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Mendocino County Today: August 9, 2012

THE GOLDEN STATE'S government has discovered $119 million more in hidden funds, the Governor's office has announced. These millions are in accounts for healthcare programs, reimbursement of crime victims and cleanup of underground petroleum tanks. This money brings the total amount of previously unknown millions to more than $286.5 million.

THE GUV, as he slashed state programs, including State parks, has proposed spending $20 million of the uncovered money for park maintenance and for matching the private donations that ultimately kept the parks open.

STATE OFFICIALS have found 68 accounts whose bottom lines varied by at least $1 million. The administration attributed most of the imbalances to different accounting methods, but hundreds of millions were the result of errors including typos, omitted interest or miscalculated revenue.

THE SLOPPY BOOKKEEPING threatens to sabotage Brown's tax initiative on the November ballot as many of us conclude that State government generally can't be trusted to keep track of the money it does have.

ARE WE FRACKED? Central Coast residents of Aromas, the region of Central California straddling Monterery and San Benito counties, are mobilizing to prevent exploitation of the oil beneath them by fracking, a method of extraction dependent on explosives and noxious chemicals. Geologists have identified eight mid-Cal counties that they say contain a motherlode of the stuff contained in the Monterey Shale deep within Mid-Cal earth.

THE DEPOSITS are believed to contain an estimated 15.5 billion barrels of oil, or almost two thirds of the nation's oil reserves. California has no laws against fracking, which many people assume not only inspire earthquakes but come with a host of other eco-hazards.

MENDOCINO COUNTY environmentalists, some of them anyway, are alarmed. The Point Arena-Elk area is known to contain fairly large oil deposits, for instance, as do regions of Humboldt County in the vicinity of the eponymous Petrolia. There are no laws in California preventing fracking as a method of oil extraction.

RONI McFADDEN of Willits has done, and continues to do, much heavy lifting in defense of animal protections, especially horses. Her children's book “Josephine” is a charming book that makes a perfect gift for the little ones. Roni has a new book out available from Amazon and, presumably, local bookstores. It's called “The Longest Trail,” a coming of age account especially relevant to young girls.

OF COURSE you already know that real estate people call some couples “dinks.” Means “double income, no kids.”

ANGELA PINCHES, daughter of 3rd District supervisor John Pinches, was sentenced today in Mendocino County Superior court to three years supervised probation on a felony charge of maintaining a place where marijuana is stored or manufactured. Judge John Behnke also sentenced Ms. Pinches to 60 days in the County Jail, but said she's eligible to serve her time in alternative programs via work release or electronic monitoring. As a condition of her probation Ms. Pinches will be subject to search and drug testing. She has already been sentenced to four years of probation on a child endangerment charge arising from an arrest that began when her two-year-old daughter was found unattended down the street from Ms. Pinches' home in Redwood Valley. Responding deputies subsequently discovered a large amount of marijuana at her home.

ACCORDING to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration July was the hottest month ever in the United States, hotter even than the Dust Bowl summer of 1936. The country's average temperature was 77.6 degrees F (25.3 degrees C) which is 3.3 degrees higher than the 20th century average. Record keeping began in 1895; they show that the previous warmest month was July 1936 when the average temperature across the nation was 77.4 (25.2 degrees C) degrees F. This summer’s catastrophes have included devastating fires in Colorado, tornadoes ravaging Washington DC and crops drying out across the Midwest.

TWO ARTICLES by Fred Gardner from the AVA's copious and all-seeing archive are relevant to recent events in Richmond, and as confirmation of the ancient adage that the more things change the more they don't:

(1) “A Major Disaster Area” (August 18, 1993)

Richmond, a city of 80,000 people on San Pablo Bay, is the site of vast chemical storage facilities and refineries. The population is half black — a lot of the residents came here for shipyard jobs during World War II and stayed on, buying modest homes in the flatlands. There are sizable Latino and Asian communities, too. The white folks are concentrated in Point Richmond.

On July 26 a leak of sulfur trioxide from a General Chemical tank created a cloud that enveloped the city. It has since been learned that General Chemical had inexperienced employees unloading the car and there were no training materials available for them to consult. As pressure began to build and the car began to overheat, they made one phone call to a facility in Delaware, for advice from workers who had experience; but it was too late. The exploding gas escaped through a relief valve system.

Last Saturday, Aug. 14, the West County Toxics Coalition helped organize a march from a North Richmond playground to the General Chemical gates. The playground had been painted over at one point for a Spike Lee Nike commercial, and the concrete still bore the corporate logo and some supposedly African color patterns. The green and orange zig-zags on the backboards might pose some distraction, I thought as we assembled, for an outside shooter.

