Air pollution

A reliable man

Submitted: Dec 31, 2006

A day after triumphantly ramming the Riverside Motorsparts Pork project through the Merced County Board of Supervisors, the Merced public was amused -- what else could it be? -- to learn that Board Chairman Mike Nelson had been appointed chair of something called the San Joaquin Valleywide Air Pollution Study Group. He already serves on the governing board of the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District. As near as we can figure, this study group is associated with either the San Joaquin Valley Partnership or the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint, and with a group of countywide transportation agencies -- in other words, with one or more of the shadowy layers of regional quasi-governmental bodies lying over the Valley like stacked layers on a GIS map of proliferating decision makers, each farther than the last from public accountability.

Nelson can be relied upon to obstruct every state and federal air pollution regulation standing in the way of the slurbification of the San Joaquin Valley. As he said of the racetrack, it will be his political "legacy."

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has designated the Valley as one of only two severe non-attainment air basins in the nation, the other being Los Angeles. If the Valley doesn't meet standards by 2013, it could lose millions in federal highway funds and face even stiffer regulation. California Air Resources Board and the local air control district estimate that this air basin will fall short of 2013 targets by 50 to 80 percent. Although agriculture has made real improvements on stationary sources of emission, mobile sources account for by far the largest amount of air pollution in the Valley.

Valley environmental and civic groups filed suit last week against the EPA, alleging that the agency based its most recent decision about Valley air quality on cooked data. (It is a strong affirmation of human intelligence that petitioners in this suit believe the Bush EPA even knows what data are, at this point in the Great Crusader's reign.)

The Valley has one irreducible problem: it cannot grow without adding more air pollution unless it decides to go to transport by bicycle, ox cart and one-horse shay. The Valley economic response to this inconvenience has been to play host to a huge speculative housing boom, now busting about our ears, its credit fallout still to be determined. The Valley political response has been a concerted attack by its political classes on any and all environmental law, regulation and state and federal agencies. This attack was epitomized by the late, unlamented Pomboza, the duo of congressmen from the north San Joaquin Valley who tried, in return for sizeable contributions from a handful of developers, to gut the Endangered Species Act. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, the hindquarters of the late Pomboza, had tried twice before to gut provisions in the ESA that established critical habitat areas for endangered species, with focused attention on the 15 endangered species that live in or around vernal pools.

The Valley politicians, slavishly quoted by the Valley media, spare no opportunity to blast people trying to protect vernal pools and their species. To which, one will reply that the lines between protecting endangered species and protecting public health and safety are drawing too close together for comfort. Every acre containing vernal pools that is kept in grazing is an acre that is not producing air pollution.

Other Valley counties, perhaps somewhat chastened by childhood asthma rates three and four times the national average, have turned lately to the corrupt cowboys of Merced to lead them on these proliferating groups, boards, partnerships and blueprints emanating from a state legislature as firmly in the grip of the finance, insurance and real estate sector (FIRE) as a century ago it was in the grip of the railroads.

Right now, it looks like FIRE, Inc. is promoting Nelson to trail boss for his fine work of ramrodding the Riverside Motorsparts Pork project through by ambushing the public process at every turn in the trail.

One can hear the comments in the financial, insurance and real estate boardrooms: "Mike Nelson, a reliable man."

How else is the public expected to understand this appointment?

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

Merced County...Press Release...12-20-06
http://www.co.merced.ca.us/newsletter/documents/NewsRelease122006-NelsonAirDistrict.pdf

SUPERVISOR NELSON APPOINTED CHAIR OF AIR STUDY GROUP
Valleywide Group to Study Air Quality Issues Facing the Region

MERCED – Merced County Supervisor Mike Nelson has been appointed to Chair the San Joaquin Valleywide Air Pollution Study Group. Supervisor Nelson already serves on the Governing Board of the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District.
Supervisor Nelson commented, “I’m honored to Chair this important study group, which affects all the residents of the San Joaquin Valley. I’m particularly pleased that I’ll be able to continue to expand and push for the priorities of Merced County, as part of the overall plan for the San Joaquin Valley. I look forward to working with the members of the study group.”
The Valleywide Air Pollution Study Agency is a cooperative research effort on behalf of Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties. It was formed in 1986 to develop and direct air pollution studies on ozone and other air pollutants affecting the San Joaquin Valley and adjacent air basins.
For more information regarding Merced County, please visit our website at www.co.merced.ca.us

12-29-06
Merced Sun-Star
Fresno Bee
EPA sued for Valley air ruling.
..Bee staff and wire services
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/v-printerfriendly/story/21345.html
The environmental law group Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on Wednesday in the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Latino Issues Forum, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air and three chapters of the Sierra Club. Plaintiffs are asking the court to review the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that the Valley's air was no longer polluted by PM-10 — tiny pollution particles just 10 microns wide — because it hadn't violated the PM-10 standard in three years...they also planned to file a separate petition today with the EPA asking the federal agency to reconsider its own finding. Environmental groups previously had accused the EPA of ignoring data from certain air pollution monitors in making its decision because the monitors were not officially part of the federally sanctioned network. The new accusation involves three other monitors, which the EPA does recognize. The Earthjustice petition to the EPA said high levels of small particles were detected at the three monitors on Sept.22, about a month before the agency ruled that the Valley had met the standard for the prior three years. San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Planning Director Scott Nester defended the EPA's action... Hall complained that even if the environmental groups prevail in court, the EPA's October finding will put an indefinite hold on further controls. "Our fate is in the hands of the Bush EPA,"...The agency's action, he said, "stops the rulemaking...

