NO RAISED HALF-FREEWAY
I enthusiastically support the lawsuit against Caltrans, et.al. Here is why.
I will borrow a description of Caltrans [paraphrased] that I heard recently. “There are two Caltrans. One is the 'Local' Caltrans those hard-working employees we see repairing the roads, cutting the brush, spreading sand on roads when they are icy, etc. The second is 'Corporate' Caltrans.”
“Corporate” Caltrans is determined to construct an elevated bypass I call the “half-freeway” because that is what it is. One half of a four-lane freeway-type bypass that will take a long, long time to build and will be nearly useless to Willits residents for local travel needs. I believe most of the citizens of Willits do not understand the full extent of what this project will bring about in the short term and in the long term. Allow me to elaborate:
The two-lane bypass is to be built across our valley as if it were a four-lane freeway, meaning it will be erected on piles that must be driven as deep as 100 feet into the ground. Pile driving is an extremely noisy activity. Some 1,600 piles will need to be driven with each pile taking up to 2,210 strikes with decibel levels of 187 to 220. The equivalent of a jet taking off is 140 decibels.
Because the noise from pile driving will kill the fish in near-by streams, Caltrans has been required to hunt down and find the fish and temporarily relocate them to some area safe from this noise. This noisy pile driving will go on for upward of three years from early morning to late evening [7 a.m. to 7 p.m. is the California standard].
I wonder where one must go to be free of this noise pollution. What will happen to our tourism industry? Would you be eager to visit and hang out in Willits? [Much of the above technical information came from The Environmental Impact Statement and the Biological Opinion from NMFS; National Marine Fisheries Service]
The completion of the full two-lane “half-freeway” could take five years. That's a long time to endure noise, dust, traffic flow disruption, who knows what other inconveniences. Note that the noise created by trucking alone is rated at 70 to 90 decibels. It is estimated that trucks will make 100,000 round trips from Oil Well Hill to deliver close to 1.3 million cubic yards of earth.
A two-lane elevated bypass is unsafe. In early negotiations Caltrans was unwilling to consider a two-lane [ground level] bypass saying that a two-lane highway was unsafe. Now the agency wants us to believe that its elevated bypass is just fine.
I, for one, question this assertion by Caltrans. In the event of an accident, where would the collision vehicles go? Off the edge of a raised viaduct the height of a three story building? How will the emergency vehicles get access to victims of the crash?
The Little Lake Fire Department is very concerned about how to respond to accidents. It is currently brainstorming to come up with viable plans. If the shoulder area is blocked or traffic is backed up, the LLFD is considering using its ladder truck to lift paramedics and other emergency responders to the injured.
I am wondering how equipment like the “Jaws of Life,” used frequently to remove injured parties from vehicles, would get to the site. The only access to the “half-freeway” would be about 0.5 miles north of the high school and south of Walker Road, where the current freeway begins.
The cost will be $200 million for this “half-freeway.” Proponents of the Caltrans bypass point out the state has already allocated the funds. What about cost overruns? Where will the additionally needed funds come from?
Already over $33 million has been diverted to Caltrans for the bypass from the County Transportation Agency [MCOG] coffers. This is money that could have been used for other city and county transportation or road improvements. And Caltrans has recently asked for an additional $2 million from MCOG's discretionary funds.
It's almost certain we will continue to be asked to share in cost over-runs when we really need money for county and city road projects like, for instance, a Brooktrails second access road.
Willits Mayor Bruce Burton said in a recent interview on KZYX that he will be pleased to get our city back [from Caltrans] so we can beautify it and make the streets safer. With what? It appears unlikely MCOG will provide Willits with further funds because so much county money has already gone to the bypass project.
Of the 14 or more bids received by CalTrans for the “half-freeway,” all but one bid has come from outside Mendocino County. Granite Construction out of Ukiah does plan to bid on the job, but will be competing with mega-contracting companies from all over the country [Central and Southern California, Utah, Washington State, etc.].
I understand Mendocino Construction & SHN will be submitting bids as sub-contractors. This low turnout of local bids defies Caltrans claims about creating lots of local jobs. But is that a surprise? I would bet local contractors are not willing to even try to outbid these big companies.
