Environment

Privatizing US Fish & Wildlife Service biological opinions

Submitted: May 20, 2006

From Florida comes the news that the US Fish & Wildlife are now asking developer consultants to prepare biological opinions on endangered species. It's another win/win, public/private partnership, except for the Public Trust. In fact, the Badlands editorial staff has yet to see a WWPPP where the public or wildlife were winners.

"To speed things up (due to our heavy workload) we are asking the consultant for each project that adversely affects panthers to prepare a BO (biological opinion) based on a template BO that we will send you," federal biologist John Wrublik wrote in the e-mail to RaeAnn Boylan, a consultant for a Lee County project to widen a road through panther habitat.

Predators and Protectors
Defanging the Endangered Species Act
By ALAN FARAGO

May 19, 2006
http://www.counterpunch.com/farago05192006.html

It's always front-page news when an alligator kills a human. The same would be true for a bear mauling or an attack by a mountain lion or shark.

We are hard-wired for horror when a top predator kills one of us. It happens rarely, but when it does, television cameras spark with an impulse older than lights on a Christmas tree.

At the same time, the panthers or gators we may have hunted down after dragging a person into a canal are also on a thousand bronze statues, representing the highest order of strength, endurance and accomplishment.

Protect or eradicate? Honor or revile?

Decades ago, Congress decided that saving species from extinction is the right thing to do. The federal Endangered Species Act's underlying value is to protect the diversity of life. In fact, only a few endangered species are top predators.

Protecting key species -- such as the Florida panther or American crocodile -- should, in principle, protect habitats the species need to survive. A particular economic activity that affects habitat may trigger the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. In particular, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to review the proposed activity through a formal biological opinion, written by staff biologists. The biological opinion should address the threat to the listed species based on science. That's the principal.

Not in the state of Florida, however, where biological opinions are authored, at least in part, by the same developers, miners and economic interests seeking to block an adverse finding in court.

The story was reported last week by journalist Craig Pittman in the St. Petersburg Times. "To speed things up (due to our heavy workload) we are asking the consultant for each project that adversely affects panthers to prepare a BO (biological opinion) based on a template BO that we will send you," federal biologist John Wrublik wrote in the e-mail to RaeAnn Boylan, a consultant for a Lee County project to widen a road through panther habitat. Wrublik wrote in his e-mail that adapting the "template" to fit various projects destroying panther habitat should be "pretty straightforward," requiring only some "deleting and inserting" of information "where appropriate."

In 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was not too swamped with paperwork to fire an 18-year employee, biologist Andy Eller, one week after he had written a biological opinion against Mirasol, a development proposed for panther habitat in Collier County.

Eller's case quickly became a national cause celebre, an example of intense political pressure on science -- one of the most egregious legacies of the Bush White House.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (1), an organization that supports whistleblowers who work for government agencies, said about scientists like Eller, "The essential dilemma is that they are paid to conduct defensible scientific reviews but face possible termination if they accurately report what they have found."

An endless stream of money has been spent by special interests to declaw, defang and decommission the Endangered Species Act, one of the most important laws protecting America's natural heritage.

Mirasol is the project of a West Virginia coal-mine owner whose advocacy in Congress for mountaintop removal to mine coal may have led to expectations how the conflict between the environment and the force of progress would resolve in Florida.

Recently, I happened to see a dead top predator. It was early evening on an edge road in south Miami-Dade County. Only minutes before my arrival, a panther crossing the road had been struck by a car.

I pulled up in front of what I took to be a lifeless dog. Locked in the headlights, it was one of Florida's premier endangered species, dead in the road, blood congealing on its broken jaw and torn skin.

Nearby, a rock miner is seeking permits to build a small city of 6,000 homes in an area significantly impacting wetlands.

Today, Florida is seeking to wrestle control of wetlands jurisdiction from the federal government.

In 2005, Andy Eller was reinstated to his job at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the agency admitted fault in distorting science related to panther habitat near the proposed Mirasol development.

For risking his career, Eller received an award from the Everglades Coalition.

And over the weekend, the alligator that took the life of a Broward woman was hauled from the canal not far from the tragic accident and shot. Two more people have been killed by alligators in the past week, despite the fact that attacks on humans by alligators are exceedingly rare.

So far this year, six panthers have been killed on Florida roads.

What conflicting and contradictory impulses carry us on our brief journey?

Alan Farago of Coral Gables, who writes about the environment, can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com.
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Notes:

(1) Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
http://www.peer.org

PEER is a national non-profit alliance of local, state and federal scientists, law enforcement officers, land managers and other professionals dedicated to upholding environmental laws and values.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER’s environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

Public employees are a unique force working for environmental enforcement. In the ever-changing tide of political leadership, these front-line employees stand as defenders of the public interest within their agencies and as the first line of defense against the exploitation and pollution of our environment. Their unmatched technical knowledge, long-term service and proven experiences make these professionals a credible voice for meaningful reform.

PEER works nation-wide with government scientists, land managers, environmental law enforcement agents, field specialists and other resource professionals committed to responsible management of America’s public resources. Resource employees in government agencies have unique responsibilities as stewards of the environment. PEER supports those who are courageous and idealistic enough to seek a higher standard of environmental ethics and scientific integrity within their agency. Our constituency represents one of the most crucial and viable untapped resources in the conservation movement.

Objectives of PEER

Organize a broad base of support among employees within local, state and federal resource management agencies.

Monitor natural resource management agencies by serving as a "watch dog" for the public interest.

Inform the administration, Congress, state officials, media and the public about substantive environmental issues of concern to PEER members.

Defend and strengthen the legal rights of public employees who speak out about issues concerning natural resource management and environmental protection.

Provide free legal assistance if and when necessary.

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Below the tipping point

Submitted: May 17, 2006

This year’s Great Valley Center conference was unusually duplicitous, even by the Center’s relaxed standards. Its title, “At the tipping point,” contrasted to the presentations throughout the two days, creating a sense of cognitive dissonance attributable, no doubt, to the Center’s recent merger with the University of California.

The conference poster invited its viewers to look upward at a map of mid-California projected on the sky above a tightrope walker the soles of whose shoes were also above us. I found no one at the conference willing to think about what this poster might mean.

The conference covered every aspect of urban growth but how to slow it down. One participant mentioned the term, “carrying capacity,” once, but the panel thought he was speaking in a Native American language and forgave him for it in the interest of multi-cultural harmony.

The only two resource agencies visible at the conference were the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the state Department of Water Resources. The San Joaquin Valley was recently designated the worst polluted air basin in the US, but not one session addressed this issue, however there were sessions on mass transit, integrating land use and transportation decision making, bikes and walks, and “Greenstop: California’s first sustainable highway rest area”. (Caltrans, not a resource agency, was one of the conference’s “Silver Sponsors.”)

Water was a big topic at the conference and Tim Quinn, vice president of Metropolitan Water District, was a featured speaker and session presenter. Quinn filled the Valley audience with a sense of trust and confidence that Southern California was not interested in Valley water. Session topics included how water will shape the Valley’s future, water transfers (the debate between North and South), water quality, and prioritizing agricultural conservation easements (a UCB report, using cutting edge mapping technology to show that ag easements should be put on flood plains near levees to prevent more subdivisions – because the state has to pay if the homes are flooded).

Growth sessions included:

· Challenges and opportunities for master-planned communities
· Growing rural economies with entrepreneurial community colleges
· What every planner should know about air quality
· After the flush: Reclaimed water strategies
· Sustainable housing
· Green building: A chance for the Valley
· Timber! Modern forestry policy, practices and wildlife
· Green energy powerhouse
· Affordability in today’s housing market
· The man from Brazil, Jaime Lerner (a feature speaker, mayor of a large Brazilian city, who spoke on lower-tech mass transit)
· Land use and planning for dummies
· The Valley blueprint project: A regional approach
· Population challenges
· Wow! Look at Valley downtowns
· Wireless for rural communities
· A featured speech by former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros

Agriculture was also considered:

· Gardens as the center of a community
· Sustainable food moves beyond a niche market
· Alternative fuels: What is the opportunity?

There was also, as always with the Center, an emphasis on how to co-opt local leaders who might pop up here and there to disturb the smooth transition from San Joaquin to San Fernando:

· Grassroots lobbying – how, who, when?
· Promatoras: More than community health workers
· Strategies for engaging rural community leaders
· E Pluribus Unum: Multi-ethnic collaboration for community action

The water discussion, while at times pretending broader perspectives, was continually dragged down into the whirlpool of the Friant lawsuit. On the second morning, a group of state Assembly members – Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), Nicole Parra (D-Hanford), Roger Neillo (R-Sacramento) and Juan Arambula (D-Fresno) – gave a spirited performance of the point of view of Fresno (City and County) and eastern Tulare and Kern counties’ farmers. The Friant Water Users Authority point of view was also ably represented in every session on water during the conference. When one participant of the session on transfers asked if some of the Friant-Kern water eventually ends up “going over the hill,” he was directly contradicted by Quinn, the representative of DWR and several Tulare farmers. Quinn also said that water would not be a constraint on future Southern California growth. An urbane, sophisticated man, he also mentioned global warming, noting, however, that Metropolitan lacked adequate data on it.

This GVC conference was notable in the experience of frequent attendees of these conferences over the years for its embrace of the principle, Growth Is Inevitable and an Exciting Challenge, and its evident amnesia about agriculture – Valley Farmers Are Large Landowners. Gone was any lip service to agriculture or any awareness or wildlife species and habitat. A few sessions on medical topics substituted for any sense of environmentally caused diseases. The conference seemed to some of us to be part and parcel of what we are calling the Springtime Assault on Valley Natural Resources.

