Environment

Lipstick

Submitted: Nov 22, 2006

The general environmental interest in the San Joaquin Valley is strong because it concerns basic health and safety issues. Anger is stirring in the public against rampant air pollution-producing development and the politicians who promote it.

In a recent article, Stockton Record political reporter Hank Shaw ended a look into the post-Pombo world with a quote from a professor:

"I am dubious that this will be a productive Congress," Pitney said. "I think there's going to be a lot of posturing."

If the professor's crystal ball is clear, and Shaw's interview with Pombo’s Ghost, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Merced, is any indication, we predict that Cardoza will rise in Congress like an untethered helium balloon.

But where will that balloon go, exactly?

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is almost twice as large as Cardoza’s Blue Dog Coalition. Other factors might spook Pombo’ s Ghost into striking aggressive postures. The CPC is led by two progressive congresswomen from the Bay Area. If that sounds familiar, it could be because the speaker-elect of the House and California's two US senators are also progressive women from the Bay Area.

Cardoza claims to be positioning himself in the political center.

Lipstick.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and congresswomen Nancy Pelosi, Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee represent the center of the nation, which just voted the Republicans out because we the people are sick of this catastrophe of a war and corruption in Congress.

Cardoza told the Stockton Record he and the Blue Dogs are forming a coalition with a group of Republicans to influence policy.

This reminds me of a funny story that occurred one morning at a congressional breakfast held by former Rep. Gary Condit, Ceres. Condit was one of the founders of the Blue Dogs, a group of Boll Weevil congressmen that split from the Democrats when Newt Gingrich became the Republican speaker of the House.

Condit had invited Pelosi down to speak. She arrived with a friend, a small Hispanic woman in a neat city suit, whom she introduced only as "my friend, Dolores." She and her friend sat down at the head table with Condit and some lords of agribusiness and broke bread.

Meanwhile, a local Democrat with a living memory, a good camera and a sense of humor, took a number of pictures of the head table, Pelosi and Dolores chatting with the czars of wine, milk, and cotton.

As the event was breaking up, he offering the pictures to the great men who had been at the head table, suggesting that a picture of such-and-such a captain of agribusiness exchanging pleasantries over croissants with Dolores Huerta, the famous leader of the United Farm Workers, would look good on their boardroom walls.

The vignette could indicate how much influence Pombo's Ghost will have with the speaker.

State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, D-SF didn’t like the Valley any more than the Valley liked him. State Senate Pro Tem John Burton, D-SF, called UC Merced the biggest “boondoggle” he’d ever seen. They are long-time Pelosi political associates.

The Record reporter speculated that Cardoza might get a subcommittee chairmanship in the House Agriculture Committee that would permit him to advance the agenda of California's "specialty crops." It will be interesting to see if Pelosi will give it to Cardoza, after he was one of the five nominators of Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD, for majority leader, against Pelosi's choice, Rep. John Murtha, D-PA. Some might have suggested that if California's crops were so important to Cardoza, he should have kept his mouth shut.

It’s fun to imagine Cardoza in a panic, fearing the San Francisco women in power, rushing to the club of “real men in the center.” But, you can’t know that’s how it is happening. It could be that his special interest clients are dictating his every move and using their money in other venues to bring about advantageous results for themselves. After all, to them it is business, and they take business far more seriously than they take Cardoza. Pombo’s Ghost can pose as he wishes; meanwhile wine, dairy, cotton and development will make their deals where they think best. His aggressively Blue Dog strategy is a gamble. It may be a smart play or it may be a desperate leap. The nation moved politically to the left, so only time will tell.

Then comes the recent green paint job: starting with installing solar panels on his home roof (we wonder who paid for that), and talk about ethanol, etc.

"I'm just so committed to getting us out of the Middle East, with our dependence on foreign oil," he said. "We have to come up with alternatives."

While this sounds fruity and nutty enough for any wannabe chairman of a subcommittee on specialty crops, the nation prefers the direct approach of Pelosi, Lee, Woolsey and other mainstream Democrats: Get out of Iraq as soon as possible. Cardoza claims he is being “strong” posing in his imaginary middle, waiting until America is energy self-sufficient before ending imperial invasions of oil-rich countries.

More lipstick.

A powerful cabal of special interests in the northern San Joaquin Valley – Cardoza’s special interest clients – were able to arrange a free ride for him in this election. Residents of the 18th congressional district ought to ask themselves why a man as unpopular as Pombo’s Ghost represents them. Large landowners, developers, major agribusiness interests and the real estate financial and sales industries, along with UC Merced and the Great Valley Center, have ruled so absolutely that they think the region’s voters and the rest of the nation shared their agenda. In fact, even the voters of the district don’t share that agenda. For one glaring example, they thought the rest of the country hated the Endangered Species Act and loved developers, too. That isn’t even true in Cardoza’s district. So why is he representing the district? Did voters get sold a bill of goods here?

Rep. RichPAC Pombo, R-Tracy, was defeated because the opposition told the truth about him: he is corrupt, pro-Iraq War and radically anti-environmental. In the Sacramento area, Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville, crept back to Washington with less than 50 percent of the vote in his district, because the opposition told the truth about him: he is corrupt, pro-Iraq War and radically anti-environmental.

Cardoza is in the same pockets and, at least until a week or two, held the same views. His recent interviews with the regional press are lipstick. The intensity and quality of the collaboration and protection he enjoyed with Pombo can’t be replicated in this session of Congress, which will have a different agenda and some different faces, like Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, for example. McNerney and Cardoza belong to the same party in name only. McNerney, in two brutal races against Pombo, got no help from Cardoza at all. At least Pombo stood and eventually fell for something. Cardoza is now peddling the fiction that the gut-the-ESA bill he co-sponsored with Pombo was “too radical.”

Lipstick.

When Pombo lost, Cardoza -- corrupt, scared of the Iraq War and radically anti-environmental – lost a lot of influence he had with corrupt rightwingers. However, Pombo’s Ghost and a gang of old-time Boll Weevils and bitter Republicans could be strong and mean enough to block anything good for the people or their environment in the 18th congressional district and elsewhere. If they want him to represent them, rather than the same-old special interests that want low wages and resource-destroying urban sprawl, they are going to have to fight for it. Right now, Pombo’s Ghost looks totally bought-and-sold by a few people with no interest in the people of the district or their environment, public health or safety.

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

Nov. 19, 2006
Stockton Record
Top Blue Dog looking to lead from the center
By Hank Shaw

SACRAMENTO - With Tracy Rep. Richard Pombo ousted, Rep. Dennis Cardoza of Merced has become the region's big dog in Congress.

Cardoza, a member of the new Democratic majority, is a leader of a conservative group of Democrats calling itself the Blue Dogs. Cardoza says he hopes the 44-member group can influence Congress from the center, much as he did as a member of the "Mod Squad" when he was an assemblyman in Sacramento.

Cardoza intends to lead the charge for California agriculture in next year's rewrite of the Farm Bill, a job left undone by the ousted Pombo. Like Pombo, Cardoza also wants to reform the Endangered Species Act, although not as radically as the Tracy Republican had wanted.

Cardoza's reach may extend beyond Pombo's by virtue of his position in the Blue Dogs, so named because they felt "choked blue" by what they saw as the dominant faction of their party's too-liberal ideology.

Newly expanded from 36 members to 44, the Blue Dogs were instrumental in getting Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, elected majority leader Thursday; Cardoza campaigned for Hoyer when Cardoza attended the University of Maryland in the early 1980s.

The group, whose focus centers on fiscal restraint in federal spending, is also expected to coordinate on budgetary matters with its Republican analog, the Tuesday Group. Combined, the two blocs represent 80 members of the 435-member House - enough to influence policy, if they stay united.

There's the rub: House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco is far more liberal than Cardoza or his colleagues, which include Rep. Ted Costa of Fresno and Ellen Tauscher of Alamo. And she has many like-minded colleagues: The Congressional Progressive Caucus has twice as many members as the Blue Dogs.

Cardoza says it will not be easy to drive policy, but then again, it was not when he and moderate Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg outmaneuvered their liberal colleagues from San Francisco and Los Angeles in Sacramento years ago.

"You have to be strong," Cardoza said. "Strong enough to stand up for what you believe in, because both sides will push you very hard. You have to be polite but immovable."

Chief among Cardoza's goals is a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance its budget; California and nearly every other state live under similar constraints, which forces lawmakers to live within their means.

Shorter-term moves will be to restore pay-as-you-go guidelines for federal spending, as well as rule changes making it tougher to increase the federal debt limit, insert parochial goodies into budget bills and hide votes on spending bills.

Nonfiscal goals include expanding incentives to study embryonic stem cells, a position the Blue Dogs and the Tuesday Group share with their progressive colleagues.

Personally, Cardoza wants to secure new incentives to open markets for California's "specialty crops," which in congressional parlance means everything except corn, soybeans, rice and wheat.

He may win himself a coveted spot in the Agriculture Committee as chairman of the subcommittee that oversees specialty crops. That determination is expected soon.

Cardoza also wants to craft a bill that would use federal tax receipts generated from fossil fuel production to expand renewable-energy research, such as solar, wind or biofuels. Cardoza just installed solar power at his home in Atwater.

"I'm just so committed to getting us out of the Middle East, with our dependence on foreign oil," he said. "We have to come up with alternatives."

One thing stands in Cardoza's and the Blue Dogs' path to influence: the assumption that the Democratic majority actually wants to get something done in the 110th Congress.

To do so, it must work closely with Republicans and President Bush or face filibusters in the Senate and a veto in the White House. Governing over the next two years must come from the center.

But governing is only one of the things Congress does. It also prepares itself for biannual elections, and 2008 is likely to be a humdinger. Several congressional seats won by Democrats this year are already being targeted by the GOP, including the 11th District won by Rep.-elect Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.

And then there is the presidential election, which will be for an open seat with no heir apparent for the first time in a generation.

Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney said he expects Congress to bog down into dysfunction rapidly. He said it is far more likely that Democrats will be happier sending legislation for Bush to veto than to accommodate him and his fellow Republicans on matters of importance.

"I am dubious that this will be a productive Congress," Pitney said. "I think there's going to be a lot of posturing."

Contact Capitol Bureau Chief Hank Shaw at (916) 441-4078 or sacto@recordnet.com.

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Public letter in opposition to the Riverside Motorsports Park

Submitted: Nov 14, 2006

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

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

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

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

1. Development Plan and Administrative Permit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Airport Land Use Commission decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Immediate issues of public information access

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

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

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

5. Failure to consult federal resource agencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Moratorium until General Plan Update

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

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

8. Conclusion

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

The process that produced these documents was seriously flawed by

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

Sincerely,

Lydia Miller Steve Burke

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

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

Cc: Interested parties
BadlandsJournal

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UC Bobcatflak Special on Measure G

Submitted: Nov 07, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The state Supreme Court disagreed with UC.

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

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

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

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

Nov. 11, 2006
Merced Sun-Star

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

| »

Vote NO on Measure G

Submitted: Nov 06, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Badlandsjournal.com, March 10, 2006)

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

Citizens Against Measure G
VOTE NO ON MEASURE G

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

This represents 81,000 new homes for our county.

