Only a quarter of Merced's registered voters cast ballots in June...county expects 45 to 50 percent of registered voters to show up in November. Stephen Nicholson, a political science professor at UC Merced who studies elections and voting behavior...high campaign expenditures on statewide ballot items will likely bring more voters to the polls. National issues, such as the war in Iraq and recent scandals within the Republican party, could also boost voter turnout...Measure G, a half-cent sales tax measure to fund local transportation improvements, could also bring more voters to the polls this time around. Brown said some of the 21,000 absentee ballots the county has mailed to local voters since Oct. 10 are already coming back, but the county has yet to begin counting them. Local voters can request absentee ballots through Oct. 31. Those not registered to vote can do so for November's election through Monday.Merced Sun-Star Tip List:

City street named after capital of North Dakota is misspelled...Leslie Albrechthttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12911861p-13570456c.htmlWe're a university town and we need to start acting like it," said an anonymous tipster who left a message for the Tip List last week...Loughborough Drive in Merced is blighted with a typo. The street, like 18 others in the neighborhood, was named for a state capital: Bismarck, North Dakota. Unfortunately, the sign reads "Bismark." Local fifth-graders should be able to spot the misspelled street sign right away if they've been studying hard. Fifth-graders are responsible for knowing the location of all 50 states and the names of their capitals, said Nanette Rahilly, director of curriculum for Merced City School District. But she noted that the curriculum doesn't say anything about actually spelling the capitals correctly."I don't know how long that sign has been there," said Lesch of the Bismark sign. "It might be 30 or 40 years old. I'm surprised no one has said anything."

Oct. 18, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Be a responsible editor...David A. Ginsberg, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12907856p-13566807c.html
I read where you are endorsing Measure G, even on the front page. I can understand that endorsement if it is a corporate endorsement. After all, the Sun-Star is a major user of the county's roads and it makes sense that better roads mean a more efficient and therefore a more profitable newspaper. If, however, you are writing as an individual, then shame on you...you are in a position to see that the result of its passage would mean more land speculation, more development, loss of productive agricultural land, and the pollution of our Valley...the Sun-Star editor is in a position to see the effect another half-cent sales tax would have on the wage-earners of this county who are having trouble with increasing house payments, utilities, energy and food costs. ($82.50 a thousand doesn't sound like much until you are financing a $10,000 car). You are in a better position than anyone to investigate into whose pocket our gas taxes and gas sales taxes go that are some of the highest in the country that are supposed to pay for our roads. You are in a better position than anyone to realize that with the next serious public threat (like flood control) our elected leaders will be coming again, with hat in hand, asking for more money but we will already be committed to 30 years of higher taxes for roads that by then won't work. Yes, shame on you, Mr. Editor. You know better.

Vote down taxes...Geraldine Alsop, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12907852p-13566781c.html
It has come to my attention that there are four propositions on the November ballot to raise our taxes...I am 84 years old this November. I am a property owner so anything that undermines Prop. 13 is like shooting property owners; we can be taxed right out of our homes if you don't go to vote no on Proposition 88. Proposition 89...having to pay taxes for ads that attack candidates and causes you support, and support the candidates and causes you oppose. Proposition 86...hospital industry trying to get back some of their losses on treating the uninsured by allowing them to charge taxpayers more than they charge insurance companies for the same services. Proposition 87 will increase California taxes.

Modesto Bee
Readers sound off on the coming election
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/12901954p-13561399c.html
Measures G, K pave way for growth...Robby Avilla, Stevinson...Merced County's half-cent sales tax for transportation, Measure G, is equivalent to Stanislaus County's Measure K. As both counties fill up with massive subdivision growth, we are told that we cannot lure industries and jobs until we fix the roads. However, if we do the large road projects that state matching funds will address, we can be assured that even more massive housing tracts will be approved. It is a Catch-22 situation. Give us measures that truly do just fix and maintain our roads, instead of these top-heavy measures that will create grand roadway projects for still more overdevelopment. When a tiny town like Stevinson, with a population of 400, is asked to absorb a 3,500-unit gated community, the situation has grown out of control. In Merced County, the developers have financed the heck out of Measure G. Of course they have — it literally paves the way for their projects. Put the brakes on developer's megaprojects and vote "no" on Measures G and K.

Oct. 17, 2007

Merced Sun-Star
Vote no on taxes...Nancy Hart...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12901776p-13561215c.html
If passed, these proposals will cost you and me several hundred dollars every single year for decades. I have never seen such a flood of proposed taxes and bonds as there is this time around. The Merced Sun-Star has pointed out that Measure G and E alone will cost the average family per year $83 and $90 respectively, totaling $173. That does not include the following: Proposition lB, Proposition 1C, Proposition 1D, Proposition 1E, Proposition 84, Proposition 86, Proposition 87, Proposition 88, Proposition 89 -- $200 million in new taxes annually to pay for political campaigns, also Measure E and G as outlined above. It won't stop here either. More and more bond issues will be introduced as the years go by. Even when a bond issue is defeated, it keeps coming back. Look at Measure G which has been resubmitted under new names three times in the past four years.

Oct. 16, 2006

Fresno Bee
Road levy will need a bevy...Russell Clemings
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12901245p-13560698c.html
County's Measure C...proposed 20-year extension of the half-cent transportation sales tax, which is due to expire next summer...
half-cent tax first was enacted in 1986, only a simple majority was required. It got about 57.5%. Now, for the proposed extension, a two-thirds vote is required. A previous extension attempt in 2002 won 54% approval, but by then, a court ruling had already raised the bar, so it failed. The 2002 effort also was crippled. This time, local leaders have crafted a spending plan for the 20-year extension that divides $1.7 billion in expected revenues among three major purposes - public transit, local street repairs and improvements, and major streets and highways. Four counties - Merced, Monterey, Napa and Solano - tried to get local transportation sales taxes approved in the June primary. All failed. Only Merced, with 63%, even came close. Ten counties are trying in November, including Merced and Tulare, both of which have failed previously, and Madera, where a half-cent tax expired last year after a failed extension effort in 2002. The largest share of contributions to the committee so far comes from the building industry and associated businesses...Former California Secretary of State Bill Jones, now chairman of Fresno-based Pacific Ethanol, gave $10,000. Jones and Smith are co-chairmen of the chamber's committee.

Oct. 15, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
10-15-06Merced Sun-StarSales tax rates in California...Source: California State Board of Equalization...10-14-06A 8 Saturday, October 14, 2006 BACK PAGE Merced Sun-Star, Merced, Calif.
Madera County 7.25%
Marin County 7.75%
City of San Rafael 8.25%
Merced County 7.25%
City of Merced 7.75%
San Francisco County 8.50%
San Joaquin County 7.75%
San Joaquin County, City of Stockton 8.00%
Stanislaus County 7.375%

Major Donors to Measure G...Source: Merced County Board of Elections...10-14-06Merced Sun-Star, Merced Calif. LOCAL&REGION Saturday, October 14, 2006 A7Business Location AmountBrookfield Castle LLC , Del Mar $27,500
A. Teichert & Son, Sacramento $
E&J Gallo Winery, Modesto $15,000
Foster Farms, Livingston $15,000
K. Hovanian Forecast Homes, Sacramento $15,000
WellingtonCorporation, Morgan Hill $10,000
Team 31, Inc. , Morgan Hill $10,000
Atwater East Investors, Danville $10,000
Ferrari Investment Company, Balico $15,000

Major Donors to Measure A...Source: Merced County Board of Elections...10-14-06Merced Sun-Star, Merced Calif. LOCAL&REGION Saturday, October 14, 2006
California Alliance for Jobs, Sacramento $50,000
Atwater East Land Develop. Co., Danville $15,000
Ranchwood Homes, Merced $15,000
Ferrari Investment Co. , Turlock $15,000
KB Home Central Valley Inc. , Sacramento $15,000
Gallo Cattle Co., Atwater $10,000
H/S Development Co., Bakersfield $10,000
Florsheim Land, LLC , Stockton $15,000
Crosswinds Development, Novi, MI $15,000
Brookfield Sac. Holdings , Sacramento $15,500
Lennar Communities , San Ramon $10,000
A. Teichert & Son, Sacramento $10,000
Granite Construction, Watsonville $10,000

Modesto Bee
Road to Progress: Merced Co. needs road tax, too: Yes on Measure G...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/2006/election/2006_progress/story/12898807p-13558229c.html
Editor's note: Measure G is Merced County's version of Measure K. The following is an editorial reprinted from the Oct. 7 edition of the Merced Sun-Star. Have Merced County's roads improved since June?...no...June as a reference point because that's when Measure A, a half-cent sales tax increase proposal to help fix our dilapidated streets and highways, narrowly failed to get the required two-thirds of the vote to pass. Had it passed, a long list of projects to improve our roads would have swung into motion by now -- most bolstered with state and federal funds that only are available to counties that pass "self-help" tax increases. Now, Measure G -- which essentially is identical to Measure A -- is on the November ballot. Voters must vote "yes." Why?...there's simply no other way to get the transportation dollars this community, No one has a better idea because there isn't one that is realistic or makes sense.

Road to Progress: No matter which way you look, we need to pass half-cent sales tax...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898795p-13558233c.html
We, the citizens of Stanislaus County, are in the driver's seat...to our transportation future, and we're at a crossroads...we can see the mistakes of the last 15 years...other counties were willing to put their own money into local roads. With the passage of Measure K...half-cent increase in the sales tax from 7.375 cents on the dollar to 7.875 cents...1 billion over the next 30 years, and that money would help pay for several new interchanges on Highway 99 and for making Highway 219 a four-lane road across the northern part of the county...provide money for cities to fix dangerous intersections and to fill some of our infamous potholes...
provide money for transit for seniors and the disabled, and to boost commuter rail. Opposition to Measure K centers on two themes - mistrust of government and a dislike of higher taxes. All the money will be generated and spent within Stanislaus County. Local elected officials will make the spending decisions, with strong oversight by a citizens' committee.

Road to Progress: Who will keep an eye on how Measure K's funds are spent...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898794p-13558232c.html
Spending decisions will be made by local elected officials - mayors, council members and county supervisors - and those officials will have a citizens' committee looking over their shoulders...expenditures will be audited annually in a document to be made available to the public. The policy board: It consists of all five county supervisors; three members of the Modesto City Council; and one member each from the Turlock, Ceres, Oakdale, Riverbank, Patterson, Newman, Hughson and Waterford councils. The technical advisory committee: This consists of the nine city managers and the county's chief executive officer, or their designees. The Citizens Advisory Committee: This veers from the current StanCOG organization. Measure K contains specific qualifications and responsibilities for the citizens oversight committee, which would be in place by July 1. Each city and the county will appoint one member, who will serve without pay. Members cannot be an elected official or a staff member of any city, county or state transportation agency. Members can serve no more than two four-year terms.

Road to Progress: San Joaquin gets money's worth from its version of Measure K...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898788p-13558221c.html
San Joaquin County's roads are better than the roads in Stanislaus...Fifteen years ago, San Joaquin County voters decided to tax themselves a half-cent on most purchases, dedicating the money to fixing roads and building new ones...has completed 19 major projects. Santa Clara County was one of the first to pass a self-help sales tax in 1976... Los Angeles County has two permanent sales taxes (a half-cent each)... There also are permanent half-percent taxes in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. In all, there are 17 self-help counties and five agencies (such as BART) that have permanent sales taxes dedicated to transportation. Nearly 85 percent of all Californians live in self-help counties or districts. In November, voters in five more counties will be asked to pass sales-tax initiatives to fund road improvements. San Joaquin County wants to extend its half-cent tax through 2036. If Stanislaus' Measure K passes, San Joaquin will have a partner county to the south. That's critical because San Joaquin and Stanislaus share several vital roadways — Highways 132, 120 and 99 and Interstate 5...

