Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Arnold no more honest than the locals?

When it was the Sonoma County Independent, the North Bay Bohemian occasionally printed some genuinely independent and progressive fact and opinion pieces. As the Boho, it's primarily a free weekly food, arts, and entertainment shopper.

In a new bid for relevance, the Boho has started to print a brief internal mini-tabloid called This Week, featuring The Byrne Report by Peter Byrne. Byrne's column in today's issue is titled "Pumping Poison".

Byrne charges that Governor Arnold had an apparent conflict of interest when he vetoed SB 1630, a bill affecting the use of performance-enhancing dietary supplements by student athletes. He says the Gov's Statement of Economic Interest, filed when he took office a year ago, shows he received income from 18 manufacturers and distributors of such products.

Byrne's item is worth reading, if only for its brief overview of California's Political Reform Act. TOSR hopes Boho readers remember the Fair Political Practices Commission has fined four local politicians in recent years, for conflict of interest and/or other violations: Supervisor Tim Smith; SR Councilmembers Sharon Wright and Janet Condron; and most recently, SR Planning Commissioner Dick Carlile.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


SCA unites developers, politicians, cops behind Measure "O"

The Santa Rosa Police Officers Association sent me a piece of junk mail this week, asking for money [see "POA spent $20,000 on 'O' " below]. The mailer implied the proceeds of their annual fund raising drive would go to charity; but it added, "all funds raised will be used solely to benefit the Santa Rosa Police Officers’ Association membership and further its purposes."

One of the SRPOA's purposes has been the campaign for Santa Rosa Measure O. The Press Democrat reported before the election last week, (10/30, "Sales tax measure gets final push"),

"Santa Rosa's police and fire unions have pumped another $15,000 into the campaign to pass Measure O, the quarter-cent sales tax measure that would generate $7 million annually and funnel most of the money into the two public safety departments. The Santa Rosa Police Officer's Association contributed $10,000 and Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401 gave $5,000 over the past 12 days, according to campaign finance statements filed Friday.

The contributions bring the total donated by the two unions to the Rescue Santa Rosa campaign to $40,000, or $20,000 each. The unions, along with Christopherson Homes, which also gave $5,000, were the largest contributors in the latest round of donations received between Oct. 17 and Thursday."

Mayor Sharon Wright wrote the PD this week, saying (11/10, "Measure O thanks") :

"Thank you, Santa Rosa. The huge 70-percent-plus vote in support of Measure O and our community's public safety speaks to the value we all place on living in '...the chosen spot of all on earth'."

Councilman Bob Blanchard co-signed the Mayor's thank-you letter, rather than Vice Mayor Jane Bender. Wright is retiring from office, so Blanchard's signature may mean the Council has already agreed to appoint him Mayor, when the new Council is seated next month.

The day after last week's election, the PD reported (11/3, "SR voters approve police, fire funding"),

"A proposed 1/4 -cent sales tax increase to raise about $7 million a year for Santa Rosa police and fire services won approval early today. ... 'I think it really looks good,' Councilwoman Janet Condron said at midnight, expressing confidence the lead would hold. 'That's real exciting,' said Condron. 'So many people worked hard for this measure.' "

Condron was Treasurer of Rescue Santa Rosa, the campaign organization for Measure O. Herb Williams, the consultant who ran the campaign from his home above Fountaingrove, was Assistant Treasurer, and Blanchard was the third campaign contact [see website here:]. They knew who had worked so hard for it, and why, but most Santa Rosa voters didn't.

Three days later, the PD was uncommonly candid about Measure O's supporters. The local daily reported (11/6, "Vote heartens local leaders"),

"Sonoma County business, labor and other leaders are heartened by this week's election results that showed voters more inclined than ever to tax themselves to pay projects like highway construction, street repairs, hospitals and public safety. 'Voters were willing to foot the bill to satisfy local needs and go with local leaders they trust,' said Jim Chaaban, president of the Sonoma County Alliance of business, government and labor interests. The 220-member organization assumed a leading role in the local election, funding mailers for the Sonoma County transportation tax and the Santa Rosa sales tax, as well as mailed pieces supporting the group's endorsed city council candidates."

"Ben Stone, coordinator of the county Economic Development Board, said voters favored measures that demonstrated direct benefits to them. The business community, he said, was activated by a desire to fix cracks in the infrastructure that were beginning to drive employees and customers away."

