Entertainment

Merced County Farm Bureau lawsuit against County and RMP

Submitted: Jan 27, 2007

On January 18, the Merced County Farm Bureau filed a petition in Merced County Superior Court against the County of Merced and Riverside Motorsports Park. The petition asks the court to set aside the county Board of Supervisors decision to approve the race track, suspend all activity approved under the first environmental impact report while actions are taken to bring the final programmatic EIR into compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, and prepare, circulate and consider a new EIR.

The Farm Bureau alleges two causes of action: violation of CEQA, and violation of the Planning and Zoning Law.

The petition alleges that the board of supervisors’ approval constitutes a prejudicial abuse of discretion, their proceedings were unlawful and their decision was not supported by the facts because:

· The final EIR did not adequately describe and evaluate the significant impacts of the RMP project on agricultural resources;

· The final EIR failed to adequately describe and evaluate potential secondary impacts and cumulative impacts of the conversion of agricultural and water resources resulting from the project;

· The final EIR failed to adequately describe and evaluate potential impacts on adjacent and nearby landowners;

· The final EIR failed to consider a reasonable range of alternatives;

· The county failed to adopt a feasible alternative that would avoid or reduce potentially adverse significant impacts on agricultural resources and related land uses;

· The final EIR failed to describe and sufficiently evaluate reasonable mitigation measures for the impacts of the project, including loss of farmland;

· The county failed to adopt mitigation measures that would eliminate or substantially lessen potential significant impacts to the environment and agricultural resources and related land uses;

· The final EIR fails to be consistent with the county General Plan;

· The county failed to adopt legally adequate findings “in that there are clearly significant impacts to agricultural resources that are mitigable or avoidable."

In the second cause of action, the Farm Bureau alleges that Merced County adopted a valid General Plan that clearly expresses the intent to preserve agricultural resources, minimize conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses, and limit the impact “urban activities may have on agriculture.” The Farm Bureau argues that because the county did not change its General Plan while approving the RMP project, it acted arbitrarily and capriciously when approving the General Plan amendment and Zone Change amendment necessary to approve the RMP project.

The petition, therefore, alleges that the supervisors prejudicially abused their discretion and acted arbitrarily and capriciously in approving the RMP project.

The Merced County Farm Bureau is represented by Brenda Washington Davis and Ronda Azevedo Lucas, attorneys with the California Farm Bureau Federation in Sacramento.

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Move your environment!

Submitted: Jan 08, 2007

Merced County and our elected supervisors care deeply about the lack of entertainment and job opportunities in their jurisdiction. For this reason they have paved the way for a genuine NASCAR-level racetrack and the wise leaders of the City of Merced will undoubtedly approve a WalMart distribution center in the coming year.

We will have entertainment and jobs galore right here in Merced.

The only problem will be measurably worse air quality caused by:

· all the people also thirsting for entertainment who will come from out of town to Riverside Motorsparts Pork for races and concerts;
· and thousands more trucks arriving and departing from the WalMart distribution center 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But, San Joaquin Valley leaders are nothing if not competitive. They thirst for glory. Perhaps, after the two projects are built, we will rest securely in the top slot for the most polluted air basin in the nation, finally defeating our only rival, Los Angeles. Our leaders may also hope to gain the prize for being the noisiest rural county in California. Their ambitions are endless.

Not all Merced County residents appreciate the entertainment, the WalMart jobs or increased degradation of the air quality. Some of these people will move their environment.

Barring an extraterrestrial method, they will move their environment by selling their homes and land, leaving their old, noisy, polluted, traffic-jammed environment, for a new, better environment.

They’re telling their realtors, “We ain’t no fairy shrimp! We can move and we will move.”

The realtors reply, “Whatever.” Then they explain that today’s Merced real estate market is a Buyers’ Market and they are sellers, therefore certain enhancements are considered wise by motivated sellers.

One set of movers offered a dairy herd to sweeten the deal. Their realtor explained that today’s buyers aren’t interested in dairy herds. They want, what in the trade has come to know known as “pasture ornaments” and lot splits.

“Your burros, your llamas, your emus, your cutting horses, and your 5-acre parcels,” the realtors explain. “No dairy herds. Some acreage in your merlot grapes is also an incentivizer. And your olive trees are getting to be a popular for the Mediterranean-type villa look to your double-wide.”

Motivated environmental movers stop to consider the incentivizers and frequently remark they wouldn’t mind a place like that either, but ask how they’d make a living on it. Realtors urge them not to dwell on the higher regions of the real estate market, where only trained professionals should go.

So, the next day the farmer is out buying pasture ornaments from Bobo’s Abatoir, Pet Cemetery and Used Pasture Ornaments LLC, located on primo sweet potato land until Bobo sold an easement for a sewer line south of war-torn Livingston.

“I got a herd of llamas, fresh off a corner lot an oil company bought last week,” Bobo said. “Real stylish, llamas.”

The farmer looked at the llamas, the llamas looked at the farmer.

“What the Hell?” the farmer said. “How much for the lot?”

“Well, these are genuine corner-lot used llamas, premium grade pasture ornaments.”

The farmer took Bobo’s price because who knew what a llama was worth, anyway? His whole dairy herd? But things had to look just right because it was a Buyers’ Market and the farmer was going to move his environment.

Bobo felt so sorry for the sucker he threw in a new flock of Bantam chickens.

“Commuter wife hasn’t been born yet who could resist your Banties,” he said.

The farmer went to town, leased himself a supervisor and rented a county planner and got his parcel splits.

He did everything the realtor told him to do and still the realtor kept trying to drive his price down.

“You know there’s going to be a lot of traffic on this road and the air quality is going down,” the realtor said. “We need incentives to make this sale.”

“I know. That’s why I’m selling. But the buyers don’t know that. You haven’t told them, have you?”

The realtor made a cold, professional realtor face and said nothing.

“Sorry,” the farmer said. “It’s just that I have some payments to make.”

“Knock off another $25,000 and I think I have a buyer.”

But the realtor didn’t have a buyer and next month asked for another sizeable reduction in price.
“You have to be realistic,” the realtor said. “If you’re not going to get rid of the double-wide and build one of your up-scale home products there’s not much more I can do. In today’s Buyers’ Market you need at least 10,000 square feet in either a Los Altos Chat-oh, a General Vallejo hacienda, a Napa Coppola or a McTaj Mahal.”

Time went by. One evening at the end of another month in the Buyers’ Market, he drove back to the farm. He saw the kids petting the llamas, the farmer’s wife was feeding the Banties, the Merlot vineyard was about to produce its first crop and the row of olive trees was rooting nicely. And the cow stink was gone. In fact, the milking barn was gone. He heard birds because there was no cow sounds. I t was incredible to him because he’d lived his entire life on dairies.

“So, this is the real farming life. It ain’t half bad,” the farmer thought.

We didn’t see the farmer much after he said he was going to move his environment. Eventually, they moved. Most of us, like the workers he fired when he sold, couldn’t get out. We were tied to the county in one way or another as tight as a fairy shrimp to a vernal pool. Moving our environment wasn’t an option. We wished the farmer well but told him not to let the door hit him on the way out.

Bobo, the used pasture ornament dealer, got the llamas back, “spoiled rotten,” he said. But then he scored a kit fox and advertised by word-of-mouth a new line of “rare pasture ornaments,” and made some big money.

We heard he moved to the coast.

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The Invisible Middle Finger

Submitted: Dec 24, 2006
Invisible hand
Definition
Term used by Adam Smith to describe the natural force that guides free market capitalism through competition for scarce resources. According to Adam Smith, in a free market each participant will try to maximize self-interest, and the interaction of market participants, leading to exchange of goods and services, enables each participant to be better of than when simply producing for himself/herself. He further said that in a free market, no regulation of any type would be needed to ensure that the mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services took place, since this "invisible hand" would guide market participants to trade in the most mutually beneficial manner.

Smith published his theory the year the United States was formed and declared its independence from Great Britain. Manufacturing was in its infancy. Nevertheless, for the last 30 years, American economists have re-embraced Smith’s invisible hand with the fervor of rightwing religious fanatics embracing the Rapture, Armageddon and all that.

But, in 2000, the financial services sector of the US economy became for the first time in history a larger percentage of the gross domestic product than manufacturing. This year, US agricultural imports may exceed its agricultural exports. The balance has steadily shrunk for the last decade.

Contemplating this impressive statistic, the Badlands Journal editorial board responded with a genuine new economic theory, which we call the Invisible Middle Finger.

Now, the strength of a theory lies in its simplicity and its capacity to explain diverse economic phenomena. We believe the Invisible Middle Finger – what could be simpler? – explains it all.

A year and a half ago, the Merced real estate market was described as one of the most inflated markets in the nation. Farmers couldn’t get farmworkers because everybody was a carpenter. Developments were sprouting as fast as new orchards once did. The Invisible Middle Finger had guided Merced County ever since the UC Merced project was approved, with a series of economic overrides of the environmental review documents, and set loose a speculative real estate feeding frenzy with the result that the county now leading the nation in home mortgage foreclosures.

Nevertheless, enormous profits were made on inflated land values and by the speculative “home flippers” who didn’t get left standing in the game of musical chairs. The huge inflation in land values also enabled local landowners to borrow a great deal more money.

Throughout it all, the local paper, the Merced Sun-Star, bought by the McClatchy chain soon after UC Merced was a done deal, has been a fervent if unconscious choirmaster of the Invisible Middle Finger. Why, just the other day, in a story about how an allegedly corrupt former district attorney was exonerated for serving alcohol to a minor, who was later the victim of vehicular homicide, could not bring itself to relate that it was two UC Merced students who ran the boy down. In our faith-based real estate speculation, we cannot bear to speak a negative word about the little darling credit cows at UC Merced. Surely, the Invisible Middle Finger is the only explanation.

Basically, the Sun-Star got the story right on the Dec. 12 supervisors meeting: Supervisor John Pedrozo voted against the Riverside Motorsparts Pork final environmental impact report on a losing 2-3 vote and then voted with the majority, providing the necessary vote to pass the airport noise/safety zone restriction, without which the RMP project could not have gone forward, despite approval of its environmental review. It wrote a headline: "Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo votes YES on Riverside Motorsports Park."

Somebody, and we think ol’ Slippery John might have been part of it, screamed bloody murder, so the paper changed the headline. What they should have done was keep the headline, bring the airport-vote graph up near the top, and explain what it meant. While we doubt that was beyond the compositional capacity of the reporters, the Invisible Middle Finger had thwonked the editorial mind. So the paper caved, and confused the public.

This may be an excellent lesson for the paper and a warning to keep editors outside the vicinity of an actual story. Actual reporting only seems to confuse them. They belong in offices with doors that close and out of the hair of reporters trying to do the difficult work of covering public meetings.

However, under the aegis of the Invisible Middle Finger, we encountered the faith-based newspaper management belief that the only journalism than sells is malicious gossip. Newspaper subscriptions are falling but the faith goes on.

