Saturday, April 28, 2007

Got kids? Summer programs offered at Monte Rio School

Excitement mounts in local classrooms as kids eagerly anticipate the last day of school & the beginning of summer. No school! No homework! Just long, carefree, sun-drenched days of splashing along the shores of our river & ocean inlets, toasting marshmallows late into dusk, & watching 4th of July fireworks ... Fast forward 2 weeks later when the novelty wears off & the kids get bored & start whining. & whining. & whining. There's nothing to do. There's no one to play with. Telling them that if they're so bored, then surely they have time to help with some odious household chore only goes so far.

Here's where summer day camp comes in. There are three programs available, which will all be held at the Monte Rio School:
  • West County Community Services' Monte Rio Summer Program: A new summer day camp program for children entering Kindergarten-7th grades at the Monte Rio School, which runs from July 9th-August 17th. Morning (9am-noon) & Afternoon (1-4:30pm) sessions at $50 per week each (morning session free to Monte Rio School students). For more information: Pick up an application at your local school or contact Nora Lomax 887.2226 x1006.

  • Monte Rio School Age Center's (MRSAC) interim program: for children entering Kindergarten-7th grades at the Monte Rio School, which runs from June 18th-June 30th, not including the July 4th holiday. 8:30am-5:30pm. Cost $35 per day -- sliding scale offered to qualifying families.The interim program will be a continuation of last year's summer camp program & this year's vacation camps. For more information: contact Jynx Lopez at 865.0223.

  • MRSAC's Preschool summer program: for children aged 33 months (2 years & 9 months) to 5 years at the Monte Rio School, which runs throughout the summer, beginning June 18th. $20.00 per morning session (8:30am-noon), $6.00 additional for extended care until 2:00pm & 6.00 additional for extended care until 5:00 pm (for a total of $32 for a full day). These are the same rate for the year-round preschool program. For more information: contact Jynx Lopez at 865.0223.
Costs for all of the above include meals, snacks, materials & field trips.

The folks at West County Services are excited about their new summer day camp, & several of the staff members currently work at the Guerneville School's highly-regarded after-school program. The morning sessions will take a fun, creative & hands-on approach to academic subjects like literacy, math, science, & art (in part, because funding for the morning session is geared to bringing up the Monte Rio School's test scores). The afternoon sessions emphazize more traditional summer activities, like swimming, sports, crafts & field trips.

The interim summer program will be run by MRSAC (which has been running the Monte Rio after-school & summer programs up till now) until West County Community Services takes over in July.

The summer preschool program is an extension of MRSAC's year-round program & is also a great way for prospective preschool parents to give their kids a head start for the upcoming school year. My daughter currently attends the Monte Rio Preschool, has learned a lot & has a grand ol' time. The staff are experienced, caring & wonderful. The play yard also has a fabulous new play structure.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Beware of Nibbles

But seriously, folks ... my "Nibbles for Mayor" merchandise is a joke, but the real deal (I mean, the real seal) is NOT. He's dangerous. Residents & visitors need to stay AWAY from his territory by the mouth of the Russian River in Jenner. For more information, see Paul Mc Hugh's recent articles in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Rogue elephant seal goes on rampage" & "Aggressive elephant seal menaces Sonoma beaches" (dated 4.23.2007 & 4.24.2007 respectively).

I can't BELIEVE the stupid stuff I see people do at the river's mouth & on the beach. Like allowing their children to play tag with the waves, kayaking into the harbor seal nursery, etc. What is it about sleeper waves, delicate natural habitats, & huge carnivorous marine animals do people NOT understand? Though I do have respect for those crazy surfers who know all about elephant seals & sharks & go surfing anyway (I assume they stay away from the harbor seal nursery).

We need to provide more education to our tourists. After all, our body of tourist literature does not describe the Sonoma coast as "wild" & "rugged" for nothing! I do not think visitors from places that face the Atlantic ocean -- or no ocean at all -- understand that this part of the Pacific ocean does NOT have a 400-mile continental shelf & that the water gets deep only a few feet out. Here in Northern California, the ocean is gorgeous to look at, but needs to be enjoyed from a safe distance. Inexperienced folks who want to wade, boat & swim can safely enjoy these activities at Doran Beach in Bodega Bay, on Johnson's Beach in Guerneville, or on Monte Rio Beach in Monte Rio.

