Agriculture

Resistance to slurb grows in Merced County

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Hatch
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April 11, 2006

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

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

Dear Supervisors:

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

1. It is unclear what is before the Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very truly yours,

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

cc: Clients
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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
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Notes:

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

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

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Request for support

Submitted: Mar 24, 2006

Dear Stakeholders,

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

This is not a local issue.

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

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

REQUEST FOR SUPPORT

Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

Dear Stakeholders, March 23, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adopted 2006

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

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CENTRAL VALLEY SAFE ENVIRONMENT NETWORK
MISSION STATEMENT

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

P.O. Box 64, Merced, CA 95341
------------------

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

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

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Merced County Development Rodeo: Ranchwood Event

Submitted: Mar 10, 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and other members of the concerned public always wondered how developers in Merced County rode roughshod over local, state and federal environmental laws, regulations, agencies and its own public. But, rarely have they been granted the insight provided by this telephone message, recorded on Feb. 3, 2006.

Badlands has blocked out the last two numbers of the telephones the developer left for return calls from the supervisor he thought he'd called as a courtesy to the developer.

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

End of message…to erase this message press 7, to save it press 9, to hear more options press 0. To replay this message press 4, to get envelope information about this message press 5. To…. Sent February 3rd, at 11:48 am from phone number 704-13** duration 1 minute 14 seconds. To erase this message press 7. To save it press 9. This message will be saved for 21 days. End of messages.

On Feb. 9, City of Livingston Mayor Brandon Friesen wrote San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and members of the public, accusing them of “conducting a documented pursuit and vendetta against Ranchwood Homes.” The mayor said public questions raised and public requests for documentation on this project have "placed our City in the middle of mud slinging and we will not stand for it.”

· The 42-inch sewer trunk line from the City of Livingston: Mr. Hostetler, who does business as Ranchwood Homes, is referring to a mile-long sewer trunk line he built from the corner of the Livingston wastewater treatment plant to a few yards away from where he plans to build a subdivision. The trunk line is built entirely outside the jurisdiction of the City of Livingston in land under county jurisdiction. On Feb. 16, when the project was still incomplete, County Counsel Ruben Castillo wrote a letter to the city attorney of Livingston instructing him in the number of laws the city had broken by "approving" this project beyond its jurisdiction. However, by Feb. 28, the project was completed and the 42-inch, mile-long sewer pipeline was covered over. The public has been granted access to neither city, county nor LAFCO files on this project, despite requests to county CEO Dee Tatum, county Counsel Ruben Castillo, county Director of Planning and Economic Development Robert Lewis, Local Agency Formation Commission Director John LeVan, and the county Board of Supervisors. A request for a meeting with CEO Tatum and department heads has also gone unanswered. The County has taken no action.

· 1,000 acres in North Merced: Ranchwood cleared approximately 1,000 acres of pasture bounded by G Street, La Paloma, Merced Country Club and Old Lake Road, north of Merced. The field crossed Fahrens Creek. Ranchwood put in field roads crossing the creek at two locations, tore out all vegetation along the creek and pushed freshly disked dirt into the stream. The land contains wetlands, is probably habitat for federal and state protected species. There are probable violations of the federal Endangered Species and the Clean Water Act. The public filed a request for code enforcement with Merced County. The County took no action.

· 300 acres near Le Grand: Ranchwood disked and deep-ripped a portion of a 300-acre field on the corner of White Rock and Le Grand roads in county jurisdiction. The land contains wetlands, is probably habitat for federal and state protected species. There are probable violations of the federal ESA and CWA. The public filed a request for code enforcement with Merced County. The County took no action.

· 1,100 acres near Le Grand: Ranchwood deep-ripped, leveled and disked approximately 1,100 acres of seasonal pasture land on the SE intersection of Buchanan Hollow and White Rock roads, also near Le Grand. The pastures contained small streams, wetlands, vernal pools and federal and state protected species. The public filed a request for code enforcement with Merced County. The County took no action.

These are significant conversions of land. Merced County should have directed Ranchwood to do proper environmental review before proceeding. Instead Merced County turned a blind eye to these significant conversions.

State and federal agencies were notified and are expected to uphold regulatory compliance on these projects.

· Franklin County Sewer District: Ranchwood excavated two additional percolation ponds in a field west of Santa Fe Road north of Highway 59 to service a subdivision Ranchwood is building in the Franklin-Beachwood area. The public has requested documentation on this project.

· Land swaps in Planada:

On April 22, 2003, J&J Family Trust sold a parcel of approximately 20 acres on Gerard Road to the Central Valley Coalition for Affordable Housing for $300,000 (approximating from the tax assessment of 1 percent).