The mood was serious. Lucille Allen, a retired schoolteacher who is a long-shot candidate for mayor of the city of Richmond, thanked everyone for coming and handed the bullhorn over to Henry Clark of the West County Toxics Coalition, who said, “We have to take a stand against this assault... Chevron and General Chemical continue to pollute our communities and continue to deny responsibility. They have not been honest with our community. They do not treat people fairly. They try to maneuver and manipulate the community.... This is not just about General Chemical, this is about the overall toxic contamination of our communities. It's time that we as a people stand up for our rights and our human dignity! So we're gonna send a powerful message today, brothers and sisters! We're fired up, we won't take it no more!” The crowd picked up the chant and off we went, about 200 people, including a little Latin American grandma whose sign said, “They do it for the dollars” in Spanish and who walked faster than me.

The Richmond police made a statement of their own. They sent a paddywagon in front of the line — a state-of-the-art van built to transport at least 40 prisoners and be driven by Robocop. There were squad cars at several points en route, plus cops directing traffic at key intersections, plus a couple of cops on Harleys (black) who flanked us at all times, gunning their engines and once almost buzzing a couple of stragglers. No aspect of the event — not the stated intent, the nature of the publicity, the size or composition or mood of the crowd as it assembled, nor the rhetoric of the speakers — could conceivably justify the tremendous show of force. It was a tactical decision made by the brass. They were sending a message on behalf of (and to) Richmond's corporate tenants.

Star thistle and not much else flourished in the debased environment of the flatlands. There were some cattails growing around a marsh. People were recalling where they'd been on July 26 and what the cloud looked and tasted like. “I let that dog out to use the bathroom. And when I looked out I said 'What a ugly day!' I thought it was going to be a beautiful day, I had plans. Once my dog got out I couldn't get the dog back in. I had to go and get my dog in...” Another woman went out to see what was going on because the police were redirecting traffic. Another woman: “It came across the street just like a fog. It looked just like the fog coming in.” She went in and closed the windows and doors. “It smelled awful.” She said her throat was sore for three days.

A longtime North Richmond resident named Arlene told us that once she got gassed in the middle of the night and when she phoned the neighboring chemical company the next morning, they scolded her for failing to “catch it in a bottle.”

The march ended outside the General Chemical gates in the flatlands. Michael Leedie of the Toxics Coalition (who works for Citizens for a Better Environment) passed the bullhorn around and North Richmond residents and their supporters made brief statements. A white woman named Lustig from Greenpeace who looked to be about 30 said, “It's no accident that they build these facilities where people of color live... They're fining General Chemical just $25,000 — that's an insult to the community (Shouts of “Put 'em in jail!") ...What General Chemical did was illegal. They didn't have a permit. The government withheld information on the effect of oleum and sulfuric acid, which can cause permanent damage to lung tissue, tooth enamel, and to the cornea...” She ended with a liberal wish-list: General Chemical “should become a leader” and “do a lot more disaster prevention and pollution prevention... Stringent enforcement... An end to loopholes in environmental regulations, like the one that permits storage of dangerous chemicals in railcars like just across the street. “

A woman named Margaret Hollingsorth made a plea for the chemical companies to install a siren so that people could be warned to stay indoors. “I got gassed,” she said. “I don't ever want to be gassed again. We want a siren!” The crowd picked it up for a few repetitions.

Another woman: “The apologies that was given to me last night [by a General Chemical spokesman at the Baptist church] was an insult. Now I know what it is when the guys go to Vietnam and come back and say they get flashbacks. 'Cause when I see a cloud now I say 'Lord, is it another spilil? Have they done it again? Listen! We don't want to be like Jim Jones layin' out there on the ground! We want fresh air! We may all be different colors! But we're all made the same and we all need fresh air. The only difference is, some people get fresh air and some people don't!”

A physician who used to work with Cesar Chavez in the UFW recalled that Chavez knew intuitively that farmworkers were getting sick and dying from exposure to herbicides and pesticides in the fields. “'I know they are poisoning our people,'“ Chavez used to tell her in the early days, before there were scientific studies. “He was especially worried about the children. And we're seeing excess cancers in the valley... We're sending these chemicals all over the world...”