This project has never really been about local traffic abatement. Caltrans claims that when the new half-freeway is up and in use local traffic will diminish because locals will go to the north [or south] of town to access the bypass and then get off at the south [or north] end of town. Ask yourself how often you are going to do this.
Another big disappointment is the “half-freeway” offers no direct connection to Highway 20 and no second access road for Brooktrails. Traffic coming from the north would be expected to travel past Willits to the Walker Road exit and then double back. Right!
I believe there is another solution. It is my hope the lawsuit will bring about, once and for all, an end to the elevated bypass as currently designed by Caltrans. Why not a ground-level, two-lane highway?
Clearly, constructing a ground-level highway would cost less than half the amount needed for the “half-freeway.” How about using some of these funds for other much needed road repairs and improvements? In case you haven't noticed, Main Street, still the responsibility of Caltrans, could use a lot of improving.
The greatest cost of the “half-freeway” is from constructing it in a wetland. If the highway were not in the floodway it would not require a viaduct (and no pile driving). If it were not in the wetland it would not require extensive mitigation.
No pile driving would be necessary for a ground-level highway, and it would be ready for use much sooner and with less disruption, noise and chaos than building the elevated bypass.
A ground-level highway could have intersection access where major roads cross it thus making it accessible to local traffic, including emergency vehicles.
I do understand this is an extremely volatile and polarizing issue in our community, and sincerely hope we can find some “common ground” moving forward. I have chosen not to address the many environmental aspects of this issue. Others will speak to that complex and important aspect. I will point out that a year or two ago the City of Willits was presented with a petition signed by 90% of the local businesses against the proposed bypass but, strangely, the majority of city council members continue to support the bypass as currently designed.
Yes, we have a big traffic dilemma here in Willits. But please ask yourselves if the currently designed Caltrans “half-freeway” is the right way to fix it.
NOT MY PITBULL II
I’d also like to voice my support for the much-maligned pitbull, (Angela Kester, “DON’T OUTLAW MY PITBULL,” June 6, 2012).
This oft-misunderstood creature perpetually gets a negative rap when in reality it is that rare breed indeed: a forward-thinking beacon of civic virtue. I challenge the reader to name another animal which has even attempted to address the criminal state of rampant llama overpopulation in this county (“Dog shot after attacking llamas in Ukiah,” Ukiah Daily Journal, June 8, 2012).
Not one to discriminate, the pitbull has also targeted various other creatures guilty of fornication, from horses to dogs to cats to rabbits to small imported vehicles. A strong proponent of civil rights, pitbulls make a point to bite gays, children of all races and creeds, the elderly and the disabled with equal pleasure.
Pitbulls have for too long been relegated as the companion of choice for itinerant trimmers, insecure folks and the Willits Mafia. Here is a pragmatic animal ready to enter the public arena on any issue. Animal rights? Let’s end the unfair treatment of goats and fill the Tilden Park Petting Zoo with pitbulls. Afghan exit strategy? Pitbulls. Requiring no armor or weaponry (just several bowls of kibble each day), and averaging 100 pounds less than a typical U.S. soldier, pitbulls can help free up valuable resources for further overseas adventures while simultaneously helping reduce the military’s carbon footprint.
As Ms. Kester so rightly pointed out, this is a special dog, so special in fact that of all the canines in the Mendocino County Animal Shelter it requires its own “pit crew,” as well as maintains organizations devoted to “’rethinking” the public’s views” regarding the breed. This will hopefully lead to a public soon holding, err…”rethought” views—no, wait!—the views will have been rethought upon(?)…rethunk? What is certain is that unknown groups doing the thinking for us is a good thing, and for that we can thank our friend the pitbull. Three cheers!
CRITICS NEED NOT APPLY
As you know, I applied for one of two open seats on the Manchester School Board and discovered Susan Levenson-Palmer voted against my application for the following reasons:
It was inappropriate for me to put the letters in the paper, which would mean the AVA and Independent Coast Observer, regarding the Point Arena School Board. I am not sure whatever happened to freedom of speech and I am not a board member in the Point Arena School District.
