City of Merced

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN!

Submitted: Aug 14, 2006

Members of the San Joaquin Valley public would like to invite you to the first annual UC Pombozastan Pot Luck.

We’ve got the barrel; you bring the pork.

Public/private partnerships get preferential picnic tables behind gated, straw-bale walls, just like they did it at the old-time Condit Country extravaganzas.

The Valley public would like to invite you all to Merced to help us get this UC Merced 900-acre expansion past them damn federal environmental regulators. Our largest developer, the University of California Board of Regents, is having trouble getting a pesky little Clean Water Act permit out of the Army Corps of Engineers so they can build on land in a ESA designated critical habitat area containing the richest fields in the state of vernal pools, environment for 15 endangered species of flora and fauna, for which one cannot help but think a responsible, institution of public higher education would have secured a permit before commencing construction. The UC Regents are at least not supposed to be typical California fly-by-night developers.

But, who cares? COME ON DOWN! Bring the People’s Money, we’ll run it through UC and it will pick up your tab. Stay anywhere, pay as much as you want for breakfast, lunch and dinner, rent only the most expensive cars – if you need further instructions we can refer you to UC consultants, who can teach you also how to add that absolutely mandatory 10-20 percent on every expense chit.

COME ON DOWN and see UC Merced, which the last state Senate Pro Tem called the “biggest boondoggle ever.” – New campus still faces obstacles, William Trombley, Spring 2004, National CrossTalk, a publication of National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, http://www.highereducation.org/crosstalk/ct0204/news0204-obstacles.shtml

"I don't know why anyone would be surprised," said Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, which has offices in San Jose and Washington, D.C. "It was just the wrong campus in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was pork-barrel politics and institutional arrogance that led us to this. There was a belief at UC that you could just hang a UC shingle out and that would attract students."

-- Merced: Some students at brand-new UC campus say they want out, Tanya Schevitz, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2006, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/07/17/BAGOLK0B6M1.DTL

And, hey, be sure to bring the People’s Money with you, because UC Merced wants all of it. UC’s talented team of tax-paid flaks and lobbyists can give you all the details. The effort will no doubt be headed by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced. Surely, you know the Shrimp Slayer – he’s the guy who’s making Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy’s war against the Endangered Species Act “bipartisan,” on behalf of a few developers, large landowners, financial institutions and realtors in their adjoining districts. Down here we call them the “Pomboza.”

WASHINGTON — ... On Tuesday, Cardoza and Pombo split roughly $50,000 raised at a bipartisan fund-raiser sponsored by prominent developer Greenlaw "Fritz" Grupe. Grupe is active in both San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, with subdivisions underway in Modesto, Turlock, Hughson, Waterford and Stockton.
Grupe also favors the kind of collaborative work Cardoza and Pombo have done on the Endangered Species Act and other issues. While agreeing the joint fund-raiser held at the developer's Lodi ranch was "rather unique," Cardoza said it sent the right kind of signal.
"Frankly, if we cooperated more aggressively, we would all be better off," Cardoza said.

--Valley political bonds strong, Oakland Tribune, Apr 1, 2005 by Michael Doyle, MODESTO BEE http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20050401/ai_n14615689

What Cardoza calls aggressive cooperation, we call the Pombozation of the San Joaquin Valley.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN and watch Pombo and Cardoza pombozate the West’s federal resource agencies.

COME ON DOWN and bring us the People’s Money. We don’t have enough of it. You’ve no doubt read the Congressional report about how the San Joaquin Valley is poorer in some ways than Appalachia. We appreciate our subsidized water, our subsidized cotton, dairy and cattle industries, and all the health and human services aid you’ve been sending. But we need more of it, more and more and more of it. We can’t make it without more and more of the People’s Money down here in Pombozastan, the former San Joaquin Valley. And if we don’t get it, we’re going to pave over the largest, richest agricultural valley in the West.

So there!

COME ON DOWN!

Listen to the UC Merced Chancellor (until she quits at the end of the month)! We need a UC Merced research medical school down here to specialize in respiratory illnesses, cancer clusters, pesticide related diseases, diseases related to contaminated ground water, drug addictions, rural mental illnesses and disorders arising from bovine flatulence here in the epicenter of the dairy industry in the nation’s top dairy state. Pledge the People’s Money to build out UC Merced, which will stimulate a tremendous amount of growth because it will be the anchor tenant for development down the east side of the Valley from Sacramento to Kern counties along a planned eastside Highway 65 and an Eastside Canal.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN and help replace Valley life with mega-dairy subdivisions-in-waiting and slurbocracy. And while you’re at it, explain why you’re doing it, because we really don’t know and the Pomboza won’t tell. Nevertheless, Cardoza provides thoughtful continuity for the slurbocracy from his top floor offices in the Merced County Administration Building.

COME ON DOWN! We know this all sounds a little grim, but we want to assure you that the Valley is a really funny place. We’ve got comedians galore here in Merced. Consider the UC Chancellor Until the End of the Month, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, for example. She had the whole Valley rolling on the floor in helpless mirth this week, when she told the McClatchy chain reporter:

"I needed to make (congressmen) aware that this is the beginning of the process," Tomlinson-Keasey said. "People speak out all the time and say their opinion, (but) I have talked with the Corps, and they have assured me they will play by the rules."

Choking back life-threatening guffaws, members of the public asked: “What rules could she possibly be talking about?”

Surely, she could not be talking about local, state or federal environmental law and regulation. Beyond urging the Pomboza onward to alter it to suit UC’s needs in eastern Merced County, she has no tolerance for it.

Surely, she could not be talking about the rules of good taste, whose university campus sponsors a yearly Fairy Shrimp Festival, hosted in its inaugural year by the unemployable son of a recently ousted provost.

Surely, she could not be talking about those rules of candor said to govern testimony before legislative committees.

Surely, she could not be talking about regulations governing the rehabilitation of wildlife, when she purloined a bobcat for the UC Merced mascot that should have been rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

Surely, she must be speaking about the UC RULE: UC is sovereign and gets what it wants.

Another great Merced comedian is the businessman Mr. UC Merced, Bob Carpenter, who appeared in the pages of the Los Angeles Times this morning:

So why didn't the university secure permission to build the entire campus before beginning work? "It's easy to criticize after the fact," said Bob Carpenter, a Merced resident who has helped with university planning for 18 years. "But you could argue that if you wait until all the I's are dotted and all the Ts are crossed, probably no projects would ever get done."

But then, the chancellor, not to be trumped in the comedy game by a mere UC Merced booster, even if Carpenter could be called, justly, The UC Merced Booster, concludes:

She expects the Merced campus to infuse the area with a smart-growth population and jobs. "We're contributing enormously to the community."
"We believe we deserve an Olympic gold medal, and not have every bump being foreseen as some Mt. Everest to climb."

An Olympic gold medal, some would say, requires a sports team of some sort. The UCM Golden Bobcats are undefeated so far, but they remain in smoky backrooms rather than taking the field in any sport in which they would have to play by any rules other than their own.

UC built the first phase of the Merced campus without getting a Clean Water Act permit. They spent millions in state public funds on conservation easements to mitigate for wetlands habitat, as the result of backroom deals in the state Capitol between the governor, congressmen, state legislators vying to see who was the Biggest Mr. UC Merced of them all, state and federal resource agency officials, The Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society and other prominent state and national level environmental sluts. Yet, today, when federal agencies look at these easements, they discover many of them aren’t on the right land and have no financial mechanism for monitoring. In some cases, landowners are under the impression they can take millions in public funds for easements yet refuse to let resource officials on the land to monitor the condition of the natural habitat.

COME ON DOWN! The pombozated federal resource agencies are holding a raffle on our remaining natural resources, wildlife habitat and wetlands – piece by fragmented piece.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN! Watch the Developer Dutch Auction on San Joaquin Valley land-use planning.

COME ON DOWN! Watch the sales-tax increase sweepstakes so that the Valley can match funds with the federal government on new freeways, highways and loop roads to stimulate even more growth, as the rural county roads crumble before your eyes. Come on down and watch them fill the potholes in front of the Merced County Association of Governments office!

COME ON DOWN and learn the mystical process of making plans to make plans to make plans to make plans and get public funds to do it.

COME ON DOWN and listen to some whoppers about the Merced County water supply plan, which ain’t, but they all say it is.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN and observe, first hand, the latest design in up-scale yuppie labor camps – zero lot lines, no yards, parks and play areas closer to the freeway than to the home. Watch childhood asthma develop before your very eyes as you are stalled in freeway traffic.

COME ON DOWN and join the fun, if you want to play by the rules UC, the Pomboza, the developers and our wise, far-seeing local governments make up as they go along for the benefit of themselves and their families.

COME ON DOWN! We got a lake to sell you full of Anglo rowing teams.

COME ON DOWN! Maybe you can be an early student in UC Merced’s Coelho Institute of Honest Graft (and public policy), or the McClatchy/Singleton School of Conglomerate Media Management, or study the nanotechnology of nuclear weapons triggers. If you’re lucky and everything goes right, you might get a joint appointment with UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to study Ebola and Anthrax in a genuine safety level 4 biowarfare lab.

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN!

We got the barrel; you bring the pork.

