Public Health and Safety

Racetrack promotion meets reality on narrow country roads

Submitted: Dec 08, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

To which, some members of the public reply:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Badlands editorial staff

| »

Public letter in opposition to the Riverside Motorsports Park

Submitted: Nov 14, 2006

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

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

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

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

1. Development Plan and Administrative Permit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Airport Land Use Commission decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Immediate issues of public information access

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

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

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

5. Failure to consult federal resource agencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Moratorium until General Plan Update

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

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

8. Conclusion

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

The process that produced these documents was seriously flawed by

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

Sincerely,

Lydia Miller Steve Burke

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

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

Cc: Interested parties
BadlandsJournal

| »

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

Submitted: Oct 25, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merced County Planning Commissioners:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A letter from Condren to his investors stated:

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

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

Hostetler told Supervisor Crookham in a telephone message:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Lydia M Miller Steve Burke

Cc.

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

| »

Wal-Mart, workers and brain-dead Babbitts

Submitted: Oct 13, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

| »

Annals of UC flak

Submitted: Sep 10, 2006

Hypocrisy at Davis (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UC Bobcatflak

The Discovery Room (2)

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

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

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

"It really engages students."

Dude!
-------------

Meanwhile, down on the boardwalk (3)

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

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

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

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

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

UC Merced

Guinea Pigs (4)

The campus received a $300,000 grant to

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

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

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

Bobcatflak claims the study as

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

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

Problems we see in this study:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bobcatflak

A real heavyweight (5)

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

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

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

Solar energy lobbyists analyze the bill this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

| »

Let them play Monopoly behind gates we lock

Submitted: Jul 30, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Hatch

| »

The desperation of MCAG

Submitted: Jul 25, 2006

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

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

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

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

Might one suggest an alternative analysis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

June 5, 2006

URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT

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

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

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

Sincerely, Central Valley Safe Environment Network

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!

REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!

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

Facts vs Claims on Measure A Tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb. 3, 2006: Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you! ..."

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

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

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

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

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

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

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

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

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

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

Commercial Development

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

What You Can Do:

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

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

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

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

| »

Valley blueprint for speculator exploitation and ecological disaster

Submitted: Jul 06, 2006

Last week, the Great Valley Center held a special conference in Fresno, called the “Blueprint Summit,” where, according to conference propaganda, “citizens and leaders from throughout the San Joaquin Valley launched a regional effort to plan for the future of the region.”

There was clearly something being launched out of a backroom somewhere – probably the state Capitol. The majority of roughly 600 participants were staff of state and local government and representatives from the development industry, among a smattering of elected officials, and a few “citizens.” Audience launching activities consisted of listening to a number of impassioned harangues from speakers cued into the program, drawing a few lines on maps, and responding to a few cooked questionnaires.

The sample was fatally skewed and certainly not representative of citizens and leaders. It was representative primarily of paid government staff and growth-related industries.
In short, the poll it pretended to be was rigged. The GVC, now a partner of the University of California, Merced, should be called the UC/GVC. And because UC is involved, polite editorial opinion cannot admit the poll was rigged. UC Merced, although perceived by Valley economic elites as the Golden Egg Itself, still must be handled very gently for fear it could break.

Badlands, which is an honest journalism organization, doesn’t mind special interests standing up and telling the public what they want. But, Badlands insists they be honest enough to be moreorless believable. And they aren’t. It leads us to speculative that what they really want is absolutely against the public interest, the common good, and the Public Trust.

The purpose of the meeting seemed to be to convince the media that 600 members of the Valley UC/GVC-designated “leadership” decided emphatically that regional planning was obligatory to override the weak, corrupt, legally attackable planning processes of eight counties and their cities to find an acceptable political way for these jurisdictions to override existing legal environmental review processes.

Why would UC/GVC want to do that? First, because there is grant money in it. As people in the Valley are beginning to resist more development for public- health as well as quality-of-life reasons, developers are turning up the political and propaganda heat.

The scale of recent UC/GVC events has grown massive. They feature audiences in the hundreds, large central podiums winged with huge monitors magnifying in triplicate the face and gestures of every speaker. These gatherings give us the disturbing feeling of having wandered into the wrong hall, where there is some sort of faith rally taking place. Everything in the room and every word from the speakers’ lips is one great exhortation to believe.

The good news is we’re all dead and this life is but a dream. The bad news is that, instead of going to Heaven, we got stuck in a Sinclair Lewis novel.

Marjie Kirn, deputy executive director of the Merced County Association of Governments, actually led the group in a short pep rally:

“Give me an S. Give me a J. Give me a V. San Joaquin Valley, Rah!”

The “citizen” component of the crowd felt uncomfortable. Perhaps, however, the terms of UC/GVC grant required Kirn to lead this yell as a demonstration of how the audience was actually launching “a regional effort to plan for the future of the region,” instead of doing something useful like:

launching a regional moratorium on growth until air quality improves, until groundwater supplies and quality are at least stabilized, and until general plans are updated through the legal processes that mandate full citizen participation;

launching a regional moratorium on sales tax increases to fund growth-inducing transportation expansions; or

launching a regional moratorium on the illegal taking of protected wildlife habitat.

Give me a M-O-R-A-T-O-R-I-U-M! Rah!

The majority of the crowd, state and local government staff, were all for the program outlined by their superiors. It was a little creepy for the few “citizens” in the audience to see quite how determined to see how our “leaders” are leading us over a cliff, which GVC calls a bump in the road, and UC sees as an opportunity for medical research.

Two speeches stood out for the Badlands editorial staff: the first by the executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, the next by UC Merced Chancellor, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey.

The Farm Bureau man said California agriculture was headed for another round of concentration into fewer corporate hands. Then he took his gloves off. He wrote off any future for family farmers, except perhaps in a few “niches.” To the extent these niches would be organic, genetic pollution from the rising tide of genetically engineered crops will insure they are temporary, last-gasp niches – a prospect the did not dismay the Farm Bureau man. Below Fresno, they see the future as Big Dairy and perhaps, Big Cotton, if Boswell can figure out how to keep the subsidy without calling it a subsidy. Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties are bitter about the Friant decision that will take some water out of the Friant-Kern Canal to let the San Joaquin River flow in western Fresno County for the first time in 50 years. Agriculture, particularly in Tulare, will suffer somewhat. But family farming in Tulare to southern Kern County has been dying since the late 1940s. The Farm Bureau man assured us marketing orders are things of the past, neatly nullifying the efforts of several earlier generations of farm leaders and legislators to help stabilize smaller farms by this means of cooperative marketing.

