Air pollution

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
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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.

| »

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

Nov. 6, 2006

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

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

Nov. 5, 2006

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

Nov. 4, 2006

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

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

Nov. 3, 2006

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

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

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

Nov. 2, 2006

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

Nov. 1, 2006

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

Oct. 30, 2006

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

Oct. 28, 2006

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

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Comments on Measure G

Submitted: Nov 04, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Hatch

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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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Wal-Mart, workers and brain-dead Babbitts

Submitted: Oct 13, 2006

Some recent clips on one of the greatest enemies of working people.

If this keeps up, Wal-Mart may go down in history as the poster child for resurgent unionism in America. If so, thank you, Wal-Mart, for being such a loud, domineering, shrill, braggart, rapacious and ugly corporation that you have become a huge symbol for corporate harm to working people, even to the extent of creating sustained, militant labor resistance to the pain you have caused through almost every one of your policies.

Wal-Mart is no longer a business firm; it is pure matastasis of unregulated capitalist greed and political juice. It will stand as the domestic retail-business equivalent of the Iraq wars as the legacy of the Republican Reagan and Bushes regimes.

Wal-Mart's plans for Merced would bring nothing but harm to public health and safety. Yet it continues, with the connivance of Merced City officials and the enthusiastic, suicidal rantings of the chambers-of-commerce crowd.

If the history of this period is written, it will be mentioned that the road to the Hell of global warming, class warfare, and air that kills was paved by local land-use authorities who ignored the cumulative impacts of environmentally, economically and socially destructive projects demanded by the sheer, energetic stupidity of business interests, rendered brain-dead Babbitts by Republican and church-sanctified greed.

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

http://www.commondreams.org/news2006/1013-05.htm
WakeUpWalMart.com Statement on Wal-Mart's Decision to Target Democrats in the 2006 Midterm Elections
WASHINGTON - October 13 - The following is a statement from WakeUpWalMart.com on Wal-Mart's decision to target Democrats in the 2006 midterm elections, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Today's Star Tribune reports, "The world's largest retailer is about to take the unusual step of distributing information about specific candidates to its 1.3 million employees nationwide, according to a company official. …Wal-Mart said it will specifically target local, state and national leaders who appeared this summer at a series of anti-Wal-Mart rallies organized by WakeUpWalMart.com, a union-backed group that has called on the retailer to offer workers better pay and benefits."
The following statement is attributable to Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com:
"Rather than embrace our positive vision for a better America, Wal-Mart has officially declared war on the Democratic Party, elected leaders, and every American who believes we should pay workers a living wage, provide affordable health care to all, protect American jobs and keep America safe.
Even though an overwhelming majority of Americans, including Democrats, Republicans and Independents, now reject President Bush's right-wing agenda that has brought us a culture of corruption, repeated scandals, shipped American jobs overseas and even jeopardized our national security, Wal-Mart is launching a political campaign to help keep President Bush in power by trying to defeat Democrats who called on Wal-Mart to be a more responsible employer.
From this day forward, no citizen, regardless of their party affiliation, should doubt how right-wing Wal-Mart's agenda really is. By opposing expanding health care to hard working families and their children, opposing a living wage of $10 per hour, lobbying to ship American jobs to China, and even lobbying against strengthening America's national security, Wal-Mart's agenda is extreme, misguided, and wrong for America. It is an agenda that no American could support, jeopardizes the future of our country, and is one of the key reasons why Wal-Mart's public image continues to collapse.
On behalf of the American people, we are not going to allow big corporations like Wal-Mart to take America in the wrong direction. In that spirit, WakeUpWalMart.com, with the help of 276,000 grassroots supporters, will be announcing a major new initiative next week that will make it clear to Wal-Mart and its right wing operatives that our movement will never stop fighting until the day Wal-Mart truly changes for the better.

Wal-Mart loses suit on work breaks...AP
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-walmart13oct13,1,18655,print.story
Philadelphia - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. forced employees to work through rest breaks and off the clock, violating Pennsylvania labor laws, a state jury found Thursday. The jury, however, ruled in Wal-Mart's favor on the claim that it denied workers meal breaks. The jury now must decide damages in the class-action suit, which covers as many as 187,000 current and former hourly Wal-Mart workers. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant is facing a slew of similar suits around the country. Wal-Mart settled a Colorado case for $50 million and was appealing a $172-million award handed out last year by a California jury. "This is the second [verdict]. With 56 more to go, I think it reinforces that this company's sweatshop mind-set is a serious problem, both legally and morally," said Chris Kofinis, a spokesman for WakeUpWalMart.com, a union-funded effort to improve working conditions at the stores.