Road to Progress: Not enough to keep roads where they are...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898797p-13558236c.html
"I already pay enough in gas taxes. Use that money to fix and build roads."... We do pay a lot... There are two big factors at work: First, the price of road maintenance and construction is nothing short of astonishing. Second, gas taxes at both the state and federal levels also go to mass transit systems... Below is a summary, relying on information from several sources but primarily the California Budget Project, a nonpartisan organization based in Sacramento. It illustrates the complexity of the financing to note that when the organization prepared a background paper to explain the subject, it required 15 pages, much of it single-spaced. (The full copy is available at www.cbp.org.) FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION DOLLARS: Most of the U.S. Department of Transportation budget comes from federal excise taxes on fuel, which have been levied in every state since 1932. It started at a penny a gallon. The rate is 18.4 cents per gallon on gas and 24.4 cents on diesel. STATE TRANSPORTATION FUNDING: More than half of the California Department of Transportation budget comes from the state excise fuel tax and weight fees (paid by commercial truckers). Both charges went up substantially in the early 1990s as a result of voter approval of Proposition 111. LOCAL TRANSPORTATION MONEY: By the time state and federal funding reaches individual cities, counties and transportation agencies, it's a thin trickle with lots of strings attached.

Road to Progress: Blaming developers for potholes is simply wrong...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898785p-13558217c.html
Some people believe...all of our area's road problems were caused by developers...only people who truly benefit from better roads are developers...developers are making so much money that they can afford to fix all our road problems. We can blame housing developers for seizing opportunities; for uncomfortably reducing our green space and for playing the game of politics just a little too well. But we can't blame developers for our badly maintained, overcrowded and largely inadequate roads. For a variety of reasons, our existing roads have been allowed to deteriorate for years. Whether developers are paying their fair share to fix our roads is still open to debate.

Road to Progress: Should Stanislaus County voters enact the half-cent sales tax...Dave Thomas, former radio-TV talk show host, is one of two official spokesmen for the No on K/We're Taxed Out committee
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12898799p-13558235c.html
No: More money for bureaucratic bunglers? The proponents of Measure K promise a wonderful result...they will use it wisely... Well, let's look at what they say, and compare it to the facts found in the Stanislaus Council of Governments' "30-Year Transportation Financial Expenditure Plan" of June 2006. They say Measure K will "fix potholes and maintain local streets and roads in every community." But the plan allocates only 9.8 percent of the funds to "local transportation improvements." They say Measure K will provide "matching funds." Unfortunately, the plan allocates no matching funds to local projects, no matching funds to state projects, and only $1.3 million annually for all the promised federal projects. And the feds still determine which projects proceed. About 60 percent of Measure K funds will go to state highway corridors and interchanges. They say Measure K will not promote growth. But the plan identifies state and federal roads that go right to the areas of growth already identified by the cities of Modesto, Turlock, Patterson, Riverbank and Oakdale. They say they do not have enough money to maintain our roads. But the truth is, StanCOG already receives a quarter-cent of the current sales tax, which gives it more than $17 million every year. They say they are interested in fixing local roads. But the plan allocates only 24 percent of the funds for "local and regional" pavement fixes. Consider the obvious: Local bureaucrats have withheld funds to fix our roads in order to bludgeon you into raising your taxes. Have our local officials ever tried to lobby the state Legislature or the federal government for funds to fix our highway problems? Where are our elected Assembly members and senators? Why has our mayor never gone to Sacramento to obtain state grants in recognition of our abundant needs? Why have our supervisors not used their considerable clout to gain state and federal funds? Why have our federal congressmen not lobbied the feds to help us? Need I mention that the "watchdog" audit committee would be appointed by the politicians? Are you and I going to be appointed to that committee? You have seen the slick, multicolor mailers that tell only the part of the story they want us to believe. I encourage you to read the plan...

Road to Progress: Should Stanislaus County voters enact the half-cent sales tax?...Crag C. Lewis, Modesto businessman, chairman of the Yes on K campaign
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12898798p-13558225c.html
Yes: Benefits individuals, cities, county alike. First, Measure K is the only way for us to take control of our own collective destiny as it relates to transportation. citizens wonder why Measure K is necessary to improve our roads given that we already pay a transportation sales tax (Proposition 42) at the gas pump...answer is that it will take about $48 million annually to maintain safe roads throughout the county...we can expect to receive no more than $11 million annually from Proposition 42...it alone is insufficient to maintain safe roadways. Measure K has ironclad safeguards that prevent the diversion of any funds to nontransportation projects... cities receiving Measure K money cannot substitute funds previously allocated to transportation with Measure K money... a citizens oversight audit committee... an annual independent audit... Second, Measure K will give Stanislaus County a much-needed advantage in qualifying for state funds... Third, Measure K will create new jobs and invigorate our local economy... Fourth, Measure K is the tax that literally pays for itself... Measure K will cost most residents $55 to $200 annually. Measure K will literally put money back into our pockets. The bonus is merely safer roads, less traffic congestion and air pollution, and a more robust economy

Oct. 14, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Smoother roads ahead?...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12897397p-13556945c.html
Measure G...For the third time in four years, voters will be asked to support a sales tax increase for road improvements...needs approval from 66.7 percent of voters to pass, debuted in November 2002 as Measure M. It failed, earning 61 percent of the vote. In June 2006 it was reborn as Measure A and garnered 63 percent of the vote, falling 795 votes shy of winning. Just five months later, it's back as Measure G. But with each failure, the voices of those opposed to the measure have grown louder. While there is no organized campaign against Measure G, grumblings from the Letters to the Editor section of the Sun-Star show the battle to finally pass the measure is far from over. If it passes, Measure G will hike the sales tax in the city of Merced to 8.25 percent -- within spitting distance of San Francisco's 8.5 percent -- for the next 30 years...would generate $446 million to help fund transportation projects countywide, from reconstructing Livingston's Main Street to building a new Bradley Overhead. Half the money would go to road maintenance. Kelsey said a Caltrans representative told the county earlier this week that if the governor's infrastructure bond measure passes and Merced achieves self-help status with Measure G, the county will be eligible for funding to widen Highway 99 from the Stanislaus County line to Livingston. The measure's most prominent critic is Cathleen Galgiani, a Democrat running for Assembly against Republican Gerry Machado...said the statewide transportation bond measure on the November ballot will provide funding for Merced County roads...noted that the transportation bond will set aside $614 million for eight Central Valley counties in addition to the $1 billion earmarked for widening Highway 99. William Stockard, a retired superintendent of Merced County schools, said Measure G only benefits developers and other businesses like the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park and the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center that "want to get free money."...said the county should cover the cost of road maintenance by charging developers higher impact fees when they build here. Charles Magneson, a farmer near Ballico-Cressey, said he's opposed to Measure G because some of the projects it would fund will create sprawl and eat up farmland..."(Measure G is) heavily funded by developers that are looking for those roads to encroach on farmland to make their developments possible." In June, fliers denouncing Measure A as "welfare subsidies for the Building Industry Association" appeared in the Sun-Star three days before the election. Measure G campaign has tweaked its strategy...raised about $200,000...with the large contributions from donors like developer Brookfield Castle LLC, Del Mar; construction company Teichert & Son, Sacramento; Foster Farms, Livingston; E&J Gallo Winery, Modesto; K. Hovanian Forecast Homes, Sacramento; Wellington Corporation, Morgan Hill; Team 31, inc., Morgan Hill; Atwater East Investors, Danville; and Ferraire Investment Company; Balico...endorsements from Rep. Dennis Cardoza, all three Merced chambers of commerce, five county newspapers including the Sun-Star, the entire County Board of Supervisors and the entire Merced City Council. If it doesn't win, Measure G could come back, but by law supporters would have to wait until the November 2008 election.

Vote no on Measure G...Robby Avilla, Stevinson...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12897288p-13556793c.html
Merced County Association of Governments is telling Merced County residents, "It's the matching funds, stupid"...to elicit our votes in favor of Measure G....at the same time they stress that Measure G is for road maintenance. Matching state funds do not occur for local road maintenance projects. Matching funds are for major highway projects that will service still more developer-driven, farmland-robbing projects...look who has been the backbone of funding for these continuous half-cent sales tax measures that MCAG has been sponsoring. When developments with 3,500 housing units for a single project start coming before the Merced County Board of Supervisors for approval, we need to start putting the brakes on local developers' delusions of grandeur. Even if Measure G were to be passed, it would not be able to create enough fancy interchanges and bypasses to handle the traffic of the added development that it will green light. Give us a measure that we can support.

Modesto Bee

Measure K funds will misspent...Bruce R. Frohman, Modesto...Letters to the editor
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/12897443p-13557039c.html
30-year tax on November's ballot will be spent on growth-inducing projects which should be paid for by fees on new development. Proponents told me the tax will promote development similar to San Joaquin County, which will lose all of its prime farmland in 40 years at the current rate of urban growth. Merced County recently rejected a sales-tax increase. Yet, it is presently building two major freeway interchanges! If the sales-tax increase is not passed, another proposal will appear on the ballot in the near future. Should we hold out for a better deal? Or would we prefer a second sales-tax increase to actually fix the roads?

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Letter to Merced County Planning Commission regarding the Riverside Motorsports Park final environmental impact report

Submitted: Oct 25, 2006

The following letter, partially read at the public hearing before the Merced County Planning Commission, remained in a basket beside the podium for speakers -- unread, therefore unconsidered by the commission -- for the duration of the hearing at the end of which the commission approved the EIR, General Plan amendment, zoning change and four other items on the project.

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

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

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto, CA 95350
(209) 523-1391, ph.

Mr. James Holland October 25, 2006
Merced County Planning Department
2222 M Street
Merced, California 95340
Fax: (209) 726-1710

Merced County Planning Commission
2222 M St.
Merced CA 95340
Tel: 385-7654 Via Hand Delivered

Re: Merced County Planning Commission Public Hearing on General Plan Amendment Application No. GPA03-005 and Zone change Application No. ZC3-007, Merced County Board of Supervisors’ Oct. 24 Public hearing to consider the issuance of a proposed decision and findings regarding the Airport Land Use Commission's Finding as to consistency between the Airport Land Use Plan and the Riverside Motorsports Park Project, RMP Master Plan, staff reports, findings, resolutions, and overrides.

Merced County Planning Commissioners:

This comment is made at the Merced County Planning Commission Public Hearing on Application No. GPA03-005 and ZC3-007, Oct. 25, 2006.

We challenge the propriety of the Merced County Planning Department to put this item before you today because the whole of the Riverside Motorsports Park project is dependent on an item heard but not decided yesterday by the county Board of Supervisors: Public hearing to consider the issuance of a proposed decision and findings regarding the Airport Land Use Commission's Finding as to consistency between the Airport Land Use Plan and the Riverside Motorsports Park Project (attached find our letter and attachments submitted to the board on Oct. 24).

First of all, we believe that RMP developers and Merced County were able to successfully lobby CalTrans into temporarily shrinking the size of the real hazard zone to 6,000 feet around the Castle airfield and that, once the racetrack is approved and built, the state will reinstate the original 10,000-foot zone.

