Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11.15.2007 RRROC Meeting: Of Ballot Mishaps, Pulling the Plug on Redevelopment, & No Money For Administrative Support

Thursday, 11.15.2007, Guerneville Veterans Hall – The RRROC meeting has been moved up to 6pm & I believe this is a vast improvement. Alas, I (& a couple of others) arrived late due to an event at the Guerneville School held on the same evening.

PLEASE NOTE: I just picked up the latest Russian River Times & discovered their reporter had to leave the meeting shortly before I arrived, & that this blog posting picks up where their account leaves off. So if you read the Russian River Times' article & then my blog, you'll get the whole meeting.

The following topics were discussed while some folks passionately participated & others attempted to disguise the fact that they were slowly nodding off into dreamland.

  1. RRROC elections & mishaps with sending out the ballots;
  2. Responding to Mike Reilly & the Board of Supervisors' Subcommittee's recommendation to stop redevelopment projects throughout the County & return money to the "General Fund;"
  3. No funds for hiring secretary to record RRROC & subcommittee meeting minutes. (But plenty of money -- which comes out of redevelopment funds allocated to the Russian River Project Area -- for paying hourly wages to amateurs who devote weeks to mismanaging voter registration & property tax databases with Excel spreadsheets for the purpose of managing the upcoming elections, instead of hiring someone with experience in databases & database programming.

RRROC Election Ballots Gone Awry

The item currently under discussion is the upcoming RRROC election on December 11th. Despite the hard work of John Uniak & others who serve on the Elections subcommittee, things have gone terribly wrong. For lack of a more apt -- & printable – word, let’s call it a “fustercluck.” Ballots were sent to businesses & residents based on a combination of voter registration & property tax records. Somehow, some folks received multiple ballots, while others received none. Meanwhile, others were incorrectly addressed & were hence returned.

Personally, I think the whole process is rather odd, to begin with. I mean, why waste money on mailing ballots instead of having people go to a polling station? And there's another thing .. According to the letter which came with my husband’s & my ballots, voter eligibility is based on the following categories: (1) Owner of “real property” in the project area (what, owning virtual property in “Second Life” doesn’t count?); (2) Owner of a business operating within the project area; (3) Any resident of the project area.

BUT (& here’s a BIG but): If one’s eligibility is based on owning property, only ONE BALLOT may be cast per property, regardless of the number of owners on record. Does this mean that, since my husband & I jointly own our home, only one of us can vote? But if we were renting an apartment together, we could both vote? So basically, I only count as half a person? I haven’t heard of anything like this since the “three-fifths compromise” back in 1787 in which African American slaves would be counted as 3/5ths of a person for distribution purposes of taxation & proportional representation. Hmph.

But ANYway … moving on … Somehow the folks at CDC messed up while sending out the ballots.

During the Public Comments part of this agenda item, several people spoke & asked questions:

  1. Zelda Michaels of Monte Rio admonished, “If you weren’t tracking the dollars & hours [for charging administration fees from redevelopment funds], then you would have had the time to do this correctly!” I was totally on her tip until she went a little too far & added, “THE FISH STINKS FROM THE HEAD!” (ummm ... What fish? A dead fish? & why does it only stink from its head? Because that's where its nose is located?).
  2. A gentleman named “Craig” took the stand & commenced to fawn obsequiously upon Kathleen Kane & Boris Sztorch of the CDC. “Thank you,” he burbled, “for doing a great job.” (Kinda reminds me of “Heckuva job, Brownie.”) He continued with a litany of excuses for the CDC’s snafu, most of which I could not hear due the muffled acoustics are bound to occur when a person attempts to speak with his nose buried way up in another person’s posterior. But I did catch a little snippet involving the tendencies of tables in Excel spreadsheets (EXCEL SPREADSHEETS!!???) to “truncate” (cut off) data.

    As my Klingon friends would say … GA-A-A-A-GGH! I don’t know what is more horrifying: (1) The CDC mailing out the ballots incorrectly; (2) They didn't think to apply the "text wrap" option to all the table cells so parts of the text wouldn't disappear; or (3) They were using MICROSOFT EXCEL to handle the elaborate process of mailing ballots for the upcoming RRROC election to the entire Russian River Redevelopment area! HELLO? Like, Excel is a spreadsheet program, not a database program? No WONDER the CDC gobbles up "administration fees" from our redevelopment funds like Nibbles the Elephant Seal at a surfing convention. What other botched & inefficiently performed tasks are we paying for due to inappropriate & obsolete technologies? Do the folks at CDC also bill us for the 25 hours it takes them to drive from Sonoma to here because their cars all have square wheels? Good gawd.
  3. Another man (whose name I did not catch) asked Ms. Kane to clarify the role of the RRROC Elections subcommittee & aptly concluded, “My head hurts!”
  4. Ms. Kane explained that the subcommittee plays an “advisory role.” It “makes recommendations.”
  5. Lee Torr IV of Monte Rio (yes, he ALWAYS introduces himself as “Lee Torr, the Fourth” & I keep wondering what he’s done with the other three) said that as a local real estate magnate – um, actually, he said “property owner” – “I got a LOT of ballots.” He then referred back to a previous discussion about how property owners whose tax records named them as “first name, last name, et al” (et al is not the Israeli airline company, it’s Latin for “& others” meaning that multiple people or business partners own the property) received multiple ballots.

    Mr. Torr then asked an extremely important question: “How can you validate ballots when submitted?” (i.e. to make sure that there’s only one vote per property & that owners of multiple properties don’t send in more than one ballot).
  6. Ms. Kane replied that there’s a “code on the envelope,” Mr. Torr said, “I looked. There IS none.”
  7. Someone else (alas many folks forget to provide their names or do not speak into the microphone) asked another very important question: “How much do ballots cost?” (i.e. the printing, producing, & mailing thereof).
  8. “45 cents each for postage,” Ms. Kane. Um ... & what about an itemization of the printing, paper & envelope costs? And how does one explain this expensive & extensive effort in the context of no stamp being provided on the return envelopes?
  9. And – Oh, Goody! – here comes Lloyd Guccione (who I often adore, even though I adamantly don’t want him to replace Dan Fein on RRROC), who gravely intones: “It would seem that after all these elections, we would have a clue of how much it costs to mail a ballot.” He went on to say that part of the problem with the elections is that they’re intended to represent property owners, business owners, & tenants, & that each group should have access to their own legal counsel. He also pointed out that there has been no outreach to tenants (who won’t receive ballots unless they’ve registered to vote at their current address). There’s a “problem with basic organizational structure.” The tenants’ representatives are not necessarily elected by people who are representative of tenants’ interests, since everyone votes for people in each category. Whew! That’s complicated, I hope I got it all right.
  10. Deborah Waller of Guerneville said that there seems to have been a “quality control error,” and inquired, “Is this election in jeopardy?” Which is exactly what’s on my mind, too.
  11. Mr. Uniack suggested that from now on, we should have the candidate’s forum BEFORE the ballot goes out.
  12. Larry Weinstein of Guerneville said, “I’d like to see a debate with real heart-to-heart talk.” I like that idea. Or, perhaps, some sort of exciting contest like “Dancing with the Stars” or "Monster Truck Rally."

Pulling the Plug: Mike Reilly & Board of Supervisors Want Redevelopment Funds Back In The General Fund Coffers?

On to the next agenda item: How should RRROC respond to the recommendation of Mike Reilly & the Board of Supervisors’ ad-hoc committee for ceasing redevelopment operations & putting the money back into the General Fund due to budget short-falls.