Badlands editorial staff
---------------------------

Notes:

Los Angeles Times
Wetlands give UC Merced growing pains...Tanya Caldwell
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-merced13aug13,1,7214931,print.story
University of California Merced - which cost more than $500 million and took nearly 20 years to plan - still lacks federal permission to build on wetlands near the fledgling campus. UC Merced is developing 105 acres as part of Phase I of the campus and plans to build Phase II on 805 adjoining acres it purchased near Lake Yosemite...that second parcel includes 86 acres of federally protected wetlands. Now, university officials are hoping for an environmental permit to destroy the vernal pools on those wetlands and build, among other things, institutes to study the environment and energy. So why didn't the university secure permission to build the entire campus before beginning work? "It's easy to criticize after the fact," said Bob Carpenter, a Merced resident who has helped with university planning for 18 years. "But you could argue that if you wait until all the I's are dotted and all the Ts are crossed, probably no projects would ever get done." That's true especially in the era of the federal Clean Water Act, which demands permits before wetlands can be destroyed, said UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "I think we've shown that this is a very reasonable site." The Corps released - and then swiftly rescinded - a draft environmental impact statement detailing concerns about losing the vernal pools. Corps officials said the draft was incomplete and had been released prematurely. They expect to issue an official draft in a few months. But the draft has already created a buzz in Merced, where the Merced Sun-Star and Fresno Bee ran stories July 29 in which a Corps official said a permit for the university's preferred expansion plan "will not likely be granted." Kevin Roukey, the Corps' senior project manager...quoted in the Sun-Star...the site's vernal pools have "basically been determined to be the best in the state, and maybe even the country." Some local environmentalists, such as Carol Witham, have threatened to sue if the Corps grants the permit despite what she calls the university's "flagrant disregard for federally protected land." "They assumed that by having the campus there, that they can force their way into building the rest of the site," Witham, founder of the website vernalpools.org, said of university officials. "We advised them early on that they should've done all of their permits ahead of time. They're essentially gambling with the taxpayers' money." Saturday - the chancellor released a statement saying that Roukey's evaluations "represent the personal opinions of a single individual" and don't foretell the Corps' final decision. Corps officials later agreed and said it was too early to predict what would happen at UC Merced. They added that concerns found in the report wouldn't necessarily be a deal-breaker for the university's proposals. For years, the chancellor said, the Central Valley has been "underserved." She expects the Merced campus to infuse the area with a smart-growth population and jobs. "We're contributing enormously to the community."
"We believe we deserve an Olympic gold medal, and not have every bump being foreseen as some Mt. Everest to climb."

Sacramento Bee
Comments...Pressure's on for UC campus expansion
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/nation/story/14292794p-15132061c.html
Should have located it at Castle...blindman at 3:37 PM PST Friday, August 11, 2006 wrote:
The infrastructure for a new community exists near Merced - it's the abandoned Castle AFB. As usual, UC administrators demostrate that those in ivory towers have little practical sense. A castle location would have been cheaper, and demostrated better overall stewardship of open space.

Stockton Record
Let's get serious...Editorial
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060813&Category=OPED01&ArtNo=608130306&SectionCat=&Template=printart
More Californians are classified as being poor than at any time in the state's history. Only the Great Depression of the 1930s compares. One of every two public-school students is from a family that qualifies for federal aid. That's a staggering 50 percent. Poverty isn't an ethnic problem. It knows no skin color. It's not confined by geography. People can't build enough gated communities. Poverty crosses every line and creeps into every area of life. Those mired in poverty struggle through each day trying just to survive, unable to do anything meaningful to elevate themselves or their families. Too many leaders...consider progress to be more houses and businesses without adequately accounting for a deterioration in the quality of life for those unable to participate fully in that growth. Obviously, it's difficult to develop a truly meaningful blueprint for change, but we have to try. It's even harder to convince the comfortable and affluent that breaking the cycle of poverty is in their best interest, too. If we don't, an ever-widening gap between rich and poor will reshape California and San Joaquin County in regrettable and regressive ways.

Inside Bay Area
UC, lab, want to build huge biodefense lab...Ian Hoffman
http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_4176406
On rolling, grassy hills between the Bay Area's cities and the farms of the Central Valley, the University of California and scientists of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory see a sprawling biodefense lab as large as two Wal-Mart Supercenters. The University of California and Lawrence Livermore lab are proposing construction in the middle of the lab's Site 300, a once-remote explosives testing area. University officials have rounded up endorsements from the mayor of Livermore to U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, and from the state Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura to the California cattlemen's and poultry associations. Much of the new lab would operate at Biosafety Level 3, a category of biocontainment used for plague and tularemia. But some of the lab, perhaps a fifth or more, would operate at Biosafety Level 4, the highest level of biocontainment. BSL4 is reserved for diseases having no known vaccine such as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, foot and mouth disease or avian flu and requiring researchers to wear "moonsuits" inside airlocked labs. Federal officials have not elaborated on exactly which microorganisms would be studied in the new lab and the degree to which those germs would be modified. The university rejected a request by Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment, a Livermore lab watchdog group, for a copy of its proposal. Twenty-nine teams, mostly led by U.S. universities, leaped to make proposals. On Wednesday, the Homeland Security Department narrowed the list to 18 teams in 11 states. A smaller list of semi-finalists will be visited by federal officials in October, and the finalists will be evaluated in a full, environmental impact study over the next year, with a final decision in July 2008 and operations in 2013.

Santa Cruz Sentinel
Tensions mount over USCS growth...Shanna McCord
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2006/August/13/local/stories/01local.htm
The battle to stop UC Santa Cruz from expanding student enrollment by nearly 50 percent to 21,000 in the next 15 years, along with 2,000 new faculty and staff members, came to a head this week. The University of California threatened to sue the city unless two measures were pulled off the November ballot that seek to stop growth identified in the long-range development plan without UCSC paying its share of impacts on city services such as water, housing and transportation. Almost in the same breath, UC last week offered the city a proposal if the ballot measures were halted. Details of the proposal were not released publicly. The City Council, during a special closed-session meeting Wednesday, unanimously rejected the University of California's proposal and agreed to move forward with the ballot measures even if that means a lawsuit looms. It won't be known exactly how much the city is seeking from UCSC for mitigation costs until a final environmental impact report for the long-range development plan is certified. Since UCSC's long-range development plan of 1988 was written, the university has paid the city roughly $1.2 million to help cover off-campus impacts on infrastructure, including water pump upgrades, a new traffic signal, new turn lane and widening Mission Street. Looking at UCSC's projected water use in the future shows increased demand of 500,000 gallons a day, bringing total daily use at the campus to 2.5 million gallons, which Kocher says the city doesn't have the capacity to provide. To meet the increased water demand, Kocher said UCSC would be forced to rely on the proposed $40 million desalination plant. The additional 500,000 gallons a day for UCSC represents about one-fifth of the desalination plant's estimated capacity, which Kocher said would mean the university should contribute one-fifth of the cost - $8 million - toward its construction and operation. City and county leaders won confidence that the Santa Cruz ballot measures would be less at risk of drawing a lawsuit after the state Supreme Court recently ruled that California State University can't skirt its obligation to pay for off-campus impacts associated with growth.

8-10-06
Merced Sun-Star
UC Merced seeks aid of lawmakers. University looks to Congress to allow expansion plans...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12569266p-13279371c.html
WASHINGTON -- UC Merced advocates are turning the political dials to avoid permit problems with the Army Corps of Engineers...university's chancellor is calling members of Congress. Lawmakers are leaning on the Corps...all in hopes of salvaging a 900-acre expansion plan favored by the university. "This project is too important to face setbacks over communication," Jennifer Walsh, chief of staff for Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced... The joint university and congressional maneuvering follows a warning - since disputed - that UC Merced's preferred expansion plan probably won't get a permit... Tomlinson-Keasey stressed that Roukey's comments should be considered personal and not a foreshadowing of the final Corps decision. "I needed to make (congressmen) aware that this is the beginning of the process." "People speak out all the time and say their opinion, (but) I have talked with the Corps, and they have assured me they will play by the rules." One San Joaquin Valley congressional tactic now is to ensure that officials more senior than Roukey are engaged in the project, one congressional staffer explained. This entails enlisting officials both at Corps headquarters in Washington and California. "Political pressure has driven a lot of this project from the start," said Carol Witham, founder of the Sacramento-based organization called VernalPools.org. "The draft as originally written would not have withstood a legal test,..."but I think they were under pressure by the university." The university's stated position is that the alternative campus sites are "not reasonably available, obtainable or practical because they would require the acquisition of dozens of new tracts of land, in contiguous parcels, from many different owners, at a cost of more than $100 million in new taxpayer outlays."

8-4-06
San Francisco Chronicle
UC barred from deciding pay packages in private...Patrick Hoge
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/08/04/BAGENKB8LT1.DTL&type=printable
An Alameda County judge has given The Chronicle a partial victory in a lawsuit by ruling that a committee of the UC Board of Regents cannot decide behind closed doors whether to recommend pay packages for top officials...said the University of California's regent committees cannot make "a collective decision'' in closed session on possible future action to be taken concerning compensation matters. Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith ruled against The Chronicle, however, on other elements of the newspaper's lawsuit, which sought to force the regents' compensation committee to meet in public when it discusses pay for its top 20 officials...said discussion of compensation in closed meetings is legal under state law if no action is taken. She also declined to order UC to tape future meetings of its Committee on Finance and Special Committee on Compensation...also rejected The Chronicle's request that UC be compelled to divulge minutes and other records from previous committee meetings that dealt with compensation. Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill, AB775, that would require UC to open its compensation meetings. The bill -- opposed by UC officials -- passed the state Senate Education Committee, and is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday.