The most offensive aspect of the conference from a social and economic justice perspective was the recognition that two cultures – Anglo and Hispanic – dominate, and that the Anglo culture will get rich off development while the Hispanic is encouraged to develop Third World methods of dealing with political disenfranchisement, educational disadvantage, and health problems arising from environmental degradation. If the Hispanic leaders do not challenge development, the Center will do its best to see that some funding trickles down to local Hispanic leaders. This strategy displays the decades of partisan political experience among top executives at the Center and a heavy dose of UC flak.

The best session was E Pluribus Unum: Multi-ethnic collaboration for community action, an interesting dog-and-pony show, led by Dr. Isao Fujimoto of UCD, displaying a new generation of Valley urban minority youth, discussing strategies for dealing with ethnic gang conflicts, cultural respect, poverty, school, housing and organizing, using tools established in many cases decades ago by a long list of organizations – from Alinksy’s to the Friends Service Committee’s – to help Appalachia del Oeste. Notably missing was any sense of union organizing.

Those of us impressed by UC Merced’s drive to establish a research medical school in the Valley look forward soon to studies like: Differential Rates of Asthma among Children of Anglo-Saxon, African-American, Native American, Hmong, Laotian, Miao, Cambodian, North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, Mestizo and Mixteco Descent. We think, if GVC continues its superb work in minority communities, that it will be longer before we see an E Pluribus Unum Workers’ Alliance Against Air Pollution That Is Killing Our Children and Grandparents.

Finally, noting the food served at this GVC conference from an historical perspective, frequent attendees wondered whether the Center was losing funds or just losing interest in holding conferences.

The conference’s top sponsors included: The California Endowment, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Gerry N. Kamilos, LLC, AT&T, SJVAPCD, Caltrans, Castle & Cooke, Citibank, Comcast, P G & E, Sierra Health Foundation, Pacific Union Homes, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, KVIE, and UC Merced.

Event sponsors included a number of development consultants, Chevron, Western States Petroleum Association, Caltrans, Diesel Technology Forum, Kaiser Permanente, USDA Rural Development, HUD, several utilities, CSU Chico, some green energy companies, and others.

Perhaps sponsors such as these don’t want the Valley public to gather together and break good bread anymore. So many of them, particularly developers and their consultants (with lenders, realtors and landowners standing behind them) maintain a uniformly hostile attitude to public participation in the environmental, health and safety reviews of their projects that grossly affect the quality of life of the Valley public. But, as we learned again at the conference, experts hired by special interests always know what is best for unspecial us. Some of the Center’s top sponsors are grand philanthropists of the planning process – sincerely contributing to the campaigns of elected officials that make local land-use decisions approving the philanthropists’ own projects. This charity even extends to legal indemnification funds that protect the municipalities and counties in case members of the public sue the officials for land-use decisions that might have been influenced more by developer philanthropy than by thoughts of the Public Trust or the common good.

Nevertheless, some resourceful members of the Valley public repaired to a nearby eatery for a lively “breakout session” of their own over good food and wine on the evening of the first day of the conference.

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Grassland Water District letter to county Board of Supervisors re: amendment policies during the General Plan update process

Submitted: May 14, 2006

The following letter was submitted by attorneys for the Grassland Water District and Grassland Resource Conservation District to the Merced County Board of Supervisors for its May 2 hearing on General Plan Amendment policies and procedures during the General Plan Update process. The letter has been transcribed from a facsimile. – Bill Hatch

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo
Attorneys at Law
1225 8th Street, Suite 550
Sacramento, California 95814-4810
Telephone: (916) 444-6201
Facsimile: (916) 444-6209
E-mail: omeserve@adamsbroadwell.com

May 1, 2006

VIA FACSIMILE AND U.S. MAIL

Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced, CA 95340

Re: General Plan Amendment Policies and Procedures During General Plan Update Process

Dear Chairperson Nelson and Members of the Board:

This firm represents the Grassland Water District and the Grassland Resource Conservation District (collectively, “GWD”). GWD has been following the County’s progress toward updating its General Plan, and the issue of how land use planning should proceed during the General Plan update process. At the Board’s April 11, 2006 meeting, a detailed discussion occurred regarding possible approaches to new project applications submitted during the General Plan Update process. Additional options for the Board’s consideration are included in the staff report for Item 55 on the Board’s April 2, 2006 agenda.

Generally, GWD supports actions by the Board that slow or halt the conversion of agricultural or open space lands located in the vicinity of GWD’s service are to urban and other uses. GWD supports a temporary moratorium on Community Specific Plan (“CSP”) adoptions during the General Plan Update process with respect to the Community of Volta, in particular (Option 3A). GWD also supports reasonable measures to slow or stop conversion of agricultural land during the General Plan update process (Option 3B). GWD also believes that the Board should not allow agricultural subdivision applications to be approved during the General Plan Update process. Such temporary measures are appropriate and would protect the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of the County while the important planning processes are completed. (See Gov. Code, Sec. 65858.)

Background Information

GWD contains over 60,000 acres of privately-owned and managed wetlands located in Merced County. GWD lands, in combination with state and federal refuges and other privately-held wetlands, comprise the approximately 230,000 acre Grassland Ecological Area (“GEA”) designated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”). These lands are managed as habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wildlife.

The wetlands of western Merced County are a critical component of the remaining Central Valley wetlands and constitute the most important waterfowl wintering area on the pacific Flyway. These wetlands are acknowledged by the Merced County General Plan to be highly valuable wildlife and vegetation habitats, and international treaties have recognized the habitat as a resource of international significance. The Convention on Wetlands (also known as the Ramsar Convention) recently designated the GEA as a “Wetland of International Importance”. The GEA is one of only four such sites in California, and twenty-two sites in the country.

A study commissioned by the Packard Foundation, the Great Valley Center and GWD in 2001 found that wetlands within the GEA provide substantial direct economic contributions to the local and regional economies. The GEA receives over 300,000 user visits per year for hunting, fishing and non-consumptive wildlife recreation. Recreational and other activities related to habitat values within the GEA contribute $41 million per year to the Merced County economy, and account for approximately 800 jobs. Agricultural lands within the GEA also account for approximately five percent (5%) of Merced County’s $1.45 billion agricultural economy.

Community Plans Should Not Be Adopted or Updated During the General Plan Update Process

GWD’s concerns relating to adoption and updates of CSPs stem primarily from a long-term concern about the small, unincorporated community of Volta. Located about four miles northwest of Los Banos, Volta is adjacent to GEA, the Volta Wildlife Management Area, and other agricultural lands that provide a buffer to these sensitive wetland areas. Encroachment of incompatible uses associated with CSPs into areas near protected wetland habitats undermines both the long-term viability of the GEA and the core habitat values GWD and other entities are working to protect.

In the 1970’s, Volta was designated by the County as a Specific Urban Development Plan (“SUDP”) area. (General Plan, at p. I-7.) As a small SUDP area, the limited residential and service commercial land uses are oriented toward meeting the needs of the local rural population. (General Plan, at p. I – 11.) No Community Specific Plan (“CSP”) has ever been adopted.

Volta has been the subject of numerous proposals for large-scale residential subdivisions and has long been of concern to state and federal resource management agencies, wetland and waterfowl advisory organizations, the Merced County Farm Bureau, the City of Los Banos, GWD and other public and private entities. GWD has submitted numerous comments on other proposed projects in and near Volta, including Wilkinson Ranch, Volterra, and most recently, the Areias subdivision. These projects, had they been implemented, would have been incompatible with the long-term protection of nearby ecologically sensitive areas and the existing rural character of the Volta community.

Given that it is adjacent to GEA resources, GWD supports the redesignation of Volta to an Agricultural Service Center (“ASC”), as suggested by the current General Plan. (General Plan, at pp. I-11, VII-27.) Primarily, this is because further development of Volta would create conflicts with existing agricultural and open space uses. (General Plan, at p. I-11.) According to the General Plan, redesignation to ASC is appropriate for areas with the following characteristics: (1) lacking a full range of services; (2) stable or declining populations; (3) isolated location; and (4) agricultural service orientation to existing land uses. (General Plan, at pp. VII-27 to 28.) Volta meets all of these criteria; thus, ASC is a more appropriate designation for this rural area.

The current SUDP designation for Volta is inappropriate and will lead to encroachment of incompatible land uses into a sensitive area not suited for urban development. Therefore, GWD believes that adoption of a temporary moratorium on CSP adoptions and updates during the General Plan Update process is appropriate.

Agricultural Subdivisions Should Not Proceed During the General Plan Update Process

GWD also recommends deferring General Plan amendments that facilitate conversion from agricultural to non-agricultural uses in and near the GEA. None of the current options under consideration by the Board directly address subdivision of agricultural land (“ag subdivisions”). While Option 3B would limit approval of General Plan amendments from agricultural to non-agricultural uses (which GWD generally supports where such subdivisions would impact GEA resources), it is not applicable to ag subdivisions, which do not typically involve a change in land use designation.

Converting land currently in use for farming or grazing to ranchettes is incompatible with the long-term viability of the biological resources of the GEA. Furthermore, agricultural activities around the GEA help buffer the area for incompatible urban uses. According to a recently released report by the American Farmland Trust, nineteen percent (19%) of all developed land in Merced County is outside of city spheres of influence.
(http://www.farmland.org/reports/futureisnow/merced3.html)
Additionally, fifty-nine percent (59%) of all development within the 1990 to 2000 time period occurred in High Quality Farmland. (Ibid.)

GWD has commented on numerous ag subdivisions over the years because of the grave danger fragmentation of viable farmland and grazing land poses to the GEA and other natural resource values. Though the “parcelization of large holdings is discouraged: under the current General Plan, numerous ag subdivisions continue to be approved. (Agricultural Chapter, Objective 2. B.) GWD encourages the Board to also include provisions in its General Plan update procedures to limit approval of ag subdivisions and to ultimately adopt long-term policies that would effectively prevent further fragmentation of farmland and open space in and around the GEA.

