Environment

San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement press coverage

Submitted: Sep 28, 2006

Below, you will find a series of abstracts of newsclips about the San Joaquin River Settlement. On Sept. 13, fourteen environmental and recreational organizations and 29 irrigation and water districts and four federal agencies, submitted a settlement agreement to United States District Court, Eastern District of California. The agreement proposes a plan for one of the greatest river restoration projects in American history.

One of the most important laws considered in the federal court's decision, which forced the parties into settlement negotiations, was California Fish and Game Code, Section 5937.

The owner of any dam shall allow sufficient water at all times to pass through a fishway, or in the absence of a fishway, allow sufficient water to pass over, around or through the dam, to keep in good condition any fish that may be planted or exist below the dam. During the minimum flow of water in any river or stream, permission may be granted by the department to the owner of any dam to allow sufficient water to pass through a culvert, waste gate, or over or around the dam, to keep in good condition any fish that may
be planted or exist below the dam, when, in the judgment of the department, it is impracticable or detrimental to the owner to pass the water through the fishway.

However, much -- though not all -- of the press coverage of the settlement reflects the frontier attitude of a former manager of the Merced Irrigation District:

"The price of a water right is eternal vigilance."

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

Sept. 28,2006

Lawmakers settle river dispute...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12785879p-13478049c.html
WASHINGTON -- Exhausted Capitol Hill negotiators agreed Wednesday on legislation to revive the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam. Establishing a new "experimental population" of salmon, while still protecting operations on local dams and water projects, were the keys to the compromise. The next big problem is time... In part, the new deal reassures water agencies that they can renew their Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licenses on the Merced and Tuolumne rivers without additional environmental requirements solely because of the new salmon population...guarantees that federal officials in protecting the salmon "will not impose more than de minimus water supply reductions, additional storage releases or bypass flows" on the water districts...agreed to devote the capital repayment from Friant water customers to the river restoration project for the next 20 years. Even so, some Valley lawmakers voiced dissatisfaction with the haggling that included environmentalists making a last-minute push for an additional concession... Merced Democrat Dennis Cardoza, while supporting the final compromise, added that "this process should never be repeated (because) legislating by lawsuit is not the way to do public policy." "I'm pleased with the progress that's been made," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, but "we have to look at this seriously. The Congress has to take its time; we have to hold hearings."

Valley well-represented in river-restoration talks...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12786191p-13478313c.html
In poker, you can't win if you're not at the table. The same thing is true in water negotiations. Fortunately, we had a seat - several, in fact - at the table where a deal to restore the San Joaquin River between Fresno and Merced has been worked out. Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced a deal... Included were some key third-party representatives. Among them was Modesto Irrigation District General Manager Allen Short, who represented the five irrigation districts - Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale, Merced and South San Joaquin - that depend on and manage the San Joaquin's tributary rivers. Joining him was Ken Robbins, a lawyer for Merced Irrigation District, and all five valley members of the House of Representatives. The negotiations on the bill are complete, but this game is not over. Getting this bill passed will require the help of the entire valley congressional delegation...it is doable.

Sept. 27, 2006

Sacramento Bee
River lawsuit ends; will restoration work?...Editorial
http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/29845.html
It took a lawsuit by environmental groups and a sympathetic federal judge in Sacramento named Lawrence Karlton to force a compromise. The question now is how will the salmon regard the settlement? They are the true judges here. And is this legal settlement the last word? Not really. Many affected parties along the river weren't at the negotiating table. Neither was Congress, which is now wrestling with coming up with the money and deciding how a reintroduced salmon population should be regulated under the federal Endangered Species Act. The end of this contentious lawsuit means the beginning of a long and delicate process -- more negotiating, more political arm-twisting and more scrutiny of river ecolology -- with the goal of accomplishing something on a scale that has never been tried before in California. Beware of anyone declaring this mission accomplished. But celebrate an important milestone for a very troubled river.

Sept. 26, 2006

Salmon may be replenished in San Joaquin River...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12777978p-13470708c.html
WASHINGTON -- The negotiators returning to Capitol Hill today hope to finish crafting the legislation needed for the river's restoration. The end result of the haggling in Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's third-floor office eventually could be an estimated 500 or more spring-run chinook salmon back in the now-depleted river...the San Joaquin River salmon would swim in the shadow of the California condor, the Yellowstone area gray wolf and Florida's whooping crane. Like them, the San Joaquin River salmon would be dubbed an experimental population -- a move that can ease regulatory burdens and soften political resistance...it's become apparent that the San Joaquin River fix likely will include declaring the newly reintroduced salmon as a "non-essential experimental population." Under an Endangered Species Act provision known as 10(j), this will set the salmon apart from other protected plants and animals. Property owners wouldn't have to worry about regulators designating their land as "critical habitat," because experimental populations don't get critical habitat. It doesn't impose new regulations on private land, though critics like Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, say it can still depress land values. For that reason, the Bush administration sparked anxiety when it designated 450,288 acres as critical habitat for the California red-legged frog and 199,109 acres as critical habitat for the California tiger salamander.

Sept. 25, 2006

Fresno Bee
River worries flood west side...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12774415p-13467443c.html
LOS BANOS - A farm road runs through the shriveled San Joaquin River where chinook salmon are supposed to swim in seven years. This peaceful farming belt may be the stage for the next legal fight over restoring the dammed and dried San Joaquin. Farmers here are afraid a restoration agreement announced this month might wind up ruining some of their land. Their lucrative crop fields butt against the old stream bed. They fear a restored river will waterlog their land and prevent crops from growing. Now their representatives are in Washington, D.C., trying to protect their interests in legislation to restore the river. Among other concerns, west-side farmers want to make sure there is enough money to properly study the effects of a restored water flow in their area. They also would like to see money set aside to pay for property damage in their area. Otherwise, they say they will have to file suit if damages occur. Aside from funding, there is another sensitive question: Will the nearby flood-control channel known as the Eastside Bypass also be used in the restoration?

Sept. 24, 2006

Stockton Record
Flow will be slow...Allen Short, Modesto Irrigation District, San Joaquin Tributary Agencies and Daniel Nelson, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060924/OPED02/609240307&SearchID=73257838248384
After 18 years in the courts, a settlement on restoring the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam to the Merced River has arrived - but only partly...still must gain the blessing of a federal judge...needs legislation authorizing the expenditure of funds for projects to finalize the settlement. The driving force behind the settlement is restoration of river flows on the San Joaquin River to allow a return of the spring-run Chinook salmon. Specifically, the final settlement resolution must include a reasonable approach to:
» Solve fishery concerns.
» Fully fund infrastructure and mitigation for restoring 142 miles of river habitat.
» Protect water rights, including groundwater, of parties not involved as well as farms, rural communities and cities that rely on the San Joaquin River and its tributaries for water.
» Guarantee that ongoing successful river and chinook salmon restoration on San Joaquin River tributaries aren't adversely impacted.
» Protect all third parties from endangered species penalties regarding reintroduced spring- run salmon.
» Provide an inclusive process for the impacted third parties to have meaningful input into the program.
Legislators and others involved must implement a balanced, long-term solution that is fair to all parties affected by San Joaquin River restoration.

Sept. 23, 2006

How is this a successful river restoration?...Cannon Michael, Los Banos...Guest commentary
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12767877p-13460874c.html
Last week, when the settlement to restore the San Joaquin River was announced...I was surprised to see such positive coverage from local media...it is important for Valley residents to remember: the restoration of the San Joaquin River was not born out of a collaborative desire to bring salmon back to the river, it was brought about by litigation. The environmentalists won their lawsuit and Friant was forced into a settlement that they felt would be better than what Judge Karlton would impose upon them. NRDC has never estimated the number of spring-run Chinook salmon the restoration program would restore... My family farms along a stretch of the San Joaquin River that will be the most difficult and costly to restore, a stretch that has been termed Reach 4-b. The settlement calls for the East Side Bypass to handle some of the initial "pulse flows" required for the restoration while the capacity is increased in Reach 4-b...the bypass would be a far less costly option than creating a new channel in Reach 4-b. I am not against trying to make the restoration work, but I hope that it can be done in a balanced and fiscally responsible way.

Sept. 22, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Politicians get a look at river restoration plan...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12762086p-13456203c.html
WASHINGTON -- Negotiators are still refining an ambitious San Joaquin River restoration plan, with a tentative agreement this week to classify as "experimental" the salmon that will reclaim the river as its home. "experimental" label would mean the Merced and Modesto irrigation districts have less to fear from federal regulators. It is also a sign that river negotiators...may soon resolve completely how Congress will make the San Joaquin live again. One key solution...involves designating the newly reintroduced San Joaquin River salmon as a "nonessential experimental population." Under a rarely used portion of the Endangered Species Act, this softens the accompanying regulatory burden; for instance, critical habitat would not be designated for the salmon. Separately, negotiators seemingly outflanked a controversy over restoring a 22-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River that ends in Merced County..."upper 4-B" stretch is now depleted, causing doubts about its potential revival. Consequently, negotiators say they have agreed to call for a feasibility study... Remaining sticking points...what to do about federal hydroelectric licenses. The Merced Irrigation District's license for the Merced River Project expires in 2014, and the Modesto and Turlock districts' license for Don Pedro Reservoir expires in 2016. Negotiators must also resolve how to handle salmon in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta...

San Francisco Chronicle
San Joaquin River plan stall in House...Kimberly Geiger
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/22/BAGHNLAO5E1.DTL&type=printable
Conservationists and federal water authorities have reached a compromise to end an 18-year dispute over the damming of the San Joaquin River, but House lawmakers who reviewed the agreement Thursday said they will pursue changes to the plan before passing legislation required to complete the deal. The deal laid out a scheduled release of water from the dam to restore the river over the next 20 years -- and required lawmakers by year's end to pass a bill authorizing federal funding and oversight of the project...lawmakers at a House hearing Thursday said the settlement overlooks the effects on farmers and other water agencies that were not included in the negotiations. Lawmakers concluded the hearing with a request that the parties to the settlement negotiate a compromise with third-party interests before legislation goes forward.

Sept. 21, 2006

The cost of victory...Alex Breitler
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060921&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=609210342&SectionCat=&Template=printart
MODESTO - A resurrected San Joaquin River could prove even more expensive than originally thought - costing perhaps $1 billion - while causing unintended consequences for fish, some downstream water users claim. Flows from Friant Dam near Fresno could be too warm for migrating fall-run chinook salmon, they say. Meanwhile, repairing levees and widening a channel that hasn't seen flows in half a century could require huge investments and the retirement of thousands of acres of farmland. The settlement is not the final chapter...as officials from several water districts are expected to testify before a House of Representatives subcommittee today and ask for federal funds. This week...water districts that also rely heavily on the San Joaquin drainage - but were not a part of the lawsuit - are tempering that enthusiasm. Some have spent millions over the past few decades supporting fall-run chinook populations in tributaries such as the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. Also, they fear the sudden reintroduction of spring-run chinook, a threatened species, could mean new water and property-use restrictions under the Endangered Species Act. A summary of the settlement says that the document was tweaked to include the perspectives of others and that no "material adverse impacts" were expected to third parties.

Sept. 20, 2006

Fresno Bee
Reshaping Nature...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/special/150/story/12749797p-13444961c.html
The damming of the San Joaquin helped change the Valley floor, for better and for worse. San Joaquin River was plugged as part of the Central Valley Project, a massive plan to control flooding and provide irrigation water. The sky no longer darkens with millions of ducks and geese, feasting on the river's smorgasbord of insects...the water that no longer feeds the river has helped feed the county's growth through farming and land development. To accommodate farming, swamps and wetlands were drained. The land was leveled. On the west side, large channels were built to funnel the occasional big flows of the river around areas that flooded regularly...agriculture blossomed on 170,000-plus acres in the county as well as on an additional 800,000 acres along the Valley's east side...farming further expanded when the federal Central Valley Project began delivering water from Northern California to the west side. Tinkering with the San Joaquin began long before Friant Dam. In 1911, Southern California Edison began putting together an extensive hydroelectric system in the Sierra... Harold Tokmakian was the Fresno County planning director in the 1960s before becoming a professor at California State University, Fresno...the Valley is being eroded by "lateral expansion" -- also known as sprawl. There are other reasons, too, to value river habitat, said Bob Winter, 81, a Fresno City College biology instructor for more than a half century. For instance, the kangaroo rat might someday help medical science understand kidneys better, he said.

Planting our roots in rich Valley soil...David Mas Masumoto
http://www.fresnobee.com/special/150/story/12749818p-13444972c.html
Generation of farmers of all nationalities have transformed a desert into a garden. Then came the liquid gold from the Sierra: water. They could grow most anything here...So long as they had irrigation water. This liquid treasure, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit, gave birth to generations of farmers and their families. Fresno became a magnet for farmers...the land provided a refuge to a variety of crops and farming methods. Cattle ranches and dairies, wheat, cotton, grapes, peaches, plums, nectarines, vegetables, melons, row crops. Each decade brought new seeds of change. For some, the reality did not match their dreams. Nature played no favorites when destroying a harvest. Others found the greed of humans was no different in this Valley than any other place. Years passed and the pressures did not stop. Valley agriculture became part machine, part something else, what was grown in the fields now merely raw products for others to profit from. The old family farm with farmers and their families working to grow, harvest and sell a crop has almost vanished. Or are family farmers being vanquished -- caught between the forces of business and the explosion of growth? Could land be better suited to growing houses than peaches or grapes? They came as pioneers and today still cling to the land. They are desperate to use any means to maintain a way of life. Some call them fools, stubborn individuals refusing to let go of the bounty of this Valley. Most are still dreamers; that's why they still farm.

Sept. 15, 2006

Two parties at odds over San Joquin restoration costs...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12717970p-13413996c.html
WASHINGTON -- Many farmers and environmentalists now agree on restoring the San Joaquin River. They do not, however, agree on how much it will cost. Environmentalists believe $250 million will suffice. Farmers served by Friant Dam think $800 million is more like it. On Thursday, Department official Jason Peltier joined with four members of Congress, myriad staff members and top negotiators for a closed-door, Capitol Hill briefing on the ambitious San Joaquin River restoration plan... Radanovich is expressing optimism, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, exited the briefing Thursday as angry as ever...insists there's a lot more concern bubbling beneath the public surface. Representatives of the Merced Irrigation District and the so-called "exchange contractors" from the San Joaquin Valley's West Side are crafting alternative proposals in Washington this week. They hope to modify the proposed legislation that's needed to implement the river restoration plan; for instance, to protect them from further Endangered Species Act obligations when the salmon is reintroduced. The big gap in cost estimates, for instance, stems largely from uncertainty over what standards new levees will have to meet. State regulators could get the final say, as they will eventually set the levee standards.