As for Nibbles, I'm sad to say that he either (a) needs to be relocated to a place where he can successfully compete for a mate; or (b) needs to be "put down." Even if you're a confirmed wildlife advocate &/or misanthrope, it seems hard to disagree with this. The fact is that Nibbles the elephant seal doesn't belong in this habitat & is attacking many of those who do -- including the pregnant mothers of those adorable baby harbor seals with the big brown eyes who are so frequently portrayed in advertisements & brochures by animal rights & environmentalist organizations.

I feel sorry for Nibbles. He has been observed attempting to mate with the female harbor seals & attacking when they flee from him in terror (can't say I blame 'em, with that huge schnozz of his). He'd have better luck in Alaska, where all the other elephant seals are.

Until the Powers-That-Be figure out what to do about this situation (hopefully, they can come up with a humane solution), STAY OUT OF NIBBLES' territory until mid-summer when he supposedly migrates elsewhere.

Monday, April 16, 2007

*Sniff* They like me, they really LIKE me *sniff*


Woohoo! Zazzle.com, the Web site on which I am selling my "Nibbles for Mayor" stuff, has featured my bumper sticker on their Web site as one of "Today's Best!"

Zazzle Logo


Red Ribbon
You're in Today's Best!

Hi river_rattina,

Congratulations!

Your product, Nibbles for Mayor Bumper Sticker, has been selected as one of Today's Best on Zazzle!

This means it will appear on the Zazzle homepage for the rest of today and it will also be added to the Todays Best Awards Showcase. Keep up the great work!

Bask. Glow. The honor is yours to enjoy.

-Zazzle

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nibbles for Mayor! -- T-Shirts, Buttons, Bumper Stickers

I do sympathize with folks who have experienced the wrath of "Nibbles" our local, aggressive & rampaging adolescent elephant seal -- including the surfers, kayakers, dogs & little harbor seal pups who have been attacked by him. "Nibbles" received his nickname from one of his erstwhile victims -- a local surfer named Russell Willis.

For more information, please read Bob Norberg's article for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Nibbles outstays welcome.

Alas, my sick sense of humor has gotten the better of me. First of all, Mr. Willis' nickname, "Nibbles," totally cracks me up. I also found the challenge of creating an illustration of an elephant seal which could even be remotely appealing to be irresistable. Hence, I have illustrated & designed "Nibbles for Mayor" buttons, bumper stickers, & T-shirts & am selling them on the Internet at my new, online River Rattina store.

I asked a friend of mine who is a well-known surfer in the area but who has mellowed out (SLIGHTLY) since marrying his wife (who is also a close friend of mine) & having their daughter (a close friend of our daughter's), WHY his colleagues continue to surf at the mouth of the Russian River when they've known about Nibble's existence for years. He thought a moment & then replied, "These guys who are really into surfing ... if they get bitten by a shark & it isn't that bad, they'll go back."

I suppose this is more common than most of us would suspect. Royce Fraley -- another surfing cohort of my friend who also happens to be a close-by neighbor with a wife & kids -- was recently attacked by a great white shark while surfing & wound up in the hospital. The related article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Surfer reflects after shark encounter, describes Fraley's love & sense of responsibility for his wife & child, & desire to be more careful for their sakes.

This article totally made my heart melt, because I realized that there is also an underlying subtext: Mr. Fraley must love his family an awful lot if he is willing to consider the possibility of preserving his own life for the sake of maintaining the quality of theirs, even as the urgently reckless & insistent desire & need to master the waves -- regardless of the risks to his own mortality -- must surely continue beckoning him like an irresistible siren song to this very day. How long can he resist this ever-beckoning addiction?

And why IS Nibbles here & why has he come here from March-July or so for every year for 5 years? There's no elephant seal colony around here. Our eco-system is not set up for aggressive elephant seals. He considers this area to be his territory & defends it aggressively. Some folks theorize that Nibbles -- who is still an adolescent male & small compared to the adult males of his species -- cannot compete successfully for food & mates in a seal colony of his own kind & has hence wound up here as the local bully. Perhaps we can find him a mate & a new location & we'll all be happy.