It is likely Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, poised to leave his chairmanship of the House Resources Committee to become chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in a Farm Bill year, will find a way to take cotton and dairy money, convince the public agricultural subsidies are finished, and continue agricultural subsidies.

Valley agriculture is far too important to ever be left to the leadership of the Farm Bureau. Its future, as Farm Bureau members throughout the Valley daily sell off prime farmland to developers, is in fact the most important subject of all for the Valley non-farming public outside of air quality, the deteriorization of which is a direct result of selling off prime farmland for real estate development.

This is a clown character of the sort Luis Valdez used to present on flatbed trucks. On the el teatro campesino stage, he would have worn a big card saying “Corporate Agribusiness Clown” over his T-shirt and the workers would have laughed. But at UC/GVC nobody laughs, at least out loud, when the corporate agribusiness clown says his lines, because there is no form of political corruption – from a Pombo Farm Bill to a San Luis Drain from Kesterson to the Delta to a Peripheral Canal to the next new town on prime farmland on the Valley floor – in which this mob of true believers would not put their faith.

UC Merced Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey told the audience that the Valley needs to recapture the medical insurance dollars now leaking over the hill to Bay Area health facilities. To do that, we must back UC Merced’s campaign for a medical school, which will offer aspiring research physicians ample opportunity to study pediatric and geriatric respiratory disease as the speculative housing boom, in part inspired by UC Merced, continues to shoulder its way forward, ever year insuring that the San Joaquin Valley will attain and maintain its designation as the worse air pollution basin in the US. She emphasized that the Valley doesn’t have as many doctors as other regions of California. Familiar as some are with the chancellor’s statistics, we take that with a grain of salt. But, if it were true, it would point to the good sense of physicians to not take themselves and their families into an area so environmentally unhealthy as well as unremunerative.

She also discussed UC Merced plans for research and development of new solar technologies to make at least the campus the true environmentally friendly campus of the future.

From the beginning of the UC San Joaquin Valley land deal, the chancellor has emphasized that the Valley needed to train its children with a UC education so that they would come back and serve it. We do, in fact, export a lot of children to college who never find their way back, and the amenity of a UC could make a difference. But there seems to be an on-going neurosis at UC Merced about creating a curriculum that responds to the Valley. This medical school campaign is typical of a sort of frantic dithering, changing directions, unsteadiness, that tells at least critics of the project that although the regents and the administration and the politicians had a very clear idea about starting a speculative real estate boom around the campus, they’ve paid little or no attention to the education offered. Students, justifiably as near as one can tell, are not responding well. The reputation of UC Merced is not helped by announcements this winter and spring that the chancellor, the provost, one vice chancellor, the dean of social sciences, and the environmental compliance director, have all left.

This is not really the best example of “service to the Valley.” It is not the sort of instability the Valley respects or trusts, and it justifies every suspicion about this campus being nothing but a “boondoggle” and a “land deal.”

Now that UC Merced and the Great Valley Center have formed a partnership, we are being suffocated in a completely technocratic discussion, no more than a fig leaf over development deals to be done anyway, on topics of the most profound ethical importance. Each time one goes to these conferences, one hears participants grasping fragments of technological or financial information as if they were planks from a wrecked ship as we tread water in a deep, filthy sea.

In the interests of the “moral clarity” so highly prized by Valley true believers, let us suggest that is it immoral:

to create the worst air pollution basin in the US;

to concentrate Valley agriculture into as few corporate hands as possible;

for the UC Regents and a few landowners, investors and politicians to have stimulated this speculative real estate boom by siting a campus here;

for the UC Regents to encourage the gutting of the Endangered Species Act so that they can develop UC Merced on protected habitat;

to dry up the biggest river in the Valley for the benefit primarily of agribusiness.

to make this contribution to global warming;

that UC leadership consists in nothing more than an immortal corporate campaign for research funds; there is no intrinsic relationship between that research and the location of the campus;

to conduct weapons-of-mass-destruction research. UC cannot say that, because they are completely involved in it. The Valley can say it and must say it and act on the statement, if the Valley doesn’t want it going on in the backyard;

for the development industry to engage in the wholesale corruption of local, state and federal environmental law and regulation – designed to protect human health and natural resources.

Absurd as it sounds, there is no ethical content to the UC/GVC, official, “public,” “ground-up” debate about the future of the San Joaquin Valley. First, there is nothing “ground-up” about having a room stacked with government staffers and representatives from the development industry writing answers on questionnaires prepared by their own consultants. When discussing these matters publicly, as “leaders,” yhey babble like mechanical rabbits. They do not speak like human beings in search of values, as all human beings must be. We are behaving as if this speculative boom is a virtual moral vacation.

Carol Whiteside, founder and CEO of the Great Valley Center, concluded the conference with a warning that “leaders” will have to have “courage” to face these problems. Badlands agrees. Eventually, with the kinds of decisions being made today, the public is going to get very angry at the daily amoral “decision-making process,” the Old Valley Whine about how if you don’t approve the next subdivision the economy will fail, all the moribund, wrong slogans they use, and the wholesale destruction of the habitat for wildlife. People do not like to see their children and grandparents in asthmatic distress. People wonder where all the birds went. People resent their waterways being turned into agricultural sewers. It will take “courage” to stand up against rising resistance to go on approving subdivisions for one’s campaign contributors.

Whiteside’s exhortation to “courage” was intended for the majority of the audience who were local and state government staff. “Courage,” in this sense, means turning a blind eye to environmental devastation and deteriorating quality of life, and a deaf ear to members of the public who resist them.

Although there have been better and worse moments through the years, it must be said, overall that the UC/GVC is in the business of converting the charitable crumbs from corporate tables, in the form of its grants, to manipulate Valley public opinion into a state of timidity, anxiety and – above all – political impotence when perfectly good local, state and federal law stands ready to be used if only the public would have the courage to use it. If UC/GVC did anything else, they would not get those grants. It cannot do other than support more urbanization – a disastrous and unconscionable policy.