For the commission to come to a decision today on this RMP application risks multiple violations of public process, which began when the board held a hearing yesterday on this illegally segmented, intrinsic element of the RMP application.

Yesterday’s board of supervisors’ hearing violated public processes and environmental review.

The staff report on yesterday’s public hearing on the proposed decision regarding the ALUC’s findings was so flawed that supervisors’ were not sure what they were voting on. One supervisor agreed to vote affirmatively only after it was explained that she would not be voting for an override of the ALUC’s consistency findings, but that she was only voting on a proposed decision that must be reviewed by the state Department of Transportation and the ALUC over the next month. In fact, the board was directed by staff to vote for an override.

“Proposed decision: Based on the foregoing recitals and findings, the Board of Supervisors overrules the ALUC Oct. 1, 2003 finding of inconsistency between the RMP project and the ALUP.” – Staff report on Board of Supervisors’ Public Hearing # 2, Oct. 24, 2006.

However, another glaring error occurred in the conduct of the board’s Oct. 24 meeting during the public comment period before the public hearing on the ALUC’s findings was even opened. The public packed the room and the lobby. The board chairman did nothing to stop them or direct the testimony to the proper time. Therefore, the bulk of the testimony given by both sides in the public-comment period will not become a part of the record of this public hearing. This raises even deeper concerns about the validity of the hearing.

We believe that legally compliant public process requires that the County incorporate the oral and written testimony given both during the public-comment period and during the public hearing and that the testimony be forwarded to the state Department of Transportation, the ALUC and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The issue of the override, upon which the RMP project depends, has not been decided and the validity of the board’s vote is in question. Therefore, the commission cannot know what it is voting on today and should not vote on the RMP application. If it does vote on the application, it will be complicit in a flawed public process and a flawed environmental process, because the ALUC’s findings and decision is intrinsic to this project and is being illegally segmented.

The public is constantly criticized for submitting material at public hearings. In this case, the County and the developers waited until a day before the planning commission public hearing on the RMP final EIR to railroad the board into overriding a local agency decision of such major importance that without it the project can’t go forward.

The Castle Master Plan, adjacent municipal and community plans, and the county General Plan updates have just begun. The purposes of these plans and their goals and guidelines are to act as reference points for judgment on new projects. These plans are crucial for guidance on projects with impacts the size of RMP, a regional motorsports facility adjacent to the longest airport runway in the San Joaquin Valley and a federal penitentiary, in the middle of one of the nation’s two worst air pollution basins.

General and specific plans are effectively the only means the present Merced County public has to defend its future against rampant growth. Deciding on these projects before these new plans have been adopted is similar to another example of county planning leadership under Robert Lewis: Hostetler’s illegal 42-inch pipeline through a mile of county land without any permit at all. Like that sewer line, RMP will determine the pattern of growth in its respective areas. Those development-driven plans will have very little to do with official “plans,” which the public pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to have prepared by trained planners. Nor is there any difference between the behavior of John Condren and Greg Hostetler in their blatant, successful efforts to influence county staff and special-interest-funded elected officials. Both of them use helicopters in interesting ways.

A letter from Condren to his investors stated:

Although it’s too early to start planning a ground-breaking party, we can report that RMP has won the support of 4 of the 5 members of the Merced County Board of Supervisors … and we may succeed in securing the unanimous support of the Board once the EIR is released.

In addition, RMP has secured the approval and support of State Senator Jeff Denham, US Congressman Dennis Cardoza, 5 Chambers of Commerce within Merced County, the City Councils of Atwater and Merced, and RMP has the support of the California Builders Industry Association. -- http://www.badlandsjournal.com/old/getarch2.php?title=RMP%20racetrack%20letter%20to%20investors

Hostetler told Supervisor Crookham in a telephone message:

Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you! -- http://www.badlandsjournal.com/?p=84

In the RMP project before you today, a similar corrupt pattern is evident: county Planning Director Robert Lewis is an officer of the ALUC, a direct conflict. Mr. Lewis is a very interested party in this project.

The RMP project is another perfect example of how Merced County does business and calls it government.

The county Planning Department has consistently failed to present the public with clear statements of the public processes involved in its projects. For example, the County cannot plead ignorance for its systematic failure to notify federal resource agencies on environmental review processes. The County knows the maps for habitats for endangered species like the San Joaquin Valley kit fox, and the County knows where Critical Habitat and Recovery Plan areas are located. The County understands that analysis of environmental impacts in Merced County cannot ignore compliance with federal regulations. The County also understands that it cannot indefinitely defer rapidly mounting quantities of unmitigated environmental impacts.

The Merced County public has raised the issue of living wages and health benefits in connection with Wal-Mart. We are also concerned that no one in this corrupted process of the RMP project has addressed the issue of union labor or benefits for non-union labor.

The Merced public understands that RMP and Wal-Mart are the anchor tenants for both ends of the UC Merced loop road. This isn’t planning. It is an absurd level of environmental destruction and it threatens public health and safety.

Yesterday’s board hearing segmented an essential part of the whole RMP plan away from environmental review as well as segmenting the timeline for public hearings on this project. Improper segmentation of the RMP project has occurred on four levels:

· Administrative: the ALUC decision, an essential element in the RMP project, has been improperly segmented from the whole of the project;
· Environmental: the ALUC decision is a part of the project as a whole and requires environmental review;
· Timeline: the County and the developer broke the hearings on what is one project into two days and two different forums;
· Administrative record: the County and the developer are fragmenting the records of these hearings to create an obstacle to legal challenge.

We strongly urge the planning commission not to vote on the RMP application today. In view of the mounting number of procedural flaws in the RMP permitting process, deciding on this application will only deepen the morass of conflicts into which the county is falling as a result of this and several other major projects.

The oral public testimony made yesterday during the public-comment period at the board meeting and the oral and written testimony offered during the public hearing on the ALUC decision must be incorporated into this project. The ALUC decision is so intrinsic to RMP’s project that it cannot construct the racetrack unless that decision is overridden.

We also urge RMP proponents to voluntarily withdraw their application before the commission today for the good of the county’s public process.

Finally, we would like to express our frustration at the County for having shared our letter with the RMP developers, causing a racetrack rally at the board chambers yesterday morning, while the County did not share with the public an adequate amount of information. This offers the public no incentive to get their comments in before public hearings.

Following yesterday’s board hearing, when members of the public requested a list of any additional written comments for the hearing from a clerk at the board office, the public was presented with forms to fill out. Members of the public now make an official request that before the County shares our comment letters with developers, it must first make a formal request to whatever members of the public wrote the comments so that we can track you, as you track us. Stacking information access against the public and tracking the public must stop.

Attached you will find our Oct. 25 letter to the Merced County Planning Commission and to the county Board of Supervisors on Oct. 24, and attachments.

We reserve the right to submit additional documents at the public hearing.

Sincerely,

Lydia M Miller Steve Burke

Cc.

Federal agencies
Marsha Burch, Esq.
Babak Naficy, Esq.
Don Mooney, Esq.
James Marshall, Esq.
Rose Zoia, Esq.
Susan Brandt-Hawley, Esq.
Bruce Owdom, Esq.
Keith Wagner, Esq.
Hal Candee, Esq. NRDC
Kim Delfino, Esq. Defenders of Wildlife
Mike Sherwood, Esq. Earthjustice
John Williams
Tom Adams, Esq.
Badlandsjournal.com
Other interested parties

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Re: Public hearing to consider the issuance of a proposed decision and findings regarding the Airport Land Use Commission's Find

Submitted: Oct 23, 2006

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

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water (POW)
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto, CA 95350
(209) 523-1391, ph. & fax

Merced County Board of Supervisors October 23, 2006
2222 M Street
Merced, California 95340
Fax: (209) 726-7977
Ph: (209) 385-7366

Via facsimile and Email

Re: Public hearing to consider the issuance of a proposed decision and findings regarding the Airport Land Use Commission's Finding as to consistency between the Airport Land Use Plan and the Riverside Motorsports Park Project- PH #2-10:00am

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, the Merced County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the above-mentioned item.

The board is being asked to override a decision by the Castle Airport Land Use Commission that the RMP project is inconsistent with state Department of Transportation guidelines on projects near airports.

Under the California Environmental Quality Act, this “decision” is in fact a project. As presently proposed, it is an unanalyzed and unmitigated segment of the RMP environmental impact report.

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, the Merced County Planning Commission will hear the final EIR on the RMP project.

The RMP final EIR staff report states:

“The RMP Master Plan EIR is intended to serve as a comprehensive document that evaluates the full range of impacts anticipated with project implementation.” – Staff Report, Merced County, Oct. 25, GPA03-005 and ZC03-007, p. 9.

Here is a major impact requiring the board to override the ALUC’s decision and findings, which is not included in the racetrack EIR, yet, without the board’s decision to override the commission’s decision and findings, the racetrack project is obstructed. Therefore, at a bare minimum, the board should realize that the racetrack is impacting the Castle Airport Land Use Plan. Once grasping this, the board should reach the deeper insight the two are part of one project, all parts of which are subject to review by the California Environmental Quality Act.

The board's decision and the commission's decisions are mutually reliant. If the board doesn't override the ALUC findings, it is a serious obstacle to approval of the FEIR for the racetrack. They are part of the same project.

We believe the two decisions are mutually reliant and that the County is segmenting a project without adequate environmental review. We assert that the board decision on the ALUC is part of the RMP project, that it is subject to CEQA, and therefore, the RMP FEIR should be recirculated, providing sufficient public notice and adequate environmental information on impacts to the public from a decision to override the ALUC findings, based on state Department of Transportation guidelines for airports.

There are public health and safety issues involved but not considered: the cumulative impacts of noise from both the racetrack and the airport could, under some circumstances, produce a decibel level of noise dangerous to human health. The argument advanced by County staff that because it will already be incredibly noisy at the racetrack, the additional noise of aircraft landing nearby won't bother them lacks any analysis.

This project also changes the impacts discussed in the RMP draft EIR in sections 4.6-5, 4.6-6, 4.6-7, and 4.7. Therefore, the mitigation measures in the RMP final EIR are inaccurate.

The cumulative impacts of aircraft and racetrack noise to the nearby federal prison, located at the end of the drag track, featuring the noisiest events on the track, are not analyzed.

There is no environmental analysis of the impacts of this proposed board decision, yet, if the board does not agree to override the airport commission's findings, a serious obstacle to the RMP project remains.

We also assert that the proposed board decision, if taken, negates an important feature of the Castle airport plan, intended to protect public health and safety.

Beyond the excessively narrow focus of the proposed decision before the board lie the environmental impacts to the base from an anticipated increase in air traffic to the Castle airport, which will generate yet more traffic congestion and further deteriorate air quality. This additional air and ground traffic will come both as a direct result of the racetrack project and as an indirect result of inclusion of the off-base land on which the racetrack is proposed, into the Castle SUDP, which in turn will open the door to the Foreign/Free Trade Zone.

The public was not provided enough information on this proposed decision. At the very least in this public hearing, the public should have been provided: the sections in the draft and final EIRs on the RMP project that address this issue; the minutes of the 2003 ALUC meeting, which could have showed its reasoning and authorities for deciding RMP was incompatible with the Castle airport land use plan; the language in the state Public Utilities Code upon which the County is relying; and the sections of the state Department of Transportation’s California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook upon which the County is relying.