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

Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes

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

Hilmar-3,700 units, JKB Homes

Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes

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

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

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

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

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

VOTE NO ON MEASURE G

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

Measure G Contributions
Reporting from Committee for Measure G

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

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

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

November 6, 2006

Via Facsimile and U.S. Mail

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

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

Re: Public Records Act Requests Regarding Measure G

Dear Mr. Jones and Mr. Brown:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very truly yours,

Marsha A. Burch
Attorney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 6, 2006

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

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

Nov. 5, 2006

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

Nov. 4, 2006

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

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

Nov. 3, 2006

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

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

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

Nov. 2, 2006

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

Nov. 1, 2006

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

Oct. 30, 2006

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

Oct. 28, 2006

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

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Comments on Measure G

Submitted: Nov 04, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Hatch

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Federal judge rejects developers' efforts to negate vernal pool species' protection

Submitted: Nov 03, 2006

Butte Environmental Council * California Native Plant Society Defenders of Wildlife * San Joaquin Raptor and Wildlife Rescue Center

For Immediate Release
November 3, 2006
Contact:
Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife, (916) 201-8277
Barbara Vlamis, Butte Environmental Council, (530) 891-6424
Carol Witham, Calif. Native Plant Society, (916) 452-5440

Court Invalidates U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Exclusion of Nearly 900,000 Acres of Vernal Pool Critical Habitat

Developers Efforts to Strip Protections Rejected

Sacramento, CA -- Yesterday, Federal District Court Judge William B. Shubb issued a major ruling overturning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) decision to omit 900,000 acres in 11 counties from its 2005 final rule designating critical habitat for 15 imperiled vernal pool plants and animals. Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands found throughout California. Judge Shubb also rejected industry’s attempt to overturn the protections for more than 800,000 acres that FWS did protect as critical habitat.

The court agreed with the six conservation organizations involved in the case that FWS failed to look at whether its decision to eliminate critical habitat protections for vernal pool grasslands in Butte, Fresno, Madera, Merced, Monterey, Placer, Sacramento, Shasta, Solano, Stanislaus, and Tehama counties affected the future recovery of the vernal pool species.

In sending FWS back to the drawing board, Judge Shubb accepted the central argument of the conservation organizations that in excluding vernal pool critical habitat within 11 California counties, FWS continued its long history of failing to consider the essential importance of such designation to the ultimate recovery of the vernal pool species. With more than 90 percent of California’s vernal pool wetlands already destroyed, meaningful habitat protection is essential to ensuring that the species not only avoid extinction, but recover to the point where they can be taken off the endangered species list. FWS has 120 days to issue a new critical habitat rule.

“This is a big victory in the longstanding effort to protect and recover vernal pool grasslands,” stated Kim Delfino, California program director of Defenders of Wildlife. “This decision makes it clear that Fish and Wildlife Service cannot ignore the recovery needs of species when designating critical habitat.”

The court also rejected almost every single argument by the building industry’s challenge to FWS’s decision to designate more than 858,846 acres of vernal pool grasslands as critical habitat. Ironically, the court did agree with the builders that FWS failed to explain adequately why it excluded UC Merced and a Highway 99 project in Tehama County from critical habitat—both of which were 11th hour exclusions directed by Department of Interior political appointee, Julie Macdonald. Macdonald—a civil engineer by training—was recently the subject of a major expose in the Washington Post for her consistent rejection of staff scientists’ recommendations to protect imperiled wildlife. Macdonald has a history of improper meddling in vernal pool issues, and a previous critical habitat rule had to be redone after she inserted economic analysis that vastly exaggerated the potential costs of designation.

“We are elated that the court rejected the challenge to FWS’s decision to designate more than 800,000 acres of vernal pool grasslands as critical habitat,” stated Barbara Vlamis, executive director of the Butte Environmental Council. “At least for those grasslands, the developers will have to ensure that their projects will not undermine the future recovery of these 15 imperiled plants and animals.”

This recent decision is only the latest in a decade long effort to protect vernal pool grasslands under the Endangered Species Act. In August 2003, the Bush Administration issued a final critical habitat rule for vernal pools in which it excluded more than one million acres and six counties on economic grounds. In January 2004, the conservation groups successfully challenging the 2003 rule resulting in the court ordering FWS to reconsider its exclusions. In August 2005, FWS issued its new final rule excluding nearly 900,000 acres of grasslands. In December 2005, the conservation organizations filed suit challenging FWS’s exclusion of the five counties.

“As vernal pool grasslands are ripped up, they are replaced by sprawl,” stated Carol Witham of the California Native Plant Society. “Designating vernal pool grasslands as critical habitat will not stop sprawl, but it will make developers and local governments think hard about how their land use decisions impact the future recovery of these unique 15 imperiled plants and animals.”

The court ordered FWS to reconsider its decision to exclude the nearly 900,000 acres and eleven counties and issue a new critical habitat rule in 120 days. The current critical habitat designation of more than 800,000 acres of vernal pool grasslands remains intact.

“Now that FWS must consider the benefits to the recovery of the 15 vernal pool plants and animals from designating critical habitat, we believe that the Fish and Wildlife Service will no longer be able to justify its decision to exclude half the vernal pool critical habitat acreage,” stated Lydia Miller of the San Joaquin Raptor and Wildlife Rescue Center.

Protein-rich invertebrates and crustaceans, as well as the roots and leaves of vernal pool plants provide an important seasonal food source for waterfowl as well as other non-migratory bird species. According to the California Academy of Sciences, Pacific Flyway migratory birds and 19 percent of all wintering waterfowl in the continental United States take respite in vernal pools.

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Biofuels: a critical perspective

Submitted: Nov 02, 2006

Most people have some trouble developing a critical point of view on an issue without a little help from critics. As it stands in the southern tier of the Pomboza (that part of the district controlled by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Polar Bear/Shrimp Slayer-Merced) biofuel is the hottest technology since the six-foot, deep-ripping chisel, built to tear up seasonal grasslands for temporary orchards and vineyards that will become subdivisions. And we won’t get no help from the newspaper.

Now, Merced dairymen working out their Midwest corn budgets for next year, will complain to each other and their bankers about a price hike, which they are told is the result of competition with biofuel. But farmers are price takers. They are used to it and accept it and don’t try to think about it too much, particularly when milk prices are down below breakeven.

The article below is a good rundown on criticisms of the latest “ecological” fad, biofuels, and should help restore our sane view that Cardoza is the same-old, same-old, ignorant hustler he always has been despite his latest reinvention of himself as a post-Pombo environmentalist with solar panels on his roof.

Bill Hatch

Running on Hype
The Real Scoop on Biofuels
By BRIAN TOKAR
Counterpunch.com – Nov. 1, 2006

You can hardly open up a major newspaper or national magazine these days without encountering the latest hype about biofuels, and how they're going to save oil, reduce pollution and prevent climate change. Bill Gates, Sun Microsystems' Vinod Khosla, and other major venture capitalists are investing millions in new biofuel production, whether in the form of ethanol, mainly derived from corn in the US today, or biodiesel, mainly from soybeans and canola seed. It's literally a "modern day gold rush," as described by the New York Times, paraphrasing the chief executive of Cargill, one of the main benefactors of increased subsidies to agribusiness and tax credits to refiners for the purpose of encouraging biofuel production.

The Times reported earlier this year that some 40 new ethanol plants are currently under construction in the US, aiming toward a 30 percent increase in domestic production. Archer Daniels Midland, the company that first sold the idea of corn-derived ethanol as an auto fuel to Congress in the late 1970s, has doubled its stock price and profits over the last two years. ADM currently controls a quarter of US ethanol fuel production, and recently hired a former Chevron executive as its CEO.

Several well-respected analysts have raised serious concerns about this rapid diversion of food crops toward the production of fuel for automobiles. WorldWatch Institute founder Lester Brown, long concerned about the sustainability of world food supplies, says that fuel producers are already competing with food processors in the world's grain markets. "Cars, not people, will claim most of the increase in grain production this year," reports Brown, a serious concern in a world where the grain required to make enough ethanol to fill an SUV tank is enough to feed a person for a whole year. Others have dismissed the ethanol gold rush as nothing more than the subsidized burning of food to run automobiles.

The biofuel rush is having a significant impact worldwide as well. Brazil, often touted as the the most impressive biofuel success story, is using half its annual sugarcane crop to provide 40 percent of its auto fuel, while increasing deforestation to grow more sugarcane and soybeans. Malaysian and Indonesian rainforests are being bulldozed for oil palm plantations-threatening endangered orangutans, rhinos, tigers and countless other species-in order to serve at the booming European market for biodiesel.

Are these reasonable tradeoffs for a troubled planet, or merely another corporate push for profits? Two new studies, both released this past summer, aim to document the full consequences of the new biofuel economy and realistically assess its impact on fuel use, greenhouse gases and agricultural lands. One study, originating from the University of Minnesota, is moderately hopeful in the first two areas, but offers a strong caution about land use. The other, from Cornell University and UC Berkeley, concludes that every domestic biofuel source ­ the ones currently in use as well as those under development ­ produces less energy than is consumed in growing and processing the crops.

The Minnesota researchers attempted a full lifecycle analysis of the production of ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soy. They documented the energy costs of fuel production, pesticide use, transportation, and other key factors, and also accounted for the energy equivalent of soy and corn byproducts that remain for other uses after the fuel is extracted. Their paper, published in the July 25th edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that ethanol production offers a modest net energy gain of 25%, resulting in 12% less greenhouse gases than an equivalent amount of gasoline. The numbers for biodiesel are more promising, with a 93% net energy gain and a 41% reduction in greenhouse gases.

The researchers cautioned, however, that these figures do not account for the significant environmental damage from increased acreages of these crops, including the impacts of pesticides, nitrate runoff into water supplies, nor the increased demand on water, as "energy crops" like corn and soy begin to displace more drought tolerant crops such as wheat in several Midwestern states.

The most serious impact, though, is on land use. The Minnesota paper reports that in 2005, 14% of the US corn harvest was used to produce some 6 million gallons of ethanol, equivalent to 1.7% of current gasoline usage. About 1 1/2 percent of the soy harvest produced 120 million gallons of biodiesel, equivalent to less than one tenth of one percent of gas usage. This means that if all of the country's corn harvest was used to make ethanol, it would displace 12% of our gas; all of our soybeans would displace about 6% of the gas. But if the energy used in producing these biofuels is taken into account ­ the fact that 80% of the energy goes into production in the case of corn ethanol, and almost 50% in the case of soy biodiesel, the entire soy and corn crops combined would only satisfy 5.3% of current fuel needs. This is where the serious strain on food supplies and prices originates.

The Cornell study is even more skeptical. Released in July, it was the product of an ongoing collaboration between Cornell agriculturalist David Pimentel, environmental engineer Ted Patzek, and their colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley, and was published in the journal Natural Resources Research. This study found that, in balance, making ethanol from corn requires 29% more fossil fuel than the net energy produced and biodisel from soy results in a net energy loss of 27%. Other crops, touted as solutions to the apparent diseconomy of current methods, offer even worse results.

Switchgrass, for example, can grow on marginal land and presumably won't compete with food production (you may recall George Bush's mumbling about switchgrass in his 2006 State of the Union speech), but it requires 45% more energy to harvest and process than the energy value of the fuel that is produced. Wood biomass requires 57% more energy than it produces, and sunflowers require more than twice as much energy than is available in the fuel that is produced. "There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel," said David Pimentel in a Cornell press statement this past July. "These strategies are not sustainable." In a recent article, Harvard environmental scientist Michael McElroy concurred: "[U]nfortunately the promised benefits [of ethanol] prove upon analysis to be largely ephemeral."

Even Brazilian sugarcane, touted as the world's model for conversion from fossil fuels to sustainable "green energy," has its downside. The energy yield appears beyond question: it is claimed that ethanol from sugarcane may produce as much as 8 times as much energy as it takes to grow and process. But a recent World Wildlife Fund report for the International Energy Agency raises serious questions about this approach to future energy independence. It turns out that 80% of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions come not from cars, but from deforestation-the loss of embedded carbon dioxide when forests are cut down and burned. A hectare of land may save 13 tons of carbon dioxide if it is used to grow sugarcane, but the same hectare can absorb 20 tons of CO2 if it remains forested. If sugarcane and soy plantations continue to encourage deforestation, both in the Amazon and in Brazil's Atlantic coastal forests, any climate advantage is more than outweighed by the loss of the forest.