But maybe not. Perhaps it's not so simple. A friend of mine told me about some radio talk show she listened to in which a Marine Biologist talked about studies on how deposits of neurotoxins in the ocean have disrupted life for marine mammals & caused them to become uncharacteristically aggressive, to abandon &/or eat their babies, etc.

Which makes me wonder ... how far are WE from abandoning or eating OUR young?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Nibbles" the rogue elephant seal: the Russian River's new mascot

He's huge, weighs 2,000 pounds, moves across water & land with supernatural speed, & eagerly bites tourists, surfers, kayaks & dogs on an indiscriminately egalitarian basis. Perhaps this elephant seal -- who has been lurking around the mouth of the Russian River for the past five years & has been nicknamed "Nibbles" by a local surfer who was one of his victims -- should be officially proclaimed as the official mascot of the Western shores of the Russian River.

For more information on this rogue seal, please read Bob Norberg's article in yesterday's issue of the Press Democrat.

Sure, Nibbles attacks cute little harbor seal pups, local dogs, experienced surfers & stupid tourists with a cheerful disregard for conventional just war theory. We would need to hire a skillful public relations firm in order to rehabilitate his abysmal public approval ratings. Perhaps we could also raise funds for a bit of plastic surgery for Nibble's large & distinctively unattractive schnozz. Or, we could take pages from Barbra Streisand's & Jimmy Durante's books & celebrate Nibble's proboscis until it becomes a cultural icon in & of itself.

But seriously, I strongly believe that NObody would mess with us if we had Nibbles, the Maverick Elephant Seal on our side. Would the Powers-that-Be even DARE continue allowing Santa Rosa to dump its treated sewage into our river if we brought Nibbles to the committee meetings? No WAY! The mere sight of our beloved Mascot -- draped in jewels & silks, with His immense folds of blubber overflowing the flat-bed truck in which we have transported Him, complete with a full suite of exotically- & richly-clothed servants exclusively employed for the purpose of cooling Him with ostrich & peacock plumes, spritzing Him with spring-fed mineral water from Calistoga, & hand-feeding Him with choice bits of wild-caught fresh salmon -- would be enough to make our County overlords cower & genuflect before Him & make numerous concessions which would be desirous to residents of the Russian River.

If we River Rats & Rattinas desire public restrooms in our parks, cessation of sewage dumping into our River, housing for the homeless, & various other amenities, the County will grant Us our wishes or suffer the Consequences. For they all know that Nibbles is capricious & always hungry for blood sacrifices. The dog merely served as a light appetizer, & now the rich, white flesh of County Officials is within easy & tempting reach ... ONLY the discreet interventions of our local "Seal Whisperer" can avert the carnage ... IF the Seal Whisperer chooses to do so.

Mwah hah hah ...

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Rio Theater proclaimed "Splendid" by Via Magazine

Congratulations to the folks who run the local Rio Theater. Apparently, we River Rats & Rattinas not the only people who adore this friendly & wonderful little movie theater, which operates out of a quonset hut decorated with paintings of the Russian River & has the yummiest concession stand EVER (gourmet hot dogs from Don's Dogs, Boca burgers, pizza, popcorn with real butter, coffee, beer, wine, & a selection of teas, in addition to the usual sugary & carb-laden movie fare).

Josh Dale, who runs the Monte Rio Information Web site (a guide to businesses, events, local agencies, etc. in the charming Russian River town of Monte Rio) has just informed me that Via Magazine (AAA's monthly magazine) gave the Rio Theater a nice write-up about unique & cool movie theaters in the Western U.S., entitled Splendid Movie Theaters, in their March 2007 issue!

I am proud to have the Rio included in this pantheon of great historic movie theaters. Way to go!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

LAST CHANCE! We need YOUR ideas for RRROC's Strategic Plan.

Seriously. THE DEADLINE IS APRIL 8th! That's THIS SUNDAY! Go to www.RussianRiverPlan.com, download the form (it's a Microsoft Word document), fill it in & email it to psainc.cox.net ASAP. If you don't have MS Word or an Internet connection, have a friend print it out for you & snail mail it to the address on the form. I'll explain what's going on & how to fill in the form in the following text (I do find the language employed to be rather peculiar ... particularly their stated "Submittal deadline").