What ought to anger the Valley public is that, just at the moment when resistance to growth and environmental devastation is beginning to have some effect, the governor, elected officials, the Central Valley councils of government, CalTrans, the developers and UC/GVC are trying to change the rules. They justify this in terms of all the usual deal clichés: “win/win, public/private partnerships,” “consensus,” all managed by corporation-trained “value-free facilitators.” The public mind fogs over, as it is intended to fog over, and as it will continue to fog over as long as it expects help from anyone but itself and as long as it cringes before the possibility of political and legal conflict.

To save itself from a really wretched – perhaps unprecedented – ecological disaster with consequences far beyond its own discomfort, the Valley public needs to use existing law created for its protection right now. It also needs to simply oust from power cynical politicians. It needs to just ignore the UC/GVC and get on with the business of saving its communities, including developing economies to cope with ecological realities – one at a time.

D-O-N-T R-U-I-N O-U-R H-O-M-E! Rah!

Until the Valley begins to make decisions that are intelligent and ethical, it deserves the reputation it has:

a region so stupid and corrupt it elects representatives like Pombo and Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, Devin Nunes, Rightwing Babbler-Visalia, and George Radanovich, Bankrupt Winemaker-Mariposa;

permits a speculative real estate boom to occur on some of the finest farmland in the world;

allows subsidized corporate agribusiness to continue to squander public water;

allowed the west side to pollute groundwater, create an environmental disaster at Kesterson, and still be considering draining that toxic soup to the Delta;

allows the state to let the Delta levees disintegrate while developers build on flood plains;

does nothing to promote and protect family farming;

allows what may soon be a disastrous interruption in the Pacific Flyway for migratory waterfowl;

permits the destruction of its own environment;

prefers to seethe in resentment against the criticism it so justly deserves for having allowed the creation of an extremely unequal society on top of extremely rich land – for having preferred country clubs and homeless people to good small farms.

However, there was a saving grace to the UC/GVC conference, a special survey of the Central Valley by the Public Policy Institute of California. This opinion poll revealed the information that people in the Central Valley consider air pollution a big problem, in percentages that follow the amount of air pollution in their area – from 26 percent in the North Valley to 59 percent in the South Valley.

The most interesting section of the survey, and the most threatening to UC/GVC and its stacked audience, showed the following:

Seventy-three percent of all Valley adults favored “protecting the wetlands and rivers, and other environmentally sensitive areas, even it this means there will be less commercial and recreational development;”

Sixty-seven percent of Valley adults favored “restricting the development of housing on land that has a significant risk of flooding, even it this means there will be less housing available;”

Sixty-five percent favored “restricting urban development on farms and agricultural lands, even if this means there will be less housing available.”

These findings indicate there is a clear majority of public opinion against most of the decisions that many in the audience are making. The UC/GVC Blueprint Summit is part of a vast propaganda effort by developers and politicians to stay ahead of this growing negative public opinion.

This returns us to the Pomboza, that strange, congressional wannabe Endangered Species Act-destroying monster out of the North San Joaquin, Rep. Pombo in front, Rep. Cardoza behind. The Pomboza was created on the day last year when San Joaquin developer, Fritz Grupe, who is the vice chairman of the governor’s California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, had Pombo and Cardoza to a joint fundraiser with other developers at his Lodi ranch.

On Tuesday, Cardoza and Pombo split roughly $50,000 raised at a bipartisan fund-raiser sponsored by prominent developer Greenlaw “Fritz” Grupe. Grupe is active in both San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, with subdivisions underway in Modesto, Turlock, Hughson, Waterford and Stockton.

Grupe also favors the kind of collaborative work Cardoza and Pombo have done on the Endangered Species Act and other issues. While agreeing the joint fund-raiser held at the developer’s Lodi ranch was “rather unique,” Cardoza said it sent the right kind of signal.

“Frankly, if we cooperated more aggressively, we would all be better off,” Cardoza said … -- “Valley political bonds strong,” Oakland Tribune, April 1, 2005, Michael Doyle, Modesto Bee.

It sent a “signal” that politicians and the developers who own them are now “more aggressively” cooperating against the public opinion of those in the impacted political districts.

The “signal” sent by the fundraiser may have spurred the political efforts to create this partnership, certainly a “more aggressive” way for developers and politicians to cooperate.

But, because all that this more aggressive cooperation between politicians and developers can produce is a lower quality of life, which is beginning to impact voters to the point they are talking about it and becoming bolder by the month before local land-use authorities, what else becomes crystal clear to voters is that the so-called strong valley political bonds are in fact nothing but strong financial bonds between developers and politicians.

If more evidence is needed, consider the Pomboza’s attempt in recent days to make FEMA hold off publishing new flood-plain maps until after the election.

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

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

Governor knows Valley's needs...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12295162p-13030255c.html
Arnold Schwarzenegger's big green bus rolled into Modesto on Thursday... Voters will decide whether to climb aboard the governor's "Protecting the California Dream" bus in November, when they choose between Schwarzenegger and Phil Angelides, who won the Democratic nomination in Tuesday's primary. But regardless of their political persuasion, Valley residents should know -- and be pleased -- that we have, for the first time in memory, a governor who is impressive in his interest in and knowledge of our region. It's refreshing to finally have a governor willing to use his political influence -- and in this case his celebrity power -- to advocate for the Valley.
----------------

Forum looks at valley issues...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12295194p-13030298c.html
California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley - The valley's work force already suffers from lack of vocational training, several speakers said. Keith Boggs, senior management consultant for economic development in the Stanislaus County chief executive's office, described a dearth of "human infrastructure." The Modesto-based Great Valley Center is spearheading portions of the governor's partnership effort, including a review of growth policies that could lead to regional land-use recommendations. The Building Industry Association of Central California's Kevin Stone warned against taking growth control too far..."We propose that economic development in the Central Valley supersedes the interests of those who simply desire no change at all," he said. The partnership hopes to circulate a draft "strategic action proposal" in mid-September andpresent a final version to Schwarzenegger in November.
On the Web: www.bth.ca.gov/capartnership/sanjoaquinvalley_moreinfo.asp#meeting0607_0906.
--------------------