At a party, I asked Levenson-Palmer if anyone had applied for the superintendent's job in Manchester. She felt this was totally against protocol for me to ask this question. I never asked any names of the people who had applied just how many and there is nothing in “protocol” that forbids me to do this. I am really going to have to look hard to see what protocol forbids me to do this!
If I had had the opportunity to address her concerns, I would have asked, exactly what was in the paper (AVA or ICO) that was not factual and which things the members of our community should not have the right to know? Boards should be transparent and accountable to the members of our community — essentially they are to work for us. Unfortunately, the Point Arena School Board has failed on all accounts. Brown Act Law is ignored and State Board Bylaws are changed to meet their own agenda. This is fact.
I find it terribly offensive and incredibly wrong that the Point Arena School Board continually breaks the law which they believe they are privy to and anyone, who currently sits on any school board should believe in following the letter of the law. They take an oath to uphold the law and obviously, Levenson Palmer must disagree with this fact.
Nothing was said to me during my interview which was at the open session part of the meeting (closed session followed my interview). All accusations were done behind my back (after I had gone home) in open session following the closed session part of the agenda. I believed only their decision would be made later in the evening. If I had known there would have been further discussion I would have faced my accuser which I believe I should have had the right to do.
When I was being interviewed Levenson-Palmer had the perfect opportunity to address her grave concerns with me directly, but did not say a word. To me, this is an act of a coward and I don't do well with people who are fine saying one thing to your face and another behind your back. She further went on to state that if I sat on the board she would resign. Really? Just because I wrote letters in the AVA and ICO and wanted to know how many applied people for a job? Really?
Levenson-Palmer has only lived full-time on the coast for approximately eight months and I don't believe she is able to make any judgment of me without having complete knowledge of the past and the history of the Point Arena School Board. It is a little awkward since she lives in the same sub-division as I!
This will not deter me from my work as an advocate for our students on the coast.
WAITING TO EXHALE
Editor and Fellow AVAers,
“A field cannot well be seen from within that field.” “You can't see the forest for the trees.” As Yogi Berra said, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so.” Our ecological system is crumpling as it suffers a powerful collision with the hard surfaces of civilization speeding toward it out of control. The Aral Sea dries up and all its fish die. Archimedes said that if he had “a place on which to stand” at a sufficient distance from the Earth, he could move the entire world. We are confronted with a pattern of destruction. To recognize this destruction, we must see it from a distance, both in time and space. The entire United States covers less than 3% of the surface of the earth. We search for a language to speak about the “shadow our future throws.” A crescendo is the point of maximum instability in a piece of music, coming when the music flows to a new equilibrium with resolution and harmony. The relationship between human civilization and the Earth is now in a state that theorists of change would describe as disequilibrium. At the birth of the nuclear age Einstein said, “Everything has changed but our way of thinking.” Each of the Communist governments in Eastern Europe fell in the late summer and early autumn of 1989, but their combined impact on history was powerful. The devastation from a nuclear war is not unlike the challenge we face today in the global environmental crisis. “Sooner or later the steepness of the slope and our momentum down its curve will take us beyond the point of no return.” “The odds that we will discern the nature of our plight improve as we get closer to the edge of history — the point from which we can gaze into the black hole's very center.” Let's slow down our momentum toward environmental catastrophe “before our momentum carries us past the point beyond which an ecological collapse is inevitable.” Our assault on the environment is reckless, “the simple rules a linear cause and effect cannot explain, much less predict, the consequences of our interference.”
WORDS FAIL US
Even NPR bashers must concede that one good thing about it is that you don't have to listen to commercials all the darn time. Before they grunt they would do well to consider these words from an unlikely source above the mundane fray in The Education of Oversoul 7 by medium Jane Roberts: “Syllables are the sound equivalents of atoms,” Sumpter said, “and atoms compose matter. Syllables can be organized into words, of course, but they can also be organized into sound patterns called 'no-words.' That is, the words don't refer to objects or even feelings, and they don't name things in usual terms. Instead the no-words are simply — power. They do things, not represent them.”
