Wednesday, December 9, 2009

BIG Rio Nido meeting! Judd not, lest ye be judded ...

Saturday December 12th at 2:00pm
Rio Nido Lodge

Dennis Judd and the Rio Nido Home Owners Association have organized a town meeting to discuss plans and ideas for the Rio Nido Lodge property (recently purchased by Mr. Judd). The meeting will be facilitated by Rio Nido's unofficial mayor, Domenic Farnocchia. Panelists will include major local players, such as Mark Krug, community development manager of the Community Development Commission; 5th District Supervisor Efren Carrillo, RNHOA board member Doug Meisner, Planning Commission member Tom Lynch, local resident, Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) candidate Chris Auzten, and others.

Guess what? Some folks out here in Rio Nido -- including yours truly -- have tentatively decided to drink the Dennis Judd Koolaid. As improbable as it may seem, big things may be in the works for our poor, beautiful, eclectic and neglected little town. An unidentified source of mine believes that Mr. Judd is serious about building his healing retreat for cancer sufferers on the Rio Nido Inn property, and gotten the above-listed big kahunas' attention. There even appears to be some consideration being given to yours truly's fantasy about sprucing up the drab parking lot at Rio Nido's entrance and restoring "boulder beach" (which was destroyed years back during the landslides). Though that sounds like a major undertaking.

So it seems that many of us have made unfair assumptions about Mr. Judd's intentions, and we need to start being constructive, giving him the benefit of the doubt and working with him. We're danged lucky that this venerable but recently distressed property has been purchased by someone who actually cares about our community and what we think of him. Because, when push comes to shove, Mr. Judd's the 500-pound gorilla who can do whatever he wants.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Rio Nido Lodge owner meets with neighbors

November 7 2009, Rio Nido -- 25 Rio Nido residents gathered on the site of the former Rio Nido Lodge (also known as the Rio Nido Inn) at 11:30am to meet with the new property owner, Dennis Judd. After a series of informal conversations with board members from RNHOA, the Sebastopol-based developer and owner of Cipora Properties invited everyone to a meeting so he could introduce himself and address concerns about his plans for the site.

This was definitely a good move on Mr. Judd's part, considering recent problems with the Rio Nido Lodge property itself; ongoing drug, crime and quality of life issues associated with other multi-unit dwellings in the area; and the fact that Mr. Judd's company specializes in affordable housing and recently obtained Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) approval for redevelopment funds for a nearby complex on River Road. For indeed, some neighbors did come with metaphorical torches and pitchforks in hand.

As people arrived, Mr. Judd and Stephen Radeljik (also from Cipora Properties) passed out fliers with an endorsement from local activist and West County Gazette publisher Vesta Copestakes vouching for Mr. Judd's care for the communities in which he builds on one side and yours truly's Top 10 possible uses for the Rio Nido Inn on the other side. (Flattery will get you everywhere!)

Mr. Judd described how he has worked with communities towards "transforming properties" and has been brainstorming with the Community Development Commission about possible uses. Many Rio Nido residents assumed that Mr. Judd intends to build another low-income housing complex. Instead, Mr. Judd stated that he really doesn't know "where to go with this property," and that he wants to work with us on "not just this property, but the whole community." He pointed out that since purchasing the property -- which has caused major problems due to neglect by the previous owner -- things have already gotten better. Mr. Judd also mentioned that the squatters are gone and "now it's cleaned up." He added that "this sends a message that we're a beautiful community & we're not going to put up with this crap any more."

With apparent sincerity, Mr. Judd restated that he hasn't made a decision on what do do with the Rio Nido Lodge and is open to suggestions. He even mentioned that his first choice would be to build a "healing retreat" for people suffering from cancer. Mr. Judd mentioned that he has also discussed the possibility of a specialty grocery store with the owner of a small, local chain. Amazingly enough, it appears that even real estate developers are capable of idealistic dreams.

Ironically, previous Rio Nido Inn owner Jim Friedman had also purchased the now-notorious Faerie Ring Campground in Guerneville back in 2001 with the intention of transforming it into "a healing retreat." Matthew Hagan wrote a flattering article, "Lord of the Faerie Ring", in the December 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian. Quel ironie. Then again, Mr. Friedman is a prison psychologist at San Quentin who rented out his various local properties to people just getting out of prison and recovering (or NOT recovering) methamphetamine addicts. So what would you expect?

Following Mr. Judd's presentation, a heated discussion followed. Rio Nido resident and writer Justin Raimondo (whose vituperative response to a conciliatory piece Mr. Judd wrote for the the West County Gazette will appear in next week's issue) adamantly warned Mr. Judd that "We WILL oppose affordable housing." (Not River Rattina -- the way things are going, she might actually need one of those units soon!) Others expressed similar levels of skepticism.