City officials blast UC development proposal...Rick DelVecchio
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/08/04/BAG2AKB7KU1.DTL&type=printable
UC Berkeley's planning for a new sports and academic complex is flawed because it doesn't deal with the impact of a major disaster in a remote part of campus split by the Hayward Fault and fails to seriously look at alternatives... Cal's draft environmental impact report describing the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects should be redone because it lacks detail on the impact of the developments described in it and on possible alternatives, City Manager Phil Kamlarz said in a letter to campus planners. Despite the university's name for the plan, the projects aren't really integrated and are being presented in a way that's against the spirit of state law requiring detailed environmental review, Kamlarz said.

7-21-06
San Diego Union-Tribune
UC regents retroactively approve lucrative compensation packages … Eleanor Yang Su
http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060721/news_1n21uc.html
SAN FRANCISCO – University of California regents retroactively approved lucrative benefits and payouts yesterday to dozens of UC executives whose compensation had been criticized in recent months as being in violation of university policy.
In one instance, regents decided to not only retroactively approve but also continue a monthly payment to UC San Diego Medical School Dean Edward Holmes, whose case was highlighted in a state audit in May as problematic.
The state audit had found that Holmes had been overcompensated $128,649 since 2002 because he had received an extra $5,000 per month to offset money he paid to UC San Diego for earnings from his external board service.
UC policy requires certain health science employees who receive stock from corporate boards to provide a percentage of the value of the stock to the university. Even after Holmes fulfilled his percentage, UCSD continued to pay him the additional money per month, according to the audit.
Yesterday, regents defended their decision to continue paying Holmes and many others, stating that they are underpaid compared to their peers at other universities.
“What happened here was not that someone received money that they should not have received,” said Regent Judith Hopkinson. “What happened was there was money that was approved at a level that didn't include regent approval.”
Hopkinson added that in Holmes' case, he was promised that the extra income would be part of his permanent salary. His current annual salary is $453,400.
“He was entitled to it,” Hopkinson said. “It was the honorable thing to do because he was represented that this, in fact, was his new salary.”
Regents, however, have decided to seek repayment in at least two situations. Regents authorized the university to negotiate some repayment by UCSD Senior Vice Chancellor Marsha Chandler for an $8,916 auto allowance she inappropriately received while on sabbatical in the 2004-05 fiscal year. The allowance was paid in violation of UC policy, according to the regents item …

8-10-06
Merced Sun-Star
Sheriff's brother evaded DUI jail time...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12569265p-13279409c.html
When Sheriff Mark Pazin's brother showed up to court in March to be sentenced for a drunken- driving arrest last year, a judge told him he had to pay a fine and take a class. It turns out that despite a policy to almost always bring DUI offenders to jail -- or at least fingerprint and photograph them -- after they are arrested, Merced police decided to forego that procedure with Pazin, the Sun-Star has learned. Instead, police reports show, an officer called the sheriff on a December night and told him to pick up his intoxicated brother. Booking information would have been sent to the state Department of Justice, said David LaBahn, who heads the California District Attorney's Association. In this case, Richard Pazin's arrest file will be "incomplete" and without a photo and fingerprint -- leaving open the possibility that his 2005 DUI conviction could be challenged if he was caught driving drunk again, LaBahn said.

Maneuvers on measures reveal who pulls strings...John Michael Flint
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12569317p-13279474c.html
Item 1 — Our Board of Supervisors recently made sure the "Stamp Out Sprawl" measure would not appear on the November ballot. The maneuver, though sleazy and cynical, was entirely legal — and it produced an outpouring of shock, outrage and criticism. What do the following have in common: Bruce Frohman, Denny Jackman, Balvino Irizarry, Carmen Sabatino? All faced opposition from candidates funded by real-estate developers. All were handily defeated
Item 2 — A week after derailing the sprawl measure, the supervisors voted to put the long-awaited road tax (Measure K) on the November ballot, and anyone who tells you this isn't a cost of growth is shining you on. It will be promoted relentlessly - by the Chamber of Commerce, the real-estate industry and this newspaper... Also answered, as if it weren't already obvious, will be the question of who really pulls the strings hereabouts.

Modesto Bee
Officials seeking help with growth...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12569320p-13279458c.html
Stanislaus County's mayors and county supervisors say they want to wrestle control of the county's future from big developers, but they need to hire someone to help them do that. The mayors and supervisors have been meeting to develop a blueprint for what the county should look like in 50 years — where it should and shouldn't grow and what kinds of public facilities will be needed to handle that growth. Supervisor Jim DeMartini said such plans need to protect farmland from developers. "The problem is, some developer comes in from out of town, options a bunch of land, and pressures the council to grow another way … They really only care about the land they control," DeMartini said. "We really need to work together."

Tracy Press
Bioterror...Eric Firpo
http://www.tracypress.com/local/2006-08-10-Bioterror.php
A bomb test site in the hills upwind of Tracy has made the “short list” of 18 spots where a research laboratory might be built to help protect against bioterrorism, the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday. Homeland Security is looking for a spot to build a 500,000-square-foot research lab to replace a similar, but antiquated, laboratory at Plum Island in New York, which was built in the 1950s. The University of California asked to run the new lab at Site 300, 7,000 acres in the hills west of Tracy that’s part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Homeland Security said the UC has made the first cut, along with 17 other applicants in 11 states. Now that Site 300 has cleared its first hurdle, the anti-nuclear group Tri-Valley CAREs is launching an effort to prevent it from being built west of Tracy...group fears the new lab will research bioweapons, since it will have Level 3 and Level 4 labs...says a nuclear laboratory is no place for a biological laboratory because it sends a message that the lab will be used to develop offensive bioagents instead of trying to defend against them.

8-9-06
Merced Sun-Star
Director of university dining hall out of job...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12564634p-13275230c.html
UC Merced's director of dining and retail services has resigned following an investigation by UC auditors that determined he used university vehicles for personal business, purchased food for his private catering business using UC credit accounts and regularly took food from the university without payment. Prompted by a whistleblower complaint, the university began examining possible policy violations by Thomas Welton in April. Welton told investigators he was unaware of a university policy that prohibited personal use of university cars, used university credit accounts to purchase nearly $2,500 in merchandise, much of which he used for his private catering business, investigators found. Vendor records showed that Welton's wife -- who isn't employed at UC Merced -- signed for some of the purchases. While Welton eventually paid vendors for the purchases, he used university credit to delay personal payment, and only made the payments after the university's investigation began.

8-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
County violating sell-back policy...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12560598p-13271482c.html
An investigation that the Merced County Retirement Board launched last month to look into the legality of new perks given to the county's CEO has found something even more troubling: The county has been overpaying 25 retired employees -- mostly top-level managers and elected officials -- by thousands of dollars each year... inquiry found that the county has been violating the terms of a 2000 legal settlement -- known as the Ventura Agreement -- that limits the number of vacation hours county employees can "sell back" to boost their pensions. San Francisco attorney, Ashley Dunning said in an interview that the Ventura Agreement "could not be clearer" in limiting how many sold-back vacation hours can count toward pensions. Kathleen Crookham, who is the only supervisor who sits on the retirement board and voted to give Tatum the extra sell-back hours, said she also is OK with the retirement board's legal findings. "I guess if that's the legal opinion, you know what, I support it," she said.

8-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
Pension policy rips off taxpayers...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12579690p-1328813
...Merced County has decided to cut back the pensions of 25 retirees that were inflated by a complex vacation "sell-back" that boosted their final year's salary, which is used to calculate the pension payouts they earn every month for the rest of their lives. Instead of being able to sell back 240 hours upon retirement -- or even more for CEO Dee Tatum, who has a separate contract with the board -- the new limit will be 160 hours. But why stop there? We don't think county employees should be able to boost their retirements at all with this bogus vacation "sell-back," which is mandated by something called the "Ventura Agreement." It's the gift that keeps on giving -- all at taxpayer expense. And our local politicians wonder why voters turn down tax increase measures.
Sheriff wasn't involved...Michael H. Sofranek, Catheys Valley...2nd letter
I retired from the Merced County Sheriff's Department's Corrections Division. Knowing the system and knowing how the system works, I do believe the sheriff would not interfere with the process, but I do not believe that the sheriff was not aware that his brother slipped through the cracks in serving his jail time.
Sell-back hours ridiculous...Phil McDaniels, Merced...3rd letter
Let me see if I have this right: The county retirement board increases the sell-back vacation hours for the county CEO, Dee Tatum. Then, as the stink from this rises, the board decides to get a legal opinion and hire outside counsel...investigation shows... they've been committing a no-no since 2000. The first question...how much of an overpayment are we talking about and how does the board plan on getting it back? Secondly, couldn't some common sense be used next time and get a legal opinion first?

March 10, 2006
Badlandsjournal.com: Merced County Development Rodeo: Ranchwood Event

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and other members of the concerned public always wondered how developers in Merced County rode roughshod over local, state and federal environmental laws, regulations, agencies and its own public. But, rarely have they been granted the insight provided by this telephone message, recorded on Feb. 3, 2006.
Badlands has blocked out the last two numbers of the telephones the developer left for return calls from the supervisor he thought he’d called as a courtesy to the developer.
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! ...

Consult Badlandsjournal.com for a number of posts on government in Merced County, for example: Byrd sues on civil rights violations, July 28, 2006, which includes a brief filed in federal court against the county DA, the Sheriff and other county notables, and notes, including the news clips cited below:

7-15-06
Merced Sun-Star
Amid turmoil, Spencer quits…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12456073p-13175492c.html
After a tumultuous week that included a dramatic car crash, a concussion, calls from the Board of Supervisors to step down, and continuing criminal investigations by the state Attorney General’s Office, District Attorney Gordon Spencer said on Friday he will resign immediately. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said his agency will continue to investigate Spencer.