On October 10, 2003, CVCAH sold the parcel to the Merced County Housing Authority for $300,000 (according to what MCHA official Nick Benjamin told members of the Planada public).

On Dec. 2, 2004, a complex land swap took place in Planada.

A. MCHA sold the same parcel (APN# 053-145-024) to the Pacific Holt Corp. for $550,000 (according to the tax assessment).

B. A.K. Karmangar, a Planada farmer, sells two parcels (approximately 20 acres) to the MCHA for $550,000 (according to the tax assessment).

C. Pacific Holt sells parcel APN# 053-145-024 to Mr. And Mrs. D. Tatum (CEO Merced County) for $269,500.00 (according to the tax assessment). This is apparently a savings of $280,500.00 to the Tatums for a piece of property Pacific Holt bought the same day for approximately twice as much as they sold it to the Tatums.

On Sept. 29, 2005, Hostetler Investment, LLC filed a memorandum of right of option to Pacific Holt Corp to purchase 50 percent of any or all Wallace and Karmangar property actually acquired by Hostetler, and at the actual gross per-acre price. “For instance, if, as expected, Hostetler actually acquires the entirety of the Karmangar Property containing 410+/- gross acres, the Option would apply to 205 +/- acres. The purchase price for both the Wallace Property and the Karmangar Property shall be the actual gross per acre price paid by Hostetler to purchase the Wallace Property and the Karmangar Property which shall be payable in cash on or before the close of escrow.”

On Dec. 23, 2005, a new entity, Pacific Holt Residential Communities, filed for a county General Plan Amendment for residential construction as the owner of 1,390 acres to be added to the Planada SUDP and to be known as the Village of Geneva at Planada. The acreage is composed of Karmangar and Wallace contiguous parcels.

Pacific Holt Residential Communities consists of Hostetler Investments LLC, Pacific Holt Corp., Premiere Partners III of Illinois, Bear Creek Ranch Inc. and local land holders, Bud Wallace, Inc, Opie and Elizabeth Wallace, Partners, and Hare &Sessions Development, Seattle WA.

The County approved the 2003 Planada Community Plan Update to the Merced County General Plan. The PHR Communities property lies outside of the Planada SUDP except for a 20-acre parcel. The Planada Community Plan has been legally challenged and the case is now in state appellate court.

This is by no means all the Ranchwood Homes projects, even in Merced County alone. It’s just a few examples the public has been able to collect from the east side of the county.

Could county CEO, Dee Tatum, fill in the public (after he’s explained it to Supervisor Crookham) on leapfrog, chaotic, unplanned development – the low, cowboy standards of Merced County planning with an out-dated General Plan, speculation-driven development and a new, incompetent planning director? Why does the County routinely disregards proper public process, the protection of public resources? Why has it shown neither the political will nor the ability to plan coherently in the midst of a speculative real estate boom that began before UC Merced was a “done deal”?

Would CEO Tatum explain why he hired a planning director from Nevada who is incompetent in California environmental law or public processes like the Public Records Act?

Could Supervisor Kathleen Crookham illuminate the public on her special relationship with Ranchwood Homes? Would Supervisor Jerry O’Banion of Los Banos explain how Ranchwood Homes does business, since O’Banion knows all things that occur on the west-side turf he shares with Ranchwood?

The Merced County public should ask how county government can do anything but build a reputation as the most corrupt local land-use authority in the state when the top Democrat opponent of environmental law and regulation in the House of Representatives and one of the key fixers behind UC Merced, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, is welcome to sit on the third floor of the county administration building.

The University of California, aided by Cardoza, former Rep.Gary Condit, Blue Dog-Ceres, the Condit children, Gov.Gray Davis and compliant state resource agency heads, railroaded (the term “fast-tracked” was substituted) UC Merced through environmental law, regulation and took local land-use authority, set the cowboy standards for development in Merced County. UC also acquainted local land-use jurisdictions with the magic of legal indemnification against legal challenges brought to protect Merced County natural resources, air, water, agricultural land, infrastructure, public health and safety, and endangered species as well as protecting proper public process.

Bill Hatch

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Interruption

Submitted: Feb 28, 2006

The Modesto version of the Denny Show sounds about the same as its Merced prototype (see article below): The congressman, local elitists and bureaucrats tell stories that comfort themselves in a setting designed to look like a meeting with the people which prevents the people from speaking directly to the great man without appearing to interrupt the steady flow of self-serving propaganda.

To interrupt:

The Valley needs to stop growing. Building should cease until people have had time to consider what this boom is doing, in which 20-30 percent of the houses are built for speculators.