Tom Lynch wants to meet with them in order to “defend our redevelopment funds,” because they will "eventually increase our tax base," but really because he's a staunch & caring advocate of redevelopment projects in our area. He then filed a motion for the RRROC Chairman (Dan Fein) to “write a letter” to the Board of Supervisors. (Hmph. I'd rather go to a local park, scoop up some dog poop, broken beer bottles, dirty used needles, & some cigarette butts, put them into a box & send THAT to Mr. Reilly, but Mr. Lynch has much nicer manners than I do. But what the hey, nobody could possibly expect lovely manners from a River Rattina like me).

  1. John deSalvio asked if there’s “anyway to hold them to it?” (i.e. do we have legal grounds for objecting to the withdrawal of redevelopment funds?). Ms. Kane replied that they basically have the right to do this, “though it hasn’t been done.” (The Board of Supervisors has never pulled the plug on redevelopment funds for this or other project areas).
  2. Mr. Weinstein inquired, “Is the County bankrupt?”
  3. Mr. Lynch replied, “No, but it’s bad.
  4. Mr. Weinstein expostulated, “How – with all these wineries, tourist development, etcetera – how can this be?” Yeah, I wonder about that too.
  5. Mr. Guccione stated, “Mr. O’Reilly needs to come here & sit at this table … You NEED to invite Mr. O’Reilly here.” He's definitely right about that.
  6. Someone (alas, I can’t remember who) explained that there’s a problem with various agencies in the County demanding funding … “it’s melting down.”
  7. Mr. Torr advised that “the letter ought to be more sweet than sour.” I initially disagree because I’m so mad about this, but eventually feel obligated to admit that Mr. Torr is totally right about this. After all, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar & as someone wisely told me, “You don’t cross Mike Reilly.” Part of me wants to say, "Why? He's only there for another year, he's a lame duck." Yet, I hold back because another part of me enjoys the luxury of untainted tap water.

No Money for Administrative Support

NEXT … Mr. Uniack says that RRROC & the subcommittees “NEED a secretary … someone to take the minutes [of meetings].” He explains that it’s hard to discuss things & take notes at the same time & that the meeting minutes hence lack sufficient detail. He also points out that redevelopment is supposed to be about “local jobs for local people. Why not hire someone local?”

  1. Ms. Kane explains that the CDC office is “staffed at capacity” & there are no funds for additional staff. Also, they can’t just hire a local person on a contract basis because hiring procedures, unions, & other factors are involved.
  2. Mr. Uniack restates that RRROC needs administrative support for subcommittees.
  3. Ms Kane replies, “My job is to guard the budget. What can we do to work together without sparring?" (Ummm ... perhaps you could occasionally choose to guard the budget in a way that favors us? I really wish we COULD bid CDC's administrative functions out to a company that can actually work efficiently & make appropriate use of modern technology. An awful lot of problems could be avoided this way).
  4. Ms. Michaels kept croaking, “Six years ... shut it down.” This rather disappointed me. Can't a smart, funny & powerful woman like you figure out something more CONSTRUCTIVE to say?
  5. On the other hand, this WAS a rather depressing meeting, during which River Rattina made a multitude of flaky, overwrought & inappropriate comments which included: (1) demanding that the folks on RRROC hunt Mike Reilly down while carrying torches & pitch forks (flashlights & butterfly nets would be far more environmentally friendly & humane); & also ranting on about the huge amount she pays in property taxes & even saying how much it is so that all of the folks who've had their properties in their families since the 1800's & are grandfathered in by Proposition 13 would know how much recent homebuyers are paying ... and ... um ... that was probably TMI (too much information).

Hmph … like if we just shut down RRROC & the Russian River Redevelopment area projects, the County will give us all the money back? Fat chance. As a property owner who – like other recent homebuyers – pays exorbitant property taxes for a modest home, I really want to see these projects go through. We ALL deserve our fair share of local improvements & services ... but folks who are struggling to pay out the nose are less likely to put up with the lack of improvements & services.

Sigh. On this note, the meeting came to an end. The atmosphere felt rather deflated & even a bit sad. This is too bad, because I believe that the redevelopment process has come a long way since it began. Redeveloping low-income & ecologically delicate areas such as ours is a long & complicated process -- especially when such a large degree of public representation, oversight, & input are encouraged & required. Although it takes longer for us to see results & we run into glitches along the way, I do strongly believe that we're basically on the right track.

Do we want to go back to the days before RRROC, when the County was trying to ram projects through willy-nilly without so much as a by-your-leave? Folks around here were up in arms, which is why RRROC was created in the first place.

On the bright side, a well-informed individual whispered to me that Mike Reilly, et al's mutterings about shutting down County redevelopment projects aren't really directed towards us & the Russian River Redevelopment Area. They're intended for the Sonoma Valley Redevelopment Area, which has exhausted its funds & has requested more. I hope she's right!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another Day, Another Russian River Blog ...

I've found an interesting blog called Russian River, which is chock-full of fascinating historical tidbits & local news. Is Mays Canyon Road haunted? Read & find out for yourself...

Monday, November 26, 2007

You Win, Mary Robertson: Say It Loud! I'm OUT & I'm Proud!

For almost the entire time my blog has been in existence (like, maybe a few months), I've received periodic comments from Mary Robertson (a talented local artist & long-time resident whom I've never had the privilege of meeting) lambasting me as "cowardly" for writing an "anonymous blog."

I've given some thought to this & have decided that she's right. So now, my online profile includes my real name, email address, & probably more information about me than anyone in their right mind could possibly want to know.

I mean ... What the hey ... my credit rating is so shaky at this point, that even a couple of Vietnamese kids on a lark couldn't possibly find it worthwhile to steal my identity, obtain credit cards in my name, & make thousands of dollars worth of purchases (believe it or not, this actually HAPPENED to me five years ago, it took me about 200 hours to clear things up, & I have the paperwork & faxes to prove it ... the fact that I had JUST GIVEN BIRTH & was getting collection calls made the entire process extremely annoying, to say the least).

Since starting this blog, I've been extremely open about my identity to my acquaintances & the folks I write about in person (with the exception of Declan ... oops ... I mean, Dolan the Evil Safeway Pharmacist & I'll explain that shortly). I figured that in a small community like this, that would be enough, since everyone seems to know everyone else (& Mary Robertson was able to discover my not-so-secret identity with little trouble). I wasn't trying to be sneaky or mean. My persnickety & often downright snarky comments have generally been directed towards folks involved with RRROC who've seen my face & know danged well who I am.

But, when it comes down to brass tacks, YES ... I AM a coward, Ms. Robertson. But it's not the people in this community or their occasional disapprobation that I fear (though I AM an extrovert & definitely prefer to be "liked"). It's all the creepy folks out there who trawl online & sift through our trash for information about people like us for the benefit of their corporate masters, Dubya's Department of Homeland Security, or on their own recognizances in order to exploit us in some way.

Personally, I believe that companies involved in background checks, credit checks, identity searches, direct mail/phone/email marketing, etc. should be required to pay all of us royalties when selling copies of our personal & financial information. After all, we're the authors of our own lives & authors are supposedly protected under Copyright laws. But ... hah! ... That'll never happen.

The sheer lack of privacy rights provided in this country make me utterly disinclined towards giving out even the most basic information about myself on the Internet or to the public. When my doctor & my daughter's dentist require a social security number on their forms, I leave it blank & adamantly insist on my right to do so.
This stance requires immense amounts of haggling & paperwork, but I feel it's worth it. After all, the earliest social security cards (like my late Grammy's) are emblazoned with the following guarantee in bold print: "Not to be used for identification."