7-14-06
Merced Sun-Star
County workers get brush up on ethics…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12450025p-13170424c.html
Amid investigations by the state Attorney General’s Office and growing questions about government accountability, county officials got an earful from Graham and other ethics speakers this week. All county department heads and elected officials, as well as middle managers, were required to go to Graham’s session on Monday. Elected officials and top-level employees also had to go to a two-hour course Tuesday taught by a Sacramento law firm that reviewed accepted guidelines for government openness and accountability. But not everyone attended…four officials, including Spencer, didn’t go to Monday’s meeting… Spencer, who was in the hospital Tuesday after a car accident Monday, didn’t attend Tuesday’s session. The four no-shows Monday — Spencer, Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, Human Services Agency Director Ana Pagan and County Counsel Ruben Castillo — must go to Graham’s Aug. 24 course for low-level managers if they want to keep their allowances. Morris said Kelsey had a family emergency and Pagan had a medical emergency Monday. He said he didn’t know why Spencer and Castillo didn’t attend. Supervisor Kathleen Crookham…felt Hedlund’s session was “dull,” she was glad to attend the ethics courses. “It reinforces the kind of things we should remember,” Crookham said.

Correction…Last Updated: July 14, 2006, 02:51:25 AM PDT
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12450026p-13170466c.html
• A headline on Page A1 of Thursday’s Sun-Star about District Attorney Gordon Spencer was incorrect. No representative from the hospital said Mr. Spencer suffered a head injury.

7-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
D.A. still in hospital…Scott Jason
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12439963p-13161488c.html
The Merced County district attorney remained in the hospital Tuesday night with short-term memory loss after a rollover crash Monday night, his attorney said. The California Highway Patrol is continuing its investigation into the crash, though it doesn’t look like any charges or citations will be filed, Public Information Officer Shane Ferriera said. Spencer called his wife from Smith’s phone, and she took him to the hospital… The investigating officer interviewed Spencer at the hospital and tested him for driving under the influence…said the test includes looking for the smell of alcohol, slurred speech or red, watery eyes. Ferriera said he did not know if Spencer was given a breathalyzer test.

Panel may ask Spencer to resign from his post…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12439964p-13161513c.html
Merced County Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said Tuesday that embattled District Attorney Gordon Spencer should resign immediately to help restore the District Attorney’s Office from months of “turmoil.” O’Banion told supervisors at their meeting Tuesday that he wants the board to vote sometime soon on whether Spencer should resign. He later said the vote will be at the supervisors’ next meeting on Tuesday. “I’m not going to take any action until we have the attorney general’s report,” Kelsey said…”I’m not going to let the newspaper tell me what to do and I’m not going to grandstand for the public or for the newspaper.” “We don’t have all the facts.” O’Banion brushed aside Kelsey’s accusations
…”I don’t look at it as grandstanding, I look at it as a responsibility we have to take back a department that is in turmoil.” Supervisor Mike Nelson…when asked if Spencer should resign, he replied. “It would be nice if he would do that, yeah.”

Police chief secrecy isn’t right way…Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12439980p-13161532c.html
Plenty of mystery surrounds the disappearance and alleged kidnapping of Kou Xiong, the Merced Police Department officer who was missing for two days before being located in the Madera County foothills. Now, after an internal affairs investigation by the police department, we’re told Xiong is no longer on the force. But that’s it as far as any official accounting of what may have taken place. The public deserves more of an explanation than that…police officials should divulge some reason for Xiong’s termination.

Letters to the editor:
Spencer should step down
…Mark Seivert, Merced
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12439981p-13161523c.html
Editor: How many investigations need to be done on our district attorney from the state Attorney General’s Office before we demand he step down? I think three in one year should be more than enough for anyone.
Pazin’s actions a let-down…Phil McDaniels, Merced
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12439957p-13161493c.html
Editor: With Gordon Spencer involved in Cellphonegate and SUVgate, it is not surprising to find him involved in yet another scheme as nefarious as the purchase of land of a jailed man. What is surprising is the behavior and attitude of one of his partners, the sheriff of Merced County… Sheriff Mark Pazin admits to knowing who the seller of the land was in the “final stages of the deal.” …the sheriff let the chase for big bucks place a cloud over his name and the office of sheriff of Merced County.

7-11-06
Merced Sun-Star
District Attorney Spencer injured in creek car crash…Scott Jason — Chris Collins; — Mike De La Cruz; — The Associated Press
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12435800p-13157709c.html
The Merced County district attorney was taken to the hospital Monday night after he rolled his Ford pickup truck into Bear Creek, a California Highway Patrol officer said. For unknown reasons, Spencer let the Ford F-150 pickup truck drift off the road and into the creek, he said. …CHP Web site said the victim in the crash had minor injuries.

7-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
Spencer purchased land from jailed man…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12425122p-13147572c.html
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has launched a third investigation into Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer, this time examining whether Spencer committed a crime when he and a group of local investors bought a piece of property from a man who was sitting behind bars and facing charges from the District Attorney’s Office. The latest investigation comes on top of an ongoing criminal probe into Spencer’s potential embezzlement of public funds and an inquiry last December that found Spencer had impersonated an investigator. The attorney general is now looking into a 21-acre lot on Bellevue Road that Spencer, Sheriff Mark Pazin, Ranchwood Homes owner Greg Hostetler, and five other prominent locals purchased in 2004. The intersection of the two events created a clash that was “absolutely impermissible” by attorney ethics standards, said Weisberg, the Stanford law professor. “There was a conflict of interest. ” Dougherty, the county’s presiding judge, said Spencer never told Byrd’s attorney about his involvement in buying Byrd’s land. Kelsey said she always has been troubled that the sheriff and district attorney joined one of the county’s biggest developers to buy the land.

7-5-06
Merced Sun-Star
Tatum had a smorgasbord…Phil McDaniels, Merced…Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12409089p-13133720c.html
Editor: Many thanks to City Editor Mike Fitzgerald for putting in words how many voters feel about the Merced County Board of Supervisors and its constant giveaway of our money to the hierarchy of county government. For someone who flew low under the radar during the Gordon Spencer matter AND the department heads’ perks matter, County Executive Officer Dee Tatum surfaced long enough for another feast at the public trough. The board members have been in office too long and have lost sight of who they work for and who their decisions should benefit.

6-21-06
Merced Sun-Star
County supervisors clarify management policies…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12347503p-13077932c.html
Board of Supervisors approved sweeping changes on Tuesday to Merced County’s policies on car and phone allowances given to top-level employees…also set new ethics training requirements and accountability standards for elected officials and department managers. It was the first official action the supervisors have taken in response to District Attorney Gordon Spencer’s misuse of government equipment…county Auditor Stephen Jones said that the county’s attorney, Ruben Castillo, had advised him that a state law giving district attorneys and sheriffs the right to charge business expenses to the county may also give Spencer legal grounds for getting both a county phone and an allowance. The revised policy means:
• The 33 “A-level managers” in the county, which includes department heads, supervisors and other elected officials, must now sign a new form each year that says they will use their own car and phone for their jobs if they choose to receive monthly allowances as reimbursements.
• The state-mandated conflict-of-interest disclosure forms that county department heads and elected officials fill out each year will now be frequently audited by an outside firm.
• All department heads and elected officials must now attend an ethics training course once a year or lose out on their phone and car allowances.

6-15-06
Merced Sun-Star
Valley politicians report lands sales, wealth…Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12321524p-13054529c.html
WASHINGTON — San Joaquin Valley lawmakers are a diversified lot, especially when it comes to their personal finances. They own land, though not necessarily as much as they used to. They own stocks. Several have spouses pulling political salaries. Cardoza reported that, last October, he sold 6.2 acres in Atwater. The land at the intersection of Bellevue Road and Redwood Avenue brought the Cardoza & Cardoza Landholding Partnership between $500,001 and $1 million. Cardoza turned to stocks. He reported purchasing some 32 different stocks in November and December. Cardoza’s wife works as a physician in Merced.

Crookham is off the mark…Lorraine Dawson, Merced
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12321534p-13054545c.html
Editor: Some Merced County supervisors dismissed concerns that their allowances were excessive. Supervisor Kathleen Crookham said she was frustrated that questions were being asked about her pay. “It’s really unfortunate when this kind of scrutiny takes place.” “And then it’s really unfortunate when no one wants to run for office because they come under that type of scrutiny.” “Does the rest of the world have to justify what they spend? No. This is a thankless job and one you don’t get rich on.” Mercedians have a right to know where the tax revenue is spent and why. Then there was this comment in a May 2 Sun-Star story: “Supervisor Kathleen Crookham said she’s known for the past few months that (District Attorney Gordon) Spencer has been using a county vehicle while receiving a car allowance at the same time, but she said she doesn’t think it’s a serious violation.” Look no further than comments like these as to why Measure A was not passed.

6-13-06
Merced Sun-Star
OES faults Spencer over grant…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12312342p-13045915c.html
The state Office of Emergency Services says it will closely scrutinize Merced County’s use of grant funds in the future after a report it released Monday concluded that District Attorney Gordon Spencer violated the terms of an OES grant. State will monitor county closely but funds won’t have to be repaid. The report also found that the District Attorney’s Office misled OES when it said it would assign a full-time deputy district attorney to prosecuting people who committed rural crimes. The OES report found three other grant violations:… There is no set deadline for when the attorney general’s report will conclude.