Kurdish town, Hawaii
This excerpt from the article, “Nation's Largest RN Organization Says Healthcare Bill Cedes Too Much To Insurance Industry” by National Nurses United is the clearest, most concise criticism of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that I've seen:
“NNU cited ten significant problems in the legislation, noting many of the same flaws also exist in the House version and are likely to remain in the bill that emerges from the House-Senate reconciliation process:
1. The individual mandate forcing all those without coverage to buy private insurance with insufficient cost controls on skyrocketing premiums and other insurance costs.
2. No challenge to insurance company monopolies, especially in the top 94 metropolitan areas where one or two companies dominate, severely limiting choice and competition.
3. An affordability mirage. Congressional Budget Office estimates say a family of four with a household income of $54,000 would be expected to pay 17% of their income, $9,000, on healthcare, exposing too many families to grave financial risk.
4. The excise tax on comprehensive insurance plans which will encourage employers to reduce benefits, shift more costs to employees, promote proliferation of high deductible plans, and lead to more self-rationing of care and medical bankruptcies, especially as more plans are subject to the tax every year due to the lack of adequate price controls. A Towers-Perrin survey in September found 30% of employers said they would reduce employment if their healthcare costs go up, 86% said they'd pass the higher costs to their employees.
5. Major loopholes in the insurance reforms that promised bans on exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and no cancellations for sickness.
The loopholes include:
• Provisions permitting insurers and companies to more than double charges to employees who fail “wellness” programs because they have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol readings, or other medical conditions.
• Insurers are permitted to sell policies “across state lines,” exempting patient protections passed in other states. Insurers will thus set up in the least regulated states in a race to the bottom threatening public protections won by consumers in various states.
• Insurers can charge four times more based on age plus more for certain conditions and continue to use marketing techniques to cherry pick healthier, less costly enrollees.
• Insurers may continue to rescind policies for “fraud or intentional misrepresentation” — the main pretext insurance companies now use to cancel coverage.
6. Minimal oversight on insurance denials of care; a report by the California Nurses Association/NNOC in September found that six of California's largest insurers have rejected more than one-fifth of all claims since 2002.
7. The inadequate limits on drug prices, especially after Senate rejection of an amendment, to protect a White House deal with pharmaceutical giants, allowing pharmacies and wholesalers to import lower-cost drugs.
8. New burdens for our public safety net. With a shortage of primary care physicians and a continuing fiscal crisis at the state and local levels, public hospitals and clinics will be a dumping ground for those the private system doesn't want.
9. Reduced reproductive rights for women.
10. No single standard of care. Our multi-tiered system remains with access to care still determined by ability to pay. Nothing changes in basic structure of the system; healthcare remains a privilege, not a right.”
Perhaps Mr. Scaramella could read this article allowed to Steve Heilig and simplify any complex ideas that Mr. Heilig has difficulty understanding.
Roselle, New Jersey
THE WEEKLY GRIND
Let us now praise creative men:
We are blessed with many creative people around our corner of the world here in Mendoland — artists and writers and actors seem to congregate in abundance around Mendocino and Northern California mainly because, I suppose, we live in beautiful surroundings.
I would like to stop just a minute and stand in awe of a particularly rare creative talent shared by two men in our midst that I find magical. That is the ability to pull out of thin air an imaginative piece of writing against deadline.
Todd Walton and Tom Hine create interesting, topical, opinionated columns in the Anderson Valley Advertiser and Ukiah Daily Journal respectively. This is not the common commenting on today’s news that you find everywhere. This is local, original, intelligent, emotional, engaging, tragic, quirky, funny, pissed off writing… done against deadline, week in, week out, year after year after year.
I, for one, with gratitude, am amazed.
THE KING COMES TO BOONVILLE
Jimmy Cliff, OM, is a Jamaican musician, singer and actor. He is the only currently living musician to hold the Order of Merit, the highest honor that can be granted by the Jamaican government for achievement in the arts and sciences.
• “The Harder They Come” — Well they tell me of a pie up in the sky / Waiting for me when I die / But between the day you're born and when you die / They never seem to hear even your cry...
• “I Can See Clearly Now” — I can see clearly now the rain is gone. / I can see all obstacles in my way. / Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. / It's gonna be a bright (bright) / bright (bright) sunshiny day. / It's gonna be a bright (bright) / bright (bright) sunshiny day...