Sept. 14, 2006

9-14-06
NRDC Press Release...9-13-06
Attachment:
Peter Moyle, Professor of Fisheries Biology, University of California Davis..."Bringing the San Joaquin River back to life will be one of the greatest restoration projects ever undertaken in the United States. Over 150 miles of river will once again provide vital habitat for not only salmon but for a wide array of other native fish, plants and wildlife. Restoring one of California's long lost salmon runs will be a strong symbol of our willingness to make California a better place for both wildlife and people. I also anticipate that restoring flows to the river will have a positive effect on the Delta, an ecosystem in crisis. This monumental restoration effort could not come at a better time."
Zeke Grader, Executive Director, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association..."Over the past century, West Coast salmon rivers have been devastated by water development and other activities. This agreement provides salmon fishermen with a ray of hope...
Dante Nomellini, Manager and Co-Counsel, Central Delta Water Agency..."Drying up the San Joaquin River harmed more than fish...
Philip Atkins-Pattenson, Outside Counsel for the NRDC Coalition, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton LLP..."This settlement represents the triumph of optimism and collaboration among the parties...
Gary Bobker, Program Director, The Bay Institute...The San Joaquin River is the missing limb of San Francisco Bay...
Bill Jennings, Executive Director, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance..."This is a truly historic settlement that not only breathes life into a dead river but will measurably improve water quality and lessen human health impacts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta...
Lydia Miller, President, San Joaquin Raptor Wildlife Rescue Center..."Restoring the San Joaquin River will benefit salmon and numerous other native wildlife species, and it will improve the natural habitat along much of the river. It will also improve the quality of life for Valley residents and provide recreational opportunities."
Walt Shubin, Fresno County Raisin Farmer..."As a farmer who grew up on the San Joaquin River, I know that salmon and farming can coexist - I've seen it...
Chuck Bonham, Senior Attorney, California Director, Trout Unlimited..."This settlement shows the remarkable things that people can accomplish when they work together to restore damaged ecosystems...

Merced Sun-Star
River plan needs support in D.C...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12713171p-13409800c.html
WASHINGTON -- The political headwaters for the San Joaquin River now shift to Capitol Hill, where Congress is supposed to turn a river restoration plan into reality...ambitious river plan formally rolled out Wednesday relies on quick congressional action... Theoretically, the new San Joaquin River settlement could collapse if Congress doesn't act by Dec. 31. Ken Robbins, an attorney for the Merced Irrigation District, and other California water professionals will be listening closely on Capitol Hill today as negotiators brief lawmakers about the deal that until Wednesday remained under tight wraps. The Merced Irrigation District, for instance, is a "third party," because it was not part of the lawsuit. Robbins said the district worries about sufficient funding for river channel improvements, and new Endangered Species Act burdens resulting from the reintroduction of the threatened spring-run salmon by 2013. "It poses some enormous problems," Robbins said, adding that "we're going to propose some changes to (the bill.) ...This raises other problems, though, because the settlement agreement requires that the legislation be approved "substantially in the form" that it's been proposed by the original negotiators. On Capitol Hill, congressional staffers expect some changes, and suggest neither farmers nor environmentalists will be too quick to back out. Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza of Merced, while applauding the work done on the settlement, cautioned that he could not support a deal if it comes "at the expense of those not party to the legislation." Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia, characterized the proposed legislation as a "gun to the head" of Congress.

Fresno Bee
Accord pumps new life into river...Mark Grossi and E.J. Schultz
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12713238p-13409904c.html
The historic deal is finally done, and the San Joaquin River - barring unforeseen snags - will flow freely again...a settlement that will launch what could be the largest river restoration in the history of the American West. The deal, announced in front of a federal courthouse in Sacramento, ends an 18-year-old federal lawsuit... Environmentalists heralded the agreement as the beginning of a new era, not only for the state's second-longest river but also for the state's vast waterways. "This agreement provides that once again the San Joaquin will flow from its headwaters in the High Sierra all the way to San Francisco Bay," said Hal Candee, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the lead plaintiff in the case. The San Joaquin Valley River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, representing west-side farmers, wants to make sure there is enough money to buy land and rebuild the river where it has not existed for decades. A hydrologist for the Bay Institute, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the water used for restoration could be pumped back to farmers for use in the fields after it travels through the river. Once river water reaches the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta pumps, it can be sent back through canals to farmers. "We've done it already in tests, and it works," said hydrologist Peter Vorster...

A river shall run through it...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/12713227p-13409910c.html
A marathon legal battle over the fate of the San Joaquin River inched closer to a settlement Wednesday... If the deal is finally done, over time it will change the face of the Valley — and for the better, we believe. Federal funds and state bond money would be tapped to pay for the costs of the restoration, as part of a "San Joaquin River Restoration Fund" created under the deal. There are obstacles...a particular concern downstream...settlement language apparently includes a guarantee that land will be purchased only from "willing sellers... Another touchy subject is language in the settlement that appears to place a year-end deadline on Congress to pass the necessary enabling legislation. Here's hoping this deal turns out to be a model for future compromises, rather than an ephemeral aberration.

Stockton Record
Parties agree to go with the flow...Alex Breitler
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060914/NEWS01/609140344/1001
SACRAMENTO - Described by conservationists as the "missing limb" of San Francisco Bay, the San Joaquin River will again flow... The resurrected river will flush out pollutants and improve water quality in Stockton and San Joaquin County, conservationists say. Fish will return, followed by recreation and tourism dollars. And the algae blooms that often turn the river's waters a sickly pea green may be diminished. Wednesday's agreement among farmers, environmentalists and the federal government ends nearly two decades of courtroom clashes over water diversions at Friant Dam... The San Joaquin will become "a living ecosystem instead of a contaminated drainage ditch," said Hal Candee, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which first filed suit against the federal government and agricultural water users in 1988. "The federal government for years took a callous attitude toward the river," said Dante Nomellini, a Stockton water attorney who represents water users through the Central Delta Water Agency. While some farmers were praising the restoration plan, concerns remain over how much water they will lose...plan includes several strategies to make up for that loss, including bolstering groundwater supplies during wet years, transferring water from other groups and, when possible, recirculating any excess water from the Delta. "In many respects, the litigation has been the cork in the bottle for restoration efforts on the river," said Lester Snow, director of the California Department of Water Resources. "While that litigation was pending, it's been very difficult to pursue restoration. "We can now move forward."

Sept. 13, 2006

Restoring the San Joaquin...Michael Doyle, Bee Staff Writer and Mark Grossi, The Fresno Bee
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12708691p-13405707c.html
WASHINGTON - More water should start flowing down the San Joaquin River by 2009 under a long-awaited settlement... Farmers and environmentalists have worked out the details during months of negotiations. The agreement will be presented to a federal judge in Sacramento this morning, in hopes of settling an 18-year-old lawsuit...agreement includes an apparent deadline for Congress to approve by Dec. 31. Feinstein will introduce the legislation to authorize the river fixes. Outside parties not allowed to sue...draft of the legislation authorizes the federal government to buy land from "willing sellers." All environmental laws must be complied with - a blow to some water agencies hoping for exemptions. Outside parties - such as the Merced Irrigation District - can't sue if they're unhappy with how the settlement works. The proposed legislation establishes a "San Joaquin River Restoration Fund... The agreement will not automatically dissolve if the legislation strays beyond the deadline, said Friant Water Users Authority lawyer Dan Dooley.

Irrigation districts worried about costs, loss of water...Michael G. Mooney, Bee Staff writer
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12708700p-13405719c.html
Stanislaus and Merced water agencies are voicing concern about an agreement to restore a 153-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River. The $1 billion plan - assuming it wins congressional approval - will be one of the largest river restoration projects in the nation's history... would send more water through the San Joaquin River by 2009 and reintroduce salmon by 2013. "We believe there should be a settlement," Garith Krause of the Merced Irrigation District said Monday, "but that settlement shouldn't add additional burdens to those of us downstream." The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts have questioned the settlement pact, as have the Westlands Water District, San Joaquin River Exchange and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. Key concerns include:... Allen Short, general manager of the Modesto Irrigation District, and the others will lobby for legislation that will:... If the legislation substantively differs from what negotiators agreed to, at least one lawmaker said, the deal could fall apart.

Stockton Record
Agreement reached on river restoration (11:05 a.m.)...The Record
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060913&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=60913002&SectionCat=&Template=printart
A historic agreement to restore water flows for salmon in the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam near Fresno while undertaking one of the West’s largest river restoration efforts was announced today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friant Water Users Authority and U.S. Departments of the Interior and Commerce...settlement, filed this morning in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, ends an 18-year legal dispute over the operation of Friant Dam and resolves longstanding legal claims brought by a coalition of conservation and fishing groups led by NRDC.

San Francisco Chronicle
Settlement will restore San Joaquin River...Glen Martin
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/13/BAGG9L4KHQ1.DTL&type=printable
The San Joaquin Rive will be restored under a settlement announced today...be announced at news conferences in Sacramento and near Fresno, is the result of years of negotiations over a lawsuit filed in 1988 by environmental groups and fishing advocates. Sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of a federal gag order, told The Chronicle that the settlement between water users and environmental groups requires that Friant Dam release between 364,000 and 462,000 acre-feet of water in normal years to help restore spring and fall salmon runs. One acre-foot is equivalent to 326,000 gallons, or roughly enough to meet the annual needs of five people. Kole Upton, a farmer and chairman of the Friant Water Users Authority, said the judge's decision required everyone involved to compromise. "If you have a judgment inflicted from above, you can end up feeling like the Germans after the Treaty of Versailles." "The important thing here is that we now have a partners in restoration and mitigation, not adversaries. That makes all the difference."

Sept. 12, 2006

Modesto Bee
Be careful about restoring San Joaquin River...Allen Short, general manager of Modesto Irrigation District and represents the San Joaquin Tributary Agencies
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12704925p-13402258c.html
After 18 years in the courts...a settlement of the San Joaquin River...but only partly. The driving force behind the settlement is restoration of river flows to allow a return of the spring run Chinook salmon. Millions of dollars have been expended and more than 500,000 acre-feet of water released by irrigation districts and water agencies to provide conditions in the tributaries to improve and sustain the fall run. These efforts might be severely jeopardized if water temperatures exceed safe limits for fall run salmon fry. This could happen if sufficient Friant water does not flow through the existing shallow San Joaquin River channel upstream (south) of the Merced River on its way to the delta. These efforts must be recognized and protected from any negative effects as a result of the court and legislative action needed to complete the settlement. Specifically, the final settlement resolution must include reasonable approaches to:... Now is the time to support our representatives' efforts to obtain authorizing legislation that will complete the settlement process. Legislators and others involved must be careful to implement a balanced, long-term solution that is fair to all parties affected by San Joaquin River restoration activities.

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Pathogen update

Submitted: Sep 21, 2006

The UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is on the short list to play host to the most dangerous type of biological warfare laboratory in the United States. It is seeking to locate the level 4 lab just outside the city limits of Tracy.

Tracy is the hereditary capital of that area composed of the adjoining congressional districts of RichPAC Pombo, Whale Slayer-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, Polar Bear Slayer-Merced, called in these pages, Pombozastan.

The general idea -- if it reaches the level of an idea -- of local, state and federal
government in Pombozastan is to urbanize as much farm and ranch land as possible, rendering the environment toxic in the process. But, the level-4 biowarfare lab is a twist worthy the Chairman Himself, Pombo, who heads the House Resources Committee, guiding it with fervent pre-World War II faith in the infinity of land and natural resources, and the infinite capacity of the globe to stay cool and the air to cleanse itself.

One Tracy city councilwoman tried to get the rest of the council to vote on the issue earlier this week. The mayor adroitly deflected the issue to a 9-member committee called Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond. One possible interpretation of "Beyond" was mentioned by a former UC/LLNL supervisor: “If an animal with a level 4 pathogen ever got loose, the entire valley would be gone, not just Tracy.”

A typical level-4 pathogen is Ebola Zaire, which rapidly turns its victims' organs into slime, producing a high percentage of mortality. Moreover, there doesn't seem to be a cure for Ebola at present.

All Valley residents should feel safer now, knowing the decision will be made by the wise, far-seeing Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond Committee. But somehow, not all of us do feel safer. UC/LLNL flaksters insist that there is no example of the most lethal pathogens ever escaping a biowarfare lab. Supposing that there had been an escape at some point, we also suppose it would have been a matter of the highest national security not to reveal it, for fear of making the public nervous or worse.

The American public is generally aware that the Bush administration is promoting the redesign and upgrade of the largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world, ours, and is also promoting development of a new generation of biowarfare weapons, necessary for development of antidotes to protect the public in case of biological attack. What remains murky, however, is the testing of the weapons and the defenses against them on the American public.

Particularly murky is the issue of consent to be tested.

Heather Wokusch, author of The Progressives’ Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now (Volume I), explained to readers of Commondreams.com this morning:

There’s a tricky clause in Chapter 32/Title 50 of the United States Code (the aggregation of US general and permanent laws). Specifically, Section 1520a lists the following cases in which the Secretary of Defense can conduct a chemical or biological agent test or experiment on humans if informed consent has been obtained:

(1) Any peaceful purpose that is related to a medical, therapeutic, pharmaceutical, agricultural, industrial, or research activity.

(2) Any purpose that is directly related to protection against toxic chemicals or
biological weapons and agents.

(3) Any law enforcement purpose, including any purpose related to riot control.

The definition is a little too open-ended for comfort; apparently there are a lot of
circumstances under which the Secretary of Defense can test chemical or biological agents on human beings, but at least informed consent has to be obtained in advance.

Or does it. Get a load of Section 1515, another part of Chapter 32, this one entitled "Suspension; Presidential authorization": After November 19, 1969, the operation of this chapter, or any portion thereof, may be suspended by the President during the period of any war declared by Congress and during the period of any national emergency declared by Congress or by the President.

You got it. If the President or Congress decides we’re at war then the Secretary of
Defense doesn’t need anybody’s consent to test chemical or biological agents on human beings. Gives one pause during these days of a perpetual "war on terror."

It’s not a stretch to wonder what kind of clandestine WMD tests the Defense Department could be conducting in the US right now, on military or civilian populations, without consent, let alone on populations abroad.

Nov. 19, 1969 -- Nixon remains among us.

It's probably just a coincidence, but ...

Normally, people of some agricultural experience would look at the statements of the federal government and the press concerning the outbreak of E. Coli as merely more of the laughable and witless distraction we have come to expect from an administration, one of whose most subtle, effective forms of domestic terrorism is absurd utterance.

Otherwise, we can look at it as the inevitable result of the corporate vegetable deal, setting aside for a moment the question of why lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers and green onions grown in the Salinas and San Benito valleys somehow escaped suspicion.

Earthbound Farms, the suspected producer of the tainted spinach, claims
to farm 26,000 acres, all or most of it in organic vegetables for the fresh market. It also claims to employ more than 1,000 people. Earthbound is reported to have sales of $500 million in 2006, a dramatic increase from a reported $156 million in 2004.

From this information, the public would not be illogical to assume that the corporation, probably together with the largest distributors in that trade, have dispatched to Washington DC a phalanx of expensive attorneys of impeccable reputation and deep personal relationships with members of the administration. Perhaps the lettuce growers also have sent some legal representatives to the capital to make damn sure none of this wipes off on them. There, they are no doubt meeting with officials of the Food and Drug Administration, the agency whose corruption has turned the entire American public into unwitting guinea pigs for the biotechnology industry and has done severe damage to American growers in some international grain markets. Together, they are pointing
fingers here, there, and everywhere, in order to evade liability.

In short, common sense and experience would suggest a medium-sized fix is in -- nothing as big as Mad Cow Disease, but a serious corporate effort at damage control. However, who really knows these days?