Letters to the Editor…Last Updated: June 13, 2006, 01:52:58 AM PDT
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12312355p-13045923c.html
County wears blindfold…James V. Haslouer, Merced…1st letter
Editor: So let me see if I understand this correctly. If you are a county employee and you jeopardize a state- funded program for your own personal pocket stuffing and accept false cell phone and vehicle reimbursements (embezzlement), you can then use those monies to compute and enhance your retirement! …who was signing the vouchers that District Attorney Gordon Spencer was submitting for five years or perhaps even longer? Pay Spencer more than $150K a year for what? His disdain for the law is obvious.Supervisors, stand up for your constituents and do the right thing.

6-3-06
Merced Sun-Star

Spencer violated Grant…Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12270485p-13006930c.html
District Attorney Gordon Spencer violated the terms of a grant by driving a $27,000 SUV that he was never supposed to use, a report by a private auditing firm has found…conducted by Sacramento-based Macias, Gini and Co. The SUV, a 2005 Ford Expedition, was purchased a year ago with money from a state grant and was intended for Chief Deputy District Attorney Larry Morse. Instead, the vehicle was “assigned solely to the County’s District Attorney,” the report concluded…”could jeopardize eligibility of the vehicle” and future funding from the grant. “It basically reinforces the fact that the car was not supposed to be used by the individual who was using it,” county Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said. Last month, the state Attorney General’s Office launched an embezzlement investigation into Spencer’s use of county-owned equipment. The Office of Emergency Services is making its own inquiry into Spencer’s actions. Both investigations are ongoing.

July 16, 2006
http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=local&id=4372012
ABC Action News 30
Fire Damages Offices at Merced County Courthouse
July 16, 2006 - A scandal forced their boss to leave and now there's a new struggle for Merced County prosecutors after fire tore through their offices over the weekend.
Investigators will begin digging out the five offices on Monday, hoping to find out what started the fire. For now, they are breathing a sigh of relief after rescuing a very important case file from the burned building.
Once the smoke cleared, investigators and county leaders got a glimpse of the damage.
"The intensity of the fire was severe. It had buckled a lot of the metal, windows had been blown out, desks, chairs and such were absolutely melted to the ground," said Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin.
Fire officials say the west portion of the building suffered the worst damage. Four district attorneys offices are ruined, two others damaged by smoke and water and two courtrooms unusable because of the intense heat.
"At the height of the firefight operations, we actually had flames I would estimate to 50 to 60 feet in the air above the building. Very major major operation," said Merced Fire Chief Ken Mitten.
The fire came just two days after District Attorney Gordon Spencer resigned in the middle of three separate investigations by the attorney general's office. His office was not in the building that caught fire and officials do not believe there is any relation between the two sudden events.
Incoming district attorney Larry Morse left the building just three and a half hours before the blaze began.
"I'm sure I was the last one to leave this building. It was close to 2:00am when I left. I didn't see anything remotely suspicious. I've been in the office until one or two for the last seven or eight days, as you are during trials," said Morse.
Morse says one of the files that burned in a felony office is the case against Tao Rivera. Police say he's the Merced gang member who gunned down police officer Stephan Grey. Luckily, Morse found a copy that was spared in his office. He has now moved it to a safe location.
He says many other criminal cases also went up in smoke, but he doesn't think any accusers are off the hook, because multiple copies are usually made on each case.
Despite the damaged courtrooms, court will go on as scheduled. Those cases set for the affected courtrooms will be moved to other buildings in the complex.
Fire damages are about $750,000

November 17, 2005
Modesto Bee
UC regents increase fees by 8 percent…Michelle Locke, AP
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11490731p-12229564c.html
Cost of going to university has going up 89% since ‘01. The vote came amid heightened criticism of the UC’s spending after reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that the UC has paid millions in bonuses and pay hikes to top executives. …students were not happy with the hikes, demonstrating their opposition by chanting “Education, not corporation!”

Merced Sun-Star
UC tuition fees going up again…Rosalio Ahumada
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/11491100p-12229815c.html
Students will pay about $500 more per year. UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said she knows some students are struggling with educational costs, but the fee increases are needed right now. “We certainly don’t want to exacerbate that,” Tomlinson-Keasey said of student financial woes. About 80 percent of UC Merced’s inaugural class applied for and received financial aid, and 64 percent of those students qualified for need-based financial assistance, according to campus records.

Sacramento Bee
Fifth fee hike since ‘02 gets UC regent OK…Leslie A. Maxwell
http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/california/story/13870111p-14709573c.html
UC officials said the fee increases - part of a $2.9 billion budget that they will request from the Legislature for next year - were necessary to maintain their “compact” with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, argued for the board to hold off on the hikes until Schwarzenegger unveils his new state budget proposal in early January. Much of the audience also was angry about recent news reports that hundreds of UC’s senior-level employees received generous housing allowances, bonuses and other perks during a budget crunch.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC president promises increased disclosure about pay packages. Task force also will consider further policy changes…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/17/BAGVTFPO5L1.DTL&type=printable
After facing days of withering criticism, University of California leaders promised Wednesday to disclose more information about how much they pay employees. ” Dynes promised that UC would: … — Provide regents with a summary of UC leaders’ total compensation once a year, including outside income. Dynes said he wasn’t sure whether that information would be released to the public. There is a dark cloud over the university that we really have to reckon with, and it speaks to the question of transparency and honesty,” Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, an ex-officio regent, said. “There is a lot of outrage,” said Bruce Fuller, professor of public policy and education at UC Berkeley. “Is the quality of the university really tied to attracting managers, or is it tied to attracting top faculty?”

Zero hour for Los Alamos. UC has run the nation’s top weapons lab for six decades.
Will it all end this week?…Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/17/MNGQ9FPOD81.DTL&type=printable
Los Alamos National Lab…climax of a four-year saga: a decision that will determine who runs the world’s most glamorous and controversial nuclear weapons lab and that also could end the University of California’s unchallenged six-decade domination of the U.S. weapons program. An announcement could come soon, perhaps even Friday. UC and its industrial partners, including San Francisco-based Bechtel National Inc., are competing for the contract against aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp. and its allies — the huge University of Texas system, several New Mexico universities and various industrial partners. Loss of the contract by UC would be a crushing blow to the university system’s reputation and, perhaps, to the state of California, which owes much of its international economic clout and attractiveness to investors’ perception of the state as the Nobel laureate-packed front line of scientific and technological advances. …the Lockheed-Texas team has benefited from continued leaks of bad news from Los Alamos. The latest case involved an “Occurrence Report,” which came to light late last month concerning an incident in October 2003…

UC regents boost next year’s student fees…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/17/BAGVTFPETK1.DTL&type=printable
Hours after the University of California Board of Regents voted Wednesday to impose steep fee increases on students, a regents’ committee recommended that hundreds of top university administrators get pay raises. The proposed “annual merit” salary increases, … average about 3 percent. “Even with this year’s merit increases, the salaries of many senior UC managers still significantly fall below market,” according to the statement. A recent study by Mercer Consulting found that UC offers lower salaries than other prestigious universities, though UC pay is comparable when retirement and other benefits are factored in. However, the Mercer study did not include all forms of compensation used by UC, leaving it unclear whether UC employees are paid better or worse than the average pay of their counterparts elsewhere. …Wednesday, the regents disregarded assurances from state Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez that the Legislature would likely allocate enough money to make the higher fees unnecessary

November 16, 2005
San Francisco Chronicle
Outrage in Capitol at UC pay revelations…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/16/BAG1RFP4R61.DTL&type=printable
State lawmakers demanded Tuesday that University of California leaders answer questions about UC’s growing payroll, hidden compensation and a rising inequity between low-paid employees and senior administrators and faculty. Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who sits on the Senate Education Committee, “I’m not going to allow UC to become the Wal-Mart of education. The university’s money is public money. They have to be very careful. Before we do anything more with salaries, we have to have transparency.” “This is outrageous,” Denham said. “While students face rate increases every year and UC rank and file workers face salary freezes, the top UC administrators will be getting secret salary hikes. The regents should postpone their vote and let the public see the documents.”

UC’s hidden pay…Editorial
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/16/EDGODFOD701.DTL&type=printable
FOR AN institution devoted to openness and truth, the University of California is falling short. It refuses to speak plainly about the eye-popping compensation packages for its top leaders. The timing for the new salary increases couldn’t be worse. …regents are due to vote on a plan to raise student fees by 8 percent. …after fees have nearly doubled in four years. UC must explain its compensation policies more fully. It isn’t showing the openness that taxpayers expect and deserve from a public university.

Fresno Bee
UC gets $8 million to study San Joaquin Valley’s bad air…AP
http://www.fresnobee.com/state_wire/v-printerfriendly/story/11479672p-12219067c.html
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The University of California, Davis, will receive an $8 million federal grant to study the effects of one of the country’s most polluted air basins on public health.

11-14-05
San Francisco Chronicle…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable
The University of California may have cut student services and maintenance, but not the number of high-paid jobs created over the past two years.

Merced Sun-Star
Famers say UC helps rivals too…Olivia Munoz, AP
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/business/ag/story/11478748p-12218475c.html
UC President Robert C. Dynes met with about 35 growers… San Joaquin Valley growers expressed frustration Thursday that research they help the University of California conduct ends up helping their rivals in the global agriculture market. …also concerned that the system’s budget cuts were affecting the extension office program.

San Francisco Chronicle
Free mansions for people of means…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO0JJ1.DTL&type=printable
For all the attention paid to university salaries, some of the biggest perks at the university are noncash items, such as free housing. At UC, the system spends about $1 million a year to maintain spacious homes for Dynes and the 10 campus chancellors. I think taxpayers would be outraged to discover the nature of this extraordinary perk,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association. Schwartz…said the homes are important to help chancellors cover the high cost of living in California, where many chancellors otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford homes on their university salaries. Public records show that many of the chancellors already own their homes, sometimes close to campus. And at least two chancellors earned tens of thousands of dollars in extra annual income by moving into university-owned residences and renting out their own nearby homes. In addition, records show hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on maintaining some of the estates.. “I suspect this will make it in our 2005 piglet book” of examples of government waste, Coupal said. “This is the kind of stuff that shows that at some point (government leaders sometimes) lose touch with reality.”