This “personal” story focused on Supervisor John Pedrozo, who had made no secret that he would vote for the noise/safety zone reduction, for the benefit of other projects, although he would vote against the racetrack. We knew that Pedrozo had been thumped in the head by the Invisible Middle Finger. The only real surprise that could have come out of that meeting would have been if Supervisor Kathleen Crookham had sided with Pedrozo and Supervisor Diedre Kelsey against certifying the environmental review of RMP. But even Crookham wasn’t dumb enough to ignore the Invisible Middle Finger. Board Chairman Mike Nelson was never in doubt, and spoke of wishing “to leave a legacy” ( a monument to the Invisible Middle Finger). Nor was Supervisor Gerry O’Banion, a politician perhaps the chosen messenger in Merced County for the Invisible Middle Finger.

The supervisors meeting was an evening event, which went on until “the wee hours” as the paper put it. The paper has a deadline, so the editor and at least one reporter left after the early votes to file the story.

In short, the paper screwed up the story and confused its readers needlessly.

We should have known what would happen the moment the editor appeared, because this was the guy who lectured to the public about the meaning of irony in defense of a racist column about Border Patrol busts in Planada last spring. There doesn’t seem to be anybody too poor, vulnerable or innocent, especially if they have names like Oseguera or Gomez, who can’t be the victim of this paper’s madly spinning moral compass needle.

But the Invisible Middle Finger is pointing directly at Planada real estate and so that needle just spins and spins.

The paper’s sports editor got into the story last weekend by asking who the RMP investors were.

"No, I'm not discussing our investors and their identity doesn't matter in any case," (RMP CEO John) Condren sniffed when asked about it on Friday.
Fine, that kind of arrogance will play with reporters and various members of the public who dare touch on subjects he doesn't like, but...
What about the county?
Incredibly, nobody on the board seems to care where Condren has stumbled across a quarter-billion dollars for the largest private investment in Merced County history.
And despite Condren's scoffing at the question, it does matter.

It was a fair, necessary, competent reporter question. We do know the names of investors in the sports franchises of our region: Lurie, Magowan, Shorenstein, Finley, Haas, the Maloufs, the DeBartalos, Davis, Kelley. Local NASCAR team sponsors include the Piccininis (SaveMart) and the Fosters (Foster Farms). They are wealthy people with good credit ratings.

It hasn’t been since one of the early information sessions on RMP that investor names like West Hills Investors and Race Partners have shown up on RMP flak. These names are about as revealing as Acme LLC or ABC Inc. or XYZ Import-Export and, in any event, have disappeared from the Internet. Perhaps RMP CEO John Condren’s letter to investors accurately predicting how Tuesday’s votes would go two years ago spooked the investors after the letter was leaked and published.

The problem with Condren’s arrogant letter was that it didn’t have any class, and you usually expect $250 million to come with a little class, particularly in the sporting world. But, once you grasp the theory of the Invisible Middle Finger, any relationship between class and $250 million magically disappears.

The personal attack on the sports editor in the letters-to-editor space was immediate and severe. The first writer advised the paper’s management: “Put editor on a leash.”

It is always interesting to read the Merced Sun-Star and see the half-truths that Sun-Star Editor Joe Kieta's reporters have to say. Another attack on Riverside Motorsports Park CEO John Condren was in Saturday's issue of the Sun-Star. It once again proved that the reporters don't know anything about what they write.… If Sun-Star Sports Editor Steve Cameron had done some investigation he would have had a number of answers to his questions. He would have known that a group of private investors don't have to have their names in the paper. The firm that is funding the track is very reliable and trustworthy. Now wouldn't that have been good for the paper to report that fact?

Actually, Cameron wouldn’t have gotten any answers from investigation, at least not on the Internet, which provides exactly zilch information on RMP investors, other than several references to Kenny Shepherd putting together a group.

People could still legitimately ask where Condren and Shepherd are going to find $250 million. Nobody really even knows who paid for the ridiculous EIR done for the project or who will be writing the checks to indemnify the County for legal expenses arising from lawsuits against it for having passed this indefensible environmental review. While the duo seem to be competent pitchmen and competent racecar drivers (and Sheperd is possibly a competent manager of Altamont), they just don’t look like $250 million. And nobody who has been following this project ever supposed that they were $250 million.

The sports editor’s professional question drew a second letter attacking the sports editor was published:

For someone who has "spent the better part of a decade covering the business of sports and entertainment," he doesn't know much about these things. Thankfully the county and our supervisors do. The books and finances of any privately held entity are indeed that -- private. Ask any entertainer or track owner, or for that matter, any farmer or rancher. The Sun-Star's obsession with the finances of private citizens is more than disturbing.
Maybe the Sun-Star is the greatest paper in the Central Valley.
And maybe it's a fish wrapper.
If Steve Cameron was hired to cover the impact of RMP and professional racing, he may be guessing for years where his press pass went.

These two writers, who regularly defend local real estate speculators, are out to take this sports editor down for asking the right question at the right time and for describing Condren’s rudeness.

For lack of any accurate information about whom the investors in RMP are, people begin to speculate. Speculation moves around two poles: either Condren has $250 million, or he doesn’t.

If he doesn’t, this can lead to all kinds of wild questions, take your pick. For example, what sort of relationship does Condren have with Foreign Trade Zone #226 Merced and how necessary is the appearance of such a project for the future of that enterprise, whose official grantee, according to the federal government, is the Merced County Board of Supervisors? Is it merely coincidental that “control” of the former Castle Air Force Base passed from the federal government to Merced County a week after the RMP project was approved and the airport noise/safety zone was shrunk to fit RMP and other projects in its vicinity?

Students of the Invisible Middle Finger recall the famous Pegasus project, fomented upon Castle by an alleged granddaughter of President Eisenhower. They also recall, a few years later, a great, dishonored prophet of the Finger, Sun-Star reporter Gary L. Jones’ famous lead concerning another disappeared Castle project: “Ring, ring, ring goes the bell. Bounce, bounce, bounce goes the check …”

If Condren does have $250 million, how much of it is local money and who are the local investors? People against this environmental disaster might be interested in boycotting their businesses if they knew who they were, because this project is going to be the very definition of environmental impacts and cumulative environmental impacts. People know it and they are angry at what they perceive as the betrayal by their elected officials and local business leaders.

Of course, Badlands Journal’s gifted editorial board knows it is just the working of the Invisible Middle Finger.

We don’t know who the investors are or why the supervisors approved this project. We do know that the Invisible Middle Finger is hovering over Merced making the well-known gesture. In light of the letter writers’ vitriol, we suspect the Invisible Middle Finger is at least in part homegrown. But, who knows? There is a whole lot of funny money in the American economy today and it doesn’t have any kind of conscience about public health and safety.

Finally, we return to the Sun-Star editor’s weekend apologetics and attack on ol’ Slippery John Pedrozo.

I called Pedrozo last week and asked him to explain the rationale behind his split decision. He said that he voted "yes" for the airport rule change because it possibly could affect other proposed developments in the area.
But Pedrozo is flat-out wrong about that. The vote was only about RMP and did not bind further developments.

In fact, the vote “bound” the airport to shrink its noise/safety barrier. It didn’t bind any developments. It unbound them from sensible noise and safety standards around an airport.

Once again, we have the friendly, apologetic editor setting the record straight, while continuing down the dimwitted “personal” story angle. And getting the story wrong. This is a political, financial and, at the moment, above all a legal story. About the only thing we can deduce from Kieta’s column is that the Sun-Star will be going after John Pedrozo like it went after Gordon Spenser. The two letter writers are trying to intimidate the sports editor out of going after Condren in the same way.

This story isn’t about Pedrozo, Condren, or any of the supervisors. The Invisible Middle Finger bent down and popped them all on their noggins and they are seeing themselves as stars. Actually, the supervisors did an excellent political job of diffusing the public with four town hall meetings, which altogether, included probably 15 hours of public testimony that didn’t count a bit, because they weren’t legal public hearings. Three of the meetings were held by Kelsey, an opponent of the project because it will seriously impact here district. The last was held before the Dec. 12 vote by the project’s strongest supporter, Chairman Nelson. Pedrozo made no secret of how he was going to vote. His motive for those votes was clear to any enlightened observer: the Invisible Middle Finger was hovering right over his head and pointing straight down upon him that night.

Meanwhile, the Invisible Middle Finger is drawing "fully controlled access" expressways all over the county.

However, despite the defeat of reason in favor of speculation to establish a temple to the stock car in one of the two worst air pollution zones in America as a failed war for oil rages on in the Mideast killing, among many, many others, soldiers from Merced and the San Joaquin Valley, and the local housing boom busts as spectacularly as the inflation in home prices a year ago, and unfinished subdivisions surround the city, there was a positive result. The public has begun to realize that their local government is corrupt and has begun to say it out loud.

Badlands Journal editorial board
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Notes:

Invisible hand definition
http://www.investorwords.com/2633/invisible_hand.html

American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips, pp. 266-267

USDA Economic Research Service
http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FATUS/

12-21-06
Merced Sun-Star
Risky loans squeeze owners
...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13133035p-13779704c.html
Merced homeowners who took out high-risk loans this year are more likely to fall into foreclosure than borrowers in any other city nationwide, a new study predicts. Merced's projected foreclosure rate ranked No. 1 on a list of 376 cities compiled by the Center for Responsible Lending, a North Carolina-based nonprofit organization
...study predicts that 25 percent of Merced's subprime loans will end in foreclosure. Subprime loans are made to borrowers with poor credit histories...include adjustable interest rates... When the interest rate increases, payments can jump up by 30 percent in some cases. Borrowers are faced with "payment shock," said Kathleen Keest, one of the study's authors. "You've got this perfect storm of these adjustable rates starting to adjust at a time when housing prices are coming down and interest rates are going up." Skyrocketing home values encouraged borrowers to take out risky loans because they assumed they could refinance with a better loan after their equity increased. "Here we are two years later and that (home value) appreciation is not happening." "What goes up does sometimes come down." Victor Jimenez of First Merced Mortgage Co. said he's noticed an increase in foreclosure activity. Two years ago when Merced was rated No. 2 in the state in home value increases, buyers flocked to the area... "People just used their houses as an ATM machine," Jimenez said. "It was a disaster waiting to happen and now it's happening."

