Friday, January 26, 2007

My Guerneville River Park wish list

In my previous posting, I enthusiastically praise what Parks & Rec has done with the new Guerneville River Park. However, I do have reservations concerning future plans for the rest of Phase I, along with Phases II & III.

Here is my personal wish list for the Guerneville River Park going forward:
  1. A floating outdoor stage: If the outdoor stage area is built according to the plans submitted by Parks & Rec to the RRROC, I'm worried that it'll look like a concrete monstrosity (le Corbusier meets Home Despot). Parks & Rec recommends using concrete & stainless steel to protect against flooding. But perhaps we would have more aesthetically-pleasing options if the outdoor stage could float. This may sound crazy, but entire neighborhoods of amphibious houses that can float in case of flooding are being built in the Netherlands (which is notoriously below sea-level).
  2. More natural materials in the landscaping: I understand that we need to use concrete & steel for the bathroom, picnic tables, paths, etc. But can't we soften the potentially forbidding effect through judicious use of natural materials for the borders, low concrete walls, etc? For example, a wood border around the concrete pads for the picnic tables (& perhaps some hardy ground-cover plants within the bordered area) would look nice.
  3. And more landscaping in general: Perhaps the RRROC can provide funding for hiring a local landscaping contractor who's creative, knowledgeable about hardy plants that thrive in our little microclimate, experienced in both hardscaping & softscaping, & who understands maintenance & construction issues. Jaimie Hart, please send RRROC a proposal ASAP!!!!
  4. Public Art: I think it's important for our new park to showcase the unique natural beauty & creative talents of our community, instead of just looking like any old park. We could have sculptures by local artists like Karen Ryer of the Withywindle Gallery in Guerneville or whoever makes those wonderful found-art sculptures of people & animals like the guy with the red, light-up nose on River Road. A few redwood burl benches by local craftspeople, enclosed in arbors designed by local gardeners/landscapers would look wonderful. We could also commission a mural for the outdoor stage area. Perhaps a local arts organization could request funding from the RRROC for commissioning these public works & artists could then submit applications.
  5. A pedestrian/bike path connecting the playground, basketball court & tennis courts at Drake Park to the River Park: This seems like it would be a no-brainer, since connecting the two parks would create a unified recreation area & keep our children from getting run over by cars.
  6. Regular maintenance for ALL of our parks: I hate to think of what our new park may look like in a few years if we don't maintain it. Alas, someone told me at the RRROC meeting that we don't have any funds for ongoing maintenance & would need to pass a ballot measure for a special assessment of $10 per parcel. I would vote for this, even though we can barely even afford to pay our current level of property taxes. (Where does all of that money go? I have this recurring image of County personnel running hundred dollar bills through the paper shredder to use as confetti for the yearly office holiday party ... no wonder the 2nd installment is due in December) Or we could organize groups of volunteers for work days. I'd be willing to volunteer -- but I ain't touching that portapotty in Drake Park. Perhaps we can create a new & prestigious-sounding position such as "Lord Chamberlain of the Drake Park Portapotty" & set aside funds for a modest weekly stipend in exchange for keeping the portapotty clean & sweet-smelling. Fat chance.
That's it for now, since I still need to plough through a whole buncha documents before I have any real sense of what will be happening in Phases II & III -- such as the "boat portage facility" & parking for boat trailers & recreational vehicles. And,what, exactly, does Parks & Rec mean by the "interpretive signs" they plan to add in Phase II? Are they related to interpretive dance?

I imagine myself standing in front of one of these "interpretive signs," gazing at the abstract symbols & frowning with puzzlement as I try to figure out what dance the creator of the sign wants me to perform. If I don't get it right, the Park Police won't allow me to proceed to the next "interpretive sign." Oh wait ... there's no money for maintenance, hence no Park Police. Whew!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Guerneville River Park: Phase I almost done

Yours truly, Russian River Rattina, takes a walk through the newly-constructed Guerneville River Park with three kids, two dads, a talented troubador with a guitar, & her camera. You can click on the picture or text link above to view my photo album with pictures I took of the park. If you don't want to leave this page, right-click on the link & select the "New Window" or "New Tab" option from the list.