Services cut for students as high-pay jobs boom…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable
The University of California may have cut student services and maintenance, but not the number of high-paid jobs created over the past two years. Payroll records show that 2,275 university employees earned more than $200,000 last fiscal year, up 30 percent over two years. The number of employees making at least $300,000 annually climbed 54 percent to 496 last year. Some employees got raises. Others were hired or promoted to new posts with increased salaries. Still, the boom in top salaries comes at a time when UC leaders say they have been forced to raise student fees 79 percent over four years, increase class sizes and curtail student services to cope with cuts in state funding. “This is not something you want the Legislature to learn about,” said Velma Montoya, who served on the UC Board of Regents for 11 years until her term ended in January. “It is unfair and impolitic.”

The home used by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Chronicle photo by Mark Costantini
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?m=/c/pictures/2005/11/14/mn_a9_uc00_156_mc.jpg&f=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable

More higher-paid employees on UC payroll
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?m=/c/pictures/2005/11/14/mn_higher_paid.jpg&f=/c/a/2005/11/14/MNGDFFO1641.DTL&type=printable

Monterey Herald
The teacher pay UC doesn’t discuss…System shells out millions while claiming poverty…San Francisco Chronicle
http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/montereyherald/news/state/13163302.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Despite complaints from University of California officials that the system has suffered severe cuts in state funding, prompting tuition and fee increases, many faculty members and administrators get paid thousands more than is publicly reported. ‘’We should be comparing full compensation, including the perks, not just the salary, because when you look across the country, you shouldn’t be comparing apples to oranges,'’ said Velma Montoya, an economist who served on the UC Board of Regents for 11 years until her term ended in January. ‘’It’s ludicrous to increase student fees… when you’re talking about executive officers making this much money, and no one knowing about it,'’ said Anu Joshi, a UC Berkeley graduate student and president of the systemwide UC Student Association.

11-13-05
UC’s higher profile…Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/11476112p-12215740c.html
The recent visit to Fresno by the president of the University of California underscores how the landscape has changed in higher education for Valley students in just a few years. For decades, the Valley was given short shrift by UC. Higher education was left in the hands of California State University campuses, such as Fresno State. Now UC Merced has opened, creating a new opportunity for Valley students. …the UC system is working much harder to spread the word about UC among Valley students and their families. That’s what brought UC President Robert Dynes to Fresno on Thursday…

San Francisco Chronicle
UC piling extra cash on top of pay…Tanya Schevitz, Tod Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGHFFNMAC1.DTL&type=printable
Despite UC’s complaints that it has been squeezed by cuts in state funding and forced to raise student fees, many university faculty members and administrators get paid far more than is publicly reported. In addition to salaries and overtime, payroll records obtained by The Chronicle show that employees received a total of $871 million in bonuses, administrative stipends, relocation packages and other forms of cash compensation last fiscal year. That was more than enough to cover the 79 percent hike in student fees that UC has imposed over the past few years. The bulk of the last year’s extra compensation, roughly $599 million, went to more than 8,500 employees who each got at least $20,000 over their regular salaries. And that doesn’t include an impressive array of other perks for selected top administrators, ranging from free housing to concert tickets.

Bringing in the big bucks
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?m=/c/pictures/2005/11/13/mn_big_bucks.jpg&f=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGHFFNMAC1.DTL&type=printable
Here are UC’s highest-paid employees based ontotal compensation. Base salary is a small fraction of their total pay.

Overall payroll
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGHFFNMAC1.DTL&o=1&type=printable
Over the last few years there has been an increase in the UC’s payroll…2002 – 2005

Other perks include parties, gifts, travel…Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNGQPFJ9DJ26.DTL&type=printable
In addition to their cash compensation, many senior UC employees receive significant fringe benefits. A partial list includes:
– Housing: Some employees receive free or subsidized housing near campus, including spacious homes (and in some cases, mansions) reserved for chancellors. UC also issued thousands of low-interest mortgages to administrators and faculty…3 percent interest rate. — Jobs: — Entertainment: Gifts:– Travel: Parties: Expensive parties are common.
Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education…”This is not a slush fund,'’ Callan said. “Every dollar that the university gets is public. It is a public institution. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

Livermore Lab’s future tied to risky laser project…Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/11/13/MNG1AFNKRE1.DTL&type=printable
The fate of a super-laser — a multibillion-dollar project under construction at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is in serious doubt, despite Congress’ decision to grant it a reprieve. …eight years after the facility’s groundbreaking at Livermore lab, the project has cost taxpayers more than $3 billion, at least three times the projected cost, and the tab should exceed $4 billion between now and the projected completion in 2009-2010. Meanwhile, only a small percentage of the projected 192 lasers have been installed and tested. Worst of all, there is serious scientific doubt whether the laser will achieve its near-mythic goal: ignition, the holy grail of nuclear physics. ..recent study by top Pentagon advisory panel cites many technical obstacles and says there’s no assurance the project will work. The group, known as “Jason,” pointed out in a recent report that the project is rife with technical problems. This is an embarrassment that UC can ill afford at a time when federal officials are close to making a crucial decision on another one of the university system’s vital relationships with the Department of Energy.

11-12-05
Fundraiser helps MC students get to UC…Rosalio Ahumada
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/11472660p-12212399c.html
With the rising cost to earn a bachelor’s degree, students need scholarship support more than ever. The Merced College Foundation wants to make sure its transferring students have all the help they can get to attend the newest University of California campus. Currently, full-time equivalent Merced College students pay a total of about $800 per school year including campus fees. UC Merced undergraduate students pay about $7,000 in tuition per school year. But that doesn’t include housing costs that range from $14,000 to $20,000 annually.

Anxiety marks Los Alamos mood ahead of lab contract announcement…Heather Clark, AP
http://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/11472441p-12212115c.html
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - Many people in this isolated mesa-top community are anxious or fearful about who will win a contract to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory. The main contenders for the contract are two limited liability corporations, one headed by Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas and the other led by Bechtel Corp. and the University of California… …contract worth up to $79 million. The announcement of the winner is expected by Dec. 1. Six percent of the lab’s work force resigned, up from a 4 percent annual norm over the last decade. …poor business practices at the lab led to a purchasing scandal and a series of embarrassing security and safety lapses that culminated in a seven-month shutdown, which the Department of Energy estimated cost about $367 million. UC put the cost at $110 million.

7-3-06
Contra Costa Times
A feeling of 'siege'...Julia Prodis Sulek
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/14952474.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Sixteen months ago, when Denton started as chancellor, she seemed like a perfect fit. If any community would welcome this openly gay academic who overcame discrimination from her earliest days in a small Texas town, who became nationally renowned for her commitment to women in science and social justice, surely it would be the progressive seaside town of Santa Cruz. Instead, she told friends, ``I'm under constant siege.'' She arrived at the university already trailed by controversy and, during her short tenure, endured unrelenting attacks. ``It wasn't any single story or any single cartoon, but it was a continuing, rolling, unending set of stories and set of cartoons; it was the continuing everyday assault,'' said Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the chancellor of UC-Merced. When a new chancellor arrives in Santa Cruz, the community very nearly holds its breath. In this city of 55,000, the chancellor carries more prestige than the mayor or state legislators. But just weeks before her Feb. 14, 2005, start date, Denton's name was linked with scandal. The timing couldn't have been worse. While the UC president's office acknowledged it should have disclosed the deal from the start, it was Denton who took the heat in Santa Cruz. If Denton had more serious mental health issues, or her medication wasn't right, or she had other personal problems, no one is saying. But Tomlinson-Keasey knows that the problems in Santa Cruz weighed heavily.

8-2-06
Sacramento Bee
Tragedy looms over wildland debate...David Whitney, Bee Washington Bureau
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/14285230p-15098739c.htmlhttp://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/v-print/story/14285230p-15098739c.html
WASHINGTON -- Nearly 15 months after the manager of the Carrizo Plain National Monument killed herself after months of frustration on the job, the federal Bureau of Land Management is reviving the process of creating a management plan for the 250,000-acre grasslands preserve that will be forever associated with Marlene Braun's tragic death. The backdrop for the battles was more political than personal. Created by presidential proclamation just hours before President Clinton left office in 2001, the Carrizo Plain had become a battleground over cattle grazing on public lands -- an issue on which the BLM typically found itself siding with cattlemen. ... public lands, on the border between Kern and San Luis Obispo counties, are the last big patch of wild grasslands left in California and the home of the largest concentration of endangered species in the state. Some, like the giant kangaroo rat, are in direct competition with cattle. Braun had openly complained that she felt efforts to curtail grazing were being resisted at higher pay grades in the agency, and that she was suffering the fallout. Posthumously, Braun prevailed.

4-1-05

CRS Report for Congress: California’s San Joaquin Valley: A Region in Transition, Dec. 12, 2005, Tadlock Cowan, Coordinator, Analyst in Rural and Regional Development Policy, Resources, Science and Industry Division

Honest Graft: Big Money and the American Political Process, Brooks Jackson, 1990

“This is the tragic story of one of the most fascinating characters in recent Washington history, Congressman Tony Coelho of California (D-Merced) … He rose to power in the house by collecting millions of political dollars for the Democratic party from whatever sources were at hand, creating a modern political machine in which money and pork-barrel legislation replaced the old Tammany Hall patronage …” p. 3

As Coelho himself says, “the system buys you out.” The system doesn’t require bad motives to produce bad government. P. 320

Italics added.