We clearly need more agricultural land and natural habitat, not less. Selfishly, we need it for our health and survival – for better air and water and to do our part to stop global warming. At a higher level, natural resources have their own intrinsic values. We need to remember what we knew before we could conceive of the scale of destruction now engulfing the state: Nature has value for us if we can accept it.

Special interests and their politicians cannot accept it; slurbocracy is the result.

Politicians all repeat the lines of corporations, developers and big landowners, usually also major USDA subsidy farmers who pay what the people cannot afford to pay, the cost of political campaigns. The largest costs in campaigns are for media, principally for televisison. An equal and adequate amount of television should be made available for free to all candidates for public office in the United States, regardless of party. Media corporations work ceaselessly to keep that issue out of public consciousness, spending millions to lobby to erase the very thought of it. Politicians are afraid to liberate themselves from the domination of corporate media.

The only serious dialogue that occurs about the environment, at least in California, occurs either in court or under threat of court. Cardoza, a typical tool of the environmentally destructive faction, thinks, "There are organizations that are being funded solely by the lawsuits they file under the act … Everybody is suing. That is not governing properly."

Bipartisan window dressing in the all-Republican House of Representatives, Cardoza became the rear end of the Pomboza when he co-authored the Gut-the-Endangered Species Act with Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy. He has wormed his way up in the hierarchy of Democrat sycophants in the House, lately becoming the co-chair of communications for the Blue Dog Coalition. The Blue Dogs are a group of conservative Democrats, mainly from large USDA-subsidy districts, who, being dogs, vote mainly along with their Republican masters. Now that he is the top Blue Dog barker, he doesn’t have to listen to anyone else anymore except Pombo.

For the record, however, the last time Dennis Cardoza met two of the most active members of the environmental community in his district was on the night he received word he would be made chairman of the Rules Committee in the state Assembly. The meeting occurred in Simon’s Restaurant near the state Capitol. Cardoza came over to their table, flanked by a couple of new staff, and asked if the diners were going to oppose UC Merced. On hearing that this was likely, he gave the table his rump, announcing over his shoulder, “Then we will do battle.” He has not spoken a word to these people since, nor has his staff. That’s a competent politician at work?

The Shrimp Slayer would have you believe he genuinely can’t understand why some people in his district are willing to go to court to defend environmental law and regulation. They do it because it is an authentic public right and responsibility and the last and only means for the public to protect the environment against drastic destruction and to protect the Public Trust and the legal processes of government. For example, in 1985, US Fish & Wildlife biologists discovered evidence of massive selenium poisoning in Kesterson Wildlife Refuge, in the middle of the district Cardoza now represents. The campaign by politicians, the Bureau of Reclamation, water agencies (principally Westlands Water District), and farmers to suppress the hard scientific ground-truthing was so grotesque Congress passed an act to protect whistleblowers the following year.

The Shrimp Slayer would have you believe that because UC Merced brings its enormous (if tarnished) prestige to his district and the promise of great wealth to an already wealthy faction in his district, that it is categorically exempt from state and federal environmental law and regulation. When obstacles to this legal theory developed, the Shrimp Slayer introduced legislation to change national environmental law to prove his point. His point, at this juncture, remains unproven. That’s a competent politician at work?

His contention that people are making a living off environmental suits is false, at least in his district. But it raises another question: How much money does Cardoza’s campaign receive from special interests destroying the environment, environmental law and regulation by lawsuit, legislation and intimidation?

He complained recently, allegedly on behalf of two irrigation districts in his district, about the “secrecy” surrounding the confidential negotiations in the 18-year-old lawsuit on the flow of water into the San Joaquin River below the Friant Dam. For the last 50 years, the Friant-Kern Canal has taken about 90 percent of the water creating a dead river from Fresno County to the Delta.

We notice on Cardoza’s campaign website that he is not being honored by these two irrigation districts. However, in mid-March, he will be “saluted” by Tom Birmingham, CEO of Westlands Water District, and two large, very rich Westlands’ customers, Mark Borba (cotton), and John Harris (beef, vegetables and racehorses). Westlands, under Birmingham the Litigator’s reign, is probably the most litigious water agency in the nation as well as being the largest. During the last round of negotiations on Friant, Westlands sued each party, has filed numerous suits since, and are backing the limitation of the definition of wetlands under the Clean Water Act being currently heard in the US Supreme Court.

Whenever Cardoza mentions “balance,” it is hypocrisy and corporate money talking. He thinks lawsuits are just dandy if they are on behalf of large special interests. If they are against the large special interests, the Shrimp Slayer considers them bad governing.

Was it good governing when, as chairman of the state Assembly Agriculture Committee, he sold out the Williamson Act to Merced County as “mitigation for UC Merced”? Was his Select Committee on Tire Fires good governing? The only justice the victims of the Filbin tire fire got was what they sued for. They didn’t get it from Cardoza.