I am delighted to report that even in the embryonic form of the final stages of Phase I, the park offers lan enjoyable experience with lovely views, paved trails, public restrooms, & a couple of picnic tables with barbecue grills. The Parks & Recreation department has done a good job so far, but the construction of the restroom facility cost more than the original estimates & they have requested an additional $110,000 from the RRROC to construct more group & family picnic sites (there are 2 so far) & build the ampitheater to complete the first phase of the project.

Three phases are planned for the construction of this park, to add more trails & picnic areas, landscaping, an outdoor performance space, river access, space for boats & RV's, & more. For more information, please read on ... and/or visit the Sonoma County Parks & Recreation Commission's Guerneville River Park Web page.

After looking over the plans included in the RRROC meeting packet, I do share many of the concerns expressed by the committee heads at the meeting. There does seem to be an awful lot of concrete & stainless steel involved in this project (for the seat walls, pavers, retaining walls & other landscaping features as well as the actual buildings) & these are not the most aesthetically pleasing materials in the world. To some extent, this is necessary due to flooding & maintenance issues. But it would be nice to offset all the concrete with some more natural (or natural-looking) materials.

The tale of our park excursion

A few weeks ago, a friend suggested taking our kids to the "new River Park." I responded as many folks around here might: "Um ... what new River Park." When he explained that you can get to it via the Guerneville Foot Bridge or from the extension on Drake Road (near Drake Park & under the bridge) & described it as "really nice," I shuddered in horror & uttered a bizarre, gurgling sound. After implementing the heimlich maneuver & checking my pulse, my friend kindly suggested doing something else.

My daughter's & my last exploration of the current park site (about a year ago) was not pretty & involved copious quantities of garbage & broken glass. We were taking a walk along the Guerneville Foot Bridge & the evil monkey grew increasingly curious about the steep, narrow, muddy foot-path leading towards the river. So we stumbled, slid, & clambered down. The location was lovely, verdant & peaceful. Alas, it was also utterly filthy.

"NO, honey, you may NOT take off your shoes!"

My daughter gleefully scampered about gathering "treasures" (um, garbage) into plastic bags. Apparently, my mania for picking up trash has evolved into a fun game for her. Meanwhile ... ghastly visions of my forcibly holding my daughter down to the emergency room table while nurses with latex gloves probe the gashes in her tiny feet with tweezers for shards of glass & steel & who-knows-what; administer tetanus shots with long needles; briskly stitch up her wounds, & then inform me that my daughter has not much longer to live ... run through my head over & over again like an infinite video loop.

Fast-forward to yesterday: My friend & I take the kids to the playground at Drake Park to enjoy the beautiful weather. Another friend of ours is there with his little girl, his guitar & his buddy who serenades us with some lively, tuneful country songs (including a number by Alison Krauss & a witty political song of his own composition). After an hour, the children start getting restless & we decide to walk over to the new park.

It's a bit muddy & the meadow will look kind of naked until the newly-planted trees take root, but overall, the place does look "really nice" -- just like my friend said.

Yes, the doors to the new restrooms do face directly onto the path & are locked in the open position, as John Uniak pointed out at the RRROC meeting (though one can close the doors to the individual stalls, of course). However, I asked my friends & a couple of men passing by what they thought about the new restrooms & they all gave the facility rave reviews. Of course the subjects of my informal poll were all guys who probably see anything as an improvement over peeing in the bushes ... But my daughter is extremely picky about bathrooms & we were both extremely happy about not having to use that nasty portapotty at Drake Park. However, the guys might feel differently about the privacy issue when the park is full of people ... especially if the men's room has urinals in addition to stalls (I didn't look).

The kids had a grand-old time running around the meadow & exploring, though I think their favorite feature was the huge pile of boulders underneath the bridge! Parks & Rec also planted a lovely little rosebush, but I'm worried that the poor thing might get trampled.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Raymond's Bakery Part II: Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind

I am so amazed by the number of angry responses to my previous post, that I feel obliged to take this subject up again. Apparently, I've sown the wind & am now reaping the proverbial whirlwind (roughly paraphrased from Hebrews: Hosea: 8:7). At the very least, I seem to have hit a raw nerve with some people in this community. Um .... assuming most of the folks commenting do actually live, work, or have other interests in the Russian River.