Genetic engineering, which has utterly failed to produce healthier or more sustainable food-and also failed to create a reliable source of biopharmaceuticals without threatening the safety of our food supply-is now being touted as the answer to sustainable biofuel production. Biofuels were all the buzz at the biotech industry's most recent biotech mega-convention (April 2006), and biotech companies are all competing to cash in on the biofuel bonanza. Syngenta (the world's largest herbicide manufacturer and number three, after Monsanto and DuPont, in seeds) is developing a GE corn variety that contains one of the enzymes needed to convert corn starch into sugar before it can be fermented into ethanol. Companies are vying to increase total starch content, reduce lignin (necessary for the structural integrity of plants but a nuisance for chemical processors), and increase crop yields. Others are proposing huge plantations of fast-growing genetically engineered low-lignin trees to temporarily sequester carbon and ultimately be harvested for ethanol.

However, the utility of incorporating the amylase enzyme into crops is questionable (it's also a potential allergen), gains in starch production are marginal, and the use of genetic engineering to increase crop yields has never proved reliable. Other, more complex traits, such as drought and salt tolerance (to grow energy crops on land unsuited to food production), have been aggressively pursued by geneticists for more than twenty years with scarcely a glimmer of success. Genetically engineered trees, with their long life-cycle, as well as seeds and pollen capable of spreading hundreds of miles in the wild, are potentially a far greater environmental threat than engineered varieties of annual crops. Even Monsanto, always the most aggressive promoter of genetic engineering, has opted to rely on conventional plant breeding for its biofuel research, according to the New York Times. Like "feeding the world" and biopharmaceutical production before it, genetic engineering for biofuels mainly benefits the biotech industry's public relations image.

Biofuels may still prove advantageous in some local applications, such as farmers using crop wastes to fuel their farms, and running cars from waste oil that is otherwise thrown away by restaurants. But as a solution to long-term energy needs on a national or international scale, the costs appear to far outweigh the benefits. The solution lies in technologies and lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce energy use and consumption, something energy analysts like Amory Lovins have been advocating for some thirty years. From the 1970s through the '90s, the US economy significantly decreased its energy intensity, steadily lowering the amount of energy required to produce a typical dollar of GDP. Other industrial countries have gone far beyond us in this respect. But no one has figured out how to make a fortune on conservation and efficiency. The latest biofuel hype once again affirms that the needs of the planet, and of a genuinely sustainable society, are in fundamental conflict with the demands of wealth and profit.

Brian Tokar directs the Biotechnology Project at Vermont's Institute for Social Ecology (social-ecology.org), and has edited two books on the science and politics of genetic engineering, Redesigning Life? (Zed Books, 2001) and Gene Traders: Biotechnology, World Trade and the Globalization of Hunger (Toward Freedom, 2004).

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Measure G press update

Submitted: Oct 30, 2006

Merced, among other Valley counties are producing measures for the General Election to increase sales taxes to pay for roads. These roads -- as the top contributors to these campaigns, public officials, and everybody else knows -- will not reduce traffic congestion. But, business is business, and Measure G supporters don’t care about consequences. They will just pave the way for more growth and more traffic congestion. That’s why hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to convince the public to vote against its own interests for more growth, more traffic, worse air and, not so indirectly, utility-rate hikes – because development does not pay for itself or provide stable employment at any wage. It is a boom that busts.

But, our congressman tells the local McClatchy outlet his latest vision, which some say he stole from Jerry McNerney as part of a move to distance himself from Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Crook-Tracy:

"I believe we can make this area the Silicon Valley of renewable energy,” Cardoza said. “There are technological advances that could come out of this university that we are not even contemplating." – Merced Sun-Star, Oct. 27, 2006.

In one sentence, the Incumbent Boy manages to trivialize the San Joaquin Valley, Silicon Valley, renewable energy and technological innovation and invention.

The San Joaquin Valley is the “Silicon Valley of Agriculture.” It remains in the forefront of agricultural technological innovation – at least while it has enough agricultural land to be worth the effort.

Every local growth hustler in America has been claiming Silicon Valley can be transported to his or her little burg or rust bowl – but there is only one Silicon Valley.

UC Riversides, Irvines and Merceds may multiply by land-deal boondoggle, but there is only one Cal.

Real inventors of alternative energy technology tend to be like brahma bulls in milking barns, not good little academics or “one voice” politicos.

Urban sprawl does not "another Silicon Valley" make.

The Pomboza (Pombo/Cardoza) continues to want one thing: real estate development. It is about the least innovative policy imaginable for the San Joaquin Valley.

Measure G creates a moving target for development by opening up new growth corridors. In the process it makes a mockery out of planning, the county General Plan update and all the other community and special urban development plans.

Sooner or later, the Federal Highway Administration must look at funding more highway construction in the nation’s second-worst air pollution basin. Measure G is part of a political game to make the FHA look away from Valley air pollution for as long as possible.
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Oct. 29, 2006

Fresno Bee
Keep our tax dollars at home...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/274/v-printerfriendly/story/10060.html
If we don't help ourselves, our money subsidizes other counties. There are plenty of good reasons for Valley voters to approve transportation sales tax measures on Nov. 7... There are 10 counties with transportation sales taxes on the Nov. 7 ballot. Eight are in the Valley; the exceptions are Santa Barbara, Amador and Orange counties. Fresno and San Joaquin counties are voting on renewals. Kern, Tulare, Madera, Merced and Stanislaus are voting on new measures. Seventeen counties already have such taxes in place. All are in the Bay Area or Southern California, with the exception of Fresno and San Joaquin counties. Most of those taxes are set in place for many years; Los Angeles' tax is permanent. Vote "yes" on Measure T in Madera County, Measure R in Tulare County, Measure I in Kern County and Measure G in Merced County. Vote "yes" on Fresno County's Measure C. Keep our tax dollars at home to work for us, not our neighbors on the coast.

Oct. 28, 2006

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

Complain, or change the way campaigns are run...Jim Boren
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12948146p-13602167c.html
Elections have become the province of the special interests and political professionals. That has driven down voter turnout and increased political cynicism. A survey released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California says voters are discouraged in this year's campaign because the candidates aren't talking about issues that concern them. David Schecter, an assistant professor of political science at California State University, Fresno, says voter turnout is going down for several reasons other than negative campaigning. Many voters don't think their vote counts and others are frustrated with the political system...also points out that gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts limit competition and interest in those races.

Spending out of control...Ted Brodalski...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12948147p-13602176c.html
...school districts demand money from new home buyers by intimidating the builders to pay higher fees. They get funding per student from Sacramento. They demand money using school bonds to correct deferred maintenance and build new schools. There is never enough money to meet their demands. The bonds are directed at real property. This is the topper that is asking for our vote for a constitutional amendment and statute to create a statewide parcel tax of $50 per parcel (Prop. 88). No one in education wants to talk about the broken school spending.

Oct. 27, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Politicians ruining state...ROBERT C. SHERWOOD, Los Banos...Once again the rulers of perpetual debt (the California state government) are spending more than we pay them to spend. Business is good in California...the gas tax is up higher...Property taxes are up higher... state sales tax revenues are higher...state even got about $400 million income tax from the sale of Google stock... If our local officials don't succumb to this coercion and get the voters to pass a local sales tax increase for good sounding causes like schools or roads, then we are not a "self-help" county and cannot receive matching funds or other funds that are long overdue. That compares to a thief offering to sell you back the goods he has stolen from you at a half-percent more than the price that you have already paid for the goods. Remember the "pothole tax" a few years ago? This doubled the road taxes and was supposed to keep them fixed. What did the state do with that money? Remember the state lottery? Vote no on any tax increase because it is never enough.

Oct. 25, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Measure G half page ad...too large to send out
A6 Wednesday, October 25, 2006 LOCAL&REGION Merced Sun-Star, Merced, Calif
Vote Yes! on G...Myths and Truths about Measure G paid for by Merced County Transportation Alliance...FPPC #1281519
Myth Truth
The Cities and County already have money in their budgets for roads....Yes...most general fund money budgeted...
The gas tax should pay for our roads..............................................................Yes...CA gas tax...money allocated based on population.
The State of CA should pay for Hwy. 99...........................................................Yes...we can't wait that long...
The State of CA will take Measure G money for its own projects................No...Measure G is a locally approved and a locally controlled tax...
All Measure G money will go toward highways..............................................No...approx. 1/2 of the funds divided among all cities and uncorporated areas throughout the County for local street and county road repair
There is no Measure G money for local projects...........................................See above response.
Measure G will pay for new roads needed as a result of all new
development.........................................................................................................Projects chosen for Measure G funding include maintenance and improvements to EXISTING roads
County legislators will use this money for projects other than
transportation.......................................................................................................Measure G is a special tax...can ONLY be spent on the transportation projects and programs that VOTERS APPROVE.
The majority of voters don't support a transportation measure..................In June...62.8% voted in SUPPORT...we need two thirds...67%.

Modesto Bee
Want good roads in Merced? It'll cost nearly $50 million...Ellie Wooten...Community Voices
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12933540p-13590144c.html
The simple truth is Merced's streets and roads are not aging well. The solution is to keep the roads in shape with regular maintenance and repair...there is a gap between the amount of roadwork that needs to be done and the money available. Until we obtain the money, there will be rough roads ahead.

Oct. 24, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Road initiative misleading...David A. Bultena, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12929954p-13586799c.html
I recently received a copy of the voter pamphlet for Measure G...first page marked "24G1" and noted first of all, at the top it says "Measure A." I think Measure A was the last attempt to pass the sales tax. under "Measure A," the text asks the question, "Shall Merced County voters approve a one-half cent transportation?" Note that it says "one-half cent" and not "one-half percent." In the paragraph titled "Summary," the same language is used a second time. It seems to me that there is a great difference between collecting a half-percent sales tax and a half-cent sales tax. ..with all the high salaried people in charge of the county, members of the supervisors, etc., someone would have been smart enough to know the difference between the income from a "half-cent" sales tax and a "half-percent"sales tax.

Vote down higher taxes...Wayne Hein, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12929955p-13586809c.html
Utopia is soon to descend upon our Merced community, according to the proponents of Measure G. For the third time in four years, the "powers that be" are trying to brainwash the voters that this tax issue is a "must!" nine major donors have given approximately $130,000 for convincing purposes. Aren't some heavily funded developers anticipating with glee that if passed the measure will give a boost to their development activities? And where is the limit to the sales tax? Proponents say that it is only -- repeat only -- a "few dollars" per year. Isn't that what the same voices said when the last sales tax increased to our current amount? Must Merced be in the same class as San Francisco and San Rafael? And when we are told in a few years that a need (?) exists, and a bond is needed for the funding, can we not expect the same voices to tell us that the added amount would be "only a few dollars?"

Measure G not the answer...Robert Wood, Atwater...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12929956p-13586797c.html
Measure G is back again and I don't like it at all. I voted against it in June, I voted against it in 2002, and I'll vote against it again on Nov. 7. Special interest groups are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make voters believe that more taxes is the answer. Take all the gas tax money that we pay at the pump and spend it where it is supposed to be spent, on the roads! The message is, nothing gets done unless we say yes to Measure G. I say take some of the thousands of dollars that is spent to push this unnecessary tax and use it to fix our streets. Please don't let our local government put a gun to your head with this tax increase. Tell them to fix our roads with the money they already have. Twice before, we told them the answer is no. Vote no on Measure G and say no one more time.