1-28-06
Merced Sun-Star
D.A. may have served alcohol to underage drinker who died
… Chris Collins
Sun-Star investigation: Gordon Spencer relied on others to check IDs at country club
Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer has admitted that he "probably" served alcohol to an underage drinker at a party last month who was later killed by a car as he walked home.
Spencer also said he didn't check IDs at the party while he served drinks as a bartender, but instead expected others to keep underage drinkers away from the alcohol.
Greg Gomez, a 20-year-old from South Merced, was served alcohol at a Dec. 18 buffet dinner at the Merced Golf and Country Club, the Sun-Star has learned.
He was invited to the party by his girlfriend, who works at the club. The dinner and free drinks at the bar were arranged by managers at the club who hosted the party to thank employees.
Spencer said he wasn't sure whether he served Gomez alcohol, but added: "I'm not going to say I didn't." …

12-21-06
Merced Sun-Star
UC, city are one
...Josh Franco, UC Merced Student Body President...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13133053p-13779716c.html
Much has been said about the relationship between students and the community this semester. People who continue to erect boundaries between students and the community further propagate an "us versus them" mentality; however, I write to say that we are truly one and the same. We each contribute to the vitality of this planet, whether it's planting crops, mowing lawns, cleaning toilets, serving food, trading stocks, attending city council meetings, writing our representatives, e-mailing our professors, researching alternative energies, discovering cures for aliments or contemplating the future...while some semblance of division will always exist because few people will always feel unappreciated or unwelcome, such should not deter us from making our community what it must be: an inspiring beacon of perpetual hope. Students value Merced, and this region, for the opportunities it offers and responsibility of serving the public it bestows upon us and we share this responsibility with the community. Therefore, I conclude with a heartfelt "Thank you" to the people of the city of Merced for giving students the opportunity to learn about, live in and love the Valley!

Badlandsjournal.com – April, 2006
You can come to our Valley but can you play our blue violin?

12-2-06
Modesto Bee
Buying house still out of reach for most
Report ranks Stanislaus nearly last in affordability
… By J.N. Sbranti
http://www.modbee.com/business/v-rssxml/story/13069778p-13723130c.html
Despite falling home prices, the Northern San Joaquin Valley continues to have among the least affordable housing markets in the nation, according to new statistics.
Median-income families could afford to buy fewer than 5 percent of the homes sold in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties during July, August and September.
Nationwide, median-income families could afford 40.4 percent of the homes sold, according to the National Association of Home Builders-Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.
In Stanislaus County, 4.1 percent of homes were affordable, because the median price was $372,000 and the median income was $54,400.
In Merced County, 4.3 percent were affordable; the median price was $359,000 and the median income was $46,400.
In San Joaquin County, 4.8 percent were affordable; the median price was $434,000 and the median income was $57,100.
Northern San Joaquin Valley homes weren't always so costly. In 1999, more than half of the homes sold in the three counties were affordable to those with median incomes.
The index showed that Los Angeles County was the least affordable place to buy. Median-income families there could afford 1.8 percent of the homes, because the median home cost was $523,000, while the median income was $56,200.
To see the index, including data going back to 1991, go to: www.nahb.org/hoi.

12-20-06
Merced Sun-Star
County controls Castle property
…Abby Souza
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13130076p-13776995c.html
Few property owners will take a $10 check in exchange for more than 1,900 acres, but that is exactly what Merced County paid the Air Force for land at Castle Airport Aviation and Development Center.
At Tuesday's Merced County Board of Supervisors meeting, Board Chairman Mike Nelson handed a $10 check to Air Force Real Property Agency's Philip Mook.
In exchange, the county and several other groups now own 1,991 acres on the former Air Force base.
The "purchase" was actually a transfer of deeds for the land, said John Fowler, county director of commerce, aviation and economic development. The $10 was representative of a title transfer fee of one of those deeds …In the meantime, the board also approved a management agreement with Federal Merced Associates. That company will act as landlords for the property for the next five years, as well as market and sell property within the base with board approval.
This company will pay the county $1 million annually in collected rent and other income …

Put editor on a leash...Don Bergman...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13130091p-13776971c.html
It is always interesting to read the Merced Sun-Star and see the half-truths that Sun-Star Editor Joe Kieta's reporters have to say. Another attack on Riverside Motorsports Park CEO John Condren was in Saturday's issue of the Sun-Star. It once again proved that the reporters don't know anything about what they write. I have had experience with half-truths written by the reporters at the Sun-Star...seem that Kieta wants to create as much controversy as possible in the articles, maybe he thinks this will sell more papers instead of making the paper look like it doesn't know what they are doing. If Sun-Star Sports Editor Steve Cameron had done some investigation he would have had a number of answers to his questions...that a group of private investors don't have to have their names in the paper. The firm that is funding the track is very reliable and trustworthy. The Sun-Star and The Modesto Bee came out in support of the project, so why now are they attempting to discredit the project? Maybe Hank Vander Veen should get his editor on a leash and wait until the project is developed and then hold Riverside to what Condren has said. EDITOR'S NOTE: Cameron is an internationally recognized expert on sports facilities -- including racetracks.

12-21-06
Merced Sun-Star
Attack wasn't necessary
...David Wood, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13133052p-13779729c.html
To paraphrase, it's amazing after four years, Sun-Star Sports Editor Steve Cameron is still guessing... What's with the personal attacks on John Condren? Have some degree of professionalism! For someone who has "spent the better part of a decade covering the business of sports and entertainment," he doesn't know much about these things. Thankfully the county and our supervisors do. The books and finances of any privately held entity are indeed that -- private. Maybe the Sun-Star is the greatest paper in the Central Valley. And maybe it's a fish wrapper.

12-13-06
Merced Sun-Star
RMP gets a green light
...Corinne Reilly...Mercedsunstar.com
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13108206p-13757468c.html
Riverside Motorsports Park moved from plan to reality early Wednesday morning when the Merced County Board of Supervisors approved the raceway complex in a series of votes that spanned eight and half hours. With Supervisors Deidre Kelsey and John Pedrozo dissenting on two key votes, plans for the 1,200-acre racing venue earned just enough support to move forward. The board's 2:30 a.m. decision followed hours of emotional public testimony from raceway supporters and opponents...300 people filled the board chambers and nearby overflow rooms at the meeting's 6 p.m. start...the final vote was cast just before 2:30 a.m. the crowd had thinned to a weary three dozen. Kelsey voiced the strongest opposition to the raceway -- at one point reading a 35-minute statement condemning the project as a disaster for taxpayers and an attack on farmers and ranchers near the raceway's future northern Merced County site. Kelsey slammed environmental reviews of the project as inadequate and rushed, urging the board to delay its vote until more studies on the project's impacts could be completed. She said approving of the project would damage the public trust and disgrace the supervisors. "As this project sits in front of me today, it's terrible," said Kelsey. "...The credibility of our board is on the line with this." Pedrozo cast the only other votes against the project. "I know what it is to be a farmer and I know what it is to have cars coming down your country roads," said Pedrozo. "I can't support the (environmental impact report), not until I am totally confident that all the people that live out there are taken care of." The board voted on six motions that collectively allowed the project to move forward. By the end of the meeting, the board had voted to approve the project's environmental reviews, to allow traffic and noise from the raceway to exceed current county standards, and to overrule a finding by the Airport Land Use Commission that the racetrack's site is too close to Castle Airport's runway.

12-18-06
Merced Sun-Star

Steve Cameron: Riverside has too many unanswered questions
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/sports/story/13119426p-13766961c.html
It feels like the hollering and arguing have been raging forever. Two years?
Three? Four?
The Board of Supervisors perhaps put an end to the debate this week, approving all the key provisions which give the green light to Riverside Motorsports Park -- a $240 million development that would change the face of Merced County.
Note the key word -- perhaps…In any event, Condren insists the board never inquired about his investors. And in this case, his routinely smug tone was justified.
"A list of investors was neither asked for, nor does the county have such a list," said Mark Hendrickson, the county's director of governmental affairs.
Don't you want to scream: Why not?
It's astonishing what the county board doesn't know and didn't ask about the Riverside Motorsports Park -- despite a request to change the general plan regarding land use for that property and obvious opposition from a significant segment of the population.
Even Condren's allies don't really know much about the business plan which supposedly provides an underpinning for the motorsports park.
The local business community, which has supported Riverside while dreaming of the millions which could be pumped into our economy (Condren's figures, naturally..), has little clue how the project really might work.
To borrow an old line, you could fill the Grand Canyon with what we don't know about the Riverside project.
Or about Condren, for that matter.
Maybe Riverside Motorsports Park could be the greatest thing to hit the Central Valley since cows.
And maybe it's a dead fish.
Amazing that after four years, we're still guessing...

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

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

12-23-06
Merced Sun-Star
Pedrozo could have voted down RMP -- but didn't
...Joe Kieta
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/columnists/story/13138811p-13784799c.html
Dec. 14 edition. It was right there in big, colored type on the front page: "Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo votes YES on Riverside Motorsports Park." I distinctly remembered when Pedrozo said he was against the park's environmental impact report -- which I took to mean he was opposed to the Riverside project moving forward as-is...struck at how strongly he voiced his opposition. How could we have printed that Pedrozo voted "yes" when he clearly voted "no"?...a razor-sharp copy editor caught the error and it only appeared in half of all copies. But was it really a mistake? I'm convinced that it wasn't an error at all. When you whittle it down and trim out all of the baloney, Pedrozo voted "yes" when it counted most. The first involved whether to certify the environmental impact report...it passed 3-2... The second (and most critical) vote concerned changing rules that require a certain distance between a development and Castle Airport's runway. The changes, which essentially sidestep the airport land use commission's rules, require a 4-1 vote of the supervisors to pass. If the vote failed, the RMP project would have been essentially dead. Pedrozo voted "yes." In essence, the fate of the project was in Pedrozo's lap -- and he put it over the top. Pedrozo said that he voted "yes" for the airport rule change because it possibly could affect other proposed developments in the area. But Pedrozo is flat-out wrong about that. The vote was only about RMP and did not bind further developments. If Pedrozo really, truly was against Riverside Motorsports Park, he would have voted "no" on the airport land use vote. But he didn't. Whatever you think about RMP (and this newspaper has cautiously endorsed it, mind you), Pedrozo's "no" and "yes" votes are just plain contradictory. I hate mistakes in the paper. But I love pointing out hypocrisy and political gamesmanship -- two terms that seem to fit Pedrozo like a pair of trusty Levis.

Keep media untethered...Mike Salm, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13138794p-13784818c.html
This is not the first time I've seen a letter to the editor that says, in effect, "put the editor on a leash." It also happened earlier this year when there was a lot of investigative reporting regarding the behavior of a few government officials in Merced. You never want to get too close to some government officials. They don't like it. So should we, the people, then be like a possum and smile, roll over and play dead? In this country we have a government of the people, for the people. We have a right to know how our government functions.

Plainsburg resident's attempt to recall supervisor fails...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13138783p-13784863c.html
County auditor Stephen Jones said Friday that Owens didn't serve Pedrozo with notice of the recall in accordance with state guidelines. "You swore under penalty of perjury that you had made proof of personal service on John Pedrozo," Jones wrote in a letter to Owens, dated Dec. 18. "However, you did not make personal service as you attested, as Mr. Pedrozo was out of town." The letter said that the county's attorney has determined the recall petition is invalid. Owens said he tried on Friday to personally serve Pedrozo, but couldn't track him down. Now Owens said he intends to serve Pedrozo via certified mail.