For better or worse, big changes are definitely afoot around here -- especially in the proliferation-of-children department. After years of dwindling student enrollment in many of the schools around here, a sizeable bumper-crop of babies, toddlers & preschoolers seems to sprouting up all of the sudden. The majority of people I've encountered in business & personal situations truly seem to enjoy children & spoil my almost 5-year-old daughter rotten in myriad ways despite my protests. Though of course, we are normally only out & about during the day until around 5 or 6PM & rarely encounter what I have begun to call the "child-free-zone-of-consenting-adults."

It is inevitable that this change in local demographics may not appeal to some folks who were -- in part -- attracted to this area for its bucolic quietude & orientation towards adults in recent years. The sudden abundance of crowing babies, staggering toddlers, & imperious preschoolers may prove to be a rude awakening for a lot of people. Perhaps this is why my last post has received so many flames.

I like to think that the bevy of hostile comments in response to my last post come from a bunch of isolated, freakish cranks. Alas, I cannot treat such vociferous & strongly-stated opinions in such a summarily dismissive fashion. Perhaps the flames reveal some deep, underlying fear about the future of this community on the part of some folks. I fervently want to get to the bottom of this so we can all talk things out & work together in a more constructive fashion.

Perhaps the rapidly-increasing number of families with children strikes some people as a harbinger of things to come -- which may look like Sebastopol does now. To this, I respond, "Ugh." and "Double-Ugh." If we wanted to live in Sebastopol, we would have moved to Sebastopol. Of course I would love to see sidewalks, maintenance of playgrounds, a new skateboard park so our teens & tweens have a place to hang out, & other improvements which would make the area safer & more pleasant for kids & their parents. These things would also help promote tourism since many hotels & vacation rentals are located in areas which could use these improvements.

I also freely confess to the dollar signs flashing in my eyes in response to visions of available redevelopment funds & children happily cavorting about. But I also love this place exactly the way it is. If push comes to shove, I would rather do without so-called improvements than settle for projects which do not serve us well or reflect the natural beauty & creative vibrancy of our uniquely fabulous & eclectic community.

Only here could we have a parade for the winter holidays in which the local Boy Scout troop whizzes by on jazzed-up bicycles; followed by the wildly decadent, glamorous, & transvestite Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with sparkling costumes & candy for the kiddies (please note: the Sisters raise huge amounts of funds for local charities & organizations & they also totally rock) & then followed by a spectacularly-choreographed marching band from Vertical Call -- a local church which has splintered off from the Assembly of God because they embrace what has been described to me as a more vivid, personal, & radical form of love, faith & redemption.

We are so danged lucky to have such a diverse, caring, & tolerant community. I don't want for us to become Sebastopol or Mill Valley Lite. I just want for us to continue along our creative, diverse, happy-go-lucky path & do my teensy little part in helping us find a way to work together effectively towards our common goals.

But ... back to my follow-up on my recent post on Raymond's Bakery:

Please know that I love Raymond's Bakery & adore their breads, scones, & other delectable treats. I'm grateful to them for hosting a weekly pizza night & did not mean to give the impression that I am faulting this wonderful establishment on the basis of its sheer popularity. I'm glad that they're so successful. They deserve it.

I also tried hard to see things from the perspective of the large, child-free party with the big table & empathize with them even though I did feel rather frustrated when I wrote my last piece.

But when I read "Tigress's" comment asking me whether I've ever heard of the concept of hiring a babysitter, I laughed so hard I almost keeled over. We live in a fairly remote rural area & there simply aren't many babysitters. The few trustworthy ones who exist around here are only discovered by word of mouth & are very busy.

Actually, we do sometimes hire babysitters, but -- what so many people don't seem to get is that -- sometimes parents actually WANT to go out for dinner WITH their children. In a restaurant that's fun for both adults AND children & which has good food. I mean, do you really want to live in a future populated by young adults whose parents have never taken them anywhere to eat, except for McDonald's & Chucky Cheese for their entire childhoods?

I think it's really sad that our society harbors such a high degree of hostility towards children. I know they can be noisy & obstreperous sometimes. But they're also charming, creative, loving, playful, funny & just plain fun. Without children, the world would be an awfully bleak & hopeless place. In any case, you child-free folks should feel relieved that some people still choose to have children. After all, SOMEONE's got to join the workforce 20 years from now & pay taxes to cover your social security check when you get old.