"I don't think you know what we're going through. We have three section eight houses which are drug houses," exclaimed second-generation resident Amy Merkel Rose. A discussion of problem properties throughout Rio Nido ensued, with one neighbor adding, "When the roach motel closed, the roaches scattered but they didn't go away." and another chiming in, "Some of them live next door to me." Dennis Judd responded, "You're fighting an issue that isn't real. I'm not saying we're going to do low income housing. We're still investigating." Justin Raimondo shot back, "You mean you bought a building for $250K without knowing what you'd do with it?" Another neighbor agreed, "That seems suspect."

Sonoma County Planning Commission member, Tom Lynch came to Mr. Judd's defense, explaining that the previous two owners did not have sufficient resources to maintain the Rio Nido Inn. "Dennis Judd has resources to wrok with the community. He fixes up and cleans up neighborhoods. You can't stereotype the tenants ... Can't we get some more positive energy to move forward?" Tom Lynch is also a local resident, member of RRROC, and the owner of a construction company. He is also a long-time friend of Mr. Judd who has worked on projects for him.

Domenic Farnocchia, RNHOA board member, Russian River Parks & Recreation board member, and unofficial Mayor of Rio Nido, inquired of Mr. Judd, "Are you willing to be part of this neighborhood and do a neighborhood watch with us?" The meeting wound down as local resident Randie Johnson asked, "How can we -- as your neighbors -- help you to come to a decision?" Tom Lynch stated that the next steps would be to hav a larger neighborhood meeting with more advance notice and someone from the Community Development Commission present. A tour of the vandalized and gutted -- but now clean -- interior followed.

The next meeting will be held Saturday December 12 2009, 2:00pm at the Rio Nido Lodge and facilitated by Mr. Farnocchia. Panelists are to include: Mark Krug, executive director of the Community Development Commission; 5th District Supervisor Efren Carrillo, RNHOA board member Doug Meisner, local resident and RRROC candidate Chris Auzten, and others.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rio Nido residents enter float in annual holiday Parade of Lights

Rock with Rio Nido in the Parade of Lights.
Saturday, December 5th, 6:00-8:00pm, downtown Guerneville

All folks who live, work, or play in Rio Nido are invited to ring in the holidays & participate in our first-ever Rio Nido float at Guerneville's annual Parade of Lights. All ideas, help, etc. are welcome. If you are interested in participating, please email me & I'll get you in touch with the organizers.
  • Theme: Rockin' Rio Nido (in keeping with the parade's overall "A Rockin' Holiday" theme)
  • What: 2 cars festooned with holiday decorations -- including Rio Nido's signature Winking Moon face -- accompanied by the world-famous Rio Nido Kazoo Ensemble's rendition of "Jingle Bell Rock". (um, that's us)
  • Bring: Kazoos (available at the 5&10) & good cheer. We welcome edibles, libations, & dogs dressed in cute little outfits.
  • Wear: Santa hats, reindeer antlers, &/or WARM festive holiday attire (it does get cold).
Next meeting:
Sunday November 29th 1:00pm, Post Office parking lot
  • If you want to participate, please join us to exchange ideas, hash out details, rehearse, &/or coordinate logistics. If the weather's bad, we'll move to an indoor location & notify you by email. We look forward to seeing you there.
  • Oh, yeah ... the entry fee: We'll also be collecting contributions towards the $35 entry fee , but we know times are tough & won't be keeping tabs on anyone. Please help if you can & don't worry if you can't.
Car Decorating:
Saturday December 5th, 10:00am, location to be announced
  • We'll need to start decorating the cars on the morning of the parade. If you're interested in decorating the cars for the evening's festivities, we'd love to have your ideas, input, & help. Please email me & I'll tell you where we're meeting as soon as we figure it out.
Meet up for the Parade:
Saturday December 5th, 5:00pm, Post Office parking lot
  • We'll all get together & then head over en masse to the parade. We need to get there a bit early because of the logistics, signing in, etc. The floats all line up on 3rd street & everyone promenades & admires each others' floats. We then inch along until we turn the corner onto Main Street. When the float passes before the judges, we pause & strut our stuff. Um ... whatever stuff we've got.
If you want to help, have ideas, &/or want to participate, please email me. All ideas, fun holiday decor, funky hood ornaments, etc. are welcome! Also, we're still looking for someone to dress like Santa & pass out packages of crystal meth ... oops, I mean CANDY ... to the kids along the parade route.

Friday, November 6, 2009

New Rio Nido Lodge owner hosts community meeting

Attention, Rio Nido residents! Dennis Judd, the new owner of the Rio Nido Lodge, will be at the Rio Lodge on Saturday Nov 7 at 11:30 am (that's tomorrow -- or by the time some of you read this, TODAY!). He welcomes everyone to attend, hear his plans for the property, & welcomes any ideas & feedback we may wish to express.