• “Many Rivers To Cross” — Many rivers to cross / But I can't seem to find my way over / Wandering I am lost as I travel along...
Locals will have a chance to see and hear him live and in person at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival when he closes the show on Saturday night this coming weekend.
Need I say more?
Susie de Castro
TEN MILE DUNES: UPGRADE OR DESTRUCTION?
We have a problem up here in the Ten Mile Dunes area with out-of-control State Parks. They are attempting to remove the Ten Mile Haul Road walking park using a “mitigated negative declaration,” i.e., no environmental review, no Coastal Commission, no public comments. This has been attempted in secrecy. I feel the word on this must get out. There is other mischief here with contracts already being let before there was any public knowledge. Further, the use of herbicides in the destruction of existing vegetation has also been done in secrecy. There is a complex story year with much at stake.
* * *
Ten Mile Haul Road and the Howell's Spineflower—
The remaining Ten Mile Haul Road should not be disturbed. It provides and protects 75% of the habitat for the Howell's spineflower. This flower is federally listed as a rare and endangered species. It is shown on the state biological resource map to exist almost exclusively in the wind-sheltered and compacted margins of the Haul Road. Removing the Haul Road will eliminate the majority of the Howell's spineflower's known habitat. It is estimated that 95% of its population worldwide exists here in MacKerricher State Park, and approximately 75% of the population appears in the above referenced map to be located along the edges of the Ten Mile Haul Road. Furthermore, recent spraying of herbicide on nearby dune grass has caused the release of previously anchored sand. On a recent windy day I personally observed this uncontained sand engulfing some populations of Howell's spineflower.
There is a permit pending regarding the Ten Mile Railway Haul Road and two culverts, and depositing the resulting debris in the Mendocino quarry. This would be a removal on a geological scale: 2.5 miles of elevated road and rail berm and the relocation of two local creek outflows will create a major alteration in the coastal topography.
Thus, a “negative mitigated declaration” is completely inadequate and highly inappropriate for a change of this magnitude.
The state-owned senior engineering geologist states in her report that a significant amount of sand will be mobilized, yet the negative declaration ignores this fact. There are no provisions made to contain this sand which is subject to nearly continuous wind-driven erosion and can literally be transported miles over one single windy day.
The debris of this historical old railway undoubtedly contains toxics — creosote, pentachlor, and others, that require special handling. The debris is to be dumped in the Mendocino Woodlands Quarry which is “within coastal margins,” thus such actions should also require Coastal Commission permit overview.
There are other elements in the plan — not of a construction nature — that will profoundly alter the local environment: local “non-native” trees slated for removal and “non-native” vegetation destroyed with herbicides. Since these “non-native” trees and grasses are successfully anchoring the sand, destroying them will destabilize the entire dune system. Such destabilization will have repercussions over wide areas.
This entire project — starting with the pending permit — requires careful review and adequate time for public comment. Time is of the essence!
PS. California geological survey conclusions: 1. Removal of road and culverts in conjunction with removal of non-native vegetation on the windward side of the road will eliminate the barriers to natural sand movement within the Ten Mile Dunes. 2. As a result of these natural processes, more sand is likely to blow inland near shore over the short term especially in the northern lobe. 3. The additional sand will change the configuration of the dunes as they migrate to the east (additional transverse dunes could develop and/or grow in height farther in land) altering the nature of the vegetation and the drainage patterns throughout the dunes. — Tlina L. Bedlossion, PG, 3363, CEG 1064, SPESC. 393. Senior Engineering Geologist, Specialist, California Geological Survey.
I volunteered for Norman Solomon's campaign here in Marin. When I asked the volunteer coordinator which candidates were considered threats for second place competition, she just mentioned Stacy Lawson. I'm wondering if Solomon's people underestimated the Republican Daniel Roberts' chances and assumed the top two vote getters would both be Democrats?
“Chocolates and roses, for thee (bitch),” says he.
“Chocolates and flowers don't last, but bad memories do,” says she.