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

Modesto Bee
UC Merced plan for medical school must be a priority...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12385466p-13112083c.html
A medical school proposal by University of California at Merced represents the best opportunity for the San Joaquin Valley to get a medical education facility in a region that desperately needs doctors. This project is as important as any public-policy initiative in the valley, and it's time our community leaders give it the attention it deserves. The UC Merced proposal is a visionary plan that would leverage current medical facilities in the valley by using partnerships with regional health providers. It also would utilize the resources of sister campuses UC San Francisco and UC Davis. UC Merced said the intention is to attack the physician shortage in the valley, and have an emphasis on training physicians who are competent in multicultural health care and committed to serving the needs of the San Joaquin Valley. There's strong evidence that new physicians settle into practice near where they train. Having a medical school can help.
-----------------------

Stanislaus grappling with growth...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12385476p-13112069c.html
How can the county's cities and county government make sure there are enough homes, roads, sewers and water to accommodate them? How can they avoid the turf wars and other impediments to good planning that have marked development in the past? How can they preserve agriculture as an industry in the face of such growth? The county's board of supervisors and its cities' mayors met Wednesday to grapple with those issues...discussion dealt mostly with how to frame the solution. Land use attorney George Petrulakis said planning could start by identifying areas that shouldn't be developed. Another suggestion was a strategic investment plan to put limited public dollars into the roads, parks and sewers that will most effectively shape the county's growth.
----------------------

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

Fresno Bee
City seeks way around a land law...Tim Sheehan
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/sv/story/12385418p-13112007c.html
VISALIA — City leaders hope to enable long-term conservation of prime farmland while also stemming the flow of local money to Sacramento. Officials are exploring a way for farmland owners who wish to develop their property to cancel conservation contracts by putting money toward the permanent preservation of equal acreage elsewhere near the city. The examination is being spurred by Mangano Homes, a Visalia development company planning a major project on 580 acres in northwest Visalia. 450 acres of the proposed Lowrey Ranch project is under Williamson Act. Bob Dowds, vice president of Mangano Homes, said his company hopes to take advantage of a process known as "1240 exchanges." In a 1240 exchange, instead of the cancellation fee going to the state, it would be used to purchase development rights on nearby farmland, creating a permanent "agricultural conservation easement."
-------------------------

Modesto Bee
Bridge plan spurs talk in Waterford...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12390340p-13116397c.html
WATERFORD — The city's new growth plan could set it up for the construction of at least 1,300 homes, but so far, one proposed bridge is channeling the discussion on how fast the community should grow...bridge would connect older neighborhoods on Bentley Street to an area where Stockton-based Grupe Co. wants to build a 350-acre subdivision. Pattie Hulst...it's unrealistic to plan on linking a new subdivision to downtown. "There's going to be two towns." Mayor Charles Turner said he doesn't like the idea of a bridge crossing the canal. Turner backs limited growth in Waterford. Grupe helped pay for the general plan update that could allow its subdivision's construction. The plan is expected to be finished by the end of the year, and Grupe would then be able to pursue annexations for the Lake Pointe development.
-------------------------

Contra Costa Times
Council blasts UC proposal for campus projects...Martin Snapp
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/local/states/california/alameda_county/berkeley/14937626.htm
The Berkeley City Council reacted angrily Tuesday night to the University of California's draft environmental report for its Southeast Campus Integrated Projects plan. Planning Director Dan Marks delivered a blistering critique of the report that barely stopped short of accusing the university of bad faith. Among his complaints:
· Conclusions based on inadequate information: "The draft EIR continues to fail to provide sufficient information for adequate analysis,...
· Insufficient analysis of alternatives: "The city requested that the university not identify self-serving 'straw men' alternatives that were clearly infeasible or did not meet project objectives,"...
· Continuing lack of evidence to support that "Best Practices" mitigates impacts: "The university intends to rely on a series of so-called "continuing best practices" to mitigate the impact of the projects,"...
· Poor evaluation of seismic safety and traffic impacts:...
Mayor Tom Bates hinted that the city might not be as cooperative as before regarding town/gown projects, including the proposed multi-million dollar downtown hotel/convention center the city and university are developing together.
-----------------

Badlandsjournal.com

The Blockhead Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006
The newest “vision” for the San Joaquin Valley, according to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, which graced us with its prestigious presence last week in Merced, is composed of four elements:
· rapid urbanization;
· destruction of local, state and federal environmental law, regulation and resource-agency enforcement;
· demand for state and federal public funds to pay […]
Posted in Environment, State government, Growth
----------------------

Grassland Water District letter to county Board of Supervisors re: amendment policies during the General Plan update process
Sunday, May 14th, 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
Posted in Environment, Federal government, Agriculture, Water, Growth,
--------------------

Merced County
Below the tipping point
Wednesday, May 17th, 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 […]
Posted in Environment, University of California, San Joaquin Valley, Growth
What’s a county General Plan review steering committee, anyway?
--------------------

Monday, May 15th, 2006
This letter was submitted to the Merced County Board of Supervisors for its May 2nd continued hearing on proposed General Plan Amendment policy and procedures during the General Plan Update process. The board decided that day, among several options presented by the General Plan Review Steering Committee, to continue business as usual. The representative for […]
Posted in Law, Merced County
-----------------------

Some things to think about on Measure A
Sunday, June 4th, 2006
URGENT
City of Merced Measure C raised sales tax to 7.75%. With passage of Measure A, Merced City sales tax would be 8.25%. A half a cent less than the highest sales tax rates in the state. Sales taxes fall hardest […]
Posted in Environment, Public health and safety, Growth, Merced County, Public works, Economy
------------------

URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT

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

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

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

Sincerely, Central Valley Safe Environment Network

Correction in CVSEN Sunday's emailer contained inaccurate information. The amount is 5 cents on $10.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!

REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!

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

Facts vs Claims on Measure A Tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb. 3, 2006: Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you! ..."