Is it good governing to squat on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building during the biggest building boom in county history carefully nurturing the development of UC Merced by circumventing the legal processes of land-use land, planning and environmental law and regulation. He started his career as one of the many Mr. UC Merceds in the state Legislature cooking up schemes to “fast track” UC – induced growth in the San Joaquin Valley.

But what’s interesting about the Shrimp Slayer’s Republican, conservative, corporate ass-kissing in a district that took home $335 million in farm subsidies and much more in water subsidies between 1995-2004, is how little there is to show for it. The Bush 2007 Farm Bill proposal will hurt cotton, dairy and rice as it stands.

Or is the Bush Farm Bill proposal merely a cynical, calculated shakedown of agriculture for political contributions? Will Blue Dogs hunkering under Massa’s table get some scraps?

Farming in the Valley is sick unto death. There is a frenzied sense in it now, a feeling that no amount of production can catch up with falling commodity prices and groundwater levels, and rising real estate prices. Today, it seems largely a corporate land deal with some meanwhile crops, trees, vines or cows. In the present economy of real estate speculation bubble and developer ownership of the state’s politicians, farming has lost its future, its creativity and its grip on reality. While the farmer can't plan, the developer plants.

Developers run the political economy of the state and they own the politicians as completely as the Railroad once owned them, before the Progressive Era. This financial domination of absolutely everything by the state’s top development corporations has created a situation in which a farmer can’t be a farmer or a politician a politician, a teacher a teacher, a doctor a doctor, even a newspaper reporter a reporter, and on and on – because “Development” won’t allow any professions or vocations to exist without its corrupting paws in their pockets or over their mouths. American government from city hall to Washington is in a coma. Business is about profit, loss and risk. It tries to maximize the former and eliminate the two other factors as best it can. Buying and destroying government regulation is a logical strategy. When political representatives will no longer protect the people and their natural resources against business, it’s time to find representatives who will.

Yes, you can blame politicians for being corrupt, venal and sycophants of power. You can blame them for selling out the general public, the Public Trust and the common good for a bone under the table. Their job is to defend the government so that it can defend the people against the periodic surges of corporate power that are well known features of capitalist economies and the periodic fantasies of world domination in our diseased dynastic political class. When politicians sell the government to the corporations and the autocrats, they sell their sworn duty, the honor of the office and the Constitution upon which we rest.

End interruption.

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

2-26-06
Modesto Bee
Cardoza criticizes port deal, Bush Drug plan. But environmentalists take him to task at public forum...Roger W. Hoskins
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/11852249p-12584435c.html
Congressman Dennis Cardoza's traveling town meeting came to Modesto on Saturday and a round table of experts answered questions and offered a glimpse of the Central Valley's future...representatives from Caltrans, the state air quality board, Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour, Great Valley Director Carol Whiteside, a farmland preservation advocate and a pharmacist. Stanley Gainer of Keyes...Why can't we ask questions?" "It's supposed to be a town hall meeting, not a town control meeting." ...environmentalists interrupted Cardoza as he explained why he was part of the move to modify the Endangered Species Act. "There are organizations that are being funded solely by the lawsuits they file under the act," Cardoza said. "Everybody is suing. That is not governing properly." Merced College professor Eric Caine was skeptical..."I don't think a reform bill led by Richard Pombo (R-Tracy) will take into consideration enough science,"... Jeanni Farri of the Farmland Working Group..."The valley is the eighth wonder of the world (with its farm production)," she said. "We dare not pave it over." Whiteside..."Affordable housing may come as close as there is to an insoluble problem"...growth in the valley also was linked to water quality...conserving potable water should be a valley priority.

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Re: The Ranchwood pipeline from the Livingston Wastewater Treatment Plant into land under Merced County jurisdiction

Submitted: Feb 21, 2006

From:

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

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto CA 95350
Sburke5@sbcglobal.net
(209) 523-1391 phone & fax

Bryant Owens
Planada Association, Planada Community Development Corporation
2683 S. Plainsburg Road
Merced CA 95340-9550
recall@mercednet.com
(209) 769-0832
____________________________________________________

To:

Merced County Board of Supervisors

Dee Tatum
Chief Administrative Officer ceo@data.co.merced.ca.us

Robert Lewis
Director of Planning and Economic Development rlewis@co.merced.ca.us

Ruben Castillo
County Counsel
c/o Merced Co. Board of Supervisors dist1@co.merced.ca.us etc.
Merced County
2222 M St.
Merced CA 95340

Re: The Ranchwood pipeline from the Livingston Wastewater Treatment Plant into land under Merced County jurisdiction

Sent via email

Date: Feb. 21, 2006

Dear Sirs and Mesdames:

At 5:30 p.m., Feb. 21, Ranchwood was still working on the pipeline from the Livingston Wastewater Treatment Plant that goes south from Vinewood Road beyond Magnolia Road, apparently without any county permits or environmental review. Both the County and Livingston were notified of complaints on Feb. 6. There is no evidence of any code enforcement.