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Open appeal to supervisors about RMP

Submitted: Nov 29, 2006

November 27, 2006

Dear Supervisors Pedrozo, Crookham, Nelson, Kelsey and O’Banion:

Thank you, Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, for scheduling three town-hall meetings this week to address the immediate impacts that the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park will have on your district. We would ask that supervisors Pedrozo, Crookham, Nelson and O’Banion also schedule meetings in their districts and listen to their constituents’ concerns about the RMP project.

Town-hall meetings are not formal hearings and we question how much impact they will have. However, the Board of Supervisors has closed the public hearing. At this stage, town-hall meetings appear to be the best way we have to afford citizens the opportunity to participate in the process.

At the close of the public hearing on RMP, there was still no traffic plan. The traffic study that had been done was based on a flawed, deceptive traffic count in the wrong season for either agricultural harvests or auto racing. This is unacceptable to the public.

The RMP project proposes that District 4’s rural two-lane roads be used as highways for thousands of cars to reach the raceway site. The RMP project will negatively impact the roads, environment and public health and safety of other districts as well. Districts 1, 2, and 3 (Livingston, Atwater & Merced) will be impacted by traffic congestion, slowed response by emergency vehicles, noise, and air quality threats of the project.

All residents will be impacted by road deterioration. Our nationally recognized air pollution could ultimately cause the federal government to stop highway funds until we make greater efforts to clean up our air. We will then be asked to raise our taxes to fix the roads because development does not pay its way.

All Merced County residents will be impacted when the Board of Supervisors lowers the standards of our out-dated General Plan to accommodate the RMP project. The Board should not even consider projects with the massive impacts of RMP before it updates the county General Plan.

We request that the Board of Supervisors do the following:

· hold meetings in all the districts and be accountable to those that elected you to represent our County, not developers’ interests;

· re-open the public hearing on RMP, since about 50 people were not able to testify at the last hearing;

· re-circulate RMP environmental documents to allow the public to review RMP’s and the Planning Department’s responses to public testimony;

· re-circulate RMP environmental documents to allow the public to review the traffic study, which was not finished at the time of the public hearing;

· not decide on RMP or other large development projects before the County has finished updating its General Plan.

Thank you.

Tom Grave
Merced County- Citizens Against the Raceway

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Mascot issue: identity crisis

Submitted: Nov 20, 2006

When I look at the debate growing about the mascot for UC Merced (setting aside all the laws broken to get the living mascot bobcat incarcerated at the city zoo), I see an identity crisis. But, as local sentiment against the choice of the fairy shrimp over the bobcat grows, I see that the identity crisis is a little more complex than it first appears.

At the moment, students at UC Santa Cruz, whose mascot is the banana slug, are in a feisty mood and resisting their administration’s attempts to grow and convert what was designed as a collection of colleges into a genuine UC public research university. In this struggle, since UC is planning growth to accomplish its aims, the students are allied with people in the city of Santa Cruz. The UC administration is encountering stiff opposition to its growth plans in Santa Cruz.

It seems likely that the UC Merced students’ interest in the fairy shrimp as a mascot reflects a similar rebellious spirit in the emerging undergraduate group, trying to define themselves as conscious human beings on an environmentally degraded planet, living and studying in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada and of John Muir.

Meanwhile, there is an element in “town” that is critical of the students’ attempts to define the campus they live and study on. While this, too, is all part of the “town/gown” identity problem Merced has now saddled itself with in perpetuity, the town’s approach seems so horribly hypocritical. But, that’s totally understandable because the political leadership that got the campus located adjacent to the largest, biologically richest vernal pools in the nation did their famous political deed by complete denial of the existence and of the importance of that landscape except as a bureaucratic problem with certain state and federal resource agencies, amenable to pressure. The UC administration’s eagerness to go along with local developers and landowners on this point was a disgraceful moment in academic history, given the tremendous expertise UC biologists have in the biology of vernal pools. There was also the little problem of the Endangered Species Act, since the pools are habitat for 15 endangered species. But that was handled at both the state and federal levels by former Assemblyman and present Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Merced, formerly known as Shrimp Slayer, presently known as Pombo’s Ghost.

But, still your beating hearts, oh mighty free marketers of Merced, ye who spend such inordinate time and energy on lobbying for government aid. UCSC, that great nest of subversive political forces, produced both Victor Hansen and Rep. John “Build-the-Auburn-Dam” Doolittle, Rightwinger-Roseville. Hansen is a distinguished conservative commentator whose book, Mexifornia, brought howls of approval from people who think like its author. Doolittle, a loyal friend of Jack Abramoff, has never been able to decide which he loved more: developer contributions or a dam on the American River in Auburn.

So, don’t worry, UC Merced Boosters, let UC do its magic on a few classes and you’ll get your allotted quotient of corrupt hypocrites in office and academics to lend respectability to their views.

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

Nov. 16, 2006
Merced Sun-Star
Fairy Shrimp or Bobcats...students want to decide...Victor A. Patton
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13021941p-13681252c.html
A group of students has expressed an interest in ditching the bobcat mascot in favor of another creature indigenous to Merced County: the fairy shrimp. Josh Franco, UC Merced's associated student president, said although the issue of changing the school mascot is primarily confined to a handful of students, the movement has definitely gained momentum....said the mascot-change supporters are miffed that the school's current mascot was not chosen by students. Justin Duckham, editor of "Fury Shrimp Times," a student-driven independent publication, said he definitely is in favor of using the shrimp as the school's mascot..."I don't think (a bobcat) reflects the originality that the school is pushing for," "I think it really sounds too much like a high school mascot... Lorena Anderson said changing the mascot would most likely involve petitions from students and a referendum -- neither of which have occurred thus far. Franco said. "For me, the fury shrimp represents that movement to include the students in the decision-making processes of the university. "And I think that's why it's important to keep it alive."

Nov. 20, 2006
Merced Sun-Star
Letter to editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13035349p-13693139c.html
Editor: Just think; after these students vote on the mascot Merced will be stuck with the "fairy shrimp" way after those who thought to vote for this mascot will be long gone. But Merced with a beautiful college and campus will be stuck with the "fairy shrimp" representing Merced's university.
We can be up there with the banana slug.
TED REEVES
Merced

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Public letter in opposition to the Riverside Motorsports Park

Submitted: Nov 14, 2006

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

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

Merced County Board of Supervisors November 14, 2006
2222 M Street
Merced, California 95340
Fax: (209) 726-7977
Ph: (209) 385-7366 Via Hand Delivered and Email

Re: Public hearing on Riverside Motorsports Park General Plan Amendment No. GPA03-005, Zone Change Application No. ZC03-007, the Board of Supervisors’ override of the Castle Airport Land Use Commission, the Environmental Checklist, the Notice of Application, Draft Master Plan, Draft EIR, Final EIR, Appendices to Vol. 2, Response to Comments, Vol. 1, Staff Report, Findings, Resolutions and Overrides, and Indemnification.

1. Development Plan and Administrative Permit

The Riverside Motorsports Park Development Plan and Administrative Permit are the second stage of project approval following adoption of the Master Plan, as required by Merced County’s Planned Development Zone. When submitted, the Development Plan will include a precise plot plan, elevations, landscaping, lighting and other more detailed plans for development of the entirety of the project. The Development and Administrative Permit implement the goals, vision and requirements of the Master Plan. The Administrative Permit will provide the “entitlement” for the RMP project and include a list of conditions of approval under which the facility will operation. All development will be required to be consistent with the Development Plan and Administrative Permit (as may be amended.)

Modifications to the Development Plan and Administrative Permit may be approved administratively by the Planning Director if determined consistent with the intent of the Master Plan, the RMP EIR, and the procedures and finds defined in Section 18.50.02(D) of the Merced County Zoning Code.

-- P. 7-1, RMP Draft Master Plan

The public finds this “implementation” completely unacceptable. Merced County seems to be following the policy that if a sizeable portion of the supervisors’ constituents oppose a project, the final master plan could include changes so substantial to it that they would nullify the project description of its final EIR will be done administratively, without any further public or even legislative review. How excellent a technique for elected officials to wash their hands of the problems this project will cause their own constituents. “Sorry, we can’t do a thing,” the supervisors will be able to say. “It’s all being decided ‘administratively.’”

So, the “master plan” referred to by the county Planning Commission on Oct. 25, either does not yet exist or has not been made available to the public. For example, under the present “administrative” set up, the proponents and the County could create another Pacific Comtech industrial park in RMP final master plan, approved under an EIR to build a racetrack. It would be a radical violation of the project description, but on the other side of Merced we have the UC Community Plan, which every day looks more like the area where the UC Merced campus expansion will go, instead.

2. Disqualification of some supervisors for voting on the RMP project

Coupled with whatever indemnification agreement the County and RMP has reached (not available to the public), this “implementation” insures that once again the elected supervisors will have shielded themselves from any accountability for their decision. The last handicapping of the board of supervisors’ vote was written by RMP CEO John Condren in a letter to his investors last year:

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

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

Although Foster Farms representatives reported last month being unable to meet with supervisors about their concerns with the project, Condren had apparently met with supervisors nearly two years ago. But the public isn’t as cynical as the RMP boss; we expect surprising acts of good sense from our supervisors.

To begin, it would be a surprising act of good faith if the board disqualified two of its members from voting on the RMP final EIR: Jerry O’Banion and Kathleen Crookham. O’Banion is widely known as having steered the project from the west side to its present location. Crookham gave a promotional talk on the RMP project before the Clipper Club at Central Presbyterian Church. Their involvement with the project ought to disqualify them from voting on it. The appearance of conflict-of-interest mars the deliberations on this extremely important decision in advance.

The board of supervisors needs to recall that it is not required by law to approve a fatally flawed EIR.

3. Airport Land Use Commission decisions

On Oct. 24, the Board of Supervisors voted to override a decision by the Castle Airport Land Use Commission that the RMP project is inconsistent with state Department of Transportation guidelines on projects near airports.

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

There is a basic flaw in the description of this project and the approval process is being illegally segmented because two parallel, unrelated planning processes are going on.

According to Planning Department staff, the ALUC met last week to reconsider the decision overridden by the board on Oct. 24.

The County has obstructed public access to the airport commission’s decision, although Planning Director Robert Lewis is secretary of the commission. The commission met last week and reached a decision that the public is obstructed from knowing. Apparently, the Planning Department takes the minutes, but they were not available for view on Monday. Therefore, the public, including state and federal agencies, have no chance to analyze the commission’s recommendation. The public does not know if this recommendation requires state and/or federal approval and if that approval is or is not forthcoming, or when it might be. Yet, according to planning department staff, whatever the decision of the ALUC may be, whatever state and federal approval or disapproval it requires, somehow the reduction in size of the noise zone around the airport will appear in the final RMP EIR after the public hearing is closed, at the board’s Dec. 12 meeting.