Nor does the public see evidence that the applicant has submitted his FAA form 7460-1, Notice of Proposed Construction or Alteration, etc.

The staff report references an “analysis gap” in the airport commission’s decision. We suggest this staff report is an analysis gap from beginning to end because it fails to analyze the proposed decision’s compatibility with the county’s outdated General Plan, the Castle Master Plan, the Castle SUDP, the federal penitentiary’s land use concerns, the proposed Master Plan for Riverside Motorsports Park, the county Transportation Plan, or the Foreign/Free Trade Zone.

In our scanning of the code and the handbook, we find no sections that condone the situation in this proposed decision. State law, like the Merced public, did not contemplate the local land use planning by constant, ever larger amendment of a dysfunctional, outdated general plan. But, at a bare minimum not achieved by this proposal, the county’s outdated General Plan must be amended as part of the board’s consideration of an override of the ALUC decision and findings. [PUC Section 21676.5 (b)]

This project and the RMP final EIR are mutually reliant, parts of the same project. The strongest evidence for this is Impact 4.6-4 on pages 4.6-21-22 in the RMP draft EIR. Because they are part of one project, the RMP, which is subject to CEQA review, the board cannot decide on this proposal in isolation from the final EIR of the RMP project. The decision to override the decision and findings of the ALUC and to change its plan are in integral part of the RMP project. This is segmenting and piecemealing a project under CEQA.

As further evidence that this issue was raised in both the draft and final EIRs, we attach: the Jan 6, 2006 letter from John Fowler in the RMP final EIR; the Letter 10 Response to Mr. Fowler’s letter, also in the RMP final EIR; sections 4.6-4, 4.6-5, 4.6-6, 4.6-7, and 4.7 in the RMP draft EIR – all of which discuss the very action before the board today.

The public found it unacceptable that Mitigation Measure 4.6-4 in the RMP draft EIR calls for the applicant to request that the ALUC update its policies. Once again, a developer is driving the Merced County planning process. Table 2 in the final EIR, Summary of Impacts and Mitigation Measures, 4.6-4 through 4.7 has not even considered environmental impacts that will arise if the board decides to override the ALUC decision and findings today. The environmental consultants determined in the RMP final EIR that even with the “mitigation” of the decision before the board today, there remain “significant and unavoidable impacts” (see attached).

As the board well knows, the RMP Master Plan is void and inapplicable because the majority of the racetrack lies in a zone that requires the override of the ALUC decision and findings to make it “safe.” Nothing could more emphatically underscore the fact that the decision the county Planning Commission will take tomorrow on the RMP final EIR is totally dependent on the decision the board will take today, without any environmental analysis.

Finally, given the significant quantity of birds in Merced County and the fact that the leading cause of catastrophic aircraft accidents results from bird/aircraft collisions, is it really conscionable to locate the vast concentrations of race spectators adjacent to an airport that will draw increasing air traffic due to the racing events? Is the difference between 6,000 and 10,000 feet a real margin of safety?

We are attaching letters that deal with this specific issue: from the RMP draft EIR, Volume 2 – Appendices, a letter from US Department of Transportation addressing the hazards of wildlife to aircraft in populated areas; a letter from John Fowler, April 1, 2005, concerning building height limitations and human density issues; an April 14, 2005 letter from the state Department of Transportation addressing the problems aircraft, birds and high concentrations of people; an April 26, 2003 letter from the Castle airport manager expressing concern about the high concentration of spectators at the proposed racetrack; and an Aug. 27, 2003 letter from the federal Department of Transportation asking for specific compliance measures from the applicant.

We request the board not to take action on this item and direct the staff to recirculate the RMP EIR to include important, unresolved concerns. This decision must be included in the project as a whole. By segmenting the project before you from the RMP Master Plan, draft and final EIRs, RMP is obscuring its own consultants’ description of the impacts of the decision before you today as “significant and unavoidable.” The public would add, “dangerous to public health and safety.”

Sections in the CEQA Guidelines that appear to bear on this situation include:

15154. Projects Near Airports

(a) When a lead agency prepares an EIR for a project within the boundaries of a comprehensive airport land use plan or, if a comprehensive airport land use plan has not been adopted for a project within two nautical miles of a public airport or public use airport, the agency shall utilize the Airport Land Use Planning Handbook published by Caltrans' Division of Aeronautics to assist in the preparation of the EIR relative to potential airport-related safety hazards and noise problems.

(b) A lead agency shall not adopt a negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration for a project described in subdivision (a) unless the lead agency considers whether the project will result in a safety hazard or noise problem for persons using the airport or for persons residing or working in the project area.

15146. Degree of Specificity

While CEQA requirements cannot be avoided by chopping the proposed project into pieces to render its impacts insignificant the EIR need not engage in a speculative analysis of environmental consequences for future and unspecified development. (Atherton v. Board of Supervisors of Orange County, (1983) 146 Cal. 3d 346.)

15021. Duty to Minimize Environmental Damage and Balance Competing Public Objectives

Discussion: Section 15021 brings together the many separate elements that apply to the duty to minimize environmental damage. These duties appear in the policy sections of CEQA, in the findings requirement in Section 21081, and in a number of court decisions that have built up a body of case law that is not immediately reflected in the statutory language. This section is also necessary to provide one place to explain how the ultimate balancing of the merits of the project relates to the search for feasible alternatives or mitigation measures to avoid or reduce the environmental damage.

(b) A lead agency shall not adopt a negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration for a project described in subdivision (a) unless the lead agency considers whether the project will result in a safety hazard or noise problem for persons using the airport or for persons residing or working in the project area.

h) The lead agency must consider the whole of an action, not simply its constituent parts, when determining whether it will have a significant environmental effect. (Citizens Assoc. For Sensible Development of Bishop Area v. County of Inyo (1985) 172 Cal.App.3d 151)

15147. Technical Detail

The information contained in an EIR shall include summarized technical data, maps, plot plans, diagrams, and similar relevant information sufficient to permit full assessment of significant environmental impacts by reviewing agencies and members of the public. Placement of highly technical and specialized analysis and data in the body of an EIR should be avoided through inclusion of supporting information and analyses as appendices to the main body of the EIR. Appendices to the EIR may be prepared in volumes separate from the basic EIR document, but shall be readily available for public examination and shall be submitted to all clearinghouses which assist in public review.

15201. Public Participation

Public participation is an essential part of the CEQA process. Each public agency should include provisions in its CEQA procedures for wide public involvement, formal and informal, consistent with its existing activities and procedures, in order to receive and evaluate public reactions to environmental issues related to the agency's activities. Such procedures should include, whenever possible, making environmental information available in electronic format on the Internet, on a web site maintained or utilized by the public agency.

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Sections 21000, 21082, 21108, and 21152, Public Resources Code; Environmental Defense Fund v. Coastside County Water District, (1972) 27 Cal. App. 3d 695; People v. County of Kern, (1974) 39 Cal. App. 3d 830; County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles, (1977) 71 Cal. App. 3d 185.

Discussion: This section declares the importance of public participation as an element of the CEQA process. This section encourages agencies to provide notice on the internet when possible. Internet posting offers the public yet another means of being informed about a project.

In Concerned Citizens of Costa Mesa, Inc. v. 32nd District Agricultural, Assoc. (1986) 42 Cal. 3d 929, the court emphasized that the public holds a "privileged position" in the CEQA process "based on a belief that citizens can make important contributions to environmental protection and on notions of democratic decision making."

15202. Public Hearings

(a) CEQA does not require formal hearings at any stage of the environmental review process. Public comments may be restricted to written communication.

(b) If an agency provides a public hearing on its decision to carry out or approve a project, the agency should include environmental review as one of the subjects for the hearing.

(c) A public hearing on the environmental impact of a project should usually be held when the Lead Agency determines it would facilitate the purposes and goals of CEQA to do so. The hearing may be held in conjunction with and as a part of normal planning activities.

(d) A draft EIR or Negative Declaration should be used as a basis for discussion at a public hearing. The hearing may be held at a place where public hearings are regularly conducted by the Lead Agency or at another location expected to be convenient to the public.

(e) Notice of all public hearings shall be given in a timely manner. This notice may be given in the same form and time as notice for other regularly conducted public hearings of the public agency. To the extent that the public agency maintains an Internet web site, notice of all public hearings should be made available in electronic format on that site.

(f) A public agency may include, in its implementing procedures, procedures for the conducting of public hearings pursuant to this section. The procedures may adopt existing notice and hearing requirements of the public agency for regularly conducted legislative, planning, and other activities.

(g) There is no requirement for a public agency to conduct a public hearing in connection with its review of an EIR prepared by another public agency.

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Sections 21000, 21082, 21108, and 21152, Public Resources Code; Concerned Citizens of Palm Desert, Inc. v. Board of Supervisors, (1974) 38 Cal. App. 3d 272.

Discussion: The section encourages agencies to include environmental issues in the agenda when the agency provides a public hearing on the project itself. The section also provides that the draft EIR or Negative Declaration should be used as a basis for discussion of environmental issues at a hearing if one is held. In an effort to simplify procedures, the section allows agencies to conduct hearings on environmental issues according to the same rules that the agency applies to its other hearings. This section also acknowledges that there is no requirement for a public agency to conduct a public hearing concerning its review of an EIR.

Subsection (e) encourage agencies to provide public hearing notice on the internet when possible. Internet posting offers the public another means of being informed about a project.

15203. Adequate Time for Review and Comment

The Lead Agency shall provide adequate time for other public agencies and members of the public to review and comment on a draft EIR or Negative Declaration that it has prepared.

Public agencies may establish time periods for review in their implementing procedures and shall notify the public and reviewing agencies of the time for receipt of comments on EIRs. These time periods shall be consistent with applicable statutes, the State CEQA Guidelines, and applicable Clearinghouse review periods.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

Lydia Miller Steve Burke

Cc: Interested parties

BadlandsJournal

| »

Annals of UC flak

Submitted: Sep 10, 2006

Hypocrisy at Davis (1)

UC Davis, where pedestrians must constantly dodge bicyclists, presents itself as an environmental paradise. Recently, it has decided to voluntarily study its own greenhouse emissions, joining a group of 88 members of

the climate registry ... created by state law in 2000 as a strictly voluntary program for businesses, governments and organizations wishing to measure their output of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the
atmosphere.

Davis "prides itself on environmental research, eight cents of every research dollar goes to air-quality studies." It also graduates legions of environmental specialists who become consultants to teach local land-use authorities how to dodge the California Environmental Quality Act, the federal Endangered Species, Clean Air and Clean Water acts so that California can continue to grow, particularly in the only two areas -- Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley -- where air quality has reached a unique nadir: "extreme non-attainment" of the health goals set by the Clean Air Act.

In the last decade, UC Davis has also sought to include the most dangerous level of biowarfare laboratory in the nation (and probably the world) on its campus. The Davis City Council made its extreme displeasure known and UC backed down. Now, UC's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is trying to site the same kind of facility just outside Tracy. UC Davis successfully defeated a citizen's group in court in its plans to build faculty housing on a plot originally deeded to the campus for agriculture. This housing project will worsen air quality in Davis.

UC Davis was perhaps responding to the hoopla around the recent passage by the state Legislature of AB 32, California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

"I give them a lot of credit because they're willing to do this," said Joel Levin, the registry's vice president of business development. "Some of the campuses are very reluctant to turn the microscope on themselves."

This is despite avid support by the UC Office of the President for systemwide
participation.