Is the County unable to enforce the numerous ordinances, policies and laws that this illegal project violates, or it is unwilling? We sincerely hope that this project is not what it looks, walks and quacks like: collusion between the County, Livingston, developers and landowners to circumvent environmental regulatory compliance.

We request a meeting with County Chief Administrative Officer Dee Tatum and department heads on this project. We understand all too well that this is the way Ranchwood does business.

We request that the County inspect the project, stop the project and/or fine the developer for proceeding with illegal construction. This is not a mere 42-inch “dry, private” pipeline trench. As you can see by the attached photos (sent under separate cover) we took Feb. 20, the trench for this pipe, which Mr. Lewis was 42 inches, the impacts are broad, to both the environment and to the public. This project crosses several paved county roads; one unpaved county road and an MID canal. There is inadequate posting for public safety as our pictures show; there is wear and tear on the county roads from heavy equipment; and the developers are storing building materials and spoils on the shoulders of county roads.

We estimate that the mounds of dirt on either side of this trench are between 10-15 feet high. Having found numerous paint balls at the foot of these mounds, it’s clear that the public is using these mounds for recreation. Given the instability of this loose, sandy dirt, this is an attractive nuisance of public health and safety concern. Who is liable in case of injury arising from this attractive nuisance? In the attached photos you will see, an ATV driven by teenager, carrying an adult with a young child in his arms.

We realize that Ranchwood is working at breakneck speed to finish. This illegal project must have the County in a desperate situation. To stop now would compromise the County and the City of Livingston. However, there are legal consequences for not stopping it. At this point, indemnification would be entirely inappropriate.

The most obvious effect from the project from a field inspection, is the cumulative impacts from residential development tying into this main sewer line from Joseph Gallo land adjoining the WWTP to Magnolia Road. This requires full review under the California Environmental Quality Act before – not after – construction of the sewer main.

There is an uncalculated amount of agricultural land being -- and to be -- converted to real estate development, enabled by this sewer line. This requires full CEQA review and review under the Agricultural Preserve policy of the county.

At least six wells and four 1-million gallon water tanks are proposed to provide drinking water for residential development. The impact of these new wells on the groundwater level and farmers’ wells has not even been mentioned, let alone considered. Assurances of surface water from Merced Irrigation District are – as everyone knows – useless during a drought.

Ranchwood bought an almond orchard on Robin Road facing Consolidated Farms (see photos). Ranchwood is removing orchards to create a super shoulder on Magnolia for the movement of heavy equipment and construction-material storage. It is now storing sewer pipe on this ranch, called “Hostetler Ranch, Almond Orchard, L3.” The orchard appears to have been called “Merced-Lincoln” before Ranchwood bought it.

The public would also like to know by what arrangement Ranchwood is storing heavy equipment in the Livingston Corporation Yard on Vinewood Road beside the city wastewater treatment plant.

As the County approaches its general plan-update, we urge it, incorporated cities and unincorporated towns with community plans to coordinate the planning process. The update period provides an opportunity for this sensible approach to long-term county planning and it should not be missed. Until the new county General Plan and coordinated general plans of smaller jurisdictions are completed and integrated into a coherent land-use planning policy, we call for a moratorium on any new permits for residential development.

We made a Public Records Request under state Government Code 6250 et seq. in our Feb.6, 2006 letter for all documents associated with this alleged “private pipeline” project that have been generated up to the time that the agencies should comply with the request. They have not yet complied. We would like to review these records at a time and place to be arranged, prior to any copying taking place. As provided by the Public Records Act, you have ten days to determine whether you have records subject to the Act. We look forward to hearing from you regarding this arrangement. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us. Thank you for your time and courtesy.

We are attaching (under separate cover) the first set of photos of the project, bounded by Vinewood, Magnolia, and Robin and Washington roads, taken on Feb. 20, 2006. Two more sets of photos will follow. For reference, we are also attaching our letter of Feb. 6, 2006 (under separate cover).

cc:

Brandon Friesen, Mayor/Municipal Officer, City of Livingston Bfriesen@livingstoncity.com

John LeVan, Merced Co. LAFCO jlevan@co.merced.ca.us

Badlandsjournal.com

Interested parties

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Central Valley Food and Farmland Coalition calls for moratorium on Merced County growth until a new General Plan is completed

Submitted: Feb 17, 2006

February 13, 2006

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

Honorable Chair Nelson and Members Crookham, Kelsey, O'Banion and Pedrozo,

I am writing on behalf of the Central Valley Food and Farmland Coalition to express our concerns of the commulative effect of the rapid growth in Merced County. We urge you to state a moratorium on all General Plan amendment applications and conduct a study of our water resources before any amendment applications are accepted.