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

References:

Rumsfeld’s Guinea Pigs: US Citizens at Risk for Military-Weapons Testing
by Heather Wokusch
CommonDreams.org - Sept. 21, 2006
http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0920-31.htm

Discuss bio-lab's pluses, minuses...Our View
http://tracypress.com/content/view/4166/2/
Tracy residents know where City Councilwoman Irene Sundberg stands on the proposed federal Biosafety Level 4 laboratory in Corral Hollow Canyon...she has the issue in the public forum, and it is important that all voices are heard. Some say the bio-lab would bring 300 research scientists and other new jobs to the area. But others say locating the lab here is risky - or, as one former LLNL supervisor cautioned, “If an animal with a level 4 pathogen ever got loose, the entire valley would be gone, not just Tracy.”
BioSafety Level 4 is the highest level of containment for biological organisms. Not located in populated areas Wrong. Level 4 labs are in Atlanta and San Antonio and on Plum Island, off the New York and Connecticut coast. There have been no reports of a pathogen ever escaping such labs. We urge all the council members to learn the facts about the proposed bio-lab, listen to the citizens and make an informed judgment...

Under the microscope...John Upton
http://tracypress.com/content/view/4203/2/
The same nine-citizen committee that helped plan Tracy’s soon-to-be-built aquatics park will review a University of California proposal to build an anti-biological terrorism laboratory near Tracy. Mayor Dan Bilbrey referred the proposal to the City Council-appointed Tracy Tomorrow & Beyond Committee during a public discussion Tuesday night. The discussion heard from six Tracy residents, four City Council members and a public affairs representative from the university, which has been short-listed to run the laboratory at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories’ Site 300. University spokeswoman Susan Houghton said the Department of Homeland Security would call for public comment and thoroughly investigate the site if it is included in six finalist
sites this fall. “There is a very good chance the University of California’s proposal
will not make that list, but if it does we will engage (the community), as will all
entities,” Houghton said. “All the questions that have been raised tonight are really very good ones, and they’re questions that the Department of Homeland Security needs to address.” Councilwoman Evelyn Tolbert...“You can love this country deeply and not always have to trust your government — it’s the duty of being an American”...

UC regents vote to bid for Livermore contract...Michelle Locke, AP
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/n/a/2006/09/20/state/n100606D58.DTL&type=printable
Leaders of the University of California took a step toward solidifying their role as
national nuclear steward Wednesday, voting to put in a bid to continue running the Lawrence Livermore weapons lab...expected to be ratified by the full board Thursday, comes nine months after UC successfully bid to keep running the Los Alamos nuclear lab in New Mexico. UC in partnership with engineering expert Bechtel Corp. won the Los Alamos competition last December, beating out a team of the University of Texas and defense contractor Lockheed Martin.The 10-campus UC system will partner with Bechtel in its bid for Livermore.

E. Coli Pervades Harvest Area; Salinas Valley waterways are known to carry the bacteria that poisoned at least 145 people and killed one who ate tainted spinach
Los Angeles Times – 9/21/06
By Marla Cone
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-water21sep21,0,2311007.story?coll=la-home-headlines
The bacterium that has sickened people across the nation and forced growers to destroy spinach crops is so pervasive in the Salinas Valley that virtually every waterway there violates national standards.
"There are many sources of water coming into the watershed, and I guarantee you that they all have generic E. coli," and many carry the deadly E. coli strain linked to food poisonings, said Christopher Rose, an environmental scientist at the state's Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which tests the region's waterways...

Earthbound Farms: http://www.ebfarm.com/About/EarthboundInnovations.aspx

Live Oak native’s work found in kitchens all over the US
Suwannee Democrat-Sept. 12, 2006
http://www.suwanneedemocrat.com/suwannee/local_story_255165107.html?keyword=topstory
...With the explosion of growth in organic foods, even Wal-Mart has jumped on board. Sweat has steadily guided Earthbound Farm's sales from $50 million in 1998 to $500 million in 2006...

Nutrition Business Journal: January 2005: NBJ's Business Achievement Awards & Executive ReviewBronze: Earthbound Farm for expanding organic sales by 28%. ... 30, 2004, gross sales were $165 million or 56.5% higher than the same period in 2003. ...
nbj.stores.yahoo.net/ja20nbbuacaw.html - 46k

Monterey Herald
Ire over plan's ag land proposal...Larry Parsons
http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/montereyherald/news/local/15571138.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
A proposal to offset the future loss of Monterey County farmland to development in the proposed county general plan provoked heated protests Wednesday before county planning commissioners. Another proposal to require water-quality tests on new agricultural wells in the draft general plan -- a 20-year growth blueprint for unincorporated areas -- also hit sore points with members of the public and some commissioners. Christopher Bunn Jr., a farm industry spokesman, said the proposal to require farmland developers to preserve twice as much farmland elsewhere in the county "is particularly designed to send a
farmer's blood pressure up." County planners said the farmland-protection measure was suggested as a means of mitigating the inevitable loss of important farmland to development during the next 20 years. Commissioners suggested changes that would make the program an option, rather than a requirement, to move ahead with a farmland-conversion project...critics said, the proposal would increase land and housing costs and prove very expensive to developers seeking to acquire farmland conservation easements from a shrinking pool of farmland owners willing to sell development rights.
The Planning Commission is in the midst of reviewing the draft general plan -- the
fourth land-use blueprint produced by the county during a seven-year, politically charged debate over rural growth...

The Three Mile Island of Biotech?
John Nichols
The Nation -- Dec. 12, 2002
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20021230/nichols

... According to research by the ACGA, US corn farmers have already lost more than $814 million in foreign sales over the past five years as a result of restrictions on genetically modified food imports imposed by Europe, Japan and other countries.

"When it comes to what is being proposed, and what is actually happening with regard to genetic modification of food crops, we're absolutely navigating uncharted waters at a high rate of speed. And we're being pushed to speed up by people with dollar signs in their eyes and no concern whatsoever for farmers or consumers," says Nebraska Farmers Union president John Hansen. "There may be a television program here or an article there about what's happening, but I don't think most Americans have any idea of the extent to which things have been pushed forward without the kind of research and precautions that ordinary common sense would demand." ...

| »

Historic settlement on the San Joaquin River

Submitted: Sep 13, 2006

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Friant Water Users Authority reached an unprecedented settlement agreement Wednesday to restore the flow of the San Joaquin River. NRDC, representing a number of local, state and federal environmental groups, and the FWUA had been at war in court for 18 years.

"Bringing the San Joaquin River back to life will be one of the greatest restoration projects ever undertaken in the United States,” said Peter Moyle, professor of Fisheries biology at UC Davis.

A 60-miles stretch of the river in western Fresno County has been dry since the dam was built in the late 1940s due to irrigation diversions south in the Friant-Kern Canal and north in the Madera Canal.

The settlement agreement documents were handed at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning to the court of Judge Stanley Karlton, United States District Court, Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division.

It is anticipated that the increased flows to the river will be enough to provide for both spring and fall runs of Chinook salmon. Before the Friant Dam was constructed, creating Lake Millerton at the base of the Sierra foothills east of the City of Fresno, the San Joaquin River was the southernmost range of the Chinook.

“As a farmer who grew up on the San Joaquin River, I know that salmon and farming can coexist-I’ve seen it,” said Walt Shubin, Fresno County raisin farmer.

Between now and 2026, between 15-20 percent of the water formerly flowing to long-term Friant irrigators will go to restoring the river. A number of financial devises, which the settlement agreement suggests in draft federal legislation should be under the control of the secretary of the Department of Interior, will pay for restoration of the river channel and flood control downstream of the Friant Dam. Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, chairman of the House Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water and Power, has already scheduled in hearing to hear this suggested legislation. Both sides expressed optimism Wednesday that the House could pass it before the end of the year. According to the settlement, the agreement is void-able if the resources committee – chaired by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy – does not approve the bill.

Kole Upton, representing the 15,000 farmers on about one million acres and a number of towns in FWUA, already experienced in conjunctive use techniques, expressed optimism that the irrigators would find the right combination of recirculation, recapture, reuse and exchange or transfer programs to continue farming. He said the irrigators needed certainty about the amounts of water they would receive, which the settlement gives them.

The settlement proposes that about $11 million per year in fees currently paid by the irrigators will be dedicated to river improvement; the proposed legislation (part of the agreement) could produce an additional $250 million in federal funds, either through bonding, guaranteed loans or other financing. The settlement also anticipates financial participation by the state of California. Greg Wilkerson, attorney for FWUA, said the $5.4 billion Clean Water and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006 (Prop. 84) contains $100 million earmarked for San Joaquin River restoration.

After the press conference, Hal Candee, lead attorney for NRDC, released an orphaned Red-Tailed Hawk, raised by the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center before a crowd of about 50 people from the media and parties to the lawsuit.

What people are saying about the settlement agreement:

Restoring the San Joaquin River will benefit salmon and numerous other native wildlife species and it will improve the natural habitat along much of the river. It will also improve the quality of life for Valley residents and provide recreational opportunities. – Lydia Miller, president, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center

… Over 150 mile4s of river will once again provide vital habitat for not only salmon but for a wide array of other nativ3 fish, plants and wildlife. Restoring one of California’s long lost salmon runs will be strong symbol of our willingness to make California a better place for both wildlife and people. I also anticipate that restoring flows to the river will have a positive effect on the Delta, an ecosystem in crisis. This monumental restoration effort could not come at a better time. – Peter Moyle, professor of fisheries biology, UC Davis.

Over the past century, West Coast salmon rivers have been devastated by water development and other activities. This agreement provides salmon fishermen with a ray of hope. A restored San Joaquin River will literally bring back to life one of California’s greatest salmon rivers. Our fishing communities deserve a little good news. – Zeke Grader, executive director, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association

Drying up the San Joaquin River harmed more than fish. It virtually destroyed the water supply for farmers in the Delta. Restoring the San Joaquin River will help rectify a national disgrace by restoring fisheries and improving water quality, benefiting farmers along the San Joaquin River and in the Delta. Restoring the river is good for farmers, the Delta and all of California. – Dante Nomellini, manager and co-counsel, Central Delta Water Agency.

This settlement represents the triumph of optimism and collaboration among the parties. A jointly supported restoration plan is the best outcome for all. It reverses a historic wrong by reviving a living San Joaquin River for the California public, which owns this important resource. This agreement also demonstrates that the laws protecting the public’s rivers are alive and well. – Philip Atkins-Patterson, outside counsel for the NRDC Coalition, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton LLP

The San Joaquin River is the missing limb of San Francisco Bay. Dewatering the river severed the connection between the Bay and a critical part of its watershed. Restoring flows and salmon to the San Joaquin will not only revive a great river but also improve water quality and habitat conditions in the Bay, at a time when it is facing unprecedented threats. – Gary Bobker, program director, The Bay Institute

This is a truly historic settlement that not only breathes life into a dead river but will measurably improve water quality and lessen human health impacts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. State and federal agencies would do well to consider the elements of this settlement as they begin to fashion a vision for the future of the Bay-Delta estuary. – Bill Jennings, executive director, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance

…this agreement to restore the San Joaquin can bring back this important part of our natural heritage. In fact, restoring flows for salmon could be the best thing to happen to our overdrafted aquifer in Fresno and Madera counties in 60 years. Walt Shubin, Fresno County raisin grower

The settlement shows the remarkable things that people can accomplish when they work together to restore damaged ecosystems. Trout Unlimited and its 15,000 California members are thrilled that this historic agreement puts California on a course to bringing salmon back to this once-mighty river. – Chuck Bonham, senior attorney, California director, Trout Unlimited.

Some irrigation districts north of Fresno, who unsuccessfully tried to enter the settlement meetings before the agreement was reached, have expressed concerns about its impacts on them and are lobbying for a say in decisions during the implementation stage of the agreement.

| »

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."
------

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!
-------------

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.
--------

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

| »

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
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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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COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN!

Submitted: Aug 14, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there!

COME ON DOWN!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COME ON DOWN TO POMBOZASTAN!

We got the barrel; you bring the pork.

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and other members of the concerned public always wondered how developers in Merced County rode roughshod over local, state and federal environmental laws, regulations, agencies and its own public. But, rarely have they been granted the insight provided by this telephone message, recorded on Feb. 3, 2006.
Badlands has blocked out the last two numbers of the telephones the developer left for return calls from the supervisor he thought he’d called as a courtesy to the developer.
Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you! ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6-3-06
Merced Sun-Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4-1-05

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

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

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

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

Italics added.

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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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State Supreme Court decides for City of Marina against CSU

Submitted: Aug 01, 2006

The California Supreme Court yesterday decided the Marina, City of v. Board of Trustees (CSU) case in favor of Marina. The state high court found that the argument of California State University, Monterey Bay that state agencies have no obligation to pay for off-site mitigation, defined in environmental impact reports arising from their construction or expansion, was without merit.

The San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and the Central Valley Safe Environment Network filed an amicus brief on the side of the City of Marina, et al. The University of California filed an amicus brief on the side of CSU.

Below, you will find a newspaper article, the docket of the case, and the state Supreme Court decision.
-------------------------------

Modesto Bee
CSU must fund Monterey Bay...AP
http://www.modbee.com/state_wire/story/12526098p-13239942c.html
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - California State University cannot skirt its financial obligations to the environment if it wants to expand its Monterey Bay campus, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday. A CSU spokeswoman said trustees would negotiate a payment plan with the Fort Ord Reuse Authority and would ask California lawmakers to pick up that tab for the growing 1,375-acre campus.
----------------------

For more information on this case, please go to:
http://appellatecases.courtinfo.ca.gov/search/dockets.cfm?dist=0&doc_id=281894
--------------------------
Docket (Register of Actions)
MARINA, CITY OF v. BOARD OF TRUSTEESCase Number S117816

Date Description Notes
07/29/2003 Received: petition for review from resp Fort Ord Reuse Authority. (did not contain proper cert. of word count, counsel is sending it)

07/29/2003 Petition for review filed by counsel for resp Fort Ord Reuse Authority (word count cert rec'd)

08/04/2003 Received Court of Appeal record 1 envelope and briefs.

08/19/2003 Answer to petition for review filed by counsel for appellant (Board of Trustees of the California State University). (timely per rule 40k)

09/18/2003 Time extended to grant or deny review The time for granting or denying review in the above-entitled matter is hereby extended to and including October 27, 2003, or the date upon which review is either granted or denied.

10/01/2003 Petition for review granted (civil case) Votes: George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, Brown and Moreno, JJ.

10/06/2003 Record requested requested balance of record.

10/07/2003 Received Court of Appeal record balance of record.

10/14/2003 Certification of interested entities or persons filed By counsel for Respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}.

10/15/2003 Request for extension of time filed by respondent (Fort Ord Reuse Authority) requesting to Dec. 15, 2003 to file opening brief on the merits.

10/17/2003 Certification of interested entities or persons filed by counsel for appellant (Board of Trustees of the Calif. State University).

10/20/2003 Extension of time granted On application of respondent (Fort Ord Reuse Authority) and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the opening brief on the merits is extended to and including Dec. 15, 2003. No further extensions are contemplated.

12/15/2003 Request for extension of time filed respondent requesting to Dec. 29, 2003 to file opening brief on the merits. (Recv'd fax from attorney Susan M. Popik on behalf of attorney Mary L. Hudson, counsel for respondent.)

12/17/2003 Extension of time granted On application submitted by Susan Popik on behalf of counsel for respondent and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the opening brief on the merits is extended to and including December 29, 2003.

12/30/2003 Opening brief on the merits filed by counsel for respondent (Fort Ord Reuse Authority). (40k)

01/05/2004 Received: Errata notice from counsel for respondent regarding opening brief on the merits filed 12/30/03. Provided page 50 that was missing from brief.