Washington Post
Wal-Mart workers win wage suit...Amy Joyce
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/12/AR2006101201608_pf.html
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. violated Pennsylvania labor laws by forcing hourly employees to work through breaks and beyond their shifts without overtime pay, a jury decided yesterday. The lawsuit, brought by two employees on behalf of almost 187,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees, claimed that the company made workers in Pennsylvania miss more than 33 million rest breaks from 1998 to 2001. At least 57 other wage-and-hour cases have been filed across the United States against the world's largest retailer, and many of them are awaiting class-action certification, according to company filings. In court, the lawyers argued that the company denied breaks to cut labor costs and increase productivity. The case is one of several class-action wage-and-hour suits against the company to go to trial. In December, a jury awarded $172 million to about 116,000 current and former Wal-Mart and Sam's Club workers in California who claimed that they were illegally denied lunch breaks. Wal-Mart is appealing the verdict. In 2002, a federal jury in Oregon found that Wal-Mart employees were forced to work off the clock and awarded back pay to 83 workers. In 2004, Wal-Mart settled a similar lunch break case in Colorado for $50 million. One of the pending cases, which accuses the company of paying men more than women nationally, is the largest private employer civil rights class action in history. Wal-Mart has asked an appeals court to overturn the class-action status of the case.

New York Times
Jury says Wal-Mart must pay $78 million in damages...Reuters
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/news/news-retail-walmart-damages.html?pagewanted=print
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania jury said on Friday that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, must pay $78.47 million in damages to current and former Pennsylvania employees for forcing them to work ``off the clock'' or during rest breaks. On Thursday, a state jury in Philadelphia found in favor of Michelle Braun and Dolores Hummel, formerly employed by Wal- Mart, saying the company violated Pennsylvania labor laws by failing to pay employees for the work. It awarded about $2.5 million for off-the-clock working and about $76 million for lost rest breaks between March of 1998 and May of 2006. The award was another blow to Wal-Mart's image, which has been tarnished by accusations by labor unions, politicians and others that it pays poverty-level wages and mistreats workers. Before deliberations began in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas, Donovan argued that Wal-Mart employees were forced to work through their breaks because the company wanted to maximize profits.``Wal-Mart doesn't understand anything but numbers,'' he said. ``In order for Wal-Mart to understand this, it needs to see numbers, big numbers. ''Neal Manne, an attorney for Wal-Mart, who asked the jury to award $287,000 for off-the- clock working and $6.65 million for missed rest breaks, argued that many employees had in fact taken breaks without swiping their ID cards to indicate they were on a break. In December, a California jury ruled that Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, should pay $172 million in damages and compensation to about 116,000 current and former employees for denying meal breaks. Plaintiffs in the 2001 California lawsuit claimed Wal-Mart had failed to pay hourly employees for missed or interrupted meal breaks.

City going wrong way...John S. Holmes, M.D., Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12892244p-13552691c.html
Valley only going to get hotter," Sept. 30, and "Work still needed on our air," Oct. 4...You correctly point out that our air quality is still bad and that global warming is looming as a huge problem in the near future. You also make the connection to automobiles and trucks as major culprits. What is so perplexing is why you have so much difficulty connecting the dots to the kinds of economic development Merced County is pursuing. The Riverside Motorsports Park and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center will only aggravate our air quality problems. The local air board has all but admitted we won't be able to meet the 2010 deadline for clean air. Economic development is important, but only within responsible parameters that protect the public health. Your editorial "Study underscores need for clean air," April 4, clearly shows the extent air pollution in the Valley is jeopardizing the public health. A free, independent press is essential for our democratic system to function properly by holding those in power accountable. It is past time for the editors to start connecting the dots on air quality issues.

City wants subdivision to build roads, fund fire station...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12892435p-13552938c.html
Modesto released a draft environmental impact report Thursday for a development that would bring more than 3,200 homes and a regional commercial center to the city's northeast border...Tivoli...454-acre project backed in part by Modesto real estate magnate Mike Zagaris...the city expects Tivoli's backers to cut checks for everything from widening roads to wetlands preservation. As is, Tivoli requires a zoning change because the area's land-use designations would limit the project to about 900 fewer homes. The city's zoning restrictions also would permit less space for commercial development. The initial environmental report urges city leaders to require that developers: Set aside money for farmland preservation by contributing to an agricultural resource fund. Designate land for a new fire station and give the city money to build it. Pay their share of a series of road improvements, including projects to extend and widen Claratina Avenue, expand three McHenry Avenue intersections and add lanes to Briggsmore Avenue.
Take steps to limit air pollution during construction by refraining from idling trucks, using new technology and building wind barriers. Encourage alternative transportation options by installing bike lanes and reserving space for bus routes. Dig two new wells to maintain water pressure. People have 45 days to comment on the environmental report before the city begins revising it.