As American Farm Land Trust director, Ed Thompson, commented about two frogs: one frog was put into hot water: he immediately jumped out; another was put into cold water which was gradually warmed up and he died. Our land is gradually being covered up with houses. We can see what happened in Santa Clara and Los Angeles Counties. Do we really want our county to go the same way?

Please consider a moratorium on all General Plan amendment applications until a General Plan has been created and a thorough study of our water resource has been completed.

Sincerely,

Jean Okuye

Central Valley Food and Farmland Coalition

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Northern San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers calls for development moratorium in Merced County

Submitted: Feb 17, 2006

February 14, 2006

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

On behalf of the Northern San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers, which consists predominately of Merced County residents, we would like to enter our comments toward the Agenda Item: General Plan Amendment Policy.

We feel that protecting some of the world’s most valuable farmland and open space from rampant development is in line with CAFF’s mission, which is “to build a movement of rural and urban people to foster family-scale agriculture that cares for the land, sustains local economies and promotes social justice”.
CAFF is recommending that all variances, zone changes, General Plan amendments and annexations be denied prior to creation of a new General Plan.

Not only are we operating without an updated General Plan, we are also operating without a comprehensive water study. These plans are essential to good sound planning. Good soils are a finite resource. Our water is our lifeline and we cannot make any sound decisions prior to a full comprehensive water study. A General Plan and Water Supply Plan go hand in hand. They are incontrovertibly tied together. We are also recommending that all variances, zone changes, General Plan amendments and annexations be denied prior to a creation of a comprehensive water study and supply plan.

Moratorium, I believe, is considered a four-letter word in our county. We don’t need to be so frightened of this. It is actually a safeguard for you, our supervisors. This will allow you to deny the many out-of-compliance projects flying into our planning department and to not have to play politics with the developers until we really know where we want to proceed. Let the General Plan update be the bad guy and force Merced to become an example of what is good planning for the state.

The momentum is growing here in Merced to curb our sprawling growth. If our county leaders can’t create controlled, planned growth then we will be forced to take it to the voters. There are hundreds of examples of “Moratoriums” in this state that have come

from initiatives. The voters want their voices heard when it comes to setting our quality of life. In nearby Tracy, the voters passed Measure A growth restrictions, Sutter County just passed a short term moratorium, Yolo county has one of the broadest existing moratoriums. Livermore, Pleasanton, and San Ramon rejected, by a slim margin, an initiative to shift the approvals for housing projects from elected officials to the electorate after millions of dollars from the developers were dumped into the campaign. Alameda County urban boundaries were tightened by voters last November and the law survived its first legal challenge. We are asking that you elected officials make this vital planning decision so that the public initiative process will not be necessary. We want our elected officials to show us true leadership.

The Merced County General Plan is notoriously outdated. For a county that has been selected to be in the spotlight with the University of Merced and other “World Class” proposed projects, we should be an example for the rest of the state. We should have THE state of the art of General Plans. However we are on a road without a map. We need our planning to be a showcase. We need to ensure that the natural resources are plentiful enough, for those of us residing and making our livings here. We do not owe housing to the Bay Area job market. We need to protect those of us living here first, prior to bringing in new population, prior to splitting any more of our productive soils into lots for hobby farms and box stores. This is an opportunity to stop what we are doing and move forward with proper and enlightened planning.

CAFF is an organization that works to protect the family farm, and therefore, the interests of many Merced County Farmers.

You have a moral responsibility to set a proper road map for the county to follow and to assure that we will be able to continue farming and be assured that there is ample water supply.

Sincerely,

Community Alliance of Family Farmers

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A river of milk runs through it

Submitted: Feb 16, 2006

Elections and debate on a new five-year Farm Bill are upon us. The Bee reported last week that members of the House Agriculture Committee will be visiting Stockton in the first week of March to hold hearings on the Bush administration's proposals.

These proposals include taxing dairymen 3 cents per hundredweight, cutting cotton and rice subsidies and a $200-million annual subsidy to promote American agricultural exports. Recent recipients include Blue Diamond Growers, the California Table Grape Commission and Sunkist Growers, the Bee reported. (1)

It's a shakedown. To make it more obvious, Bush is proposing sizable cuts in farm supports in this year's budget.