Oct. 22, 2006

Stockton Record
'Taxpayers not only have subsidized, but will continue to subsidize, developers'...Dario Marenco
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061022/OPED02/610220306&SearchID=73260638368660
In 1990, when Measure K was placed on the ballot, one of the key features presented to voters was that a regional transportation impact fee would be placed on all future developments...15 years late, San Joaquin County Council of Governments is just now implementing this feature with a minimum fee of $2,500 for every new home built. That means developers have pocketed - and taxpayers have unnecessarily paid - at least $200 million for developments the past 15 years. If Measure K passes again...taxpayers not only have subsidized, but will continue to subsidize, developers...there are various loopholes in the Measure K renewal resolution that would enable developers to avoid paying the regional transportation impact fees under certain circumstances....costs... The San Joaquin Council of Governments, a 26-employee agency with an annual budget of $4.3 million, spent $86,000 for travel and conferences in 2002... Both Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, have staffs that cost our taxpayers over $1 million to represent these identical interests. Obviously, we already have professional, well-paid representatives in place in San Joaquin County and Washington, D.C., to protect and work for these same county interests. How then is a one-week, 50-person, $90,000 trip to Washington, D.C. - organized and promoted by the Council of Governments but paid for by taxpayers - justified to make our interests known?

Oct. 21, 2006

Merced Sun-Star

Your Views: Letters to the Editor:
B2 Saturday, October 21, 2006 Merced Sun-Star

Community at stake
Editor: We must do something locally to make the necessary improvements to our roads. Voting yes for Measure G is the answer. It's not just the porholes -- it's the long-term economic vitality of our community that's at stake. Having adequate and well-maintained roads is vital if we are to continue to meet the needs of our existing business community and citizens and continue to attract new business to Merced County.
If we truly want to preserve our quality of life, vote yes on Measure G.
Bob Carpenter, Merced

Who should pay road tax
Editor: Why more taxes to pay for streets, roads and highways? Why should law-abiding citizens in Merced County or any county be asked to pay more taxes to repair streets, roads and highways? They are already paying one of the highest gasoline taxes of any state in the United States and using more gasoline than any other state and the gasoline tax is supposed to be used to build and repair roads
Those who ought to be charged extra to pay for streets, roads and highways are the law-breaking speeders who ignore all posted speed limit signs. However; there is practically no visible law enforcers on any of our streets, roads and highways. My wife and I recently drove all the way across the United States and only saw three highway patrols. We went from Atwater to Gallup, N.M., before we saw the first highway patrol.
Just think of how many millions of dollars in fines that could be collected each day if the millions of California speeders were stopped every day. Hardly any drivers are obeying the posted speed limit signs, not only the drivers of autos, but truck drivers as well.
Never will I vote for a tax to repair streets, roads and highways until this situation is corrected. It is no wonder that so many people are being killed in auto accidents at the speeds they are traveling on the highways.
Lloyd 'Lefty" Stepp, Atwater

Fresno Bee
Group disputes EPA air ruling...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/v-printerfriendly/story/8888.html
Environmentalists last week accused air authorities of ignoring pollution violations in their haste to acknowledge a milestone cleanup of dust and soot in the San Joaquin Valley. Earthjustice, an Oakland-based legal watchdog, threatened a lawsuit over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's finding on Tuesday that the Valley has not violated the dust and soot standard in three years. Earthjustice lawyer Paul Cort said authorities disregarded readings last November that showed violations in Bakersfield and Corcoran. Earthjustice's allegation refers to secondary monitors used to help forecast daily pollution warnings, district planning director Scott Nester said. The monitors are in Corcoran, Bakersfield and Tracy, and they are not part of the federally sanctioned network. Kerry Drake, associate director of the EPA's regional air division, confirmed that the readings from the secondary monitors don't count unless they have been operated in accordance with federal regulation.

Oct. 20, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Your Views:
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12916106p-13574265c.html
Roads not safe for cyclists...Dough Fluetsch, Merlock Athletic Association, Merced...2nd letter...The roads, due to budget constraints of our city and county officials, have been deteriorating to the point where safety has become a major concern for cyclists. Measure G will enable each community within Merced County to address safety issues for bicyclists and drivers alike.
Re-inventing the wheel...Beverly Quigley, Merced...3rd letter...I have a simple question regarding Measure G... Doesn't Measure G basically request that I pay those taxes again (matching funds)? Why would I pay for one purchase twice? What happened to the monies I've been paying for 13 years?

Oct, 19, 2006

Merced Sun
Builder outlines coming shops...Leslie Albrechthttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12911855p-13570464c.htmlA shopping center so grand that its creators call it a "power center" was the star attraction at a Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce event updating members on new commercial development Wednesday...breakfast gathering highlighted several developments -- some still just concept drawings, others under construction -- that will shape Merced's shopping future...so-called "power center" is the Merced Gateway Park, a 133-acre regional shopping center slated for construction between Gerard Avenue and Mission Avenue on the east side of Coffee...center would offer world-class shopping on par with Fresno's River Park shopping center. Street in southeast Merced...include office space, hotels and possibly a movie theater. The site is now pasture land that's belonged to Pluim's family...shopping center will sit next to 196 condominiums that developer Matthews Homes plans to build at the corner of Gerard Avenue and Coffee Street....a half-mile to the west on Gerard Avenue is the site where Wal-Mart wants to build. Other projects highlighted at the chamber breakfast included: • A 15-acre shopping center planned for Yosemite Avenue between El Redondo Drive and Compass Pointe Drive (between R Street and Highway 59) in North Merced. • A 26-acre shopping center across Coffee Street from Merced Gateway Park called Merced Forum... • A neighborhood shopping center now under construction at Yosemite Park Way and Parsons Street

County expects voter turnout to be strong...Corinne Reillyhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12911857p-13570484c.htmlTwice as many Merced County residents are expected to cast ballots on Nov. 7 compared to last June's primary election. As of Wednesday morning, 92,826 people are registered to vote in the county...expected to climb until Monday, the last day to register to vote in the November election. Only a quarter of Merced's registered voters cast ballots in June...county expects 45 to 50 percent of registered voters to show up in November. Stephen Nicholson, a political science professor at UC Merced who studies elections and voting behavior...high campaign expenditures on statewide ballot items will likely bring more voters to the polls. National issues, such as the war in Iraq and recent scandals within the Republican party, could also boost voter turnout...Measure G, a half-cent sales tax measure to fund local transportation improvements, could also bring more voters to the polls this time around. Brown said some of the 21,000 absentee ballots the county has mailed to local voters since Oct. 10 are already coming back, but the county has yet to begin counting them. Local voters can request absentee ballots through Oct. 31. Those not registered to vote can do so for November's election through Monday.Merced Sun-Star Tip List:

City street named after capital of North Dakota is misspelled...Leslie Albrechthttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12911861p-13570456c.htmlWe're a university town and we need to start acting like it," said an anonymous tipster who left a message for the Tip List last week...Loughborough Drive in Merced is blighted with a typo. The street, like 18 others in the neighborhood, was named for a state capital: Bismarck, North Dakota. Unfortunately, the sign reads "Bismark." Local fifth-graders should be able to spot the misspelled street sign right away if they've been studying hard. Fifth-graders are responsible for knowing the location of all 50 states and the names of their capitals, said Nanette Rahilly, director of curriculum for Merced City School District. But she noted that the curriculum doesn't say anything about actually spelling the capitals correctly."I don't know how long that sign has been there," said Lesch of the Bismark sign. "It might be 30 or 40 years old. I'm surprised no one has said anything."

Oct. 18, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Be a responsible editor...David A. Ginsberg, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12907856p-13566807c.html
I read where you are endorsing Measure G, even on the front page. I can understand that endorsement if it is a corporate endorsement. After all, the Sun-Star is a major user of the county's roads and it makes sense that better roads mean a more efficient and therefore a more profitable newspaper. If, however, you are writing as an individual, then shame on you...you are in a position to see that the result of its passage would mean more land speculation, more development, loss of productive agricultural land, and the pollution of our Valley...the Sun-Star editor is in a position to see the effect another half-cent sales tax would have on the wage-earners of this county who are having trouble with increasing house payments, utilities, energy and food costs. ($82.50 a thousand doesn't sound like much until you are financing a $10,000 car). You are in a better position than anyone to investigate into whose pocket our gas taxes and gas sales taxes go that are some of the highest in the country that are supposed to pay for our roads. You are in a better position than anyone to realize that with the next serious public threat (like flood control) our elected leaders will be coming again, with hat in hand, asking for more money but we will already be committed to 30 years of higher taxes for roads that by then won't work. Yes, shame on you, Mr. Editor. You know better.

Vote down taxes...Geraldine Alsop, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12907852p-13566781c.html
It has come to my attention that there are four propositions on the November ballot to raise our taxes...I am 84 years old this November. I am a property owner so anything that undermines Prop. 13 is like shooting property owners; we can be taxed right out of our homes if you don't go to vote no on Proposition 88. Proposition 89...having to pay taxes for ads that attack candidates and causes you support, and support the candidates and causes you oppose. Proposition 86...hospital industry trying to get back some of their losses on treating the uninsured by allowing them to charge taxpayers more than they charge insurance companies for the same services. Proposition 87 will increase California taxes.

Modesto Bee
Readers sound off on the coming election
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/12901954p-13561399c.html
Measures G, K pave way for growth...Robby Avilla, Stevinson...Merced County's half-cent sales tax for transportation, Measure G, is equivalent to Stanislaus County's Measure K. As both counties fill up with massive subdivision growth, we are told that we cannot lure industries and jobs until we fix the roads. However, if we do the large road projects that state matching funds will address, we can be assured that even more massive housing tracts will be approved. It is a Catch-22 situation. Give us measures that truly do just fix and maintain our roads, instead of these top-heavy measures that will create grand roadway projects for still more overdevelopment. When a tiny town like Stevinson, with a population of 400, is asked to absorb a 3,500-unit gated community, the situation has grown out of control. In Merced County, the developers have financed the heck out of Measure G. Of course they have — it literally paves the way for their projects. Put the brakes on developer's megaprojects and vote "no" on Measures G and K.

Oct. 17, 2007

Merced Sun-Star
Vote no on taxes...Nancy Hart...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12901776p-13561215c.html
If passed, these proposals will cost you and me several hundred dollars every single year for decades. I have never seen such a flood of proposed taxes and bonds as there is this time around. The Merced Sun-Star has pointed out that Measure G and E alone will cost the average family per year $83 and $90 respectively, totaling $173. That does not include the following: Proposition lB, Proposition 1C, Proposition 1D, Proposition 1E, Proposition 84, Proposition 86, Proposition 87, Proposition 88, Proposition 89 -- $200 million in new taxes annually to pay for political campaigns, also Measure E and G as outlined above. It won't stop here either. More and more bond issues will be introduced as the years go by. Even when a bond issue is defeated, it keeps coming back. Look at Measure G which has been resubmitted under new names three times in the past four years.

Oct. 16, 2006

Fresno Bee
Road levy will need a bevy...Russell Clemings
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12901245p-13560698c.html
County's Measure C...proposed 20-year extension of the half-cent transportation sales tax, which is due to expire next summer...
half-cent tax first was enacted in 1986, only a simple majority was required. It got about 57.5%. Now, for the proposed extension, a two-thirds vote is required. A previous extension attempt in 2002 won 54% approval, but by then, a court ruling had already raised the bar, so it failed. The 2002 effort also was crippled. This time, local leaders have crafted a spending plan for the 20-year extension that divides $1.7 billion in expected revenues among three major purposes - public transit, local street repairs and improvements, and major streets and highways. Four counties - Merced, Monterey, Napa and Solano - tried to get local transportation sales taxes approved in the June primary. All failed. Only Merced, with 63%, even came close. Ten counties are trying in November, including Merced and Tulare, both of which have failed previously, and Madera, where a half-cent tax expired last year after a failed extension effort in 2002. The largest share of contributions to the committee so far comes from the building industry and associated businesses...Former California Secretary of State Bill Jones, now chairman of Fresno-based Pacific Ethanol, gave $10,000. Jones and Smith are co-chairmen of the chamber's committee.