What utterly astonishes me the most is how my first "Raymond's Bakery" article has drawn several outraged comments, while my discussions about the recent RRROC meeting concerning redevelopment along the Russian River -- which involves billions of dollars collected from residents, businesses & visitors via various taxes over the years & can have immense, long-ranging effects on our community & general quality of life -- have received no response at all!

Though I also feel obliged to confess that part of me feels highly gratified to discover that people are actually reading my blog. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, guys.

Nighty noodles & sweet dreams, everyone.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Friday night out on the town: Raymond's Bakery

I heard that Raymond's Bakery in Cazadero on a Friday night is quite the happenin' thang for families with young children: They serve various types of pizza & various beverages, including beer & wine; & they have a small play area & box of toys for the kids.

So we decided to go there & also invite our friends (whose daughter plays with our daughter) for a fun night on the town. Alas, the evening turned out to be an utter disaster, through no fault of Raymond's or anyone in particular.

There was a huge party of folks (without children) whose long table was in the middle of the room & took up almost all of the space. Meanwhile, several of us families with kids had to squeeze ourselves into various smaller tables around the room, & felt self-conscious & stressed-out about controlling our kids. But it was hard because some of the parents had to sit at tables that weren't near the toy box, so the kids were all running back & forth. I think it would have been more pleasant for everyone if the families with kids could be seated near the toy box & the larger party away from it (& the kids).

I even found myself feeling somewhat angry at the large group even though I know this isn't fair. But some of them were giving the kids dirty looks & I felt like it wasn't the children's or parents' faults. Like many parents, we try to avoid taking our daughter to places where it would be hard for her to behave appropriately due to boredom, restlessness, etc.

I mean, jeeze-louise, I mean, there are tons of good restaurants around here for child-free adults, but very few places with good food that are child-friendly with toys & other kids to play with so the grown-ups can have a real conversation or eat their food. In the context of a weekly happening that I thought was targeted to families, it was disappointing that things worked out this way.

Then, I thought about the large group's situation & felt kind of sorry for the child-free folks because they had probably planned for a nice evening with pizza & wine & had no idea of why all these seemingly unruly, obnoxious kids were running back & forth. Oh, and by the way, I use the term "child-free" because the term "childless" sounds rather brutal (especially when hubby & I were "child-free" & trying to become pregnant) & doesn't adequately reflect the fact that some people do choose not to have children.

but ANYway ... the waitress -- who gave me the impression that she was fairly new to this establishment -- did an awesome job. The place was crazy-crowded, & yet she served our drinks & pizzas a tad late, but with confident, courteous, & competent aplomb. The pizza was quite tasty, with a light & crispy crust, a generous sprinkling of cheese, & fresh toppings. Alas, the tomato sauce could have benefited from a lighter & more subtly-flavored touch, but that's just my opinion.

Overall, we had a good time once things settled down & I definitely want to check this scene out again. The food was good & reasonably-priced & we enjoyed the general atmosphere. It's probably even better in the summer when folks can sit outside.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

RRROC's 60th Meeting Part II: Overview of What Was Discussed

The January 18th RRROC meeting at the Guerneville Veterans Hall started at 7pm & ended at 10pm. And -- based on several accounts from folks I talked with -- this was a SHORT meeting. I'll try to sum things up as best as I can. Please feel free to add comments & corrections, since I'm sure I've missed a lot of stuff & misinterpreted even more stuff.