This project should not go forward until the public and agencies have had a chance to analyze the impacts of the proposed changes at the airport. The FEIR needs to be recirculated, incorporating all documents related to the ALUC recommendation. The airport decision must be treated as a separate project now, because throughout the development of the RMP project, it has been on an unrelated track and cannot be joined at this late date.

According to testimony by the airport manager, the RMP would bring a significant increase in air traffic to the airport. There is no environmental analysis of this significant increase. In fact, there is no environmental or economic analysis of this significant increase. However, in terms of RMP project, it represents a significant, unanalyzed change in the project.

Just because the RMP project cannot go forward without adjustments to the airport noise regulations does not mean that the FEIR and the ALUC decision are part of the same project for planning or bureaucratic purposes. Under CEQA, the needs of the public for access to information and public debate, not the needs of the developer, define the description of the project and proper legal processes in the decision-making.

We submitted the same packet of material to the county Planning Commission on the following day, Oct. 25. We were unable to finish our testimony orally in the time permitted. At the end of the meeting, after the planning commission had made its decision to advise the board to approve the project, our packet was still lying in the basket beside the podium – one more example of the failure of the county to respect and properly consider important information about this project submitted by the public.

4. Immediate issues of public information access

The County has failed to provide the public with a copy of the indemnification agreement between it and RMP. The public has been unable to obtain a copy of the indemnification agreement, therefore the citizens of Merced County do not know what is and what is not indemnified by the developer of this project, who will pay what to whom in case of litigation on a number of possible problems, including fire and police protection, public safety and environmental issues.

The board public hearing on the RMP project was scheduled on the Tuesday following a three-day weekend. Normally, the public would have had access to the staff report for the hearing on Friday. On Friday, the office was closed. But, on Monday, at noon, the public and state and federal resource agencies were unable to get a new staff report, unable to get the ALUC decision, and was not given the opportunity to review the public testimony submitted, the summary report or the minutes of the planning commission hearing. The County is once again obstructing public access to vital information as if the County were above the laws of CEQA and public process.

The County did not make the new staff report to the public (including state and federal agencies) until 4:30 p.m. on Monday, the day before the hearing. Nothing could better express the County’s complete contempt for the public and favoritism for special development interests. It also perfectly expresses the County’s lack of respect for law and elemental fairness.

5. Failure to consult federal resource agencies

Canal Creek, along with its associated wetlands and limited tree cover, passes through the northeast corner and to the east of the RMP site. From the project site, Canal Creek flows southwest through Atwater into Black Rascal Creek and eventually into Bear Creek and the San Joaquin River. Canal Creek is a perennial tributary.

Just beyond the northeast boundary is the Castle Dam, a 6,400 acre-foot capacity dry flood control facility operated by the Merced Irrigation District.”

--P. 2-3 Riverside Motorsports Park Draft Master Plan.

This statement, in conjunction with state Department of Fish and Game directive, triggered the necessity of County and proponent consultation with federal resource regulatory agencies. The County and proponents failed to engage in that consultation, fatally damaging the environmental review of the RMP project.

The RMP project lies inside the federal Endangered Species Act critical habitat designation for the 15 endangered species associated with vernal pools. It also lies directly across an endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox migration corridor. The creek running through the project area connects with navigable waters of the US.

However, there is no evidence that – despite the state Department of Fish and Game advise to the County and project proponents – that either the County or proponents ever consulted on these three important federal resource issues, growing more critical in Merced County by the month with the cumulative impacts caused by development induced by UC Merced on valuable eastern Merced County wildlife habitat.

The recent federal court ruling upheld the critical habitat designation. The project area lies well within the US Fish & Wildlife Service Recovery Plan for Vernal Pools, and the Service has designated the project area as part of a vital corridor for kit fox east-to-west migration. Until the issue of the connectivity of the creek running through the project site is established by the US Army Corps of Engineers, this project cannot go forward just because the County and proponents have ignored their legal obligations under ESA and the federal Clean Water Act to consult with the federal resource regulatory agencies.

In addition, this project lies within the boundaries of UC Merced and state and federal agencies’ Contiguous Band of Natural Lands and Wildlife-Compatible Farmland that Should Be Maintained. UC Merced regards the existing orchard on the project site as important agricultural land for protection and for the mitigation of take of wildlife habitat. In addition to failing to consult with federal resource regulatory agencies, the Merced County Department of Planning and Community Development failed to consult with the UC Merced Development Planning office.

Merced County, home of UC Merced, is long past the point where it can claim ignorance of federal resource agency jurisdiction over large parts of eastern, as well as western Merced County. The County was notified in September by the state Department of Fish and Game to consult with federal resource agencies.

The RMP project should be re-circulated because the federal agencies were not properly notified by either project proponents, which is understandable, or by the land-use authority, Merced County, which is neither understandable nor legally defensible.

There is no analysis of the impact to species associated with wetlands immediately north of the project at Castle Dam. There is no environmental analysis of the effects of the proposed sound berm on water flowing toward the site.

In the draft EIR, p. 4.4-1 project consultants refer to the Merced Basin Groundwater Management Plan. In fact, the plan does not exist and cannot be used as an authoritative policy document.

6. Failure to do economic analysis on impacts to the Castle Commerce-Aviation & Economic Development area.

A Castle airport manager testified to the planning commission that the RMP project would increase traffic to and from the airport. The RMP final EIR lists 34 significant, unavoidable environmental impacts. The board will have no basis on which to override them but economic. This it will done without any analysis of the economic impacts to the Castle economic development area from being adjacent to a regional auto racing facility subject to periodic traffic jams that, if the track is successful, can only increase in number over time. How will the racetrack economically impact the Castle enterprise with its foreign-trade zone designation, conducive to a number of enterprises that could have provided thousands of jobs fitting the skill level of tens of thousands of Merced’s existing residents? We don’t know and this EIR doesn’t mention the subject. An economic override that lacks any analysis of the economic impacts of the project is not legally compliant.

7. Moratorium until General Plan Update

Planners in Merced County – whether they work for the county planning department, UC Merced, Castle, Merced County Association of Governments or the various cities – have failed to consider the cumulative economic as well as environmental impacts of rapidly sprouting commercial zones, particularly along the Highway 99 corridor. Following on the section above, this is working an economic hardship on plans for the development of Castle, but, overall, it is creating a series of disconnected “anchor tenant” areas, which will induce growth around them. In light of the third failure to pass a sales tax increase to fund road construction and improvement in a county with a general plan so weak and out- of-date it is useless as a planning-guidance tool, these competing commercial zones will soon create traffic-circulation havoc, adding measurably to air pollution, and may produce economic havoc as well. But we don’t know, because there has been no analysis of the economic impacts of chaotic growth in a county with a moribund general plan.

The lack of analysis of cumulative economic and environmental impacts from the chaotic growth in Merced requires the public to demand a moratorium on any more projects not already approved by appropriate local, state and federal agencies. RMP is not approved by the appropriate agencies, therefore the board should not approve it before the county general plan has been fully updated in a legally compliant fashion.

8. Conclusion

The board of supervisors must deny the Riverside Motorsports Park General Plan Amendment No. GPA03-005, Zone Change Application No. ZC03-007, the Board of Supervisors’ override of the Castle Airport Land Use Commission, the Environmental Checklist, the Notice of Application, Draft Master Plan, Draft EIR, Final EIR, Appendices to Vol. 2, Response to Comments, Vol. 1, Staff Report, Findings, Resolutions and Overrides, and Indemnification.

The process that produced these documents was seriously flawed by

· an inadequate project description that can be modified at will by administrative decision without public review;
· serious conflicts of interest involving at least two members of the board voting on the project and the applicant’s claims nearly two years ago that he already had a super-majority of supervisors in his pocket;
· segmenting and peacemealing the entirely different project of the override of the Castle Land Use Commission decision, which requires its own EIR;
· deliberate failure of the County to make essential project documents available to the public in a timely manner;
· failure of the land-use authority to perform its mandatory duty to consult federal resource regulatory agencies on the environmental impacts of the proposed project;
· failure to do any analysis on the economic impacts of the proposed project on the Castle Commercial-Aviation Economic Development area;
· failure of the County to do cumulative economic impact studies on the impacts of this proposed project and other commercial, growth-inducing anchor tenants;
· failure of the County to consider the negative impact on the proposed project of the third failure of the transportation tax measure.

Sincerely,

Lydia Miller Steve Burke

Attachments:
TNC Predicted Vernal Pool Taxa
Dept. F&G San Joaquin Kit Fox Approximate Distribution
UC Merced San Joaquin Kit Fox Habitat Map
UC Merced Vernal Pool and Related Wetlands Map
“Supervisors override ban on building near airport,” Merced Sun-Star
Eastern Merced Bird List
US Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan for Upland Species Map
US Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan for Vernal Pool Ecosystems
( hard copy of Service recovery plan and above items delivered by hand along with this letter to the Board of Supervisors at its public hearing, Nov. 14, 2006)

All other attachments submitted electronically:
Eastern Merced Bird List
Silviera Bird List
UC Merced San Joaquin Kit Fox Habitat Map
UC Merced Vernal Pool and Related Wetlands Map
“Supervisors override ban on building near airport,” Merced Sun-Star
RMP articles
BadlandsJournal.com Riverside Motorsports Park CEO Letter to Investors
Vernal Pool Critical Habitat Lawsuit
Pacific Comtec lawsuit petition
Coalition Statement
US Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan for Upland Species Map
TNC Predicted Vernal Pool Taxa
Dept. F&G San Joaquin Kit Fox Approximate Distribution

Cc: Interested parties
BadlandsJournal

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Fair is foul

Submitted: Mar 31, 2006

Fair is foul, and foul is fair
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

--Macbeth, 1.1

Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
-- Jack Abramoff, Vanity Fair, April 2006

Sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission, Cardoza said with a laugh.
-- Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, Modesto Bee, March 31, 2005, in reference to the famous joint fund-raiser with Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, and the Lodi ranch of Fritz Grupe, the north San Joaquin Valley's largest developer.

Every time has its exploiters. When caught, they always beg forgiveness. Abramoff and Cardoza belong to the same crew of sanctimonious, pious frauds.

But everything is hitched to everything else, as John Muir used to say, possibly looking down on the San Joaquin Valley from the Sierras, back when you could see the Valley from the Sierras.

Perhaps Dennis has been spending too much time hanging out - and maybe laughing - with Jack Abramoff, suggested Juan de la Rana Salto recently.

Asking for forgiveness rather than permission is apparently infectious in Merced County. Recently, Livingston officials constructed an entire theological theory of forgiveness (invoking St. Francis no less) around the mile-long, 42-inch sewer trunk line Ranchwood Homes built from the Livingston wastewater treatment plant to a subdivision Ranchwood is planning.

What ever happened to: “Don’t to the crime if you can’t do the time”?