The story added,

"Along with business interests, several labor organizations got out the vote on local measures, including the Operating Engineers, the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association and the Santa Rosa Employees Association, which represents most of the non-public safety city workers. ... Tony Alvernaz, a Sonoma County Alliance leader who heads the union of Santa Rosa city government employees, said his members felt they would reap the benefits of many tax proposals."

Tony Alvernaz is a director of the Sonoma County Alliance, and sits on its 18-member Executive Committee. The Santa Rosa City Employees Association, the SRPOA, and the Santa Rosa Firefighters are all members of the Sonoma County Alliance.

What's more important, at least four City Council members belong to the SCA--and two of them were paid in past years to run it. Bob Blanchard, Janet Condron, Mike Martini, and Sharon Wright are all SCA members. (I made a note that Vice Mayor Jane Bender was also a member, when the SCA website opened in May, but it no longer lists her.)

Mayor Wright was already the SCA's paid Executive Director when she was elected to the Council in 1992, and she ran it until 2001. Its directors hired an outsider who lasted about a year, then hired Councilman Martini when he was the Mayor.

So a majority and quorum of the seven-member City Council, and three City employee organizations, all belong to the Sonoma County Alliance. Go here to check out its membership list, and see what the SCA says about itself: .

The email addresses the SCA lists for the three employee organizations are all at the City of Santa Rosa, not at an organization office. So when you want to talk to an organization rep about organization business--or presumably, Sonoma County Alliance business--you contact them at work: at City Hall, the Police Station, or the firehouse. When I emailed Eric Goldschlag, to ask whether the bulk mail solicitation I received was really from the SRPOA, was I dealing with its representative to the SCA, or the SRPD Detective?

I have to wonder why the SRPOA would join a countywide organization of developers and businessmen, that lobbies for continous growth and development, in the first place. It stands to reason that more residential and commercial growth means more people, more crime, and more work. Is that what the POA wants?

Their common interest in the SCA's policies and goals must certainly influence the relationship the three employee organizations have with the City Council and its appointees--and ultimately, with the citizens who are the City of Santa Rosa. And that relationship appears to be much more complex than the citizens and voters know.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Money's in the air

The Press Democrat reported yesterday (11/9), "Hwy 101 widening funds up in air". That may explain why it's taken the developers and their politician friends so many years to widen the freeway for even more growth.

All this time they've been looking for the money down here.

A box within the PD story reported the directors of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority voted Monday to raise executive director Suzanne Wilford's salary next year, from $100,500 a year to $107,535 plus perks.

Is the raise a reward for peddling the transportation tax measure? Supervisor and SCTA chair Paul Kelley told the PD, "The authority (board) feels like she does an excellent job advocating for transportation measures in Sonoma County."

After last Tuesday's election, it looked like County Measure M--voter approval to sell bonds, against the proceeds of a 20-year, 1/4-cent local sales tax surcharge--had barely squeeked by with 66.7% of the vote. But the vote may fall below the required 2/3 majority (66.66%) when 40,000 more absentee ballots have been checked and counted.

If Measure M fails after all, will the directors rescind Wilford's raise?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


POA spent $20,000 on "O", asks for donations

It looks like Santa Rosa voters passed Measure O last week. The ballots aren't all counted, but 34,970 out of 49,926 so far voted "Yes". The measure needed a 2/3 majority to pass, and that's 70% in favor.

So as many as seven out of ten Santa Rosa voters may be in favor of paying an extra 1/4 cent sales tax to support police and fire services. The rate is 7 1/2% now. If County Measure M also passes--which calls for borrowing against a second 1/4-cent sales tax surcharge for 20 years--Santa Rosans will pay another 1/2 cent. Everyone who buys taxable goods will pay $8 in tax on every $100 they spend.

A week after the election, I received a piece of junk mail from the Santa Rosa Police Officers' Association. It was signed by Ofc. James Camara, President, and addressed to "Current Resident". If they didn't send you one too, you can read their solicitation at this website: .

The letter said, "Today we urgently seek YOUR generous support with our annual fund raising drive", and "Please HELP us TODAY!" It explained that "For over 30 years we have supported such groups as: Rincon Valley & Santa Rosa Little Leagues, SR Junior College Administration of Justice Scholarship Fund, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Arthritis Foundation, Special Olympics, Boy Scouts of America, Santa Rosa Human Race for Hope, Carol Sund Victim Relief Fund, Sonoma County 4H Club, Sonoma County SCORE, Sonoma County Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few."

The solicitation concluded, "Our community depends on your involvement." The letter offered a variety of premiums for contributions over $100, beginning with a badge-like lapel pin, and going to an "Angel Plaque" for $365.