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

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

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

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

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

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

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

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

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

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

Commercial Development

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

What You Can Do:

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

Paid for by the Committee Against Measure A Tax

| »

Some things to think about on Measure A

Submitted: Jun 04, 2006

URGENT

City of Merced Measure C raised sales tax to 7.75%. With passage of Measure A, Merced City sales tax would be 8.25%. A half a cent less than the highest sales tax rates in the state. Sales taxes fall hardest on people with fixed incomes ( senior citizens and citizens with special needs) and low incomes. Merced leaders constantly repeat that Merced County is poorer that Appalachia.

So why are they asking us to pay close to the highest sales tax rate in the state?

Rankings by per capita income of California’s 58 counties whose sales tax measures are mentioned in articles below (http://www.answers.com/topic/california-locations-by-per-capita-income):

1st -- Marin ($44,962)
4th -- Santa Clara ($32,795
5th – Contra Costa ($30,615)
7th – Alameda ($26,860)
8th – Santa Cruz ($26, 396)
9th – Napa ($26,395)
21st – Solano ($21,731)
23rd – Sacramento ($21,142)
27th – Monterey ($20,265)
39th – San Joaquin ($17,365)
42nd – Stanislaus ($16,913)
49th – Fresno ($15,495)

54th – Merced ($14,257)

One proponent of Merced County’s Measure A advanced the following argument:

Small price, big benefit...Connie Warren, Merced...Measure A will increase the Merced County sales tax by one-half of one cent per dollar: This means an increase of 5 cents on a $10 purchase. You would need something in the $1000 range before the increase would impact a 16-year-olds (allowance driven) buying power. Ever heard the phrase "New York minute"?

In fact, Measure A would add 50 cents to a $10 purchase, not a nickel. If Measure A sales tax passes, the City of Merced would have a one(1%) percent tax increase within a year.

It is also important for Merced County voters to note well (from the articles below) that, once these sales tax measures are voted in, local governments come back again and again asking for extensions for them and additions to them.

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
------------------------

Mercury News
Sun., June. 4, 2006
Support health and transit; vote for ethical leadership...Mercury News Editorial
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/opinion/14739038.htm
Nothing on Tuesday's ballot is more important to Santa Clara County than approving Measure A. The additional half-cent sales tax will finance badly needed road and transit improvements as well as help preserve the county's public-health system, which under current state and federal funding trends is spiraling toward disaster.
The last Measure A sales tax in 2000 was supposed to cover the local share of the costs of bringing BART from Fremont to San Jose and improving other mass transit, including the bus system. Nobody predicted the subsequent plunge in the local, state and federal economies after Sept. 11, or the failure of the local economy to completely recover.
Money from all sources now is short, but the need for transportation improvements -- including road improvements that were not part of the last measure -- is as strong as ever. And the cost of building mass-transit systems will only increase if we don't build now for the future.
The same plunge in revenue from all sources now endangers the health and social-service safety net that the county has provided for decades.
As the pot of money shrinks, the need for county public-health programs grows greater, from threats of a pandemic to growing numbers of people needing expensive, publicly funded emergency room care because they can't afford routine doctor visits. There is no sign that the state or federal governments will remedy the health care crisis in this decade or even the next. If we want a sure safety net here, we need to pay for it.
Measure A would take our sales tax to 8.75 percent, tying Alameda County and several other cities as one of the highest in the state. But contrary to what a group of anti-BART opponents of this measure say, business leaders from large and small companies strongly support this tax. They believe that a good transportation system and a healthy community are as essential to the business climate as they are to our quality of life. And they join an amazing coalition of labor leaders, social-service and housing advocates and other community leaders urging a yes vote on Measure A.

6-3-06
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Santa Cruz seeks sales tax hike...Shanna McCord
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2006/June/03/local/stories/05local.htm
SANTA CRUZ — City leaders are preparing to ask voters to boost the sales tax in Santa Cruz to 8.5 percent, a quarter-cent increase. Santa Cruz would join San Francisco as one of the few cities in the state with an 8.5 percent sales tax, among the highest sales tax rates in California. First, voters must choose to make permanent the temporary quarter-cent sales tax hike known as Measure F, approved in March 2004 and set to expire in 2009. Second, voters must approve the proposed additional quarter-cent hike. Both would be on one ballot measure.

6-3-06
Merced Sun-Star
Attachments(4):
VOTE NO on Measure A Tax....Merced Sun-Star Flyer Insert
Front - flyer insert
MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!
REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!
In 2002, the Citizens of Merced County VOTED DOWN the Measure M road-improvement tax. Merced County and its cities went right on approving thousands of new homes. This RECKLESS action is destroying hundreds of miles of our existing streets and roads because development doesn’t pay for itself.

Reverse - flyer insert
Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County
Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.
Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.
City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units,
Commercial Development
Wal-Mart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls
….and the list goes on!

Letters to the Editor Merced Sun-Star B2 Saturday, June 3, 2006
Measure questions...Ronald Ashlock, Atwater...Measure A, the half-cent sales tax...leaves serious doubts...Citizen Oversight Committee only has auditing and advisory rights. To whom do we turn...if money going for private benefit. Who is the Transportation Alliance and the Alliance for Jobs? and who has spent all the money for the vigorous campaigns to pass this measure...mailers and television ads?

Leaders are the problem...Marvin R. Wallace, Merced...Measure A must be defeated...Measure A will mean a Merced sales tax of 8.25 percent on every dollar we spend to purchase merchandise. For years we've been paying premium prices for gasoline...because of the huge federal and state fuel taxes... Those funds were intended to maintain the roads... Between sales tax, income taxes, and property taxes, we're all being made poor by the tax and spend inefficient people voters have put in office.

Officials should do job...Pat Shay, Atwater...Measure A should NOT be passed. I am very concerned that local elected officials support this proposal. If they had been doing their job in the first place...Why should tax payers in Merced County pay TWICE to maintain roads?

Vote no to developers...Bobby Avilla, Stevinson...Measure A is being funded and driven by developers. Developers are pay for studies on roads, financial feasibility studies for incorporation (Delhi), pay for the costs to lead steering committees...(Stevinson). If developers can pay to make sure they can keep on paving over our farmland...let them also pay for the infrastructure...

Small price, big benefit...Connie Warren, Merced...Measure A will increase the Merced County sales tax by one-half of one cent per dollar: This means an increase of 5 cents on a $10 purchase. You would need something in the $1000 range before the increase would impact a 16-year-olds (allowance driven) buying power. Ever heard the phrase "New York minute"?