Conclusion

GWD is participating in an ad hoc advisory group formed to advise local entities on Grassland-related issues. This group is called the Grasslands Resources Regional Working Group (“GRRWG”), and includes representatives from GWD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Fish and Game and Ducks Unlimited. Through the GRRWG and individually, GWD will be participating in the General Plan update process to ensure that appropriate protections are implemented to protect the incredibly valuable wetland resources within the Merced County Grasslands. We look forward to participating in the County’s planned focus groups in the near future.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the information presented in this letter. Thank you for considering GWD’s perspective on these important land use planning issues.

Very truly yours,

Osha R. Meserve

cc: Robert Lewis
William Nicholson
Grassland Water District Board of Directors
Grassland Resource Conservation District Board of Directors
Don Marciochi

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Pomboza seen splitting apart

Submitted: May 13, 2006

People in the 18th congressional district, represented by Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, ought to wake up and take notice of what is happening in the adjacent 11th congressional district, represented by RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy.

Defenders of Wildlife, a national environmental group, commissioned a poll of 402 likely voters in the 11th CD. The pollster found that 52 percent would prefer to vote for someone other than Pombo in the fall general election. "Someone else" is about all the Democrats have to offer, but it may be enough, if Pombo survives the primary.

The damage to the front end of the Pomboza is being done by former Rep. Pete McCloskey, 78, a co-author of the Endangered Species Act, which Pombo and Cardoza have been trying to destroy for the benefit of local developers, landowners, financial institutions, realtors and their relatives and friends.

The idea that two of the most obvious tools of rampant growth ever to hit Congress should have the power to change a widely respected and necessary federal law on behalf of a crowd of regional contributors (and, of course, UC Merced) proved to be a bit much for state and national environmental organizations, now busily canvassing precincts in Pombo's district.

Learned academic authority suggests that the poll might not be accurate because, after all, Defenders did it. This misses the point entirely: Defenders is there and willing to do the poll; that environmental groups have identified Pombo as the top political target in the nation.

What is policy for the groups is more personal for McCloskey, who at times says he is fighting for the "soul" of the Republican Party -- to rid it of greedy, stupid, rightwing, corrupt, environment destroying, House-rules destroying knuckleheads. He's fighting against a wing of the Republican Party who came to believe, like officials in dictatorships believe, that their personal wealth is the meaning of politics. While environmentalists have been knocking on doors and passing out leaflets, McCloskey has been attacking Pombo at every intersection in the district where he can raise a grassroots audience. His campaign has lit a thousand fires in hundreds of places. We'll see how the wildfire spread on primary Election Day, in the only poll that counts.

Pombo already knows he's in the worst fight of his life and has called on Vice President Dick Cheney to come raise money for him. But the rounds still last 3 minutes and nobody can help him in the ring with McCloskey. The people always enjoy the spectacle of a bully getting whupped. And people keep disappearing from Pombo’s corner: Libby, DeLay, Abramoff, and now, reportedly, Karl Rove, the best political cut man in the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, the rear end of the Pomboza, like the well known rodeo clown act in which two clowns play the part of one ass, is turning around and running in the opposite direction -- down to Fresno to hobnob with Westlands Water District and three other south Valley congressmen interested in throwing a monkey wrench in the confidential settlement negotiations between the Friant Water Users Authority and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Federal court has ruled that the San Joaquin River must flow; therefore the Friant-Kern Canal cannot flow as much as it has.

Shrimp Slayer claims he had no "direct jurisdiction" to intervene on behalf of the Oseguera family of Le Grand, carried off to the Bakersfield deportation holding tank and held for three weeks until their lawyer could explain they were in the process of naturalization and raise $20,000 bail. Evidently he believes he has direct jurisdiction over the amount of water that flows through 40 miles of dry river in Fresno County and into the farming districts of eastern Tulare and Kern counties and that his good offices would be beneficial to Westlands Water District.

From Shrimp Slayer's point of view, however, we could speculate that his meddling doesn't matter at all, as long as it is a far away from Pombo as possible. That's the great think about Shrimp Slayer, you may not agree with him on the issues, but you always know who he is and where he stands -- the rear end of the Pomboza running away as fast as he can.

Shrimp Slayer's behavior is said to be "smart politics," which, like "smart growth" is constantly advertised as wise and admirable decision making by influential people and those who want to be influential people now that the full violence of lawless, stupid growth has come to the 18th congressional district, which is rapidly becoming just another Tracy, with, of course, a UC campus.

Bill Hatch
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Poll says Pombo support waning

Hank Shaw
Capitol Bureau Chief
Stockton Record
Published Thursday, May 11, 2006
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060511/NEWS01/605110337&SearchID=73244256515633

SACRAMENTO - Voters may not know much about the Democrats opposing Tracy's Rep. Richard Pombo, but it might not matter, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

A survey of 402 likely general election voters in Pombo's 11th District taken last week by a well-known Democratic pollster found that 52 percent would rather vote for someone other than the Republican incumbent this fall.

Republican political oddsmaker Allan Hoffenblum, co-editor of a guide to legislative and congressional elections, was impressed by the numbers even though pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner's survey was conducted on behalf of the activist group Defenders of Wildlife.

"It's a sign of deep, deep trouble," Hoffenblum, of California Target Book, said. "It's not easy to get a voter to say they'd fire an incumbent."

Pombo consultant Wayne Johnson said the campaign's internal polling does not match the Greenberg poll, but he did acknowledge that voters are sour on Congress in general.

"The atmospherics are depressing for any incumbent in Congress right now," Johnson said. Still, he said the order of questions in the Greenberg poll could have skewed the results.

"You get people in a hanging mood and it can dramatically affect the result," he said.

Pombo's position as House Resources Committee chairman has placed him at the center of the Republicans' ethical issues in Congress.

He was among the strongest allies of indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Pombo also has come under fire for misusing the congressional mail service and for spending $5,000 in taxpayer money to take his family on an RV tour of the West's national parks.

He received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from felonious lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And though he repeatedly denies that his votes are influenced by campaign contributions, he is seen as being fast friends with oil, logging, energy and mining interests. Just over a week ago, Pombo benefited from a campaign fund-raiser in Houston hosted by several leading energy industry lobbyists.

All of this is impacting his image among the voters, the poll found. Less than one in three likely voters has a favorable view of the incumbent, who is seeking an eighth congressional term. And he's losing in test heats to both his Democratic opponents, Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton and Steve Filson of Danville.

A recent poll by the McNerney campaign showed that only 40 percent of primary voters recognized him while less than 20 percent recognized Filson.

"These guys are nobodies, and they're beating him," Pollster Ben Turchin said. "That's unheard of. I'm not saying by any stretch of the imagination that this race is over, but he's in a deep hole."

"Richard Pombo has turned the House Resource Committee into a grand bazaar where special interests ... all get favored treatment in return for campaign cash and luxury trips. The voters have finally noticed," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.

Hoffenblum downplayed any strength Filson and McNerney showed in the survey because the 11th District is still GOP turf.

"If Pombo loses, the voters will be throwing him out - not putting Democrats in," he said.

Sacramento State University political scientist Barbara O'Connor noted that Defenders of Wildlife paid for the poll - which can run $20,000 or more - largely to help raise the millions they expect to spend this year trying to defeat Pombo.

Pombo's career-long effort to overhaul the federal Endangered Species Act has made him enemy No. 1 within the environmental movement.

That said, O'Connor said she suspects Pombo is in peril.

"I don't think these numbers are necessarily out in orbit from what I've seen, but they are a little high," O'Connor said.

Hoffenblum, who had downplayed the potential competitiveness of the race before, said he might have to change his mind.

"This could really be a horse race," he said.

View details of the poll are at www.defendersactionfund.org/releases/GreenbergPollMemoMay.pdf

Contact Capitol Bureau Chief Hank Shaw at (916) 441-4078 or sacto@recordnet.com
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Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Saturday 13 May 2006

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.

During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, did not return a call for comment. Sources said Fitzgerald was in Washington, DC, Friday and met with Luskin for about 15 hours to go over the charges against Rove, which include perjury and lying to investigators about how and when Rove discovered that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative and whether he shared that information with reporters, sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said.

It was still unknown Saturday whether Fitzgerald charged Rove with a more serious obstruction of justice charge. Sources close to the case said Friday that it appeared very likely that an obstruction charge against Rove would be included with charges of perjury and lying to investigators.

An announcement by Fitzgerald is expected to come this week, sources close to the case said. However, the day and time is unknown. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the special prosecutor was unavailable for comment. In the past, Samborn said he could not comment on the case …
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Friends rally for jailed teen

Petition delivered to congressman's office

By Leslie Albrecht
Merced Sun-Star -- April 14, 2006

... In a statement released Thursday, Cardoza responded to the students' letter.