A young middle class dude from the suburban eastern half of the county — he had the look of a young, idealistic Bill Clinton — pointed out that sulfuric acid was relatively safe compared to some of the chemicals Chevron was using and transporting on a daily basis. “People in west county have to start electing people with vision,” he said, “who will go after smaller industries... more acceptable industries. We have to have a vision of Richmond that will allow it to grow but not to continue to pollute.” Camelot may be over but some people just keep humming Ted Sorenson's songs.

Next came a man named Denny Larson, the Citizens for a Better Environment campaign director. “What if somebody from North Richmond had done something that made 20,000 people sick?” he asked rhetorically. “They'd be in jail... These corporate officers don't take deadly chemicals seriously. They don't care about the community. They're gonna come back and apologize,” he predicted cynically, “And they're gonna set up a community advisory panel....”

Suddenly a real revolutionary had the mike: Michelle Jackson, executive director of Neighborhood House of North Richmond. “We come today with an eviction notice. We want to give them an eviction notice, because we are not benefitting from any of these chemicals. They're ruining the lives of our children and everyone living in this area. Yesterday's meeting was a farce! Where are our black ministers today? (Shouts of “Sold us out like Judas!”) I would like to say to the federal government: start monitoring these rails that come into our state. I would like to say to the state government: start evaluating after they get here. I'd like to say to Contra Costa County: monitor these substances, keep records, give us some data. They don't even know what's here. And if they don't know how can we know? And I'd like to say to the city of Richmond: develop some type of early warning system now. They don't need to wait. They don't wait when it's time to come arrest our brothers and sisters here in North Richmond. They don't wait for fifty-seven violations before they put us in jail. These people have 57 violations, how come they're not in jail? They put us in jail for a ten-dollar rock of cocaine! Look what these people did! Look at how much cocaine is on this property!!” (Sustained clapping and cries of “That's right!” and “Tell it like it is!") Arrest these big-time executives! We want 'em outta here! We want 'em outta here right now!”

Michael Leedie pointed out that cops were on the scene and for a while the dreamy chant “Citizens' Arrest!” arose. Then a young woman spoke, the mother of three. She had a simple solution, the best liberal reform ever devised: “If they don't like us out here howlin' about what they done to us, buy us some housing in Black Oak!”

Three members of the Revolutionary Workers Party circulated their newspaper on the fringes of the crowd. They wore their major position statements on their chests — multiple buttons, visages of Mao and Chairman Gonzalo, slogans — and obviously thought that what they had to say was more important than what the speakers had to say. Somebody ought to clue them in.

Leedie introduced Robert Coleman, a newly elected member of the municipal advisory council of North Richmond. He was a handsome, round-faced man, very low key. “I lived in North Richmond all my life, 39 years. We've had a lot of accidents. My windows were blown out at least twice by chemical companies.

“We in North Richmond are fed up — at least I am. This toxic checmical spill was very bad. My eyes ran. I threw up. I almost suffocated. For a minute I didn't think I was gonna make it. But to make a long story short, I'm glad everybody is here because I want everybody to understand that this county is a major disaster area. If we had a major earthquake, everybody in this county will die. I know you guys don't take that seriously, but we have enough chemicals out here so that if these tanks break, it's gonna set off a cloud that will kill everybody in this county. We in North Richmond are gonna go first, but the rest of you-all are gonna follow us. So, we're trying to stop these chemical companies from coming to North Richmond and building. Every company wants to come and build another chemical plant. We're saying that we've got too many out here now. They refuse to hear our words... My two years of chemistry and working as a hazardous waste supervisor — it just blew my mind that something like this could happen and they won't acknowledge the seriousness of it.”

Henry Clark concluded: “It was very good to look around and see people who responded to the call to come to General Chemical today. We don't like them coming to our community lying, pretending that they're concerned about us.”

Clark then acknowledged his sister and nephew, visiting from Birmingham, Alabama. “As you see, north Richmond is on the front line of this toxic assault. We are bombarded with deadly chemicals on a daily basis. General Chemical, Chevron and these other companies come before us and try to pretend that they're good neighbors. They tell us 'It was an accident.' Well, the reality of the situation is, brothers and sisters, that even if General Chemical Company never had that disaster on July the twenty-sixth, they still wouldn't be a good neighbor. Will a good neighbor poison you? Let's make no mistake about it brothers and sisters.

“That's not what the West County Toxic Coalition is about. We love ourselves and our family and our community and our children. We must take a stand to protect our lives from these companies. We are bombarded by hundreds of thousands of pounds yearly, emitted into our communities, deadly chemicals. Fifty thousand pounds of methylene chloride, a known carcinogen. Over 70,000 pounds of benzene, toluene and xylene and some chemicals we haven't even heard of, but it really doesn't make a difference whether we've heard of the name or not, because the equation equals suffering and death in the final end. This is what we're bombarded with on a daily basis, brothers and sisters. We should have no illusions about it.”