As for not using Declan ... oops ... I mean, Dolan the Evil Safeway Pharmacist's real name in a recent post ... I felt that my situation with him required different treatment than what I accord to folks who are already in the public eye & whose views & personalities are known to everyone, because I was pretty much going off on a personal rant. But you're right. Perhaps I should talk to people about the service they're receiving at Safeway & at the pharmacy; take notes; & write something that befits a journalist who writes for one of the publications you (Mary) have mentioned.

But in the meantime, gosh dang it, I want to have my unprofessional, totally biased, mean & evil rant! It's one of the few rights that I, as a citizen of this allegedly democratic country, have left! And naturally, I lie awake at night imagining DTESP working through his massive, secret cabal of malevolent former pharmaceutical students to ensure that my Prozac is spiked with copious quantities of arsenic, regardless of which pharmacy receives my next order for prescription refills.

Mwah ha ha.

Monte Rio Woman Arrested in Shooting

I just read the following article in the Press Democrat: Monte Rio Woman Arrested in Shooting. Yikes! I think I might actually KNOW this person (whose first name, age, & town from the article would fit her description, but I don't know her last name). I hope I'm wrong, since the acquaintance I'm thinking of seemed a bit odd, but basically funny & nice. How do you know when someone has crossed the line from being "a bit odd" to flat out scary? Since I, myself, tend to be eccentric, I try not to judge people too harshly & to give bad first impressions a second chance. Is this irresponsible of me? I wonder what would make someone want to randomly shoot holes in some guy's car window? Was he driving 45 mph in a 55 mph zone? Brrrrrr ...

Ding Dong, the Sewer's (Officially) Dead

According to an article in the Sonoma West Times & News, the Monte Rio Sewer project has officially croaked. Unfortunately, Monte Rio still faces huge problems, including:

  1. Ongoing water contamination (according to the above mentioned article, the Lower Russian River's water quality is officially "impaired" by Federal Clean Water Act standards);
  2. Property owners' inability to upgrade their septic systems to modern standards because many of the lots are too small & too close to the river;
  3. Burnt-out buildings downtown which cannot be rebuilt;
  4. A moratorium which prevents property owners from building or remodeling due to the chronic septic problems;
  5. I also can't help but wonder what younger folks are going to do when their families are growing & their septic systems' capacities are frozen?
There's some talk about hooking up to the Guerneville Sewer. Why didn't they pursue this to begin with? I'm sure there are reasons buried in the dusty pages of long-forgotten meeting minutes & feasibility studies ... if anyone knows anything about this, please share your information!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

PRMD Poops on Monte Rio Sewer Parade


The Sonoma County Permit & Resource Management Department (PRMD) recommends CANCELLING plans to build a sewer system in Monte Rio. Kristin Thurman-Fein has kindly shared PRMD's press release with the Monte Rio newsgroup on Yahoo! & I've pasted the text below for my readers' (reader's?) enjoyment. Thank you, Kristin. I like Mike Reilly, but his insistence on pushing the sewer has been rather ridiculous.


Press Release

Contact: Pete Parkinson, Director of Permit & Resource Management Department, 565-1925

Date: November 19, 2007

The Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) is recommending that the Board of Supervisors cancel plans to construct a sewer system in the Russian River Community of Monte Rio. The sewer project, which was planned to serve 586 residential and commercial properties in Monte Rio, has simply become too expensive, said PRMD Director Pete Parkinson.

“When the sewer assessment was approved in 2003, the project was estimated to cost $11.2 million,” said Parkinson. “Since then we’ve finalized the engineering design and obtained a significant amount of grant funding to build the project, but construction costs have increased dramatically to the point where we no longer have adequate funding to move the project forward.” Construction of the sewer project is now estimated to cost over $20 million, which exceeds available funding by at least $2.6 million. The project was to be funded by a combination of state and federal grants and loans repaid through the sewer assessments and service rates approved by Monte Rio property owners in 2003.

Fifth District Supervisor Mike Reilly expressed frustration at the news, saying, “This is a major disappointment for the Monte Rio community. The combination of rapidly escalating construction costs combined with reductions in federal and state grant funds is making it nearly impossible to upgrade sanitation systems in small rural communities.” Indeed, the financial problems facing the Monte Rio sewer project are playing out increasingly across the country as global economic factors, such as increasing demand for construction materials in China and escalating oil prices, have pushed construction costs sharply higher since 2003. Building a new sewer system from the ground up is a major capital expense, including a collection system, a treatment plant and a means to safely dispose of the treated wastewater. With only a small number of properties to share the cost of building and maintaining a sewer system, these kinds of systems are becoming less economically viable.

Even with nearly $12 million in state and federal grant commitments, Monte Rio residents would still be paying nearly $1,200 a year for sewer service, the second highest rate in the County and a significant burden for many lower income residents. Reilly noted, “Residents and owners within the proposed Monte Rio District have twice voted to assess themselves and pay annual charges for this sanitation system. We have turned over every rock to secure grants for the project and still find that cost estimates substantially exceed available funds.” Reilly felt that seeking even higher sewer rates would not be sustainable for the community and noted that some grant commitments will expire even as the County looks for additional funds to cover rising costs.

The original impetus for building a sewer system in Monte Rio was to improve water quality in the lower Russian River, which is considered “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act. Much of this impairment is thought to result from older septic systems that were built near the river many years ago. “Not only are we unable to move forward with this needed wastewater treatment project,” Parkinson said, “but the small lot sizes in Monte Rio and proximity to the river make it almost impossible for residents to install a new septic system that meets today’s standards. This makes it very difficult for property owners to upgrade their properties, let alone consider any new development.”

A community meeting to discuss the project will be held on Tuesday, December 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Monte Rio School Gymnasium. The Board of Supervisors will consider the matter at its January 8, 2008 meeting.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

River Rattina v.s. Dolan* the Evil Safeway Pharmacist

(*His real name has been changed)

Tune in for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)’s new, exciting entertainment extravaganza, premiering this week at a Safeway near you: It’s wild, it’s violent, it’s rated PG13 … it’s … Russian River Rattina vs. Dolan the EEEEE-Ville Safeway Pharmacist! Place your bets before they go to the mats!

But seriously … is it just me, or does anyone else have unnecessarily frustrating experiences with the Safeway Pharmacy in Guerneville? Barbi’s awesome, of course. She’s friendly, efficient, & caring. There’s also another nice lady with light-brown, shoulder-length hair, whose name I don’t recall because I don’t often come by during her shift. Alas, these women can’t possibly work every single shift. And the guys they have filling in … ugh!

First there was the young man with Asian features who worked on Saturday, November 10th. I attempted to get my prescriptions filled & wound up leaving empty-handed & so utterly frustrated because the man was so rude & utterly obtuse that my little rattikin stroked my hand & said, “Please don’t cry, mommy.” Apparently, several other customers found him to be rude & it doesn’t look like he’ll be coming back, thank gawd.

I came back on Tuesday the 13th hoping that Barbi would be there. She was, but alas, there were a lot of customers & I got stuck with Dolan the Evil Safeway Pharmacist. He’s the tall, thin guy with wavy, graying hair who glares at you resentfully when some issue with your prescription requires him to actually use his brain. As is usual for River Rattina & her Little Rattikin when Dolan is at the counter, we wind up asking when he’ll be finished so we can do the rest of our grocery shopping (mind you, this is for prescriptions I had dropped off three days ago & they should have called me if they couldn't fill them).