The fine print on the return form says "This gift is not considered tax-deductible as a charitable contribution for Federal Income Tax purposes." So it struck me as a little fishy that the local cops were asking me to send my non-deductible donation to them, so they could give it to charity. I also found it suspicious that they claimed to contribute to the "Sonoma County Chamber of Commerce", because so far as I know, no countywide Chamber exists.

The letter also promised, "We are still fighting to abolish fraudulent TELEMARKETERS who misrepresent our association. Your support with this direct mail approach has been a tremendous help to our cause. Once again, please accept the enclosed support decal FREE, for being one of our valued friends. Be assured that all funds raised will be used solely to benefit the Santa Rosa Police Officers’ Association membership and further its purposes."

Well, that made me even more suspicious. I know that the real SRPOA belongs to the Sonoma County Alliance, so I went to their website here: , and got POA representative Eric Goldschlag's email address at the City of Santa Rosa. I sent Detective Goldschlag an email, and asked him to verify that the real SRPOA had sent the letter. He replied the next morning, saying they did:

"I appreciate you taking the time to verify our solicitation for donations. The mailer you received is from the Santa Rosa Police Officers' Association. Due to time limitations of our members, we outsource the mailers to a private company. This company made an error when they wrote Sonoma County Chamber of Commerce. The letter should have read Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

The donations we receive helps our Association. Not only do we help our members, but provide services and funds for our community. For many years we have actively funded a Boy Scout Troop, two Little Leagues and provided a Law Enforcement Scholarship program at the Santa Rosa Junior College. These are just a few organizations we annually support."

The mailer is pretty tacky, so I was a little disappointed to learn that the local Police Officers Association really did send it. But what bothered me more, was that the Press Democrat had reported before the election (10/30, "Sales tax measure gets final push"),

"Santa Rosa's police and fire unions have pumped another $15,000 into the campaign to pass Measure O, the quarter-cent sales tax measure that would generate $7 million annually and funnel most of the money into the two public safety departments. The Santa Rosa Police Officer's Association contributed $10,000 and Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401 gave $5,000 over the past 12 days, according to campaign finance statements filed Friday.

The contributions bring the total donated by the two unions to the Rescue Santa Rosa campaign to $40,000, or $20,000 each. The unions, along with Christopherson Homes, which also gave $5,000, were the largest contributors in the latest round of donations received between Oct. 17 and Thursday."

I voted against Measure O, because the City Council refused to budget for police and fire services, and then had the gall to ask me to tax myself to pay for them. The SRPOA contributed $20,000 to support the measure--and just a week later, they send me junk mail asking for money!

(to be continued)

Monday, November 08, 2004


Blue voters, red officials--no problem

The Press Democrat interviewed red voters and blue voters, and reported today why Sonoma County is so liberal and votes for Democrats (11/7, "Political divide"). It's because hippies and yuppies moved here in the '60s and '70s, and environmentalists organized to defeat the proposed PG&E atomic plant on Bodega Head.

The story traces the local liberal tradition back about 40 years, which would be to 1964--the same year that Barry Goldwater's candidacy kicked off the neoconservative movement that just re-elected President George W. Bush. The PD said,

"The movement was largely inspired by newcomers who recognized Sonoma County's beauty and fought to protect it, said Bill Kortum, a former county supervisor and longtime environmental activist. 'That was a huge transformation,' Kortum said. 'It really took the outsiders coming here to tell us, "You've got a great place. What can we do to set some aside and keep it that way?"

We were faced with another San Jose phenomenon. But we stopped it because the public had a value system that saw sprawl as the end of a very nice county."

The story points to voter adoption of urban growth boundaries to contain sprawl, and the 1990 sales tax measure that created the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. And then it talks about the growth that made us liberal Democrats:

"But the political landscape began to shift after World War II, and the transformation was most pronounced in the 1970s, a decade during which Sonoma County experienced its greatest population boom, growing by 50 percent from 200,000 to 300,000. Commuters replaced farmers and ranchers.

They were escapees from San Francisco and Berkeley, some hippies returning to nature and some Yuppies leaving the hustle and bustle of city life.They formed the framework for the county's liberal viewpoint that exists today, one that looks skeptically at a president with a background in the oil industry who led the country to war in Iraq."

It's a darn good thing all those liberal Democrats and environmentalists moved here and stopped us from sprawling like San Jose. Today the population of Sonoma County is over 466,000, and Santa Rosa almost 155,000. Santa Rosa had about 50,000 residents in 1970, and about 113,000 when the City Council adopted the 1991 General Plan.