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The new cutting edge economy

Submitted: Oct 09, 2006

A: Quintero: We want to provide job opportunities, retain our position as a regional market, and then take Merced's economy to the next level, which would be the knowledge-based economy.

Q: When you say knowledge-based economy, what do you mean?

A: Cahill: It tends to focus on industries which are more cutting-edge industries, where the products have a shorter life cycle, where the products are unique, rather than being commodities.

Thirty years ago when people talked about this, they were talking about computers, 20 years ago, people talked about computer software, 15 years ago people started talking about bio technology. Ten years ago the Internet and Web-based applications were the rage.

But this is more than flavor of the month, it's trying to make sure that we have industries which are cutting edge and which tend to be among the industries adding most value, and because of that, paying good wages and having good jobs.

Q: We have a low-skill, low-education work force -- how will those people be included in Merced's new economy?

A: Cahill: First of all, we're not walking away from the old economy. There will still be a lot of production jobs. We have a labor force which is very well qualified for semi-skilled and moderately skilled production jobs. (Also), there are production jobs in the so-called new economy.

I think we're going to find that many folks locally are in fact well prepared to do those jobs. Education and training is very important to be able to move us fully into having a more advanced labor force and being able to satisfy the labor demands of knowledge-based industries.

Q: The draft of the city's new economic development business plan lists developing jobs for spouses of UC Merced employees as a top priority. Why?

A: Cahill: It's been an issue for the UC. It's an issue for any university in America that's located in a small town. When a highly talented person is being recruited for the university, they're often accompanied by a highly talented spouse. That person needs a job opportunity as well, so it's important to try to create or access those opportunities in order to get good people into the university.

--Merced Sun-Star, Sept. 29, 2006

I was interested in the City of Merced officials’ description of “knowledge-based economy.” It seems to present an industry requiring educated technologists producing technology for rapid obsolescence. I gather the idea is that once an economy makes it into the technological sector (through the help of the University of California), it can count on ceaseless innovation, constantly producing these bits of technology with short half-lives. This assumes a rather ideal market, without resistance, which has never existed on earth nor ever will, but we’re not in the knowledge-based economy yet here in the Valley, so how would we know?

The “people” talking about how computers were hot 20 years ago, etc., we suppose, are local government economic development officials and their trade magazines rather than those industries themselves.

By the details of the City of Merced economic development plan are covered over with a magic term, “cutting-edge.”

In fact, the City and County of Merced have a major problem on their hands. The advent of UC Merced provoked a housing boom, which is now busting, without having provided any housing/jobs balance. And real estate speculators do not make neighborhoods out of subdivisions.

Paul Craig Roberts, assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review, reported (CounterPunch, Sept. 30, 2006) American “knowedge-based” jobs occur in the service sector. Yet, former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder concluded (in Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006) that between 42 and 56 million American service sector jobs are vulnerable to offshoring and, regardless of whether the jobs leave, they will be vulnerable to wage competition from foreigners willing to work for lower wages.

Software engineers and information technology workers have been especially hard hit. Jobs offshoring, which began with call centers and back-office operations, is rapidly moving up the value chain. Business Week's Michael Mandel compared starting salaries in 2005 with those in 2001. He found a 12.7 per cent decline in computer science pay, a 12 per cent decline in computer engineering pay, and a 10.2 per cent decline in electrical engineering pay. Marketing salaries experienced a 6.5 per cent decline, and business administration salaries fell 5.7 per cent. Despite a make-work law for accountants known by the names of its congressional sponsors, Sarbanes-Oxley, even accounting majors, were offered 2.3 per cent less.

Using the same sources as the Business Week article (salary data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers and Bureau of Labor Statistics data for inflation adjustment), professor Norm Matloff at the University of California, Davis, made the same comparison for master's degree graduates. He found that between 2001 and 2005 starting pay for master's degrees in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering fell 6.6 per cent, 13.7 per cent, and 9.4 per cent respectively.

On February 22, 2006, CNNMoney.com staff writer Shaheen Pasha reported that America's large financial institutions are moving "large portions of their investment banking operations abroad." Offshoring is now killing American jobs in research and analytic operations, foreign exchange trades, and highly complicated credit derivatives contracts. Deal-making responsibility itself may eventually move abroad. Deloitte Touche says that the financial services industry will move 20 per cent of its total costs base offshore by the end of 2010. As the costs are lower in India, the move will represent more than 20 per cent of the business. A job on Wall Street is a declining option for bright young persons with high stress tolerance as America's last remaining advantage is outsourced.

And, speaking of unique products in the great technology economy,

According to Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, even McDonald jobs are on the way offshore. Augustine reports that McDonald is experimenting with replacing error-prone order takers with a system that transmits orders via satellite to a central location and from there to the person preparing the order. The technology lets the orders be taken in India or China at costs below the U.S. minimum wage and without the liabilities of U.S. employees.