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Re: General Plan Text Amendment on Expressways

Submitted: Dec 20, 2006

MARSHA A. BURCH
ATTORNEY AT LAW
131 South Auburn Street
GRASS VALLEY, CA 95945
Telephone:
(530) 272-8411
Facsimile:
(530) 272-9411
maburch@onemain.com

December 19, 2006

Mr. Gene K. Fong
Federal Highway Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
980 Ninth St, Suite 400
Sacramento, CA 95814
916-498-5014
gene.fong@fhwa.dot.gov

Margaret Lawrence
Caltrans
P.O. Box 2048
Stockton, CA 95201
209-948-7427
fax 209-948-7782
Margaret_Lawrence@dot.ca.gov

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

dist1@co.merced.ca.us ; dist2@co.merced.ca.us ;
dist3@co.merced.ca.us ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ;
dist5@co.merced.ca.us

Via facsimile and Email

Re: Proposal -- To amend the Merced County General Plan Circulation
Chapter (Chapter II) by establishing an expressway standard and
designate an expressway alignment, known as “Campus Parkway”,
east of the City of Merced from Coffee Street to Yosemite Avenue.
Campus Parkway will be approximately a 4.5-mile route; and 2006
Cycle IV General Plan Amendment: General Plan Text Amendment
No. GPTA06-001- Campus Parkway.

Dear Supervisors, Mr. Fong and Ms. Lawrence:

This office, in conjunction with the Law Office of Donald B. Mooney,
represents the Central Valley Safe Environment Network, San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and Protect Our Water with respect to the above-referenced proposal for General Plan Text Amendment.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide the following comments, which are submitted this morning as a result of the fact that, despite considerable effort, our clients were unable to obtain the Merced County Board of Supervisors, staff report for the proposed amendment until approximately 3:30 p.m. yesterday.

The Proposed Text Amendment does not comply with the California
Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) (Public Resources Code § 2100 et seq.) Accordingly, we request that the Board of Supervisors deny the Proposed General Plan Text Amendment, and reject adoption of the Campus Parkway CEQA Findings of Fact, Statement of Overriding Considerations, and Mitigation Monitoring Program.

The Amendment includes two separate projects. The first project is an
amendment to General Plan that will apply County-wide. The second
discretionary approval would designate an expressway alignment.
These two projects require separate environmental review. There has been no environmental review that we are aware of for the County-wide expressway standard, nor any review of the expressway alignments other than the Campus Parkway. The two projects may not legally be lumped together without appropriate review of all of the discretionary acts.

It appears that the entire proposal, including the expressway standard and alignments, will be based upon the EIR for a 4.5-mile route. It appears that two other expressways are planned to join with the Campus Parkway: the Atwater- Merced Expressway and the Bellevue Expressway. These additional expressways are not mentioned in the Campus Parkway Environmental Impact
Report (“EIR”). There are also plans for expressways on the west side of Merced County, which have not been the subject of any CEQA review that we are aware of.

Because of the fact that there has been no environmental review of the
consequences of this amendment to the General Plan, the proposal must be rejected. Sufficient environmental review must take into account the consequence of its cumulative impacts to traffic, air and water quality, public health and safety, and particularly impacts to biological resources and wildlife corridors. Also, the amendment will necessarily result in the loss of a considerable amount of agricultural land, a consequence completely at odds with the General Plan goal of preserving it. This significant conflict with the existing general plan must also be considered during the CEQA process.

Other potentially significant impacts exist, none of which have been the subject of any CEQA review. For example, the potential impacts to private property, including potential for condemnation in the future, that will arise as a result of expressway alignment designations has not been considered or reviewed. Also, the essence of the expressway designation under the state Streets and Highways Code is fully controlled access. By severing county roads used by farmers and ranchers for trucking and agricultural equipment, this
amendment cannot fail to disrupt normal agricultural practices with consequent economic damage.

Also, County staff reports that the Campus Parkway will take 83 acres of agricultural land out of farming but this is “below the threshold of significance established by the Federal Highway Administration,” and the County has no “significance” standard for agricultural lands.

The County sees no problem because the “land use designation
underlying the Campus Parkway will remain Agriculture.” Under this
reasoning, the County, Merced County Associations of Government, the state Department of Transportation and the FHWA could pave over thousands of acres of farmland in Merced County through this General Plan amendment and still account for them as “Agriculture.” This violates planning and zoning laws.