  1. Call to Order: The meeting has begun officially.
  2. Roll Call: Made sure all the committee members, county representatives & presenters are present. Dan Fein, head of the Communications Ad-hoc Subcommittee was the only one absent.
  3. Minutes: Go over a summary of the previous meeting & agree that all the things discussed & decided upon were done so according to consensus & procedure.
  4. Public Comment on Non-Agenda Matters: We had a quiet meeting & sailed through this with nary a squall.
  5. Information Sharing: Likewise, we seemed to sail through this, although I admit to not understanding much of what was discussed.
  6. Correspondence: Letters from the public are discussed. A list of businesses participating in the GLBT niche marketing program from Lloyd Guccione in response to a previous request from Boris Sztorch, Redevelopment Manager; an email from Margaret Kennett, our Chamber of Commerce president requesting postponement of the Sidewalk Repair agenda item until obtaining approval for the Chamber's official statement from their legal counsel; Letter from Regional Parks requesting an additional $110K funding to complete development of the new park down by the river.
  7. Monthly Reports: Tom Lynch asked about the Wood Stove upgrade rebate program. Vicki Stacksteder, Redevelopment Associate, replied that the program has been discontinued because CDC (Community Development Committee) lawyers determined it to be out of the purview of the RRROC mandate for reasons that would require a Talmudic scholar or Mensa member to fully analyze & explain. This SUCKS, since it was an affordable, accessible program that directly benefits our air quality as well as local residents. I was present when the measure was approved & felt it was an excellent, incremental accomplishment. Boris Sztorch, CDC Redevelopment Manager also reported that they have received ADA (American Disabilities Act) clearance for proposed renovations to the the RCCS (River Child Care Services) building. Some funding comes from the county for the public part of the area, the rest will be a low-interest loan.
  8. John De Salvio's Design Guidelines Steering Committee: Still reviewing documents to avoid conflicts with permit regulations, the General Plan, etc. They're conducting a traffic study report & will finish in a few months.
  9. Housing Subcommittee (Ken Wikle): They're still working on an official report/study on the homeless in our area. Mr. Wikle seemed genuinely emotional as he explained that we have homeless working families in addition to chronic homeless & the issues are "hard & complicated" to sort through.
  10. Restrooms Subcommittee with John De Salvio: I'll attempt to paraphrase him: We're a tourist town. We need restrooms. They're still doing studies & making inquiries in regards to 3 possible locations: The Safeway parking lot, the Park & Ride lot, or under the bridge. They are waiting for a response from Cal Trans.
  11. Infrastructure Subcommittee with George Zastrow: A need to more thoroughly study & assess large projects like the renovation of the Koret Club. It's too late to review the Koret Club project since it's already well-underway, but in for future undertakings, he wants "more direction" from the RRROC.
  12. Communications Ad-Hoc Subcommittee with Dan Fein (absent): George Zastrow reported that the RRROC newsletter has been sent out & plans are underway for a Web site, but he can't say any more because Dan Fein wasn't there.
  13. Spring Clean-up Appreciation: Tom Lynch proposed issuing an award to Margaret Kennett & Scott Mitchell & even had plaques made for Dan Fein to sign, because they "Did more work than everyone" and he felt that "Their efforts were slandered" the RRROC should "stand by them" and give more awards to folks in general. Lengthy argument concerning who should receive award plaques for service to the community & whether or not to offer awards at all. John Uniak aptly pointed out that if awards are to be issued, then there needs to be an established procedure for giving recognition. He then recommended that we "pass for now." A gentleman from the audience who was also involved in the clean up commented that a LOT of people worked really hard on the clean-up & how he himself took many loads to the dump at his own expense & how people did this willingly for the community without expectations of public recognition & questioned how we would decide who should receive awards.
  14. Guerneville River Park (with a Parks & Rec representative whose name I unfortunately did not catch): Readers may have noticed that a park is being constructed under the Guerneville Foot Bridge. It currently has a rest room, some brush was cleared & that appears to be it. Parks & Rec wants $110,000 to complete the original scope of work for Phase I, including a concrete path, family picnic sites, group picnic sites & an outdoor stage area for performances. The bathroom facility cost way more than was originally estimated. Parks & Rec also distributed drawings of plans with the meeting packet. Catherine Young from the Design Guidelines Steering Committee expressed concerns about the aesthetics, because we're trying to "raise the image of the community." John DeSalvio asked whether we have studied existing parks in similar locations. John Uniak mentioned that the new restroom opens right onto the main path & provides no privacy. Parks & Rec guy replied that in regards to aesthetics (too much concrete, etc.), they're trying to accommodate potential flooding & "long-term maintenance issues "(County-speak for "there's NO money for long-term maintenance").