Political corruption is a complex political phenomenon that begins, in this country, when the rule of men overwhelms the rule of the laws upon which the democratic republic is based and without which, it fails. Once corruption picks up steam, for example when the US Supreme Court decides on a straight partisan vote who won in Florida in 2000 without a total recount, there is Hell to pay.

The world is paying it. The times hurtle toward disaster. Tragic drama, some say the best tool the West ever invented to understand itself, has a characteristic moment near the end when the times simply run of their tracks.

Business leaders and public officials are busy making money and power off the mad times. Their hands on the throttle, they drive the state through the trackless wilderness of human nature.

Here in the local bailiwick, the officials and UC Merced have decided it would be just a dandy way to make money off the gathering environmental and public health disaster, caused by ruinous growth stimulated by the arrival of UC Merced, to start a UC Merced medical school, side-by-side a biomedical research lab. The latter would have to be guided by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (of weapons of mass destruction) because even UC realizes this campus is an unguided missile.

Meanwhile, Mercy Hospital, operated by one of the nation's most corrupt hospital management corporations, has decided to build a new hospital on the right side of the tracks in North Merced. They've just made their draft environmental impact report available to the public. The local paper reports -- as absolute fact -- the hospital, to be built on wetlands and Swainson's Hawk habitat -- will only be required to mitigate for its environmental destruction at the ratio of .5 acre per acre of natural habitat destroyed.

Presumably, there is some basis for the reporter's statement. Let us conjecture that the DEIR contains the declaration of a deal between the hospital and the City of Merced.. Meanwhile, Merced County will soon be creating a new general plan and the same group of local urban and farm leaders will be meeting again to discuss urban/agricultural land-use policy, as they have so terribly effectively in the past.

If you believe in divine forces like gods who forgive corrupt politicians and lobbyists, gods who decide the pattern of growth in your community, gods who decide where a public university campus will go, and alien beings that dirty the air, pollute the water and make your children sick, you qualify as a local leader able to discuss land-use policy in Merced County. All you need is a good alibi.

For a good alibi, our Valley leaders turn to the Great Valley Center (for urban development), the people who receive and dole out grant money to anyone who can come up with a new idea about how to pave over paradise in good conscience. GVC has become a mistress of the corporate game of "value-free information," which always seems to benefit the corporation and nobody else. We the people, we suffering masses of unemployed, environmentally, ethnically, educationally and shopping challenged, are the commodity whose deficiencies GVC hustles to the coastal non-profits and, lately, the developers' banks and non-profits based on real estate fortunes.

GVC, moving right into lock-step with UC Merced, with whom it formed a partnership last year, is holding a conference on health.

HEALTH SESSIONS!

High tech M.D.

An apple a day: Better health through prevention

Promotoras: More than community health workers

Bikes and walks: Creating healthy communities

Healthy food for low income communities

More than 100 speakers, panelists, and presenters view at:
www.greatvalley.org.

Conference topics include: Air Quality and Health, Agriculture, Environment, Technology, Growth, Water, Arts and Culture, Community building, and more.

The GVC possesses an amazing talent for framing itself in front of the crisis, backlit by the flames. The Center appears to do all the right things, particularly creating alibis when it all goes wrong; and much money is paid and spent along the way for larger offices and redecoration in fantastic performances of good conscience, good will, balance, wise use, smart growth, leadership development, and general all-round vision.

GVC officials don't believe in gods and demons. They spend their time scanning the heavens for a glimpse of the Invisible Hand of the Market Place. Their necks have become so stiff with this long, disciplined, earnest searching, that they could not see our Central (not Great) Valley environment, even if they wanted to. This posture, eyes to the sky looking for the Hand, is a form of worship, like the practice of sun gazing that eventually blinds the illuminated one.

Our very own think tank is remorselessly positive. They put an idiotic happy face on each and every act of land-use misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance performed from Redding to Bakersfield – and collect high fees for doing it. Observed up close, their happy face is in fact a grimace of eternal vigilance against a critical idea that could blow the whole cultural edifice upon which this incredibly destructive urban growth boom rests. The growth boom rests on a business confidence game called faith in the churches of our business leaders, or an amalgam of faiths, each requiring belief in forces beyond human control guiding land-use decisions in what was once the richest agricultural area, acre-for-acre, in the world. Like all such rich farming regions, unfortunately it makes too few wealthy and that wealth is based on widespread poverty, low wages, and high seasonal unemployment.

Learning how to preserve that agricultural richness, learning how to create social, environmental and economic justice within that agricultural economy, should have been the direction. But that would have required critical thought, open debate and courage. It would have required the principles of republican democracy.

For a frank discussion of Catholic Healthcare West's managing order of union busting, community-clinic closing nuns, see the Dissent article below. Perhaps these are the sisters that have taught Cardoza how to forgive himself with such good humor.

Cardoza’s vote on GMOs labeling works well with UC Merced biomedical research. Perhaps the San Joaquin Valley will become that dream laboratory where finally the public health and safety research will be done on these crops and foods, which the US government and the FDA did not do, at lobbyist insistence.

The health effects of the nationwide American experiment now going on of planting, harvesting, genetically manipulating and eating GMOs should make lovely research for UC Merced’s biomedical research laboratories, unless biomedicine begins to take on the more sinister aspect of biowarfare research. While UC Merced might be able to claim honestly that it was not doing any such research, the sorts of biotechnology corporations UC, GVC and all good Merced public officials lust after, could. In official circles, certainly nobody is talking about regulating, inspecting or banning that kind of research because it is all hitched together with the high technology economy that our leaders believe, with profound faith, will bring (someone) prosperity. But this technology is consuming energy far beyond its means. The world warms, wars multiply, tanks, helicopters, jets are not fuel efficient, and Arabs turn out to be as tough as Vietnamese.

I don’t think anybody in my neighborhood, in what UC Merced social facilitators are now cutely call "Middle Merced, " has much gene-splicing skill. That’s one of the attractive features of my neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times found that the speculative housing boom in Merced was busting, and the local paper called some local realtors who confirmed the local news. The fat profits have been taken; now the foreclosures begin in earnest. It’s hard to put a happy face on foreclosure and bankruptcy, so our leaders and their media will not try, focusing instead on plans such as hospitals and med schools. Meanwhile, the rightwing white owners, born to the manner, blame the most vulnerable group in society, Mexican immigrants. They hope to terrify the suburban soccer moms of the nation sufficiently to get their vote and maintain control of Congress in the coming election.

To his credit, Cardoza voted against HR 4437. The owners had a comfortable majority in the House without him. Had their control been less certain, the rear end of the Pomboza would probably have voted with his boss, Pombo. The hospital nuns would have granted him instant absolution because it was their largely minimum-wage Mexican workers that the SEIU organized despite the loss of appeal our president has suffered in their SUVs.

How dismally stupid this election year will be as our leaders bash or posture some defense of immigrants all season, forgetting the Iraq War, the economy, the national debt and the foreign trade deficit as Congress seriously debates building a wall across the entire US/Mexican border – a boon to sales of cutting torches on the other side.

Everything is hitched to everything else. Once again the owners create their own monsters for their own purpose, which is always power.

No somos criminales; somos trabajadores internacionales, said the large, hand-painted sign on the Tijuana side of the new wall in the summer of 1994, including the semi-colon.

Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

-- Julius Caesar, 1.3

Notes:

California farm heartland's dirty air costs $3 bln
Reuters, March 30, 2006
Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:55 PM ET
http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=scienceNews&storyID=2006-03-30T015524Z_01_N29639369_RTRUKOC_0_US-ECONOMY-CALIFORNIA-AIRQUALITY.xml&archived=False

Report issued for new hospital...Carol Reiter
Merced Sun-Star, March 29. 2006
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11990882p-12752167c.html
The draft environmental impact report for Mercy Medical Center Merced's replacement hospital in North Merced is available to the public today. The EIR is the latest step in the hospital's goal of building a new facility by 2009. Mercy must resolve before building the new hospital include the light and glare that the facility will generate, impacts to the school that is located nearby, safety issues from a helicopter landing pad on the roof of the building, noise from the helicopter, the aesthetic impact of the towers, air quality, and the loss of wetlands from a lateral canal and creek that are on the property, a zoning change. The hospital is located on ground that has been found to be a foraging site for Swainson's hawks, a threatened species. Mercy must mitigate for the loss of habitat, at the rate of .5 acres for every acre that is developed. The hospital will also impact local wetlands, the EIR found. The other issue that may be a problem for neighbors is the helicopter...

Modesto Bee
March 29, 2006
Medical school idea makes rounds...Ken Carlson
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11990769p-12752020c.html
UC Merced officials presented the plan for the medical school at a public meeting Monday evening at the Great Valley Center in Modesto. 100 people attended the meeting to hear a presentation by UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey and Maria Pallavicini, dean of the university's school of natural sciences. The plan calls for UC Merced medical students to attend academic classes for two years. After that, they would be sent to physicians' offices, clinics and hospitals in the valley for hands-on training. To attract faculty from across the country, UC Merced officials also are developing a biomedical research institute that would have close ties to the medical school. After the presentation, some physicians asked whether the regional approach could provide effective training for medical students. In particular, students who aspire to become specialists usually are trained in a university hospital.

Unions and Health Care Reform
By Katherine Sciacchitano
Summer 2004
http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=350

… Organizing the Church; Leveraging Wall Street

SEIU began the campaign hoping for voluntary recognition. However, although the National Conference of Catholic Bishops supported the dignity of workers and their right to organize, the order of nuns that owned CHW hospitals didn't reflect that position in their management practices. Brothers in the hospitals held captive prayer meetings, organizers were told unions were nowhere to be found in the Bible, workers were surveilled.

SEIU countered with a campaign that dissected CHW's roles as a provider of health care services, employer, corporate citizen, organ of the church, and recipient of tax subsidies. When CHW pursued expansion plans by buying and closing community hospitals to increase its own market share, staff researched CHW's legal responsibility to provide charity care and asked the California attorney general to enforce the hospitals' charitable trust obligation to the community. Organizers worked with Catholic activists to hold CHW accountable to Catholic social teachings. Sympathetic priests were asked to sponsor "labor in the pulpit" on Sundays so workers could tell congregations about their working conditions and CHW's resistance to organizing. There were rallies in front of hospitals and a prayer vigil in Sacramento. When SEIU's campaign for voluntary recognition stalled after a year and a half, organizers reacted flexibly and petitioned for NLRB elections in hospitals where they thought they could be successful. When the union lost several of the elections, it established a Fair Election Commission, headed by State Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigoso, to expose CHW's election conduct and used the report to maintain momentum with workers and the community. …

Warning: This bill could make you sick
By Al Meyerhoff and Carl Pope
March 21, 2006
Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-meyerhoff21mar21,0,3335790.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

THE HOUSE of Representatives this month passed the National Uniformity for Foods Act, a measure that would kill or cancel significant parts of 200 food-safety laws in 50 states. This ill-advised bill, supported by millions of food-industry dollars, passed without a single hearing. Now it's in the hands of the Senate. If it passes there, among its many victims would be California's requirement that foods containing harmful chemicals display a warning for consumers. ..