If the expressways already mapped by MCAG and CalTrans are built, the County will be carrying thousands of acres on its zoning maps as “Agriculture,” which will in fact be paved over expressways with “fully controlled access.”

Furthermore, by piecemealing one section of expressway after another, a process that would be enabled by this General Plan amendment, the County would stay beneath the federal threshold for significance, insuring that no state or federal funds could be used for agricultural conservation easements. This results in the untenable situation summed up by County staff as follows: “Thus,
the only potential funding source for agricultural conservation easements is Merced County. No budget exists in the Department of Public Works for the acquisition of agricultural conservation easements.”

One option for the Atwater-Merced Expressway passes close to the
Riverside Motorsports Park (“RMP”). But, said one supervisor at the last meeting on the RMP project, the Atwater-Merced Expressway cannot be discussed in connection with traffic jams around RMP because that expressway “is not a project” (although its alternative routes are mapped and posted on the MCAG website – see attachments).

The proposed General Plan amendment attempts to circumvent the
environmental review for the entire projected expressway system in Merced County by relying upon the EIR for 4.5 miles of expressway. Further, the proposal appears to intentionally deprive agriculture of state and federal funds for conservation easements on lost agricultural land. This bold attempt to create fictional Agriculturally zoned areas should be rejected, as it violates environmental, land use, and agricultural preservation laws.

An additional funding issue has also received no review or discussion. It appears that County plans to divert funds remaining in the transportation budget to the construction of the Campus Parkway. Further analysis and public disclosure is necessary in this regard.

Because of the issues raised above, we believe that the proposal fails to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.

For these reasons, we believe the proposal should be withdrawn and appropriate environmental review completed prior to further consideration.

If you have questions regarding the above, please feel free to contact me at 530/272.8411.

Sincerely,

Marsha A. Burch
Attorney
MAB/tm
Enclosures

cc: Central Valley Safe Environment Network
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Donald B. Mooney, Esq.
Steve Rough, County of Merced Public Works, srough@co.merced.ca.us
Demitrios O. Tatum, County Executive Officer; ceo@data.co.merced.ca.us
Robert Lewis, Development Service Director , RLewis@co.merced.ca.us
Kursten Sheridan, Caltrans , Kursten_Sheridan@dot.ca.gov
Kim Turner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Turner/SAC/R1/FWS/DOI@FWS

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Grassrooters' factual flyer on the racetrack

Submitted: Dec 11, 2006

THE OPPONENTS OF RMP WANT YOU TO KNOW:
The attitude of Riverside Motorsports Park and Merced County government toward your environment, health and public safety is: Gentlemen, start your engines, put your pedal to the metal and pass every law and regulation protecting public health and safety on the right as fast as you can.

RMP Chief John Condren claims he’s got your elected officials in his pocket.

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!”

A quorum of supervisors should be disqualified from voting on this project at all, when a developer is bragging that loudly about how he owns them. To begin with, 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.

In a January 1, 2005 letter to RMP investors, Condren claimed:
· The traffic plan for the project was complete; NOT TRUE
· Zoning restrictions pertaining to noise impacts have been amended such that unlimited Motorsports activities
may occur without additional restrictions; NOT TRUE
· The RMP Master plan is approved; NOT TRUE
· RMP event schedule will include all the largest names in motorsports. NOT TRUE

Two years later, there is no traffic plan; the EIR simply states that the noise level from auto racing is a “significant, unavoidable impact” to be overridden by a vote of the supervisors; the RMP master plan is only a draft that will be rewritten after – not before – the supervisors approve the project; while RMP tells its investors it will draw all the big names in auto racing (and hundreds of thousands of spectators), it tells the locals the eight tracks in the project will be almost exclusively for local car clubs, drawing only a few thousand spectators.

The Big Consultants Shuffle. The County recommended a firm it has done a great deal of work with, including the lion’s share of planning for UC Merced. It couldn’t come up with a traffic plan, so RMP replaced them with another firm willing to say there is a traffic plan when there isn’t one.

RMP wrote its investors two years ago the traffic studies are all done by Jan. 2005. At the Nov. 15 public hearing on the project, county Public Works informed the public there was no traffic plan. The RMP traffic consultant agreed: there is no traffic plan beyond waiting to see what roads spectators choose.

On Nov. 28, for the first time, county Public Works informed the people of Delhi, that Shanks Road, El Capitan and Palm were going to be a major thoroughfare for race traffic until two weeks ago, that some county roads would need to be widened, which might call for eminent domain if residents and RMP cannot agree on prices.

Who are RMP’s investors? These people are presumably underwriting a project that will significantly worsen our already severe air pollution, fill our country roads with frequent, periodic traffic jams, and fill our ears with the din of racecar engines. The Merced public has a right to view a full financial disclosure statement on who these people are who are investing in the destruction of our environment – before the supervisors we elected vote to approve this project. The public needs to ask how much RMP investor money will end up in campaign coffers of officials we elect.

