November 2007

Anatomy of the housing bubble

Readers familiar with Gray's Anatomy (the book, not the TV show), will recall it is full of detailed, numbered and labeled diagrams of every part of the physical human body, the result of a long scientific tradition begun by body snatchers and grave robbers.

Right here in River City?

The Sacramento-based law firm of Somach, Simmons and Dunn filed suit on November 5 against Riverside Motorsports Park (RMP) for breach of a promissory note. Somach alleges that John Condren, CEO of Riverside, signed a promissory note on August 17 for $147,703.32, payable on November 1 for legal services the firm rendered to RMP. The two Somach attorneys representing RMP departed that firm for another Sacramento firm about that time, presumably piling up new, unpaid legal bills. Only one of the questions raised by the Somach suit is who will pay RMP attorneys to defend against it.

Open letter from Stevinson resident Robby Avilla to Supervisor Diedre Kelsey and Assistant Planning Director Bill Nicholson

As I have noted in letters to the editor of the Merced Sun-Star, and also before the Hilmar/Stevinson MAC Board, I am greatly disturbed by the process that Merced County used to expand the Stevinson SUDP (Specific Urban Design Plan).

This expansion is only being created to enable the Stevinson Ranch developers to attach a 3,880 unit gated community onto a town with a population of 400 people. Without the development there were no plans by Merced County government in place to expand the growth boundaries of the town of Stevinson.

The real speculators

The only story that matters in Merced today is how one in 68 householders are in foreclosure trouble. But, that is the story least likely to be told in public because it involves the people we elected to the city councils and the county Board of Supervisors. We will have to do our own reflecting on it; elected officials won’t.

Unasked questions about TNC Staten Island

Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia, sicced the state auditor on a Natural Conservancy-owned ranch near the San Joaquin Delta recently. Maze says the easement and TNC management of the 9,200-acre ranch stink and asks why $17.6 million in state flood protection funds is being spent on a Delta island that shows no signs of levee improvement.

The money came from Prop. 13, passed in March 2000, originally AB 1584, the $1.97-billion Safe Drinking Water, Clean Water, Watershed Protection, and Flood Protection Act authored by then Assemblman Mike Machado, D-Linden.

Is growth inevitable?

There are a number of planning processes going on in the San Joaquin Valley at the moment. They include the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint dealing with transportation planning, numerous general plan updates of counties and cities including Merced County and whatever proposals UC/Great Valley Center is fomenting. Although these planning processes are formally uncoordinated, they are closely linked by the guiding ideology of finance, insurance, real estate and large landholding interests: "Growth is inevitable."

Department of Interior admits MacDonald wrongdoing

Press release from House Natural Resources Committee on Julia MacDonald. The Department of Interior admitted to the committee that MacDonald interferred with the US Fish & Wildlife Service on behalf of special interests in several Endangered Species Act cases. Two of those cases occurred in Merced County.
Badlands Journal editorial board


November 27, 2007

Allyson Groff, 202-226-9019
Allyson L. Groff

Vern Williams

I mourn the passing of Vern Williams and extend condolences to his family and his many friends and colleagues. I cannot yet imagine Vern absent from a newsroom somewhere, perhaps convening one of his incomparable "Come to Jesus" meetings to calmly restore order when it has broken down.
Bill Hatch

Merced Sun-Star
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2007
Former Sun-Star editor, 'skilled newsman,' loses battle with cancer

Vern Williams

The Planada Deal, an update

One of the things that emerged from farm labor conflicts in the 1960s was the need for more permanent farmworker housing. The town of Planada became a target for efforts to achieve that goal and much work was done by many good people through the years to make it possible for farmworkers to own homes in Planada.

Public funds: $50 billion here, $50 billion there -- pretty soon you're talking about real money

Wall Street Journal
Schumer's Letter on FHLB Loans

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, urged regulators to examine potential risks posed by a sharp increase in lending by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta to Countrywide Financial Corp., the nation's biggest mortgage lender. The following is his letter to regulators.

November 26, 2007