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Vote No on Measure A Tax

Submitted: Jun 03, 2006

URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!

REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAID FOR BY MERCED COUNTY RESIDENTS AGAINST MEASURE A
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

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

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

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

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

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

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

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

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

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

Commercial Development

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

….and the list goes on!

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

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

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

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

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

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK

MISSION STATEMENT

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

P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341

| »

Latest on Peak Oil

Submitted: May 11, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The painful answer is: not enough.

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

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

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

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

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

THE STATE OF THE WORLD'S ENERGY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SURPRISES

What are some of these possible surprises?

Just one more major hurricane

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

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

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

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

A successful attack on Saudi Arabia 's Abqaiq terminal

Political unrest in our second-largest oil supplier, Mexico

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

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

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

THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN AND WORLD ECONOMIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bankruptcies are at an all-time high.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

| »

You’d like to believe him

Submitted: Apr 21, 2006

… but you can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Hearing no answer, I will express them.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. ESHOO. So maximum is 120 days?

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

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

Mr. CARDOZA. In the underlying bill.

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

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

Ms. ESHOO. And what does your amendment do?

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

Ms. ESHOO. But without any specificity?

Mr. CARDOZA. Correct.

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

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

It’s quaint, but is it real politics?

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

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

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

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

DANIEL F. MCNAMARA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teach me. I have doubts.

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Statements

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

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

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

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

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

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Ranchwood in the news

Submitted: Feb 08, 2006
    2006

2-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
Groups Aim to Stop Sewer Line Construction ...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11781260p-12500357c.html
Environmental groups want Ranchwood Homes to halt construction on a sewer line in Livingston, according to a letter released Monday.The San Joaquin Raptor Wildlife Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, and Planada Community Development Corp. say that Livingston shouldn't have approved construction of the sewer line because the project is on county land.
"The city of Livingston should not have given Ranchwood any authority to do anything out there," said Bryant Owens of the Planada Community Development Corp. "Ranchwood needs to stop what they're doing and come back to the county and get an annexation."
The mile-long sewer line between Vinewood and Magnolia Avenue could eventually connect a proposed 420-acre Ranchwood Homes subdivision to Livingston's wastewater treatment plant.
The environmental groups say the sewer line can't go in until Ranchwood gets permission to annex the land, meaning that the land would be brought into Livingston's city limits.
But Livingston has been following the rules, according to Interim City Manager Vickie Lewis.
"We followed every regulation that was required of us," said Lewis. "We have only gone as far as phase one, which is our only responsibility at this time. Anything beyond that is between the county and (Ranchwood)."
Ranchwood has received three encroachment permits from the county so far, but the county won't issue any other permits until the county responds to the environmental groups' charges, said Development Services Director Bobby Lewis ...
Ranchwood Homes officials could not be reached for comment.

1-27-06
Merced Sun-Star
Annexations OK'd; city grows by nearly 200 acres...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11736481p-12459428c.html
MERCED - Two Merced annexations gained final approval from the Local Agency Formation Commission on Thursday morning and a third was tabled until next month. • The Ranchwood N Street Annexation • And the Mission Avenue Annexation. LAFCO commissioners held off on approving the Barnell Annexation, a 73 acre swath south of Cardella Road. That annexation
proposal will be discussed at the next LAFCO meeting on Feb. 23.

1-26-06 LAFCO
http://web.co.merced.ca.us/lafco/pdfs/agendas/01262006.pdf
VI. PUBLIC HEARINGS (Testimony limited to 5 minutes or less per person)
A. Ranchwood Annexation to the City of Merced – File No. 0622

1-24-06
Merced Sun-Star
Loose Lips: Land baron becomes local celeb...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11724259p-12448018c.html
When Merced land baron Greg Hostetler isn't donating fists full of money to his pet charities, "Mr. Ranchwood Homes" is giving away his John Hancock. Hostetler, arguably the county's most successful homegrown developer, said he was stopped recently by a man who wanted his autograph.

1-21-06
Merced Sun-Star
Session to tackle city's effort toward affordable homes...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11714888p-12438920c.html
LIVINGSTON -- New housing is popping up all over town, but how many residents can actually afford it? Ranchwood Homes president Greg Hostetler said forcing developers to keep prices low can backfire by driving up the cost of market-rate units. Hostetler said inclusionary housing ordinances are relatively new to Valley cities... Livingston is looking at inclusionary housing..

    2005

11-16-05
Merced Sun-Star

Livingston OKs draft of city in 2025...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/11486665p-12225871c.html
The council unanimously approved a draft project description of a Master Environmental Impact Report...the consultants writing the impact report now have a map of where Livingston intends to develop and a timeline for when it will get there. ...representatives from Ranchwood Homes and Gallo Homes, both of which are planning large subdivisions in Livingston, urged the council to move forward. Both Ranchwood and Gallo are paying for most of the consultants' work on the city's new impact report.

10-19-05
Merced Sun-Star
Added funds propel Livingston Master Plan...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/11369021p-12116135c.html
Funding is now in place to create Livingston's new master plan. With the presentation of a check for $155,760 to the Livingston City Council at last night's meeting, developer Ranchwood Homes provided the last portion of funds need to create the new plan. Two other developers, Gallo and Del Valle, have already made major contributions to fund the plan.

4-25-05
Merced Sun-Star
Development closer to reality...Adam Ashton
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/10373719p-11176985c.html
LIVINGSTON -- Two major subdivisions on the outskirts of town are inching closer to reality with a city analysis of their environmental impacts expected at the end of the year. The Ranchwood and Gallo plans together make up about half the number of homes Livingston has on its books now with a mix of more than a dozen other subdivisions. That's why the two companies are footing most of the bill for the city's new master plan and environmental documents.

2-3-05 Merced Sun-Star
Investigation unit was on move before board vote...Scott Pesznecker
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/9885814p-10731412c.html
Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer was so confident the Board of Supervisors would OK a proposed move of his investigations staff that he had the office's employees pack up their desks before supervisors even voted Tuesday. The day after supervisors approved his plans, more questions surfaced about $16,000 in renovations to the new office space made before supervisors signed off on the move. Spencer also mentioned using the asset forfeiture
money at Tuesday's supervisor's meeting.
Merced County Auditor Stephen Jones said late Wednesday he couldn't find any records of money drawn from the county treasury to be paid to Hostetler, Ranchwood Homes Corp. or Ranchwood Contractors, Inc. However, there are two other funds Spencer has access to that do not need Jones' signature on a check, though they still need supervisors' approval. Schecter, who is
also an ethics professor at CSU Fresno specializing in local government, said the lease agreement could have been handled better from start to finish. "Ethically, I think there are some problems," he said.

2-1-05
Merced Sun-Star
County investigation unit's move raises questions...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/9874084p-10720593c.html
Merced County supervisors are being asked today to terminate a lease with familial ties tothe district attorney's office in favor of a contract with a company that has business ties with the district attorney himself. The move won't financially benefit Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer or any members of his staff. However, it will benefit Greg Hostetler, president of Ranchwood Homes. Hostetler, Spencer and several other partners own about 25 acres on Bellevue Road that they hope someday to develop. Spencer acknowledges having both a friendship and business dealings with Hostetler, but says those bonds have no connection with today's request.

    2004

12-22-04
Merced Sun-Star
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/9652113p-10536591c.html Adam Ashton...
Work can start on Livingsto sewer line...
The City Council and Ranchwood Homes agreed Tuesday night that the builder can proceed with its plans to place a 5,100-foot-long sewer pipe just outside of Livingston's sphere of influence at its southwest corner.

12-8-04
Merced Sun-Star
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/9564250p-10454279c.html ...Adam Ashton...Developer gets tacit OK for sewer pipe...
LIVINGSTON -- Projections for growth on the city's outskirts look so good that one developer is ready tobuild a sewer connection for a project that won't
take shape for several years. Ranchwood Homes asked the City Council if it could move ahead with plans to build a nearly one-mile sewer extension south of Livingston for a planned 300-home development that is still in its concept stages. Council says it's his risk if homes don't win approval.

7-22-04
Merced Sun-Star
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/local/story/8882627p-9772671c.html ...Melanie Turner...Donation brings UC gym bit closer...
University of California, Merced, got off to a strong start with a
$500,000 donation from Greg and Cathie Hostetler, Los Banos developers of Ranchwood Homes for a gymnasium, featuring a NCAA regulation-size basketball court and seating for 480. The university plans to fund the recreation center in large part with a loan from the UC office of the president, which would be paid back in student fees, Wyan said. Gymnasiums, dormitories, dining halls and other nonacademic facilities cannot be financed with state money, Wyan said. Campbell said there likely will be intramural sports in the 2005-06 school
year, as well as sailing and other water sports at nearby Lake Yosemite.

2-28-04
Modesto Bee
http://www.modbee.com/2004/election/merced/supervisors/story/8190479p-9040645c.html 2-25-04
Candidate's poll raises questions about support
Lee Neves says it was an innocent mistakewhen he attributed an $8,500 polling expense to a political action committee instead of local developers...six contributors: Bert A. Crane Jr., a Merced farmer and rancher; Rucker
Construction of Merced; Ranchwood Homes of Los Banos; Trans County Title of Merced; Maxwell Enterprises of Merced, a construction and development company; and James Abatte of Merced, who owns a number of fast food franchises in the county.