Maric Munn, associate director of energy and utilities for the UC system, said many of the campuses are growing, and officials are nervous that their global-warming emissions are rising as a result.

"They're afraid of criticism from the outside," Munn said. "That's been a huge
impediment."

UC Merced's former chancellor, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, is so nervous about global warming that in public she called it "climate change."
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UC Bobcatflak

The Discovery Room (2)

At UC Merced, thanks to a donation from the Gonella family, it seems as if both the campus and students will have a place to test new technology. First in line is an electronic blackboard.

Our only question is so dumb it is almost not worth asking, nevertheless ... Given the enormous amount of flak ceaselessly generated from the most efficient offices at the campus, its public relations group, this is supposed to be the greenest, most environmentally friendly UC campus among the 10 of them. Completely contradicting this claim is the equally ceaseless barrage of flak about the high energy-use technology installed there. It is as if, in the weird world according to bobcatflak, in order to be a legitimate UC campus, UC Merced must master the bad-faith lingo of environmental hypocrisy while bulking up on energy-squandering technological gadgets.

"This is like the IMAX classroom instruction," said Instruction Librarian Michelle Jacobs.

"It really engages students."

Dude!
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Meanwhile, down on the boardwalk (3)

UC Santa Cruz is suing to obstruct two measures that would give City of Santa Cruz residents the right to vote to approve extending sewer and water services to further expansions of the campus beyond Santa Cruz city limits.

This is viewed by UC flak as a "town and gown" problem, of the sort the new town beyond the city limits of Merced is supposed to cure (with other peoples' sewer and water services). It is also intended to conjure up images of barefoot Parisian beggars mugging gowned professors disputing nominalism and realism during the Black Plague.

What the story fails to mention, because it is sourced solely from UC flak and city officials, is that local citizens -- neither barefoot, poor or uneducated -- have brought an excellent suit against UCSC expansion plans on environmental grounds.

The local rebellion against UCSC expansion also reveals that UC can almost always come to some sort of agreement with the local land-use authority, whose pro-growth elected officials seem to nearly squeal with joy to be in the company of UC officials, while the citizens of the city and surrounding region are no longer charmed.

Another coastal cloud shadowing these proceedings is the recent state Supreme Court decision concerning nearby CSU Monterey Bay (the former Fort Ord), which clearly states that public universities and other state agencies in California can no longer get by with just identifying off-site impacts from their construction and growth -- they have an obligation to pay for them.
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UC Merced

Guinea Pigs (4)

The campus received a $300,000 grant to

work with undergraduate students over the next three years to gain new information about how humans make logical and intuitive decisions.

The research aims to produce a computer model of how the brain works when making decisions, and to determine if people can be taught to use logical deliberation, even when it conflicts with their intuition and personal beliefs.

Apparently, the grant is shared with the University of Massachussetts, which will dispatch graduate students to study UC Merced undergraduates.

Bobcatflak claims the study as

an opportunity to engage more undergraduate students in research -- a top priority for the university.

From guinea pig to research scientist in one easy lunge for the pork!

Problems we see in this study:

U Mass is not a bastion of California culture, considered by a number of students of the state to be one of the most complex cultures in the world. UC Merced takes great pride that its students are the "true face of California." There are going to be some interesting culture clashes that may not relate too clearly to either logic or intuition.

The way to teach logical deliberation is to teach logical deliberation. There are books on the subject -- a great many of them, all the way back to the Greeks. You teach and study them to develop an understanding of logic. It is called education. It is quite a venerable tradition that has worked for a lot of people.

The way to develop intuition in students is to give them good literature to study and to discuss it with them.

Students' personal beliefs ought to be left alone. That route can very quickly lead to violation and psychological trouble.

The purpose of an education is to develop the students' capacity for both logic and intuition. It is not to make them guinea pigs in an experiment to develop a computer model.

The bobcatflak, of course, contradicts the fundamental rules of such research projects and invites the problem of the "dreaded Hawthorth Effect," in which the human objects of the study become engaged in the study and contaminate the data. Either the flak is just the usual UC babble to the barefoot townies, or these people are incompetent to run such a study.

In fact, the whole idea of UC involvement with logic is suspect, given that its public utterance is almost entirely purile sophistry, only occasionally leavened with a bit of mediocre rhetoric.

In the Badlands editorial board's research into logic, we have noted that it is often accompanied by critical thinking. We propose that UC Merced students be placed before the environmental impact reports on the campus and asked to grade them according to logic. Following that exercise, perhaps they could study transcripts from the hearings of the various local land-use authorities that approved these documents, the legal briefs arising out of those approvals, and the judges' decisions. From this study, they might intuit something new and different, something critical, in fact.
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Bobcatflak

A real heavyweight (5)

Dr. Rolland Winston received the first annual Frank Kreith Award for his advanced original work in non-imaging optics, which improve the efficiency of solar power panels, among other applications. This year Dr. Winston also completed the first textbook on the subject.

If the community, the university, and its shared newspaper had any sense of priority in these matters, this item would have led, because this is authentic research, brought to fruition and of great potential significance.

We live in a community whose congressman, Dennis Cardoza, Polar Bear Slayer-Merced, has just introduced a modestly title bill, "Empowering America Act of 2006," to provide more federal government subsidies to the solar power industry. No more gutting the ESA for the former Shrimp Slayer. He's into
energy now.

Solar energy lobbyists analyze the bill this way:

The "Empowering America Act of 2006" would extend federal solar investment tax credits for homeowners and business through 2015, and make modifications similar to those contained in S. 2677 and H.R. 5206, the "Securing America's Energy Independence Act." The popular solar tax credits are currently set to expire next year.

In other words, small potatoes with a pompous title, about what we would expect.

We have also seen in the last week passage of a bundle of alternative energy bills in the state Legislature, the largest of which is the momentarily famous California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

Kreith, a professor of mechanical engineering in Colorado, worked for years at the government's solar power lab in Golden.

Winston did most of his work at the University of Chicago. In 2004, a North Carolina-based company, Solargenix, obtained from the University of Chicago exclusive worldwide licenses and rights to develop and market Winston's technology for "all solar applications."

Art Linkletter, a Solargenix investor, proclaimed at the time with a hyperbole to which Cardoza could only aspire, “We have, through Dr. Winston, a patent on the sun.”

What Linkletter and other investors had, in fact, was technology good enough to interest Acciona, a Spanish construction and energy corporation, who bought a controlling interest in Solargenix in February of this year for around $30 million.

The solar industry strategy of the moment is to use solar power as a domestic or
commercial peaker plant, supplying the last 10 percent of energy during peak-use times. This seems to account for the problems of manufacturing and installation. The California bill provides more subsidy in the beginning than at the end of the program. It doesn't seem to make sense from the solar industry point of view, but it may relate to expectations of lower state revenues in coming years.

Cardoza installed solar panels on his house. More people in town ride bicycles, too, but mainly because they are desperately trying to save on gasoline bills. Cardoza's installation and a great many more like it, if they occur, are not going to lift this Valley out of the extreme non-attainment category it shares only with Los Angeles.

The problem is primarily the cars that come with all the new houses, not the houses themselves. But, if, like Cardoza, you've made your entire career out of politically clearing away obstacles to the manic growth boom -- starting with siting the UC campus in Merced on through the various attempts to change environmental law and pressure the regulatory process -- you have done nothing but worsen the environment and public health in Merced, feathering a few favored nests along the way.

It is almost impossible to imagine in the midst of this housing boom, but there are 10 states in the northeast and the midwest with static populations and North Dakota is losing population.

Hats off to Dr. Winston for his achievements. But, we should not be diverted by the glamor of UC technology or Winston's fame, from the fact that air quality, water quality and quantity, and public health diminish here with this manic construction boom induced by the location of UC Merced. In the Valley we don't need UC to teach us how pork barrels work and for how few they work.

Bill Hatch
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References

1. UC Davis takes stock of its own air impact
School with a reputation for environmental study tallies its greenhouse emissions as part of a climate registry program.
Sacramento Bee - Sept. 5, 2006

At the University of California, Davis, which prides itself on environmental research, eight cents of every research dollar goes to air-quality studies. Yet the university does not know how much its campus contributes to global warming pollution.
An answer to that question is coming.
As one of the newest members of the California Climate Action Registry, UC Davis is in the midst of calculating its own emissions of greenhouse gases.
Once an obscure exercise done mainly by organizations most interested in environmental stewardship, taking inventory of greenhouse gases is going mainstream ...

2. UC Merced opens room for technology
Merced Sun-Star - Sept. 7, 2006

Today's college students are accustomed to living in a technology-infused world. Laptop computers and the Internet are standard in most college classrooms.
But as a 21st century research university, UC Merced is aiming to take campus technology to the next level, university officials say.
In a small classroom on the second floor of the university library -- the Gonella
Discovery Room -- some of the latest technology is auditioning for a campuswide role.
Among the technologies the university is testing is a Smart Board, a modern-day chalkboard that operates electronically.
The 72-inch board allows instructors to project an interactive image of a computer screen large enough for students in the back of the room to see.
Colored electronic marking pens -- they work by sending signals to the computer
controlling the board -- allow teachers and students to "write" on the board over
projected information, such as lecture notes, outlines, maps or diagrams.
"This is like the IMAX classroom instruction," said Instruction Librarian Michelle Jacobs.
"It really engages students."

3. UC sues Santa Cruz over water measures that could limit expansion
San Francisco Chronicle
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/06/BAGD7L01C71.DTL&type=printable

The University of California is suing to block...city of Santa Cruz from casting ballots on two measures that could restrict expansion of UC's local campus...measures placed on the Nov. 7 ballot by the Santa Cruz City Council and would...give city voters the final say over providing water and sewer services for future campus growth. The university...opened its Santa Cruz campus in 1965, believes the measures would undercut and violate its historic water rights granted under agreements signed with the city decades ago. In two weeks, UC's governing Board of Regents is expected to discuss a long-range development plan that would expand the Santa Cruz campus northward to add about 4,500 more students by 2020. All of UC's nine undergraduate campuses are expected to grow in coming years. Measure I would bar the city from providing any municipal services for the northward expansion outside city limits until the university has mitigated any negative impacts from the growth, particularly on housing, traffic and water. Measure J would amend the City Charter to require voter approval before the City Council could provide water and sewer services for the new growth. The university's suit alleges that the city did not do an adequate environmental review as required by state law before
placing the measures on the ballot and did not provide enough opportunity for public review and comment. In addition, the suit says, the city and university have contracts dating to the 1960s for the city to provide UC Santa Cruz with water service. Under agreements from 1962 and 1965, the city is obligated to provide water services to all parts of the Santa Cruz campus, including areas outside city limits, the suit says. Santa Cruz City Attorney John Barisone...We are not opposed to growth. What we are opposed to is campus growth that is not mitigated....the city relies on surface water, and during the last drought, the city had to impose water rationing...the city wants the university to delay its expansion until the city knows it will have more water.

4. Professor to explore reasoning
Merced Sun-Star -- Sept. 8, 2006

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $300,000 grant to UC Merced professor Evan Heit to fund research that will explore human reasoning.
Heit will work with undergraduate students over the next three years to gain new
information about how humans make logical and intuitive decisions.
The research aims to produce a computer model of how the brain works when making decisions, and to determine if people can be taught to use logical deliberation, even when it conflicts with their intuition and personal beliefs.
Heit says the research is not only a way to discover new information about how humans think, but also an opportunity to engage more undergraduate students in research -- a top priority for the university.
Eventually, the research could help track the development of thinking skills in elementary and high school students.
UC Merced shares the grant with the University of Massachusetts, which will send graduate students to Merced to participate in the project.