01/22/2004 Request for extension of time filed by counsel for appellant requesting a 30 day extension to file the answer brief on the merits.

01/26/2004 Extension of time granted On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the answer brief on the merits is extended to and including March 1, 2004.

01/27/2004 Received Court of Appeal record two boxes

02/17/2004 Filed: application for leave to file answer brief on the merits in excess of 14000 words - from appellant.

02/17/2004 Answer brief on the merits filed with permission by counsel for appellant (Board of Trustees of the Calif. State University.

03/09/2004 Reply brief filed (case fully briefed) with permission by counsel for respondent. (tan covers - should be white) (40k)

04/06/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief from the Regents of the University of California in support of appellant

04/07/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief City of Davis in support of Respondents.

04/07/2004 Request for extension of time to file amicus curiae brief by The Coalition for Adequate School Housing ("CASH") requesting a 20-day extension.

04/07/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief by League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties in support of respondent Fort Ord Reuse Authority.

04/08/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief by West Davis Neighbors in support of respondents City of Marina and Fort Ord Reuse Authority.

04/08/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief by San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, and Central Valley Safe Environmental Network in support of respondent Fort Ord Reuse Authority.

04/12/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted The Regents of the University of California in support of appellant.

04/12/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed The Regents of the University of California in support of appellant. Answer is due within twenty days.

04/12/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted City of Davis in support of Respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}.

04/12/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed City of Davis in support of respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}. Answer is due within twenty days.

04/12/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties in support of Respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}.

04/12/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties in support of Respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}. Answer is within twenty days.

04/12/2004 Extension of time granted To April 28, 2004 to file application and amicus brief of Coalition for Adequate School Housing.

04/12/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and Central Valley Safe Environmental Network in support of respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}.

04/12/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and Central Valley Safe Environmental Network in support of respondent {Fort Ord Reuse Authority}.Answer is due within twenty days.

04/13/2004 Opposition filed By Respondent Fort Ord Reuse Authority to request for extension of time filed by Adequate School Housing.

04/13/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted West Davis Neighbors in support of Respondents.

04/13/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed West Davis Neighbors in support of Respondents. Answer is due within twenty days.

04/19/2004 Filed: JOINT Application of ( Applt. Bd. of Trustees and Resp. Fort Ord.) for extension of time to May 18, 2004, to file one consolidated answer to amicus curiae briefs.

04/21/2004 Request for extension of time filed

04/26/2004 Extension of time granted for Appellant and Respondents to serve and file one consolidated Answer to Amicus Curiae briefs to May 18, 2004.

04/29/2004 Received application to file amicus curiae brief Coalition for Adequate School Housing.

05/03/2004 Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted The Coalition For Adequate School Housing. Answer due within 20 days.

05/03/2004 Amicus curiae brief filed The Coalition for Adequate School Housing in support of Appellant. Answer due within in 20 days.

05/18/2004 Response to amicus curiae brief filed By appellant {Board of Trustees of the California State University} to AC Briefs.

05/19/2004 Response to amicus curiae brief filed Respondent ( Fort Ord) one consolidated brief.

04/04/2006 Case ordered on calendar Tuesday, May 2, 2006, at 1:30 p.m., in San Francisco

04/21/2006 Supplemental brief filed Fort Ord Reuse Authority, respondent Sheri L. Damon, counsel

05/02/2006 Cause argued and submitted

07/27/2006 Received: letter dated July 25, 2006, regarding recent decision of a Court of Appeal case, # D046728 Fort Ord Reuse Authority, respondent Mary L. Hudson, counsel

07/31/2006 Opinion filed: Judgment reversed and the cause remanded to that court with directions to order the superior court to vacate its writ of mandate and to issue a new writ consistent with the views set forth in this opinion.Majority Opinion by Werdegar, J. joined by George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Moreno and Corrigan, JJ. Concurring & Dissenting Opinion by Chin, J.

Filed 7/31/06
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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

CITY OF MARINA et al., )
) S117816
Plaintiffs and Respondents, )
) Ct.App. 6 H023158
v. )
) Monterey County
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE ) Super. Ct. Nos.
CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, ) M41795 & M41781
)
Defendant and Appellant. )

The Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) challenges an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared by the Board of Trustees of the California State University (Trustees). The EIR concerns the Trustees’ plan to expand a small campus into a major institution that will enroll 25,000 students. The planned expansion will have significant effects on the physical environment throughout Fort Ord, the former Army base on which the campus is located. While the Trustees have agreed to mitigate effects occurring on the campus itself, they have disclaimed responsibility for mitigating some effects occurring off campus. In particular, the Trustees have refused to share the cost of certain infrastructure improvements proposed by FORA, the base’s new civilian governing authority. FORA challenges the Trustees’ decision to certify the EIR despite the remaining, unmitigated effects as an abuse of discretion under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.) (CEQA). Like the superior court, we conclude the Trustees have abused their discretion and thus reverse the Court of Appeal’s contrary decision.

I. FACTUAL, LEGAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Fort Ord is a former United States Army base on the Pacific Coast, about five miles north of Monterey and 125 miles south of San Francisco. The base lies on the northern end of Monterey Bay, an important tourist destination known for its scenic beauty and historic sites. In 1994, the Department of Defense formally closed the base and transferred 27,000 acres (over 42 square miles) to a variety of governmental entities and local organizations. The closure created both problems and opportunities for the region. On one hand, the loss of one of the nation’s largest military installations threatened to disrupt the local economy. On the other hand, valuable land that for over 75 years had been exclusively controlled by the Army became available for civilian economic development.

To provide a government for the former base and to manage its transition to civilian use, the Legislature enacted the Fort Ord Reuse Authority Act (Gov. Code, § 67650 et seq.) (hereafter the FORA Act or the act). Effective May 9, 1994, the act authorized FORA’s creation and conferred upon it governmental powers and duties within the former base that prevail over those of any other local governmental entity. (Id., § 67657, subd. (c).) FORA’s general statutory purpose is “to plan for, finance, and carry out the transfer and reuse of the base in a cooperative, coordinated, balanced, and decisive manner.” (Gov. Code, § 67652, subd. (a).) The act also charges FORA with the more specific policy goals of “facilitat[ing] the transfer and reuse of the real and other property [of the base] . . . with all practical speed,” “minimiz[ing] the disruption caused by the base’s closure on the civilian economy and the people of the Monterey Bay area,” “maintain[ing] and protect[ing] the unique environmental resources of the area,” and accomplishing these tasks “in ways that enhance the economy and quality of life of the Monterey Bay community.” (Id., § 67651, subds. (a)-(d).) The 13 members of FORA’s governing board are appointed by local governments neighboring the base—Monterey County and the Cities of Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas, Sand City and Seaside. (Id., § 67660.) Also on the board are 10 ex officio, nonvoting members, including one appointed by the Chancellor of the California State University. (Id., § 67661.)

The charter for Fort Ord’s future use and development is the statutorily mandated Base Reuse Plan (hereafter Reuse Plan), which FORA adopted on June 13, 1997. (See Gov. Code, § 67675 et seq.) The plan addresses land use, transportation, conservation, recreation and capital improvement in Fort Ord until the year 2015. (See id., § 67675, subd. (c).) Pursuant to the plan, FORA will make land available over time for a wide range of civilian uses, including residential housing, business, light industry, research and development, visitor services, recreation and education. All such development will require improvements to the infrastructure the Army left behind. Recognizing this, the Legislature gave FORA the power and duty to prepare the base’s infrastructure for civilian development. In the words of the act, FORA “shall identify those basewide public capital facilities . . . that serve residents or will serve future residents of the base territory” (Gov. Code, § 67679, subd. (a)(1)) and “shall undertake to plan for and arrange the provision of those facilities, including arranging for their financing and construction or repair, remodeling, or replacement” (ibid.; see also id., § 67675, subd. (c)(5) [Reuse Plan must include capital improvement plan]).

FORA has, as the Legislature directed, prepared a capital improvement plan identifying public facilities that need construction or improvement and projecting future expenditures for that purpose through the year 2015. (See Gov. Code, § 67675, subd. (c)(5).) The facilities FORA has identified include elements of Fort Ord’s infrastructure for transportation (mainly roadways), water supply and distribution, wastewater management, drainage, and fire protection, among other things. FORA plans to improve these facilities over the life of the Reuse Plan, as increasing land use necessitates the improvements and as funding becomes available. Funding is not expected to come through legislative appropriations. Instead, the Legislature has directed FORA to arrange its own financing as it sees fit (Gov. Code, § 67679, subd. (a)(1)), employing any of several funding methods authorized in the FORA Act. FORA may, for example, “levy assessments, reassessments, or special taxes and issue bonds” under existing laws governing public finance (id., § 67679, subd. (d)), “levy development fees on development projects within the area of the base” (id., § 67679, subd. (e)) pursuant to the Mitigation Fee Act (id., § 66000 et seq.), sell or lease land (id., § 67678, subd. (a)), and “seek state and federal grants and loans or other assistance” (id., § 67679, subd. (c)). FORA and its local-government member agencies (id., § 67660) may also provide by contract for the transfer of tax revenues (id., § 67691) and/or adopt programs of local revenue sharing (id., § 67692).

In order to determine the long-term financial viability of the Reuse Plan, FORA has prepared a Comprehensive Business Plan setting out assumptions about projected revenue and expenditures. As part of this exercise—one obviously subject to numerous contingencies given the long planning horizon—FORA has projected that it will spend $249.2 million to improve Fort Ord’s infrastructure over the 20-year life of the Reuse Plan, i.e., from 1996 to 2015. FORA projects that the largest part of its operational revenue over the same period will derive from the sale of land and from a one-time special tax under the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982 (Gov. Code, § 53311 et seq.). Other revenue is expected to come through local development fees, water and sewer fees, a grant from the federal Economic Development Administration, and the annual dues of FORA’s members.

The California State University (CSU) is the largest university system in the United States. Governed by the Trustees, CSU’s 23 campuses across the state collectively enroll 405,000 students and employ 44,000 faculty and staff. CSU Monterey Bay (CSUMB), which occupies 1,370 acres transferred by the Army to CSU in 1994, is presently the main user of the base. CSUMB opened in 1995 with 633 students, using existing military buildings, and now enrolls approximately 3,800 students, 2,600 of whom live on campus. From this modest beginning the Trustees plan to expand enrollment at CSUMB greatly over the next few decades, eventually reaching the target enrollment of 25,000 full-time equivalent (FTE ) students in the year 2030. On May 13, 1998, the Trustees approved a Campus Master Plan (hereafter Master Plan) to guide CSUMB toward this target. Under the Master Plan, CSUMB’s resident population of students, faculty, staff and household members would gradually increase to 10,350. The campus’s average daily population, which also includes students who commute, would grow to 19,000.

Together with the Master Plan for CSUMB, the Trustees also prepared and certified an EIR. The EIR is the focus of the environmental review process and, as we have explained, “the primary means” of achieving the state’s declared policy of taking “ ‘all action necessary to protect, rehabilitate, and enhance the environmental quality of the state.’ ” (Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California (1988) 47 Cal.3d 376, 392, quoting Pub. Resources Code, § 21000, subd. (a); see also CEQA Guidelines, § 15003, subd. (a).) The EIR’s more specific purposes are “to identify the significant effects on the environment of a project, to identify alternatives to the project, and to indicate the manner in which those significant effects can be mitigated or avoided.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (a).) CEQA expressly requires that an EIR accompany the Master Plan for CSUMB. “The selection of a location for a particular campus and the approval of a long range development plan are subject to [CEQA] and require the preparation of an [EIR].” (Id., § 21080.09, subd. (b).) The Trustees necessarily serve as the “lead agency” (id., § 21067) responsible for preparing and certifying the EIR (id., § 21100, subd. (a)) because they possess “full power and responsibility in the construction and development of any state university campus” (Ed. Code, § 66606) and thus final authority to approve or disapprove the Master Plan.

In their EIR for CSUMB, the Trustees have determined that expanding CSUMB to accommodate 25,000 students will have many significant effects on the physical environment of Fort Ord. CEQA requires “[e]ach public agency [to] mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b)) and to discuss feasible methods of mitigation in the EIR (id., § 21100, subd. (b)(3); CEQA Guidelines, § 15126.4, subd. (a)(1); see also Pub. Res. Code, § 21002.1, subd. (a) [one purpose of the EIR is “to indicate the manner in which . . . significant effects can be mitigated or avoided”].) In fact, the Trustees’ EIR does identify and adopt specific measures that the Trustees have found will mitigate most of the environmental effects of campus expansion to a level that is less than significant. Full mitigation of five remaining effects, however, will require action not just by the Trustees on the CSUMB campus but also by FORA on a basewide or regional basis. These remaining effects have become the subject of this litigation.

The Trustees’ EIR describes the five remaining environmental effects, for which the Trustees have not provided full mitigation, as follows: (1) Drainage: “Construction of new buildings and facilities will increase impervious surfaces and runoff, and could result in localized drainage problems and/or flows exceeding storm drain capacities, if storm drainage facilities are not adequately sized and maintained.” (2) Water supply: “CSUMB water demand will contribute incremental demands on existing deficient facilities and/or non-existent facilities.” (3) Traffic: “Campus-related traffic will result in a decrease in level of service from D to E[ ] at the [Light Fighter] Drive/North-South Road intersection[ ] during the PM peak period in the year 2005, from D to E along Del Monte Blvd. between Reindollar [Avenue] and Reservation Road[ ] in the years 2005 and 2015, and will contribute to Highway 1 impacts in the years 2015 and 2030.” (4) Wastewater management: “Campus growth will result in increased wastewater generation that can be accommodated by the existing wastewater treatment system, but will contribute flows to currently deficient sewer lines.” (5) Fire protection: “Campus population and facility growth will result in increased demand for fire protection services.”

Before a public agency, such as the Trustees, may approve a project for which the EIR has identified significant effects on the environment, such as the Master Plan for CSUMB, the agency must make one or more of the findings required by section 21081 of the Public Resources Code. The required findings constitute the principal means chosen by the Legislature to enforce the state’s declared policy “that public agencies should not approve projects as proposed if there are feasible alternatives or feasible mitigation measures available which would substantially lessen the significant environmental effects of such projects . . . .” (Id., § 21002; see also id., § 21002.1, subd. (a).) More specifically, the agency must find that the project’s significant environmental effects have been mitigated or avoided (id., § 21081, subd. (a)(1)), that the measures necessary for mitigation “are within the responsibility and jurisdiction of another public agency and have been, or can and should be, adopted by that other agency” (id., subd. (a)(2)), and/or that “specific economic, legal, social, technological, or other considerations” render mitigation “infeasible” (id., subd. (a)(3)). When the agency finds that mitigation is infeasible, the agency must also find “that specific overriding economic, legal, social, technological, or other benefits of the project outweigh the significant effects on the environment.” (Id., subd. (b).)

In their EIR, the Trustees have identified and adopted a variety of measures they have found will partially mitigate the five remaining environmental effects noted above. Full mitigation of these effects to the level of insignificance will, however, as the EIR specifically notes, require FORA to improve Fort Ord’s infrastructure. In fact, FORA’s own planning documents take the Trustees’ plans for CSUMB into account and propose specific infrastructure improvements that will fully mitigate the expanding campus’s remaining effects on water supply, drainage, wastewater management, traffic, and fire protection. Concerning each of these effects, the Trustees have declared in their formal findings certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan (see Pub. Resources Code, § 21081) that the implementation of FORA’s proposed improvements constitutes the “specific measure to mitigate [each of CSUMB’s corresponding environmental impacts] to the level of insignificance . . . .”