But seriously, folks, I'm glad Sonoma County votes Democrat. Local Democrats voted against George Bush, and so did I. We elected Barbara Boxer to the Senate, Lynne Woolsey to the House, and Noreen Evans to the Assembly.

So what I want to know, is who the hell voted for Jane Bender, Mike Martini, John Sawyer, and Lee Pierce for Santa Rosa City Council?

Do any of those liberal Democrat environmentalist voters live in Santa Rosa? And if they do, don't they take the time to learn about the candidates in the non-partisan Council race?

The Sonoma County Alliance, the countywide lobby for growth and development, supported all four as a slate for the four Council seats. Veronica Jacobi--the only avowed environmentalist in the race--finished fifth, at least until all the absentee votes have been counted.

I want somebody to explain to me why all those blue voters elect red candidates to the Council and Board of Supervisors.

Sunday, November 07, 2004


Salamanders and schoolchildren

Press Democrat editorial director Pete Golis explained today why the Democrats lost the election (11/7, "Democrats adrift"); or as the subhead put it, "How the party of working people lost its way and became the party of elites".

Pete wrote,

"Democrats managed not to notice how they have come to be portrayed in places--like Kansas and Mississippi and Wyoming--where Karl Rove and others spin their cartoon versions of Democrats."

And he concluded,

"Karl Rove must be very smart. Or maybe Democrats need to look in the mirror."

Golis' list of eleven Republican propaganda stereotypes began,"This is the world in which Democrats are: The party that never saw a government program it didn't like."

And his eleventh example was, "In Sonoma County, the party that cares more about salamanders than schoolchildren."

That one got my attention. Did Karl Rove really spin that cartoon version of elitist Sonoma County Democrats to Kansas voters?

Following his eleven examples Golis wrote,

"These broad-brush characterizations are unfair, you say. Well, yes, they are. But they are not without a grain of truth--and what is not in doubt is that Democratic party regulars are several miles past clueless when it comes to defending themselves against such parodies."

Pete calls them "parodies". But Webster says a parody is, "1 : a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule; 2 : a feeble or ridiculous imitation".

The ten examples Golis listed--and the local one he made up himself--aren't clever parodies of Democrat elitism. He said himself they were caricatures, spun as political propaganda.

And then he added, "but not without a grain of truth". Not so the eleventh example. Pete made that one up himself, out of whole cloth.

Now it's up to him to justify his unfair statement that Sonoma County Democrats care more about salamanders than schoolchildren.


New boss at JDS Uniphase

Check out today's Press Democrat business story about JDS Uniphase's new local boss (11/7, "Five years after buying OCLI, tech firms [sic] realizes true value of its SR unit").

Until quite recently, Hewlett-Packard and OCLI were SR's major manufacturers. The two established SR firms were the actual physical center of the "Telecom Valley" that extended from the Sonoma County Airport to Petaluma during its brief economic boom. They were also the heart of the SR Chamber's Sonoma County Manufacturing Group, that then became the Sonoma County Technology and Manufacturing Group.

Hewlett-Packard spun off Agilent Technologies about the same time JDSU bought OCLI. H-P was a winner that spun off a weak division, and JDS was an overgrown loser that bought a small winner--now "the backbone of JDS, making up more than half of sales".

Agilent and JDSU have the same local game plan--develop products here, make them in the Third World. New boss George "Hoss" Christensen says, "You make the product here and get it right, and get the early prototypes. And once you've got the Mrs. Fields recipe, you send that offshore."

Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Carl Wong has a related Close To Home item in today's PD. He asks, "what jobs are we preparing our students to fill? Are we educating students for jobs that aren't going to be available to them because we've shifted to a global work force?"

Wong comments, "It's estimated that 60 percent of the new jobs added between 2001 and 2003 were lower-paying service jobs that are below the county's average wage of $40,000 per year. That shift in the employment picture, like the global shift, also raises questions about the direction of work-force development and education."

The irony is, the brief local Telecom Valley boom inspired local business to demand the schools stress education for jobs at the new hi-tech corporations. Now Wong's letter suggests the schools should be stressing training for "lower paying service jobs".

It makes more sense for the schools to offer a traditional liberal arts and sciences education, preparing the students to make their own decisions as conditions change. The business community can train its own employees--many of them new immigrants--for the new low-paid service jobs in the wine and hospitality industries.