5. Research honored
Merced Sun-Star -- Sept. 8, 2006

UC Merced professor Roland Winston has been honored for his research in solar technology.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which honors innovations in conservation and renewable energy, chose Winston to receive its first-ever Frank Kreith Energy Award for his work in nonimaging optics.
Winston will accept the award in Chicago in November at the ASME's annual conference.

6. National Center for Photovoltaics, PV Roadmap, Executive Summary

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Responsibility for Valley air pollution

Submitted: Sep 04, 2006

The defeat of legislation to expand the board of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to include members from three cities and two public members, a physician and an environmental expert, appears to be such a story. This bill (SB999) was introduced more than a year ago and went through 10 votes and 10 analyses before it was defeated. A majority of Valley legislators voted against it although it was sponsored by one of their own, state Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden. other regional air boards have physicians and environmental experts on them.

Hear what the Assemblywoman from his own county said of the bill:

Assembly Member Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy, called the bill a "solution in search of a problem," adding during floor debate Tuesday that "there is no evidence that the current system is broken."

This a barbaric statement. One is six children in Fresno have asthma, triple the national average.

In 2001, the federal Environmental Protection Agency downgraded Valley air quality from "serious" to "severe" non-attainment

In 2003, the state Legislature took away agriculture's exemption from air pollution regulation.

In 2004, the EPA downgraded the Valley air quality from "severe" to "extreme" non-attainment, a category previously "attained" only by Los Angeles, until recently the worst air pollution basin in the US. But, there was a kicker to this downgrading. At the "severe" level, federal highway funds would have been cut off. At the basketcase "extreme" level, they weren't. The Valley was put on a tight schedule to come up with a plan. Given the record of the Valley air board to come up with and to implement plans, as well as enforce existing regulations, the public has a right to be highly cynical about this plan.

Now, the San Joaquin Valley is considered to be as bad an air basin as Los Angeles, thanks in large part to the Valley air board, composed of eight county supervisors and three city council members.

Meanwhile, despite the dominant roll of cars and trucks in producing air pollution, these same eight counties are embarking on a regional transportation plan under the auspices of CalTrans. Four of the eight counties currently have transportation sales tax measures before the voters, which will increase sales taxes to generate matching funds to attract federal highway funds, primarily, and secondarily, funds to repair existing streets and roads. Focusing on traffic congestion caused by irrational, extreme urban growth, a proven danger to the health of our most vulnerable citizens -- children and the elderly
-- they want to build more roads and streets to stimulate more growth.

These same eight county boards of supervisors who control the Valley air board approve the lion's share of the new subdivisions being built. Most of those subdivisions are being built on prime farmland. When the Farm Bureau joined the Building Industry Association and the Chamber of Commerce, landowners, not farmers, were speaking.

They want nothing -- even a mounting public health crisis -- to interfere with their right to sell land to developers.

What Machado wanted to do was let a little "sunshine" into the decision-making process of the Valley air board. Originally, he wanted four new members. He compromised on two, out of a board of 13. The special interests prevailed. Democrat Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, joined Matthews in crossing the partisan line.

This weekend, Dan Walters (Sacramento Bee political columnist) interviewed a termed-out moderate Republican, a physician who will be returning to his medical practice.

As Richman sees it, "the system is corrupt," not in the conventional sense of under-the-table payoffs, but in having lawmakers so beholden to powerful interest groups -- business, labor, Indian tribes, etc. -- that, with term limits and gerrymandered legislative seats, they utterly control who can run and get elected to the Legislature. And because term limits induce lawmakers to be constantly seeking other offices, they must kowtow to the interest groups that have life-and-death power over their careers.

Dr. Richman voted against SB 999, and he cannot even keep his political logic straight for a short paragraph. Special interests maintain control over the careers of our corrupt local, state and federal legislators through money; whether it is below-the-table just before a vote or above-the-table during the next campaign, the legislators are still selling their votes.

Richman doesn't sound nearly as much like the victim of a corrupt system as he does like an ordinary hypocritical politician with a remarkable lack of self-awareness. But it makes an interesting column.

For the Valley however, far more important than the system is the immediate air pollution crisis. Even the UC Merced, from whatever mixture of motives, sees this crisis. Regardless of how much special interest money political candidates are gathering for their fall campaigns, there are other numbers that are more important, at least to the people of the Valley.

These are American Lung Association national air-pollution rankings from 2004.

Metropolitan Areas Most Polluted by Short-term Particle Pollution (24-Hour PM2.5)

2. Fresno-Madera
3. Bakersfield
8. Sacramento, etc.
9. Visalia-Porterville
11. Modesto
12. Hanford Corcoran
15. Bay Area- 27 percent comes to Valley
23. Merced
-------

Metropolitan Areas Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution(Annual PM2.5)

2. Visalia-Porterville
3. Bakersfield
4. Fresno-Madera
9. Hanford-Corcoran
17. Modesto
18. Merced (equal to NYC)

Top 26 U.S. Counties Most Polluted by Annual Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5)

4. Tulare
5. Kern
6.Fresno
22. Merced = NYC

Metropolitan Areas with the Worst Ozone Air Pollution

2. Fresno-Madera
3. Bakersfield
4. Visalia-Porterville
6. Merced
7. Sacramento, etc.
8. Hanford-Corcoran
20. Modesto

Counties with the Worst Ozone Air Pollution*

2. Fresno
3. Kern
5. Tulare
8. Merced
10. Kings
12. Sacramento

No rural region in the nation approaches these levels of air pollution. After paving over the Valley, plutocrats will be climbing into their airplanes and escaping to some pleasant place, leaving us with a steadily worsening crisis. We've run out of time for hypocrites and crooks in office.

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

References:

1. SB 999, http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/
2. Air board expansion fails in the Assembly, Fresno Bee, Aug. 31, 2006
3. http://www.epa.gov/region9/air/sjvalley/
4. California State Assembly Passes Landmark Clean Air Bill, September 11, 2003,
http://www.earthjustice.org/news/press/003/california_state_assembly_passes_landmark_clean_air_bill.html
5. EPA agrees to lower smog rating for Valley, Fresno Bee, April 11, 2004
6. San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Worsens, Union of Concerned Scientists USA, Feb. 3, 2005
7. In Central Valley, Angelides Vows to Take On Childhood Asthma, Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2006
8. A citizen-politician's frustration underscores Legislature's woes, Sacramento Bee, Sept. 3, 2006
9. http://www.valleyair.org/Board_meetings/HB/agenda_minutes/north/Minutes/HB-NR-Minutes-2006-February-1.pdf
10. CRS Report to Congress, California's San Joaquin Valley: A Region in Transition, Dec. 12, 2005

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The Shrimp Slayer’s black-box future

Submitted: Aug 21, 2006

The new Silicon Valley of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, we suggest, is simply another flak attack on his weary constituents, who are slowly beginning to realize up what creek he has led them.

First, let's remember a little history: every major growth project in California for the last 30 years has somewhere in its pitch that it is going to be the new Silicon Valley of Nameyourburg. Second, let us recall the brave words of our culture's newest intellectual elite, as they contemplated the glories of the real Silicon Valley (during a period of growth rather than recession, when you could buy BMWs on every weedy corner used car lot), and declared the "end of history." The content of the famous declaration was that capitalist technology had triumphed over all and any problem could be fixed by a new black box.

Surely, the last refuge of scoundrels in the American political classes is this black-box future, which, if again we call upon human memory and awareness, does not yet exist. Therefore, choices made based on its assumption, amount to selections among fantasies. If, however, you are a member of that political class who has done everything in his power to corrupt local, state and federal environmental law and regulation to establish a university in your district, and this university is floundering in a seething mass of consequences for irresponsible, incompetent planning, led until the end of the month by a chancellor some begin to think is deranged, perhaps you think your best choice is to take this campus by the hand and leap together into the void of the black-box future.

The introduction of a bill in Congress to make solar panels a standard option on all residential development throughout the US (yeah! even Buffalo NY) strikes us as being in the same vein of pious posturing as Cardoza’s bill in Congress to put corrupt congressmen in prison, just another example of the well known substance from Shrimp Slayer Central.

For sincerity, go to his two bills to destroy the natural habitat designation in the Endangered Species Act and his "bipartisan" co-sponsorship, with Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy of a bill to gut the entire ESA.

At the moment, Cardoza seems to be struggling to get out of being considered the nether part of the ESA-devouring Pomboza, which has failed so far. To this end, he has gone off to make whoopee with Westlands Water District, he's sponsoring a fundraiser for the opponent of state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced (who dared introduce legislation to try to make the University of California more forthcoming about executive compensation), and now he wants to solarize the Central Valley through federal legislation -- creating a fund for UC Merced to take the lead in development of the next solar black box.

In short, do anything but face the rapidly deteriorating present in which the overbuilt housing market is rapidly crumbling, leaving a social wasteland in its wake.

Yo, Denny: the roof is only a problem for water quality and supply. The cars in the garage and on the street are the problem, and there are more and more of them, particularly on the north side, while the streets of the rest of the city are full of dope-dealing bicyclists.

As a state legislator and now as a congressman, nobody left in office has had more to do with creating the rapidly deteriorating present than Dennis Cardoza, except for the motley crew on the Merced County Board of Supervisors, with whom Cardoza shares adjoining offices. He runs for reelection unopposed, a nominal Democrat, because Republican developers in his district can find nothing wrong with his record or his willingness to serve them.

But, if he is serious about making his district the Silicon Valley of Solar Power, we have a few suggestions.

· Require all vehicles passing through Merced County to be solar-powered cars and trucks.

· Require Union Pacific and Santa Fe to run only solar-powered locomotives through Merced County.

· Require as a condition of permit approval, that the Riverside Motorsports Park become the Solar NASCAR of America, running only races between solar-powered vehicles and, of course, admitting only customers arriving in solar-powered vehicles.

· Require that the Wal-Mart distribution center be powered entirely by solar energy and that the thousand or so trucks coming to and going from it each day be likewise solar-powered.

· Require all staff, faculty, and students of UC Merced drive only solar-powered vehicles.

· Require all developers, construction workers, realtors and new homebuyers in Merced County to drive only solar-powered vehicles.

If that seems impractical -- the Shrimp Slayer's staff would say the political timing isn't right and such a course is not growth inducing -- there is one practical matter that can take some of the pressure off existing residents of the county. As a result of the state Supreme Court's recent decision in Marina et. al v. CSU Monterey Bay, state agencies (like UC) must pay for their off-site environmental impacts.

So, why is the county, under the ruse of Merced County Association of Governments, having been rejected in the primary, bringing back another measure to raise sales taxes to pay for transportation, including $10 million for the Mission Interchange -- Gateway to the UC Campus Parkway?

To begin, this measure, like its two unsuccessful predecessors, is NOT about fixing crumbling city and county streets and roads. It is about building new roads to accommodate new growth, particularly what the absconding UC Merced Chancellor calls “smart growth” induced by the campus.

Why, in fact, should the existing residents of Merced County have to pay one dime for the entire UC loop road -- from Atwater to the campus and down to the Mission Interchange? In its letter to the court in support of CSU, UC said it stood to lose $200 million in Merced if the court decided against the argument that state agencies are not required to pay for off-site environmental impacts. That $10 million for the Mission Interchange should come UC's $200 million. The rest of that loop road should be paid by UC, not existing Merced residents.