We return to the counter 30 minutes later & the prescriptions STILL aren’t ready & my little rattikin is tugging at my sleeve begging to go home because it’s dinner time & she’s “starving” (though I must admit that it isn’t Dolan the Evil Safeway Pharmacist’s fault that my daughter has a hollow leg & gobbles up what seems like three times her weight in food every day). Dolan the Evil Safeway Pharmacist holds up a piece of paper with my signature for the missing prescription, glowers at me accusingly, & demands, “Is this your signature?” “Yes,” I replied, then explained that the pharmacist didn’t actually have the medications ready & I had walked away empty-handed. “You shouldn’t have signed for it then,” comes the sneering reply. “Well, I didn’t know he didn’t actually have it ready.” I explained. He keeps demanding in menacing tones, “IS THIS YOUR SIGNATURE?” I tell him that this isn’t helping to solve the problem at hand, & that I can’t go any longer without my refills.

This goes back & forth for what seems like FOREVER & I’m getting more & more frustrated & upset. I mean, does this guy think I’m trying to scam him for extra refills of Flonase & Albuterol allergy/asthma medications so I can sell them out on the street for recreational use? I raise my voice (& my voice carries rather loudly to begin with) in supplication to Barbi, who’s a few feet away, & plead, “Why does stuff like this keep happening?” She asks me to be patient & that they’ve had some people filling in, & we’ll get things straightened out. Alas, my daughter’s losing it & I am too. I’m on the rag, feeling hungry, cranky & crampy (I can't think of names for the other four dwarves), have a cold & have spent WAY too much time on this.

Dolan the Evil Safeway Pharmacist then informs me that he isn’t going to help me any more, because he’s “FEELING THREATENED.”


If I weren’t feeling so danged ANGRY, I’d feel somewhat FLATTERED. After all, I’m a 5’6”-tall, middle-aged, overweight mom who teaches Sunday School at my church & he’s a tall, 30-ish male who towers over me, is behind a counter with sliding plexiglass doors, & who happens to be in possession of my asthma & antidepressant medications!!!! I'm a THREAT? Woo hoo! I’m so mad, I want to tell him, “Okay, let’s make a deal: You give me a break for being mentally unstable, I’ll give you a break for being mentally incompetent, & we’ll call it even!” But I don’t, because that wouldn’t be nice.

Thanks to the saintly Barbi, I finally walk away an hour later with my refills. She tries to calm me down, but I tell both her & Dolan the Evil Safeway Pharmacist, “I have every right to be angry, this shouldn't keep happening, & I don’t appreciate being treated in such a rude manner.” He loftily replies, “I do not have to put up with this,” & I sharply retort, “Yes, actually, you DO, because you work here & are supposed to act like a professional. I’m going to report you to your supervisor.” Though, of course, I probably won't ever get around to it, because I do not know who his supervisor IS & honestly, it isn't WORTH it.

Mind you, I’ve worked as a receptionist, waitress, & cashier & hence try to be extra-nice to folks who deal with the public all day, because I know it’s hard & also because I'm normally a doormat type of person who really wants people to like me. Also, most of the folks who work at Safeway & around town are my friends, acquaintances & neighbors who work hard, do a good job & are nice -- especially to my daughter & children in general. But I do get angry when I feel that someone is annoyed with me & deliberately refusing to be helpful when they’re SUPPOSED to be trying to help me because it’s their job. The fact is: Dolan the Evil Safeway Pharmacist just plain old doesn’t LIKE me for whatever reason & never has. Oh well, sometimes stuff like that happens.

From now on, I’m going to Lark’s Pharmacy so that Dolan the Evil Safeway Pharmacist won’t spike my next refills with pepper spray.

GRRRRR! 22 hours have elapsed & I’m STILL steaming mad! My reasons for feeling TOTALLY TICKED OFF are as follows:

  1. This sort of thing happens almost EVERY time I deal with anyone else but Barbi & the other lady;
  2. This keeps happening with prescriptions I’ve already dropped off – sometimes a day or two before;
  3. We’ve had the same doctors, health insurance & medications for well-over a year & refill these exact same prescriptions every 4-8 weeks. They should know the drill by now;
  4. I try to be nice & offer to come back in 30 minutes whenever there’s a problem (they’re out of the medication, the doctor needs to call in a refill, or the mysterious & Zen-like “it won’t go through”), but when I return, my prescriptions STILL aren't ready;
  5. There SHOULDN’T BE any problem because I dropped the danged things off TWO days ago & they could have called me or my doctor to fix the problem before I returned to pick them up; Actually, Barbi DID do that once last year & I was grateful; and
  6. Nobody should EVER talk that way to a customer, even if I WERE actually being rude. If Dolan the Evil Safeway Pharmacist had truly felt “threatened” by little ol' me (BWAH HA HA!) , then he should have called security.

WHEW! Now I feel MUCH better. So much for my scolding Mr. Guccione & others at RRROC meetings for not always being civil with one another. I guess I'm a total hypocrite. You can take the gal outta New Yawk, but ya can't take the New Yawk outta the gal. I totally forgot that anger is illegal in the State of California. Whoops.

Rattina smells a rat ... SEWER rat, that is ....

Hmmm ... County Supervisor Mike Reilly unsuccessfully attempts to pressure RRROC into recommending funds for the Monte Rio Sewer again. This time by trying to tie it in with Sweet Water's proposal for desperately-needed water system upgrades. And LO AND BEHOLD ... the Board of Supervisors is suddenly grumbling about budget shortfalls & needing to put redevelopment funds back into the County's General Fund. (cue in ominous music & evil laugh MWAHAHAHA!)

Coincidence? I think not. River Rattina definitely knows a rat when she smells one ... especially when it's a Sewer Rat.

We definitely need to do something about Monte Rio's septic problems, for environmental, public health & quality-of-life reasons. The once-lovely & thriving downtown (which still has considerable charm & a handful of viable & locally beloved businesses) has dilapidated buildings which cannot be legally rebuilt because they are too close to the river for septic systems to be installed. On top of that, there are septic tanks on residential properties which need to be upgraded or replaced & the owners may lack the cash for doing so.

On the surface, it seems as though a new sewer system would benefit the community in various ways: It could increase retail space for the downtown, reduce pollution, enable construction of affordable housing, etc. Alas, the proposed new sewer system would also create some MAJOR problems, which SERIOUSLY need to be fully & publicly addressed:
  • Costs per household: The sewer would serve only 400 households & could cost up to $1500 per year per home. Honestly, I don't know many folks who can afford to pay that much! Here in Guerneville & Rio Nido, we pay an $800-per-year property tax assessment for our sewer. This is already too expensive for many people, but we manage because costs are spread out amongst a larger population, & because (overall) we have have higher incomes, due to easier access to jobs in the Bay Area. If the Board of Supervisors want a sewer so badly, they should figure out a way to share the costs so they don't cause hardship for residents who are already struggling financially.
  • Potential for over-development: Many of us would love to see a bustling, prosperous downtown Monte Rio with some new affordable housing, a nice playground, spiffy new public restrooms, cleaner water at the beach, etc. Higher tax revenues could also fund more programs at Monte Rio Elementary -- a wonderful little school which always seems strapped for cash. But can we handle all of this? New construction of homes & retail spaces would be required to increase tax revenues to offset sewer costs & things would snowball from there. Monte Rio is a small town which is environmentally delicate & somewhat geographically isolated. Could it handle the demands which would inevitably result from expansion? I'm sure it could, but Monte Rio residents would need to strongly support any development which takes place & right now, they don't even want the gosh-danged sewer.
  • Traffic & Congestion: Last year, it took 20 minutes to go back & forth between Guerneville & Monte Rio during the off-season due to road construction. Which caused considerable inconvenience & even hardship for local residents. There is only ONE way to get from Monte Rio to Guerneville, & that's along Route 116/River Road. When that access is blocked by traffic, construction, flooding, fallen redwood branches, etc., those of us who need to go back & forth are totally screwed. Unless we can persuade the Bohemian Club to sell us some of their land so we can extend Neeley Road from Guerneville to Monte Rio along the other side of the River (snort, like THAT's ever going to happen), I don't see how we can possibly engage in any major new construction projects in Monte Rio. Personally, I would love to see the County harass the Bohemian Club with an eminent domain claim for road access due to the undesirable, drunken riff-raff they host at their yearly gathering (George Bush, Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, etc.). But it's NOT going to happen, & even Mike Reilly is no match for the Bohemian Club's Masters of the Universe. Heh heh, he may not even be a match for the River Rats & Rattinas of Monte Rio.
  • Public hearings need to be held: People in Monte Rio have repeatedly requested public hearings & meetings in regards to the proposed sewer projects & have been repeatedly rebuffed. If we are EVER going to have a sewer, the Board of Supervisors need to work with Monte Rio residents & business owners to address public concerns & work on solutions. Without public support, the sewer has little chance of EVER happening.
I actually like Mike Reilly simply due to his role in reopening Charles Schultz Airport with Horizon Airlines. This was quite a coup. I believe that he sincerely wants our little corner of Sonoma County to be more prosperous. But I find his handling of the Monte Rio Sewer project to be ham-fisted, amateurish & unworthy of a professional politician. A politician is supposed to be skilled in the art of persuasion & when dealing with a community that is acting as stubborn as a mule (& which has good reasons for doing so), he needs to know when to dangle the carrot & when to brandish the stick. If he wants the sewer so danged badly, he should figure out a way to make the carrot more tempting (lightly stir-fried with a tangy ginger glaze, perhaps?).