Let's look out for selves...Margaret M. Randolph, Merced...As an advocate of Measure A...it is also true that in order to compete for those funds with other counties it is necessary to step up to the plate and become a "self-help county."

6-1-06
Modesto Bee
Incomes in valley keep pace with rest of state...Ben van der Meer
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12259133p-12997240c.html
Merced County moved up in rankings of the state's 58 counties, to 50 from 52. Snaith and Mark Hendrickson, president of the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce, said the University of California at Merced, being built at the time, did play a role...he expected Merced's upward trend to continue as the university, which opened in the fall, develops and a motor sports park and Wal-Mart distribution center come on-line.

Modesto Bee
Sales tax in trouble...Tim Moran...5-31-06
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12254662p-12993245c.html
A proposed initiative for a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects in Stanislaus County appears to be in trouble, according to the Modesto Bee-California State University, Stanislaus, poll. Slightly less than half the county voters polled in mid-May said they would support the tax... planned for the November ballot, needs a two-thirds majority to pass. Many proponents are watching to see how the Merced County transportation sales tax initiative fares on Tuesday, Madison said.

Fresno Bee
A crucial consensus...Editorial...2-28-06
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/11873741p-12645476c.html
The group planning an extension of Fresno County's Measure C has overwhelmingly signed off on a spending plan for the half-cent transportation sales tax...plan must now be approved by each of the county's 15 city councils, the transportation authority itself, and finally by the Board of Supervisors. If all goes well, it will appear on the November ballot. This is not a new tax, but the extension of the current one. The original Measure C was passed in 1986. Its 20-year run expires next year...effort to extend the measure failed in 2002... extension would run for another 20 years.

Measure C plan is approved...Russell Clemings...2-25-06
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/11848579p-12561582c.html
The committee working on plans for extending Measure C — Fresno County's half-cent transportation sales tax — finished its work Friday by approving a plan that devotes large shares to public transit, local street work and major highway construction...proposal goes to the Council of Fresno County Governments, which consists of mayors or other leaders from each of the county's 15 cities and the county Board of Supervisors. Then it will be submitted to each city council, the county Transportation Authority and the supervisors. A final vote on whether to place the extension plan on the November general election ballot is expected to be made by the Board of Supervisors sometime this summer.

Committee hones Measure C...Russell Clemings...1-7-06
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/11663200p-12391447c.html
A committee drawing up plans to renew the Measure C transportation sales tax made its last major decisions Friday. committee also voted to add to Measure C's expected proceeds by devoting 75% of Fresno County's state highway funding to Measure C projects over the next 20 years. But it left details vague on another supplement — a proposed fee that would be charged to new development for road impacts. Like the current Measure C, passed by voters in 1986, the extension would be for 20 years.

Sacramento Bee
Arena's strategy for tax assailed...Terri Hardy...5-27-06
http://www.sacbee.com/content/sports/basketball/kings/v-print/story/14261224p-15074828c.html
A strategy to finance a new Sacramento arena with a quarter-cent sales tax approved by a majority of voters would likely violate state law, according to the author of the state proposition that outlined how such levies are imposed. Any proposed sales tax to be used for a specific purpose, such as an arena, would need to be approved by a two-thirds vote -- not the simple majority that arena backers have stated, said Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association on Friday. "If this (proposed) tax is intended to pay for an arena, it's a special tax requiring a two-thirds vote."

Stockton Record
Plan to put Measure K back on ballot nears OK...Erin Sherbert...4-23-06
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060423&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=604230313&SectionCat=&Template=printart
STOCKTON - Transportation leaders are poised to approve a plan to place a major transportation tax renewal proposal on the November ballot despite wavering support among Ripon city officials. The San Joaquin Council of Governments, the county's transportation planning agency, on Thursday will consider adopting the new spending plan for a renewed Measure K, the county's half-cent sales tax voters passed in 1990. Without renewal, it would expire in 2011. If voters renew Measure K, it will generate about $2.5 billion over 30 years. If the COG board adopts the spending plan, it will go to the cities for final approval from their councils, as well as the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. The county government and four cities - one has to be Stockton - must approve the spending plan before it can be placed on the ballot. Ripon city leaders say they believe more of the tax money should come back into local coffers instead of paying for regional transit and highway projects, said Ripon Mayor Chuck Winn, who sits on the COG board.

Supervisors ready for battle over Measure K...Greg Kane...3-28-06
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060328/NEWS01/603280321&SearchID=7324639488627
Measure K, half-cent sales tax adopted by San Joaquin County voters in 1990, is expected to generate $750million for county roads by the time it expires in 2010. The San Joaquin Council of Governments, the county's primary transportation planning agency, wants to bring a $2.5billion, 30-year extension before county voters in November.

San Francisco Chronicle
Voter's guide to the June 6 California Primary...Michael Cabanatuan, Simone Sebastian, Patrick Hoge...5-28-06
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/INGNKJ2GIR1.DTL&type=printable
Separate measures to raise sales taxes in Napa and Solano counties by one-half cent to fund transportation improvements in the only two Bay Area counties without such self-help taxes for streets, highways and public transit. Approval by better than two-thirds of those voting is required. Napa County -- Measure H: $537 million over 30 years...county's first attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Solano County -- Measure H: Would raise $1.6 billion over 30 years... county's third attempt to pass a transportation sales tax.
Napa, Salano counties to vote on sales levy...Michael Cabanatuan...5-15-06

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/15/BAGS8IRUB01.DTL&type=printable
Seven of the Bay Area's nine counties have sales taxes that raise money for transportation improvements. Residents of Solano and Napa counties will face separate ballot measures on June 6. A two-thirds majority vote is needed for the measure to pass. In Santa Clara County, where voters in 1984 passed the state's first transportation sales tax, community leaders are trying a different approach. Voters are being asked to approve a half-cent sales tax to fund general county services -- affordable housing, health care and transportation, including the proposed BART extension to San Jose. A simple majority vote is needed for the measure to pass. Eighteen of the state's 58 counties have transportation sales taxes, and the residents of those counties combine to make up about 80 percent of the state's population. Measure H is Solano County's third attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Napa County voters are being asked to approve their own Measure H, also a 30-year, half-cent sales tax measure. It is the county's second attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Santa Clara County's Measure A also proposes a half-cent sales tax that would last 30 years...
Contra Costa Times

Measure would benefit transportation projects...Danielle Samaniego...5-31-06
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/email/news/14705571.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Solano County is hoping the third time is the charm for a sales tax to finance transportation improvements needed throughout the region. Voters have rejected similar measures twice. Measure H would authorize the Solano Transportation Improvement Authority to impose a half-cent sales tax for 30 years to fund traffic safety improvements, projects and programs identified in the county's transportation expenditure plan.