2-4-04
Merced Sun-Star
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/news/newsview.asp?c=93758 Supervisors: Le Grand development may proceed...Ranchwood Homes

2-3-04 MERCED COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS AGENDA

http://www.co.merced.ca.us/bos/boardagenda/current.pdf
10:30 A. M.
PLANNING - PUBLIC HEARING
Appeal of Planning Commission approval to approve Major Subdivision Application No. 03001- McPherson Subdivision submitted by Bryant Owens. Application submitted by Ranchwood Contractors to subdivide two parcels totaling 19.0 acres into 96 residential building lots on property located on the south side of Savanna Road and 580 feet west of Santa Fe Avenue in the Le Grand area.

1-21-04
Modesto Bee
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/8034324p-8897076c.html Los Banos builders busy trading lawsuits... Larry Anderson of Anderson Homes suing Greg Hostetler of Ranchwood Homes, his
former partner.

1-5-04
Merced Sun-Star
http://www.mercedsun-star.com/news/newsview.asp?c=89194 Board eyes meetings in evening...Merced County Board of Supervisors
Attachment:

Notice of Public Hearing...Feb. 3, 2004 Ranchwood Contractors

    2003

12-23-03 Merced County Board of Supervisors agenda

http://www.co.merced.ca.us/bos/boardagenda/current.pdf
10:30 a.m. PLANNING - PUBLIC HEARING
CONSENT CALENDAR (Items #1 - 25)
Board of Supervisors
16. Set public hearing for February 3, 2004 at 10:30 a.m. to consider an Appeal received by Bryant Owens to Major Subdivision Application No. 0300 - Ranchwood Contractors.

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Publicly subsidized Merced Grifters to give another "One Whine" concert at state Capitol

Submitted: Feb 08, 2006

“ With a paid lobbyist by their side, the group of two dozen people calling themselves the "One Voice Delegation" will meet with directors, cabinet heads and politicians in the capital today and Wednesday.” Chris Collins Merced SunStar Tues Feb-07-2006

Regular Meeting
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2005

Regular Meeting – 10:00 a.m.

48. Supervisor Kelsey - Approve the One Voice Program Membership Contribution of $16,982 for FY 2005/2006 and approve the necessary budget transfer. APPROVED AS RECOMMENDED AYES: ALL

Editor,

The One Voice Delegation walks like a political action committee and talks like a political action committee, it collects political contributions from its members and expends those monies on political special interests like a political action committee, except the One Voice Delegation hasn’t registered with the state of California as a political action committee.

According to the minutes of the October 18th 2005 Board of Supervisors meeting (Item #48), the supervisors unanimously voted to transfer $16,982 from the general fund to the One Voice Delegation for expenses in the 2005/6 fiscal years. This lobbying is therefor being subsidized, directly by county residents through taxes!

That money should be clearly recorded and identifiable as to where that funding comes from and how and where it is being spent. An accounting of how those funds eventually return any appreciable benefit to the unwitting taxpayer should be traceable at the end of the process. Without an accurate audit trail these benefits will not be possible to determine.

This audit trail will not even exist if MCAG is allowed to continue expending county general fund revenues without formally declaring its political motivations and complying with the laws regulating those activities.

It would be appropriate and prudent for this group to document all of its donors and expenditures insofar as the lobbying activities outlined in the Sun Star article represent the “consensus” of a very small and select special interest group from among the diverse population of Merced County. Though brash in the scope of its ambition, the One Voice Delegation cannot possibly believe that it represents the consensus of Merced County as a whole.

The rules under which a political action committee must operate are necessarily more stringent than the requirements imposed by the leadership of the Merced County Association of Governments. There are good and logical reasons for this kind of official supervision not the least of which is to avoid even the appearance of any conflict of interest.

While I strongly defend any political groups right to lobby for a cause, I take great exception to them doing so with my tax dollars if I happen to disagree with either their philosophy or their stated agenda. I happen to disagree that this groups stated philosophy would be achieved by their stated agenda.

I see a request for money to build a bypass for Los Banos, and to widen Hwy 99 and to build the UC campus yellow brick road, and I wonder how do any of these projects or funding alleviate poverty, unemployment or traffic congestion, for the people who actually live in Merced County?

I see an effort to regain access to gasoline taxes for road maintenance at the county level, yet I see a county administration dedicated to urban sprawl. Why should the state build or upkeep roads in Merced so that more people can commute from the Valley to jobs in the Bay Area? For that matter, why does Merced county think building better freeways through the county will alleviate the surface traffic congestion throughout the county?

I am not saying that lobbying the state for funding is wrong, although it does clearly highlight how ‘welfare dependant’ the administration of this county actually is, I rather intend to point out that the One Voice Delegation’s is acting as a political action committee and must submit to the same standard and regulations as any other similar organization.

Ms. Steelman, one of the MCAG facilitators interviewed for the SunStar article is indeed charming and adroit at her job! Having participated directly in the MCAG’s previous program ‘Partners in Planning’ I am painfully aware of the process through which the facilitators are able to steer a disparate group of ‘pre-identified’ stakeholders, to a predetermined consensus. The whole process is chilling in its efficiency, imbued with an indomitable sense of self-preservation and when all is said and done demonstrates as little concern with the input of the stakeholder as an Australian shepherd has with the concerns of a lone sheep.

Bryant Owens- Plainsburg (209) 769-0832

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Merced year in frosting

Submitted: Jan 01, 2006

The Merced Sun-Star editors Saturday licked the frosting off their fingers from the cake they imagine they have and are eating, while others in the community imagine the editors been had and are being eaten. Looking at the "many great things" brought in the past year, they said:

Perhaps the biggest was the opening of the University of California, Merced, campus. This dream for several decades finally became a multi-million dollar reality last fall as the first students occupied dorms and classrooms.

Odd choice of words, "multi-million dollar reality." It certainly was a multi-million dollar investment for the taxpayers of California. It certainly raised landowners' property values for development, and home building and land ripping is certainly going along -- involving many millions of dollars going one way and another.

However, the sugar fix is in at the Sun-Star as always: UC Merced was not even a glimmer, much less a dream even in the greedy little minds of the various Mr. and Ms. Merceds, when, as the result of a joint environmental/agricultural lawsuit in the late 1980s, a general plan was finally written for the county in 1991. This general plan, despite Sun-Star frosting delirium, was never updated, as it is now proposed it might be at some point in the next several years. It was amended, amended, and amended, to the point where it is useless as any kind of guidance for development. And the mother amendment of them all has been UC Merced and the UC Community Plan.

Then one wonders at the lapse of adverbial consistency. In the lead, UC Merced is described as the "most notably" good thing. Here, it is merely "Perhaps the biggest." This lapse can be explained by the terrible strain the Sun-Star editors have been under since the UC Merced "done-deal" that wasn't, in 1998, until now. A steady stream of UC Merced Bobcatflak for seven years or more has drowned thought and silenced the critical mind in that newsroom. But the immediate cause is the frosting high from the delusion of having and eating the cake.

The loss of a newspaper is a political tragedy, A.J. Liebling, one of our greatest newspaper critics thought, back in the 1950s. Today it is a foregone conclusion whenever any institution with an adequately staffed flak office moves to town. Merced has a prison, the WalMart and a whole bunch of big-box retailers, and now UC Merced. Merced is now far, far too important for anything as tacky as journalistic inquiry.

A stunning example springs to mind from what the paper calls its news department. A week after County CEO Dee Tatum introduced Bobby Lewis to the Board of Supervisors as his choice to directed the planning department -- nobody on the board or in the planning department seemed to know anything about Lewis -- the newspaper did a story on the appointment. It focused on the "demotion" of former director, Bill Nicholson.

"There isn't quote-unquote a need for a new director," Tatum said. "We really need to focus on what services we're giving people and what the board wants."

Presuming Tatum actually uttered this meaningless statement, reporting, writing and printing it serve only to further fog the public brain, already misted over by the steady stream of Bobcatflak dutifully reprinted as "news" in the Sun-Star for lo, these many years (but not yet decades).

He (Lewis) spent 17 years working in the planning departments for the cities of Las Vegas and Henderson, Nev.

In 1998, he started his own engineering and surveying company and eventually ended up as vice president for a Las Vegas developer.

It would have been awfully nice to know what Las Vegas developer Lewis worked for and whether or not this Las Vegas developer has interests in Merced or is planning to have interests in Merced. There is no evidence our newspaper even thought to ask. The whole article, in fact, increases public suspicion that a new fix is in at the planning department.

Returning to the collective mind of the editors that passed on this story, municipal joy is asked for federal highway funding for the Mission Interchange, which will permit traffic to bypass Merced on its way to UC -- perhaps not a boon to downtown business but a windfall to a number of landowners with farming roots (like Lewis says he has) selling to developers along the Campus Parkway. And if that weren't enough joy, Merced has landed "a major Wal-Mart distribution center which will provide hundreds of good jobs for local residents." Organized labor in America hates WalMart like no other corporation. Is it possible organized labor has some reason for its hatred? Then, of course, there is editorial joy for passage of the obligatory "enhanced" police/fire bond to keep those local residents employed by WalMart, and even some who aren't, in line, and to provide new fire stations for new neighborhoods.

Editorial joy for new school construction is muted because there is nothing to be joyful about after the developers whupped the school administrators into submission this year. The quality of Merced K-12 public education was the big loser for years to come as a result of the UC Merced-induced, speculative housing boom. The concluding pious hope for lower crime rates and better public education is pure frosting revery.

Bill Hatch

Notes:

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/11642823p-12372373c.html

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11636386p-12366520c.html

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