Or, to put it more bluntly: why doesn't development pay for itself?

Vote no on whatever they're calling the measure this week (I believe it will be called Measure G in November) to increase your sales taxes. Stay in the present. Do not follow the Shrimp Slayer into the black-box future.

In fact, what the Shrimp Slayer has done for Merced during his professional political career in the state Assembly and in the House of Representatives is to support every development from UC onward, cashing in personally on a few land deals along the way to establishing himself as one of the major Developer's Democrats in Congress.

As the bills come due and the consequences of this reckless path become obvious, the Shrimp Slayer seeks to hide in the black-box future, piously intoning his environmental commitment as he does it.

On the other hand, miracles happen every day. Perhaps he means it and perhaps this is a kind of personal atonement. If so, good. But, the fact is that as a result of the policies and activities of the Shrimp Slayer and others, the north San Joaquin Valley is rapidly becoming a continuous slurb, instead of remaining the valuable farmland and agricultural economy it has been.

The idea that agriculture has a future is nothing new, particularly in the Valley. The present agricultural economy must be given a chance to evolve. But, in a surfeit of greed and stupidity, fomented by irresponsible leadership and this witless UC project, it is in extreme danger of simply disappearing under the developer’s blade.

Concentration of solarizing hundreds of thousands of new homes on this fine land is the lazy, wrong way of looking at “development.”

It is a mystery why an area that has benefited so enormously from agricultural development for more than a century should have produced a generation that hates agriculture so much that today’s leaders and many of their followers will not defend it beyond cloying lip service.

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

Notes:

8-19-06
Merced Sun-Star
Cardoza wants renewable energy to be Valley focus...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12608951p-13314619c.html
With his new solar energy bill and leading solar technology experts at UC Merced, Rep.
Dennis Cardoza said Friday he believes the Central Valley is well equipped to become a
national leader in renewable energy. "We believe it's time for a new energy source, and we believe in solar power," said Cardoza, D-Merced. "We can make the Central Valley the Silicon Valley of renewable energy." Cardoza's bill -- dubbed the Empowering America Act -- seeks to make solar power affordable for all Americans. And, he said, building the solar technology industry locally would vastly expand the Central Valley's economy. "This is an environmental issue, but it's also more than that," said Cardoza. "I'm confident the Valley will lead the way in this next generation of energy technology."

8-20-06

County may clip mega-lot divisions...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12612810p-13318380c.html
Town hall meetings to gather public comment on the draft document are scheduled Sept. 12 in Stanislaus County Agricultural Center's Harvest Hall, 3800 Cornucopia Way, and Sept. 18 at Bonita Elementary School in Crows Landing. Both meetings start at 6:30 p.m. Proposed changes in Stanislaus County's growth policy would give leaders more power to slow a rush on creating ranchettes. Alarmed at increasing requests for manor homesites in rural areas, DeMartini spearheaded a rewrite of the agricultural element to the county's general plan. The most sweeping change would clamp down on a recent proliferation of estate ranch-ettes, loosely defined as home-sites larger than city lots...proposed revision would make it easier for county leaders to deny requests to split large agricultural tracts into 40-acre parcels. More than 33,000 ranchettes have compromised genuine farming on 178,000 acres in 11 valley counties from Sutter to Kern, the American Farmland Trust determined in an April report. Ranchettes account for 25 percent of urban areas but house only 2 percent of the valley's population, according to the report. Revisions also would do away with references to soil quality, because advanced techniques allow production on poorer ground, DeMartini said.

Businesses looking for ways to avoid the traffic crunch...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/v-v2storylist/story/12612718p-13318289c.html
Valley trucking companies simply can't afford to get stuck in traffic jams on Highway 99
or on their way there. Some are moving closer to Highway 99, and others are installing
computer equipment to help drivers circumvent traffic jams...companies that would bring
hundreds of jobs to valley communities are demanding road improvements upfront to
guarantee easy highway access. Two distribution centers Stanislaus County recently lured Kohl's Department Stores and Longs Drugs Stores - chose a spot near less-crowded
Interstate 5 in Patterson. The county had to throw in road improvements to seal the deal.
Merced is working on a similar agreement for a proposed Wal-Mart distribution center off Mission Avenue. The proposal could lead to a center handling 900 truck trips each day. If it's built, it would hook up with a new interchange at Mission Avenue under construction and a leg of Merced's Campus Parkway - a road that would carry traffic from the highway to the University of California at Merced. Merced Assistant City Manager Bill Cahill said those improvements would benefit a group of distribution centers near the proposed Wal-Mart site. Getting them highway access is a key to the area's development. "The nature of distribution requires access to freeways and good transportation systems," he said.

8-18-06
Modesto Bee
Count on sprawl as usual if Stanislaus movers and shakers have their way...Eric Caine
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12603320p-13310174c.html
Despite the buzz about regional planning and periodic announcements to the effect that
"we've got to save our precious farmland," valley politicians are sending a loud and clear
message that when it comes to growth, they prefer that public discussion and influence be
even further out of bounds than our sprawling cities and suburbs...palpable fear that
voters might put limits on development, and that would mean real problems for any number of projects and plans that dominate the agendas of politicians, landowners and developers. Politics and profit do indeed go hand in hand, but to hear Simon, it's almost as though he never accepted those large campaign contributions from the likes of Don Panoz, whose financial interest in Diablo Grande has been well-served by political support from Stanislaus County supervisors, including Simon. Lost in the discussion of disappearing farmland and politics as usual is a valleywide comprehension of the ongoing harm our sprawling growth is causing quality of life. And unless we get a handle on sprawl, we're in for a repeat of the Los Angeles basin, on an even bigger scale. Until then, we can watch dozens of tracts of farmland, like in Salida, go under the pavement, as citizens ponder what happened to their right to participate in the making of their world.

8-17-06
Merced Sun-Star
School district OKs $40,000 for mailers...Doane Yawger
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12598204p-13305642c.html
CASTLE -- Merced Union High School District trustees approved a $39,550 contract with a Sacramento consulting firm to prepare and distribute three direct-mail fliers to voters for the district's November bond measure. William Berry Campaigns Inc. of Sacramento was retained to design, print and distribute about 16,000 fliers to households explaining the $104 million general obligation bond measure. Michael Belluomini, the district's director of facilities planning, said while school districts are prohibited by law from campaigning in favor of passage of bond measures, they are allowed to spend public resources to provide fair and impartial information to voters. Save Atwater Fix Education Coalition in Atwater...unnamed circulator ... urges residents to tell trustees to "stop paying for political consultants and lawsuits." alleges mismanagement of funds, overpaid
administrators and high-priced political consultants and lawyers come at a tremendous cost to the school district, especially when there are underpaid teachers, high attrition rates and gang violence. Trustee Robert Weimer said he has attended several bond measure committee meetings in the evening. He said it is going to be an intense election but hopefully Measure E will be successful. Costs for the three Berry-designed fliers will be paid from the general fund, Belluomini said.

8-14-06
Los Angeles Times
Bending Prop. 13. California voters have been restoring taxes, including on property, bit by bit...Editorial
http://www.latimes.com/business/taxes/la-ed-property14aug14,1,4469539,print.story
PROPOSITION 13 AND THE TAXPAYER REVOLT launched in 1978...politically untouchable for nearly three decades. The measure made it clear that Californians had lost faith in their government's ability to tax and spend judiciously. It stemmed the revenue flow to Sacramento, to counties and to cities, but the hunger for California-quality services - schools and libraries, hospitals and police, roads and bridges, parks and pools, even zoos and museums - remained unabated. So voters began to selectively restore taxes, one at a time, for clearly delineated programs. We have done it slyly...to convince ourselves that we are not really rolling back Proposition 13. With state bonds... We tax ourselves directly for some programs, like transportation. In 1990, voters doubled the gasoline tax. Loopholes remained, allowing Sacramento to divert transportation money for other uses in the event of fiscal crisis. But voters believed that their lawmakers were abusing their power to grab the money and passed a bevy of measures to make sure that the money remains essentially a user fee that can be applied only to transportation. A measure on the Nov. 7 ballot attempts yet again to guarantee this money is used for its intended purpose. But even if it passes, lawmakers will find other loopholes. That's what legislators do. We also impose new taxes on people we don't like much... Now we are going beyond simple ballot-box budgeting and repadding our property tax bills, mostly with local bonds. Unlike deceptively pain-free state bonds, city and county debt to finance schools, libraries and police stations get charged to property owners. As we gradually layer onto ourselves the property taxes we once slashed, we are compelled to reflect on what we are doing. We have distorted not just property taxes, but our entire tax and budgeting system. Our governance, in fact. Some of this fall's tax and bond measures may make sense, given our predicament. We must adopt new bonds and taxes to pay our bills, even as those measures produce larger bills down the road. But the time is near when voters and their elected representatives must have a frank conversation about untying the budget knot we began knitting together soon after adopting Proposition 13.

8-9-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure to be voted on...Measure G
Wednesday, August 9, 2006 E9 CALSSIFIED Merced Sun-Star, Merced, Calif. Notice is given that a special County 00711A on Tuesday, November 7, 2006 for the purpose of submitting to the qualified elector or the County the proposition set forth in the following measure to wit. Merced County Traffic Relief, Road Repair and Safe Streets Measure G:-- a one half cent sales tax for 30 years. Notice is given by the County Clerk of the County of Merced that Friday August 18, 2006 is the final date arguments for and against the measure appearing upon the ballot may be submitted to the County Clerk for printing and distribution to the voters of the County of Merced as
provided by law.

8-5-06
Modesto Bee
Proposition makes bond moot...John G. Wetzler, Modesto...Letters to the editor
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/12549804p-13261166c.html
Proposition 42 requires that revenues resulting from state sales and use taxes on the sale of motor vehicle fuel be used for transportation purposes. Starting in 2008-09, about $1.4 billion (before the current raise in gas prices) in gasoline sales-tax revenues, increasing thereafter, would be used for state and local transportation purposes.
With Proposition 42 now in effect, why do we need a state or local bond for transportation?

8-2-06
Modesto Bee
Tax increase for roads lands on ballot...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12533230p-13246736c.html
Voters in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties will decide Nov. 7 whether to raise their sales taxes to help pay for road and rail projects. Supervisors in Stanislaus and
Merced counties on Tuesday formally placed the matter on their respective November
ballots. Merced County supervisors haven't decided whether to leave their item as Measure O or step out of sequence. Voters in that county in June turned down an identical proposal called Measure A. Supervisors decided Tuesday to give it another go to avoid missing out on proceeds from a huge transportation bond going before California voters Nov. 7.

MCAG
Public Support puts Transportation Measure back on Ballot in November 2006...Press
Release...Press Release
http://www.mcag.cog.ca.us/newsrelease/2006/080106TM.pdf
Merced, California, Aug. 1, 2006 – For the second month in a row, county residents stood one by one before the MCAG Governing Board to tell their stories of why a transportation measure was badly needed in Merced County. On July 20, after more thoughtful discussion – this time among Board members – the Board, with Merced Councilman Bill Spriggs as chair, voted unanimously to put the measure back on the ballot in November, where other ballot items, such as several statewide bond measures, will bring more voters to the polls. "In June, the majority of voters showed that they wanted a transportation measure," said MCAG Executive Director Jesse Brown. Brown pointed out that members of any other organization would not be happy if 62% voted for a project to benefit their community but couldn’t go forward because a few voted against it. The MCAG Governing Board hopes that the transportation measure will be a main source of funding for local projects, including repair and maintenance of local roads.