"The Congressman understands that this is a difficult situation for this family. He appreciates the concern the students of Le Grand Union High School have expressed for their fellow classmate. As a member of Congress, Representative Cardoza does not have direct jurisdiction over this case. However, he believes that everyone who enters the United States must comply with the law."
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Regrouping after near-deportation...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12178706p-12922563c.html
LE GRAND - To the United States government, the Osegueras are criminals -- immigration absconders who were arrested along with 45 other Merced County residents during a two-day immigration sweep in late March. Gloria and her children entered the U.S. illegally in 1992...applied for asylum, but application was denied. They obtained work permits through a lawyer, started the process of gaining legal status. In 2000, a judge issued a deportation order, their lawyer filed an appeal and told them not to leave the country. The motion has been pending before the Immigration Board of Appeals since 2003. At 4:20 a.m. Friday, March 30 seven ICE agents knocked on the front door of their apartment; they would be sent to an immigration processing center in Fresno, then back to Mexico. Gloria explained that the family had a lawyer and that their case was under appeal; agents said the deportation order was final. When they got to Fresno, they called their lawyer, who filed for an emergency stay of appeal. Alma's classmates rallied to support her...collected signatures on petitions asking for Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, to help the family and hand-delivered them to Cardoza's office. Finally on Cinco de Mayo, their lawyer called...bail had been set; they could leave jail... Alma will graduate from Le Grand High School.
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At the Tipping Point, A Great Valley Center Event, May 10-11, 2006, Sacramento.
Oral comments on south San Joaquin Valley water politics by different participants.

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SJ Mercury News Endorses McCloskey/McNerney for CD 11

Submitted: May 08, 2006

Date: May 8, 2006 8:22:23 AM PDT
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/opinion/14527503.html

Give the nod to Pombo challengers

REPUBLICAN MCCLOSKEY, DEMOCRAT MCNERNEY WOULD BE WORTHY COMPETITORS IN THE FALL

Mercury News Editorial

Even before he became associated with the sleaze surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, even before he was accused of taking a family vacation on the government's dime and even before a watchdog group called him one of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress, it was clear that Richard Pombo had to go.

The conservative seven-term Republican congressman from Tracy has a record of radical anti-environmentalism that has imperiled the nation's natural resources, is wrong for the country and is out of step with a state that's known for its environmental leadership.

Fortunately, Pombo's record may be catching up with him. He faces serious challenges to his re-election from both sides of the aisle in a race that has drawn national attention. His 11th Congressional District reaches from Lodi in the north to Morgan Hill in the south and Danville in the east.

Former Congressman Pete McCloskey, who represented the Peninsula for eight terms between 1967 and 1983, is challenging Pombo in the Republican primary. At 78, McCloskey appears to have the same energy and conviction of his younger days, when he became a maverick in his own party, protested against the Vietnam War and ran against Richard Nixon in 1972.

He's hoping to bring his party back to the center and fight against the ethical lapses and fiscal recklessness that have tarnished Republicans in Congress. He also vows to be a staunch defender of environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act, which he helped write. Destruction of the ESA has been Pombo's No. 1 mission.

McCloskey admits he exercised poor judgment when he spoke in 2000 to a group that disputes historical facts about the Holocaust. Because of that speech and of his longstanding and blunt criticism of U.S. policy toward Israel, he has been labeled anti-Semitic, a charge that is undeserved.

McCloskey faces an uphill battle, but he's the best choice in the Republican primary.

On the Democratic side, two good candidates have emerged as leading contenders. Neither Jerry McNerney, 54, an engineer and wind-energy consultant from Pleasanton, nor Steve Filson, 59, a United Airlines pilot and retired U.S. Navy commander from Danville, has held elected office. But both bring good ideas and have energized various Democratic Party constituencies. Of the two, we find McNerney's message more compelling.

Filson, a fiscal conservative and social liberal, promises to focus on economic development and fight for transportation dollars, which are needed to upgrade the district's clogged freeways. Having lost his pension at United, he identifies with the pressures faced by working families saddled with rising health care and education costs and stagnant wages.

Most of all, Filson emphasizes his decision-making leadership skills, honed over 20 years as a U.S. Navy pilot and later as a United pilot. He's been endorsed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and various members of Congress including Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, George Miller and Ellen Tauscher.

For his part, McNerney has been running a grass-roots campaign fueled by support from union members that earned him the endorsement of the California Democratic Party. He wants to bring jobs to economically sluggish portions of the district in the San Joaquin Valley, in part by helping promote the area's nascent alternative-energy industry. His professional background would make him a good advocate for more sensible energy policy in Washington.

McNerney offers clear thinking on the nation's health care crisis, emphasizing the need to rally businesses to the cause of reform. And he would rescind portions of the Bush tax cuts that have disproportionately benefited wealthy Americans.

McNerney ran against Pombo in 2004 and got 39 percent of the vote, despite receiving no support from the state or national Democratic Party and being massively outspent by Pombo. That experience should come in handy in November.

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The Lagoon

Submitted: Apr 16, 2006

Representatives Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, and George Radanovich, Bankrupt Winemaker-Mariposa, are proposing a National Agricultural Science Center for Modesto and have introduced a bill in Congress for funding. They argue that because Modesto has produced more ag politicians since World War II than any other city in the US, Modesto deserves this national center.

In order to shore up his political standing, the one-party, rightwing House of Representatives leadership recently appointed Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, vice-chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Congress is debating a new, 5-year Farm Bill, Pete McCloskey is nailing Pombo’s corrupt hide to every Grange Hall and political club wall in the 11th Congressional District, and Pombo’s handlers have moved the cattle trailer that used to sit one field west of Tracy’s last subdivision that announced “Pombo’s Real Estate Farms.”

Pombo and Cardoza, known collectively by local farmers as the Pomboza, have made a career for themselves whipping up private property-rights rage against the federal Endangered Species Act. Cardoza and the rest of Merced County’s farm-loving political leadership graciously bestowed the Williamson Act on all unincorporated Merced County, claiming deceitfully that it was to be “mitigation for UC Merced.” Merced is the last major agricultural county in the state to get the Williamson Act, which is proving to be a boon for developers buying up ag land at reduced property taxes all over the county.

The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, so highly praised for being pioneers in Valley irrigation in the early years of the last century, every year convert their historic mission more and more to water and electric utilities to slurb development. The smaller Merced Irrigation District dreams the same dream.

The hypocrisy and greed for prestige, credit and honorifics displayed in this proposal is preposterous. Developers, aided every step of the way by local political leadership, are paving over north San Joaquin Valley agriculture as fast as the next “guidance package,” “programmatic EIR,” and quicker than a county planner can say “mitigated negative declaration.” In the process, they are creating an air pollution disaster that is already costing millions in lost production on the remaining agricultural land.

Yet, as a world-class laboratory for everything wrong with agribusiness, no place could be better suited than Modesto (if the former site of the Shell ag chemical lab in Ripon is not a contender). Here is a farming region with no more farms. There is no sense of distinct place left in this farming region. Nobody who farms this land can afford to love this land anymore. Although estates and mansions rise from some of these fields, there is little evidence of real care for real place left. Essentially, there are no more farms, only acreage. In this region you can’t hear the cows moo on the mega-dairy factories, the meadowlarks warble, or the sounds of tractors or crop dusters for the constant background roar of commuter traffic and the real estate adding machine in town, dinning the air with the Great Kah-Ching as it calculates the development value of each acre of farm and ranch land for future slurb.

What the Shrimp Slayer and the Bankrupt Winemaker are proposing is a science museum that will obscure the truth of the disaster of agribusiness even when it is all slurbed over. The McClatchy Chain is enthusiastic.

But the real reason Modesto deserves the center is because of the leadership roles county residents have had in state and national agriculture, Wenger said.

Richard Lyng and Anne Veneman served as U.S. agriculture secretaries as well as state agriculture secretaries, Wenger noted. Henry Voss, Clare Berryhill and Bill Lyons all served as state agriculture secretaries.

"No other county in the country has had that kind of leadership," Wenger said.

You bet. And if any other county had that kind of leadership, they might not have been quite as quick to brag about it. Lyng wasn’t a farmer, he was a rich, politically connected seed dealer. Veneman, daughter of a state legislator, gained the nickname “Mad Cow Annie” when, during her tenure as secretary of the USDA she managed almost to completely bury the mad cow disease story and any serious investigation of it, probably with health consequences it will take many years to realize. Voss and Berryhill were farmers, and -- if memory serves --gentlemen of proto-Pombo political orientation. Lyons failed to get the UC campus on the Mapes Ranch, which he inherited. So he bought 530 acres in the path of development of UC Merced. Asking for annexation to the City of Merced, he appeared before the city council in jeans and plaid shirt as a simple family farmer; but he had his suits handle the deal at the county Local Agency Formation Commission. Lyons is a developer, not a rancher, who bought his state ag secretary post fair and square with a huge fund-raising effort on behalf of Gray Davis’ campaign.

About the only thing the Badlands editorial staff could contribute to this monument to agricultural ruin in the San Joaquin Valley would be to suggest that outside the national center there should be a statue of a Holstein cow about two stories high. “Annie,” the blurb might read. “She lived one year. She made much milk and fast food. Before she died, she wasn’t quite herself.”

Talking it over further, the Badlands editorial staff came up with a counter proposal, a wax museum dedicated to the superb San Joaquin Valley agricultural political leadership from which agriculture has so greatly benefited. Although there are many possible names, the staff decided that, in the vernacular at least, it probably would be called simply, “The Lagoon.”

Pombo’s recently disappeared cattle trailer would be parked outside, proclaiming again, “Pombo Real Estate Farms.” (There is no more completely sound bitten mind in the Valley than the ol’ Buffalo Slayer’s.)

In the lobby, we see a superhuman sized figure -- one hand outstretched to receive, the other full of cash to bestow – a wax likeness of Tony “Honest Graft” Coelho.

Entering the darkened hall, at the first exhibit, backlit behind glass, the visitor would encounter the Mr. and Ms. UC Merced Gallery and would be plunged into the Science Motif, but in a folksy style. This would be an old-timey musical scene, as befits our agricultural heritage, subtitled, “One Voice for The Great Kah-Ching.” At the center of the ensemble would be a barbershop quartet labeled “The Bobbies” (Ayers, Carpenter, Rucker and Smith). The conductor would again be ol’ Honest Graft himself. Musicians would include former Rep. Gary Condit, Lover-Ceres, on fiddle, the Shrimp Slayer on bass, and former state Sen. Dick Monteith, Halfback-Modesto on guitar, conducted by Mike Lynch, with a buggy whip.