U.S. manufacturing lost 2.9 million jobs, almost 17 per cent of the manufacturing work force. The wipeout is across the board. Not a single manufacturing payroll classification created a single new job.

The declines in some manufacturing sectors have more in common with a country undergoing saturation bombing during war than with a "supereconomy" that is "the envy of the world." In five years, communications equipment lost 42 per cent of its work force. Semiconductors and electronic components lost 37 per cent of its work force . The work force in computers and electronic products declined 30 per cent. Electrical equipment and appliances lost 25 per cent of its employees. The work force in motor vehicles and parts declined 12 per cent. Furniture and related products lost 17 per cent of its jobs. Apparel manufacturers lost almost half of the work force. Employment in textile mills declined 43 per cent. Paper and paper products lost one-fifth of its jobs. The work force in plastics and rubber products declined by 15 per cent.

For the five-year period, U.S. job growth was limited to four areas: education and health services, state and local government, leisure and hospitality, and financial services. There was no U.S. job growth outside these four areas of domestic nontradable services.

Merced has two tax-paid areas of job growth: education (K-14 and UC Merced) and state and local government. However, it’s engine of growth is and remains agriculture. But, that’s part of the “old economy” of non-tradeable commodities, and of course, most of the work is being done by immigrants, who "will work for less. "

From time to time, it is true, UC officials state that UC Merced will become a high-tech, bio-tech engine of growth for the Valley. But, what we actually see is UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory bidding for a level-4 biowarfare laboratory on a site near Tracy. Again, “cutting edge” takes on a somber tone. Although it is supposed to be a lab to develop defenses against biological attack by terrorists, which some say we are producing by the thousands by our belligerent foreign policy, there are two problems with this approach. First, what better target for terrorists than a lab full of Ebola? Second, given the record of this administration is preparing for Avian Flu, what hope do Americans have that antidotes would be available? This government cannot even protect its citizens against E. Coli.

We don't think much of the city officials' economics. They talk about the "old economy," based on "commodities," and a "new economy" based on "unique products with shorter shelf lives," and of course that "cutting edge." In fact, the hottest commodity in Merced County for the last several years has been farm and ranch land, bought for urban development. Agricultural land is a unique product of an extremely complex, not fully understand process of Nature that has taken a very long time, but it loses both its uniqueness and all its shelf life when it is bulldozed for a subdivision in a few days or weeks. And whether the people who buy the tract houses to live in or for speculation even find that cutting edge job is of no concern to either the land owner, the local government who granted the permit, the developer who destroyed the agricultural land to build his subdivision, or any of the lending institutions involved.

It is an easy thing to rip up farm land and build a subdivision. You can get in and out in a few years. You can call it Vista de la Chingadera -- unique! To build a good farm or ranch takes a generation, maybe more, if it is ever more than a real estate investment. But you can't farm a subdivision. It ceases to be productive land and become merely a site for housing stock that isn't getting any younger. And in California, land of fabuous real estate wealth, population growth and the two worst air pollution basins in the nation, we've found that new subdivisions do not always become neighborhoods and old neighborhoods often cease to be neighborhoods. Communities lose through this fabulous, cutting edge, new housing product with its short shelf life. It is unique only in its economic, environmental and political destructiveness -- although the present era is probably comparable to the era of total domination of the state by the Railroad.

Another class of unique products with short shelf lives is the environmental review local government provides for many of its permits for sprawl, frequently on the cutting edge of California Environmental Quality Act violation. In this category, a very unique product that has been on its shelf long after its expiration date is the Merced County General Plan, which has not been updated since before UC Merced was proposed. The amendments to the county General Plan make it resemble a gallon of milk on the supermarket refrigerator shelf with a number of new expiration dates stamped on it, one on top of the other.

Judging from the pay raises local government officials have been receiving, these cutting edge products are successful entrepreneurial ventures.

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

References:

Sept. 30, 2006
CounterPunch Special Report
How the US Government Planned America's Downfall
The New Face of Class War
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
The attacks on middle-class jobs are lending new meaning to the phrase "class war". The ladders of upward mobility are being dismantled. America, the land of opportunity, is giving way to ever deepening polarization between rich and poor.
The assault on jobs predates the Bush regime. However, the loss of middle-class jobs has become particularly intense in the 21st century, and, like other pressing problems, has been ignored by President Bush, who is focused on waging war in the Middle East and building a police state at home. The lives and careers that are being lost to the carnage of a gratuitous war in Iraq are paralleled by the economic destruction of careers, families, and communities in the U.S.A. Since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, the U.S. government has sought to protect employment of its citizens. Bush has turned his back on this responsibility. He has given his support to the offshoring of American jobs that is eroding the living standards of Americans. It is another example of his betrayal of the public trust.
"Free trade" and "globalization" are the guises behind which class war is being conducted against the middle class by both political parties. Patrick J. Buchanan, a three-time contender for the presidential nomination, put it well when he wrote1 that NAFTA and the various so-called trade agreements were never trade deals. The agreements were enabling acts that enabled U.S. corporations to dump their American workers, avoid Social Security taxes, health care and pensions, and move their factories offshore to locations where labor is cheap. The offshore outsourcing of American jobs has nothing to do with free trade based on comparative advantage. Offshoring is labor arbitrage. First world capital and technology are not seeking comparative advantage at home in order to compete abroad. They are seeking absolute advantage abroad in cheap labor...