Oooh, those sneaky little devils at RRROC ... I was unable to attend the latest round of "Community Visioning" events or the last RRROC meeting due to scheduling conflicts. Then I perused the RRROC meeting agenda which was posted on the bulletin board by my post office a few days ago & noticed that the agenda looked suspiciously short & that the information seemed rather vague, even by RRROC meeting agenda standards.

So I started asking around & eagerly tore open my copy of the Russian River Monthly, which arrived in my mailbox only YESTERDAY, & discovered that RRROC will be voting on the FINAL VERSION of the Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan document will define the goals & vision we have for our community & hence how future RRROC funds will be prioritized & spent for infrastructure & development. Basically, we're talking about THE ENTIRE FUTURE OF OUR COMMUNITY!

Luckily, RRROC & CDC are still seeking input from us River Rats & Rattinas. At least until THIS SUNDAY.

If you have any desire for ideas & suggestions for community improvements, NOW is your chance to be heard. So go ahead & ask RRROC to fund causes near & dear to your heart, like: environmental preservation; housing for the homeless; speed-bumps & sidewalks on your street; upgrades & repairs for your neighborhood park & playground; funds for spiffing up storefronts (fresh coats of paint & touch ups for dilapidated signs) so our downtowns look more attractive; community gardens; financial incentives for home/business improvements that promote ecologically sustainable living; a community center with a pool & activities for youth & the elderly; etc.

The language on the form is rather odd. It lists a series of community goals (gathered from the visioning sessions) -- like "Public Health & Safety" & "Social Issues" -- but rather intimidatingly refers to them as "Key Result Areas." Don't worry about that. Just scan the form & write ideas down for any items that resonate with you, provide your name & phone number &/or email address at the bottom of the form & send it back.

You may wonder why you're sending your form to people in "Fountain Hills, Arizona." RRROC & CDC have hired a consulting firm which specializes in redevelopment & community planning. They do a good job, but they're not the ones in charge.

I am excited about most of the projects that RRROC has chosen to fund, & I am grateful for all of the committee members' hard work (& also the diligence of the folks from the CDC). Yet I also feel that it is too early to vote on a final version of the Strategic Plan document. RRROC has employed absolutely ZERO publicity for the RussianRiverPlan.com Web site, the existence of the community input form, & the April 8th deadline for, um, "submittals."

RRROC Chairman Dan Fein is a nice, intelligent, well-spoken & highly competent gentleman who cares about the community & REALLY wants to get things done. Alas, the poor guy seems to have little patience for the creeping, banana slug-like rate of progress which is inherent to incrementally building community consensus & support. I can't blame him, because it would drive ME totally crazy too.

Yet, Mr. Fein needs to know that he has alienated a substantial segment of folks who live & work along the Russian River & has ticked them off to the point where they repeatedly & vehemently mutter their suspicions & invectives for even the most seemingly innocent & worthy RRROC-funded projects. These people think that Mr. Fein wants to squelch public input & ram projects through that will attract tourists at the expense of local needs. I feel that this is only partially true (since attracting tourism WILL give us the wherewithal to meet local needs & also because tourists & locals often appreciate the exact same stuff), but I can easily understand why people see him this way.

Mr. Fein, I advise you to spend time with us River Rats & Rattinas & give us some warm fuzzies. When your friend Mike Reilly, the County Supervisor retires or moves on & you seek election for his job, you'll definitely want our votes.

Letter to RRROC re: Our Parks & Recreation Facilities

Boris Sztorch, CDC Redevelopment Manager
Kathleen Kane, CDC Executive Director
Dan Fein, Chairman of the RRROC
Community Development Commission
1440 Guerneville Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

April 2. 2007

RE: Our Park & Recreation Facilities: Drake Park, Monte Rio Park, & … Rio Nido Pool?

Dear Mr. Storch, Ms. Kane & Mr. Fein:

I’m excited about RRROC’s support for the two new park projects (Guerneville River Park & the Riverkeeper’s Park), but I also strongly urge the CDC & RRROC to fund improvements to our existing facilities. Although many parks & recreation areas are richly deserving of updates, my letter focuses on the ones that are most familiar to me:

· Drake Park in Guerneville: This facility boasts a playground, nice landscaping (with many flowers & wisteria vines climbing over the chain link fences) 2 tennis courts, 1 basketball court, & a parking lot. Many local visitors & tourists visit this park throughout the year. But they do not stay long. The lack of a reliable water source (the water fountain on the playground is non-functional most of the time) & the typically overfilled & disgusting condition of the portapotty drives people away. I feel that the lack of these standard conveniences does not project a positive, friendly & caring impression of our community to locals & tourists.