He started rasping towards the end. “It's no different in the white community, the black community, the Latino community. We all have leadership — from the politicians to the ministers to the community leaders — that would sell us down the drain for a green dollar. We know that. We know that's a fact. But the reality is, we have to take a stand and fight back, because our lives are at stake. This isn't some kind of play or some kind of joke. This is life and death. We have to get organized, brothers and sisters, before we have a Bhopal type of disaster that killed thousands of people, and people are still dying from it today and still suffering. We have chemicals stored here, in and around Richmond, that are more deadly than that methyl isocyanate gas that was released in Bhopal, India. We have to take a stand and fight back. It's gonna require a lot of meetings. Unfortunately, that's the way the system is...”

As the rally broke up, a kid had an asthma attack. His mother — the woman who wanted a place in Black Hawk — cradled him and fumbled for his respirator.


Notes From the City by Fred Gardner, August 25, 1993

Reforming Richmond: Michael Leedie's Perspective

Michael Leedie, the man who passed the bullhorn around at the Aug. 14 rally outside the gates of General Chemical in North Richmond, was wearing two hats (as the saying goes). He was there as a member of the West County Toxics Coalition — a group of Richmond-area residents trying to protect themselves from the dangers posed by the oil and chemical companies — and Citizens for a Better Environment, a statewide reform organization that employs him full-time. Leedie is a soft-spoken man who looks younger than 46. Originally from a borough of New York City called The Bronx, he moved to the Bay Area in 1970. A few days after the rally outside General Chemical he was testifying before the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors about the toxics build-up in Richmond — and discussing the situation with the AVA.

AVA: What happens now?

Michael Leedie: We're trying to get the Board of Supervisors to immediately order worst-case scenarios for all the accident models in their prevention plan. We're also asking them to beef up the RMPP (risk management prevention plan) staff. We think there should be at least equal focus on prevention as on emergency response. They only have three contract engineers for the whole county, whereas they have eight people on their emergency response team.

AVA: Who would pay for beefing up the staff?

ML: The County would do a staff report, but the industries would pay. It's a fee-operated program.

AVA: The hiring of more planners doesn't sound like it would solve the enormous problems people were discussing at the gates of General Chemical.

ML: Well, people would like to have these studies done properly. We have to have the worst-case scenarios published in order to reduce the hazards. We want to keep them focused on the right thing: prevention. With worst-case scenarios, we can begin to mitigate the hazards to the county.

AVA: Who's on the Board of Supervisors? What's the breakdown politically?

ML: Today we've got Sonny McPeak, Tom Torkelson, Tom Powers — I don't know all the people involved. It's my first time out here. Basically I can tell you it's a pretty conservative group.

AVA: Do you feel you have an ally on the Board, or a likely ally?

ML: Basically they're about the same. They talk a good game but they do very little for areas like North Richmond. At today's meeting Tom Powers is claiming that he spearheaded the Municipal Advisory Council idea — where they have basically a powerless council under the auspices of the county that's supposed to be directing activities. It remains to be seen how that's going to work. Actually, it was the North Richmond community that called for a Municipal Advisory Council — and they didn't have a powerless one in mind.

AVA: How much does the county get from the oil and chemical companies in taxes? They occupy enormous tracts. You'd think Contra Costa County would have an enormous tax base — and so would the city of Richmond.

ML: I'm just beginning to look into the arrangements. I know that Chevron, alone, pays a third of the tax base of Richmond. And they [the local politicians] use that a lot to say, “Well, we don't want to put any more regulatory restrictions on the company because then they'll move out and we won't have this tax base. But the question that has to be raised is: When people in North Richmond — or other areas where people are on General Assistance — are forced to the hospital because of these spills, who's going to absorb those costs? Even if they are contributing to the tax base, the external cost from these spills — when people go to public hospitals to get treated — all get absorbed by the taxpayers.

AVA: Is there a realistic possibility of these companies moving out? Don't the refineries have to be on the bay to get the oil they're going to turn into gasoline?

ML: It's not just shipping — they also use the water for their cooling processes. And we should keep in mind that refineries sitting inland would be even more dangerous, because the air isn't moving as much.

AVA: The Richmond flatlands are incredible. I had no idea how lush the soil was. People had corn growing in their yards 15 feet high. And I noticed a few acres of greenhouses adjacent to a Chevron plant. Is that where they test Ortho products?