Motion-activated, the Bobbies would break into an original song in four-part harmony with one word: “Kah-Ching,” sung to the tune of Abba’s 1960’s hit, “Money.”

Beside them would be an all-woman choir, dressed in white robes, each with a golden halo. Although the wax here would be melted into an angelic blob, a few faces would shine out with holy grace: Supervisor Kathleen Crookham would be the most distinguishable, one hand tastefully strangling a fairy shrimp.

They would be accompanied on harp by Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the Cowgirl Chancellor herself. Her hat would be of that very, very special shade of royal blue issued to UC administration officials in lieu of the indictments for fraud and corruption they should receive. Her blouse would be of royal blue and golden stripes. Her authentic cowgirl vest would be made of bobcat fur. Her square-dance skirt of royal blue would be decorated with golden dollar signs interspersed with medical cadeusises. Her boots would be made of black bear-cub hide.

The landscape painted on the curved wall behind them would be filled with depictions of subdivisions completed and under construction with Phase One of the UC Merced campus, radioactively glowing on a low hill, like a Ronald Reagan holy city for all the right Americans and none of the rest of us. There would also be artistically rendered swollen creeks and our Mr. and Ms. UC Merceds would be standing knee deep in dirty water.

In the corner would be only a sign but no wax figure – “Our Governor, the Hun, Who Didn’t Come to the UC Merced Opening.”

The next exhibit would be strobe lit and flickering, but there would be enough intermittent light to make out the figure of former Gov. Gray Davis, an electrical plug in hand.

The third exhibit would be nothing but glass enclosed smoke. The sign would read, “Air Quality.” There would be a black box with a button on it, marked “High-Tech Fix.” When visitors push the button, they would hear the sound of a hospital ward of children coughing, but the smoke would not disappear. Sponsors of this exhibit would be the Gentlemen Start Your Engines Association, the Arkansas/China Trading Hong, the International Foundation for the Preservation of Dirty Diesel Engines, the Make Me SuperRich Developers Association, the Maybe Someday UC Merced Medical Institute for the Study of Childhood Respiratory Disease, the Alliance of Fully Indemnified San Joaquin Valley Local Land-Use Authorities, and the huge membership of the San Joaquin Valley We Don't Give and Damn and Can't Do Anything About It Anyway Society.

Another exhibit would be labeled “FALFA – We Are Always on the Winning Side.” This would be a single, monumental, lumpy piece of wax from which the faces of our prominent spokeswomen for agriculture and smart growth would vaguely emerge – Carol Whiteside, Holly King, Merced County Supervisor Diedre Kelsey, Diana Westmoreland Pedroza, etc.

Yet another exhibit, labeled “Almost the First President from Ceres and Family,” would show the interior of an ice cream franchise in an Arizona strip mall and the Condit family, capped and aproned, scooping ice cream to a group of unemployed construction workers.

The “42-Inch Sewer Trunk Line from Livingston” would be an artist’s rendering of a long line of Ranchwood earth-moving equipment digging and covering a ditch from the Livingston sewer plant to Stevinson, across county roads and a Merced Irrigation District canal. When visitors push a red button, marked “Merced County Planning Process,” the following message is played:

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!

“Village of Geneva Meets Planada Natives” would depict a touching scene in contemporary rural class relations. The above-mentioned Hostetler, top dog in the Geneva deal, in US Calvary officer drag, surrounded by assorted lesser developers in golf clothes, is seen presenting a snow-cone machine (marked “$600 or more”) to local officials of the unincorporated town of Planada, attired in buckskin and feathers with smiles painted on their faces.

Visitors seeking more information on this exhibit would push a button and hear a short dialogue.

Question: What do you get when you cross a school board with a sewer district board?

Answer: A piss poor receptacle for slush fund contributions! Or as Robert Frost might have opined: Something there is that doesn’t love a snow cone machine that sends a chilling public records act request through frozen coils and spills its donors’ check stubs in the sun, exposing accounting gaps big enough to squeeze through the whole ball of wax.

In “DC Does Deacons of Merced,” visitors observe a wax phallus representing male members of the Merced County unregistered, tax paid lobbyists of the “One Whine” crowd in Washington. After a hard day of pimping for federal highway funds for the UC Campus Parkway, they are artistically rendered priapic while ogling strippers, getting the real feel of Beltway politics.

“The Milking String Shakedown” abstractly represents the Valley dairy industry as a doleful, huge-headed Giant garter snake, its mouth full of money, coiled at the feet of the Pomboza, a one-headed creature with four hands reaching down to grab the cash. The huge head is composed of suits decorated with brands – United Western Dairymen, Hilmar Cheese, Gallo and assorted other mega-dairycrats. As the visitors’ eyes follow the snake back toward the tip of its tail, rubber boots begin faintly to emerge in the design, as back-to-front the entire industry is neatly packed and arranged according to the sizes of dairy herds. Pushing the informational button, visitors hear a simple statement: “No 3-cent per hundredweight tax!”

“The Lagoon: A Wax Museum of San Joaquin Valley Leadership” is a work in wax and in progress. However, we think our concept is sound and already more fully realized than its competitors, and we humbly petition the Pomboza for federal funding for this public, grassroots project.

Bill Hatch
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Notes:

Ground broken on ag center bill...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12041403p-12797891c.html
The bill is in the hopper to authorize spending federal money for the proposed National Agricultural Science Center in Modesto. Cardoza, D-Merced is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa... ag center is proposed as an interactive, high-technology exhibit designed to explain to people of all ages where food comes from, and agriculture's relationship to the environment and to technology. "I believe it is important for the community to invest in this," Cardoza said. As for when federal money might become available, "It will take a little while," Cardoza said. Allocating new federal money for the center probably isn't realistic, he said. "We are going to have to find an existing pot of money," Cardoza said.

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Resistance to slurb grows in Merced County

Submitted: Apr 14, 2006
At their June 13 meeting, supervisors will take a vote on one of five options for how to handle developer-driven growth. Those options range from leaving the system as it is to enforcing a moratorium on any growth that requires changing the general plan. – Chris Collins, Merced Sun-Star, April 12, 2006

Although the general reader of the Merced Sun-Star would not have been able to figure it out, the supervisors had a proposal to vote on Tuesday and they continued the hearing on the issue in the face of determined, well-organized resistance. Local resistance is mounting against incomprehensible and destructive planning idiocy brought about by the arrival of UC Merced and its induced speculative growth boom. The particular idiocy the supervisors were discussing Tuesday is a scheme to simultaneously hire consultants to update the county General Plan – the countywide planning guidance package – while continuing to approve amendments to the existing, out-dated general plan. The latter amendments are developer-written planning guidance packages. This creates a race between county land-use planners trying to create policies and rules for the development of unincorporated, largely agricultural land, and private developers breaking existing and yet unformulated policies and rules for private profit by slurbing farm and ranch land.

It must be added that California planning idiocy is not unique to Merced. The City of Oakley approved a 4,000-unit development six feet below sea level and under a Delta levee, recently. Oakley is being sued by environmentalists. However, the collectively destructive behavior of California local land-use authorities makes their decisions no less idiotic. From a public viewpoint, one could say there is danger in numbers in this planning insanity. The sytem is completely broken from a public health and safety perspective, but it will keep on going on until the public has the guts to stand up against the developer bullies.

Everyone has their favorite examples of this process. Our favorite is the 42-inch sewer trunk line emanating from Livingston, headed for Stevinson without a speck of environmental review to blemish its perfect sheen of greed and political corruption between the City of Livingston, its benighted sewer plant beside the Merced River, a large, terribly influential local landowner and the most gonzo developer in the county. Another is the deep ripping of thousands of acres of seasonal pasture land near Le Grand full of vernal pools and tributary streams to navigable waters of the US done without any permitting or notification of state and federal resource agencies, which it was the obligation of the county to do.

Below is a letter to the county Board of Supervisors from attorney Marsha Burch, who has tried several environmental cases in recent years in Merced County, on the plan proposed to the supervisors by the county General Plan Steering Committee. The public has so far been unable, through a state Public Records Act request, to view documents that would explain who are the members of this committee or the minutes to its meetings.

Below Burch’s letter, we have included the Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process, which calls for a moratorium on growth not already permitted until the county General Plan is updated, and an end to the corrupt practice of developers paying local land-use authorities legal bills when the public sues the land-use authorities for rubber-stamping slurb.

Bill Hatch
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April 11, 2006

Via Email and Facsimile (209.726-7977):
Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced, CA 95340

Re: Proposed General Plan Amendment Policy and Procedures During the General Plan Update Process – set for public hearing April 11, 2006, Item No. 53

Dear Supervisors:

This office, in conjunction with the Law Office of Donald B. Mooney, represents the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and other groups, and these comments supplement comments previously submitted regarding the above-referenced agenda item. Thank you for this opportunity to provide you with these comments. These comments are submitted just prior to the hearing in large part because our clients have been working to obtain documents relating to the above-referenced item, and have been entirely unsuccessful. The general plan steering committee is apparently meeting, having discussions and making recommendations, and our clients have been unable to obtain a single document regarding the dates or times of the meetings, nor have they been able to locate any minutes or written records of the meetings. The public has not had an opportunity to understand what choices are actually before the Board today. Additional information must be obtained in order to inform the public, and it would seem that the Board would also be interested in receiving all relevant information before making a decision on this important policy issue.