Oct. 15, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
10-15-06Merced Sun-StarSales tax rates in California...Source: California State Board of Equalization...10-14-06A 8 Saturday, October 14, 2006 BACK PAGE Merced Sun-Star, Merced, Calif.
Madera County 7.25%
Marin County 7.75%
City of San Rafael 8.25%
Merced County 7.25%
City of Merced 7.75%
San Francisco County 8.50%
San Joaquin County 7.75%
San Joaquin County, City of Stockton 8.00%
Stanislaus County 7.375%

Major Donors to Measure G...Source: Merced County Board of Elections...10-14-06Merced Sun-Star, Merced Calif. LOCAL&REGION Saturday, October 14, 2006 A7Business Location AmountBrookfield Castle LLC , Del Mar $27,500
A. Teichert & Son, Sacramento $
E&J Gallo Winery, Modesto $15,000
Foster Farms, Livingston $15,000
K. Hovanian Forecast Homes, Sacramento $15,000
WellingtonCorporation, Morgan Hill $10,000
Team 31, Inc. , Morgan Hill $10,000
Atwater East Investors, Danville $10,000
Ferrari Investment Company, Balico $15,000

Major Donors to Measure A...Source: Merced County Board of Elections...10-14-06Merced Sun-Star, Merced Calif. LOCAL&REGION Saturday, October 14, 2006
California Alliance for Jobs, Sacramento $50,000
Atwater East Land Develop. Co., Danville $15,000
Ranchwood Homes, Merced $15,000
Ferrari Investment Co. , Turlock $15,000
KB Home Central Valley Inc. , Sacramento $15,000
Gallo Cattle Co., Atwater $10,000
H/S Development Co., Bakersfield $10,000
Florsheim Land, LLC , Stockton $15,000
Crosswinds Development, Novi, MI $15,000
Brookfield Sac. Holdings , Sacramento $15,500
Lennar Communities , San Ramon $10,000
A. Teichert & Son, Sacramento $10,000
Granite Construction, Watsonville $10,000

Modesto Bee
Road to Progress: Merced Co. needs road tax, too: Yes on Measure G...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/2006/election/2006_progress/story/12898807p-13558229c.html
Editor's note: Measure G is Merced County's version of Measure K. The following is an editorial reprinted from the Oct. 7 edition of the Merced Sun-Star. Have Merced County's roads improved since June?...no...June as a reference point because that's when Measure A, a half-cent sales tax increase proposal to help fix our dilapidated streets and highways, narrowly failed to get the required two-thirds of the vote to pass. Had it passed, a long list of projects to improve our roads would have swung into motion by now -- most bolstered with state and federal funds that only are available to counties that pass "self-help" tax increases. Now, Measure G -- which essentially is identical to Measure A -- is on the November ballot. Voters must vote "yes." Why?...there's simply no other way to get the transportation dollars this community, No one has a better idea because there isn't one that is realistic or makes sense.

Road to Progress: No matter which way you look, we need to pass half-cent sales tax...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898795p-13558233c.html
We, the citizens of Stanislaus County, are in the driver's seat...to our transportation future, and we're at a crossroads...we can see the mistakes of the last 15 years...other counties were willing to put their own money into local roads. With the passage of Measure K...half-cent increase in the sales tax from 7.375 cents on the dollar to 7.875 cents...1 billion over the next 30 years, and that money would help pay for several new interchanges on Highway 99 and for making Highway 219 a four-lane road across the northern part of the county...provide money for cities to fix dangerous intersections and to fill some of our infamous potholes...
provide money for transit for seniors and the disabled, and to boost commuter rail. Opposition to Measure K centers on two themes - mistrust of government and a dislike of higher taxes. All the money will be generated and spent within Stanislaus County. Local elected officials will make the spending decisions, with strong oversight by a citizens' committee.

Road to Progress: Who will keep an eye on how Measure K's funds are spent...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898794p-13558232c.html
Spending decisions will be made by local elected officials - mayors, council members and county supervisors - and those officials will have a citizens' committee looking over their shoulders...expenditures will be audited annually in a document to be made available to the public. The policy board: It consists of all five county supervisors; three members of the Modesto City Council; and one member each from the Turlock, Ceres, Oakdale, Riverbank, Patterson, Newman, Hughson and Waterford councils. The technical advisory committee: This consists of the nine city managers and the county's chief executive officer, or their designees. The Citizens Advisory Committee: This veers from the current StanCOG organization. Measure K contains specific qualifications and responsibilities for the citizens oversight committee, which would be in place by July 1. Each city and the county will appoint one member, who will serve without pay. Members cannot be an elected official or a staff member of any city, county or state transportation agency. Members can serve no more than two four-year terms.

Road to Progress: San Joaquin gets money's worth from its version of Measure K...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898788p-13558221c.html
San Joaquin County's roads are better than the roads in Stanislaus...Fifteen years ago, San Joaquin County voters decided to tax themselves a half-cent on most purchases, dedicating the money to fixing roads and building new ones...has completed 19 major projects. Santa Clara County was one of the first to pass a self-help sales tax in 1976... Los Angeles County has two permanent sales taxes (a half-cent each)... There also are permanent half-percent taxes in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. In all, there are 17 self-help counties and five agencies (such as BART) that have permanent sales taxes dedicated to transportation. Nearly 85 percent of all Californians live in self-help counties or districts. In November, voters in five more counties will be asked to pass sales-tax initiatives to fund road improvements. San Joaquin County wants to extend its half-cent tax through 2036. If Stanislaus' Measure K passes, San Joaquin will have a partner county to the south. That's critical because San Joaquin and Stanislaus share several vital roadways — Highways 132, 120 and 99 and Interstate 5...

Road to Progress: Not enough to keep roads where they are...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898797p-13558236c.html
"I already pay enough in gas taxes. Use that money to fix and build roads."... We do pay a lot... There are two big factors at work: First, the price of road maintenance and construction is nothing short of astonishing. Second, gas taxes at both the state and federal levels also go to mass transit systems... Below is a summary, relying on information from several sources but primarily the California Budget Project, a nonpartisan organization based in Sacramento. It illustrates the complexity of the financing to note that when the organization prepared a background paper to explain the subject, it required 15 pages, much of it single-spaced. (The full copy is available at www.cbp.org.) FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION DOLLARS: Most of the U.S. Department of Transportation budget comes from federal excise taxes on fuel, which have been levied in every state since 1932. It started at a penny a gallon. The rate is 18.4 cents per gallon on gas and 24.4 cents on diesel. STATE TRANSPORTATION FUNDING: More than half of the California Department of Transportation budget comes from the state excise fuel tax and weight fees (paid by commercial truckers). Both charges went up substantially in the early 1990s as a result of voter approval of Proposition 111. LOCAL TRANSPORTATION MONEY: By the time state and federal funding reaches individual cities, counties and transportation agencies, it's a thin trickle with lots of strings attached.

Road to Progress: Blaming developers for potholes is simply wrong...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12898785p-13558217c.html
Some people believe...all of our area's road problems were caused by developers...only people who truly benefit from better roads are developers...developers are making so much money that they can afford to fix all our road problems. We can blame housing developers for seizing opportunities; for uncomfortably reducing our green space and for playing the game of politics just a little too well. But we can't blame developers for our badly maintained, overcrowded and largely inadequate roads. For a variety of reasons, our existing roads have been allowed to deteriorate for years. Whether developers are paying their fair share to fix our roads is still open to debate.

Road to Progress: Should Stanislaus County voters enact the half-cent sales tax...Dave Thomas, former radio-TV talk show host, is one of two official spokesmen for the No on K/We're Taxed Out committee
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12898799p-13558235c.html
No: More money for bureaucratic bunglers? The proponents of Measure K promise a wonderful result...they will use it wisely... Well, let's look at what they say, and compare it to the facts found in the Stanislaus Council of Governments' "30-Year Transportation Financial Expenditure Plan" of June 2006. They say Measure K will "fix potholes and maintain local streets and roads in every community." But the plan allocates only 9.8 percent of the funds to "local transportation improvements." They say Measure K will provide "matching funds." Unfortunately, the plan allocates no matching funds to local projects, no matching funds to state projects, and only $1.3 million annually for all the promised federal projects. And the feds still determine which projects proceed. About 60 percent of Measure K funds will go to state highway corridors and interchanges. They say Measure K will not promote growth. But the plan identifies state and federal roads that go right to the areas of growth already identified by the cities of Modesto, Turlock, Patterson, Riverbank and Oakdale. They say they do not have enough money to maintain our roads. But the truth is, StanCOG already receives a quarter-cent of the current sales tax, which gives it more than $17 million every year. They say they are interested in fixing local roads. But the plan allocates only 24 percent of the funds for "local and regional" pavement fixes. Consider the obvious: Local bureaucrats have withheld funds to fix our roads in order to bludgeon you into raising your taxes. Have our local officials ever tried to lobby the state Legislature or the federal government for funds to fix our highway problems? Where are our elected Assembly members and senators? Why has our mayor never gone to Sacramento to obtain state grants in recognition of our abundant needs? Why have our supervisors not used their considerable clout to gain state and federal funds? Why have our federal congressmen not lobbied the feds to help us? Need I mention that the "watchdog" audit committee would be appointed by the politicians? Are you and I going to be appointed to that committee? You have seen the slick, multicolor mailers that tell only the part of the story they want us to believe. I encourage you to read the plan...

Road to Progress: Should Stanislaus County voters enact the half-cent sales tax?...Crag C. Lewis, Modesto businessman, chairman of the Yes on K campaign
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12898798p-13558225c.html
Yes: Benefits individuals, cities, county alike. First, Measure K is the only way for us to take control of our own collective destiny as it relates to transportation. citizens wonder why Measure K is necessary to improve our roads given that we already pay a transportation sales tax (Proposition 42) at the gas pump...answer is that it will take about $48 million annually to maintain safe roads throughout the county...we can expect to receive no more than $11 million annually from Proposition 42...it alone is insufficient to maintain safe roadways. Measure K has ironclad safeguards that prevent the diversion of any funds to nontransportation projects... cities receiving Measure K money cannot substitute funds previously allocated to transportation with Measure K money... a citizens oversight audit committee... an annual independent audit... Second, Measure K will give Stanislaus County a much-needed advantage in qualifying for state funds... Third, Measure K will create new jobs and invigorate our local economy... Fourth, Measure K is the tax that literally pays for itself... Measure K will cost most residents $55 to $200 annually. Measure K will literally put money back into our pockets. The bonus is merely safer roads, less traffic congestion and air pollution, and a more robust economy

Oct. 14, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Smoother roads ahead?...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12897397p-13556945c.html
Measure G...For the third time in four years, voters will be asked to support a sales tax increase for road improvements...needs approval from 66.7 percent of voters to pass, debuted in November 2002 as Measure M. It failed, earning 61 percent of the vote. In June 2006 it was reborn as Measure A and garnered 63 percent of the vote, falling 795 votes shy of winning. Just five months later, it's back as Measure G. But with each failure, the voices of those opposed to the measure have grown louder. While there is no organized campaign against Measure G, grumblings from the Letters to the Editor section of the Sun-Star show the battle to finally pass the measure is far from over. If it passes, Measure G will hike the sales tax in the city of Merced to 8.25 percent -- within spitting distance of San Francisco's 8.5 percent -- for the next 30 years...would generate $446 million to help fund transportation projects countywide, from reconstructing Livingston's Main Street to building a new Bradley Overhead. Half the money would go to road maintenance. Kelsey said a Caltrans representative told the county earlier this week that if the governor's infrastructure bond measure passes and Merced achieves self-help status with Measure G, the county will be eligible for funding to widen Highway 99 from the Stanislaus County line to Livingston. The measure's most prominent critic is Cathleen Galgiani, a Democrat running for Assembly against Republican Gerry Machado...said the statewide transportation bond measure on the November ballot will provide funding for Merced County roads...noted that the transportation bond will set aside $614 million for eight Central Valley counties in addition to the $1 billion earmarked for widening Highway 99. William Stockard, a retired superintendent of Merced County schools, said Measure G only benefits developers and other businesses like the proposed Riverside Motorsports Park and the proposed Wal-Mart distribution center that "want to get free money."...said the county should cover the cost of road maintenance by charging developers higher impact fees when they build here. Charles Magneson, a farmer near Ballico-Cressey, said he's opposed to Measure G because some of the projects it would fund will create sprawl and eat up farmland..."(Measure G is) heavily funded by developers that are looking for those roads to encroach on farmland to make their developments possible." In June, fliers denouncing Measure A as "welfare subsidies for the Building Industry Association" appeared in the Sun-Star three days before the election. Measure G campaign has tweaked its strategy...raised about $200,000...with the large contributions from donors like developer Brookfield Castle LLC, Del Mar; construction company Teichert & Son, Sacramento; Foster Farms, Livingston; E&J Gallo Winery, Modesto; K. Hovanian Forecast Homes, Sacramento; Wellington Corporation, Morgan Hill; Team 31, inc., Morgan Hill; Atwater East Investors, Danville; and Ferraire Investment Company; Balico...endorsements from Rep. Dennis Cardoza, all three Merced chambers of commerce, five county newspapers including the Sun-Star, the entire County Board of Supervisors and the entire Merced City Council. If it doesn't win, Measure G could come back, but by law supporters would have to wait until the November 2008 election.