I sincerely hope -- for Mr. Judd's sake -- that Rio Nido Residents find his plans to be agreeable. Not such a tall order, given that we're open to pretty much anything as long as it isn't a multi-unit low-income housing complex. Oh wait ... didn't Mr. Judd recently get approved by RRROC for receiving a $400K loan to develop a low-income housing complex on River Road? Uh-oh.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

RRROC approves $400K loan for affordable housing complex in Rio Nido

The man who recently purchased the Rio Nido Inn for $250K recently received approval for a $400K loan from RRROC to develop a previously purchased Rio Nido property as an affordable rental housing complex. According to Frank Robertson's October 28 article in the Sonoma West Times & News, RRROC's approval of this loan to Sebastopol developer Dennis Judd "raised some eyebrows."

Although the Board of Supervisors hasn't written any checks yet, the County rarely -- if ever -- denies funding for an RRROC-recommended project.

Folks here in Rio Nido have already started grumbling about the "Ruska Rika Dacha rental housing compound" on River Road and Mr. Judd's intentions for the Rio Nido Inn. But I'm still on the fence. After all, if the job market doesn't improve soon, some of us might need to live there. (Psst, Tom Lynch ... can you please send me an application?)

SO ... gee, now that we know the identity of the developer formerly known as "Mr. X", I wonder what Mr. Judd wants to do with the Rio Nido Inn?

I'm still crossing my fingers & hoping we can persuade Mr. Judd, RRROC, & other People With Money to restore the Inn & turn it into some fabulous, historic high-end hotel. They could even buy the enormous & adjacent parking lot fronting River Road (also for sale), restore the old fountain, & landscape a lush garden like the one at the Coronado Hotel in San Diego.

Didn't I once hear something about Mike Reilly and others floating around the possibility of a luxury resort at the entrance to Rio Nido? This would have the advantage of providing jobs within walking distance to all those folks living down the street.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rio Nido Inn's new owner wants your ideas!

It's a pretty good zoo, said young Gerald McGrew,
and the fellow who runs it seems proud of it, too.
But if I ran the zoo, said young Gerald McGrew,
I'd make a few changes, that's just what I'd do ....
-- If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss.
But seriously, what would you do if you owned the zoo? Or, the Rio Nido Inn? After the requisite fumigation, exorcism, & burning of sage, the possibilities of this charming, historic site are endless. The new owner -- whom we can henceforth refer to as "Mr. X" in order to add a dash of mystery & excitement to our dull lives while saving me the inconvenience of typing extra letters -- wants to hear our ideas.

Mr. X (of whom we know nothing other than his Sebastopudlian ties) recently approached Doug Meisner of the Rio Nido Home Owners Association to help gather input & ideas for developing the property. His envoys proclaim that he is willing to consider anything as long as it is agreeable to the community & has the potential to be reasonably successful from a business standpoint. Perhaps Mr. X is amongst the new breed of entrepreneurs seeking to do good while doing well. Perhaps he less ambitiously hopes to avoid previous owner Jim Friedman's unfortunate fate, which has included bankruptcy, jail time, & bad juju in Rio Nido.

Regardless, we should take Mr. X up on his kind offer, think about what to do with the Rio Nido Inn, & ALSO start thinking B-I-G with a capital B. What do we want for the future of Rio Nido? Right now, the sky's the limit. Redevelopment funds are still available for the unlikely combination of property owners & community organizations who work together & share a vision.

Please post your thoughts & ideas as comments below, or, email them to the RNHOA/Doug Meisner at dmc @ rionido . org (sorry, I can't make this email address a link, or they'll get tons of SPAM -- please just delete the spaces after copying & pasting). Actually, I'd prefer that you simply post them below as comments so we can all enjoy reading them, but it's your choice!

There will soon be a public meeting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Top 10 possible uses for the Rio Nido Inn

Now that the Rio Nido Inn has been shut down & boarded up, & the sales price is dropping daily, we can start speculating on all the exciting possibilities for this unique & historic site:
  1. Rio Nido House of Horrors: A year-round roadside attraction
  2. Ecologically sustainable termite farm
  3. Utopian experiment in communal living for drug addicts & ex-convicts (oh, wait, that's been done)
  4. Future site of the world-famous Methamphetamine Museum
  5. Rio Nido Home Owners Association Country Club with spa, fine dining, & valet parking
  6. RRROC-funded Rio Nido Community Grow-Op/Friendly Neighborhood Dispensary
  7. Sanctuary for feral cats and off-leash pit bulls
  8. Tattoo/"Massage" parlor (oh wait, we already have one by the Hacienda Bridge)
  9. Coffee shop (we'll need stimulants now that we've lost our biggest meth lab)
  10. Skateboard park
But seriously, what would YOU propose for the site of the Rio Nido Inn now that it's going, going, gone! Please use the COMMENTS link to post your suggestions! You're also welcome to post suggestions for my previous top-10 list, see You know you're a river rat when ...