All told, food companies have forked over $5.2 million to the bill's 226 co-sponsors. The Californian members of Congress co-sponsoring the bill in the House received about $670,000 from food interests for this election cycle alone, and more than $1 million for 2004, according to public filings with the Federal Elections Commission. Some of the top money-getters are Reps. Richard Pombo (R-Tracy), $250,208); Devin Nunes (R-Visalia), $558,152); and Dennis Cardoza (D-Atwater) $239,152). ..

In February, Waxman, together with Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs), wrote to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urging him to oppose the "National Uniformity" bill. Thus far, the response from the governor's office has been silence. As the debate over food safety moves to the U.S. Senate, it's time for the governor to make sure this threat to California's sovereignty is terminated.

3-29-06
Merced Sun-Star
Local experts agree with dreary housing article...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11990879p-12752180c.html
Real estate is a driving force in Merced's economy. Five of seven members of the City Council draw their livelihoods from it -- four are licensed to sell homes, including the mayor... It's little wonder that an in-depth Los Angeles Times article spotlighting the city's rapidly cooling housing market has made the rounds. The city's historic housing boom continues, in spite of slowing sales numbers...7,000 new houses in the works. Merced as the second-most-overvalued city for single-family homes. Global Insight and the Cleveland-based bank National City determined Merced's homes were 76.7 percent overvalued

Los Angeles Times...3-25-06
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-merced25mar25,1,1968334.story?coll=la-headlines-business
The Land of the Open House. Merced, once the state's hottest housing market, is headed back to being, well, Merced again....David Streitfeld

Wage War on Poverty, Not Immigrants
by Jesse Jackson
Chicago Sun Times – March 28, 2006
http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0328-34.htm

"Sa se puede!" Yes we can. They marched by the hundreds of thousands in Los Angeles, by the tens of thousands in Milwaukee, in Phoenix, in New York. Across the country, Hispanics dramatically entered what has been an increasingly ugly debate about immigration in this country.

Rep. Tom Tancredo is gaining national attention railing against undocumented immigrants. He wants them turned into felons, a wall built along our border to keep them out, police dispatched to send them home. He does not bother to tell us how he plans to transport 11 million estimated undocumented workers out of the country. Nor what will happen to the millions of their children who were born here and are American citizens.

Senate leader Bill Frist is doing his own Tancredo. Efforts by Senators Kennedy and McCain to fashion a compromise look likely to fail in the face of the furies. President Bush has offered an employers bill -- why does this not surprise? He'd increase enforcement at the border, but create a guest worker program so that employers could ship low wage immigrants in, so long as they promise to boot them out when they've finished exploiting them.

When employers brought slaves to America, few objected as long as they were prepared to work without wages and without rights. When they began to demand equal rights, all hell broke loose. No one minded when Mexican farm workers came to pick the crops, do the lawns, clean the houses. When they started to demand the right to citizenship, to vote, to organize -- the furor started.

American workers are sensibly worried that the flood of immigrant labor will bring lower wages as part of the global race to the bottom. But their complaint is with employers who prefer undocumented workers whom they can exploit without complaint, and with federal and state authorities who turn a blind eye to that exploitation.

There is no way anyone is going to locate, arrest, detain and ship millions of undocumented workers out of America. Our choice is whether we want to maintain permanently a large underclass of undocumented workers that can be easily exploited by cynical employers, and slurred by callous politicians -- or whether we want to fulfill America's promise by providing them with a road to citizenship, benefitting from their willingness to work, pay taxes and contribute.

How do we stop our country from being overrun by impoverished immigrants if we offer them pathways to citizenship? There is only one way -- and it is not mentioned in this debate. We passed a treaty called NAFTA with Mexico and Canada that guaranteed rights to employers and investors but not to workers.

The results have been catastrophic. Wages in Mexico, the United States and Canada have fallen. Mexico now exports more cars to the United States than the United States exports to the world -- all made by U.S. companies benefitting from cheap labor in Mexico. And U.S. food exports have displaced millions of poor Mexican peasants and driven them from their communities. They don't come to the United States because they want to leave their homes. They come desperate for work.

The only way to stop the flood of immigrants is to help lift their standards up, rather than drive ours down. When Europe created one trading union including impoverished Spain and Portugal, the high wage countries of the north spent billions on development in the poorer countries, while demanding that they adhere to labor rights, environmental protections and basic social protections.

While those countries still are not as wealthy as those in the north, their people were given hope and opportunity -- and would much prefer to stay home. We can spend billions trying to lock immigrants out and hold those that come in down. Or we can devote energy and resources now wasted on a civil war in Iraq to help lift our neighbors up, gain real trading partners and significantly reduce the misery that drives people from their homes.

Potential presidential candidates like Frist, Tancredo and even supposedly straight-talking John McCain won't say anything like this. But that's the truth. And in the end, it is the truth, and only the truth, that will set you free.

| »

Loose Cheeks

Submitted: Mar 25, 2006

FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT

Loose Cheeks: Hot Tips
By Lucas Smithereen
Loose Cheeks Senior Editor

Got a hot tip for Loose Cheeks? Call the Loose Cheeks hot-tip line: (000) CHE-EEKS. We’ll get back to you whenever.

Loose Cheeks’ intrepid reporter A.J. Gangle recently got his sticky fingers on a copy of the job description for UC Merced chancellor, the post Carol Tomlinson-Keasey left to write a book at state expense about the founding of the campus on the former municipal golf course.
-------------

UC Merced Chancellor Job Description

Top Secret
Security clearance through appropriate federal agencies and UC Regents.

Date: (redacted):

1. Candidate must possess a face frozen in an aspect of absolute sincerity (without ticks). We are not looking for someone who can merely put on a sincere face. We are talking bone structure. The face of the chancellor of UC Merced must be unable to express any disposition but utterly sweet sincerity.

2. Candidate must possess the ability to lie to local, state and federal public officials frequently, at will, and on extremely short notice on any topic. Polygraph analysis will be used to determine the top five top smoothest liars. Pay particular attention to the smoothness of the affirmations on these statements:

· Black is actually white.
· UC Merced complied with all environmental law and regulation.
· UC Merced is not a developer of any kind.
· UC Merced has not, does not and will not conduct any research involving materials used for weapons of mass destruction.
· Genetically modified organisms produced by biotechnology corporations are never harmful to the environment, pose no threat to farmers’ health or income, and will universally improve human health.

3. Regardless of gender, candidate must agree to spend more time with Rep. Dennis Cardoza than he spends with his wife. (Candidate not required to spend as much time with Cardoza as Cardoza spends with Rep. Rich Pombo.)

4. Candidates must possess a profound faith (backed by slush funds) that the Pomboza will gut the Endangered Species Act; and, that before that Happy Day for UC Merced; all UC Merced and UC Community plans must remain plans-to-make-plans.

5. Candidates must be fervently committed to the principle that California taxpayers pay all legal expenses of local land-use authorities for UC-corrupted decisions challenged by local public groups.

6. Candidates must express an eagerness to make UC Merced a continuing haven for aging political hacks (Tony “Honest Graft” Coelho and John Garamendi), their offspring (the Condit kids then and John Garamendi, Jr. now ) the offspring of former UC executives (James Greenwood), former disgraced UC presidents (David Pierpont Gardner), and sawed-off Texans that polish their fingernails.

7. Candidates will receive bonus points for a proven record of paying off minority “leaders” to claim UC Merced is a godsend for Valley minorities.

8. Candidates must demand to redecorate the Chancellor’s Residence for at least $200,000, using materials ripped out of the adjacent environment. Bonus points will be awarded to demands for useless decorative features made of aggregate from nearby sand-and-gravel mines. The candidate who demands a baby Black Bear pelt above the fireplace wins the prize.

9. A background in propaganda work, preferably for UC Flak Central, is preferred. Academic degrees will be arranged to enhance the resume of any candidate who scores high in other categories. Special consideration will be granted to candidates who demand the bear-cub pelt.

10. Under no circumstances will the candidate be a native Californian or have any California ancestors back to the time of the Bering Straights land bridge. We do not want a chancellor whose mind is contaminated with history.

11. When the polygraph test is administered, positive recognition of any of the following names or terms will be cause for elimination: Paul Taylor, Dorothea Lang, rural sociology, Carey McWilliams, Ernesto Galarza, Al Green, Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Don Villarejo, California Institute for Rural Studies, Ralph Brown or John Williamson.

12. Immediately eliminate candidates who do not demand at least $50,000 bonus, at least $150,000 in “research funding,” plus two years of severance pay. They are not greedy enough and willing enough to steal public funds to be able to play a round of golf with a corporate CEO and therefore cannot be relied upon to broker successful public/private, win-win partnerships.

13. Personality analysis. The short list will be decided by the top five in the categories: hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and arrogance.

14. Any candidate who does not immediately demand at least $150,000 for office renovation lacks the elementary invidious comparison quotient required to be a part of the UC team of chancellors. Ditto any candidate with a dog who demands less than $40,000 public funds for installation of a dog run.

15. A proven record of cheating on academic examinations gets bonus points for short-listing. UC chancellors must possess the ability to cheat on reporting executive compensation packages to UC Regents.

16. Candidates for any UC chancellor position must have demonstrated the ability to harass, intimidate and otherwise silence uppity professors critical of UC executive compensation packages or UC scientists willing to call a vernal pool and vernal pool. There are no vernal pools, no endangered species, no critical habitat in eastern Merced County, and anyone who says there are must be labeled a communist, an environmentalist, a pinko fairy shrimp lover or a POET.

17. To continue to supply living, captive mascots, the UC Merced chancellor must demonstrate the ability to politically bludgeon state and federal wildlife officials into lying, cheating and breaking state and federal law.

18. No candidate need apply for this position unless he or she can tell a bald-faced lie to a legislative committee under pressure.

19. Candidates must demonstrate enthusiasm for slashing student services, staff salaries and raising student tuitions so that UC executives and top professors get more money.

20. Trick question: What does “under-market” mean to you? Candidates who reply: “Abomination!” get bonus points.

21. Prerequisite: Candidate must have worked in a top management position in one of UC’s national laboratories of nuclear weapons research.

Notes:

3-25-06
Merced Sun-Star
City's Wal-Mart debate rages...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/11975768p-12737963c.html
Pro...Kenneth L. Musson, Merced
The evil Wal-Mart is coming to town with their big bad offers of jobs! POET -- the People Opposed to the Ethical Treatment of Merced, who are against everything... The minute, no, the second the UC Merced was a done deal, this little burg changed. Forever. Could any of you POETs be among our new UC arrivals? How dare you challenge change!