The Wellness Project: AV-B-Well, with the support of two community enrichment grants, Mendocino Community Foundation and Network for a Healthy California, was launched last Fall with the intention to promote community health. A lot of hard work and local support later, AV-B-Well has successfully planted the seeds for a localized commitment to health. AV-B-Well, is offering a series of nutrition and fitness classes, brought together people of all ages and diversity with a common goal of healthy life practices. Most importantly, the potential for the sustainability of this kind of program was unearthed as local talent emerged to meet the needs of the community. This Summer, these AV-B-Well classes will continue:
• Boot Camp with Erin and Lora: Tues/Thurs/Sat 8am AV Elem School
• Easy Stretch Chair Yoga with Kathy: 11:00-12:00 Senior Center
We hope to offer Zumba with Yutzel in the Fall. Please visit our website designed by local High School student Cali Mendoza at www.avpanthers.org and see the AV-B-Well link.
Have a great summer and Be Well to all!
The other day I was reading the newspaper. The article was about the insider trading trial of R. Gupta who allegedly tipped off a Mr. Rajaratnam (found guilty of insider trading charges and sentenced to 11 years) that Warren Buffet was investing $5 billion in Goldman Sachs, something he had learned moments before as a director of Goldman Sachs.
What I found interesting was that after the call, Mr. Rajaratnam allegedly purchased $43 million of Goldman Sachs immediately after the tip. This, if true, would be a classic case of insider trading. The result: nearly $1 million profit.
Another way to view this is that, if true, which one might assume since Mr. Rajaratnam was found guilty, these millionaires broke the law knowingly for 2.3%. The titans of American business, those who sit on the boards of major corporations, hedge fund managers, willingly gave up ethics for 2.3%.
What price, in dollar terms, are ethics, honesty worth? Upon what factors does, for each of us, the decision depend? There are big lies and little lies, sins of omission and sins of commission. How long will we stand quietly and accept the lies of government and business?
Honesty and ethics in government are illustrated by the justification for the closure, projected, of state parks. This is also an illustration of the “divide and conquer” strategy used by government in collusion with private business interests.
Moishe in Israel (AVA, Letters, 6/13/2012) should be advised that it was the French who brought Catholicism to Vietnam, and Eisenhower (who just saved France in WWII) was saving their sorry asses again in their former colony subsequent to their defeat at Dien Bien Phu.
And your crap about Kenney-Camelot tells me you’re really strange but maybe that follows living in a stranger’s land.
Check history, Marvin.
WHITHER THE FARMERS MARKET?
What's happening with our Boonville Farmers Market on Saturday at the Boonville Hotel? The past weeks, if not for Petit Teton and Bill Taylor with his addictive salad mix, there would not have been a market at all! Brock Farms, Blue Meadow, fish peddler, Fort Bragg bakery — where are you?
APPRECIATING BOB & KEN
I noted with sadness and disbelief that at the end of the school year the music program at both our Elementary and High schools was eradicated without so much as a single mention to the public. Worse than that, whilst retiring teachers were given their more than well deserved accolades and expressions of appreciation, not a word was said about the tireless and well loved Bob Ayres who, over the past twelve years, drove to the Valley from Mendocino and breathed new life into the music program, assisted in the last few years by Ken Cave.
Bob led many marching bands to winning positions in the county and beyond, and inspired many youngsters to continue with music after school. It is a sad loss for all, especially the young and I hope the day will come when educators will give recognition to the value of teaching music. It is a universal language, a universal means of enjoyment and relaxation (which should also be incorporated into education), and opens many pathways to other fields.
So, on behalf of many others in our community who share these views, I’d like to send out a resounding thanks to “Mr. Bob and Mr. Ken” for all they did for our music programs over the years. You will not be forgotten.
It did my heart good to read that list of AVHS graduates and their scholarships. Congratulations to all of them, and kudos to the generous donors — the Arts Councils and various organizations, and especially to the Miner-Andersons who are making it possible for many of the youth of our valley to get a college education.
Scarcely less troubling than the opacity of the process by which drone-death targets are chosen is the administration's arrant flouting of the sovereignty of the several countries recipient of these unbidden attacks. The day likely will come, as it did concerning nuclear weaponry, when mastery of this latest technical marvel will not be ours alone, and we will rue this unfortunate precedent.