I look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rio Nido Inn listed for $499

FYI, the Rio Nido Inn is now listed for $499K. ... and ... it's STILL a total rip-off.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Local daycare offers evening & weekend hours

Spread the word! Teri Foster's Loving & Learning Center (childcare & preschool for ages 0-5) here in Guerneville now offers evening & weekend hours by appointment for local residents, visitors, & folks hosting parties & special events who need childcare arrangements for the little ones. The Loving & Learning Center is a fully-licensed facility & is normally open from 7:30am-5:30pm weekdays. Sliding scale & other funding are available for low-to-middle-income families. Ask Ms. Foster &/or the folks at River to Coast Childcare Services for details. I hope this helps the many parents I know who work evenings &/or weekends. I also hope that the availability of evening & weekend childcare helps draw more events & visitors to the restaurants, hotels, & other venues around here. For more information, see my previous post, New preschool & daycare center launched.

Interesting article on redevelopment

The Press Democrat has run an interesting article on Redevelopment:

Future of Russian River area redevelopment becomes clearer at:

Though it still doesn't seem terribly clear to me. Actually, our future seems rather murky, considering that the Russian River will be clogged with algae once low-flow starts in earnest after the July 4th weekend.

As my Klingon friends would say, "GA-A-A-GGHHH!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Save Sonoma County Jobs! Stop the $40,000,000 County Raise!

Good grief! The County plans to lay off 150 workers & provide $10K per year raises for the remaining workers which will total $40 million! Just what we need here in Sonoma County -- 150 MORE unemployed people competing for even FEWER jobs! Not to mention all of the businesses who provide products and services to these workers, whose owners and employees will suffer.

Below, please find a letter that Tom Lynch (from the Sonoma County Planning Commission and the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee) posted to the West County Bulletin Board ( & sent to the editors at the Press Democrat, with an introduction. Thank you for all of this information, Tom.

I join Mr. Lynch in strongly urging EVERYONE to call the Board of Supervisors' office at 565-2241.

Dear Friends...

The County is about to layoff 150 workers to fund raises for those that remain. Everyone I know at the County is opposed to this.

Thought I would share with you the below oped piece that I'm hoping will appear in the Press Democrat tomorrow or Tuesday in the Opinion section. Please call the Board of Supervisors office (565-2241) and ask to speak to Valerie Brown, Mike Kerns, Shirlee Zane or's ok to ask them to "Stop The $40,000,000 County RAISE!!!".

Pass this on to your e-mail list as well

Tom Lynch
p.s. I've also created a Google Site with lots of info if you are so inclined at [NOTE from Russian River Rattina: Tom's new Web site is an informative collection of statistics and links about what the County's retirement system is costing us]
Dear Editor, Press Democrat:

While State employees face 15% salary reductions, and local City Governments bear loss of wages, jobs and services; the Sonoma County Association of Retired Employees state that County administrators are giving all 4000 County staff $10,000 annual raises in salaries and benefits. A $40,000,000 raise, that saves $20,000,000 the first year, through Draconian cuts in employee health care. The additional $20,000,000 is funded from attrition of those retiring without rehiring, numerous cuts throughout many departments as well as to nonprofit and volunteer organizations, and layoffs of 150 County staff. For the eighth year in a row; a continuing diminishment from that of the previous year, of essential services Sonoma County taxpayers used to rely upon the County to perform with their hard earned tax dollars.

This $40,000,000 is from a $28,000,000 “cash allowance” of $600 per month; plus $12,000,000 toward the County’s 40-50% match on wages funding retirement benefits of all employees and elected representatives. For every dollar in salary, there is an additional 7.5% going toward the unfunded retiree medical obligation, another 8% for payments on $275,000,000 of Pension Obligation Bonds, an additional 16% to the Sonoma County Employee Retirement Association’s (SCERA) retirement fund, plus 7.65% in Social Security and Medicare, and 4-11% for management and elected officials 401(a)s. On the horizon a recent Segal actuarial sturdy projected County contributions to the retirement fund will double over the next 5 years.

The “cash allowance” raises are causing major cuts throughout the County with profound social consequences. The $28,000,000 raise increases the unfunded portion of the County pension portfolio by 40% as well. Why are we going through all these machinations in order to fund the additional $20,000,000 needed for this raise? Wouldn’t we all be better off simply freezing the health benefit as it is and negotiating some higher deductibles and generic medicine? Must we start laying off our less senior workers so soon, for such specious reasons? Are there not alternatives before we start eating our seed corn by cannibalizing our County work force?
The average salary and benefit for the top 1000 (25%) of County staff is now over $170,000 per year. Employees are paid annually for 2080 hours, while working on average 1680 hours….400 hours, 10 weeks, 1 out of 5 days off paid for sick leave, vacation, holidays, etc. Dare we ask County workers to forgo raises, or take a little cut in pay, perhaps reduce the amount of paid time off so that we may keep other staff from losing their own jobs? Cuts in County staff are cuts in essential services; during unprecedented economic conditions, we need government workers to help tend to the least of thee in our society.