And by the way, what does the Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools do? Maybe Wong's elected position should be moved to the County's "Economic Development" department.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


America votes for war and fascism

This cool, dark, rainy day reflects my post-election feelings.
Before I turn to the good news/bad news of the local election returns, I need to say something about the national economic and political context.

It looks like more than half my fellow Americans have voted for another four years of the Bush/Cheney neo-conservative Republican agenda.

Most of them live in the "red" states--almost the entire country, except for California/Oregon/Washington and the Northeast.
And a great many Americans in the "blue" states--including California--also voted to continue the last four years of Bush/Cheney policies and actions.

I once thought that if Americans ever elected a Hitler, he would have to be a smiling PR man like Ronald Reagan--not an angry neoconservative prototype like Barry Goldwater, a brooding paranoid like Richard Nixon, or a bumbling incompetent true believer like George W. Bush.

I thought and hoped Americans were smarter and more decent than that.
But forty years after Goldwater ran for President in 1964, America is in real trouble--and a lot of Americans have turned mean.

Forty years ago, the Democrats represented blue-collar workers and their unions, and stood for civil rights for Black Americans and other minorities.
But with post-WWII prosperity, the unions became powerful and the well-paid workers arrogant; they turned away from their party, and some became Republicans.

At the same time, big business was sending factories and jobs to the Third World, while creating low-paid "service" jobs for ambitious immigrants.
Blacks nominally achieved civil rights and integration, and soon were forgotten.

Needing bodies for their minority party, the fat cat Republican leaders held their noses, and took in the meanest elements of the Democratic Party--the ignorant religious and racial bigots of America's "Heartland" and "Bible Belt".
"Televangelists" began to preach an increasingly political message, and the corporate TV and print media became increasingly partisan.

Running from Republican attacks on their patriotism--and following the money--the Democrats swung to the right.
The result is that today's Liberal Democrat is no more "liberal" than Liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller was in '64.

So there's really only one national political party today--the Big Business Party.
Republican leaders own and run the national economy, and Democrat leaders manage it for them.
Rank and file Republicans and Democrats hold the remaining American jobs that immigrants can't do for lower wages, and pay almost all the taxes.

I was born less than a month after Pearl Harbor, and went to school during the McCarthy Era.
During most of my life, the United States has pursued a "Cold War" against the Soviet Union.
So almost all my life, I've been told that America was engaged in a war to the death between "freedom" and "Communism".

All that propaganda vanished recently, when the economic and political forces of international Capitalism finally bankrupted the Soviet Union.
Those same economic and political forces have nearly bankrupted America too.

Americans are generally ignorant about world history, economics, and politics.
They urgently need to know that the "multi-national" corporations that are the economic and political forces behind the Bush/Cheney Administration owe no allegiance to the United States-- or to any other nation on earth.

A conservative American from Kansas, General and President Dwight Eisenhower, warned us against the "Military/Industrial Complex" in 1961.
That complex came together to fight WWII, and it has grown stronger and more aggressive ever since.

It had commercial ties with Hitler's Germany, it rebuilt Japan, and it is developing the Third World today.
During and after the war, it took in elements of the Mafia and organized crime.
And since the war, it has taken in and used the CIA and related agencies--the intelligence bureaucracy President Truman created.

The U. S. fought North Korea and China when I was in grade school, and North Vietnam when I was in college.
The U. S. attacked Iraq under President George H. W. Bush, and now again under his son, the current President.
The current President Bush--with the approval of almost all the Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate--has invaded and occupied two weak sovereign nations, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Afghanistan is the route of a potential oil pipeline from the former Soviet Union to the Mideast, not to mention a major source of opium for America's heroin addicts.
Iraq is not only a major source of oil, but a potential base from which to attack other oil-producing nations.

Bush's initial excuse for invading and occupying those two sovereign nations was "Terrorism"--the bizarre and improbable 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
But the record indicates that the Bush/Cheney neoconservatives had been planning to invade the Mideast for many years prior to the 9/11 provocation.
And many good Americans suspect that the Bush/Cheney neoconservatives were at least aware that the 9/11 provocation was coming--and perhaps they orchestrated it.

No American President in my lifetime--including Richard Nixon, who was, in fact, a crook--has ever performed so many visibly un-American acts as has George W. Bush.
And no Presidential administration in my lifetime has ever been so great a threat to American Constitutional rights and freedoms.

It looks like more than half my fellow Americans just voted for the flagrantly un-American policies and actions of President George W. Bush.

I've never been so ashamed of my fellow Americans.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?