9-29-06
Merced Sun-Star
A peek into Merced's future...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12803889p-13493414c.html
Merced's future...city transformed from a dusty agriculture town to a center for high-tech innovation over the next decade. Development Manager Frank Quintero and Assistant City Manager Bill Cahill sat down with the Sun-Star for a question-and-answer session on the city's new economic development business plan, which is being updated for the first time since 1999.
Q: Why does a city have an economic development strategy? What's the goal of the plan?
A: Quintero: We want to provide job opportunities, retain our position as a regional market...take Merced's economy to the next level, which would be the knowledge-based economy.
Q: When you say knowledge-based economy, what do you mean?
A: Cahill: It tends to focus on industries which are more cutting-edge industries, where the products have a shorter life cycle, where the products are unique, rather than being commodities.
Q: We have a low-skill, low-education work force -- how will those people be included in Merced's new economy?
A: Cahill: First of all, we're not walking away from the old economy...
Q: The draft of the city's new economic development business plan lists developing jobs for spouses of UC Merced employees as a top priority. Why?
A: Cahill: It's been an issue for the UC...highly talented spouse...needs a job opportunity as well.
Q: The new strategy also points to the wastewater treatment plant expansion as important to economic development. Why?
A: Cahill: ...You simply cannot have development without adequate sewer capacity.
Q: How has economic development in Merced changed since the city wrote its first economic development plan in 1991?
A: Cahill: ...early 1990s approach was on the basis of price...strategy being developed now...not on the basis of price. It's on the basis of having a unique community asset in the University of California that we can build upon to make sure that we are not just trying to sell the cheapest commodity...instead something that is unique and valuable and has fundamentally different implications for where we go economically. (Companies are) moving a greater number of managerial and technical people or highly-paid skilled people here. They recognize that just to get the work force that they need, they need...other quality community characteristics.

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Annals of UC flak

Submitted: Sep 10, 2006

Hypocrisy at Davis (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Discovery Room (2)

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

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

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

"It really engages students."

Dude!
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Meanwhile, down on the boardwalk (3)

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

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

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

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

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

Guinea Pigs (4)

The campus received a $300,000 grant to

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

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

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

Bobcatflak claims the study as

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

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

Problems we see in this study:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A real heavyweight (5)

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

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

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

Solar energy lobbyists analyze the bill this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Hatch
-----------------
References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

| »

Responsibility for Valley air pollution

Submitted: Sep 04, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metropolitan Areas with the Worst Ozone Air Pollution

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

Counties with the Worst Ozone Air Pollution*

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

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

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

References:

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

| »

The Shrimp Slayer’s black-box future

Submitted: Aug 21, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

8-20-06

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

process...6-20-06
http://www.badlandsjournal.com/?p=140
There is the Merced County Association of Governments (McAg, as some locals call it) which claims the land-use authority to act as the lead agency and planning department for an entire transportation plan for the county. Although MCAG tries, and reported having spent $420,000 on its latest multi-year campaign to get Merced County citizens to raise their sales taxes to pay for UC’s roads, it has still not added successful political campaign
consulting to its resume of expanding powers. McAg’s latest transportation plan would
remove 2,000 acres of Valley agricultural land. Now, what has that got to do with the
county’s existing General Plan?

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

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

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

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What were they thinking?

Submitted: Aug 08, 2006

Reading this morning’s Merced Sun-Star article, “Freeway work has chopped up roads,” we couldn’t help asking the obvious question: What were our leaders – local, state and federal elected officials, their staffs, the staffs of the city and county of Merced, business and financial leaders, large land owners and the newspaper – thinking?

So, we return to the elemental parental question, when the child returns injured or having damaged his family’s or someone else’s property: “What were you thinking?”

What were the UC Regents thinking in 1995 when they certified the UC Merced environmental impact report and conceptual plan so vague it was meaningless?

What were the members of the board of the Virginia and Cyril Smith trusts thinking when they donated land full of highly environmentally protected wildlife habitat and endangered species for the campus?

What were they thinking when local, state and federal politicians began the backroom process in Sacramento, called the” Red and Green teams,” in 1998, to “fast-track” the environmental permitting process to get the UC Merced campus located on highly environmentally protected land?