County staff work very hard for a sometimes difficult public, and their efforts are often unappreciated. Every one of them would gladly participate in reduced hours, furloughs, salary cuts, etc. in order to help fellow workers avoid losing their jobs. Why are the unions and management not pursuing these other options.

Contra Costa County’s CEO is warning his Supervisors that in order to cover unfunded obligations, the County will have to lay off 25% of their 8000 person workforce over the next three years. Santa Barbara County is having joint Supervisor and Pension Board meetings to discuss major pension portfolio losses. San Mateo County is working collaboratively with all stakeholders toward making government services more sustainable. Locally Mead Clark Lumber, Aaction Rents, Agilent, and numerous other businesses have tried to avoid lay offs with across the board 10% pay cuts. Where is the leadership and vision commensurate with the challenges ahead? So much of the solution is a temporary cut, and Sonoma County is giving raises?

Have we become the proverbial frogs sitting in a pan of water over an open flame doing nothing while the water comes to a boil? Has County government become so insular and jaded to what’s happening that they would seriously consider laying off less senior workers, many of them “front line”, in order to provide raises to those who remain? Our Board of Supervisors has within them the political courage and wisdom to put the brakes on the “cash allowance” health care reform. The hope of many rests on their willingness to reopen negotiations; toward finding consensus on a more creative, innovative and sustainable solution to some of our budget challenges.

Tom Lynch

(Tom Lynch is a Guerneville builder, community activist, and one of Supervisor Efren Carrillo’s appointees to the Sonoma County Planning Commission. For more info go to:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer programs at the Guerneville Library

The Guerneville Public Library offers some fun & interesting summer programs for children, teenagers, & their families.

Summer Reading Program for Children: Children visit the library each Monday, writes down the title of the book they read each week on a special form kept on file at the Reference Desk. On the last day everyone gathers for a special reading and ice cream social. Children receive books and other gifts, and have a chance to win one of many fabulous prizes in a raffle.
  • Monday June 8th 11am-12pm, Summer Kick-Off: Crafts projects & signing up for the Summer 2009 Reading program
  • Monday June 15th 11am-12pm, Drummm: Woo hoo! Drum circles for the Milkshake set! Kids & adults of all ages can get into the groove with percussionist Jeni Swerdlow and Drummm for a fun, interactive rhythm experience. For more information, visit (oh, so THAT explains the 3 m's -- the dinaub must have been taken!)
  • Monday June 22nd 11am-12pm, Mae Lin and the Magic Brush: See the classic Chinese tale of a pint-sized artiste whose paintings literally come to life in Randall Metz and the Puppet Company's stylishly whimsical production.
  • Monday June 29th 11am-4pm, Museum on the Go: Don't miss this opportunity to see how the itinerant Children's Museum of the North Bay (self-described as "a museum without walls") transforms the Guerneville Library into an interactive, hands-on science exhibit for the day. I applaud this creative & tenacious team of scientists, artists, educators, & dreamers for finding such a clever way to pursue their dream of establishing a children's museum in the North Bay, despite their difficulties in finding a permanent site (hey, why can't we give them a site here on the lower Russian River as part of the Russian River Redevelopment project!)
  • Monday July 6th 11am-12pm, Temporary Tattoos for Kids: Woo hoo! We can entertain ourselves for the rest of the summer by watching our kids' temporary tattoos slowly flake off.
  • Monday July 13th 11am-12pm, Python Ron's Reptile Kingdom
  • Monday July 20th 11am-12pm, Owen Baker-Flynn
  • Monday July 20th 11am-12pm, Summer Reading Program Grand Finale!

Teenagers: Alas, the library doesn't offer quite so many events for teenagers, but the ones below seem worth checking out.
  • Saturday June 20th 3pm: Henna Art for Teens
  • Tuesday July 7th 2pm: Bleach T-shirts for Teens

Saturday, June 6, 2009

New anti-Low Flow blog

A local resident who goes by the handle "Katherine Graham Cracker" has started a new anti-Low Flow blog called Stand Up for the Russian River. Her most recent post is amusingly titled "All Beach, No River". For more information, or to send low-flow related information, stories, & photos, visit (

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The latest on the Rio Nido Inn

I received the following email from my neighbor, Justin Raimondo, about what's going on with the Rio Nido Inn. For those who don't know, this long-neglected property has become a magnet for noise, drug dealing, littering, crime and other problems in this community. For more information, read my posting -- along with lots of comments from readers -- "Rio Nido Inn for Sale ... Thank Gawd!" from March 2008.