Indemnification. The County and RMP have an agreement:

Indemnification and Hold Harmless
Approval of this Project is for the benefit of Applicant. The submittal of applications by Applicant for this Project was a voluntary act on the part of the Applicant not required by the County. Therefore, as a condition of approval of this Project, the Applicant agrees to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the County of Merced and its agents, officers, employees, advisory agencies, appeal board or legislative body of Merced County (collectively, “County”) from any and all claims, actions and proceedings against the County to attack, set aside, void, or annul an approval by the County concerning the Project occurring as a result of the action or inaction of the County, and for any and all costs, attorneys fees, and damages arising
therefrom (collectively, “Claim”).”

– INDEMNITY AND HOLD HARMLESS AGREEMENT BETWEEN COUNTY OF MERCED AND RIVERSIDE MOTORSPORTS PARK, LLC, Sept. 12, 2006.

This agreement allows the County to approve this project without taking any responsibility for these new, impacts to our environment added on top of UC Merced and its induced housing boom – air, traffic and noise – because they aren’t liable for legal costs.
However, the County has not yet signed the agreement. nor did they include it in the conditions in the staff report on the project.

Water. A year ago, Board Chairman Mike Nelson misspoke, saying Atwater would supply RMP with potable water. Winton doesn’t have enough water. Water Castle is supplying off-base residents is contaminated. So, where’s the drinking water?

Overweening control of Planning Director.

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

This means that planning director, in concert with RMP, can change the plans for the project any way they want to, unless the public challenges it. In other words, the planning director works from RMP, not for you.

Conflict of interest. The Merced County Board of Supervisors is the land-use authority for all unincorporated land in the county. But, it is also the land-use authority for the former Castle Air Force Base. The RMP project, which adjoins Castle, cannot be approved until the board overrides the noise-zone for the Castle airport established by the airport commission. The board plans to do this on Dec. 12. But, these are two separate actions, both with large consequences to the noise level, and the airport override must be analyzed in the RMP environment impact report. The County did not do that. In fact, there is no analysis on the environmental, public health and safety impacts from this decision. The County is in conflict of interest on these two projects.

Contempt for the public. The County did not make the new staff report to the public (including state and federal agencies) available 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. In violation of public access provisions within the California Environmental Quality Act, the public has not been allowed to view the working file of this project without recourse to the state Public Records Act. This is illegal.

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.

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;

OPEN APPEAL TO MERCED COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

Dear Supervisors Pedrozo, Crookham, Nelson, Kelsey and O’Banion: November 27, 2006

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

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Write and call your supervisor and tell them to reopen the public hearing and/or deny this project.

Attend Board of Supervisor meetings on Dec. 12 at 5 p.m. and on Dec. 19 at 10 a.m.

Write and call Congressman Cardoza, whose wife is a doctor.

Write and call state Sen. Jeff Denham and Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani.

Paid for by Citizens Against RMP

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Racetrack promotion meets reality on narrow country roads

Submitted: Dec 08, 2006

The Riverside Motorsports Park/Merced County government pitch for a world-class motor sports facility met a political pitchfork from the nation’s second-largest dairy county on Dec. 5, at the county Board of Supervisors public comment period.

In a short, prepared address concluding the comment period, board Chairman Mike Nelson abused a privileged moment by attacking the public. Nelson’s pitch was that the “leadership of the opposition to the racetrack” had a right to its opinion, but RMP also had a right to its opinion.

In fact, RMP’s position is clearly stated in the environmental review process. The purpose of the environmental review process is to get everybody else’s concerns about a project, not just its proponent’s opinions.

This opponent leadership is always “the same people,” Nelson told the public.

In fact, public opposition to this project is growing by the day as it finds out more about the project and its flaws.

Nelson said, “these same people” time and time again, “try to CEQA projects to death.” They don’t like any projects, he said. In Nelson’s opinion, these leaders of the opponents to the RMP are just a bunch a “NIMBYs.”

“Rarely do we hear any alternatives or mitigation measures proposed” by the leaders of the opponents, he said. “But these people don’t speak for the public,” he said, alleging that a poll taken in Atwater showed a majority of its citizens in favor of the track, located at a site adjoining Atwater.

Members of the audience asked Nelson if they could discuss his claims with him.

“No,” Nelson said, gaveling an end to the morning session, prolonged by almost two hours of 5-minute public comments, a time limit rigidly enforced by Nelson.

To say that the opposition is being led by anybody is a factually challenged statement, but characteristic of the Merced County government, entitled as always to its opinion.