Mike Marsh, CEO of United Western Dairymen told the Bee that 3 cents per hundredweight worked out to about "$5,700" per year to an 800-cow dairy. A fraction -- probably a significant fraction but less than the tax -- will be required in the form of campaign contributions to buy off the tax.

Presumably, cotton, rice and the fruit and nut corporations are busily calculating the campaign-contribution costs, too. Meanwhile, learned consultants are coming up with new words for subsidies and new ways of hiding them from the public on the assumption that agricultural economics as we know it will continue and agriculture will come up with the political vig.

The choice of Stockton for the Central California hearing is interesting because Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy has a challenger in the Republican primary, former Rep. Pete McCloskey, R-Woodside.

Pombo is known primarily as chairman of the House Resources Committee and as the face of the ESA-gutting team. The rear end of the team is Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, a "Democrat" so popular with the Republican developers, landowners and real estate speculators in his district he appears to be running unopposed for his next term.

However, although Pombo and his “bipartisan” sidekick, Cardoza are primarily known for their hard right, pro-growth, anti-environmental positions, they are both members of the Agriculture Committee. He sits on the Livestock and Horticulture, and the Department Operations, Oversight, Dairy, Nutrition and Forestry subcommittees.

In local farming circles, the Pombo/Cardoza operation is known as The Pomboza.

The Bee commented:

Realistically, Capitol Hill is not fertile soil for many of the farm proposals planted by the Bush administration's fiscal 2007 budget, which starts Oct. 1. Some, such as a proposed 5 percent cut in crop subsidies and a $250,000 limit on subsidies paid to individuals, withered quickly in past years. (1)

In other words, it's an old, rotten story we no longer have to think much about because farmland is disappearing, replaced by subdivisions like those on Pombo Real Estate Farms in Tracy.

Coverage of the farm budget is more vivid in Great Falls, MT, not experiencing a speculative housing bubble at the moment, and is probably more representative of how the Central Valley’s remaining farmers sense the situation:

Ag feels pinch in Administration's proposed budget

By DALE HILDEBRANT, For The Prairie Star
Wednesday, February 15, 2006

There were few cheers on Capitol Hill, as President Bush delivered his proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

The budget slashes many domestic programs, including agriculture, while projecting a record $423 billion deficit. The overall suggested spending bill will cost $2.77 trillion and would give the Pentagon a 6.9 percent increase and a 14 percent boost to foreign aid.

There weren't any budget increases in the ag portion of the spending bill, only cuts and a proposed tax on sugarbeet producers and dairy farmers. The Administration plan would cut crop subsidies by five percent while increasing certain agricultural fees, including a 1.2 percent tax on sugarbeet growers, which is identical to a proposal made last year by the White House, but scrapped later by Congress.

Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Ag Committee, in addressing the budget ag proposals said, “The President's budget proposed today is full of gimmicks and runs low on common sense.

“For agriculture, at best, this budget is a rehash of the President's strategy of sacrificing farm support for a sell at any cost international trade policy. At worst, this budget shows no commitment on the part of the President to the needs of our nation's farmers,” he continued. “America 's farmers and ranchers cannot afford the uncertainty that these proposals would create, and Congress should quickly reject them ...” (2)

The choice of Stockton as the site for this congressional hearing also has historical resonance with McCloskey in the race.

Dairy industry critic, Robert Cohen, wrote:

While writing MILK: The Deadly Poison, I discovered transcripts of Nixon's actual meeting with dairymen on March 23, 1971.

Knowing the tapes were running, and having been presented with $3 million dollars in cash, Nixon was recorded saying: "Uh, I know...that, uh, you are a group that are politically very conscious...And you're willing to do something about it. And, I must say a lot of businessmen and others...don't do anything about it. And you do, and I appreciate that. And I don't have to spell it out."

After the dairymen had left, advisor John Connally was alone with Nixon, and said:
"They are tough political operatives. This is a cold political deal." …

What did this $3 million dollar "investment"do for the dairy industry? In 1971, 120 billion pounds of milk were produced. An additional 27 cents per hundred pounds of milk translated to $3.24 billion extra dollars for the dairy industry.

On March 23, 1971, Secretary of the Treasury, John Connally summarized the day's events to Nixon: "These dairymen are organized; they're adamant, they're militant...And they, they're massing an enormous amount of money that they're going to put into political activities, very frankly." (3)

In March 1971, Rep. Pete McCloskey, R-CA, had just returned from Vietnam. Recently, he recalled that month:

While in Vietnam and Laos during March 1971, I had taken sworn affidavits from a number of pilots who stated they had been bombing targets in Laos and Cambodia, many with the coordinates of specific rural villages, some being in Laos' famous Plain of Jars, a considerable distance from the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which had once been a legitimate bombing target.