7-25-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure A may make return trip to ballot...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12498850p-13214958c.html
Despite a poll conducted this month that says the half-cent sales tax that failed in June
will do even worse if it is put up for a vote later this year, Merced County officials
decided last week to place it on the November ballot. They say the measure, which would
raise $446 million over 30 years to fix roads, will get the required two-thirds vote this
time because more people will show up to the polls in November than in June. Measure A's failure...stunned many of its supporters. A much more attractive November ballot includes billion-dollar infrastructure bonds and a governor's race is sure to draw more voters. MCAG board members, which includes all five county supervisors and an elected official from each of the six cities in the county, say the county has a one-shot chance at taking advantage of $1 billion that will be set aside for "self-help" counties if voters approve the state bond measures on the November ballot.Sacramento-based Jim Moore Methods...polled 400 county residents earlier this month about the possibility of a November sales tax, concluded that the measure would get only 58 to 66 percent of the vote. "I would not recommend going forward with Measure A again this November," Jim Moore wrote in a letter to Brown. "The survey clearly shows that a November 2008 election date would provide Measure A with the next best chance for passage." If voters reject the measure again in November, it would be the third time a transportation sales tax would fail in Merced County in the last four years.
New measure:
• $10 million for Phase One of the Campus Parkway
• $85 million to widen Highway 99 to six lanes throughout the county
• $10 million for the Highway 152 bypass in Los Banos
• $8 million to widen Highway 59 from 16th Street to Black Rascal Creek
• $8 million to replace the Highway 140 Bradley overhead
• $6 million for Dos Palos street reconstruction

7-22-06
In Brief...Scott Jason
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12487775p-13204301c.html
People can give opinions...Merced County residents are being asked to give their thoughts on the area's future through 10 community workshops. The meetings are the first step in updating the county's general plan. There will be presentations about the plan, as well as about the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Project, which is being led by the Merced County Association of Governments. The first meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday at the Hilmar Community Center. All eight valley counties are participating in the San Joaquin project, which aims to develop a plan for the future of the valley. The general plan discussions will include issues like agricultural land preservation, land use and development, street and highway systems, environmental resources protection, economic development, water supply and public infrastructure, according to a Merced County press release.

7-13-06
Modesto Bee
StanCOG board agrees to put transportation tax on ballot...Inga Miller
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12444598p-13165725c.html
The Stanislaus Council of Governments swiftly agreed Wednesday to put a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot. Dubbed "Measure K"..., it would raise a projected $1.02 billion over 30 years for a raft of projects including commuter rail service, highway and interchange improvements and road maintenance. Jim DeMartini criticized the spending plan, and Tom Mayfield criticized brochures touting the measure as too optimistic about how far money would go. They ultimately voted to approve the measure, however. The supervisors have to vote again, this time to formally ratify the measure for the ballot. Though eight of the nine cities support the measure, the Oakdale City Council declined Monday to take a position. The plan doles out the road maintenance money by population. Modesto would get the lion's share at 41.2 percent, the county would get 22 percent and the remainder would be divided among the other cities.

7-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure set up for failure...Maria Giampaoli, Le Grand
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/letters/story/12439985p-13161477c.html
I knew the day the Merced County Board of Supervisors, with the help of the Planning
Department, voted against a Guidance Package B to the general plan (a small measure that would have protected agriculture land and small unincorporated cities against invasion by developers) that Measure A would fail. Our board on a 4-1 vote and now a 3-2 vote has appeased only two entities in the last 10 years: UC Merced and developers. Agriculture preservation is scrutinized continuously. Equal blame should be placed on the Department of Fish and Game and the Army Corps of Engineers who throw the fairy shrimp in our faces... In the future all social infrastructure issues should be dealt with credibility and I'm sure the voters will respond in a positive manner at the polls.

Merced County Planning Commission agenda
http://web.co.merced.ca.us/planning/pdf/commissionarchive/2006/07122006.pdf
VII. GENERAL BUSINESS
The San Joaquin Valley Regional Blueprint is a planning effort envisioned to support long range regional planning. The goal of the Blueprint process is to develop a preferred
future growth vision for the San Joaquin Valley region. The public outreach for the
planning process has been created with the intent to build a regional vision by developing
local and regional collaboration from the bottom up.

Modesto Bee
Sales tax bump gets supes' OK...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12440099p-13161665c.html
The proposed half-cent sales tax for transportation in Stanislaus County got a name —
Measure K — and some criticism Tuesday from county supervisors...$1.02 billion over 30 years for road and transportation projects. The spending plan, which is based on
population, would give Modesto 41.2 percent of the $250 million earmarked for road
maintenance. The county would get 22.7 percent. Supervisor Tom Mayfield criticized a
brochure funded by StanCOG and the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance, a public-private economic development agency, for overselling what the sales tax could accomplish...Little of the money would be spent on rural and collector roads that carry the most traffic... The Oakdale City Council agreed to take no action on the
transportation tax at its meeting Monday night, a move interim City Manager Steve Kyte
said is the council members' way of expressing their frustration with StanCOG. Though the board endorsed the plan, a separate action is required to put the measure on the ballot.

7-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
No more money for roads...Robert C. Sherwood, Los Banos...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12425129p-13147545c.html
Editor: Measure A failed because more than 33 percent of those who voted believe that more money collected on a half-cent sales tax countywide should not be used to fix our horrible roads. We have the absolute worst, rotten dysfunctional state government of all the 50 states. These contemptible parasites spend every dime that we pay in taxes and demand more. They coerce our local city and county officials into selling us on the idea that more sales tax will get us some of the roads we need after we have already paid twice over for them. We even have an "Association of Governments" in Merced County, for what? The state of California gets most of its money from property tax, sales tax and state income tax. All of the state revenues are higher than ever before. Yet it is not enough. It's
never enough. Why should we Merced County taxpayers pay to bypass Los Banos State Highway 152 and widen state Highway 99 through Merced? Those are state highways and are the responsibility of the state of California. To those who had the wisdom to vote no on Measure A, thank you. To those who voted yes, I say "giving more money and power to government is like giving whiskey and the car keys to teenage boys."

6-29-06
Merced Sun-Star
Hundreds help map Valley's blueprint...Russell Clemings, Fresno Bee
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12385361p-13111938c.html
FRESNO -- Land use planning seminar...650 people attended the kickoff of a two-year effort to define what the San Joaquin Valley will look like 20 years from now...San Joaquin Valley Blueprint project will spend $2 million in state funds to plan for a population that is expected to double by 2040. By late 2007, the effort is expected to publish a set of goals for areas such as transportation, economic development, housing and environmental protection. Other products will include plans for better coordination of major infrastructure, such as highways, with local land use decisions, and a joint pool of data to analyze planning decisions and their effects. ...it is likely to meet with skepticism
if not resistance among local leaders reluctant to cede control over land use and related
matters. Mark Baldassare, director of a newly released Public Policy Institute of
California survey of 2,000 Valley residents, said the results showed widespread public
support for regional planning to deal with issues such as air pollution, population growth
and loss of farmland.

Modesto Bee
Proposed half-cent road tax gains speed with Turlock's approval...Michael R. Shea
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12385475p-13112068c.html
TURLOCK — The City Council backed a $1 billion countywide traffic plan. Voters likely will have their say on the tax in November's election. The Stanislaus County Council of Governments has proposed a half-cent sales tax increase that could bring $34 million a year over 30 years to pay for road improvements. But before the plan reaches the taxpayers it needs city, then county approval. Turlock joined Hughson, Riverbank, Patterson and Newman in voting in favor of the plan. The plan needs nods from five of the nine councils, representing more than 50 percent of the county's city-based population...consumers would pay 7.875 percent sales tax, up from 7.375 percent. The lion's share of the money would be dedicated to maintenance and improvement projects.

6-28-06
Modesto Bee
Valley worried about growth...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12380798p-13107739c.html
Increasing numbers of valley residents say they are concerned about growth and are willing to limit development to preserve agriculture and environmentally sensitive areas,
according to a new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. Those results
tell Carol Whiteside, president of the Great Valley Center in Modesto, that people want
solutions to growth-related problems they experience - whether it's snarled traffic or
unhealthy air. The institute's survey shows people increasingly concerned about traffic
congestion but not necessarily willing to support a sales tax measure to raise money for
road improvements. It also indicates people distrust the way governments spend tax money, with 64percent saying "government spending money on the wrong things" is a major problem. In the Northern San Joaquin Valley, 41 percent of those surveyed said the area is going in the wrong direction, up from 32 percent in 2004. In the greater Central Valley, 37 percent said the region is going in the wrong direction. 73 percent of Central Valley residents favored slowing development to protect wetlands, rivers and other environmentally sensitive areas. Similarly, 65 percent said they favored limiting urban development to protect farmland.

6-27-06
Merced Sun-Star
Eight counties to meet for blueprint planning...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12376475p-13103689c.html
Eight area counties, including Merced County, will join up for their first regional
"blueprint" planning session on Wednesday in Fresno... costs $30 to attend and includes a
lunch, will go from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Fresno Convention Center.

6-26-06
BadlandsJournal.com
Letter to the Merced County Board of Supervisors on the General Plan Update

process...6-20-06
http://www.badlandsjournal.com/?p=140
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?

6-25-06
BadlandsJournal.com
The desperation of MCAG
http://www.badlandsjournal.com/?p=156
Last week the Merced County Association of Governments decided to put Measure A, the transportation sales tax defeated in June, back on the ballot in November, despite a poll that indicated it might not do any better then than it did either in June or in 2002. The
MCAG, composed of all five supervisors and one elected official for each of the six
incorporated cities in the county, in their judgment overrode the poll results, declaring that the November election will draw more voters than the primary did. The Merced Sun-Star opined without attribution that:...

Fresno Bee
Measure C votes set to begin...Russell Clemings
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12369664p-13097113c.html
The effort to renew Fresno County's half-cent Measure C transportation sales tax will kick into high gear this week as the county and its 15 cities begin a monthlong series of
ratification votes...$1.7 billion, 20-year extension plan...hints of a possible court
challenge from one of the holdouts, the Valley Taxpayers Coalition, represented by former Fresno City Manager Jeff Reid. At the policy board meeting, Reid raised a number of objections to the board's handling of an environmental impact report on the spending plan. Sierra Club's Tehipite chapter..."Our immediate feedback is that we want to see the ballot language," "We want to make sure the voters are not being misled" on the extent of potential air quality benefits from the Measure C extension said the chapter's
representative, Kevin Hall.

Support Measure C...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/12369655p-13097111c.html
"What if," the commercial begins, "there was no Measure C?" If all goes well, by the end of next month 15 city councils in Fresno County and the Board of Supervisors will have voted to approve Measure C, an extension of a half-cent transportation sales tax. But the first Measure C has lived up to its promises... Extending Measure C for another 20 years also would mean capturing additional matching funds from the state and federal governments. The extension differs from the original measure in several ways. The 1986 version allocated almost three-quarters of the money to major street and highway projects. Now we need to balance our transportation options... The Measure C extension package is a good, balanced plan, thanks to the work of a steering committee that included experts on health, the environment, agriculture, business, government, labor, education, trucking, rural and urban interests.

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