ML: I think it's mostly private flower growers. Nurseries like Color Spot are there because of the microclimate. That area used to be called “the lettuce patch.” People used to grow vegetables out there, it was a regional farmers market. It's beautiful soil — alleuvial plain soil, mix it with some compost and you've got some real dynamite stuff. That's why they called it the lettuce patch. All you have to do is just put a seed in the ground and the lettuce would pop up. And if the region starts to get a little depleted you can just go down and get some horse manure from the local stables...

AVA: Do you ever think about how we could reorganize the society so we're not so dependent on petrochemicals? It's such a big job that if you ask it straight, it seems overwhelming. But if you only talk about getting remunerated after the spills, or getting a warning siren installed, you sound like the kind of reformer who thinks the system is salvageable. As Henry Clark said at the rally, North Richmond is under assault — you're closest but all of us are under assault — and it's not just from the big dramatic spills, it's from the day-in, day-out emission into the air of these molecules, and their destructive byproducts and end-products. The whole system is destructive to life.

ML: I'm certainly in favor of a sustainable society. That's something that I try to practice as much as a I can in my personal life. But people in a community like Richmond have to be realistic about what we can do. Just look at the way meetings are held. They're held during business hours at locations that are remote from the community. Most of the people there are wearing suits. Those are the people who make the decisions on behalf of working people. Before that kind of paradigm changes, working people — and professional people too — are busy making a living. It's hard for them to address these concerns as well as meet their survival needs.

AVA: How do you meet your survival needs?

ML: I work at Citizens for a Better Environment as a researcher.

AVA: What is Citizens for a Better Environment?

ML: It's a statewide group. We have almost 20,000 members, mostly middle-class white professionals interested in a wide range of environmental issues such as urban pollution and changing to a sustainable lifestyle.

AVA: Doesn't that point you in revolutionary directions?

ML: Oh, sure. But the first thing we have to do is protect the community. One of the most important things we've tried to stress is that we want the government and the companies to identify ways where they can reduce or eliminate these hazardous materials, these dangerous materials, these materials that break the ecological cycle. But our concern starts with the most dangerous materials and stopping the exposure of the community. And then we can start working on some of these more important longterm issues. And they are long-term. Working people have to be able to address these issues in a regular and more effective way — which means a lot of education, and that takes resources. Community groups and grassroots groups don't have the resources of government agencies and large corporations which have big budgets and can do TV commercials and the like. You get somebody like Pete Wilson who can put an ad in the New York Times — did you see that fascist material he put out around immigration? That's what we have to combat.

AVA: So where's the party? Where's our party, Mike?

ML: (laughs) I don't know... People get nervous about that sort of talk. I'm just trying to do some basic stuff. I'm concerned that just everyday Americans haven't exercised all of their important rights. Their rights to speech, their right to know.

AVA: Laura Nader was saying that in an interview in the Examiner. She said that people have shut up.

ML: Just in terms of the black community alone, in the '60s people were talking about revolution. But if we just exercised all the basic, minuscule opportunities that we had... I feel it's important to exercise every opportunity before you start talking about that.

AVA: I think it's actually the other way around. People are much more likely to support a serious revolutionary party — once they think it has a realistic chance of winning — than join the fight for a warning siren and a worst-case scenario. And lest you get nervous, Mike, when I say “revolution,” of course I mean a democratic one, in which we have such an overwhelming and impressive majority that the crowd in power finally yields. “We have the sides,” as we used to say in New York.

ML: But it's one of these jobs that have to be done day-by-day. One of the things I tried to bring up at the march is that the demonstration itself wasn't important. What's important is what happens on a daily basis. That's what I call “the tortoise approach.” You've got to be steady, you've got to hang in there, you've got to be patient.

AVA: Who's in the West County Toxics Coalition?

ML: We have about a thousand members in the greater Richmond area, primarily in San Pablo and Richmond. We primarily represent low income people of color in the Richmond area — Laotian, African-American, Latino, poor whites. We have allies in other communities in the Bay Area and we're allied with environmental groups like Greenpeace, CBE... The board is trying to focus on prevention, real reductions in emissions, and trying to work at some point on sustainable jobs and living conditions. Henry Clark is the executive director. He's been a spearhead for the organization for many years, for a long time on his own, a lone voice in the wind. People finally may be listening to him now. The industries and the government have tried to isolate us for years. They've always tried to make us look like the odd man out. But I think we're starting to prevail now.