What were the UC Regents and administration thinking when they ignored the opinions of the best biological experts on the ecology of that land, its own faculty?

What were Valley legislators and UC administrators thinking when they condemned the sound research in the Legislative Analyst’s Office report questioning the demographic and economic assumptions behind “Tidal Wave II,” that a tsunami of college students existed that would a new UC campus?

What were they thinking when they bussed to Sacramento enough grammar school pupils from Merced in brand new little UC Merced T-shirts, to fill the first-floor corridors of the state Capitol, cute little lobbyists for what the Senate President Pro Tem, John Burton, D-SF was calling a “boondoggle”?

What were they thinking at the county when they split the UC Merced planning process away from the county Planning Department, establishing a separate planning agency to focus on the project without any guidance from a functional General Plan?

What were they thinking when the county enthusiastically embraced UC Merced and the great growth it would induce when its General Plan did not even contemplate a UC campus? What were they thing when they kept amending it until it became an absurd document offering no planning guidance?

What have they been thinking at the Sun-Star all these years? They started off at least making good advertising dollars on months of UC Merced Supplements, written by UC bobcatflaksters, paid for by the public. Now, they regurgitate everything a new generation of bobcatflaksters utter, and call it news.

What were UC, the state Department of Fish and Game and the Wildlife Conservation Board thinking when they spent millions of public funds on easements to mitigate the impacts of the campus, a number of which have now been judged by resource agencies to be useless – not mitigating the takes of endangered species and lacking funds to monitor the easements?

What were UC Merced administrators thinking when they obliterated a municipal golf course to build the first phase of the campus without having applied for their Clean Water Act permit to build the next phases?

What were they thinking when UC proposed and the board of supervisors approved a plan to build a whole new town, the University Community, beside the campus but outside the city limits of Merced?

What was the City of Merced thinking when it violated its own ordinance against providing sewer and water facilities outside its corporate city limits, when it provided sewer and water facilities to the first phase of the campus? What is the City of Merced thinking by not annexing the campus and the area of the proposed new town? What are they thinking now about UC’s “sovereign” land-use authority?

What were the supervisors and local farm groups thinking when – after eight years of UC planning and building and many subdivisions besides with more to come – they still will not establish a ratio of acreage to mitigate for the last of farm land?

What were they thinking when they planned the UC Merced loop road, linking an interchange at Atwater with UC Merced and an interchange at Mission Ave, south of Merced?

What are the opponents of the WalMart distribution center and the Riverside Motorsports Park thinking: that local government would not attract these projects to help pay for these interchanges for this UC loop road?

What was the City of Merced leadership thinking when it refused join the League of California Cities, Berkeley, Davis, the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, and other groups in support of the City of Marina, et al against CSU Monterey Bay in the state Supreme Court? In that case, which CSU lost, CSU argued that state agencies should not be required to pay for any impacts from their projects that occur off the site of the project. In UC’s letter of support for CSU, it argued it would have to pay $200 million in off-site mitigations in Merced if CSU lost the case.

What was the entire leadership class of Merced thinking when not one of them even questioned, let alone opposed UC Merced’s memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory? It was as if all the little Mr. and Ms. UC Merceds in the circle haven’t a clue what kind of science and technology UC does in Livermore and, perhaps, how quickly it could come to Merced. LLNL is already trying to site the most toxic level of biodefense labs just outside Tracy. A whole new generation of nuclear weapons are currently being designed at both Livermore and UC’s other national lab, Los Alamos.

What were they thinking when they unleashed rapid urban development without a ground water plan?

What where they thinking when Applegate Zoo received an orphaned baby bobcat and UC Merced adopted it as their mascot?

What were they thinking when they adopted a Williamson Act area that included virtually all of unincorporated Merced County? Did it have anything to do with farming or was it just a gift to developers buying rural land? We think the chances are that if it had genuinely had anything to do with farming, it would have passed 30 years earlier.

What are the City of Merced planners and council members thinking about siting a project in an enterprise zone that will bring in nearly a thousand diesel trucks a day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, into one of the nation’s top two worst air quality regions?

What were they really thinking about when they turned in their resignations -- Publicist James Grant, Vice Chancellor Lindsay DesRochers, founding Dean of Social Sciences Kenji Hakuta, Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, Vice Chancellor and Provost David Ashley, and Environmental Compliance Director Rick Notini? Did they think the permitting process a done deal?

What are UC Merced administrators thinking -- if there are any UC Merced administrators at the moment – about having to move the next phase of the campus down onto the land planned for their University Community if they cannot get a Clean Water Act permit through normal channels and may not have the clout to get it through those other channels?