As part of its long-term planning process, FORA adopted the assumption that that CSUMB would pay, as its share of the cost of infrastructure improvements, 18 annual installments of $1.139 million each, beginning in fiscal year 1997/1998 and ending in fiscal year 2015/2016, for a total contribution over time of approximately $20.5 million. At the present time, however, FORA has not imposed any tax, fee or charge on CSUMB or proposed to do so. Instead, FORA hopes to reach agreement with the Trustees on their fair share of the cost of infrastructure improvements. The Trustees, however, have refused to contribute any amount to FORA for improvements in roads and fire protection, even while finding that FORA’s proposed improvements constitute the specific measures necessary to mitigate CSUMB’s effects in these areas. Accordingly, the Trustees cannot logically find and, indeed, have not found that CSUMB’s effects have been fully mitigated. Instead, to justify certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan despite the remaining, unmitigated effects, the Trustees rely on the following three alternative findings: (1) improvements to roads and fire protection are the responsibility of FORA rather than of the Trustees; (2) mitigation is infeasible because the Trustees may not legally contribute funds toward these improvements; and (3) the planned expansion of CSUMB offers overriding benefits that outweigh any remaining unmitigated effects on the environment. (See Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subds. (a)(2), (3) & (b).)

While the Trustees have refused to contribute any amount for improvements in roads and fire protection, they are willing to contribute for improvements in water supply, drainage and wastewater management, albeit not in the amount FORA has proposed. Instead, the Trustees propose to contribute through the procedure set out in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (section 54999 et seq.). Chapter 13.7 authorizes a public utility that is providing a public utility service to a public educational agency to impose a capital facilities fee on the latter “after agreement has been reached between the two agencies through negotiations entered into by both parties.” (Gov. Code, § 54999.3, subd. (b).) The resulting dispute over the amount of the Trustees’ contribution creates uncertainty about the extent to which CSUMB’s off-campus environmental effects will be mitigated. Accordingly, to justify certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan for CSUMB, the Trustees have made alternative findings of the same type used to address CSUMB’s effects on roads and fire protection. Specifically, the Trustees have found that (1) the basewide infrastructure improvements proposed by FORA constitute the specific measures necessary to mitigate CSUMB’s effects to the level of insignificance, (2) the mitigation of CSUMB’s effects on drainage, water supply, and wastewater management are FORA’s responsibility, and (3) overriding circumstances justify certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan despite any remaining unmitigated effects.

In an appendix to the EIR addressing public comments, the Trustees explain why they have refused to contribute toward improvements in roads and fire protection, and why they have agreed to contribute toward improvements in drainage, water supply and wastewater management only through the procedure established in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.), even though these decisions will leave some environmental effects unmitigated. Whether the Trustees, in view of the unmitigated effects, properly exercised their discretion to certify the EIR and to approve the Master Plan for CSUMB depends in large part on whether they have correctly understood the nature and scope of their obligation to contribute to FORA. We thus briefly summarize the relevant portion of the appendix, which effectively defined the issues in the lower courts and anticipated the Trustees’ arguments in the present proceeding.

CSUMB’s land, the Trustees observe in the appendix to the EIR, is exempt from taxation as “[p]roperty owned by the State” under article XIII, section 3, subdivision (a) of the California Constitution. This constitutional provision has been interpreted as implicitly immunizing state-owned property from special assessments imposed by local governments, except as authorized by the Legislature. (San Marcos Water Dist. v. San Marcos Unified School Dist. (1986) 42 Cal.3d 154, 160-161 (San Marcos).) In reaction to San Marcos, the Legislature passed a law (chapter 13.7 of the Government Code, beginning with section 54999) authorizing any public agency that provides public utility services to a public educational agency to impose a “[c]apital facilities fee” on the latter “after agreement has been reached between the two agencies through negotiations entered into by both parties.” (Gov. Code, § 54999.3, subd. (b).) This law, which addresses only fees intended to “pay the capital cost of a public utility facility” (id., § 54999.1, subd. (b)), defines “ ‘[p]ublic utility facility’ ” for these purposes as “a facility for the provision of water, light, heat, communications, power, or garbage service, for flood control, drainage or sanitary purposes, or for sewage collection, treatment, or disposal” (id., subd. (d)). The FORA Act, in turn, provides that “[t]he applicability of any capital facilities fees imposed under this title [i.e., the FORA Act] to public educational agencies shall be subject to the provisions of Chapter 13.7 [of the Government Code] (commencing with section 54999) . . . .” (Gov. Code, § 67685.)

Based on these authorities, the Trustees conclude in the appendix that the Legislature has in effect authorized FORA to impose fees on CSUMB for the purposes mentioned in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (e.g., water, drainage and sewage; see id., § 54999.1, subd. (d)) but not for any other purposes not mentioned (e.g., roads and fire protection). Any payment to FORA for a purpose not mentioned in the section, the Trustees conclude, even a voluntary payment made in order to mitigate CSUMB’s environmental effects, would amount to an assessment prohibited by the state Constitution, as interpreted in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, and constitute a gift of public funds. Having thus concluded that any contribution by CSUMB to mitigate the campus’s effects on roads and fire protection would be unlawful, the Trustees further conclude that to mitigate these effects is “infeasible,” presumably for “legal” reasons (see Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subd. (a)(3)), and thus not required by CEQA because, in the Trustees’ view, overriding considerations justify proceeding with the project despite the unmitigated effects (see id., § 21081, subd. (b)).

A lengthy statement of overriding considerations accompanies the Trustees’ findings certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan for CSUMB. In the statement, the Trustees reiterate the requirements of CEQA, the content of the EIR, the principal features of the Master Plan for CSUMB, and favorable public comments on the EIR. The following excerpts summarize some of the considerations underlying the Trustees’ conclusion that campus expansion will offer benefits that outweigh any remaining unmitigated effects on the environment: “The CSU has identified the need for a university in the Monterey Bay area that addresses the projected demand for postsecondary education in the state of California by accommodating 25,000 [FTE students] at buildout. CSU recognizes official projections of future increases in the number of students to be served . . . which cannot be accommodated within [the] existing system capacity of the CSU. The reuse of Fort Ord for this purpose is particularly advantageous to the CSU because of the difficulty in acquiring campus-size parcels, the value of existing development on the site, and the attractive location of the site in the Monterey area. The master plan has been designed to provide an institution that will effectively serve the mission of the CSU system.” In addition, development of the campus will offer higher education to “historically underrepresented populations and cultures of the state of California,” “foster economic revitalization of a region impacted by closure of the largest residential military training facility in the nation” and “create job opportunities for approximately 2,760 faculty and staff as well as significant additional employment in university support activities.”

On May 13, 1998, the Trustees adopted resolutions approving the statement of overriding considerations, certifying the EIR, and approving the Master Plan for CSUMB. Thereafter, FORA and the City of Marina filed separate petitions for writ of mandate challenging the Trustees’ actions. The petitions alleged, among other things, that the Trustees had (1) failed to identify and adopt existing, feasible measures to mitigate significant effects on the environment described in the EIR, (2) improperly certified the EIR and approved the Master Plan despite the availability of feasible mitigation measures, (3) improperly disclaimed responsibility for mitigating CSUMB’s environmental effects, and (4) improperly relied on a statement of overriding considerations to justify certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan.

The superior court granted the petitions, issued its writ of mandate directing the Trustees to vacate their actions certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan, and to set aside the EIR’s statement of overriding considerations. A divided Court of Appeal reversed. We granted FORA’s petition for review.

II. DISCUSSION

The question before us is whether the Trustees have properly certified the EIR for CSUMB and, on that basis, approved the Master Plan. FORA contends the Trustees’ decision must be vacated because three findings critical to their decision depend on an erroneous legal assumption, namely, that the California Constitution precludes them from contributing to FORA, even for the purpose of mitigating the environmental effects identified in the EIR, except as expressly permitted by chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.). The first two challenged findings are (1) that the Trustees cannot feasibly mitigate CSUMB’s significant environmental effects and (2) that to mitigate CSUMB’s effects is not the Trustees’ responsibility. These two findings have, in turn, necessitated the third, which is (3) that overriding considerations justify certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan despite the remaining unmitigated effects. (See generally Pub. Resources Code, § 21081.) We conclude FORA is correct and that the Trustees have abused their discretion.
We review the Trustees’ decision, as CEQA directs, under the abuse of discretion standard. (See Pub. Resources Code, § 21168.5.) For these purposes, “[a]buse of discretion is established if the agency has not proceeded in a manner required by law or if the determination or decision is not supported by substantial evidence.” (Ibid.) Although this standard would command much deference to factual and environmental conclusions in the EIR based on conflicting evidence (e.g., Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California, supra, 47 Cal.3d 376, 393, 409), no such conclusions are here at issue. At issue, rather, are the Trustees’ findings that mitigation is infeasible and that mitigation is not their responsibility. These findings depend on a disputed question of law—a type of question we review de novo. De novo review of legal questions is consistent with the abuse of discretion standard. In the context of review for abuse of discretion, an agency’s “use of an erroneous legal standard constitutes a failure to proceed in a manner required by law.” (No Oil, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (1974) 13 Cal.3d 68, 88; see also Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Bd. of Supervisors (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 99, 118 [“questions of interpretation or application of the requirements of CEQA are matters of law”].) De novo review of legal questions is also consistent with the principle that, in CEQA cases, “ ‘[t]he court does not pass upon the correctness of the EIR’s environmental conclusions, but only upon its sufficiency as an `informative document.’ ” (Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California, supra, at p. 392, quoting County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 185, 189.) An EIR that incorrectly disclaims the power and duty to mitigate identified environmental effects based on erroneous legal assumptions is not sufficient as an informative document.

A. Is Mitigation Infeasible?

1. Is mitigation infeasible because the Trustees may not lawfully contribute to FORA?

We consider first the Trustees’ finding that they cannot feasibly mitigate the environmental effects of their plan to expand the CSUMB campus. CEQA defines “ ‘[f]easible’ ” for these purposes as “capable of being accomplished in a successful manner within a reasonable period of time, taking into account economic, environmental, social, and technological factors.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21061.1.) To this list, the CEQA Guidelines add “legal” factors. (CEQA Guidelines, § 15364; see also Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subd. (a)(3).) The Trustees, by arguing the state Constitution prohibits them from voluntarily contributing funds to FORA as a form of mitigation, in effect take the position that such contributions are legally infeasible. We discuss here only the permissibility of voluntary payments by the Trustees. Some of the public financing laws that FORA has the power to invoke (see Gov. Code, § 67679, subd. (d)) would, as the Trustees acknowledge, permit FORA to assess state-owned property such as the CSUMB campus. FORA has not, however, attempted to impose an assessment.

The plain language of the California Constitution does not support the Trustees’ position that voluntary mitigation payments are impermissible. The provision on which the Trustees rely, article XIII, section 3, subdivision (a), provides simply that “[p]roperty owned by the State” is “exempt from property taxation . . . .” FORA has not imposed a tax on the Trustees. We have, however, interpreted the same constitutional provision as implicitly exempting publicly owned property from special assessments made without legislative authority. (Inglewood v. County of Los Angeles (1929) 207 Cal. 697, 703-704; see also Regents of University of California v. City of Los Angeles (1979) 100 Cal.App.3d 547, 549; County of Riverside v. Idyllwild County Water Dist. (1978) 84 Cal.App.3d 655, 659-660; cf. Regents of University of California v. City of Los Angeles (1983) 148 Cal.App.3d 451, 454, fn. 2 [questioning whether the exemption is grounded in policy considerations rather than the Constitution].) We reaffirmed this conclusion in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, 160-161, the case on which the Trustees principally rely. The Trustees, as noted, argue based on San Marcos that any payment by themselves to FORA for the purpose of improving Fort Ord’s infrastructure would constitute a special assessment prohibited in the absence of legislative authority. The Trustees find in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.) legislative authority for payments related to subjects mentioned therein, such as water, drainage and sewage collection (id., § 54999.1, subd. (d)), but not for any purpose not mentioned, such as roads and fire protection.

The Trustees have misinterpreted San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154. The decision addresses only compulsory charges imposed by one public entity on another. The case has nothing to say about a discretionary payment made by a public agency that voluntarily chooses that method of discharging its duty under CEQA to mitigate the environmental effects of its project. Because the Trustees’ interpretation of San Marcos critically underlies their position in this case, we examine the decision and its consequences in detail.

At issue in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, was the validity of a “capacity fee” (id., at p. 157) imposed by a public water district on a public school district. The specific question was whether the capacity fee was a user fee, which the school district conceded it would have to pay, or a special assessment, from which the school district was exempt under the cases cited above. The court held the school district was exempt. The purpose of the fee was not to pay for water service but to provide a source of funds for capital improvements to the water system. (Id., at p. 159.) The capacity fee thus fit the definition of a special assessment as “ ‘a compulsory charge placed by [the government] upon real property within a pre-determined district, made under express legislative authority for defraying in whole or in part the expense of a permanent public improvement therein . . . .’ ” (San Marcos, at p. 161, quoting Spring Street Co. v. City of Los Angeles (1915) 170 Cal. 24, 29.) In applying this definition, the court “look[ed] to the purpose of the fee being charged, and not simply to the form of the fee, a matter which can be easily manipulated.” (San Marcos, at p. 163.) Accordingly, the court attributed no significance to the fact the water district had calculated the charge by reference to the volume of water the school district anticipated using—a characteristic typical of user fees. While the assessment’s form thus caused it to resemble a user fee in some respects, the water district was not permitted “ ‘to do indirectly that which it could not do directly.’ ” (Ibid., quoting County of Riverside v. Idyllwild County Water Dist., supra, 84 Cal.App.3d 655, 659-660.)

In summary, the court in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, announced two holdings: the court reiterated the existing rule that publicly owned property was exempt from special assessment absent “ ‘positive legislative authority therefor’ ” (id., at p. 161, quoting Inglewood v. County of Los Angeles, supra, 207 Cal. 697, 704), and the court determined that the particular charge at issue was an assessment rather than a user fee (San Marcos, at pp. 163-165). The court found analogous support for its conclusions in prior decisions identifying “[t]he rationale behind a public entity’s exemption from property taxes and special assessments [as being] to prevent one tax-supported entity from siphoning tax money from another such entity; the end result of such a process [possibly being] unnecessary administrative costs and no actual gain in tax revenues.” (San Marcos, at p. 161, citing Eisley v. Mohan (1948) 31 Cal.2d 637, 642.) The court also acknowledged, perhaps bluntly, one of the more significant consequences of its holding: “Our conclusion does not mean,” the court wrote, “that the water district cannot collect money for capital improvements from its customers; it simply means that the private customers will pay the entire cost of capital improvements. Public entities, such as the school district, will not be required to allocate their limited tax revenues to pay for capital improvements built by the sewer district.” (San Marcos, at p. 158.)