Members of the public against the project weren’t stating opinions but were giving their best analysis of basic, drastic facts. The newest angle on the traffic problem came from dairy families and a custom farmer in the district where, RMP traffic consultants anticipate, possibly four days a week, narrow country roads will be jammed with the cars of concert and race spectators. This will interfere with tight harvest and post-harvest handling schedules, particularly in corn, most of which is harvested about the same time. The possibility of traffic jams interfering with harvest schedules quickly turns to the quantity and quality of dairy feed. Presently, dairies are into months of production below cost, which heightens dairymen’s concerns about all costs, and the quantity and quality of their feed. Jamming narrow country roads with out-of-town auto-racing spectators is a threat to the whole region’s agricultural system, which needs those roads for dairy trucks, tractors, harvesting equipment and feed trucks. And that threat doesn’t include the issue of delayed emergency services, which already take a half an hour.

Farmers and ranchers have had to comply with ever-changing environmental regulations on the parts of their operations that pollute air and water. They look at the RMP environmental impact report and see 34 “significant and unavoidable environmental impacts,” and say if regulation is good for agriculture, it is also good for the motor sports industry, at least in Merced, one of the nation’s premiere agricultural counties.

One dairyman said that if it took six years to get the project right, he urged the board to take the six years if necessary. In fact, farming operations have had to wait as long as six years to get environmental compliance. He added that the board will regain the trust of its constituents by taking the time to do it right, rather than losing the trust of the people doing it the way they are doing it.

You might be able to get away with saying, “So-and-so is an eminent leader, and has long been widely recognized in his business domain.” But if you put those two words side-by-side and speak the term, eminent domain, people become justifiably alarmed. Why the secrecy? That should have been part in the environmental review process. Why was this possibility on certain old, narrow country roads only made known to the public after the public hearing on the environmental review was closed?

Nelson ended his prepared address by noting correctly that none of the testimony at Supervisor Diedre Kelsey’s town hall meetings had any legal force because the public hearing on the RMP environmental review has been closed. In reply to a question on that point at her Delhi town hall meeting, Kelsey said that she could gather new information and inform the supervisors in their discussion of the issue when it comes up for a vote. However, important new information that came out of the meetings from county staff, not from the public.

Everything about this project has the appearance of underhanded dealing for the benefit of special interests. In one commission of bureaucratic slight-of-hand, there will be two votes on the zoning changes and the General Plan amendment necessary to approve the EIR, one expressing “intent” to approve on Dec. 12, the other to approve, on Dec. 19. In another act of tricky dealing, the board will take a crucial vote on the Castle airport noise zone on Dec. 12, without which the RMP project cannot move forward. Some members of the public have already publicly argued for the administrative record in the public hearing that the Castle airport must be a part of the RMP environmental review. Dealing with it the way it is doing, the County is fragmenting and piecemealing the environmental review process.

Experienced observers of Merced County government notice that this sort of bureaucratic trickery reinforces the public opinion that this government is either incompetent, corrupt or both. The learned “experts” on the staff arise and “explain” to the public their ridiculous bureaucratic shenanigans as if they were the latest thing in good planning.

Meanwhile, in the backroom, a select group of representatives of broad-based public organizations receive doses of political cynicism and political impotence from supervisors. It all boils down to the same message: “We are the government. You are the public. We work for special interests. We and special interests win. The public and the Public Trust lose.”

Yet another act of bureaucratic trickery is the indemnification agreement between the County and RMP, which commits RMP to pay all legal costs arising from lawsuits the public might bring against the project. In response to a public request to view the indemnification agreement, the County produced an agreement, signed by RMP but unsigned by the County. Approval of the RMP indemnification agreement is on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda for Dec. 12.

The Castle airport issue is another bureaucratic hinky wrinkle in the public process. The last we heard, it needed a 4-1 vote to pass. Without it, the RMP project is stopped. It is an intrinsic part of the RMP project that is not considered in the RMP environmental review. Will Kelsey, the hero de jour, stand up for proper public process and vote against it? Will she get another vote against it?

With one stunning exception, important new information has not come from the public from the town hall meetings in either Ballico, Delhi, Winton or the Merced River Corridor. The new information, mainly about anticipated traffic patterns and the eminent domain problem, came from county staff at the town hall meetings. However, the claim by opponents of the project that neither county staff nor project consultants had considered the number of schools located on those narrow country roads is genuinely new, important information concerning the health and safety of children, apart from the broader issue of increased air pollution.

So, where does that leave the public, which Nelson says the opponents of the project cannot speak for, and the project? The California Environmental Quality Act is state law and lays out a procedure for making and voting on EIRs. That procedure includes a public hearing period. The board held one public hearing two weeks ago. Nelson is right: the town hall meetings and the Dec. 5 public-comment period testimony don’t matter for the purposes of CEQA..

It’s clear that public debate is opening up new questions and new information. Yet the public hearing under CEQA is closed. There is an adequate amount of factual information in the official record for the supervisors to reopen the public hearing.

“Time plus integrity produces answers,” one member of the public told the supervisors.