What were they thinking when UC Merced unveiled Cat Spots asking businesses to create a discount program or other incentives that will benefit student pocketbooks? The city-funded California Welcome Center will print another 1,000 window decals incorporating its logo with UC Merced's. What about students of Merced College?

What were they thinking when UC Merced partnered with the Great Valley Center? Grants, grants and more grants? For what? Well you might ask!

And while we are at it, what were the UC Regents thinking – as some were speculating on Merced land for development -- when they approved a campus in an already imperiled air quality region, heading the wrong way fast? A research medical facility to specialize in respiratory diseases?

What was Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, thinking when he introduced two bills to gut the critical habitat designation of the Endangered Species Act before teaming up with Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, to gut the whole ESA?

What was the county thinking when it did not notify resource agencies about the deep-ripping or disking of – at a minimum – 6,000 acres of land in the federal critical habitat designation area for 15 endangered species?

What have they been thinking all these years as they have been breaking every environmental law and regulation and putting political pressure on every resource agency not to enforce environmental law and regulation?

What were they thinking when, having lost their sales tax increase/ transportation fund initiative in the primary, they decided to try it again in November?

What were the governor and some of his cabinet thinking when they made the Merced County Association of Governments the point agency in a San Joaquin Valley-wide regional planning “partnership” effort?

What are they thinking now that the arrogance and corruption of government in Merced, among its local, state and federal representatives and their staffs, are beginning to stink beyond the county line? Consider, for example, the federal case concerning the former DA, the Sheriff, the worst scofflaw developer in the county, other prominent investors, a prominent real estate agency and the indicted, incarcerated perp who owned land on the proposed UC Merced loop road.

Badlands editorial board
--------------------------

7-29-06
Merced Sun-Star
UC Merced expansion may hit a roadblock...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12517831p-13232122c.html
After more than $500 million in building, development costs and more than a decade of planning...vision for the expansion of UC Merced beyond its first 100 acres could be forced to change... permit the university needs to build on federally protected wetlands will likely not be granted to allow the university to move forward with its current 900-acre expansion plan, according to a senior manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We feel that the project they have proposed, at this point, isn't permittable," Kevin Roukey, the Corps' senior project manager in charge of UC Merced permitting. Failure to secure the federal permit -- or a move to an alternate location to secure it -- would mean the most significant setback to date for the university, and would force Merced city and county planners to redraw current plans for the 2,000-acre University Community... A corps of engineers analysis of UC Merced's plan - one of the earliest steps in the wetlands permitting process - revealed vernal pools of extremely rare density and quality at the site,..."Unfortunately for the UC, vernal pools at the site they've picked have basically been determined to be the best in the state, and maybe even the country," Roukey said. Officials at UC Merced say they've proposed mitigation measures far beyond the norm, and have purchased more than 25,000 acres of land for preservation. But Roukey said university planners failed to consider the quality of the land they've offered for mitigation. Roukey... "The land they've purchased to preserve is different from what would be destroyed. Basically they went out and bought a ton of property without knowing what was on it"...mostly grassland that contains vernal pools inferior in quality and quantity to those that would be destroyed...UC Merced spent more than $15 million in state grants and private donations. Roukey said...still possible UC officials could propose new mitigation measures to save their current plans. "But he said to date, they have not presented anything that would meet permittable standards." "Of the alternatives laid out, there are three that would be far less environmentally damaging than theirs," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA's Water Division in San Francisco. "And building asphalt parking lots on vernal pools isn't really a good show of damage avoidance." "Where we are in the process is not a place where anyone can make that kind of comment," UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said. Tomlinson-Keasey, who plans to step down from the university's top post at the end of August, said in March when she announced her decision to leave that she would see the campus through its next phase of environmental review; that no longer appears feasible. It could take the agency more than a year to make its final determination. Livingston - more than 20 miles away - won't be considered a practical option...remaining two alternatives would place the rest of UC Merced just south of the university's preferred site, along Lake Road...would place the rest of the university closer to its first phase, but wouldn't allow for the contiguous campus UC Merced proposes. And UC and county officials say both options would devastate plans for the University Community, a massive development... About $4 million in state grants were spent by the county to develop the community plan that could now be rendered largely useless...many fear UC Merced could develop into a second-class citizen among its prestigious sister campuses. The city of Merced, which has expressed interest in annexing the community, could step up to fund a new plan;... Alternative options could draw heavy opposition from the local farming community. But some say university officials have ignored signals that came as early as 2002 indicating their plans would likely have to change, and moved forward with their first phase of development despite the warnings. The EPA registered a formal objection to the proposal in April of 2002, suggesting UC planners consider moving south. "We've been urging them for years to consider decreasing the footprint of the campus," said Strauss of the EPA. "You can't just mitigate your way around the law to get a permit for the most damaging alternative." Istas said the choice to move forward with the university's first phase, even without a permit for the rest of the campus, was the best one for the Valley. Congressman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, reaffirmed his support for UC Merced's proposal this week. "The campus is absolutely in the right location," said Cardoza. "One way or another, it's going to turn out OK."