From: Justin Raimondo
To: Russian River Rattina

Here's the latest on the Rio Inn:
I called the real estate agency that is handling the "sale" of the inn, and got the name of the Santa Rosa bank that is going to foreclose on the loser owner of the property, and the woman in charge of properties gave me the name of the court-appointed receiver, one Jim Severii. I spoke to him, and he told me: 1) The residents have been issued a 60-day notice, 2) MAYBE half of them will move out by that time, 3) it will take another few months to get them evicted, and 4) the filth, crime, and general disorder at the Inn is going to get a lot WORSE fairly soon.
He also made a comment that I thought revealed his attitude toward the whole matter: when I complained that the Inn is lowering my property value and the value of all the property in Rio Nido, he said, and I quote: "You know what's lowering the value of your property? Rio Nido itself."
I have seen wild pit bulls roaming free on that property, and I recently rounded the corner of Willow coming back from the post office to witness a cop arresting one of the encampment "residents." You may have noticed that the number of vehicles, especially RVs, has increased dramatically: the "management" is actively encouraging people to come and camp out since they will get sixty days of free rent. I live relatively far from the Inn, but you are right there: with your children running around I would think that you would be concerned about the pit bulls running loose. Maybe you just haven't noticed.
In any case, I have called the animal control division of the county government and reported the pit bull situation. (The other day, while round that same corner of Willow, I was confronted by a shirtless denizen of the Inn, who asked me: "Have you see two pit bulls running around here? They got loose!" Yikes!)
Since I am relatively new to this community, and hardly know anyone, I'm wondering if the other residents are going to stand idly by while a bank destroys their investment and their community.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's the 411 with Red Spaghetti & its protesters? A RETRACTION

MARCH 15, 2012 -- Russian River Rattina's long gone, but recently heard from someone at the Red Spaghetti Tattoo Parlor  (by Hacienda Bridge in Forestville) asking me to take down my May 23, 2009 post about the neighbors holding a protest with signs saying things like "Red Spaghetti does NOT respect our neighborhood," due to an alleged porn shop and marijuana dispensary on the premises. She insists that Red Spaghetti does not sell pornography or marijuana. Since their "Slightly Sinful Showroom" Web site -- which directly mentioned these items -- is no longer up & running, I'll assume this is true. I wish they still ran that coffee shop, though. The coffee was awesome.

Since the Red Spaghetti Tattoo Parlor people suddenly have their needles in a twist over this ancient article, someone also may want to inform them of their somewhat unfortunate Google! search results.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More emails for Efren Carrillo about having a community forum for redevelopment on the Russian River

Turns out that some other folks had some additions to Lloyd Guccione's & my emails to Efren Carrillo regarding the County Development Commission's handling of redevelopment on the Russian River.

---------- We need all the help we can get ------------

Hello Elisabeth,

After traveling up to the Russian River over the past 25 years, and after living here part, now full, time in Rio Nido, I agree very much with your remarks about the need to strengthen the infrastructure and to develop a year-round sustainable economy. When these issues are addressed, only then will the Russian River area redevelop into more than just a summer destination spot. That being said, I don't know how controversial or costly the GLBT tourism ads are, but I'm here to tell you, that the GLBT money that is pumped into the local economy is substantial and significant. When it wanes, the community wanes. I've seen that over and over in cycles through the years since the early 80's. However, the GLBT and 'straight' tourism dollar should be considered in addition to the infrastructure and year-round economy issues. Diversity in advertising dollars is always wise.

But I also have to say, nobody wants to invest in a community prone to blight and flooding. When is some enforcement towards the clean up of the local ‘private’ dumpsites throughout Rio Nido going to happen? The Rio Nido Inn is disgusting, with its trailers filled with garbage and covered in blue tarp. I've called the county, to no avail. It appears to me that some substantial redevelopment can start in most of the front and back yards in this area. People drop their trash anywhere they please, and nobody seems to care. The entrance to Rio Nido is a bunch of muddy ruts turned in mosquito ponds. Some large boulders to keep vehicles off these areas, once they were leveled, would be a big help, and would look appealing. Maybe that idea can be presented to the Redevelopment group. True redevelopment will occur when people that drive through the River note the beauty of this area, instead of the blue tarp and garbage dumps along the roadside. Until then, I think the Russian River is doing well to attract any tourist dollar it can get.

Matt Malik

Matt, $25K was spent on niche marketing ads for GLBT tourism. The Chamber of Commerce & other organizations tracked spending for & responses to these ads closely & found -- as you would have predicted -- that the ads had good results, in terms of increased tourism & business. The decision to run these ads was extensively discussed & well-thought out. Unfortunately, the ads also ticked off a LOT of people, who felt that their tax dollars were being spent on promoting an image of our community which many folks are NOT on board with.