Nelson appeared to be running a campaign for himself rather than chairing a county board of supervisors on a serious issue about a project whose environmental and economic studies are very far from adequate to describe its impacts. Yet, he speaks for the board, identifying a conspiracy of environmental radicals behind every member of the public getting up to express her or his anxiety and anger about the RMP project.

The apparent critic of the project on the board, Kelsey, may be providing toothless forums in her districts for people with serious concerns about RMP impacts, but she is hardly a leader of opposition to the project. If she were, she would not be publicly claiming whenever and wherever possible that she hasn’t made her mind up how she will vote. And she would have moved to keep the public hearing open before it was closed. In fact, the public needs to be very careful about Kelsey, because what we might be seeing here is merely political rivalry between two Republicans seeking higher office jerking around public concerns.

One member of the public chastised Nelson for being rude to a previous speaker. Nelson replied coldly that his comment had been noted.

Where were the other supervisors today? Why weren’t they stepping up and defending the public process? Where is Congressman Cardoza or his staff, state Sen. Jeff Denham or Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani or Matthews or their staffs? The public process by which these massive, environmentally destructive development projects are rubber-stamped in Merced County is broken. It needs the defense of elected officials. It does not need their continual offense.

And, speaking of giving offense to the public process, we include Chairman Nelson’s concluding remarks:

There have been many well meaning, well intentioned leaders of the opposition to the RMP project. I’ve talked to many of them. While we always don’t agree on things (sic) , I have been open to suggestions that they have made. But, just as they have a right to their opinions, the project proponents have a right to their opinions as well.

In my four years on this board, many projects have been proposed. Opponents of this project are many of the same faces we have seen time and time again – those who continually attempt to CEQA projects to death.

You know, CEQA was meant to identify and address environmental concerns. This has been done. The problem appears to me, however, that members of the opposition just don’t like the answers.

I continually hear, “We’re not against racing but the location is wrong,” in essence, “Not In My Back Yard!”

Well, the same can be said for a host of other projects: UC Merced, the UC Community, various housing projects. The list goes on and on.

Rarely do we hear alternatives or mitigations being proposed, other than, “Don’t build it!”

I also keep hearing that many opponents in this audience speak for “the public.”

This is simply not true, at least in District 3.

There was a survey taken back this past spring. Sixty percent of those surveyed were in favor of the project.

The recent call for town hall meetings may be appropriate, however, only with the understanding that public hearings have already been closed on this matter. And, I might point out that there have been many opportunities provided the public to find out about this project.

Next week’s meeting will be a challenge, no doubt. I just hope that the opponents will consider that their opinions are not the only ones that matter.

Thank you.

With that, we’re adjourned for lunch.
---------------------------

To which, some members of the public reply:

· Nelson and the other supervisors refused to meet with members of the public opposed to the RMP project before the close of the public hearing. Afterwards, town hall meetings were held and supervisors met with known opponents. So what?

· Members of the audience were in many instances not offering opinions but responsible estimates (far more realistic and better informed than the project environmental traffic analysis), based on intimate experience with the transportation system, schools and agricultural schedule of the Delhi-Amsterdam-Winton-Merced River Corridor area. People who made written and oral comments to the RMP environmental review used facts, not opinions, to make their arguments.

· Most of the Merced public has not been involved in any CEQA arguments about development projects in Merced County. There are many new faces among the opponents to the RMP project. (Mr. Nelson is beginning his old rightwing war whoop here -- environmentalist-bashing.)

· An environmental review that leaves 34 environmental impacts “significant and unavoidable” glances at environmental issues; it does not address them.

· To the charge of “Not In My Back Yard,” or “NIMBYism,” one must reply: You bet we are trying to defend our backyard against the corrupt influence of special interests on you and the board. That corrupt influence is ruinous to our air and water quality, our road system, our agricultural operations and our natural resources. It is also dangerous to children.

· CEQA does not require the public to do analysis, mitigation, be experts, or offer alternatives.

· The 60-percent of Atwater residents Nelson alleges were in favor of the RMP project weren’t informed in the survey that the County would invoke eminent domain to widen country roads into Atwater to facilitate traffic from Delhi. They weren’t informed that there was no traffic study. They weren’t informed of the number of schools on those routes. They weren’t asked for their approval of the project despite the disruption it would cause normal agricultural operations in the area. The survey wasn’t included in the RMP environmental review. Who wrote the survey and who conducted it?

· The public has been and is standing, and will stand before the board on this project, the next project, and “on and on.”

· They do have legal standing to bring suits on behalf of the public for County noncompliance with environmental law. Most of the people who submitted written and oral testimony during this meeting, town hall meetings and public hearings on this project, represent themselves, their neighbors and their groups. Most of them could prove harm and adverse impacts from this project within the meaning of a number of environmental statutes and regulations. The same is true for regulatory agencies and staff.