· Pedestrian walkway between Drake Park & the Guerneville River Park: The two facilities should be connected with a pedestrian walkway so people can walk safely back & forth. Try walking with a bunch of little kids from Drake to the River Park for exploring or potty breaks & you’ll see how dangerous the current situation really is. The relatively simple & inexpensive additions of a walkway, water source, & bathroom would also transform the separate but adjacent facilities into a larger recreation area that would appeal to locals & visitors alike. A critical mass of people using the parks would also create opportunities for enterprising local businesses & individuals (i.e. an ice-cream truck, taco cart, etc.) & generate revenue for the county (licensing fees + sales tax).

· Monte Rio Park: This facility has a playground & tennis courts, but nobody ever goes there because the wood-shavings which serve as ground cover are infested with mold. The park should also have a public restroom & reliable source of fresh water. Since Monte Rio is home to many families with young children & is also a major tourist destination, their park deserves an upgrade. I have never been to this park, but have heard about it from friends who live in Monte Rio.

· Rio Nido Pool: The pool, restaurant & bar in Rio Nido would be ideal for a community center or even a privately-run, for-profit business that receives RRROC funding for upgrades in exchange for public access (like the River Keepers Park). The property is currently for sale, but it is not on the Multiple Listings Service (MLS) because Dee & Midge want to sell to someone who will continue its tradition as a family-oriented facility that is open to the local public (i.e. not another high-end spa). It’s a wonderful facility & boasts a pool, video arcade, snack bar, bar/restaurant, enclosed patio, spacious lawn, & small stage for entertainment. If we enclosed & heated the pool, we could use it year-round. The restaurant, liquor & entertainment licenses could even enable the facility to be profitable – especially if the cafĂ© were open year-round & also served tea & coffee during the day. Additional revenues could also be generated by renting out the facility for parties & private gatherings.

I also vehemently object to the fact that whenever anyone suggests anything to do with a public restroom, officials conjure up the grim & grungy specter of what we delicately refer to as “maintenance issues.” Why should provision for the needs of our predominantly lawful & considerate community be overridden by the obnoxious & disgusting habits of a few vandals & careless slobs. This is grossly unfair. Especially since solutions to “maintenance issues” have barely even been discussed.

I can think of several solutions to these issues right off the top of my head:

  • Have the sheriffs & CHPs drive by the parks frequently over the course of their rounds. Not once have I ever seen a police car cruising by Drake Park.
  • Create volunteer “neighborhood watch” committees to patrol local parks, pick up litter, & report incidents.
  • Install special, heavy-duty phones in the park that can ONLY connect to the Sheriff’s office so park-goers can discretely report incidents in progress.
  • Post signs stating the (hopefully hefty) fines for vandalizing & abusing public facilities in prominent locations.
  • Use building materials that enable restrooms to be easily & quickly hosed down.
  • Consider distributing tokens (either free or for a nominal fee) at various locations away from the bathroom for bathroom access to discourage random abuse.
  • Have a bidet instead of toilet paper & an electric hand-drier instead of paper towels so we don’t wind up with disgusting trails & wads of paper products around the bathroom.
  • Provide plenty of garbage & recycling cans that have those funnel-like openings that make it easy to drop trash in & hard to take trash out. The people who dump out the trashcans are probably looking for bottles that they can return for the deposits.
  • Hold monthly volunteer clean-up days.
  • Charge the $10 per parcel special assessment for park maintenance that was mentioned in a previous meeting (though my skimpy wallet is already screeching, “OUCH!”).