1. It is unclear what is before the Board

It is unclear whether the Board is being asked to select a policy from the four proposed by staff, or to approve the Guidance Packages that apparently triggered discussion of these policy issues. If the Board intends to approve any Guidance Package(s), the public has not received notice of that fact, and has not had an opportunity to comment. Further, if the Board intends to approve any application or request that would grant a right or entitlement, CEQA review has not been undertaken. It is difficult to comment on an agenda item so vague that it is impossible to determine exactly what is being proposed.

In addition to the confusion resulting from the agenda item itself, our clients have attempted to obtain documents relating to this item, including making Public Records Act Requests, and have not been able to get a single document. We do not have enough information at this time to make form an informed opinion on the subject, but it appears that the steering committee “meetings” may be in contravention of Brown Act requirements. This issue must be thoroughly considered in the light of day, and the public deserves the opportunity to understand, consider and comment upon the various options available to the County with respect to conducting a cost-effective and legally adequate update to the General Plan.

Finally, this item was continued from the February 14, 2006, meeting, and it would seem that additional information would have been gathered in order to inform your deliberations. There appears to be no staff report or additional information. We request that you continue this item in order to obtain the information you need to inform your decision, and to allow the public to receive information necessary to understand the issues.

2. Processing General Plan Amendments During the General Plan Update Process will Result in Staff and Consultants Working at Cross-Purposes

With respect to the substance of the policy issues, allowing privately funded general plan amendments to proceed during the time when County staff and consultants will be working on a comprehensive general plan update will result in the public purposes of the update process being contradicted by profit-driven efforts to amend the outdated General Plan before the update is completed. We urge you to fully support the General Plan update effort by protecting it from potentially contradictory plan amendment efforts.

At this time, we do not believe that the Board or the public has sufficient information to make a determination on this issue. In fact, this is one of the most complicated issues currently facing the County, and you have not even received a staff report. If the item before you today involves approval of specific applications, that has not been made clear, and necessary materials have not been available. If this truly is consideration of a policy to be adopted for use during the General Plan update process, adequate information regarding the number of projects in the pipeline that will be effected by this policy, and there has not been an honest evaluation of the negative impact the privately funded General Plan “update” will have on the County’s General Plan update. We urge you to continue this item, or adopt a policy that will protect the General Plan update process.

Very truly yours,

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

cc: Clients
-------------------------------

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

We call for a moratorium on County General Plan amendments, variances, minor sub-divisions changes to existing projects, zoning changes, and annexations of unincorporated county land by municipal jurisdictions, MOU’s and developments with private interests and state agencies, until a new County general Plan is formulated by a fully authorized public process – and approved locally and by the appropriate state and federal agencies.

The continual process of piecemealing development through amendments, willfully ignoring the cumulative impacts to infrastructure and resources, for the benefit of a small cabal of public and private special interests, is illegal and reprehensible conduct on the by elected and appointed officials of local land-use authorities.

We also call for a permanent moratorium on indemnification of all local land-use jurisdictions by private and public-funded developers.

Indemnification is the widespread, corrupt practice in which developers agree to pay for all legal costs arising from lawsuits that may be brought against their projects approved by the land-use authority — city or county. Without having to answer to the public for the financial consequences of decisions made on behalf of special interests, local land-use authorities can be counted on to continue unimpeded their real policy: unmitigated sprawl, agricultural land and natural resource destruction, constant increases in utility rates, layering of school and transportation bonds on top of property taxes, and the steady erosion of the county’s infrastructure.

Adopted 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development Co.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club
Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge VernalPools.Org
California Native Plant Society
Stevinson Citizen’s Group
San Bruno Mountain Watch
San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers

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

Notes:

4-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
Some call for moratorium until general plan is updated...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12045253p-12801466c.html
Merced County's comprehensive "general plan" approved in 1995 to guide the county's development is outdated and practically useless; it's irresponsible to continue to use it to direct new growth in the county. But large developments are moving forward and more are on the way. The county is in the beginning phase of a three-year process to form a new general plan that will reflect the current population and level of development in the area...supervisors are trying to figure out how to handle development under the wings of the 11-year-old plan. Deidre Kelsey..."I'm disappointed it's not already completed. We have a general plan that doesn't reflect the realities of our county." O'Banion said roadblocks to new development would hurt the county. Nelson said "We know we need to preserve our prime farmland, but we already have protections in the general plan." Representatives from the building industry and the Merced County Chamber of Commerce don't want the system to change and oppose a moratorium on growth. At their June 13 meeting, supervisors will take a vote on one of five options for how to handle developer-driven growth... options range from leaving the system as it is to enforcing a moratorium on any growth that requires changing the general plan.

Environmental group sues to block below-sea-level housing tract...Patrick Hoge
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/04/12/BAG2PI7JVS1.DTL&hw=environment&sn=008&sc=545
Oakley's plan to allow 4,000 new homes on land that is behind levees and 6 feet below sea level. In the suit filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, the Greenbelt Alliance said Oakley failed to adequately consider the potential for levee failures or to require mitigations for numerous likely impacts of urban development on the Hotchkiss Tract in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The suit also says that urban storm water, which under the development plan would be captured and treated in artificial lakes, could contaminate drinking water supplies used by millions of Californians. Critics, including state officials, environmentalists and academics, say that urbanizing such floodplains is unwise. Developers are nevertheless pushing to build in numerous flood-prone areas around the state, with nearly 40,000 homes planned behind levees in the cities of Lathrop (San Joaquin County), Oakley and Stockton alone.

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Winter storms drive Killer whales up Delta to Capitol

Submitted: Apr 07, 2006

Facing the peril of potential flooding of many new subdivisions built on flood plains, Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, introduced a bill to make it mandatory for homeowners to buy federal flood insurance for homes built where there is an annual one-in-200 chance of flooding. Presently, the state is on the hook for flood damage. Jones' bill required mortgage lenders to make certain homebuyers had flood insurance.

Mortgage banking lobbyists defeated the bill's enforcement provision in the Assembly Insurance Committee Wednesday. They argued that, as a result of Katrina, the federal flood insurance program was probably bankrupt so why buy federal flood insurance.

It's an absurd argument but lobbyists at public meetings have to come up with something to conceal the deal going down in private. Evidently, bankers believe they have a right to profits from their "creative" mortgages and to an endless speculative housing boom, more of it inevitably encroaching on flood plains in the Central Valley.

While developer sharks circle the Legislature daily, we don't often see the killer whales come up the river and dance on their tails. Jones, regardless of the fate of his bill, should be thanked for flushing out a bit of the financial system behind CalGrowth, Inc, which rules this state today in an absolute style not seen since the days of The Railroad.

Nine of the 10 members of the committee are from Southern California. They watched safely from the riverbank as Jones' bill and political reason were devoured by greed. While this is a perfectly normal spectacle at the state Capitol, some interest was added by the rising level of the river in which the lobbyist feeding frenzy occurred.

Seal count:

How they voted against the critical enforcement provision of AB 1898.

Yes

Ron Calderon, D-Montibello
Dario Frommer, D-Los Angeles
Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach
Sally Lieber, D-Santa Clara
Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara
Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana

No

John Benoit, R-Riverside (vice chair)
Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont
Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia

Abstained

Juan Vargas, D-San Diego (chair)

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

Meanwhile, the local whining industry goes on per usual. Local government permits building on flood plains and goes whining to state and federal governments for "relief" when flood plains flood. Poor little Merced, whose city and county governments constantly raise the salaries and benefits for, at least, their "top" employees -- it just can't buy protection from floods, no matter how much money its public officials are investing in real estate.

Our leadership, in an economy fatted on every kind of government funding from cotton subsidies to UC Merced that still cannot produce enough work for its citizens, is adamantly against any government intervention except one kind: when state or federal funds flow into local coffers like Mariposa runoff.

The flood game is going to get worse due to the number of acres uphill and upstream from Merced that have been paved over and roofed over by the UC Merced-induced building boom.

Local leadership's first play in the flood game is to try to convince itself and the
remaining speculators that they are trying to do something and that floods will never,never happen again in Merced.

Its second play is going to be to blame environmentalists and natural resource agencies for floods. About the only people dumb enough to buy this are going to be real estate speculators still in this market, going nuts losing money. But a lot of them work for the county so this fable has a good start. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Vernal Pool Shrimp Slayer-Merced, is going to be whining to the leaden heavens as the rain comes down that flood damage is anyone's -- absolutely anyone's -- fault but his, beginning with railroading the UC campus through without proper environmental protection.

Local leadership is going to disappear behind its pointing fingers. You'll see a strange creature, something like a Sea urchin, rolling in and out of the county administration building, all fingers, no faces, no names. Or perhaps you'll see it floating down an MID canal, because MID isn't a flood control agency.

Absolutely the only thing real about this farce is flood water.

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

Merced Sun-Star
Estimates at $9.72M for flood damages...Doane Yawger
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12026735p-12784522c.html
First estimates from flooding earlier this week in Merced peg damage at $9.72 million...total is certain to go up as more homes, farms, businesses and public facilities are assessed.

County still awaiting disaster relief from governor's office. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, told Schwarzenegger that flooding was overwhelming local response capabilities...state assistance is needed and warranted. Ted Selb said the MID's canals sustained considerable damage...city crews were cleaning out culverts and removing obstructions from pipes to open up waterways, cleaning mud and debris off streets...water rose into streets and into some yards this week...crews Thursday morning cut a 40-foot swath in Sandy Mush Road to let water
drain on wetlands and nonproductive farmland.

Builders, schools can't reach deal...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12026741p-12784550c.html
On Tuesday, four school districts and the 26-member Building Industry Association of Central California walked away from the negotiation table again without a deal. In recent months, every major housing project before the city and county have been met with calls from educators to impose building moratoriums. March 10 offer by builders to pay the Merced City School District $3.55 per square foot for new developments. State law requires at least $2.48
per square foot...district made a counteroffer of $4.39, which was turned down by the BIA. In the meantime, construction and land costs have climbed substantially, and the buying power of funds collected for new schools has diminished...district says it will face an $88 million shortfall needed to build new facilities in the next 10 years if fees aren't increased.