The Legislature promptly reacted to the decision in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, by authorizing public utilities to charge public-entity customers their fair share of the utilities’ capital costs and by ratifying fees previously imposed for that purpose. Under chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.), enacted in response to San Marcos, “[a]ny public agency providing public utility service” may impose on any public agency a “capital facilities fee” (id., § 54999.2), meaning “any nondiscriminatory charge to pay the capital cost of a public utility facility” (id., § 54999.1, subd. (b)). A “ ‘[p]ublic utility facility’ ” for these purposes is “a facility for the provision of water, light, heat, communications, power, or garbage service, for flood control, drainage or sanitary purposes, or for sewage collection, treatment, or disposal.” (Id., § 54999.1, subd. (d).) Motivating these changes to the law was the Legislature’s perception that public utilities and their public-entity customers, on the whole, had not shared the court’s understanding of the law. “[M]any public entities that provide public utility service,” the Legislature explained, “have imposed capital facilities fees applicable to users of public utility facilities in order to equitably apportion the cost of capital facilities construction or expansion required by all public and private users of the facilities.” As a result of San Marcos, however, “the fiscal stability and service capabilities of the affected public utility service agencies which have in good faith collected and spent these fees for capital improvements are seriously impaired as is the ability to finance essential future facilities.” (Gov. Code, § 54999, subd. (a).)

Against this background, we may easily reject the Trustees’ argument that they may not lawfully contribute to FORA as a way of discharging their obligation under CEQA to mitigate the environmental effects of their project to expand CSUMB. The Trustees’ three-part argument may be summarized as follows: (1) Any payment by the Trustees to FORA for the purpose of capital improvement in Fort Ord is an assessment, regardless of form; (2) public agencies are exempt from assessment except as permitted by the Legislature; and (3) the Legislature has permitted assessments only for the purposes set out in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.).

The Trustees err crucially at the outset. An assessment connotes, at the very least, a compulsory charge imposed by the government on real property. (Knox v. City of Orland (1992) 4 Cal.4th 132, 141; see also Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. v. Bolen (1992) 1 Cal.4th 654, 660; San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, 161; Spring Street Co. v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 170 Cal. 24, 29.) FORA has imposed no charge on the Trustees, let alone a compulsory one. As part of its planning process, FORA has made a provisional effort to estimate the Trustees’ fair share of the cost of infrastructure improvements, but FORA has taken no steps to create an enforceable legal obligation to pay. Indeed, FORA disclaims any intention to impose a charge on the Trustees and looks instead exclusively to a negotiated payment. This case is not a collection action or an action to validate an assessment. Instead, FORA claims the Trustees have abused their discretion under CEQA by certifying an EIR that improperly fails to identify voluntary contributions to FORA as a feasible method of mitigating the environmental effects of their project to expand CSUMB.

In other words, the question of payment arises not because FORA has imposed a charge (it has not), but because CEQA requires the Trustees to avoid or mitigate, if feasible, the significant environmental effects of their project (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b)) and because payments to FORA may represent a feasible form of mitigation. To illustrate the point, if campus expansion requires that roads or sewers be improved, the Trustees may do the work themselves on campus, but they have no authority to build roads or sewers off campus on land that belongs to others. Yet the Trustees are not thereby excused from the duty to mitigate or avoid CSUMB’s off-campus effects on traffic or wastewater management, because CEQA requires a public agency to mitigate or avoid its projects’ significant effects not just on the agency’s own property but “on the environment” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b), italics added), with “environment” defined for these purposes as “the physical conditions which exist within the area which will be affected by a proposed project” (id., § 21060.5, italics added). Thus, if the Trustees cannot adequately mitigate or avoid CSUMB’s off-campus environmental effects by performing acts on campus (as by reducing sufficiently the use of automobiles or the volume of sewage), then to pay a third party such as FORA to perform the necessary acts off campus may well represent a feasible alternative. A payment made under these circumstances can properly be described neither as compulsory nor, for that reason, as an assessment.

Arguing to the contrary, the Trustees emphasize the court’s statement in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, 163, that courts will identify an assessment by “look[ing] to the purpose of the fee being charged, and not simply to the form of the fee, a matter which can be easily manipulated.” Based on this statement, the Trustees argue that a voluntary payment made to fund projects that might also be funded by an assessment, such as infrastructure projects, must be considered an assessment for all purposes. The San Marcos court announced no such conclusion. Instead, the court made the quoted statement in the context of determining whether an admittedly compulsory charge was a user fee or an assessment. Nothing in San Marcos speaks to voluntary payments or purports to address or narrow any public agency’s duties under CEQA.

The Trustees also seek to draw support from the court’s statement in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, of the reason traditionally thought to underlie the rule exempting public property from taxation, i.e., that the exemption “prevent[s] one tax-supported entity from siphoning tax money from another such entity; the end result of such a process [possibly being] unnecessary administrative costs and no actual gain in tax revenues.” (Id., at p. 161.) Inviting an analogy, the Trustees point out that any payment by CSU to FORA for infrastructure improvements will reduce the amount of money available to CSU for its core educational functions. The Trustees read too much into San Marcos. While there does exist a general rule to the effect that “[p]roperty owned by the State” is exempt from taxation (Cal. Const., art. XIII, § 3, subd. (a)), no rule precludes a public entity from sharing with another the cost of improvements benefiting both. Furthermore, while education may be CSU’s core function, to avoid or mitigate the environmental effects of its projects is also one of CSU’s functions. This is the plain import of CEQA, in which the Legislature has commanded that “[e]ach public agency shall mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b), italics added; see also id., § 21002 [declaring the same obligation to be “the policy of the state”].) Nothing in San Marcos can fairly be read as addressing, much less narrowing, a public agency’s obligations under CEQA.

The Trustees, as noted, are willing to contribute to FORA for the limited purpose of mitigating CSUMB’s effects on drainage, water supply, and wastewater management under the terms of chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.). Chapter 13.7, as already explained, contains the law the Legislature passed in the wake of San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, authorizing public utilities to charge public-entity customers their fair share of the utilities’ capital costs. Under the law, “any public agency proposing to initially impose a capital facilities fee . . . may do so after agreement has been reached between the two agencies through negotiations entered into by both parties.” (Gov. Code, § 54999.3, subd. (b).) In such a case, “[t]he public agency imposing . . . the capital facilities fee has the burden of producing evidence to establish that the capital facilities fee is nondiscriminatory and that the amount of the capital facilities fee does not exceed the amount necessary to provide capital facilities for which the fee is charged.” (Id., subd. (c).) The FORA Act expressly invokes this negotiative process by specifying that “[t]he applicability of any capital facilities fees imposed under this title [i.e., the FORA Act] to public educational agencies shall be subject to the provisions of Chapter 13.7 . . . .” (Gov. Code, § 67685.)

Because FORA has not imposed or sought to impose a capital facilities fee on the Trustees, chapter 13.7 does not literally apply. That having been said, we see no reason why an agreement between the Trustees and FORA regarding a voluntary payment negotiated according to the procedure set out in chapter 13.7 for the purpose of mitigating specified environmental effects (i.e., water supply, drainage and wastewater management) would not satisfy the Trustees’ CEQA obligations as to those effects. While the amount determined by negotiation may not equal the amount FORA originally projected, for its own planning purposes, that the Trustees would pay, nothing in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code, CEQA or the FORA Act permits FORA unilaterally to determine the amount of any voluntary contribution the Trustees may choose to make as a way of satisfying their obligation under CEQA to mitigate the environmental effects of their project. To the contrary, the Trustees as the lead agency under CEQA have the power and duty to assess the adequacy of mitigation measures, subject only to judicial review for abuse of discretion. (See Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California, supra, 47 Cal.3d 376, 393.) Furthermore, nothing in chapter 13.7 of the Government Code, CEQA or the FORA Act obliges the Trustees to pay more than is necessary to mitigate CSUMB’s effects. Certainly the Trustees need not pay to mitigate effects caused by other users of the base. To the contrary, CEQA requires that mitigation measures “be ‘roughly proportional’ to the impacts of the project.” (CEQA Guidelines, § 15126.4, subd. (a)(4)(B), citing Dolan v. City of Tigard (1994) 512 U.S. 374; cf. id., at p. 391.)

Finally on this point, the Trustees argue that chapter 13.7 of the Government Code (§ 54999 et seq.) and the FORA Act (id., § 67650 et seq.), which specifically authorize FORA to impose on the Trustees a negotiated fee for certain purposes (e.g., water supply, drainage and wastewater management), suggest the Legislature must have contemplated the Trustees would have no obligation to contribute to FORA for other purposes (e.g., the cost of improving roads and fire protection). We discern in the cited provisions, however, no evidence of a legislative intent to bar the Trustees from voluntarily contributing, as a way of meeting their CEQA obligations, their fair share of the cost of improvements to roads and fire protection necessitated by CSUMB’s expansion. On this point the FORA Act, as noted, provides simply that “[t]he applicability of any capital facilities fee imposed under this title to public educational agencies shall be subject to the provisions of Chapter 13.7 [of the same code].” (Gov. Code, § 67685, italics added.) Chapter 13.7, in turn, speaks only of fees “impose[d]” (id., § 54999.3, subd. (b), italics added) by public utilities. Because FORA has imposed no fee on the Trustees, neither Government Code section 67685 nor chapter 13.7 has any literal application to the present case. Moreover, neither law purports to limit the Trustees’ independent obligation under CEQA to protect the physical environment from the effects of their project to expand the CSUMB campus.

2. Is mitigation infeasible because a contribution by the Trustees to FORA would amount to a prohibited gift of public funds?

The Trustees next argue that any payment to FORA made otherwise than under Government Code chapter 13.7 (§ 54999 et seq.) would constitute an illegal gift of public funds. (See Cal. Const., art. XVI, § 6.) The argument invokes the court’s statement in San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, that the ability of the school district in that case to “agree to pay [the disputed capacity] charge depend[ed] upon whether the [water] district ha[d] the power to impose it,” and that payment of an invalid charge “would amount to a ‘gift of public funds’ in contravention of article XVI, section 6 of the California Constitution.” (San Marcos, at p. 167, quoting County of Riverside v. Idyllwild County Water Dist., supra, 84 Cal.App.3d 655, 660.) We have, however, already rejected the central premise of this argument, which is that a voluntary payment by the Trustees would constitute an assessment.

In any event, the relevant law makes clear that a payment by the Trustees for the purpose of mitigating CSUMB’s environmental effects would not constitute an unlawful gift of public funds. “It is well settled that, in determining whether an appropriation of public funds or property is to be considered a gift, the primary question is whether the funds are to be used for a ‘public’ or a ‘private’ purpose. If they are for a ‘public purpose’, they are not a gift within the meaning of [the Constitution].” (County of Alameda v. Janssen (1940) 16 Cal.2d 276, 281.) Such a payment by the Trustees would have the public purpose of discharging their duty as a public agency, under the express terms of CEQA, to “mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that [they] carr[y] out or approve[] whenever it is feasible to do so.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b).)

3. Is mitigation infeasible because the Trustees cannot guarantee that FORA will actually implement the proposed infrastructure improvements?

As a final reason why they cannot feasibly mitigate CSUMB’s environmental effects by voluntarily contributing to FORA, the Trustees argue they cannot guarantee that FORA will actually implement the infrastructure improvements proposed in the Reuse Plan. The argument is not persuasive.
In certifying the EIR and approving CSUMB’s Master Plan, the Trustees specifically found that the infrastructure improvements proposed by FORA constitute the “specific measure[s]” necessary to mitigate each of CSUMB’s corresponding environmental impacts to the level of insignificance. The Trustees did not find that mitigation of these impacts was feasible, however, in part because of asserted doubts about FORA’s ability to fund and implement the proposed improvements. CEQA, as noted, defines a “ ‘[f]easible’ ” mitigation measure as one that is “capable of being accomplished in a successful manner within a reasonable period of time, taking into account economic, environmental, social, and technological factors.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21061.1; see also CEQA Guidelines, § 15364.) Invoking this definition, the Trustees found in the EIR as to each remaining environmental impact that “implementation of the regional mitigation . . . is currently disputed, [and that] mitigation of the impact to a less than significant level cannot be assured by CSU.”

The Trustees explained their position in more detail in response to public comments on their EIR: “Although all parties to the MOA[ ] will agree that the determined contributions by CSUMB are intended to mitigate the offsite impacts contributed by development of the Master Plan, it is acknowledged that CSUMB’s contribution represents only a portion of the funding needed to implement the regional improvements. Similar payments will need to be made by other jurisdictions contributing to regional impacts in order for the improvements to be implemented. In addition, ultimate implementation of the improvement program is under the responsibility of FORA, and cannot be controlled or assured by the University. For these reasons, . . . the [EIR] determine[s] that the significant impacts on drainage, water supply, traffic, wastewater generation, and fire protection, identified as caused by the Master Plan, will remain significant and unavoidable. These impacts will therefore require the adoption of a Statement of Overriding Conditions by the [Trustees] in compliance with CEQA.”

The presently identified, unavoidable uncertainties affecting the funding and implementation of the infrastructure improvements FORA has proposed in its Reuse Plan do not render voluntary contributions to FORA by the Trustees infeasible as a method of mitigating CSUMB’s effects. Both the CEQA Guidelines and judicial decisions recognize that a project proponent may satisfy its duty to mitigate its own portion of a cumulative environmental impact by contributing to a regional mitigation fund. Under the Guidelines, “a project’s contribution to a significant cumulative impact” may properly be considered “less than cumulatively considerable and thus . . . not significant” “if the project is required to implement or fund its fair share of a mitigation measure or measures designed to alleviate the cumulative impact.” (CEQA Guidelines, § 15130, subd. (a)(3).) Similarly, courts have found fee-based mitigation programs for cumulative impacts, based on fair-share infrastructure contributions by individual projects, to constitute adequate mitigation measures under CEQA. (E.g., Anderson First Coalition v. City of Anderson (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 1173, 1188; Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Bd. of Supervisors, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th 99, 140.)
“Of course a commitment to pay fees without any evidence that mitigation will actually occur is inadequate.” (Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Bd. of Supervisors, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th 99, 140; see also Kings County Farm Bureau v. City of Hanford (1990) 221 Cal. App.3d 692, 727-728 [lacking evidence water would be available for purchase, an agreement to purchase replacement water did not adequately mitigate groundwater depletion].) There is, however, no reason to doubt that FORA will meet its statutory obligation as the government of Fort Ord to prepare the base for civilian development by constructing whatever public capital facilities are necessary for that purpose. (See Gov. Code, § 67679.) As noted, FORA plans to implement the improvements over a period of several years, as increasing land use necessitates them and as funding becomes available. To enable this task to be accomplished, the Legislature has given FORA a broad array of fundraising powers, including the power to levy assessments and development fees, to share tax revenue with its local-government member agencies, and to sell and lease property. (See Gov. Code, §§ 67678, subd. (a), 67679, subds. (c)-(e), 67691, 67692.) Furthermore, the law specifically directs FORA to use its powers to ensure the success of its statutory mission (e.g., Gov. Code, § 67679, subd. (a)(1) [FORA must “undertake to plan for and arrange the provision of [public capital] facilities, including arranging for their financing and construction”]), and the courts ordinarily presume that the government, in this instance FORA, will comply with the law (e.g., City of Beaumont v. Beaumont Irr. Dist. (1965) 63 Cal.2d 291, 297; Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Bd. of Supervisors, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th 99, 141).