Vote no on Measure G...Robby Avilla, Stevinson...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12897288p-13556793c.html
Merced County Association of Governments is telling Merced County residents, "It's the matching funds, stupid"...to elicit our votes in favor of Measure G....at the same time they stress that Measure G is for road maintenance. Matching state funds do not occur for local road maintenance projects. Matching funds are for major highway projects that will service still more developer-driven, farmland-robbing projects...look who has been the backbone of funding for these continuous half-cent sales tax measures that MCAG has been sponsoring. When developments with 3,500 housing units for a single project start coming before the Merced County Board of Supervisors for approval, we need to start putting the brakes on local developers' delusions of grandeur. Even if Measure G were to be passed, it would not be able to create enough fancy interchanges and bypasses to handle the traffic of the added development that it will green light. Give us a measure that we can support.

Modesto Bee

Measure K funds will misspent...Bruce R. Frohman, Modesto...Letters to the editor
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/12897443p-13557039c.html
30-year tax on November's ballot will be spent on growth-inducing projects which should be paid for by fees on new development. Proponents told me the tax will promote development similar to San Joaquin County, which will lose all of its prime farmland in 40 years at the current rate of urban growth. Merced County recently rejected a sales-tax increase. Yet, it is presently building two major freeway interchanges! If the sales-tax increase is not passed, another proposal will appear on the ballot in the near future. Should we hold out for a better deal? Or would we prefer a second sales-tax increase to actually fix the roads?

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Re: Public hearing to consider the issuance of a proposed decision and findings regarding the Airport Land Use Commission's Find

Submitted: Oct 23, 2006

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

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

Merced County Board of Supervisors October 23, 2006
2222 M Street
Merced, California 95340
Fax: (209) 726-7977
Ph: (209) 385-7366

Via facsimile and Email

Re: Public hearing to consider the issuance of a proposed decision and findings regarding the Airport Land Use Commission's Finding as to consistency between the Airport Land Use Plan and the Riverside Motorsports Park Project- PH #2-10:00am

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, the Merced County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the above-mentioned item.

The board is being asked to override a decision by the Castle Airport Land Use Commission that the RMP project is inconsistent with state Department of Transportation guidelines on projects near airports.

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

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, the Merced County Planning Commission will hear the final EIR on the RMP project.

The RMP final EIR staff report states:

“The RMP Master Plan EIR is intended to serve as a comprehensive document that evaluates the full range of impacts anticipated with project implementation.” – Staff Report, Merced County, Oct. 25, GPA03-005 and ZC03-007, p. 9.

Here is a major impact requiring the board to override the ALUC’s decision and findings, which is not included in the racetrack EIR, yet, without the board’s decision to override the commission’s decision and findings, the racetrack project is obstructed. Therefore, at a bare minimum, the board should realize that the racetrack is impacting the Castle Airport Land Use Plan. Once grasping this, the board should reach the deeper insight the two are part of one project, all parts of which are subject to review by the California Environmental Quality Act.

The board's decision and the commission's decisions are mutually reliant. If the board doesn't override the ALUC findings, it is a serious obstacle to approval of the FEIR for the racetrack. They are part of the same project.

We believe the two decisions are mutually reliant and that the County is segmenting a project without adequate environmental review. We assert that the board decision on the ALUC is part of the RMP project, that it is subject to CEQA, and therefore, the RMP FEIR should be recirculated, providing sufficient public notice and adequate environmental information on impacts to the public from a decision to override the ALUC findings, based on state Department of Transportation guidelines for airports.

There are public health and safety issues involved but not considered: the cumulative impacts of noise from both the racetrack and the airport could, under some circumstances, produce a decibel level of noise dangerous to human health. The argument advanced by County staff that because it will already be incredibly noisy at the racetrack, the additional noise of aircraft landing nearby won't bother them lacks any analysis.

This project also changes the impacts discussed in the RMP draft EIR in sections 4.6-5, 4.6-6, 4.6-7, and 4.7. Therefore, the mitigation measures in the RMP final EIR are inaccurate.

The cumulative impacts of aircraft and racetrack noise to the nearby federal prison, located at the end of the drag track, featuring the noisiest events on the track, are not analyzed.

There is no environmental analysis of the impacts of this proposed board decision, yet, if the board does not agree to override the airport commission's findings, a serious obstacle to the RMP project remains.

We also assert that the proposed board decision, if taken, negates an important feature of the Castle airport plan, intended to protect public health and safety.

Beyond the excessively narrow focus of the proposed decision before the board lie the environmental impacts to the base from an anticipated increase in air traffic to the Castle airport, which will generate yet more traffic congestion and further deteriorate air quality. This additional air and ground traffic will come both as a direct result of the racetrack project and as an indirect result of inclusion of the off-base land on which the racetrack is proposed, into the Castle SUDP, which in turn will open the door to the Foreign/Free Trade Zone.

The public was not provided enough information on this proposed decision. At the very least in this public hearing, the public should have been provided: the sections in the draft and final EIRs on the RMP project that address this issue; the minutes of the 2003 ALUC meeting, which could have showed its reasoning and authorities for deciding RMP was incompatible with the Castle airport land use plan; the language in the state Public Utilities Code upon which the County is relying; and the sections of the state Department of Transportation’s California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook upon which the County is relying.

Nor does the public see evidence that the applicant has submitted his FAA form 7460-1, Notice of Proposed Construction or Alteration, etc.

The staff report references an “analysis gap” in the airport commission’s decision. We suggest this staff report is an analysis gap from beginning to end because it fails to analyze the proposed decision’s compatibility with the county’s outdated General Plan, the Castle Master Plan, the Castle SUDP, the federal penitentiary’s land use concerns, the proposed Master Plan for Riverside Motorsports Park, the county Transportation Plan, or the Foreign/Free Trade Zone.

In our scanning of the code and the handbook, we find no sections that condone the situation in this proposed decision. State law, like the Merced public, did not contemplate the local land use planning by constant, ever larger amendment of a dysfunctional, outdated general plan. But, at a bare minimum not achieved by this proposal, the county’s outdated General Plan must be amended as part of the board’s consideration of an override of the ALUC decision and findings. [PUC Section 21676.5 (b)]

This project and the RMP final EIR are mutually reliant, parts of the same project. The strongest evidence for this is Impact 4.6-4 on pages 4.6-21-22 in the RMP draft EIR. Because they are part of one project, the RMP, which is subject to CEQA review, the board cannot decide on this proposal in isolation from the final EIR of the RMP project. The decision to override the decision and findings of the ALUC and to change its plan are in integral part of the RMP project. This is segmenting and piecemealing a project under CEQA.

As further evidence that this issue was raised in both the draft and final EIRs, we attach: the Jan 6, 2006 letter from John Fowler in the RMP final EIR; the Letter 10 Response to Mr. Fowler’s letter, also in the RMP final EIR; sections 4.6-4, 4.6-5, 4.6-6, 4.6-7, and 4.7 in the RMP draft EIR – all of which discuss the very action before the board today.

The public found it unacceptable that Mitigation Measure 4.6-4 in the RMP draft EIR calls for the applicant to request that the ALUC update its policies. Once again, a developer is driving the Merced County planning process. Table 2 in the final EIR, Summary of Impacts and Mitigation Measures, 4.6-4 through 4.7 has not even considered environmental impacts that will arise if the board decides to override the ALUC decision and findings today. The environmental consultants determined in the RMP final EIR that even with the “mitigation” of the decision before the board today, there remain “significant and unavoidable impacts” (see attached).

As the board well knows, the RMP Master Plan is void and inapplicable because the majority of the racetrack lies in a zone that requires the override of the ALUC decision and findings to make it “safe.” Nothing could more emphatically underscore the fact that the decision the county Planning Commission will take tomorrow on the RMP final EIR is totally dependent on the decision the board will take today, without any environmental analysis.

Finally, given the significant quantity of birds in Merced County and the fact that the leading cause of catastrophic aircraft accidents results from bird/aircraft collisions, is it really conscionable to locate the vast concentrations of race spectators adjacent to an airport that will draw increasing air traffic due to the racing events? Is the difference between 6,000 and 10,000 feet a real margin of safety?

We are attaching letters that deal with this specific issue: from the RMP draft EIR, Volume 2 – Appendices, a letter from US Department of Transportation addressing the hazards of wildlife to aircraft in populated areas; a letter from John Fowler, April 1, 2005, concerning building height limitations and human density issues; an April 14, 2005 letter from the state Department of Transportation addressing the problems aircraft, birds and high concentrations of people; an April 26, 2003 letter from the Castle airport manager expressing concern about the high concentration of spectators at the proposed racetrack; and an Aug. 27, 2003 letter from the federal Department of Transportation asking for specific compliance measures from the applicant.

We request the board not to take action on this item and direct the staff to recirculate the RMP EIR to include important, unresolved concerns. This decision must be included in the project as a whole. By segmenting the project before you from the RMP Master Plan, draft and final EIRs, RMP is obscuring its own consultants’ description of the impacts of the decision before you today as “significant and unavoidable.” The public would add, “dangerous to public health and safety.”

Sections in the CEQA Guidelines that appear to bear on this situation include:

15154. Projects Near Airports

(a) When a lead agency prepares an EIR for a project within the boundaries of a comprehensive airport land use plan or, if a comprehensive airport land use plan has not been adopted for a project within two nautical miles of a public airport or public use airport, the agency shall utilize the Airport Land Use Planning Handbook published by Caltrans' Division of Aeronautics to assist in the preparation of the EIR relative to potential airport-related safety hazards and noise problems.

(b) A lead agency shall not adopt a negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration for a project described in subdivision (a) unless the lead agency considers whether the project will result in a safety hazard or noise problem for persons using the airport or for persons residing or working in the project area.

15146. Degree of Specificity

While CEQA requirements cannot be avoided by chopping the proposed project into pieces to render its impacts insignificant the EIR need not engage in a speculative analysis of environmental consequences for future and unspecified development. (Atherton v. Board of Supervisors of Orange County, (1983) 146 Cal. 3d 346.)