Mercury News
Tax increase advocates raise more than foes...Barry Witt...5-26-06
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/14672741.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Measure A - The campaign for a half-cent increase in Santa Clara County's sales tax reported Thursday that it raised more than $1.3 million in 10 weeks, with much of the cash coming from the county's biggest labor union, major Silicon Valley employers and contractors working on the planned BART extension to San Jose...that needs 50 percent, plus one vote to pass, there are no restrictions on how county supervisors can use the estimated $160 million a year in new revenue the tax increase would provide. If approved, the county's sale tax rate would be 8.75 percent, tying Alameda County for highest in California.

Monterey Herald
Measure A campaign picks up big boosters...Larry Parsons...5-26-06
http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/montereyherald/living/community/14677167.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
The campaign to pass Measure A, the half-cent transportation sales tax on the June ballot, is picking up major financial support from expected sources -- Monterey County's agricultural, tourism and construction industries. Measure A would impose a half-cent sales tax for 14 years to raise an estimated $350 million for regional highway and transportation projects. Opponents contend the tax would be a wasteful burden on county residents for a badly conceived, pork-barrel package of highway projects and other transportation programs.Two of the biggest contributions to the Measure A campaign came from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, $25,000, and Granite Construction Co., $20,000.

Tax measures articles...Modesto, Santa Clara, Napa, Solano

Modesto Bee
Sales tax in trouble...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12254662p-12993245c.html
A proposed initiative for a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects in Stanislaus County appears to be in trouble, according to the Modesto Bee-California State University, Stanislaus, poll. Slightly less than half the county voters polled in mid-May said they would support the tax... planned for the November ballot, needs a two-thirds majority to pass. Many proponents are watching to see how the Merced County transportation sales tax initiative fares on Tuesday, Madison said.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/31/EDGDOIJLR81.DTL&type=printable

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Invest in valley's future
-
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MEASURE A, the half-percent sales tax increase on Santa Clara County's June 6 ballot, should get a "yes" vote from every voter with an interest in Silicon Valley's transportation and health-care systems.

Measure A is proposed as a general-fund tax because those require only a simple majority to pass. (In 1996, a similar measure eked by with just 51.8 percent of the vote.) But its backers are lobbying for the annual revenue increase of up to $180 million to fund public health and transportation improvements.

This strategy worked well in the 1996 measure -- the county Board of Supervisors respected the voters' wishes, and virtually all of the funded projects, such as the construction of a new interchange at the junction of Highways 101 and 85 in Mountain View, were completed on time and on budget.

To ensure the same results, Measure A's backers have written it in a responsible, thoughtful manner. An independent citizens' review committee will report progress to the community. There's a 30-year sunset clause. Because Measure A is the result of nearly two years of brainstorming with different interests -- business and labor groups, families and religious organizations -- it has an outstanding slate of sponsors. Its biggest supporter is the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents 200 of the valley's largest companies.

The only problem with Measure A is it will lift Santa Clara County's sales taxes to 8.75 percent. But this is the path we've set out for ourselves in California, where local governments have few places to turn for revenue.

Our roads, buses and hospitals are worth the investment. We recommend a "yes" vote on Santa Clara County's Measure A on June 6.

Page B - 8
URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/31/EDGDOIJLR81.DTL

VOTER'S GUIDE TO THE JUNE 6 CALIFORNIA PRIMARY
BAY AREA MEASURES
- Michael Cabanatuan, Simone Sebastian, Patrick Hoge
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/INGNKJ2GIR1.DTL&type=printable

Sunday, May 28, 2006

TRANSPORTATION TAXES
What's on the ballot

Separate measures to raise sales taxes in Napa and Solano counties by one-half cent to fund transportation improvements in the only two Bay Area counties without such self-help taxes for streets, highways and public transit. Approval by better than two-thirds of those voting is required.

What they would do

Napa County -- Measure H: Would raise $537 million over 30 years to pay for local street and road maintenance and improvements; widening and improvement of Highway 12 through Jamieson Canyon; a commuter trip-reduction program; express bus service from Napa to Fairfield/Suisun City; a mobility program for senior citizens; pedestrian improvements and a Napa downtown transit center. This is the county's first attempt to pass a transportation sales tax; voters approved an advisory measure in 2004.

Solano County -- Measure H: Would raise $1.6 billion over 30 years for a new interchange at the junction of Interstates 80 and 680 and Highway 12 in Cordelia; widening and improving Highway 12; new commuter rail service to and from the Bay Area and Sacramento; expanded Vallejo Baylink ferry service and expanded express bus service serving all Solano County cities. This is the county's third attempt to pass a transportation sales tax. Measures in 2002 and 2004 received a majority of votes but fell short of the two-thirds requirement.

Fiscal impact

In Napa County, would raise the sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.25 percent beginning Jan 1. In Solano County, would raise sales tax from 7.375 percent to 7.875 percent beginning Oct. 1.

-- Michael Cabanatuan

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

SCHOOL TAX AND BOND MEASURES
What's on the ballot

A dozen school and community college tax and bond measures in the Bay Area that would raise nearly $2 billion for school repairs, remedial education programs and classroom technology upgrades. Nine school districts in the region are seeking voter approval of parcel tax and bond measures, while three community college districts -- Peralta, Contra Costa and Foothill-De Anza -- have bond measures on the ballot. Bond measures need 55 percent approval to pass. Parcel tax measures need two-thirds.

What they would do

Oakland Unified -- Measure B: The $435 million bond measure is the largest school tax measure in the region. It is the second of three bond measures the district says it needs to fulfill a $1 billion wish list of school improvements -- the first measure, which raised $303 million, was approved in 2000. Measure B would replace hundreds of decaying portable classrooms on campuses throughout the district with permanent buildings, according to district officials. Some of the portables date back to the 1970s and are suffering from rot and water damage.