3-18-06
Merced Sun-Star
UC Merced club wants support...Chris Abrescy, Winton
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/11947993p-12712667c.html
In the inaugural year: We have fewer than the 1,000 initial students, a dean departing, many eager to leave, and now are losing a great chancellor. Many disappointed students feel a false picture was painted. We were told to create this campus... Yet, UC Merced offers minimal support to clubs... roadblocks, paperwork and regulations continuously arise. We attempt to utilize facilities, denied access. We, the students, receive no priority...

3-16-06
Merced Sun-Star
Who's listening: 'No Knows' has different take on UC...Nathan Quevedo
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/life/story/11938153p-12704171c.html
Composer Tony White-"UC Merced" is a song Essig "composed" nearly three years ago. It deals with the impact a university has on a small agriculture town in what some consider the farming center of the world. "Faced with this great opportunity to really change this town ... the influences were really from the outside," he said. According to the Merced County Association of Realtors, property values skyrocketed 50 percent last year in the city of Merced. More online: Click here to listen to the song about UC Merced by Joey No Knows.

3-13-06
San Francisco Chronicle
Offer letters from UC detail top hire's perks. Enhanced benefits promised to recruits...Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/03/13/MNGE2HN6N91.DTL&type=printable
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Steven Chu to run the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC San Diego Medical Center director Richard Liekweg, executive vice provost Wyatt "Rory" Hume, UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton. ...special perks contained in offer letters UC tendered to 29 current and former top executives during the hiring process that have not been previously reported. The Chronicle obtained the letters last week under the California Public Records Act. UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said the administration's own review of the letters found that administrators sometimes violated university policies by failing to disclose some elements of compensation packages to the regents and the public... The offer letters are part of an audit under way by UC's outside auditing firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is expected to be completed in April. Schwartz urged The Chronicle to hold off on reporting anything about the offer letters until the PricewaterhouseCoopers audit is completed, because the auditors will also review other information that isn't publicly available, such as the executives' personnel files... The Chronicle decided to report on the offer letters because the public interest is served by disclosing their contents.

3-9-06
San Francisco Chronicle
UC head of campus will quit top job. Chancellor going on sabbatical to write history of the school...Tanya Schevitz
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/03/09/BAGSVHL0H41.DTL&type=printable
In her resignation letter submitted Feb. 4 and released by the university Wednesday, Tomlinson-Keasey said she will take an administrative leave at her chancellor's salary, citing a 2003 UC presidential policy that lets managers take leaves at full salary. But a conflicting Board of Regents policy bars administrative leaves of more than three months. That and other conflicting policies and pay practices at UC during an era of rising student fees have been revealed in a series of Chronicle stories, and have led to legislative hearings. Paul Schwartz said the UC president's office is reviewing details of the leave and will work with the chancellor "to ensure both that she receives what she is entitled to and that the appropriate policies are followed." However, UC President Robert Dynes confirmed Wednesday in a letter to the chancellor that she would be able to take the leave at her administrative pay. He also confirmed that she has also earned an additional two years' sabbatical that she will take at some point at her faculty salary.

1-5-06
Modesto Bee
Independent voice for young campus...Rosalio Ahumada
http://www.modbee.com/life/buzzz/story/11655168p-12384494c.html
Justin Duckham wanted to create a student newspaper that is unfiltered, uncensored and unapologetic...Fury Shrimp Times. The University of California at Merced freshman has succeeded so far. Without authorization from campus administration, he and his staff are producing an underground publication filled with opinion articles tackling the various issues affecting students. "We want (UC Merced) to be a new Berkeley, a new Davis," said Izadian, an 18-year-old from San Jose majoring in biology.

12-22-05
San Francisco Chronicle
Conflict of interest found for UC provost...Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/12/22/MNG60GBT611.DTL&type=printable
The University of California's former No. 2 official, who resigned under a cloud last month, violated conflict-of-interest rules by helping to create a management job for a friend... In addition, UC investigators found that a subordinate for the former official, ex-Provost M.R.C. Greenwood, had improperly helped create an internship for Greenwood's son,... UC said it had determined that Doby, the university's vice president for student affairs who reported to Greenwood, had inappropriately provided funding from his office to create an internship at UC Merced specifically for Greenwood's son, James Greenwood. James Greenwood previously applied for three student affairs positions at UC Merced and UC Davis, using contacts provided by his mother. He did not make it to the interview round for any of the jobs,... After James Greenwood's unsuccessful search for a job, Doby asked UC Merced Vice Chancellor Jane Lawrence this past July whether she would create an internship for him if the campus had the funding. A day or two later, Doby informed UC Merced that his office would provide funding for an internship position for Greenwood, the report said. Greenwood was then hired as the only candidate for the $45,000-a-year internship.

2-15-01
Daily Newsbulletin
Young named to UC Merced post…
http://www.lanl.gov/orgs/pa/News/021501text.html
Janet E. Young, chief of staff for Lab Director John Browne, has been selected as assistant chancellor and chief of staff for the University of California, Merced. "Janet has been an invaluable colleague to me in planning and conducting the business of the Laboratory," Browne said. "Her insights into UC and federal processes have served our institution well. She has a clear understanding of the fundamental values of Los Alamos stemming from our historical relationship with UC, and worked hard to protect those values.

| »

Loose Cheeks

Submitted: Mar 03, 2006

FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT

Loose Cheeks: Hot Tips

By Lucas Smithereen
Loose Cheeks Senior Editor

Got a hot tip for Loose Cheeks? Call the Loose Cheeks hot-tip line: (000) CHE-EEKS. We’ll get back to you whenever.

Bobcat flaksters on the march!

Loose Cheeks got a hot tip that UC Merced Environmental Manager Rick Notini, UC lawyers and consultants, cancelled a meeting with federal and state officials and national, state and local environmental groups to discuss UC Merced’s on-going lack of compliance with environmental law and mitigation.

UC Merced had another – much more important meeting – with a local farm group right here in Merced.

Notini, UC Merced Assistant Chancellor Janet Young and county Supervisor Kathleen Crookham met the farm group to sensitize the group for its next meeting.

UC is lobbying farmers not to object when – Hush! Hush! -- the second phase of the campus drops down on the land presently planned for the University Community because UC Merced is unable to get Clean Water Act permits for its original site.

You wudda thought they shudda thought about that a few years ago.

But hey, it’s UC, what are you gonna do?

Valley politicians and judges just love that UC. Our rich Republican landowners, local and out-of-town developers see the campus as the anchor tenant for a building boom down the whole east side of the San Joaquin Valley, which means big bucks for them – but not for us, caught funding the public works projects and schools the development will require and do not pay for because development corporations own the Legislature composed of corrupt, elected Yes-people.

Meanwhile, local environmental groups have filed suit against the University Community Plan because agricultural groups would not sue to protect prime farm land. The public claims in its suit that the UCP is a plan to make a plan and violates the California Environmental Quality Act.

UC Regents and the University Community Land Co. (that’s UC and the Smith Trusts) have intervened in the suit. Wonder whose indemnifying the county now?

But Notini will tell you any time you ask that UC is not a developer.

Anyway, the next night, Notini and Crookham were joined by none other than Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, to pitch the farm group. Farmers shouldn’t object to the taking of hundreds more acres of prime farm land … because it’s UC doing the taking.

Right!

Loose Cheeks hasn’t seen so much UC Merced/politician manipulation since an east side conservation district was pressured a few years back to run a resource-mitigation scheme for the campus alongside The Nature Conservancy .

So, that’s why Notini wasn’t in Sacramento fielding embarrassing questions about UC Merced’s inability to comply with federal environmental law and land mitigation.

Plans to make plans to make plans to make plans!

Loose Cheeks got these hot tips from a discarded Golden Bobcat book bag found outside the Applegate City Zoo.

“Hopefully, the local nitwits won’t find out that UC still hasn’t done its federal process and future campus phases could still be built elsewhere,” was the last entry found in the notebook.

Local yokels get hoodwinked by Hope ... again

Merced Alliance for Responsible Growth (MARG) is Merced County through and through, according to a Harvard PhD Valley Hopeful. MARG is co-chaired by a local farmer and a retired educator. Members include the local progressive Democratic group, which has been meeting since 1968, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, the Valley Hopefuls, which is mostly old time Mercedians, the grassroots citizens group fighting the Riverside Motorsports Park, the local Sierra Club, the local labor council, and "on and on".

Loose Cheeks calls for an immediate investigation of this on-and-on group. We think it is probably too progressive for our Valley Way of Life.

The Hopeful guessed yesterday in a letter to the local Daily Bobcat (formerly the Merced Sun-Star) the average MARG members have lived in the county is 10-15 years.

The Hopeful’s yokels believe in responsible growth that promotes quality of life, clean air, farmland preservation and that pays its own way, businesses that offer good quality jobs, good pay and benefits. The WalMart distribution center would be an “atrocious” entrance to the beautiful new UC Campus Parkway to UC Merced.

The Hopeful thinks the appropriate entrance to the Parkway would be a “responsible” bio-technology firm that could partner with the university.

Well, it could be too late to save the beauty of the Mission Interchange, but, if we play our cards right maybe we could get a bio-pharm lab up at the interchange for the Atwater-Bellevue Loop.

Are there human genes in our food yet?

Don’t ask the UC Merced-based Hopeful Couple. They’ll soon be fleeing suspicious pollen pools back to the Bay Area.

The local yokels got hustled by an out-of-town Hopeful with an agenda minted by the UC Regents.

The Shrimp Slayer solves the Delta dilemma!

Special to Loose Cheeks from Juan de la Rana-Salto:

I went to the Delta hearing yesterday. Cardoza was such a fool - but playing for the cameras and media the whole time. At one point he even had the audacity to call himself the "raging moderate." But his questions were stupid - "could it be car batteries causing the collapse of the Delta?"

Loose Cheeks speculates Cardoza has been snorting too much selenium with his Big Water buddies at Delta-Mendota and Westlands.

Did he eat duck?

Where are they now?

Ex-county Supervisor Gloria Keene is looking good in the ERA Land Co. ad in this week’s Valley Values. In fact, in the picture she looks like she just got out of high school instead of jail, where she went briefly in an arrest last year for auto-insurance fraud. In January, she pled guilty to a misdemeanor and got community service time.

“BRAND NEW HOME! Beautiful, 1,395 sq.ft. home with tile floors, dual pane windows, extra large lot, on it’s own foundation …$325,000”

Better than on somebody else’s foundation.

City of Livingston seeks miracle!

After the powerful letter of legal instruction Merced County Counsel Ruben Castillo wrote to the City of Livingston, the city appears to have adopted a solution they attribute to St. Francis of Asissi: turning a blind eye to the Ranchwood mile-long sewer trunk line and begging forgiveness -- for numerous violations of planning, land-use and environmental law in return for gifts. Loose Cheeks' hot tipsters say the gifts include everything from plane rides to swimming pools.

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