By way of analogy, the court in Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey Bd. of Supervisors, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th 99, held that a county had adequately ensured the mitigation of traffic congestion effects by “provid[ing] for improvements to be constructed as the traffic triggering the need for the improvements exceeded a projected threshold and the funds to pay for the improvements were generated by the new development.” (Id., at p. 141.) CEQA, the court explained, required not “a time-specific schedule for the County to complete specified road improvements” (ibid.) but only “that there be a reasonable plan for mitigation” (ibid.). FORA’s Reuse Plan satisfies that criterion. The Trustees’ assumption that CEQA requires more is an error of law invalidating their finding that voluntary mitigation payments to FORA do not represent a feasible method of mitigating CSU’s off-campus environmental effects. (No Oil, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 13 Cal.3d 68, 88 [an agency’s “use of an erroneous legal standard constitutes a failure to proceed in a manner required by law”]; see also Save Our Peninsula Committee v. Monterey County Bd. of Supervisors, supra, 87 Cal.App.4th 99, 118 [“questions of interpretation or application of the requirements of CEQA are matters of law”].)

B. Is Mitigation Exclusively the Responsibility of FORA?

CEQA, as previously noted, does not require a public agency to undertake identified mitigation measures, even if those measures are necessary to address the project’s significant environmental effects, if the agency finds that the measures “are within the responsibility and jurisdiction of another public agency and have been, or can and should be, adopted by that other agency.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subd. (a)(2).) The Trustees have made such a finding with respect to the measures necessary to mitigate CSUMB’s projected effects on drainage, water supply, wastewater management, traffic, and fire protection. As to each such effect, the Trustees have found that “the specific measure to mitigate [each] impact to a level of insignificance is to implement the planned regional FORA . . . improvements,” and that “[i]mplementation of the planned regional improvements is FORA’s responsibility.”

Certainly FORA has responsibility for implementing the infrastructure improvements it has proposed. (See Gov. Code, § 67679.) Just as certainly, however, the FORA Act contemplates that the costs of those improvements will be borne by those who benefit from them. (See ibid.) A finding by a lead agency under Public Resources Code section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), disclaiming the responsibility to mitigate environmental effects is permissible only when the other agency said to have responsibility has exclusive responsibility. As the CEQA Guidelines explain, “[t]he finding in subsection (a)(2) shall not be made if the agency making the finding has concurrent jurisdiction with another agency to deal with identified feasible mitigation measures or alternatives.” (CEQA Guidelines, § 15091, subd. (c).) The Guidelines’ logical interpretation of CEQA on this point “avoids the problem of agencies deferring to each other, with the result that no agency deals with the problem. This result would be contrary to the strong policy [requiring the mitigation or avoidance of significant environmental effects] declared in Sections 21002 and 21002.1 of the statute.” (Discussion of Resources Agency following CEQA Guidelines, § 15091; see also 1 Kostka, Practice Under the Cal. Environmental Quality Act (Cont.Ed.Bar 2005) § 17.19, pp. 821-823.)

The Trustees offer two arguments in support of their finding disclaiming responsibility for the measures necessary to mitigate CSUMB’s off-campus environmental effects. Neither withstands close scrutiny. The Trustees’ first argument—that they may not lawfully contribute to FORA in view of San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154, and the constitutional exemption of state property from taxation (Cal. Const., art. XIII, § 3, subd. (a))—has already been considered and rejected. The Trustees’ second argument—that they lack the power to construct infrastructure improvements away from campus on land they do not own and control—is beside the point. Certainly the Trustees may not enter the land of others to widen roads and lay sewer pipe; CEQA gives the Trustees no such power. (See Pub. Resources Code, § 21004 [“[i]n mitigating or avoiding a significant effect of a project on the environment, a public agency may exercise only those express or implied powers provided by law other than this division.”].) CEQA does not, however, as we have explained, limit a public agency’s obligation to mitigate or avoid significant environmental effects to effects occurring on the agency’s own property. (See Pub. Resources Code, §§ 21002.1, subd. (b), 21060.5.) CEQA also provides that “[a]ll state agencies . . . shall request in their budgets the funds necessary to protect the environment in relation to problems caused by their activities.” (Id., § 21106.) Thus, as we have also explained, if the Trustees cannot adequately mitigate or avoid CSUMB’s off-campus environmental effects by performing acts on the campus, then to pay a third party such as FORA to perform the necessary acts off campus may well represent a feasible alternative.

To be clear, we do not hold that the duty of a public agency to mitigate or avoid significant environmental effects (Pub. Resources Code, § 21002.1, subd. (b)), combined with the duty to ask the Legislature for money to do so (id., § 21106), will always give a public agency that is undertaking a project with environmental effects shared responsibility for mitigation measures another agency must implement. Some mitigation measures cannot be purchased, such as permits that another agency has the sole discretion to grant or refuse. Moreover, a state agency’s power to mitigate its project’s effects through voluntary mitigation payments is ultimately subject to legislative control; if the Legislature does not appropriate the money, the power does not exist. For the same reason, however, for the Trustees to disclaim responsibility for making such payments before they have complied with their statutory obligation to ask the Legislature for the necessary funds is premature, at the very least. The superior court found no evidence the Trustees had asked the Legislature for the funds. In their brief to this court, the Trustees acknowledge they did not budget for payments they assumed would constitute invalid assessments under San Marcos, supra, 42 Cal.3d 154. That assumption, as we have explained, is invalid.

C. Do Overriding Circumstances Justify Approving the Campus Master Plan?

When a public agency has found that a project’s significant environmental effects cannot feasibly be mitigated, the agency may nevertheless proceed with the project if it also finds “that specific overriding economic, legal, social, technological, or other benefits of the project outweigh the significant effects on the environment.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subd. (b).) The Trustees, as noted, have made such a finding with respect to each of the remaining, unmitigated environmental impacts on drainage, water supply, wastewater management, traffic and fire protection.

If we agreed with the Trustees that mitigation were infeasible for the reasons given in the findings, i.e., that the Trustees may not legally contribute to FORA and that the Trustees cannot ensure that FORA will actually construct infrastructure improvements—we would give much deference to the Trustees’ weighing of the project’s benefits against the remaining environmental effects. Generally speaking, “a court’s proper role in reviewing a challenged EIR is not to determine whether the EIR’s ultimate conclusions are correct but only whether they are supported by substantial evidence and whether the EIR is sufficient as an informational document.” (Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California, supra, 47 Cal.3d 376, 407.) Moreover, an agency’s decision that the specific benefits a project offers outweigh any environmental effects that cannot feasibly be mitigated, while subject to review for abuse of discretion (Pub. Resources Code, § 21168.5), lies at the core of the lead agency’s discretionary responsibility under CEQA and is, for that reason, not lightly to be overturned. (Cf. Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents of University of California, supra, 47 Cal.3d 376, 392 [court reviews the EIR’s sufficiency as an informative document and not the correctness of its environmental conclusions].)

In this case, however, the Trustee’s statement of overriding considerations is invalid for a reason that does not require us to reweigh benefits and detriments, or to inquire into the statement’s factual basis. A statement of overriding considerations is required, and offers a proper basis for approving a project despite the existence of unmitigated environmental effects, only when the measures necessary to mitigate or avoid those effects have properly been found to be infeasible. (Pub. Resources Code, § 21081, subd. (b).) Given our conclusion the Trustees have abused their discretion in determining that CSUMB’s remaining effects cannot feasibly be mitigated, that the Trustees’ statement of overriding circumstances is invalid necessarily follows. CEQA does not authorize an agency to proceed with a project that will have significant, unmitigated effects on the environment, based simply on a weighing of those effects against the project’s benefits, unless the measures necessary to mitigate those effects are truly infeasible. Such a rule, even were it not wholly inconsistent with the relevant statute (id., § 21081, subd. (b)), would tend to displace the fundamental obligation of “[e]ach public agency [to] mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so” (id., § 21002.1, subd. (b)). This conclusion does not, however, preclude the Trustees from including in a revised EIR a statement of overriding considerations regarding environmental effects as to which they have properly found mitigation to be infeasible for reasons other than those we have rejected.

III. CONCLUSION

From the foregoing discussion it follows that the Trustees must be directed to vacate their actions certifying the EIR and approving the Master Plan and set aside the EIR’s statement of overriding circumstances. The superior court’s writ of mandate does order such relief. The writ is, however, incorrect in one respect. In describing the principles that would apply should the Trustees decide to make voluntary mitigation payments to FORA, the court wrote that “CSUMB’s proportional share of the cumulative impacts on public capital facilities in the region necessary to mitigate the significant adverse environmental impacts of the CMP shall be determined by [FORA] . . . .” (Italics added.) To the contrary, having chosen not to assess the campus but instead to rely on the Trustees to comply with their CEQA obligation to mitigate or avoid the environmental effects of their project, FORA has no power to dictate the manner in which the Trustees exercise their discretion. Neither do the remedial provisions of CEQA “authorize a court to direct any public agency to exercise its discretion in any particular way.” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21168.9, subd. (c).) CEQA requires only that any mitigation measures the Trustees adopt be adequate. If FORA wishes to compel the Trustees to contribute a specific amount to infrastructure improvement projects, FORA is free to proceed by exercising the powers specifically granted in the FORA Act (e.g., Gov. Code, § 67679, subd. (d)), and in the public financing statutes to which the act refers (ibid.), to impose a formal assessment on the CSUMB campus, complying of course with the procedural requirements set out in those statutes and in the California Constitution (e.g., art. XIII D, § 1 et seq.).

IV. DISPOSITION

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the cause remanded to that court with directions to order the superior court to vacate its writ of mandate and to issue a new writ consistent with the views set forth in this opinion.
WERDEGAR, J.

WE CONCUR:
GEORGE, C.J.
KENNARD, J.
BAXTER, J.
MORENO, J.
CORRIGAN, J.

CONCURRING OPINION BY CHIN, J.

I concur in the judgment and in most of the majority opinion’s reasoning. I write separately to explain my reasons for agreeing that the Board of Trustees of the California State University (Trustees) may not rely on Public Resources Code section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), and to express concern about the majority’s discussion of this issue.

Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (§ 21000 et seq.), when a certified environmental impact report identifies significant environmental effects of a proposed project, section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), permits a public agency to approve or carry out the project if it finds that “changes or alterations” in the project that would mitigate or avoid the identified environmental effects “are within the responsibility and jurisdiction of another public agency and have been, or can and should be, adopted by that other agency.”

The Trustees, who made such a finding here, argue that this provision applies because, under the Fort Ord Reuse Authority Act (Gov. Code, § 67650 et seq.) (FORA Act), the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) has “exclusive authority to plan and construct off-campus local infrastructure improvements” and “the University lacks jurisdiction . . . to build off-site improvements.”

In my view, the Trustees err by focusing on the wrong question: Whether the Trustees, acting for the California State University (CSU), have any responsibility and jurisdiction regarding actual construction of the necessary off-campus infrastructure improvements. The particular mitigation measure at issue here—i.e., the proposed “change[] or alteration[]” in the project to mitigate or avoid the identified environmental effects (§ 21081, subd. (a)(2))—is not actual construction of the improvements, but is payment to FORA to help fund the improvements FORA intends to construct. Thus, the relevant question here in applying section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), is not, as the Trustees argue, whether they have jurisdiction actually “to build off-site improvements,” but is whether they have any responsibility and jurisdiction to help fund FORA’s construction of those improvements.

Based on provisions of the FORA Act and the Education Code, I conclude that the Trustees have such responsibility and jurisdiction. Regarding the former, the FORA Act declares the “financing . . . of the reuse of Fort Ord” to be “a matter of statewide importance.” (Gov. Code, § 67657, subd. (c).) It provides that FORA’s Fort Ord reuse plan “shall be the official local plan for the reuse of the base for all public purposes, including . . . funding by all state agencies.” (Gov. Code, § 67675, subd. (a), italics added.) It directs FORA to “arrang[e] for the[] financing” of—not to finance itself —“basewide public capital facilities” such as “roads.”

(Id., § 67679, subd. (a)(1).) It also authorizes FORA to “seek state and federal grants and loans or other assistance to help fund public facilities” (id., § 67679, subd. (c)), and to “enter into contracts and agreements as necessary to mitigate impacts of the reuse of Fort Ord.” (Id., §67680.5.) These provisions demonstrate the Legislature’s intent that funding of the necessary infrastructure improvements not be solely FORA’s responsibility, and that funding be provided, at least in part, by other public agencies.

Several provisions of the Education Code also are relevant to the Trustees’ responsibility and jurisdiction. The Education Code declares generally that “[t]he mission of the public segments of higher education . . . include[s] a broad responsibility to the public interest.” (Ed. Code, § 66010.5.) Of course, payments to FORA to help mitigate significant environmental impacts of the expansion project here at issue would serve the public interest. The Education Code also declares “the intent of the Governor and the Legislature, in cooperation with the Trustees,” to “[p]lace a major priority on resolving the serious problem of impacted and overcrowded classes, not only with respect to the [CSU], but throughout public postsecondary education.”

(Id., § 66015, subd. (a).) Consistent with this declared priority, the Education Code imposes on the CSU a duty “to plan that adequate spaces are available to accommodate all California resident students who are eligible and likely to apply to attend an appropriate place within the system.” (Id., § 66202.5.) It also grants the Trustees “full power and responsibility in the construction and development of any state university campus, and any buildings or other facilities or improvements connected with the [CSU].” (Id., § 66606.) Finally, it directs the Trustees to “expend all money appropriated for the support and maintenance of the [CSU]” (id., § 89750), and authorizes them to “enter into agreements with any public or private agency, officer, person, or institution, corporation, association, or foundation for the performance of acts or for the furnishing of services, facilities, materials, goods, supplies, or equipment by or for the trustees or for the joint performance of an act or function or the joint furnishing of services and facilities by the trustees and the other party to the agreement.” (Id., § 89036, subd. (a).) Based on these provisions, I have no trouble concluding that the Trustees have both responsibility and jurisdiction within the meaning of Public Resources Code section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), to contribute to the cost of off-site infrastructure improvements needed to mitigate significant environmental impacts of an expansion project designed, in part, to address the statutorily declared “priority on resolving the serious problem of impacted and overcrowded classes, not only with respect to the [CSU], but throughout public postsecondary education.” (Ed. Code, § 66015, subd. (a).)

I do not join the majority’s analysis of this issue insofar as it relies on several CEQA provisions to find that the Trustees have jurisdiction and responsibility within the meaning of section 21081, subdivision (a)(2). (Maj. opn., ante, at pp. 34-35.) The majority cites section 21002.1, subdivision (b), which requires “[e]ach public agency [to] mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so,” and section 21106, which requires “[a]ll state agencies . . . [to] request in their budgets the funds necessary to protect the environment in relation to problems caused by their activities.” (Maj. opn., ante, at pp. 34-35.) Because these two CEQA statutes apply to every state agency, the majority’s analysis substantially limits the circumstances under which a state agency may invoke section 21081, subdivision (a)(2). It is unclear to me the Legislature intended section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), to be read so narrowly. Because my analysis depends on non-CEQA provisions, I need not, and do not, address that question.

I also do not join the majority’s analysis insofar as it appears to suggest that a public agency lacks jurisdiction and responsibility within the meaning of section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), when “the Legislature does not appropriate” money requested to pay for mitigation measures. (Maj. opn., ante, at pp. 34-35.) To begin with, the discussion is dictum. As the majority notes, there is no evidence here the Trustees have even asked the Legislature for the necessary funds. (Maj. opn., ante, at p. 35.) Thus, it is both unnecessary and premature to express an opinion about whether the Legislature’s denial of a funding request would affect the Trustees’ jurisdiction and responsibility for purposes of applying section 21081, subdivision (a)(2).