We can prevent floods in future...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12026750p-12784512c.html
We have a sense that the finger-pointing has just begun. Merced Irrigation District officials and County Supervisor Deidre Kelsey say the disaster could have been avoided if the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers had finished water control projects. It's clear that a flood like Tuesday's can be avoided if the right people get together and make important decisions. Next time, a flood could be more catastrophic and cause injuries and even deaths. Our leaders must find a way to make sure there isn't another "next time."

http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/story/14240239p-15060058c.html
Editorial: Banking on clear skies
Mortgage industry weakens key flood bill
Sacramento Bee -- April 7, 2006

Mortgage banking in California is a multibillion-dollar business. It has thrived with the state's real estate boom and the proliferation of homes built in the low-priced floodplains of the Central Valley.

This industry also is enormously exposed. If and when a major flood occurs, the banking industry will be saddled with waterlogged, worthless homes. As in New Orleans, foreclosures will be rampant. Someone will be left holding a very soggy bag.

You might think that mortgage banks would support - or at least want to discuss - a measure to require flood insurance on vulnerable properties. Instead, the industry is using the same deceptive tactics it employs to sell questionable products (such as zero down payment, interest-only loans) to kill a bill by Assemblyman Dave Jones of Sacramento.

Before Wednesday, Jones' AB 1898 made federal flood insurance a condition of obtaining a mortgage in areas with a one-in-200 chance of flooding in any given year. Jones' bill would have required mortgage lenders to enforce the provision, which made sense because lenders have as much to lose as homeowners.

Unfortunately, the banking industry seems more concerned about short-term profits than long-term survivability. Mortgage bankers worry that an insurance requirement would scare off prospective home buyers. They used some highly deceptive arguments to effectively gut AB 1898 ...
---------------

GOP lawmakers revive Auburn Dam debate; SAVING SACRAMENTO DURING FLOOD AT ISSUE
San Jose Mercury-News – 4/7/06
By Erica Werner, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Key Republican lawmakers said Thursday that building a dam on the American River

at Auburn is the only way to protect Sacramento against catastrophic flooding that might occur once every 500 years.

But the head of the California Department of Water Resources cautioned against losing focus on flood-control projects now under way that are meant to give 200-year protection to the region.

Sacramento is now protected at only the 100-year level -- the lowest of any large urban area in the nation.

``Our focus right now in the state is that we need to be sure we get these improvements and not get distracted by the next debate over Auburn Dam,'' Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow testified at a hearing of the House Resources Committee's subcommittee on energy and water.

``The debate in the past has actually delayed investment in flood improvements in the region,'' Snow said.

Before Snow spoke, committee chair Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Stockton, and subcommittee chair Rep. George Radanovich, R-Fresno, both spoke in favor of an Auburn Dam, underscoring growing congressional interest in reviving the controversial project years after it seemed to be abandoned for good ...
----------------

San Joaquin River Continues To Rise; Mossdale Mobile Home Park Evacuated
KCRA Channel 3 (Sacramento) – 4/7/06

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Heavy runoff from recent storms is expected to tax the San Joaquin River in the coming days, state water officials said Thursday.

The river near Vernalis west of Modesto will likely reach flood stage within about five days or so, said Gary Bardini of the state Department of Water Resources.

At the Mossdale Moblie Home Park, near Manteca, a residents are packing up their belongings and moving out as the river continues to rise. A mandatory evacuation is in effect for the area.

"We've got good weather and that's going to make people wait as long as possible ... sometimes you have to get your feet a little bit damp before it's time to move," Lathrop-Manteca Fire spokesman Jim Monty said.

Reservoirs that feed the San Joaquin are nearing capacity in many cases, making significant water releases necessary. ..

"Our goal is to try to maintain flows at a level that the flood control system should perform adequately," said Bardini, noting that officials are most concerned about the San Joaquin.

But officials are also expecting more wet weather. Another storm will hit the region late Friday, with rain lasting off and on over the weekend.

Longer-range forecasts show more rain in the coming week as well.

"The good news, of course, is that we are in a break right now," said Elizabeth Morse of the National Weather Service. "The bad news is that it ends tomorrow."

Morse said the coming storm will hit hardest in Central California south of Interstate 80.

Thunderstorms are possible, posing a problem for some areas that are already saturated.

"The problem with showers and thunderstorms is that you can drop quite a bit of precipitation in a short period of time," Morse said. "Half an inch of rain in 30 minutes is going to be a real problem in some of the areas where we already have standing water."

Snow levels from this cold storm in the Sierra will remain relatively low, so officials do not expect the problem of huge runoff caused by rain falling on snow.

"Overall, this is a much more gentle system," Morse added. "Unfortunately, it's coming right on the heels of a pretty potent system."

In Calaveras County, those evacuated from about 100 houses in the La Contenta subdivision earier in the week were allowed to return home on Thursday.

A small dam at La Contenta, located near Valley Springs, threatened to fail on Tuesday. Crews have reinforced the dam with sandbags and plastic sheeting.

Thanks to calm weather Wednesday night, the Tuolumne River crested below flood stage in Stanislaus County Thursday morning.

People in the area were particularly worried about the area where Cry Creek meets the Tuolumne. The water, which surpassed levels seen during huge January storms, rose to within feet of a few homes.

In the Sierra, resorts reported a heavy blanket of new snow. At Mammoth Mountain in Mono County, the resort reported 23 inches of fresh snow, resulting in total depths of up to 264 inches in some places. #

http://www.kcra.com/money/8511490/detail.html

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Request for support

Submitted: Mar 24, 2006

Dear Stakeholders,

We would like to ask you to join a number of local and regional groups that have signed on to a statement calling for a moratorium for Merced County growth until the general plan is updated and a moratorium against the corrupt practice of legal indemnification.

This is not a local issue.

We welcome newcomers and outsiders, including state and national groups beyond Merced County, to sign on to this statement against the corrupt, incompetent development policies here that are devouring agricultural land and natural resources. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, author of bills to abolish the critical habitat designation and co-author with Rep. Richard Pombo of the Gut-the-ESA, has his home congressional office on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building. Show that you know that Merced's chaotic, unlawful growth is the result of his policies and the payoff for those policies. Take it to where he lives.

Among the three items attached is a voice message from a developer to a county supervisor that spells out the real Merced County planning policy better than any politician or planner has ever done. The next item is our request for your support. The final item is the Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning.

The deadline for signing on is April 3, 2006. Please feel free to forward this request for support to any other groups you want to share it with.

Don't let the Pomboza destroy national environmental law and regulation for the benefit of its local relatives and contributors!

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
P.O. Box 64
Merced, CA. 95341
cvsen@sbcglobal.net
cvsen@bigvalley.net

REQUEST FOR SUPPORT

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

Dear Stakeholders, March 23, 2006

Despite concerted opposition from the University of California, developers, elected and appointed public officials and planners, local citizen groups at a Merced County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Feb. 14 called for a moratorium on new development projects before a new county general plan is written. The groups also called for a moratorium on the corrupt practice of indemnification by public (UC) or private developers of local land-use authorities against legal costs arising from their approval of more urban sprawl in Merced County.

On March 6, Merced city schools officials echoed the call for a moratorium on growth that does not pay for itself – even for adequate public education for the arriving masses – before the Merced City Council.

3-7-06
Merced Sun-Star
Further city development opposed by school district...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11901831p-12671148c.html
Cries for a building moratorium Monday illustrate the failure of schools and developers to come to terms on impact fees for new homes...they want the council to apply the brakes to steamrolling development. In spite of protests from schools, the council unanimously voted to allow a 78-home development... City Attorney Greg Diaz said SB 50 ties the council's hands when it comes to requiring developments to pay school fees

The county supervisors tabled debate on a huge Ranchwood-proposed subdivision in Planada for two months when faced with this blunt, organized citizen opposition. Presumably, money will change hands and the Planning Department will be required to come up with new rhetoric before the project is reconsidered in April.

2-15-06
Merced Sun-Star
County unsure how to proceed with Planada homes proposal...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11809566p-12526323c.html
Planada - Valley developer John Sessions and two other property holders northwest of Planada want to take 1,400 acres of mostly farmland and turn it into a 4,700-home community. Local farmers and environmentalists showed up with written statements and poignant words deriding the development as a pave-over of prime farmland...chastised the Planada plan as "developer-driven growth."...wanted local communities -- instead of private developers -- to take the lead in mapping out how the county expands. There are already at least three other communities in the county where developers are taking the growth reins, county documents show. The committee said the housing development could potentially interfere with the county's 11-year-old general plan...block all large developments until the general plan is ironed out. None of the supervisors liked the idea of putting a "moratorium" on development, as some farmers and environmentalists suggested.

Presently, the way business is done in Merced County is well expressed by the following Feb. 3 telephone message from a developer to a supervisor:

Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you!
(Here audio version at: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/11957936p-12722260c.html)

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

March 14th, 2006
Beware the web you weave
Badlandsjournal.com

March 16th, 2006
Sun shines on government in Modesto, but not in Merced
Badlandsjournal.com

March 17th, 2006
Midnight government in Merced County
Badlandsjournal.com

Now is the time for other groups representing public concern over the corrupt pattern of growth in the county, stimulated by the arrival of the UC campus, to consider joining the original groups and signing on to the Coalition Statement on the Merced County Planning Process.
---------------

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

We call for a moratorium on County General Plan amendments, variances, minor sub-divisions changes to existing projects, zoning changes, and annexations of unincorporated county land by municipal jurisdictions, MOU’s and developments with private interests and state agencies, until a new County general Plan is formulated by a fully authorized public process – and approved locally and by the appropriate state and federal agencies.