AVA: How long have you been living in Richmond?

ML: I've been there about 13 years now. I live about a mile away from the General Chemical plant.

AVA: Were you at home the morning of July 26th?

ML: Fortunately, I was on my way to work. And I found out about the spill when I got there. A boy across the street from me was injured — his asthma's flared up as a result — and other people I know were affected.

AVA: Who was the terrific woman named Michelle Jackson?

ML: She's the executive director of the North Richmond Neighborhood House. She's been very outspoken and on-target in representing the community's concerns.

AVA: I know this seems too pat, but it seemed as if all the black people from Richmond who spoke were passionate revolutionaries — without a party or a program, but real serious — while the white folks from the environmental groups were all reformers calling for more planning, improved technology...

ML: I've been to different political discussions, heard different speakers — particularly intellectuals — talk about changing society. I'm intellectual, too, but intellectuals have a tendency to talk in very broad, esoteric terms. The concept of changing society is the same as changing a community. My example of Cesar Chavez and his disciples applies anywhere. You do it people by people. You talk to one person, you talk to another person. There are a few people who are very outspoken, who are dynamic and are able to impress large numbers of people with a speech. But the hard work involves a commitment to everyday struggle: speaking to people, being patient, listening to what their concerns are, working with them, helping them build up their confidence, helping them to empower themselves. Not to be an icon for somebody else but to allow people to be their own icons. East Palo Alto is a good example of things that can actually be done. They've organized a farmers market on their own. They've developed community garden programs. They've got comprehensive community planning happening. They're trying to revive the utopian community of East Palo Alto that was planned years ago. It's primarily African-American, with some Vietnamese and Latinos, in coalition with a number of Caucasians in the area.

AVA: When I first moved out here in '66 I was struck by what a fabulous place East Palo Alto was — private homes with yards! — and yet and it was a ghetto. My idea of a ghetto was grinding New York tenement poverty. Harlem.

ML: Mine, too.

AVA: The day I saw East Palo Alto I realized that a ghetto could have backyards and that the riots were about something else, a complete lack of hope...

ML: That's right, it's about attitudes, how people are treated on a daily basis. It's not about the level of squalor that people live in. You catch that real quick because you've got automatic weapons everywhere now. People are very mobile nowadays. It doesn't take long for ideas to transmit through the society. But there's some very exciting things happening down there. Some of the dreams that I had, they're actually doing down there. I've been working with a people-of-color greening group, which is a network of primarily African Americans at this point who are very interested in changing communities. There are people in San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond and East Palo Alto. We've been meeting as regularly as we can. There's been a garden created at Lake Merrit, and the food is being donated to a community home — mothers with children who are trying to make some changes in their lives. We also helped them put in their garden in the back of the home.

AVA: A voice inside me always says that utopian enclaves within this vicious system are doomed. The achievement can only be “the exception that proves the rule.”

ML: It's not enclaves. It's examples of what people can do. You have to start somewhere. This thing came about from a lot of hard work and talking to people and convincing them that this is the way to go, and a lot of education, and finally people started to see what was happening and they started to work at it and it's starting to bear fruit. And other people can learn from that example. There are a lot of similarities in different communities.

AVA: What happens next in Richmond? Do you think the supervisors will demand that the companies draft worst-case scenarios? Why wouldn't they? It's in their interests and they don't have to lay out any money.

ML: My feeling is that the Board of Supervisors is insensitive to the needs of people in that area. If it were otherwise, the communities would be better cared for and the toxics problem would have been addressed more vigorously. This build-up of toxic materials is not occurring in Orinda, Walnut Creek or the other primarily white, middle-class communities. To repeat: most of the important decisions are made by suits at times and places where our community folk can't attend.

AVA: Are you familiar with the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Mike?

ML: I've heard a lot of good things about it. I know Jonathan — I forget his last name — did a couple of articles about recycling.

AVA: Jonathan Shepherd?

ML: He works with Anna Marie Stenberg.

AVA: I think they've had a falling out with the editor.

ML: Really? Oh, I think I may have heard about that. It's unfortunate. I have a lot of respect for the work they did up there. I can't imagine what the conflict would be. My style, working with people, when I facilitate meetings, first I make sure where we agree. I say “We agree on one, we agree on two, we agree on three...” Then we push that aside and say “Now this is where we disagree, now what are we gonna do about this?” That's the way you deal with those kind of things. You find out where the gaps are and you fix them. We get too opinionated and lose our grounding. It's not good for us. We have to learn how to be more patient and more understanding.

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