· Mr. Chairman, you may be so narrowly focused on special interests that you cannot listen to public concerns that differ from your views. In lieu of so much as a peep out of them, the public assumes you speak for the rest of the supervisors as well, including Kelsey sitting on her fence. No supervisor objected to your offensive oration after the public spent two hours trying to explain, with facts, the major problems with a motorsports park at that location. No supervisor intervened to protect members of the public from your rudeness and unprofessional conduct during the public comment period. You are the politically incompetent chairman of a politically incompetent board and the Merced public is finding your individual and collective incompetence unacceptable dangers to environmental public health and safety. You have broken public due process in this county.

· In the case of development projects, law, at the Merced County Board of Supervisors, boils down to one area: indemnification and hold harmless agreements that commit the developer to pay all legal costs arising from lawsuits brought by the public against abuse of state and federal environmental laws and public process by the County, on behalf of those indemnifying the County. In Merced County, these agreements are being used routinely by local land-use authorities as licenses for environmentally and, in some instances, economically irresponsible land-use decisions. In general, indemnification is a formality because few members of the Merced public have the intestinal fortitude to endure a lawsuit (always accompanied by vilification from public officials, staff and local businessmen).

· You lectured the public who took time off from busy working schedules to come and sincerely tell you their concerns with this project. You use your privileged moment as an opportunity to give them an ideological whipping. You expect us to tolerate political thuggery.

· Mr. Chairman, you are a bully. You are bringing all the contempt for the public in the backroom – from the Planning Department, County Counsel, special interest consultants, supervisors, the offices of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, adjoining your offices – into the board chambers in public session. But the public – concerned, thoughtful, factual – won’t go away just because you choose to trample on the laws and regulations of public process and call the public politically dirty names. The public won’t disappear just because a set of county supervisors chooses to ignore it. The offices you hold and the local land-use authority you have won’t disappear just because you abuse the authority of your office on behalf of special interests rather than in the public interest.

Badlands editorial staff

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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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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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UC Bobcatflak Special on Measure G

Submitted: Nov 07, 2006

And now, folks, the UC Merced "professional economist" bobcatflak on Measure G.

It's clear we have a desperate state institution just north of Merced, its fraudulent mitigation strategy ($15 million in public funds) in tatters for lack of proper permits and incompetently or corruptly written easements. UC Merced is a political railroad running off its tracks, now reduced to seeking the legitimacy only a glittering new expressway, UC Merced Parkway, to its campus (wherever it ends up) might provide. The Parkway will be at once a visible status symbol of UC political clout and also give faculty, staff and students easier access to the highway leading to Fresno malls. The Parkway is the top priority expenditure for Measure G.

Therefore, on Election Day, UC deployed one of its faculty, a "professional economist" who opined that the Merced Sun-Star editorial policy is just dandy, to argue that Measure G is "voter driven." Only a UC Merced professional economist who claims to study the relationship between growth and politics could possibly be that stupid if, of course, the economist didn't just sign off on a letter composed by UC Merced Bobcatflak Central. This organ of tax-paid propaganda insists on believing that the general public is as dumb as a bunch of UC professors.

As for the Sun-Star, it was long ago correctly identified in these pages as the
"UC Merced Daily Bobcat." It is a deeply corrupt newspaper and you should read it with great care and curiosity on any public issue. That care will be rewarded because, without any great analytical strain, you quickly will be able to discern what special interest the Sun-Star is representing in its editorials on any given day. Sun-Star editorial policy reminds the careful reader of a red snooker ball lost in the middle of a game in which all the players are real drunk. In this case, the intoxicant is money and the energy is pure greed. If the public is not careful, it will end up in the corner pocket.

It is truly marvelous how the "professional economist" invokes the Great Depression for his argument. How elegant, how learned! By pure happenstance, a blameless scholar's particular academic interest coincides with the political reality in the neighboring "town," and the "gown" reaches down to offer guidance. Yet, it makes sense in a way. For the first time since the Depression, Americans are spending more than they save or make.

Secondly, there is the Parkway itself, so like typical Third World raod projects that extend grandly beyond the urban centers ... to nowhere. A university is not made by roads or by simpering hacks like this "professional economist."

"A university," as a refugee from Argentina once said, "is easy to destroy but very hard to build."

The community ought to be outraged at this blatant attempt by academic authority to meddle in local politics. Universities are made, slowly, by teaching and research, not as this atrocious boondoggle land deal has been fabricated, by political railroad. The Merced public knows much more about the graft behind this development project known as UC Merced than this insoucant academic seems to know.

In a flyer inserted in the Sun-Star Monday, a grassroots group quoted a letter from UC General Counsel James Holst, to the state Supreme Court, in support of the argument that state agencies should be exempt from traffic, police and fire impacts to communities beyond their property boundaries.