Right now, Mr. Reilly's all stick & no carrot, & that's no way to further one's agenda around here. We River Rats & Rattinas may be hicks, but we sure ain't stupid.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hot & Steamy RRROC Stuff: The Smoking Emails

Below, please find the hot & steamy RRROC "smoking emails" (the supposed "evidence" for Mr. Guccione's complaint against RRROC for alleged Brown Act violations). They're buried on the RRROC Web site, but I'm posting them here for the convenience of anyone who has the desire, fortitude, & impeturbable digestive system required for their perusal.

The cast of characters (as seen in the email headers & body of the emails) are as follows:

  • Dan Fein: Chairman of RRROC
  • John Uniack: RRROC member & community watch dog/legal eagle
  • Boris Sztorch: CDC Redevelopment Manager
  • Ken Wikle: RRROC member
  • Brown Act: A California Law which requires that the meetings of elected officials be open to the public & that the public be guaranteed the right to speak. Apparently Mr. Guccione believes that the following emails count as a "meeting," although no meeting agenda items were discussed.
  • P&P: Policies & Procedures. A legal document which governs how RRROC meetings are to be conducted & who's allowed to do what.

These email messages consist of an argument between Mr. Fein & Mr. Uniack. Mr. Fein had sent an email to RRROC & CDC members calling for a special RRROC meeting, in addition to the regular monthly one. Mr. Fein believed this meeting was necessary because several agenda items had been postponed (sometimes repeatedly) due to lack of time ... despite the fact that meetings were often running past midnight! Mr. Uniack protested the calling of this meeting on the grounds that Mr. Fein, in the capacity of Chairman, does not have the authority to call a special meeting.

The special RRROC meeting was held in September & the public was duly notified. I believe this meeting was entirely necessary. Mr. Fein's calling a special meeting -- & the resulting emails -- do not seem at all improper in my eyes. These items deserved their (often long-overdue) time for public discussion. Continuing to unduly postpone discussion of these issues would have been highly unjust & hence may have provoked resentment against RRROC at best & Brown Act complaints at worst.

If we truly care about the values embraced by the Brown Act, then we need to tolerate the necessity of occasional extra (aka "Special") meetings & be willing to either attend these meetings or respect the decisions of those who bother to do so.

So ... gulp down a glass of water, along with the antidepressants, digestive medications, or high-proof alcohol shot of your choice & read on, if you dare.

From: Boris Sztorch
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 10:21 AM
To: Dan Fein
Subject: Email re: Special Meeting

Hi Dan,

See you've read the following email from John Uniack regarding the legality of calling a Special Meeting. What are your thoughts?

>>> JohnnyU 8/6/2007 4:37 PM >>>

Hi Boris,

I got an email Friday informing me of a special RRROC meeting called by the RRROC chair Dan Fein with an agenda decided and guests invited by Chair Dan Fein. The chair position on the RRROC is a meeting facilitator position that was given agenda approval, with the vice chair, by the RRROC to make sure that the agenda for the upcoming meeting was as stated at the end of the last meeting and to approve written agenda item requests.

Please read section 7.4 of the policy and procedures paragraph two which states that requested items will be placed on the agenda of a regular RRROC meeting. The chair does not have authority to call a special meeting for items that he has withheld from the regular agenda, in fact he has no authority to withhold RRROC related items from the regular agenda period. If the RRROC wants the chair to have this kind of power it must be put in the policies and procedures document. Any non-emergency special meeting of the RRROC must be an agenized item on the agenda of a regular RRROC meeting with the time and place decided by a member vote.

John U

From: Dan Fein
To: Boris Sztorch
CC: John Uniak, Ken Wikle
Subject: RE: Email re: Special Meeting
Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2007 12:40:33 -0700


I respectfully disagree with John’s interpretations.

1) The same article of the P&P that John’s email references says that an “Emergency Meeting” can be called with 24 hour notice. There is no other discussion about what constitutes an emergency meeting, when it can be held or for what purpose, or who can call it. Here is what the Brown Act says:

“The Brown Act provides for three different types of meetings. Regular meetings occur at a time and

location generally set by ordinance, resolution, or by-laws. At least 72 hours prior to a regular

meeting, an agenda must be posted which contains a brief general description of each item to be

transacted or discussed at the meeting. Special meetings may be called at any time but notice must be

received at least 24 hours prior to the meeting by all members of the body and by all media outlets that

have requested notice in writing. Emergency meetings, which are extraordinarily rare, may be called

upon one-hour notice to media outlets that have requested notice in writing.”

What our P&P calls an “Emergency Meeting” follows the Brown Act rules about “Special Meetings”, which can be called at any time up to 24 hours in advance of the meeting. In fact, the P&P do not refer to “Emergency Meetings” anywhere other than in item 7.2, however there are several references to “Special Meetings”. This is an internal inconsistency that should be addressed at some point. John’s assertions that: “The chair does not have authority to call a special meeting” and Any non-emergency special meeting of the RRROC must be an agenized item on the agenda of a regular RRROC meeting with the time and place decided by a member vote” are not stated anywhere in the P&P and are contrary to the character of a special meeting as defined in the Brown Act.

2) The P&P do not state in any way what are the responsibilities and duties of the Chair other than to approve the agenda and to monitor the time of public comment. Lacking definition, it is up to the individual Chairperson to interpret and exercise those duties. I agree with John that one of the responsibilities of the Chair is to act as a facilitator, even though that is not stated in the P&P. Ultimately, the responsibility of the Chair must be to assure that RRROC succeeds at conducting its business and makes the best use of the time that is contributed by its members and by the public who participate. My personal measure of success for a RRROC Chair is how well the committee works as a team and what is accomplished during his/her tenure, and that’s how I’m interpreting my duties.

3) RRROC-related items have not been withheld from the agenda. Several items that have been requested have been postponed either by prioritization by the Chair and Vice-Chair or by the RRROC during meetings in which they were on the agenda. Some items have been postponed several times. Nothing in the P&P requires that agenda items be considered by the RRROC in the order that they are requested.