    During the public comment period, yours truly, River Rattina, launched into a tirade about how we're spending all this money on a new park that we can't afford to maintain, while existing local parks (Drake, Pacheco & Monte Rio) have no bathrooms (except for the porta-potty at Drake which is so utterly vile, my daughter refuses to use it), are poorly maintained, littered with trash & drug paraphernalia; & how the park in Monte Rio is unusable because the wood chip ground covering is infested with mold. I ranted on about how there are more families with young kids than folks realize -- both of the local preschools are full & Kindergym is well-attended -- & we are not being well-served. If we want to create a good impression of our community, we should have clean & well-maintained parks. After all, the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, etc.) tourists we're targeting our niche marketing efforts to often have children as well, since they're sometimes marrying & adopting in increasing numbers. Basically, I was totally rude & went WAY over the 3 minutes allocated to speakers during the public commentary period. People pointed out that this is outside the scope of the RRROC & there's no budget for maintenance. We would need to raise property taxes by $10 per parcel. I snarled, "What? In addition to the almost $7,000 in property taxes we are CURRENTLY paying?" Oy vey. I was totally rude & out of line, but what the hell, you only live once.
  15. Continuing to include correspondence (letters written by the public to the RRROC) as a line-item agenda for meetings with Tom Lynch: Tom Lynch proposed eliminating this as a standing agenda item. He pointed out that folks sometimes abuse this, it takes up a lot of administrative time & money; & it keeps more important business from being conducted. Apparently that 150 page letter from a couple months back -- which required extensive review & printing the required 20 copies for the meeting packet -- has just about done poor Mr. Lynch in! Mr. Lynch pointed out that stuff like this is why fewer people come to meetings. John Uniak advocated keeping this agenda item because RRROC is supposed to be open to public input & we shouldn't make a decision like this based on a single incident. Catherine Young pointed out that printing & distributing the letters can give the wrong impression because it looks like the RRROC is officially endorsing the opinions & information expressed in these letters. During the public comment period, I ranted about how maybe meetings are not well-attended because the RRROC does not discuss issues that are important to many of us River Rats, like speed bumps, meth heads, parks, etc. Plus some of us have kids & can't stay out till 10 or 11pm. An articulate gentleman with a civilized British (or maybe Australian?) accent followed me & gently pointed out that RRROC should figure out a way to publicize its accomplishments & get people excited again. The woman next to me -- who muttered a stream of brilliantly lacerating & hilarious commentary under her breath throughout the meeting -- took the mic & gave us a (fairly well-deserved) tongue-lashing because we need to go to more meetings & not expect instant results because that's simply not how things work.
  16. Affordable Housing : Hard to get developers. Follow Luther Burbank model?
  17. Communications: Targeting potential tourists from the LGBT communities?
As you can see, I did a slip-shod job on addressing items #16 & 17. I'm totally starting to lose it -- it's way past bed-time for this buckarina. Yikes, my eyes are glazing over. Does Sonoma County actually want us to accomplish our goals, or do they hope we'll screw up so they can take all the money back? Mwahahah. Tune in next time.

RRROC's 60th Meeting Part I: Background Info & What's the Problem?

I went to the sparsely-attended 60th meeting of the RRROC (Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee) on January 18 at the Guerneville Veterans Hall & ... once again ... discovered that not much seems to be getting accomplished. I know for sure that we cannot blame this unfortunate state of affairs on our dedicated, hard-working & highly knowledgeable -- & locally elected -- RRROC members. So what's the problem?

It is my personal & highly unqualified opinion that two main factors are to blame for the Russian River Redevelopment Project's lack of progress:

  1. Unfortunately, it is fairly typical for government & community projects to slowly surge forward at the utterly glacial pace of a herd of banana slugs stampeding through fields of molasses -- even when everyone involved pursues the same vision & seeks to cooperate with one another. Procedures must be observed or set in place; input from various sectors of the community needs to be gathered; feasibility studies must be conducted; budgets must be created; contractor bids must be sought & reviewed; unintended potential consequences are pointed out & require further study, etc.