15021. Duty to Minimize Environmental Damage and Balance Competing Public Objectives

Discussion: Section 15021 brings together the many separate elements that apply to the duty to minimize environmental damage. These duties appear in the policy sections of CEQA, in the findings requirement in Section 21081, and in a number of court decisions that have built up a body of case law that is not immediately reflected in the statutory language. This section is also necessary to provide one place to explain how the ultimate balancing of the merits of the project relates to the search for feasible alternatives or mitigation measures to avoid or reduce the environmental damage.

(b) A lead agency shall not adopt a negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration for a project described in subdivision (a) unless the lead agency considers whether the project will result in a safety hazard or noise problem for persons using the airport or for persons residing or working in the project area.

h) The lead agency must consider the whole of an action, not simply its constituent parts, when determining whether it will have a significant environmental effect. (Citizens Assoc. For Sensible Development of Bishop Area v. County of Inyo (1985) 172 Cal.App.3d 151)

15147. Technical Detail

The information contained in an EIR shall include summarized technical data, maps, plot plans, diagrams, and similar relevant information sufficient to permit full assessment of significant environmental impacts by reviewing agencies and members of the public. Placement of highly technical and specialized analysis and data in the body of an EIR should be avoided through inclusion of supporting information and analyses as appendices to the main body of the EIR. Appendices to the EIR may be prepared in volumes separate from the basic EIR document, but shall be readily available for public examination and shall be submitted to all clearinghouses which assist in public review.

15201. Public Participation

Public participation is an essential part of the CEQA process. Each public agency should include provisions in its CEQA procedures for wide public involvement, formal and informal, consistent with its existing activities and procedures, in order to receive and evaluate public reactions to environmental issues related to the agency's activities. Such procedures should include, whenever possible, making environmental information available in electronic format on the Internet, on a web site maintained or utilized by the public agency.

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Sections 21000, 21082, 21108, and 21152, Public Resources Code; Environmental Defense Fund v. Coastside County Water District, (1972) 27 Cal. App. 3d 695; People v. County of Kern, (1974) 39 Cal. App. 3d 830; County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles, (1977) 71 Cal. App. 3d 185.

Discussion: This section declares the importance of public participation as an element of the CEQA process. This section encourages agencies to provide notice on the internet when possible. Internet posting offers the public yet another means of being informed about a project.

In Concerned Citizens of Costa Mesa, Inc. v. 32nd District Agricultural, Assoc. (1986) 42 Cal. 3d 929, the court emphasized that the public holds a "privileged position" in the CEQA process "based on a belief that citizens can make important contributions to environmental protection and on notions of democratic decision making."

15202. Public Hearings

(a) CEQA does not require formal hearings at any stage of the environmental review process. Public comments may be restricted to written communication.

(b) If an agency provides a public hearing on its decision to carry out or approve a project, the agency should include environmental review as one of the subjects for the hearing.

(c) A public hearing on the environmental impact of a project should usually be held when the Lead Agency determines it would facilitate the purposes and goals of CEQA to do so. The hearing may be held in conjunction with and as a part of normal planning activities.

(d) A draft EIR or Negative Declaration should be used as a basis for discussion at a public hearing. The hearing may be held at a place where public hearings are regularly conducted by the Lead Agency or at another location expected to be convenient to the public.

(e) Notice of all public hearings shall be given in a timely manner. This notice may be given in the same form and time as notice for other regularly conducted public hearings of the public agency. To the extent that the public agency maintains an Internet web site, notice of all public hearings should be made available in electronic format on that site.

(f) A public agency may include, in its implementing procedures, procedures for the conducting of public hearings pursuant to this section. The procedures may adopt existing notice and hearing requirements of the public agency for regularly conducted legislative, planning, and other activities.

(g) There is no requirement for a public agency to conduct a public hearing in connection with its review of an EIR prepared by another public agency.

Note: Authority cited: Section 21083, Public Resources Code; Reference: Sections 21000, 21082, 21108, and 21152, Public Resources Code; Concerned Citizens of Palm Desert, Inc. v. Board of Supervisors, (1974) 38 Cal. App. 3d 272.

Discussion: The section encourages agencies to include environmental issues in the agenda when the agency provides a public hearing on the project itself. The section also provides that the draft EIR or Negative Declaration should be used as a basis for discussion of environmental issues at a hearing if one is held. In an effort to simplify procedures, the section allows agencies to conduct hearings on environmental issues according to the same rules that the agency applies to its other hearings. This section also acknowledges that there is no requirement for a public agency to conduct a public hearing concerning its review of an EIR.

Subsection (e) encourage agencies to provide public hearing notice on the internet when possible. Internet posting offers the public another means of being informed about a project.

15203. Adequate Time for Review and Comment

The Lead Agency shall provide adequate time for other public agencies and members of the public to review and comment on a draft EIR or Negative Declaration that it has prepared.

Public agencies may establish time periods for review in their implementing procedures and shall notify the public and reviewing agencies of the time for receipt of comments on EIRs. These time periods shall be consistent with applicable statutes, the State CEQA Guidelines, and applicable Clearinghouse review periods.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

Lydia Miller Steve Burke

Cc: Interested parties

BadlandsJournal

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Minor subdivision east of Planada

Submitted: Oct 11, 2006

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

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water (POW)
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto, CA 95350
(209) 523-1391, ph. & fax
sburke3105@sbcglobal.net

Merced County Planning Commission
2222 M St.
Merced CA 95340
Tel: (209) 385-7654
Fax:(209) 726-1710
Email: jholland@co.merced.us

Date: Oct. 11, 1006 Via- email and fax

RE: MINOR SUBDIVISON NO.05021- STILLMAN FAMILY TRUST – CEQA
INITIAL STUDY, MITIGATED NEGATIVE DECLARATION,STAFF REPORT
AND RECOMMENDATON FINDINGS AND ACTIONS

On Oct. 11, 2006 Merced County Planning Commission is holding a public hearing on the Stillman Family Trust, and new information can be received in a public hearing.

Merced County Planning and Community Development Department Staff Report and Recommendation.

III. Background
We find erroneous the assertion that “county wetland and wildlife habitat maps show no sensitive wildlife or biological resources as being located on, or adjacent to, the subject properties.” We have attached maps that fundamentally contradict this statement.

IV. Analysis
A. We believe the project violates all four goals drawn from the existing county General Plan, and agree with the planner’s comment that this subdivision is “a potential conversion of the land.” Without irrigation, (the parcels lie outside the MID service area) these smaller parcels could not be intensely farmed. The project plan is to sell them for ranchettes.

10/03/2005
PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MINOR SUBDIVISION APPLICATION NO. 05021 — STILLMAN FAMILY TRUST
PAGE 3
Policy 7.3 (chapter I, Page 58)
Premature and uncoordinated division of land which forces the early cessation of valid agricultural uses shall be avoided.
The Merced County General Plan goals and objectives cited above, together with the analysis of the issue of minimum effective parcel sizes for Commercial agriculture provided in the Agricultural Chapter of the Plan (Chapter VII pages 23.26), indicate that the subdivision of agricultural land into parcels of 20 to 39 acres in size may result in the land becoming less likely to stay in long-term agricultural use. This is due to these smaller parcels lacking the size to (Individually) support a full- time farming operation, rendering them more susceptible to being acquired for ‘hobby farming’ purposes. If it is accepted that hobby farmlands are likely to be used less intensively than commercial farmland (According to the General Plan, “While the small farms are operated by the land owner in most cases, it is a secondary activity and source of income. Chapter VII, Page 25, a division of a large parcel into smaller parcels could be seen as a potential conversion of the land.

B.4.
The subdivision would be incompatible with existing agricultural uses and cropping patterns in the vicinity, where it appears that while half the small parcels (11) are homesites on adjacent farms and ranches, the property is surrounded by medium sized cropped fields and larger cattle ranches. However, the greater problem with this staff report is that it appears to gain more than a thousand acres from the 2005 Planning Commission staff report and recommendations, yet the one-half radius remains the same, so there is no way to understand how the parcel sizes, the numbers of parcels, the acreage, and the averages for different parcels between the two staff reports relate to one another (see attachment).

4. Compatibility with Existing Agricultural Uses and Cropping Patterns In the Vicinity
Information provided by the applicant on the ‘Form or Assessing General Plan Consistency For Agricultural Land Divisions (copy attached), indicates that both the proposed parcels will continue to be used for either fish farming, or, remain fallow. Eased on this information, the proposed minor subdivision would appear not to conflict with established agricultural activities in the immediate area. The design of the proposed subdivision does, however, raise the possibility of much of this land, being rendered non-viable for commercial agriculture due to the low amount of farmable land being created for Parcels B, U and F and associated access issues for Parcels D and F. This issue is compounded by the observed recreational (Ski) boating use of the existing fish pond- Upon division and sale of the land, the future owners of Parcels S U, F and G would presumably become part owners of the fish pond, providing them with shares of and access to a private recreational facility. This outcome would have the effects of producing a potentially incompatible land use in a predominantly agricultural area and substantially reducing (or eliminating) the possibility of commercial agricultural use of much of these parcels.
It should also be noted that any sale or purchase of the land could result In the construction of one or more new homes per parcel, increasing the potential for conflicts with existing agricultural land uses and reducing the potential for commercial agricultural use of the land. – 10/03/05 Planning Commission staff report

However, the greater incompatibility is with natural resource conservation. The property is surrounded on three sides by natural habitat conservation easements purchased to mitigate for UC Merced on large cattle ranches. The Stillman property contains vernal pools, and is in fact adjacent (on the north and east) to the major vernal pool concentration in the county.

The property contains a synthetic wetland (commercial cat-fish pool) an estimated 20 acres in size. This is an attraction for wildlife that inhabits the adjacent conservation easement land.

The applicants’ reasons for the proposed division, ‘family planning, farm operation finances,’ may be too vague to be meaningful. All it might mean is selling off ranchette parcels for a lot of money to divide among the family, perhaps putting some of it into the catfish farm.

V. Environmental Review
We agree with staff’s assertion that “a survey of the project site by an appropriately qualified wildlife biologist is necessary in order to properly determine the presence or absence of these resources (vernal pools, wetlands, other listed plant species and wildlife habitat) and appropriately provide for their protection.” This issue has been raised by the California Department of Fish and Game.

Therefore, we do not believe the Planning Commission can approve the project because of findings 4, 5, 6, 9, and 10:

· The subdivision is incompatible with the agricultural preservation policies of the county General Plan (4,5)
· The project has not been reviewed by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife (6)
· The proposed parcels and future land uses are incompatible with existing agricultural uses and cropping patterns in the vicinity (9)
· The 20-acre parcel size is incompatible with surrounding parcel sizes, according to “Adjacent Parcel Size Analysis,” which shows no average parcel size close to 20 acres (10).

Notice of Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration

The public is under no obligation to “provide mitigation measures (conditions) and/or modification to the project, which might avoid or reduce the level of environmental impact(s)” to either the local land-use authority or to state or federal agencies.

County of Merced California Environmental Quality Act Initial Study for Minor Subdivision Application No. 05021

Brief Project Description:

Do efforts to protect a commercial catfish farm conflict with the needs of wildlife? What means does the catfish farm use to drive birds and wildlife away from its pond?

Utilities and Services Description:

Without a county groundwater plan, how can it be estimated what effect well-drilling would have on the aquifer and surrounding wells? What effect on groundwater quality would new septic systems have? How many residences are projected in this project?

Other Agencies Whose Approval is Required:

Both state and federal natural resource agencies do have approval authority over this proposal because of the natural resources on the site and its location adjacent to the richest area of natural resources in the eastern half of the county, much of it already under perpetual conservation easement.

Environmental Factors Potentially Affected:

Where is the evidence the drainage that runs through the entire property does not, as similar drainages in that part of the county do, contain valuable aggregate resources?

Dismissal of cultural resources along such drainages is not advisable, as CalTrans mentions in its comment letter.