Thank you for your time & consideration.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Letter to RRROC & CDC regarding the RRROC Web Site


Below, please find a letter I wrote to officials in regards to the RRROC Web site, & how it might be revamped with an emphasis towards actually providing information. The letter which I printed out & posted via "snail mail" includes "Before" & "After" pictures of the RRROC Web site, which are frequently referred to throughout the text of the letter printed below. Alas, the platform afforded to me by the kind folks at BlogSpot.com (now owned by Google.com) has limitations in regards to the placement & layout of images. I hence provide a screen shot image of my "new & improved" RRROC Web site, & invite my readers (both of them) to compare it with the current RRROC Web site located on the Sonoma County's Community Redevelopment Commission's Web site at: http://www.sonoma-county.org/cdc/RrrocMain.htm

Above, please see an image of my proposed New & Improved RRROC Web Site. To view a larger version of the image, please click on it. You can return to this page by clicking on your browser's BACK button (UGH! Anathema!). The text of my letter will follow.

Boris Sztorch, CDC Redevelopment Manager
Kathleen Kane, CDC Executive Director
Dan Fein, Chairman of the RRROC
Community Development Commission
1440 Guerneville Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

March 21, 2007

RE: Proposed RRROC Web Site Enhancements

Dear Mr. Sztorch, Ms. Kane, & Mr. Fein:

I regret being unable to attend the March 15th RRROC meeting during which a discussion of “Web site enhancements” took place. As a graphic designer & information architect, this agenda item is of great interest to me. The RRROC Web site holds great potential as a powerful & potentially money-saving communications tool for providing information to the community; promoting the accomplishments of the RRROC & Community Development Commission (CDC); & getting people involved in the process.

Alas, the current site – although well-intended & full of information – is difficult to navigate & also looks cluttered & uninviting. I believe that the RRROC Web site is more in need of some re-organization & clarity (both visual & editorial) than it is of a major redesign, technical bells & whistles, or any other “enhancements.” I have reviewed the RRROC Web site & made a list of suggestions for improvements. I have also provided a sample re-design with “Before” & “After” pictures (please see Figure 1. BEFORE: The current RRROC Web Site & Figure 2. AFTER: A “new & improved” RRROC Web Site.). In the following pages, please find my feedback. I hope you find it constructive & useful.

I do understand that the RRROC Web site is maintained by the County as part of the CDC Web site, & have tailored my input accordingly. My sample re-design preserves the Sonoma County Web site’s color schemes & typography, & allows flexibility for the RRROC Web site to be navigated as both a frame within the CDC Web site (as it is now) or as a stand-alone entity. My suggestions also take into account the technological standards & capabilities of the Sonoma County Web site.

This is also to let you know that although I will not be able to attend the next couple of meetings, due to a scheduling conflict, I would be happy to meet with folks from RRROC, the CDC & the people responsible for maintaining the Web site to lend a hand. Please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your time & consideration.

Sincerely,

Russian River Rattina (Suggestions for RRROC Web site continues on following pages).

-----------------------------------------------------------

BEFORE: Feedback on the Current RRROC Web Site

The current RRROC site (shown in the image above) exists as a “sub-site” of the Community Development Commission’s (CDC) Web site. Its individual pages reside within a set of “frames” (the green navigation bar on the left & the beige-colored CDC site page header on the top) from the CDC Web site. The RRROC pages have no cohesiveness or navigation of their own – only a semi-coherent list of links. When you click on the links, you can’t get back to the main page except by clicking your Web browser’s BACK button. When you click on links like “About Us,” & “Mission Statement,” & “Contact Us,” you are taken to CDC pages, not pages with directly relevant RRROC information.

The structure of this site makes it difficult to easily distribute RRROC-specific information & electronic files (audio- & PDF-formatted meeting transcripts, for example) even though these files do currently exist in digital format. Snail-mailing meeting packets & audio CD’s every month seems unnecessarily expensive, labor-intensive & inefficient for all involved.

Proposed “New & Improved” RRROC Web Site

The RRROC “home” page (which I have titled “Overview”) should immediately communicate RRROC’s purpose & what information visitors can expect to find on the Web site, as shown in the image above. To facilitate navigation, each page should contain the following elements:

  • Title Bar: The text in the title bar (the white letters in the narrow blue field on the top of your Web browser) can tell visitors where they are on the Web site, as shown in the image above. Abbreviations should be used so that all of the relevant information fits on the title bar. Full organization names can appear after the main title bar text to fulfill whatever legal requirements may exist.
  • Navigation Bar: Two rows of text links at the top & bottom of each page for each section of the site. The link to the current section should appear in a different color from the other links & a bold typeface so visitors know that this is the current page.
  • Page Header: The page header – or name of the Web site – should appear below the navigation bar on each page in a different color from the rest of the text & links for consistency.
  • Page Title/Headline: The page title/headline should appear below the page’s default navigation elements (title bar, navigation bar, page header) & should correspond to the appropriate navigation bar item (for example, the “Overview” link goes to the “Overview” page & the title/headline is “Overview,” as shown in the image above).
  • Headlines, paragraphs, & bulleted or numbered lists: For visual & editorial clarity, the content on each page should be grouped into headlines followed by explanatory paragraphs & (when applicable) bulleted or numbered lists of additional items.

I propose that the navigation bar contain the following items, which would point visitors to the following corresponding pages (this also provides a brief outline of how the site could be organized & what information it would contain):

  • Overview: This would be the main RRROC Web page. It should begin with a brief summary of the redevelopment process & RRROC’s mission; provide links to the Mission & Resolution documents (um, what is the purpose of the ancient 2005 Election document?); & announce the next RRROC meeting (with the obligatory text about everyone being invited & postings of the agenda). The Overview page can also provide a bulleted list that summarizes content on the site.
  • Our Vision: An overview of the redevelopment & planning process with links to the Draft Design Guidelines document & Strategic Plan Web site (Why isn’t the Strategic Plan Web site part of the RRROC Web site?).
  • Calendar: A list of upcoming Committee, Subcommittee, & visioning meetings with (hopefully) links to PDF files of the relevant meeting agendas & other documents. It may also helpful to include other community meetings that are related to redevelopment issues, like the Water Board, Parks & Rec., etc.
  • News: Updates & status reports for RRROC-funded projects so we can see how things are progressing. Images & PDF files of photographs, architectural plans, etc. would also be nice. The black & white photocopies distributed at meetings often do not do justice to the proposals & other documents they represent (& I do know that providing color hard-copies would be too expensive).
  • Members & Subcommittees: A list of members & subcommittees with brief member biographies & summaries of the purpose & accomplishments of each subcommittee & ad-hoc subcommittee would make things a lot less confusing for many of us. An explanation of why members are elected to represent the three categories of home owners, tenants, & businesses could also be enlightening.
  • Past Meetings: Links to files with complete MP3-formatted audio recordings (tracked by agenda item) & PDF-formatted complete transcripts, along with the currently-offered PDF-formatted Meeting Minutes.
  • Community Links: A list of links to community organization Web sites (or contact information for those that do not have Web sites) – particularly ones that have received or are in the process of applying for RRROC funding – with descriptions of the organizations & their projects. This would be a good place for Sonoma County Parks & Recreation, River Keepers, Monte Rio Parks & Rec, KGGV, the Guild, Eco Ring, the Monte Rio Sewer District, etc.
  • Participate!: Encourage members of the community to participate & tell them how they can participate (attend meetings, volunteer for clean-ups & the like, write or email letters, submit project proposals for grants, etc.). Refer visitors to the appropriate resources – mainly the Calendar, Community Links, Contact Us & Committees & Subcommittees page. Provide PDF files & MS-Word-formatted templates for submitting proposals. Tell individuals seeking mini-grants or redevelopment loans how to apply. Explain how the process works.
  • Contact Us: A complete list of CDC & RRROC members with contact information (including email addresses) & explanations of who visitors should contact for what.

Making electronic versions of meeting transcripts & audio recordings available online is of particular importance. Many people (like myself) often cannot attend meetings due to work, academic, & care-taking responsibilities. I would also like to see the audio recordings organized into “tracks” with titles (like commercially-produced music CD’s) for each meeting agenda item, so people can listen to discussions which are of particular interest to them.

I also strongly believe that the meeting minutes should include summaries of what citizens say during Public Comments periods – not just a list of their names. RRROC & CDC used to include this information back in the Meeting Minutes from 2005 … why did you discontinue this practice? Omitting the substance of public comments from the public record (& the Meeting Minutes are currently the only easily-accessible public record which exists) is a possible violation of the Brown Act, which guarantees the public’s right to speak (&, I assume, be heard by more than the handful of folks who actually attend meetings). Perhaps electronic file distribution can address this issue in a cost-effective manner.

Cc: Vicky Stacksteder