With respect to the upcoming special meeting, we (Chair and Vice-Chair) hope to address all outstanding RRROC-related items having to do with process and responsibilities of the RRROC. I consider this to be a more efficient use of time and resources than considering these items piecemeal. We have gone to lengths to assure that questions that have been raised by RRROC members and the public can be addressed by people with knowledge and authority to address them, and that all involved will have more than adequate time to prepare. Given the number of items, the complexity of some of the questions and the likely length of discussion, I expect that this will not be the last of the special meetings.

Best regards,

Dan Fein

From: John Uniak
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 3:43 PM
To: Dan Fein, Boris Sztorch
Cc: Kenneth Wikle
Subject: RE: Email re: Special Meeting

Hi, everyone
Since the start of this committee the main responsibility of the chair has been to conduct the meetings. The RRROC authorized the chair and vice chair to approve the agenda not write or delete items from the agenda. The RRROC agenda for its next meeting is set by the RRROC members at the end of each meeting. The chair has never asked for the authority to delete/deter agenda items, to call additional meetings or anything else. This is a democratic committee and the chair is not a dictatorial position. I suggest that the chair read P&P article 4-1&4. and present to the full committee what he wants for their review and approval.
Why was the need for a additional meeting not put on last months agenda? The committee could have discussed its need, format, agenda date, time and advisors if any. The agenda situation has deteriorated to the point where only the items that the chair wants on are included. The other RRROC members and the public do not know if the items that were approved for the next months agenda will appear or not or if they ever will appear on any RRROC agenda. The people whose items were not approved by the chair for placement on an agenda are not notified that their item was not included, nor given any reason why. Some of the current agenda problems must be placed on the CDC who has the responsibility for the preparation of the agenda and should be advising the chair.
My suggestion would be to follow the P&P and Roberts Rules. Anything not covered in these documents should be brought to the committee for approval.
Thanks for your time
John U

From: Dan Fein
To: John Uniak, Boris Sztorch
CC: Ken Wikle
Subject: RE: Email re: Special Meeting
Date: Tue, 7 Aug 2007 23:42:00 -0700

Again, with all due respect John, your assertion that “The RRROC agenda for its next meeting is set by the RRROC members at the end of each meeting” is not supported by RRROC P&P. In fact, according to P&P requests for agenda items can be submitted as late as 5:00 on the first Thursday of the month.

The special meeting is necessary to attend to a number of outstanding issues, many of which are items you have requested to be included on our agenda. When we spoke on Saturday, I mentioned several items that will be included in the special meeting agenda. If there is an item that you have requested that I didn’t mention and that you want to be sure is included, please let me or Ken know.

Dan Fein

From: John Uniak
Sent: Wednesday, August 08, 2007 4:07 PM
To: Dan Fein; 'Boris Sztorch'
Cc: 'Kenneth Wikle'
Subject: RE: Email re: Special Meeting

Dan your way of thinking is completely foreign to the concept of democracy. You have not been given the authority to do anything except to conduct RRROC meetings, check the agenda of accuracy and approve adding items that meet P&P requirements---approve the agenda---Have you read the Roberts Rules section on chairperson? Where did you see that you can do what you are doing? The P&P/bylaws tell you what you can do as chair. Anything that is not specifically stated in them is not allowed. There have been several instantences during your term as chair that your decisions have not been upheld. This has cost the RRROC time and creditability. It has caused many unnecessary agenda item requests. It has caused more public comment increasing meeting time. It has caused several items to be sent to the grand jury. I am trying to keep you from going beyond the point of no return. Why do do make decisions on your own that the committee would approve if you would just put them on the agenda? Please read the attachment from one of the Roberts Rules books that I have.


From: Dan Fein
Sent: Wednesday, August 08, 2007 4:56 PM
To: 'JohnnyU'; 'Boris Sztorch'
Cc: 'Kenneth Wikle'
Subject: RE: Email re: Special Meeting


Your opinion is duly noted.

If you would like to reword your statement as a decision for the RRROC to consider, please submit it as an agenda request, and I’ll be certain that it is included in the special meeting, time permitting. If time does not permit, we’ll include it in the regular September agenda.

Until a majority of the RRROC tells me otherwise, I will continue to conduct my chairmanship in the way that I deem to be most effective for the benefit of the RRROC and the community.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Redevelopment & RRROC: Some Myths & Facts

Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) & Redevelopment: Some Myths & Facts:

  1. RRROC has committed "Brown Act" violations: No, RRROC has been threatened with legal action for allegedly committing Brown Act Violations, which have all been instigated by a single individual (Lloyd Guccione) & these allegations are repeatedly thrown out. The Brown Act is a California Law that requires all deliberations of publicly-elected entities to be transparent & to be conducted in a manner which allows the public to participate in the discussion & be allowed to speak up. Chairperson Dan Fein sent emails to RRROC & CDC members about calling a special meeting to discuss agenda items which had been postponed because the RRROC meetings were running too long. RRROC member John Uniack responded with an email questioning whether the Chairman (Mr. Fein) has the legal authority to call a meeting. A lively argument ensued concerning THIS particular point of procedure, which resulted in the extra RRROC Special Meeting held in September, of which the public & all parties concerned were duly notified. Hence there was no violation of the Brown Act. Many folks (including me) have advocated the creation of an RRROC Web site which can (among many other things to make information like this more readily available to folks who don't have time to dig through PDF files on the CDC/RRROC Web site. But this is an issue of available technology & resources (a Communications Outreach Subcommittee has been created to address this)

    I agree with Mr. Guccione, John Uniack, Zelda Michaels, Lenny Weinstein & others that RRROC needs to rigorously follow procedures & conduct itself in a manner that places them beyond reproach. But I also believe that RRROC & CDC members are making a HUGE effort to keep the public informed & to encourage public participation. If there have ever been lapses (I have only lived here for three years & hence don't know everything that happened in RRROC's early years), it seems like they would have more likely occurred due to lack of time, resources & experience, NOT from evil intent.

    I do NOT appreciate Mr. Guccione's treating our hardworking RRROC members like Watergate criminals instead of trying to help them facilitate communications & public outreach. A Communications & Outreach subcommittee has been created for this purpose & anyone who lives, owns property, or owns a business in this area can apply for membership in this subcommittee.

    Hmph. Mr. Guccione wants to be seen as a community watch dog, but he's behaving more like a community pit bull.

  2. Redevelopment = Overdevelopment: Only if we WANT that, & the majority of us (including the folks serving on RRROC) do NOT. Redevelopment funds are set aside by the County (via the Community Development Commission) to fund a variety of public improvements which the Russian River Redevelopment area (Rio Nido, Guerneville, & Monte Rio) could not otherwise afford. We NEED stuff like parks, public restrooms, clean restrooms, & restoration or removal of crumbling buildings. Nobody is trying to change our downtown areas & nobody is advocating any large, for-profit housing developments. Nor has RRROC recommended funding for the evil & over-priced Monte Rio Sewer (though I do hope we can find a way to provide funds for people to upgrade their septic systems so human & chemical wastes don’t leak into our river & groundwater systems).

    We are required to spend 25% of these redevelopment funds on affordable housing & this requirement can be partially met through the rehabilitation of existing dwellings as well as via new construction … if only we could figure out a viable means for doing this. The county currently has a program which would ease requirements for homeowners with “granny units” to make these units “legal” (& who reportedly would not impose penalties if these units are currently being rented) … but alas, we currently have no mechanism to create funding for the conversion of these units. Although the County will be lenient about some requirements like minimum ceiling heights, I assume they will still insist upon modern standards for electrical & septic systems & the like. Potential owner-occupant landlords hence do not have the incentive for converting their potential units. But we could CHANGE that.