The other reason I do not join the majority’s dictum is that I question its soundness. It is not clear to me that, for purposes of applying section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), a public agency has no responsibility or jurisdiction for a mitigation measure simply because the Legislature denies a specific request for money to pay for that mitigation measure. Here, for example, even were the Legislature to reject such a request, arguably, the Trustees would still have responsibility and jurisdiction to contribute to FORA with money from the CSU’s general operating fund. Moreover, the Legislature has expressly authorized the Trustees, at their discretion and “without the prior approval of any other state department or agency,” to “sell improvements located on the land at the . . . Monterey Bay campus that was transferred” from the federal government (Ed. Code, § 89010, subd. (a)) and to use proceeds from those sales “for the purposes of building, maintaining, and funding a campus . . . at Monterey Bay through expenditures for improvements to the campus . . . .” (Id., § 89010, subd. (b).) Arguably, by virtue of these provisions, even were the Trustees to make, and the Legislature to reject, a specific appropriation request regarding the off-campus improvements here at issue, the Trustees would have “the power” to make contributions to FORA for those improvements (maj. opn., ante, at p. 35) and would have jurisdiction and responsibility within the meaning of Public Resources Code section 21081, subdivision (a)(2), to make such contributions. Because of these substantive doubts, because we need not decide the question here, and because we have no briefing on the question, I decline to join the majority’s dictum.

CHIN, J.

See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion City of Marina v. Board of Trustees of California State University
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion
Original Appeal
Original Proceeding
Review Granted XXX 109 Cal.App.4th 1179
Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No. S117816
Date Filed: July 31, 2006
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court: Superior
County: Monterey
Judge: Richard M. Silver

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Appellant:

Horvitz & Levy, John A. Taylor, Jr., Patricia Lofton; Miller, Starr & Regalia, Basil S. Shiber and Christian M. Carrigan for Defendant and Appellant.

James E. Holst, Alan C. Waltner and Jeffrey A. Blair for The Regents of the University of California as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Miller Brown & Dannis, Marilyn J. Cleveland, Chad J. Graff and Kenneth S. Levy for Coalition for Adequate School Housing as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Respondent:

Lombardo & Gilles, Sheri L. Damon; Law Offices of Robert Wellington, Kenneth D. Buchert; Law Offices of Mary L. Hudson, and Mary L. Hudson for Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Manuela Albuquerque, City Attorney (Berkeley) and Zach Cowan, Assistant City Attorney, for League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.

McDonough Holland & Allen, Harriet A. Steiner and Kara K. Ueda for City of Davis as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Law Offices of Donald B. Mooney, Donald B Mooney; Law Offices of Marsha A. Burch and Marsha A. Burch for San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and Central Valley Safe Environmental Network as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Norma Turner, Mary-Alice Coleman and Jeffrey A. Diamond for West Davis Neighbors as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Patricia Lofton
Horvitz & Levy
15760 Ventura Boulevard, 18th Floor
Encino, CA 91436
(818) 995-0800

Mary L. Hudson
Law Offices of Mary L. Hudson
1505 Bridgeway, Suite 206
Sausalito, CA 94965
(415) 331-7712

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Let them play Monopoly behind gates we lock

Submitted: Jul 30, 2006

In 1950, it has been repeated ad nausea; Los Angeles County produced more agricultural commodities than any county in the state. By the mid-1970s, it began to lead the nation as the most polluted air basin, despite its sea breezes. Today, in this grim "metric," it appears to have fallen behind both the San Joaquin Valley and Riverside/San Bernardino counties.

The San Joaquin Valley is the richest farmland in the western US. Today, Los Angeles is an asphalt jungle and its eastern neighboring counties are developing along the same dismal pattern.

Humanity has yet to learn how to reclaim asphalt jungles for agriculture, should the need or desire occur.

It is not too late to stop the LA-ification of the San Joaquin Valley. Abundant farmland still exists. Given its inversion layer, more development can only turn this valley of the best farmland in the West into a respiratory hell.

Regional and national food security, health and safety for San Joaquin Valley inhabitants and a responsible attitude toward global warming and the waning of the Sierra snow pack argue forcefully against more population growth.

All that is stopping a sane approach to Valley agricultural and natural resources and health and welfare of its inhabitants is the entire political economic system – local, state and federal – dominated by real estate development and the financial, land-owning, construction, and realty interests that swarm around it, and the political passivity of the residents. To turn the San Joaquin Valley into a continuous metropolitan region from Sacramento to Bakersfield is no more nor less than business as usual: destructive enrichment of the few at the expense of many.

It was recently argued in a Merced County staff report on a residential development that criticism of how the development would deal with a Williamson Act (farmland preservation) matter was, in fact, an attempt to stop the project and the population growth and increase in autos the project would create. This, the staff report implied, was an illegitimate reason for arguing the Williamson Act matter.

The same is constantly said about criticisms and lawsuits for violations of local, state and federal environmental law and regulation. "It doesn't matter because the critics just want to stop growth."

This sort of logic reminds me of an old movie, "Never on Sunday," in which an Athenian prostitute who attended every performance of ancient tragedies and was greatly moved by their sorrow and destruction, consoled herself with the belief that in the end "they all went to the seashore."

Presumably, county officials that produce this bilge plan to retire to Pismo Beach to breath clean sea air after their careers of disservice to the San Joaquin Valley public.

The growth now occurring in the San Joaquin Valley is a tragedy, of which one element is always the willful denial of truths like endemic respiratory illness and global warming, which can only worsen with more Valley growth.

The loss of the culture of farming is both sad and frightening.

“The best product of the American farm is the careful farmer,” Wendell Berry once wrote. There are some left. There are also some San Joaquin Kit Fox left, but the trend toward extinction is clear in both species.

American culture and economy -- this gargantuan brat -- has no place for the modest, patient, skillful and inventive farmers who built our valley. Those people wisely mistrusted booms and all the other deals too good to be true, and they did not indefinitely abide whores in government. They believed in hard work and earnest prayer.

In our valley today, the political theory is that the public is the servant of the public servant, who is the servant of destructive enrichment, a form of self-indulgence practiced by a few people and corporations with great wealth, who lack the imagination to do anything but destructively pursue greater wealth.

The poor dears. The appropriate places for them are gated reservations locked from the outside instead of the inside. Let them play Monopoly with their money! Meanwhile, permit the San Joaquin Valley public time and space to deal with the consequences of their binges in real estate.

Bill Hatch

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The desperation of MCAG

Submitted: Jul 25, 2006

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:

Only 24 percent of registered voters in the county -- about 22,500 people -- showed up to the polls, partly because of lackluster statewide issues and little competition among county races.

A much more attractive November ballot that includes billion-dollar infrastructure bonds and a governor's race is sure to draw more voters.

Evidently this is the received political wisdom on the upcoming General Election.

Might one suggest an alternative analysis?

Billion-dollar infrastructure bonds might get a few Mercedians out to vote against them, which does not on the surface, seem to favor a local half-cent sales tax increase.

The governor's race, featuring the Hun against the Developer's Democrat, Angelo's Boy in the Capitol, is shaping up to be a real ho-hummer of a race.

Locally, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, is running unopposed. Kathleen Galgiani, chief of staff of retiring state Assemblywoman, Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy, appears to have wired her succession to her boss's seat several years ago. The state Senate race, between incumbent Jeff Denham, Knucklehead-Salinas, and Wiley Nickel, Water Plutocrat-Merced, seems to turn on the fascinating political question of who can accurately define an exchange contract.

One can see long lines in front of polling places, stretching into the frosty night this November. The campaigns are so intense we cannot even see paid voter registrars chasing old ladies to their cars, begging for their signatures, whether they are registered to vote or not. Perhaps they are moving too fast for the human eye.

What could be called strength of leadership, if only by scribes paid to write it, from a charitable point of view could be called stubbornness. In fact, it is suspected resubmitting this measure to the voters in November is an act of sheer political desperation, and perhaps an unintended referendum on how much voters like leaders in the pockets of developers, UC, WalMart and the Riverside Motorsports Park -- the only real beneficiaries of this measure.

MCAG has a huge reputation problem on its hands, stemming from our newly acquired exalted political position after having won the Valley-wide sweepstakes for the San Joaquin Valley UC campus.

In the squalid fashion of UC flak, top bobcatflakster Larry Salinas told the Merced City Council last week that UC Merced was the only UC campus in the Central Valley. And here we thought there was a highway, I-80, that passed along the border between the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, not far from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, through a college town called Davis, said to have been the site of a UC campus for nearly a century.

MCAG has been designated by the Hun administration in Sacramento to lead an eight-county San Joaquin Valley program, including eight councils of government working with Modesto-based Great Valley Center, to create a blueprint for growth to override the niceties of public process and state and federal environmental laws and regulations. These transportation COGS and CAGS are political institutions of nebulous land-use authority, which have banded together as the public in their counties have grown politically restive and are more actively resisting at the city and county government level the developer-driven slurbocracy the most immediate consequences of which are rapidly deteriorating air quality as well as other impediments to a decent quality of life.

Sacramento Area Council of Governments, which includes among other jurisdictions, Yolo County, where some say there is another UC campus, is the model for all this fine regional planning to avoid the niceties of law and regulation. Sacramento and nearby Placer counties have vied with Bakersfield for years for the worst air quality north of Los Angeles, and now they are winning the prize. Following these institutions will help you, your children or your parents' chances of being a candidates for a UC Merced study in respiratory disease once it gets that new medical school started.

If the Merced Board of Supervisors and city governments cannot con thier own citizens into voting a half-cent raise in sales tax to create a matching fund to attract Federal Highway Administration funds to build roads, how can they lead the other COGs and CAGs into a dimming, asthmatic future of slurb. If they cannot even con their own voters into making an abundant contribution to local greenhouse gases that will affect the Sierra snow pack, how can they lead other CAGs and COGs in the pockets of CalDevelopment, Inc., our real rulers, into this absurdly unhealthy future?

Oh, well, there are always the county’s new electronic voting machines, if all else fails.

Perhaps, Merced voters can send a message to the Federal Highway Administration that they do not want millions spent on widening Highway 99 so that WalMart can more easily get its 900 diesel trucks a day in and out of its proposed distribution center at the Mission Interchange. Perhaps, Merced voters can inform the FHWA that they are not interested in funding that interchange to provide one blue-and-yellow brick road to UC Merced. Perhaps, the Merced voters can explain to the FHWA that they are also disinterested in funding another blue-and-yellow brick road from Atwater to UC Merced, one which passes by property acquired in 2004 from an inmate of Sandy Mush County Jail by the sheriff who was incarcerating him, the DA who was prosecuting him, their good friend, the president of Ranchwood Homes, and several other prominent local investors.

All new roads and widened highways in Merced mean is more air pollution and more growth. Obviously, for example, a widened Highway 99 would make it more convenient for millions of stock-car racing fans to come to the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park in Atwater, and they would bring their ozone with them and leave it here.

Perhaps, people in Merced are smart enough to understand this and have begun to get irritated that their leaders are so willing to sell them out to any developer with another air-polluting, traffic-increasing, country-destroying project, and are growing more irritated by the day by their leaders ongoing insult to the voters' intelligence.

Yes, we do realize that something like 30 percent of our air pollution is blown over the hill to us from the Bay Area. But, it does not outrage us that we cannot become Fremont. We do have one of the more important agricultural economies in the world. Perhaps we need to work on that a little more than working on becoming the next great slurbocracy in California. And if we find that our elected officials want Growth Above All, maybe we need new elected officials, because this gang is not working for the best interests of its own public.

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

Notes:

June 5, 2006

URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT

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

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

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

Sincerely, Central Valley Safe Environment Network

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!

REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!

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

Facts vs Claims on Measure A Tax

Measure A Claim: "We can be sure one thing won't go to Sacramento ... Every single dime of Measure A funds will stay right here in Merced County"

Fact: The Major funder behind Measure A is the California Alliance for Jobs, a consortium of statewide highway construction contractors and unions. We can be sure this additional sales tax will go here, there, and everywhere, including Sacramento.

Measure A Claim: "The state and federal governments cannot take one dime of Measure A funds"

Fact: Measure A is a matching fund gimmick to attract more than a billion dollars in state and federal highway funds that may arrive and be spent as state and federal government agencies decide. Your potholes are not on their lists. This is a make work scheme for statewide contractors and out- of- town union members.

Measure A Claim: "We're not betting the farm"

Fact: Measure A is certainly betting Merced County farms will be absorbed by urban growth. Even the Measure A “farm picture” appears to be out-of-state. Minnesota, perhaps?

Fact: Fresno County has had a transportation sales tax in place since 1986. Since that time, entire farming districts in Fresno County have been swallowed by urban sprawl. Fresno citizens are paying for development that does not pay for itself.

Fact: Measure A will induce Fresno-level sprawl, Fresno-level air pollution, Fresno-level asthma and Fresno-level political corruption investigations.

Fact: But even Fresno subjected its reauthorized transportation tax plan to public environmental review. Merced leadership wants you to pay the Measure A tax before they begin any public environmental review of the consequences of the sprawl these funds will induce.

Measure A Claim: "Projects include: Ensuring safer routes to school for local children"

Fact: The highest priority project Merced County leaders have is the Yellow Brick Beltway to UC Merced, connected to Highway 99 south of Merced and north of Atwater. There are less than a thousand UC Merced students and they come from all parts of California.

Measure A Claim: “using developer impact fees to supplement Measure A funds so that new growth pays its share of transportation costs”

Fact: Special interests want you to tax yourselves so they won’t have to pay for their impacts on your county. These special interests include: public developers like UC Merced and CalTrans; local, national and international homebuilders; highway construction companies and their unions; the statewide and international aggregate companies mining your rivers and creeks; your elected public officials and their staffs; and the local media.

Measure A Claim: "Citizen oversight: An independent taxpayer watchdog committee and annual third-party audits will ensure that Measure A funds are spent wisely"

Fact: Presently Merced County oversight is by ‘special interest’ only: This conversation between Ranchwood Homes owner and county supervisor Crookham shows how economic development really works in Merced.

Feb. 3, 2006: 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! ..."

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

Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.

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

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

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

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

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

City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units,

Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,

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

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

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

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

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

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

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

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

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

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

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

Commercial Development

WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls ….and the list goes on!

What You Can Do:

Vote No on Measure A Tax
Demand to participate in General Plans and community plan update process
Support public statements advocating slow growth or no growth until General Plans and Community Plans are legally compliant.

Paid for by the Committee Against Measure A Tax
-----------------------------------------------

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

Wal-Mart project opinions sought...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12498854p-13214978c.html
Concerned about what 450 trucks driving in and out of the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center every day would do to Merced's air quality. The city wants to hear from you Thursday... planners will host two public meetings. The answers will be ready in January 2007, when consulting group EDAW, Inc. is slated to finish the environmental impact report. The City Council approved EDAW's $344,655 consulting contract in May; Wal-Mart will pay for the entire project. Wal-Mart meeting...WHAT: Two public meetings about what should be studied in the environmental impact report for the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center. WHEN: 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday WHO: The afternoon meeting is for state and local government agencies and the public. The evening meeting is for the public. WHERE: City Council chambers, 678 W. 18th St.>/b>

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