“In the CEQA process for the campus …local jurisdictions indentified approximately $200 million in improvements to local roads, parks and schools that they claimed would be made necessary by the new campus development, and argued that UC was obligated to pay for those improvements under CEQA. UC rejected those demands … in light of its exemption under the California Constitution.” (UC General Counsel James Holst amicus letter to California Supreme Court re. City of Marina et al, Sept. 12, 2003)

The state Supreme Court disagreed with UC.

The Sun-Star insisted the little flyer, on a piece of yellow typing paper, include a
statement that it was "paid political advertising." Check your pro-Measure G material -- we are sure you have some lying around you haven't yet thrown out -- and see if you can find any statements on it that it is "paid political advertising." It is just one more in a long list of cheating that surrounds the Measure G campaign.

To repeat: the Merced public knows a lot more about political graft than our PhD author knows.

Join us in the Great Measure G Guessing Game. The reader who comes closest to guessing the amount of money contributed to the Measure G campaign will win fleeting fame for being a better political economist than the UC hack whose propaganda appears below. The range for guessing should be somewhere between the half-million now reported, and whatever developers threw at the end (not reported until after the election) to produce yet more campaign material -- all gloss and no substance.

Vote NO on Measure G
-----------------------------

Nov. 11, 2006
Merced Sun-Star

http://www.mercedsun-star.com/opinion/story/12981553p-13632563c.html
Letters to the editor:
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12981553p-13632563c.html
We can help ourselves...SHAWN KANTOR, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, UC Merced...1st letter...As a professional economist who conducts research on how politics affects economic growth, I must admit to being fairly skeptical of politicians' claims that higher taxes are the answer to our fiscal challenges. Yet, in spite of this inherent skepticism, I strongly support Measure G...without becoming a so-called "self-help" county, we will not be eligible for matching state and federal money to improve our local infrastructure...also find appealing about Measure G is that it is voter driven. I was grateful to read Joe Kieta's Nov. 4 opinion column chiding Cathleen Galgiani and Jeff Denham for their categorical opposition to Measure G simply because it represents a tax increase. What makes Measures G, C (in Fresno), T (in Madera), K (in Stanislaus), and K (in San Joaquin) different is that they are citizen-initiated taxes, not taxes imposed on us against our will. Mr. Kieta has it exactly right, "Jeff Denham and Cathleen Galgiani need to start telling us the truth." Without becoming a self-help county and, thus, raising local funds, forget about trying to beat out the heavily populated areas of the state that have already elected to be "self-help." State and federal transportation money will continue to go there, not Merced County, if we fail to pass Measure G. I hope Merced County voters realize this simple reality and vote "yes" on Measure G and cast a vote in favor of the prosperous economic future of our county.

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Vote NO on Measure G

Submitted: Nov 06, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network

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

-------------------
VOTE NO ON MEASURE G FLYER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Badlandsjournal.com, March 10, 2006)

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

Citizens Against Measure G
VOTE NO ON MEASURE G

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

This represents 81,000 new homes for our county.

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

Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes

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

Hilmar-3,700 units, JKB Homes

Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes

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

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

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

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

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

VOTE NO ON MEASURE G

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

Measure G Contributions
Reporting from Committee for Measure G

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

CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT
Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political, and religious groups, and other stakeholders
P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341
---------------------

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

November 6, 2006

Via Facsimile and U.S. Mail

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

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

Re: Public Records Act Requests Regarding Measure G

Dear Mr. Jones and Mr. Brown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very truly yours,

Marsha A. Burch
Attorney

cc: Central Valley Safe Environment Network
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Lydia Miller
Donald B. Mooney, Esq.
James Fincher, Merced County Counsel (Via Facsimile)
-------------------------------

Comments on Measure G
November 4th, 2006
BadlandsJournal.com
by Bill Hatch
Members of the public concerned that Merced County and Merced County Association of Governments immediately recycled Measure A as Measure G after the Primary Election defeat of Measure A, tried repeated times, via California Public Records Act requests, to obtain accurate, complete information about Measure G. Errors and inconsistencies appeared in both the County sample ballot and Measure G Voter Information Pamphlet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critics of Measure G speculated that the campaign for Measure G might achieve $1 million in campaign funding. However, the public will not know until the last campaign finance period is reported, well after the General Election.
Measure G remains a regressive tax: an increase on sales tax that will fall hardest on the poorest for the benefit of the richest.
---------------------------

ARTICLES AND LETTERS IN THE PRESS THAT RAISE CRITICAL PROBLEMS WITH MEASURE G

Nov. 6, 2006

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

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

Nov. 5, 2006

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

Nov. 4, 2006

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

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

Nov. 3, 2006

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

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

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

Nov. 2, 2006

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

Nov. 1, 2006

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

Oct. 30, 2006

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

Oct. 28, 2006

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

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Comments on Measure G

Submitted: Nov 04, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Hatch

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

Submitted: Oct 25, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merced County Planning Commissioners:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A letter from Condren to his investors stated:

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

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

Hostetler told Supervisor Crookham in a telephone message:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Lydia M Miller Steve Burke

Cc.

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

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