    Alas, even the less-than-ideal scenario that I describe -- in which everyone works as a team striving to overcome the cumbersome but inevitable hurdles required by a functioning democracy in order to keep moving in the same direction -- does not seem to be happening here;

  2. I strongly suspect that the Sonoma County CDC (Community Development Commission)'s interests vastly differ from those of RRROC -- which represents River Rats & Rattinas like me, who actually live, work & do business here in the Russian River Redevelopment zone. It's only natural for the County to care about increasing our tax base via the sorts of bells & whistles that would attract tourism & higher-end development. Meanwhile, many of us River folks feel ambivalent about gentrification &/or care about more mundane stuff, like parks, speed-bumps, "crystal meth", the effects of environmental degradation, & getting the Permit Resource Management Department (PRMD) to stop red-tagging our homes for stuff we can't afford to fix -- or at least make the permit & inspection processes more transparent.

For those of you who do not know (actually, I don't know much either, but I'm trying to learn awfully fast), the CDC has hoarded a huge stash of money for re-investing local property tax dollars in the communities from whence these funds came throughout Sonoma County. The RRROC was created in July 2000 in response to local concerns (and -- according to some long-time residents I know -- local outrage) in regards to the CDC's redevelopment plans for our community.

I plan to conduct more research & interviews in regards to the Russian River Redevelopment Project & the ongoing & conflicted relationship between the CDC & RRROC. I promise to share this information with you -- my readers (do I even have any readers?) -- & will post my insights & discoveries & invite you to share in my process of digesting this information via reader-comments. In the meantime, please bear with me.

Here is what I think I know: The RRROC is composed of locally elected members who represent various interests in our community. Here, along the bucolic & mostly Caucasian banks of the Russian River, these interests are fairly simple & consist of: Property owners, business owners, & resident non-property owners.

However, the Russian River does have a fair amount of diversity compared to the rest of Sonoma County, including lots of GLBTs (gay, lesbian, etc.), a sizeable Latino population, a handful of other ethnic groups & immigrants, a significant number of homeless folks (working families who've fallen on bad luck & couch-surf &/or live out of their cars, as well as the more stereotypical characters who are considered to be mentally ill & chronically homeless by the standards of modern society), etc.

RRROC members make strong efforts to gather & represent the views of these various contingents, & serve on various committees which have been determined as important to our community via procedures which I do not yet understand -- including Affordable Housing; Strategic Planning, Infrastructure, Communications, Spring Clean-Up (in which all trash, hazardous waste, defunct vehicles, etc. are collected free of charge & with no questions asked), Elections, & even the construction of Public Restrooms (we don't have any, but most of the local businesses are extremely kind in this regard, thank Gawd).

The RRROC meetings take place on the third Thursday of every month, at 7:00pm, & the location alternates between the Veteran's Hall in Guerneville & the Koret Club in Monte Rio. Everyone is invited & encouraged to attend. The format of the meetings resembles that of panel discussions. If anyone bothers to read this, I fervently urge you to attend. It's hard to get excited when nothing seems to be getting done, but our community's future is at stake & perhaps some items on the agenda should NOT get done.

The RRROC meetings often seem boring & appear to accomplish nothing whatsoever, but we still NEED TO KEEP GOING TO THESE MEETINGS. The County -- which controls the funds provided with our property taxes -- does not necessarily hold our best interests at heart.

New "Horizons": Airline service to Santa Rosa offered by Seattle-based carrier

I was browsing the Press Democrat Web site & my eyes suddenly popped out of my head. Horizon Airlines, a carrier based out of Seattle, WA, is resuming scheduled flights at Charles Schultz Airport in Santa Rosa for the first time since United Express bailed out in October, 2001!

It's true, I swear. You can read Steve Hart's January 11, 2007 article, "Horizon cuts Sonoma County fares" for yourself. If you go to the Alaska Airlines Web site (they're Horizon's parent company), you'll find that you can book flights to many popular destinations & hub airports including New York City, Chicago, Boston, Miami, LAX, Orange County, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, Anchorage, & many locations in Mexico & Canada.I can't believe it! No more paying $20 per day at SFO & having to leave the house at 4:00am for flights.

It's kind of ironic, because I sometimes truly love being cocooned here amongst the immense redwoods. I'm not even sure whether I actually WANT to have the world at my doorstep ... it depends on my mood that day.

Nonetheless, it's only fair for us to be able to CHOOSE whether or not to pack our bags or roll out the welcome mat & expand our ... um ... horizons.