  3. RRROC doesn’t get anything done, part 1: Actually, RRROC has played a key role in providing funding to a variety of desirable public improvements which have enjoyed strong community support, including: A grant to KGGV FM, our beloved local radio station; Low interest loans (which don’t require repayment until a property is sold) for raising homes above the flood-line; Rehabilitation of dilapidated buildings which house Russian River Childcare Services, the Rio Nido Fire Station & Post Office, & the Monte Rio Community Center (formerly the Koret Club); local clean ups & removal of abandoned buildings & vehicles; substantial rebates for replacing old wood stoves with modern ones which are safer, more energy-efficient, & more environmentally sound; funding for the creation of two beautiful new river parks in Guerneville; & more items than I can list here.

    For now, the most comprehensive list of projects for which RRROC has recommended funding is located on the About RRROC page of Dan Fein's campaign Web site.

  4. RRROC doesn’t get anything done, part 2: They can only “get things done” if YOU submit proposals for project funding. Sometimes, this would require you contact the appropriate local agency or organization & get them to submit your proposal. Agencies & organizations, which you can approach with your ideas include the following: Your local parks & recreation department; your local school, your house of worship, your neighborhood association, your chamber of commerce, or a non-profit organization with whom you are involved. If you’re REALLY committed, you could even start your own organization.

  5. RRROC controls redevelopment funds: Um … yes & no. Technically, the Board of Supervisors controls redevelopment funds. But first, they have to go through RRROC, which was created to prevent the County from spending redevelopment funds willy-nilly. Project funding proposals are presented to RRROC, which deliberates over the proposals, makes suggestions, & votes whether or not to recommend them to the County Development Commission (CDC)f or funding. The CDC then passes this on to the Board of Supervisors, which issues the funds.

    RRROC recommends funding for projects based on whether they are appropriate & legally within the scope of redevelopment’s stated mission, & whether these projects will meet the needs of & be embraced by our community. They have often required substantial changes to proposals based on public input. For example, Sonoma Parks & Recreation (for the Guerneville River Park) & Luther Burbank Housing (for the 5th & Mill Street affordable housing construction) have been required to grant RRROC an extensive role in reviewing the project designs & budgets before receiving their recommendations for funding.

  6. Nobody knows what RRROC is doing: RRROC is making substantial efforts to reach out to the public. They send out a quarterly newsletter to every household; Dan Fein has a regularly occurring broadcast with Milo on KGGV FM; & lots of news & information are available via the County’s RRROC site & Microbulletin Board. Everyone is invited to meetings, which take place on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 7pm & which alternate between the Guerneville Veterans Hall & Monte Rio Community Center. Members of the public can also apply to serve on the various subcommittees. Audio broadcasts of RRROC meetings are available via the Guerneville Library & You can also contact Vicky Sacksteader of the CDC at 565.7500 & ask her to mail you meeting materials on a monthly basis.

  7. The Affordable Housing Project at 5th & Mill will be hideous & poorly managed: RRROC recently recommended funding to Luther Burbank Housing to acquire land for this project after many go-arounds & much public debate. Burbank has an excellent reputation for working with communities to design high-quality, attractive, & well-managed affordable housing developments. & RRROC has managed to obtain substantial control over the design & planning of the project. I’ll be sad to see Noonan’s Garage gone. Otherwise, the main things we’ll be losing are some dilapidated vacant lots & substandard multi-unit housing.

    I would like to see adequate temporary housing provided for current tenants who may be displaced, & for them to be placed first on the list of applications for apartments in this complex. These mechanics are still being hashed out. Though I MUST admit that I will NOT be sorry if that lady with the poorly-built fence & herd of aggressive, renegade, cat-eating pit bulls is forced to leave!

    The other proposed affordable housing project (at the end of Laughlin Rd.) is likely to be a “sweat equity” development partnership with the folks at Habitat for Humanity, which would enable low & middle income local residents to realize their otherwise impossible dream of becoming home-owners.

So, basically, what happens with our redevelopment funds is almost entirely up to US.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

RRROC Elections: Why Are These People Smiling?

Lloyd Guccione -- who is running for Dan Fein's seat on the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) -- has run a huge quarter-page advertisement in this month's Russian River Monthly, which asks: "Why are these people smiling?"

The ad shows grinning photos of his supporters alongside the obligatory supportive quotes, & of course the answer to the above query is: "Two words. Lloyd Guccione."

To which MY visceral response is: Um ... I cannot even possibly fathom why "these" people -- or ANY people -- would be smiling about Mr. Guccione's campaign.

Mr. Guccione is a highly articulate, intelligent, logical, & thoughtful man who speaks up at RRROC meetings with long, majestic, poetic cadences with the most amazingly lovely, resonant baritone. Alas, the political views & intentions which manifest themselves through the instrument of that sonorous voice do not elicit smiles from me.

This gentleman has a high degree of intelligence, intensity, & integrity, & is highly regarded by some as a community watch-dog. His supporter, Lenny Weinstein, is even quoted in the ad as saying "Lloyd does a lot of homework to make sure that the public is well protected. Every community needs a muckracker."

But we already HAVE a devoted & vigilant watch dog in the person of John Uniack (currently serving on RRROC) -- who diligently crunches numbers & forcefully advocates adherence to proper & legal procedures while still managing to work effectively with members of RRROC & the community at large in a professional, courteous, & constructive manner. Unlike Mr. Guccione, Mr. Uniack often stands FOR things as well as AGAINST them.

My main problem with Mr. Guccione is that he does not behave in a constructive, courteous, or helpful manner. He repeatedly criticizes RRROC & points out problems without proposing any constructive solutions. He insults the personal integrity of RRROC members & launches frivolous legal actions instead of devoting his formidable intellectual energies & resources to helping the RRROC become more transparent. We're a small community & we NEED to be civil & kind towards one another. If Mr. Guccione cares so danged much, he should serve on a subcommittee or submit a proposal for project funding (um ... though I don't know WHAT, exactly such a project might be ... um ... an oversight committee for the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight committee?).

The formidable complexity of Mr. Guccione's mind prevents me from discerning what he actually wants & supports. But I have managed to form a pretty good idea of what he does NOT want or support. As far as I can tell, Mr. Guccione wants NO redevelopment funds to be spent on ANY projects whatsoever. Mr. Guccione takes NIMBY (an acronym for "not in my back yard") to a whole new level: BANANAs (which stands for "BUILD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, ANYWHERE, NEAR ANYTHING").

He talks an awful lot about spending our redevelopment tax dollars wisely, yet he also requires huge amounts of these tax dollars to be spent upon defending RRROC against lawsuits instigated by ... guess who? ... Mr. Guccione. Who has repeatedly taken legal action against RRROC for supposed petty infractions against various arcane procedural requirements, which Mr. Guccione attributes to evil & profiteering motives on the part of RRROC members. These allegations are repeatedly rejected by the courts, yet he persists in making them.

I agree that RRROC & the CDC need to improve their communications & public outreach (though they have taken many steps in the right direction) & have repeatedly urged them to do so in this blog & in person at the RRROC meetings. But I don't feel that these lapses result from sinister motives. The fact is: RRROC members do not get paid, have a lot of redevelopment stuff on their plates (in addition to their "real" lives), & they're doing the best they can. County Development Commission (CDC) officials are also overworked & underpaid & they have to stay at RRROC meetings until past midnight, too. I'm sure their spouses & children love that.