8-4-06
Merced Sun-Star
Freeway work has chopped up roads...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12543596p-13255904c.html
Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo...five trucks filled with dirt did the unthinkable -- they pulled a U-turn on the freeway. That little stunt is one of the many inconveniences and dangerous maneuvers that have county and Merced city officials frustrated with the way trucks working on the Mission Avenue interchange have damaged roads and clogged up local traffic. The dirt-hauling phase of the $68 million project ended Tuesday. The bad news is that for the past few months more than 1,000 trucks a day moved in and out of the construction zone with loads of dirt... truck traffic resulted in more than $1 million of damage to local roads, said county Public Works Director Paul Fillebrown... scheduled to open September 2007.

8-3-06
Sacramento Bee
From tiny acorns... UC officials hope the new Merced campus someday grows to a mighty oak, but for now it's struggling to meet enrollment goals...Eric Stern
http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/14286255p-15102788c.html
With the political power and money already behind it, it's easy to imagine the University of California's newest campus in Merced - in the middle of Central Valley pastureland, miles from a stoplight - as a major research institution with 25,000 students. UC Merced still has a long way to go...about to start its second year, is struggling to get students there - and to get them to stay. If history repeats itself, UC Merced could follow the erratic - even negative - growth patterns the UC system saw when it added campuses in Irvine, San Diego and Santa Cruz in the 1960s. UC Merced isn't exactly close to the beach...is likely to fall short of its target of 5,200 students by the 2010-11 school year. UC Merced offers a chance to get a University of California diploma that might not otherwise be available...eligibility requirements for UC Merced are equally as demanding as the other UC schools, but the incoming freshman at UC Merced have the lowest average grade-point average and SAT scores in the UC system. "If you build a campus basically in the middle of nowhere, it's not surprising that this is not going to be the first choice for many students," said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. "There was a certain amount of gamble (from the UC)…that they could basically hang their shingle out anywhere and be overrun by applications." He fears the $500 million campus could drain resources from the other UC schools until Merced gets its footing. "It took a long time for Davis to become Davis."

8-2-06
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Ruling favors town over gown...Roger Sideman
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2006/August/02/local/stories/02local.htm
Santa Cruz city...this week's state Supreme Court decision further obligates universities to pay for costs incurred by campus expansion... local governments now have a legal precedent to push the university to cover more of the cost...court ruling resolved a 10-year legal battle between Cal State Monterey Bay and several cities near its growing campus at the former Fort Ord. The university's board of trustees maintained it didn't have to pay for fire prevention and traffic, sewage and drainage improvements off the campus. UCSC's commitment has been disputed by local government leaders who charge the university understates off-campus impacts and that it won't fully reimburse government coffers. Contributions by UCSC are presently made on a project by project basis. Government leaders want UCSC to make a total contribution rather than having dollars come in piecemeal fashion. Wormhoudt... the court's decision also lessens the chance UCSC would sue the city over this November's ballot measure...voters will decide whether to force the school to address concerns over campus growth by withholding the city's water supply. Moose, Santa Cruz's attorney...there's a chance UCSC would come back to the table and offer a better approach to traffic mitigation. One sticking point - who will pay for increased water use - was not addressed in the CSU decision...

7-30-06
Modesto Bee
Wal-Mart foes show up in red...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12525257p-13239396c.html
Residents who don't want Wal-Mart to build a 1.2 millionsquare-foot warehouse in southeast Merced wore red shirts to a public meeting last week about which issues should be studied in the environmental impact report on the project...meeting was meant to solicit input about which issues - such as air quality, traffic and noise - should be studied when city-hired consultants write the EIR about the proposed distribution center...how would 450 trucks driving in and out of the center daily affect Merced's already poor air quality, said Randy Chafin of EDAW Inc., the Sacramento consulting group that's writing the report...Marilynne Parreira asked that the impact report examine specifically how the center would affect Golden Valley students...Susan Boykin said a climatologist should contribute to the impact report..."When
we take acres and acres of trees and pave it with acres and acres of asphalt, we are creating heat islands," Boykin said. The city will solicit comments on what should be studied in the impact report until Aug. 11. SEND TO: Kim Espinosa, Planning Manager, City of Merced, Planning and Permitting, 678 W. 18th St., Merced 95340, PHONE: 385-6858, FAX: 725-8775 E-MAIL: planningweb@cityofmerced.org

Free the UC bobcat; protesters urge...http://www.modbee.com/local/story/10649708p-11435262c.html

Businesses put out invitation to Bobcats...http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12053415p-12809017c.html

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

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