In general, we revel in our free-wheeling, live-and-let-live image until a certain line is crossed. Like the equator, the GLBT-Friendliness line is utterly invisible, but definitely not imaginary. It lies somewhat South of our belovedly wild, wacky, & totally stylin' drag queen charitable fundraisers, the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence whom we all ADORE; & WAY NORTH of the barbarian hordes of drunken, vomiting, buttless chaps-wearing Lazy Bear Weekend visitors
whom we all ABHORE because they're obnoxious & make everyone who's unfortunate enough to visit that weekend -- including our very own friends & relatives -- never, ever, EVER want to visit this area again.

---------- Redevelopment? WHAT Redevelopment? ------------

Dear Mr. Carillo:

This note is to second and support Mr. Guccione’s and Ms. Parker’s messages regarding the conduct and management of the Russian River Redevelopment Area. As a manager, Kathleen Kane does not have the interests of the River communities at heart, is deeply unconstructive in her attitude towards those of us who are advocates for issues in our county region, and is the wrong choice to lead redevelopment efforts here.

Ms. Kane has a long-standing record of unresponsiveness and lack of accountability towards those of us who want to see the RRRA prosper. This is most strongly typified by her refusal to consider any options beyond funding tourism efforts aimed specifically at the gay community. Businesses in the area are getting no marketing support, the large community of families in the Russian River and their interests are completely ignored, and innovative ideas for growing the local economy are shot down with negative comments.

This is completely unacceptable. Among the major problems in this area that Ms. Kane appears to have no interest in addressing are the following:

  • The central park of Guerneville, Drake Park, has no bathroom and no functioning water fountains. Meanwhile, a recently built county park across the road overpass has a complete bathroom facility and is overrun by the homeless and by drug dealers;
  • The only credible local newspaper of note, The Russian River Monthly, has just shut down;
  • At least half a dozen storefronts in Guerneville are vacant, and what new businesses there are do not effectively cater to the local population with good inexpensive restaurants and shopping, preferring to concentrate on fripperies for non-existent tourists such as expensive jewelry and boutique flowers;
  • An old bank building in Guerneville has been vacant since the mid-to-late 80’s and remains a magnet for homeless panhandlers;
  • The roads in Rio Nido, my immediate community, are essentially unpaved dirt and local hot-rodders constantly speed through our canyons at 30-40 miles per hour. This while Old Cazadero Road in Guerneville has speed bumps installed along its entire length;
  • Monte Rio continues to have chronic infrastructure problems and is facing an ugly summer ahead as water levels continue to drop, killing whatever tourism may be possible in that community.
  • Homes in foreclosure are selling locally for a third of what they were worth a few years ago;
  • There are absolutely no jobs in the local area.

Now, redevelopment initiatives can’t solve all of these problems, but it would be nice if we had county employees who actually gave a damn about our area. One of the few ways to grow the tax base in this area is to market these communities as less-expensive places to raise a family. Even now, homes in the immediate Bay Area are selling for a median of $700K+ in metro areas, remaining out of reach of even most two-income families. This is a perfect marketing opportunity. Our area remains within commuting distance of San Francisco. Yet all we do is market to the gay community, continuing to damage our communities’ reputation and keeping our image as a party-hearty area where people can come and let their hair down with impunity, drive drunk and commit sexual battery. On some weekends during the summer, I’m actually afraid to bring my kids to Guerneville even to do grocery shopping.

Ms. Kane not only does not represent our interests; she does not offer solutions and simply remains negative and resistant to change and new ideas. I completely support Mr. Guccione’s idea for a community redevelopment forum and hope that you can find time in your crowded schedule to begin to address our concerns and possibly take some action to restructure the RRRA management to become more responsive and constructive. Ms. Kane does not solve problems; she causes them and perpetuates them.

Richard Grace

Monday, May 18, 2009

Community forum on redevelopment needed, PLEASE help us, Efren!

The following is an email I sent to our 5th District Supervisor, Efren Carrillo, in support of my neighbor Lloyd Guccione's email requesting a community forum to address Sonoma County's handling of funds earmarked for the Russian River Redevelopment Area. For easy reference, I have posted the original email from Mr. Guccione below mine.

Dear Mr. Carrillo:

As a strong proponent of redevelopment for the Russian River, I'm startled to find myself writing in support of Lloyd Guccione (whose email appears below). Residents of the Russian River urgently need your support in setting up a community forum in regards to the goals and future of the Russian River Redevelopment Area. I feel extremely disappointed, angry and cheated by Community Development Commission Executive Director Kathleen Kane's newly stated (and unilateral) goals for redevelopment. Considerable effort, resources, funds, and time have gone into developing a Strategic Plan & Vision, which incorporated input painstakingly gathered from our community. Yet the papers I've recently received bear little relationship to the document which was approved by RRROC and posted on the Web site.