So ... when we vote for our RRROC representatives, do you want to vote for Dan Fein, Catherine Young, George Zastrow, & other colleagues whose seats are up for grabs & who've actually managed to get some stuff done? Or do you want to vote for Mr. Fein's opponent, Lloyd Guccione, who has consistently & forcefully opposed almost every single public improvement which has been proposed for funding over the past few years & who has repeatedly WASTED the LOCAL TAX DOLLARS he is so desirous of managing wisely by launching unjustified lawsuits which repeatedly bite the hand that's trying to feed us & which has often proven more than willing to allow us to define the terms upon which we are fed?

Like most of my fellow river rats & rattinas, I want to preserve the qualities we all love about this area, including our abundant natural beauty & more laid-back way of life. I don't want our downtowns to become chi chi Theissenvilles, or to promote huge housing developments which will turn us into a sprawling suburb of Santa Rosa. But nobody is proposing any projects that could even remotely lead to these undesirable outcomes.

I love our cool, green, serpentine river & our majestic redwoods, but I also like things like parks, roads, functional water pipes, affordable loans & grants for raising people's homes above the floodline, removal of abandoned vehicles & other trash, rehabilitation for the buildings which house important local institutions like the Koret Club & River Child Care Services, & other things that we need & cannot afford without redevelopment funds.

Once again, I am obliged to disclose the fact that Dan Fein hired me to create his campaign Web site. But I wouldn't have done so if I hadn't already decided to support him.

RRROC Elections: & The Vote-Worthy Incumbents Are ...

In my previous posting, I encouraged my readers (both of them) to vote for the incumbents in the upcoming RRROC election on December 11th, 2007 & explained why. These folks are committed, caring, & work well together. These currently serving RRROC members who wish to retain their seats (heaven knows why -- it's an awfully thankless & unpaid job) are:

  • Business Owners/Operators: Lynn Crescione & George Zastrow
  • Residential Property Owners: Dan Fein
  • Residential Tenants: Catherine Young
Additional RRROC members still serving out their terms (& who are hence not running for re-election) are: Ken Wikel (business owners); Tom Lynch (who is running for Mike Reilly's post as County Supervisor) & John Uniack (residential property owners); & John DeSalvio & Sheila Peterson (residential tenants).

These folks have worked awfully well together to pass through a variety of worthy projects which have drawn wide support from the community -- including the following:

  • Funding for our beloved community radio station, KGGV FM;
  • Renovations to the Koret Club (now called the Monte Rio Community Center) & the River Child Care Services building;
  • Creation of two attractive parks alongside the Russian River in Guerneville;
  • Construction of our first public restroom at the Guerneville River Park;
  • Elimination of "urban blight" (um, don't they mean RURAL blight?) via the Spring Clean-Up, & removal of abandoned vehicles & unsafe abandoned buildings;

The currently-serving members have fought for -- & received -- unprecendented levels of provision for public input in the design & implementation of these projects. I'm sure the challengers are equally caring & passionate & have worthy qualifications, but things are balanced & going well & why rock the boat at this point?

Current RRROC Chair, Dan Fein, & Catherine Young particularly stand out in my mind as people who have supported redevelopment project proposals while also insisting upon -- & receiving -- provisions for public outreach & local control. I am also highly impressed with John Uniack (whose seat is not up for grabs this year), for his rigorous insistence upon the exercise of due diligence concerning the legal & financial aspects of redevelopment. I also adore Tom Lynch & Ken Wikle, who passionately advocate for public restrooms, affordable housing, & other much-needed community infrastructure.

Once again, I feel ethically obliged to publicly express my support for Dan Fein, who wishes to serve on RRROC for another term. Current legal provisions prohibit him from acting as Chair again. But that's okay. Mr. Fein is well connected, acts well as a team player, & does not exhibit any major attachment to his chairperson-ship.

Friday, November 2, 2007

RRROC Election: Please Vote for the Incumbents

If you live in Guerneville, Monte Rio, or Rio Nido, you've probably received a large white envelope in the mail from RRROC (Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee) in regards to the upcoming election on December 11th. Please open it, instead of tossing it into the recycling bin. This envelope contains a ballot, an information packet, & a return envelope (which, alas, does not include postage, so you'll need to buy a stamp).

It's REALLY important that you VOTE in this election & choose who you want to represent you on RRROC. I personally hope you'll vote for the incumbents (people currently serving on RRROC, who are marked as such on the ballot) because I feel that this group of citizens work well together, represent our community thoughtfully & effectively, & have managed to hammer out the logistics & funding approval for numerous worthy projects despite their often extremely different views (which accurately represent differences in our community).

RRROC members oversee how the County spends the millions of dollars in funds which have been set aside for public improvements to the Russian River Redevelopment area (which consists of Rio Nido, Guerneville & Monte Rio). These dedicated, caring, & hardworking folks work on an unpaid, volunteer basis & devote countless hours of time to research, public outreach, networking, reading documents -- including correspondence from folks like us -- & ... ugh ... attending monthly subcommittee meetings & monthly RRROC meetings which start at 7pm & often run well past midnight because there are so many important things to discuss & so many committee members & citizens who have strong & valid ideas & opinions.

RRROC was created a few years ago because so many local residents & stakeholders wanted a say in how this money will be spent. The folks from the County Development Commission (CDC) are nice people with good intentions, but they definitely have a vested interest in projects which will increase tax revenues (via property taxes & sales taxes generated from tourism) & do not always understand the core values of our community. We're a diverse, eclectic, independent, creative, unconventional, opinionated & outspoken lot. I LOVE that about us & that's a huge part of what made my husband & I choose to move here & call this place home.

As arbiters of how -- & whether or not -- redevelopment funds are spent, folks who win this election will have a HUGE impact on the future of our community. The recently-held & widely-attended series of Community Visioning Sessions (focus groups) have revealed that most of us share similar values & goals, even if we disagree on how to implement these values & goals.

We all want to preserve the environment & unique beauty of this area; increase economic opportunities & affordable housing without becoming an ugly, generic suburb with traffic & urban sprawl; care for the most vulnerable elements of our community -- children, the elderly, & the homeless; help low-to-middle income folks who need to raise their homes above the floodline &/or replace old, smoky & dangerous woodstoves; improve deteriorating public infrastructure like roads & leaky water pipes; creating new recreational opportunities like a skateboard park, bike/pedestrian paths, & new parks along the river; & eliminating rural/visual blight via building rehabilitations or removals, spring clean-ups, & removal of unwanted vehicles.

The folks who currently serve on RRROC have done an excellent job of getting a lot of these projects to go through while thoughtfully taking a variety of factors into account & ensuring that we have a measure of control & input in shaping these projects. Funding for the Guerneville River Park (through Sonoma Parks & Rec) & a low interest loan for Burbank Housing to acquire land for construction of affordable housing was only granted after RRROC received a substantial amount of control concerning the design guidelines for these projects.

I'll list the incumbents running for seats in the upcoming election in my next post. As far as I'm concerned, these folks DESERVE another term simply because they've already served & actually WANT to do it again. It's a hard, thankless, & unpaid job. My hat's off to them.

Please note that one of the incumbents I support is Dan Fein, who currently serves as RRROC Chairman. Rules & regulations prohbit him from being Chairman again, but he still wants to serve as a member. I am also ethically obliged to inform you that he hired me to create his Web site. Which I did because I strongly support him & -- although I highly respect his primary opponent (Lloyd Guccione -- more on that later) -- I prefer Dan's vision of the future to Lloyd's. I've often disagreed with Dan in my posts on nitpicky stuff, but overall, I strongly support him. He's caring, committed, strongly entrenched in this community, has good ideas, & is always open to the ideas of others.

More later.