Upon returning home, I testified before two Senate committees. I was interviewed on various television shows, including that of William Buckley. I related the stories of the bombings of which I had been told, both by Air Force pilots and by Laotian refugees from the Plain of Jars. My statements were immediately denied by various high-ranking administration spokesmen, who stated unequivocally that the United States was not bombing in Laos. The controversy received national coverage ...

A few days later, it was announced that we were indeed bombing in Laos, but that for security reasons, this knowledge had been withheld from the civilian secretaries of the Air Force, Navy and Army. At the direct order from the White House to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, false coordinates were reported to the secretaries for the daily and nightly bombing runs over Laos and Cambodia. The justification, then as now, was that national security required that the bombing raids not be disclosed to the American people. (4)

McCloskey ran against Nixon in the New Hampshire Republican primary in 1972. No doubt, the Nixon campaign in New Hampshire was funded partly by dairy money. McCloskey went on to serve another decade in Congress. Among his accomplishments was co-authoring the Endangered Species Act. He said at a Stockton meeting late last year that he had tried to testify on the ESA three times before Pombo’s resources committee and each time Pombo had refused him a hearing.

The Bushites might be holding this hearing in Stockton to shore up Pombo's support in his district against a dangerous opponent, not only of Pombo, but also of this administration. Rove could not possibly want McCloskey, who campaigned for Kerry in 2004, (5) in Congress next year. McCloskey would become an instant leader of moderate, ethically minded Republicans against the war-mad, rightwing House leadership and White House.

The Bush administrative version of political support is more money from fewer, bigger contributors. The aim could be to redeem the hearts and minds of the 11th CD by mixing agriculture and developer cash in with Abramoff contributions. Why not? Rove gave agribusiness what some say was the most lavish farm bill on record in 2002. (6)

Now the White House is playing rough: it's a guns v. butter moment.

What will Pombo say at the hearing on the esoteric topic of the next farm bill? Will he earn their money from gratitude by going against his president and his rightwing ideology? Or will he earn their money from fear by supporting the dairy tax and the subsidy cuts? Or will he, most characteristically, say one thing in public and do another thing in private? How will Pombo of Tracy's Pombo Real Estate Farms relate to Pombo, member of the House agriculture committee? Will he turn the hearing into an anti-ESA, pro-private property rights rally? Will he wear his cowboy hat?

Who cares? Whatever he does, he will remain within character as a buffoon of the emerging autocracy.

One can imagine a Pombo fundraiser in early March, co-hosted by Western United Dairymen and the region's most prominent developers, Grupe, Spanos and Tsakapoulos -- because today's young mega-dairyman may have to sell his real estate tomorrow if the subsidies aren't adequate.

In Pombo's politics, San Joaquin Valley agriculture, the greatest laboratory in the world for the study of what is wrong with the industrial, corporate agricultural model, has reached a higher stage of absurd destruction: Pombo’s politics are like the Holstein heifers born every day without working reproductive organs because their mothers are "spiked" with growth hormones; like the billions of almond blossoms waiting for bees that do not come; like developer-sponsored childhood asthma; like commuter-clogged highways to disappearing Silicon Valley jobs; like Pombo Real Estate Farms; like the dead San Joaquin River; and like the extinction of wildlife on land and fish in the Delta. This absurd destruction must be as attractive and familiar to Bush and Rove as McCloskey's honesty must be hateful to them.

However, rather than any clear political agenda in the latest proposed farm bill, we might just be observing the blind workings of the free market in that business enterprise called the American political system. Despite the recent overwhelming speculative bubble in housing in the Valley, agriculture is still the region’s enduring economy. It’s a terrible system at the moment. It is easy to agree with almost all its critics. The only caution is that if you too suddenly remove the system of subsidies upon which much of the Valley agricultural economy rests, and pave it over and turn it into a horribly polluted labor camp for the convenience of rich, coastal counties, it will have had no more chance of evolving than the San Joaquin Kit Fox.

Perhaps in the course of his campaign, McCloskey can teach the Pomboza the meaning of the word, “oversight.”
------------------

(1) www.modbee.com/business/story/11795200p-12512621c.html

(2) http://www.theprairiestar.com/articles/2006/02/15/ag_news/local_and_regional_news/local12.txt

(3) www.notmilk.com/trickydick.html

(4) http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0405-05.htm

(5) inprogress.typepad.com/republicanswitchers/ files/ifyoureatruerepublicanvote4kerrymccloskey.pdf

(6) www.pacificresearch.org/ press/kqed/2002/kqed_02-06-04.html

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Coalition Statement on Merced County Planning Process

Submitted: Feb 14, 2006

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

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

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