1.Aesthetics:

The project would cause substantial damage to the visual character and quality of the site and its surroundings, which at the moment provide an unobstructed view from the Valley into the Foothills and to the Sierra beyond.

4. Biological Resources:

On Sept. 25, the state Department of Fish and Game advised the County to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on federal Endangered Species Act and federal Clean Water Act issues on the project. The packet contains no information that indicates either the Service or the Army Corps were ever contacted or commented. Without comment from these two federal agencies, the significant impacts discussed in sections a, b, c, d, and f fail for lack of adequate information.

Biological Resources Discussion

The project is mis-described as primarily a farming area “modified by agricultural activities with the passage of time,” when, in fact, the large area to the north and east of the site has been in seasonal pasture cattle ranching with very little “modification” beyond fences, ever. This area is entirely protected by natural habitat conservation easements to mitigate for UC Merced, the most compelling evidence of abundant state and federally protected wildlife and plant species imaginable. The natural drainage traversing the project site is a wildlife corridor.

Concluding “there are no sensitive plant or wildlife species located on the project site,” based on Merced County General Plan maps fails because the general plan has not been updated since before the UC Merced project was initiated which, as the planning commission and the county Planning Department well know, produced abundant data on sensitive, threatened and endangered species in the area. The state Fish and Game Departments letter of Sept. 25 contradicts the consultant’s opinion that Fish and Game believes there are no sensitive species on the site.

Concludes & Data:

It would be impossible to know how affected federal agencies would assert jurisdiction over the drainage channel or any other part of the site if they have not been informed of the project by the local land-use authority.

5. Cultural Resources:

Conclusions & Data:

There was no consultation with local tribal authorities or the state native American Heritage Commission, who possess detailed maps of ancestral sites. Therefore, the conclusions fail for lack of competent research of available evidence.

6. Geology and Soils

There is no mention of the Bear Mountain Fault Zone that lies immediately east of the eastern border of Merced County.

7. Hazards & Hazardous Materials

In view of the past problems Merced County has had with commercial aquaculturists, it is fair to ask what hazardous materials may be used in the Stillman commercial catfish farm. We also note that there is no discussion of what an attractive nuisance a 20-acre fishpond poses to new residents, especially children.

8. Hydrology & Water Quality

Although there are on-going studies on groundwater supply in eastern Merced County, through MAGPI and BAP, they are not completed; therefore impacts to groundwater supply and quality and from surface runoff cannot be accurately estimated. Construction of “residences and appurtenant facilities would affect groundwater recharge on this site.

9. Land Use & Planning:

Conclusions & Data:

The documents in this packet do not provide enough information for the consultant to conclude, “The majority of the site can be expected to remain in open space and agricultural production.”

The reason the project “will not conflict with any habitat conservation plan or natural community conservation plan that is in effect within the area surrounding the project site” is because there are none. On the other hand, this project has the potential for adversely affecting the quality of the perpetual habitat conservation easements adjoining the site.

11. Noise:

Conclusions & Data:

The project will produce more noise and traffic, permanently. Like the permanent addition of more light and glare, these will adversely affect state and federal listed wildlife on the site.

12. Population & Housing:

Discussion:

The inclusion of “secondary residences” could create as many as six houses per parcel, adding many more than 16 people to the property.

13. Public Services:

Conclusions & Data:

It cannot be concluded, “the project will not directly result in the need for new public facilities,” because we don’t know how many people will inhabit the site in “secondary residences.” However, we do know that the residential subdivision will contribute to cumulative impacts to the region’s public services. Without any adequate statement of how many people will be using the septic systems, it is impossible to analyze these systems’ affects on the groundwater.

14. Recreation:

Planning Department indicates that the existing fishpond is also used for water skiing. Private recreational uses may not directly conflict with commercial agriculture. The proposed division could, therefore, have the effect of creating a private recreational activity on agriculturally zoned land without the required Conditional Use Permit being obtained (Zoning Code, Section 18.02.02 Table 4).

15. Transportation & Traffic:

Conclusions & Data:

There is no way of telling how much this project will increase traffic because it is impossible from these documents to determine how many houses, people and vehicles will occupy the site. If, for example, a number of the “secondary residences” were rented to groups of farmworkers, many of whom owning cars, the project could have a sizeable impact on local traffic. The same would be true if the “secondary residences” were rented to UC Merced students.

16. Utilities & Service Systems

Without consultation with the Army Corps and other federal and state agencies on wetlands issues on this site and on the conservation-easement land uphill from it, there is not enough information for assessing the impacts from this project (or proposed series of projects) on the site, on its natural drainage system, or on land and habitation below it.

Section 4: Mandatory Findings of Significance

A.

Analysis of the potential adverse physical environmental impacts of this project is so incomplete and flawed that no determination can be made. Reducing mitigation to one flawed mitigation measure (Section 5) is wholly inadequate.

B. The conclusion reached in this section is wrong because it does not take into account the potential impacts on the UC Merced easements surrounding the site on three sides, it encourages leap-frog development, it doesn’t take into account the recent 20-percent loss of natural habitat through illegal takes in eastern Merced County, and there is no analysis of the impacts to the region’s groundwater supply and quality.

C. The project will have potentially significant unless mitigated impacts on the environment because – although studies are not completed -- it is known by residents and agencies that there is very little groundwater in the region, therefore the addition of an unknown quantity of wells would have potentially significant impact on groundwater supply. Septic systems for a growing number of people inhabiting “secondary residences” would have a potentially significant impact on groundwater quality and potentially on surface water as well in the case of flooding, particularly with the characteristic sheet flooding of the region. As the number cars increases, there will be more impacts to traffic than are recognized by this initial study.

Section 5: Applicant’s Agreement to Mitigation

For reasons stated above, this measure is inadequate to mitigate for the impacts the initial study has identified, and wholly inadequate to mitigate for the impacts that the initial study has not identified.

Attachment “A” Project Communications/Comments

The environmental review failed to address the comments submitted by the public and the agencies.

California Environmental Quality Act Issues

A Mitigated Negative Declaration is not adequate for this project. An Environmental Impact Report must be prepared.

In order for a Mitigated Negative Declaration to be approved, it must pass the “fair argument standard” of CEQA. This does not.

A “negative declaration” is a “written statement by the Lead Agency briefly describing the reasons that a proposed project ….will not have a significant effect on the environment and therefore does not require the preparation of and EIR”. (CEQA Guidelines, § 15371). A negative declaration must be prepared when after completing an initial study, a lead agency determines that a project “would not have a significant effect on the environment.” Public Resource Code, § 21080, subd. (c).) Such a determination can be made only if “[t]here is no substantial evidence in light of the whole record before the lead agency” that such an impact may occur. (Public Resource Code, § 21080, subd. (c)(1) (emphasis added). See also CEQA Guidelines, § 15070, subd. (a).) [1]

CEQA requires a lead agency to prepare an EIR whenever substantial evidence in light of the entire record supports a "fair argument" that a proposed project may have a significant adverse impact on the environment. Even when other substantial evidence in the record supports the opposite conclusion, CEQA s "fair argument" standard requires the lead agency to prepare an EIR prior to approving or carrying out a proposed project. [Pub. Resources Code, § 21080, subds. (c) & (d); CEQA Guidelines, § 15064, subd. (a)(1); 15070, subd. (a); Stanislaus Audubon Society, Inc. v. County of Stanislaus (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 144,150-151.] If there is any doubt about a project s significant environmental consequences, the "benefit of the doubt" is given to full environmental review.

There is substantial evidence before you in light of the whole record that a significant impact may occur, therefore an EIR must be prepared.

The “fair argument” standard creates a “low threshold” for requiring preparation of an EIR. (Citizens Action to Serve All Students v. Thornley (1st Dist. 1990) 222 CalApp.3d 748 [272 Cal. Rptr. 83]; Sundstrom v County of Mendocino (1st Dist 1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 310 [248 Cal.Rptr.352]. The standard is founded on the principle that, because adopting a Negative Declaration has a “terminal effect” on the environmental review process”, an EIR is necessary to resolve “uncertainty created by conflicting assertions” and to “substitute some degree of factual certainty for tentative opinion and speculation” (No Oil, Inc. v City of Los Angeles, (1974) 13 Cal.3d 85).

Even if the “fair argument” standard were not applied, the mitigated negative declaration the project proposal is not complete. All mitigation measures have not been provided for. Public Resource Code § 21081.6. (a) states:
When making the findings required by paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 21081 or when adopting a mitigated negative declaration pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (c) of Section 21080, the following requirements shall apply:
(1) The public agency shall adopt a reporting or monitoring program for the changes made to the project or conditions of project approval, adopted in order to mitigate or avoid significant effects on the environment. The reporting or monitoring program shall be designed to ensure compliance during project implementation. For those changes which have been required or incorporated into the project at the request of a responsible agency or a public agency having jurisdiction by law over natural resources affected by the project, that agency shall, if so requested by the lead agency or a responsible agency, prepare and submit a proposed reporting or monitoring program.

Additionally there is reliance in the mitigated negative declaration on mitigation measures which have not been approved or are otherwise inapplicable. There are also studies and analysis called for that have not been done.

The sole mitigation measure, Section 5, is not legally compliant.
Section 5 defers mitigation because of failure to do the required biological surveys and consultations with agencies.

“Mitigated negative declarations cannot be used when they rely upon the presumed success of future mitigation measures that have not been formulated at time of project approval (Sundstrom v. County of Mendocino, (1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 296, 306-314.) Any proposed mitigation measure to reduce or avoid a significant adverse impact that a project may have on the environment must be made available for public review at the time the negative declaration is circulated for public review and comment prior to project approval. A mitigation measure cannot be left to be formulated in the future. (Gentry, supra, 36 Cal. App.4th at 1397); but see Sacramento Old City Association V. city Council of Sacramento (1991) 229 Cal.App.3d 1011, 1028-1029, mitigation plan upheld where “the agency can commit itself to eventually devising measures that will satisfy specific performance criteria articulated at the time of project approval.”) For example, in Gentry, the court of Appeal determined that a city’s mitigation measure requiring the permit applicant to comply with a non-existent biological report improperly deferred mitigation. (36 Cal.App.4th at 1396.)Whenever no mitigation measures are considered in the negative declaration and a mitigation plan is left to the preparation of the applicant after project approval, mitigation of a significant adverse environmental impact has been illegally deferred (Sacramento Old City Association, supra, 229 Cal.Ap.3d at 1028).”

--Citizen’s Guide to the California Environmental Quality Act, Yeates, PCL, January 2000, p. 10.

In closing we re-iterate: a mitigated negative declaration is inadequate. Studies are not sufficient, needed information is not provided (defeating a primary purpose of CEQA), analysis and mitigations are incomplete. The "fair argument" standard cannot be met. An EIR must be completed.

Respectfully,
Lydia M. Miller Steve Burke

Attachments:
EastMercedBirdList.doc (0.05 MB),
Silveira.pdf (0.10 MB)
Stillman-TerraServerMaps.doc (0.02 MB), SlopClassificationRegionalAmphibianHabitatAssessment-.pdf (0.42 MB), SlopeClassificationRegionalAmphibianHabitatAssessment-.pdf (0.44 MB), AmphibianHabitatRegionalPlanningMap-ExistingLandUse.pdf (0.36 MB), BranchiopodHabitatregionalPlanningMap-ExistingLandUs.pdf (0.34 MB), BranchiopodHabitatregionalPlanningMap-ExistingLandUs.pdf (0.34 MB), StillmanBOSappeal10-4-05.eml (0.90 MB),
10-3-05.eml (0.05 MB)
10-11-2006 02;13;37 &10-11-2006 02;13;00
10-11-2006 02;12;20 &10-11-2006 02;11;48

Cc:
Badlandsjournal.com
Marsha Burch, Esq.
Maryann Owens, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Kathy Norton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Other interested parties

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