The continual process of piecemealing development through amendments, willfully ignoring the cumulative impacts to infrastructure and resources, for the benefit of a small cabal of public and private special interests, is illegal and reprehensible conduct on the by elected and appointed officials of local land-use authorities.

We also call for a permanent moratorium on indemnification of all local land-use jurisdictions by private and public-funded developers.

Indemnification is the widespread, corrupt practice in which developers agree to pay for all legal costs arising from lawsuits that may be brought against their projects approved by the land-use authority -- city or county. Without having to answer to the public for the financial consequences of decisions made on behalf of special interests, local land-use authorities can be counted on to continue unimpeded their real policy: unmitigated sprawl, agricultural land and natural resource destruction, constant increases in utility rates, layering of school and transportation bonds on top of property taxes, and the steady erosion of the county's infrastructure.

Adopted 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development CoRP.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club

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

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

For your group to sign on, just send back your organization’s name and contact person.

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341
cvsen@bigvalley.net
cvsen@sbcglobal.net

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Muir in Stockton

Submitted: Mar 20, 2006

"When we contemplate the whole Globe as one great dewdrop," Muir wrote, "striped and dotted with islands and continents, flying through space with all the other stars, all singing and shining together as one, the whole Universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty" ...

"Muir said the fight we are fighting has no end," White said. "The real Muir was kind of dangerous." -- Stockton Record, March 19, 206
---------------

It has been fashionable in American intellectual circles to talk about the "end of history" since the conclusion of the Cold War. (Now, when was that, exactly?) An American empire would control the world through the genius of globalcorporate domination backed by US nuclear weapons, so why bother with history -- was how the argument went.

This propaganda, made to persuade public opinion that America, the super power, is lord and master of the Great Game of Empire, has resulted in a general trashing of the whole subject of history. Without it, conservatives have become as rootless and exploitive as the environmental gutting Pomboza (representatives RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy and Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced).

Merced proudly calls itself "Gateway to Yosemite," an overcrowded, polluted and
river-polluting concession stand that fills up that great valley in the high Sierras. It is unimaginable today, except through paintings from the turn of the last century, to grasp what John Muir and President Teddy Roosevelt saw in Yosemite when they camped there, discussing the establishment of the national park system the Pomboza would like to sell off to miners and loggers, as if miners and loggers did not exist in the 1890s.

Muir himself may be unimaginable except to those who had relatives born in California before Muir died and heard the stories of Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy and Muir and grew up with the conservation ethic and a feeling for the high Sierras.

When, stepping ever so briefly out of the Era of the Pomboza, some remind themselves of the impact John Muir had on our elders, this region, this state, this nation and the world, they wonder what Muir might have thought of the present moment. Something harsh stirs in the wind.

Muir inspired and informed the greatest spirit and vision California ever had. It was tied to the beauty and grandeur of our environment; and it would be foolish to deny its impact on the great literary tradition forming here as he fought to preserve Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy -- Frank Norris, Mary Austin, Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair, Ambrose Bierce, Joaquin Miller, Josiah Royce.

But, says the rear end of the Pomboza, we now have UC Merced and its fabulous Sierra Nevada Research Institute, represented in the following UC Bobcat Flak, so we don't need history.

http://www.ucmerced.edu/research/snri.asp

Sierra Nevada Research Institute

The SNRI is creating new knowledge on questions of national and international scope through the prism of the natural laboratory that is UC Merced's home – the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada region. It is carrying out research on the critical issues that affect humankind's ability to live in an environmentally sustainable way such as:

population growth and development
water and watersheds
air quality
fire ecology
biodiversity
climate change
transportation
resource management and policy
public recreation
These issues are especially vital to sustaining the unparalleled agricultural resources and magnificent natural landscapes of the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada.

The Sierra Nevada Research Institute will draw in the natural sciences, engineering and policy sciences.

UC Merced, described by prominent critics as both a boondoggle and a pork barrel for Valley developers, has created an academic boondoggle and pork barrel with its SNRI. An anchor tenant of corruptly planned, purely destructive urban growth in one of the worst air quality basins in the nation, sitting at the feet of the Sierras and Yosemite, the SNRI is just another aspect of the big real estate deal behind the establishment of this campus.

Muir might have wondered: How can this public/private conglomerate university, inventor of the atomic bomb and designer of every subsequent advance in the technology of nuclear mass destruction including an on-going competition between its two national laboratories on the next generation of nuclear weapons, walk these trails in these mountains, and learn or teach
anything about the conservation of anything?

It's a matter of ethics, he might have said -- not the ethics of destroying environmental law, regulation and agencies for the benefit of developers, family and political contributors; not the ethics of scientific grant whoring for a ecological disaster your institution is creating by the day.

Neither the University of California nor the Pomboza are known for ethics. They are known for aggression against the environment.

Perhaps there is a connection between the wholesale corruption of the era and the disdain for history. History provides examples of heroes like Muir and bums like the Pomboza. History asks the most difficult questions, like: How did California evolve into a society of 36 million people distracted to the point of near political idiocy by the abundance of their neighbors and the limits of their natural resources? How did California politicians go from the pockets of the Railroad through a prolonged period of progressive, clean government to
the pockets of the developers? Why do developers have to pay so much to buy votes, bills and laws for their benefit?

Although scholars may meet at University of the Pacific in Stockton at the end of the month over Muir's papers, it is the challenge of the story of his life to the story of our lives that is the point of the meeting, as far as the public is concerned. What do you want, the vision of John Muir or the vision of the Pomboza? Muir's medicine stings like hell, the Pomboza's is as soothing as cool lard. Which one is good for you?

Sometimes, the story that revives is too close to see -- like a backyard weed instead of a prescription drug.

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

Conservation pioneer
Pacific event to examine the legacy of John Muir

PAULA SHEIL
Record Staff Writer
Published Sunday, Mar 19, 2006
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060319/ENT/603190302/1001/NEWS01

STOCKTON - The life of John Muir inspires poets, botanists, rock climbers and cloud watchers.

He died on Christmas Eve in 1914, but he's alive today in the hearts of millions of tourists and trekkers to scenic lands around the world.

He founded the Sierra Club in 1892 with the hope of influencing generations to preserve wild places from development. After a three-day camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, Muir secured the protection of Yosemite, one of the United States' grandest natural wonders, for posterity and helped establish our national parks system.

Muir scholars and those drawn to him will meet March 30-April 1 at University of the Pacific for a three-day conference titled "John Muir in Global Perspective." Its speakers include author Robert Righter, who will give the keynote address on Hetch Hetchy. The place prompted some of Muir's most eloquent prose and spurred the growth of the environmental movement when the sister valley to Yosemite was dammed and flooded to produce a water supply for San
Francisco in 1923.

Other conference speakers include Bonnie Gisel, author of "Kindred and Related Spirits" (University of Utah Press, 2001), who was interested in the relationships that influenced Muir's ideas.

Muir was a self-taught inventor and displayed some of his contraptions, including a bed that would toss the sleeper upright, at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1860. Jeanne Carr, the wife of a university professor, met him and from then on guided his career, Gisel said. Carr suggested books, encouraged his writing and thinking, and sent men such as Ralph Waldo Emerson to meet him after he had sequestered himself in Yosemite. She even had a hand in his marriage to Louie Wanda Strentzel, an educated woman who recognized Muir's worth to the world
and let him wander the globe while she raised their two daughters.

Gisel spends six months of her year in a tent and curates the La Conte Memorial Lodge, an environmental education center in Yosemite. She will be talking about Muir the botanist at the conference.

Muir's vision of Earth as an interdependent biosphere predated the dumbfounded gaze of astronauts who looked down at the planet from space.

"When we contemplate the whole Globe as one great dewdrop," Muir wrote, "striped and dotted with islands and continents, flying through space with all the other stars, all singing and shining together as one, the whole Universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty."

Today, however, the protective regulations that have been put in place are being eroded.

To fund a federal program that sends money to rural counties, the Bush administration is proposing to sell 200,000 acres of national forest across the United States, including up to 3,300 acres of the Stanislaus National Forest in Calaveras County. Environmentalists wonder if national parks are next.

"I think the selling of national forests is robbing future generations for a few bucks today that won't make a dent in the budget," said Bill Muir Hanna, Muir's great-grandson. "One of the most important points that John Muir observed very early on is (everything) ... is hitched to everything else in the universe."

However, the conference focuses on history, not activism, said Bill Swaggerty, the conference coordinator and director of the John Muir Center at Pacific. Its value is to expand Muir's message further afield and find out what other countries are doing as a result of his being and writing.

Pacific is home to the John Muir Center, and in the basement of the library, in the
Holt-Atherton Collections, are his thousands of letters and documents, 27 notebooks, 84 journals and sketchbooks, 300 drawings and related photographs, and papers of those who knew him and influenced his thinking. The bulk of Muir's work resides at Pacific because Muir Hanna, a Pacific alumnus, suggested the university for its commitment to undergraduate education and its small size, he said.

Other scholars include Graham White, a fellow Scotsman, who will talk about Muir's return trip to his homeland in 1893. Muir's seaside ancestral home in Dunbar, Scotland, is developed with subdivisions similar to those crawling across the Golden State's landscape.

"Muir said the fight we are fighting has no end," White said. "The real Muir was kind of dangerous."

Faced with the land-grabbing, the timber-hauling and the cattle-ranging, "a lesser man would say nothing could be done," White said. "Today, it takes the same courage to stand up and be counted. We have no equivalent organization in our country."

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