"Who knew (back then) that you were going to need phones, intercoms and computers; things that in many classrooms are now regular resources," said Jody London, co-chair of the Yes on B campaign. "We need to give these kids nicer facilities."

Tamalpais Union High School District -- Measure A: Voters in the Marin County school district will consider an $80 million bond. About $20 million would go toward rebuilding a 22-classroom building at Tamalpais High School that was closed in August because of mold. Another $15 million would go toward reconstruction of swimming pools at the district's three comprehensive high schools to give them the depth and size necessary for more athletic competitions, according to district officials.

Fiscal impact

If approved, the Oakland measure will cost residents a maximum of $48 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

The Tamalpais district measure, if approved, will cost residents a maximum of $19 per $100,000 of assessed property value. -- Simone Sebastian .

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

NAPA LAND-USE COMPENSATION
What's on the ballot

Measure A would require property owners in Napa County to be compensated for property value losses resulting from new county policies. Sponsored by the Napa Valley Land Stewards Alliance, it is supported by the Napa County Republican Party. It is opposed by most of the county's political leaders, the Napa Valley Vintners Association and the Napa County Farm Bureau, police and firefighter unions, business chambers and environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Greenbelt Alliance. A majority vote is needed.

What it would do

Measure A would require that the county financially compensate property owners if their land is devalued by future county regulatory or policy decisions. County supervisors could avoid paying for impacts of their actions by getting their acts ratified by voters, or by exempting specific property owners. The measure grew out of a successful 2004 referendum campaign that nullified a county ordinance restricting development near streams. Critics said the ordinance's definition of watercourses needing protection was so expansive that it would have rendered significant portions of properties unusable.

Fiscal impact

Critics say Measure A would wreak havoc on local land-use planning and produce a tidal wave of expensive litigation that could drain funds from other county programs. Administrative and legal costs alone could be almost $3 million annually, not including awards for successful damage suits, according to an analysis that the county commissioned. Backers say such claims are overblown.

-- Patrick Hoge

Page E - 5
URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/INGNKJ2GIR1.DTL

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle

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

| »

Vote No on Measure A Tax

Submitted: Jun 03, 2006

URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Central Valley Safe Environment Network
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

MAKE Residential and Commercial Development Pay Its Own Way!

REJECT Welfare Subsidies for the Building Industry Association!

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

VOTE NO on Measure A because it doesn’t fix the problems. It adds to them! The intent of this tax measure to improve highways 99, 152, 59, and 33, and to build the Mission Ave. Interchange, is to attract more urban growth, not to fix local potholes. The only “economic engine” helped here is the profits of developers who want you to pay for the impacts of their projects while they plant the last crop in the San Joaquin Valley- subdivisions!

VOTE NO on Measure A because the county General Plan is an absurdly outdated, non-compliant hodge-podge of amendments and conflicting goals and policies. About 20 citizens’ groups petitioned the Merced County Board of Supervisors to slow growth until county and city general plans and community plans are legally compliant. Special interests – not the public – are controlling the Merced County planning process. Use your vote to send a message to government highway funders that these special interests do not speak for us!

VOTE NO on Measure A because UC won’t pay more than $350,000 to cover the $200 million cost of it’s impacts to local streets, parks and schools. Measure A will be used to finance the Mission Ave. Interchange off Hwy 99, the Yellow Brick Beltway to UC Merced and west to Atwater. This will hasten sprawl and will eat away productive agricultural land. This UC beltway will draw business away from downtown Merced. The Mission Ave Interchange will become the location of a Wal-Mart Distribution Center, bringing in about a thousand diesel trucks a day to increase our air pollution.

VOTE NO on Measure A because it is a matching fund gimmick created by special interests. Your supervisors have used your tax dollars to create a lobbying group called the One Voice Committee that speaks for special interests, not for you. VOTE NO on Measure A to tell state and federal highway funders “One Voice” speaks for special interest, not for you.

VOTE NO on Measure A because the sand and gravel trucks supplying these proposed highway projects tear down our county roads and degrade our waterways. Spending dollars on new roadways instead of for maintenance and repair of existing county roads and city streets is a misappropriation of public funds for special interests.

VOTE NO on Measure A because you’re tired of government by and for special interests – from UC Merced to local, national and international development corporations – making land deals for their profits and your losses. An estimated 100,000 new homes are already in the planning process in Merced County.

VOTE NO on Measure A because you will have no vote on the projects it will fund. Special interests have already decided how that money will be spent and will continue to decide how it will be spent.

VOTE NO on Measure A now and you may prevent Measure Z later, as special interests continue to pile on special taxes for schools, water, sewer, electricity, parks and recreation, libraries, solid waste, emergency services, police and fire protection – like Measures S, M and H, and the Merced City Hotel Tax for a UC Olympic-size swimming pool.

PAID FOR BY MERCED COUNTY RESIDENTS AGAINST MEASURE A
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County
Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.

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

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

Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.

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

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

City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units, Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,

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

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

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

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

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

San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.

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

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

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

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

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

Commercial Development

WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls

….and the list goes on!

Measure A gives the green light to all this proposed new residential and commercial development!

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

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

Notes:
(1) http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072554096/student_view0/chapter_15/economic_naturalist_exercises.html
Sales taxes are regressive taxes. This means that the proportion of income paid in taxes declines as income rises. That is, people with low incomes pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than people with high incomes. But what makes a sales tax regressive?
People with low incomes tend to spend a high percentage of the income they receive. At higher income levels, people begin to save (not spend) larger parts of their income. A person is able to save (not spend) part of their income only after they are able to take care of buying necessities like food, housing, clothing, and medical care. Therefore, low-income consumers will spend most of their income while higher income consumers can begin to save more and more.
Since a sales tax falls on income that consumers spend, and low income people spend a larger part of their income, the sales tax falls more heavily on low income consumers. This makes the tax regressive ...

(2) http://www.answers.com/topic/california-locations-by-per-capita-income
Merced ranks 54th in per capita income among California's 58 counties. Only four counties have lower per capita incomes.

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

| »


To manage site Login