My family and I moved to Rio Nido five years ago (okay, four-and-a-half). During this time, I've seen Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee members, activists, business owners, tenants, property owners and other stakeholders work long hours for zero compensation to ensure that our redevelopment funds are spent in ways that reflect the values, goals and needs of our community. These people take time to meet, do research, write proposals and provide input ... only to have Kathleen Kane shut ideas down again and again. In all the RRROC meetings I've attended, I have never heard this woman say anything constructive. If Ms. Kane devoted the immense energy she spends on explaining why things CAN'T get done towards actually figuring out how to GET things done, the lower Russian River would be in much better shape & the county would be collecting considerably more tax revenues.

Given the fact that our tax dollars pay for redevelopment and her salary -- at the expense of our special districts who struggle to provide vital community services -- the Russian River Redevelopment area deserves a far more positive attitude and a higher level of understanding from the CDC than we currently receive. For starters, we have valid reasons for not wanting all of the redevelopment funds to be spent on directly promoting tourism. Ms. Kane acts as though tourism is the magical tonic we need to invigorate our community. Alas, the hospitality industry does not usually create the sort of steady, well-paying jobs (with benefits) needed to create the viable and locally-active middle class required for the economic and civic health of a community.

We need to devote more resources towards strengthening our infrastructure; providing financial and other assistance to new and existing businesses; and encouraging the development of the middle-class, year-round community necessary for supporting our local businesses and boosting our tax base so we can afford to provide vital infrastructure and community services. One way to achieve this would be to run advertisements targeted to individuals and families in the Bay Area who are priced out of the housing market in parents magazines (like Sonoma Family Life and Bay Area Parent) & alternative papers (like the SF Bay Guardian and East Bay Express), & encourage them to consider relocating. Our natural beauty, cultural & recreational amenities, good schools, proximity to the city, lack of gangs, low crime rate, etc. will prove attractive to many folks & the long commute won't scare them, since most people in the Bay Area already have horrible commutes. This sort of advertising would provide at LEAST as much bang-for-the-buck as the highly controversial "alternative" GLBT tourism ads.

During your campaign, you repeatedly stated your intention of improving our relationship with the County. PLEASE remember this and help us by setting up the community forum on redevelopment which Mr. Guccione has requested.

Thank you.

Elisabeth Parker


May 18, 2009

Dear Mr. Carrillo:

I have received no response from you or your staff regarding the planning, formatting, and particpation of a community discussion, dialog, and debate on the future of the Russian River Redevelopment Project. The format outlined by Ms. Kane at last month's RRROC meeting is clearly not that envisioned and hoped for by those concerned over redevelopment's impact and the staff and administrative work and relationship of CDC.

Would you please at least take a moment to clarify your perspective on your campaign standing on the issue of putting redevelopment before the community versus the current (Kane - CDC) effort which is other than a community dialog and debate (and vote) upon redevelopment itself. My desire is to clearly understand your approach to the matter so I will not have any miss-understanding.

Kindly yours,
Lloyd Guccione

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Summer fun in Rio Nido -- 2009

Today's recessionary trends which declare summer "stay-cations" all the rage, make me feel like quite the cutting-edge trendsetter. Once again, my family & I plan to spend summer right here in Rio Nido -- a cool, green, redwood-shaded, historic enclave of a mere 179 dwellings nestled amongst the winding canyons & along the Russian River -- for some good, clean, summer fun (I've heard that some good, down-and-dirty, summer fun can be had here too, but as a dorky stay-at-home mom with 3 kids, I fall asleep before any of that stuff happens).

Our charming little collection of winding canyons shaded by redwoods is located 2 miles east of Guerneville (the largest town in our area), just a mile or two West of the famed Korbel Winery, off of River Road.


RIO NIDO ROADHOUSE --- POOL, RESTAURANT, BAR, & MUSIC all summer long: The pool & snack bar officially opens Memorial Day Weekend, but Leanne & Brad started early because this past weekend was so danged hot! They also run a bar & restaurant with good food for reasonable prices, & host an eclectic assortment of danceable bands on Saturday nights for a modest $5.00 per adult (kids are free) in their attractive, enclosed picnic area.


Come join the fun! Everyone's invited!

Once again, these events are hosted between Rio Nido Road & Canyon Seven Road (off of River Road) in the main picnic area, except for the golf tournament. Once you turn in, we're hard to miss. If you live in Rio Nido, PLEASE consider joining our neighborhood association (information provided below). You don't need to actually own a home, you just need to live here, run a business here, summer here on a regular basis; plus a filled-out form, a pulse, & $20):

  • Memorial Day Chicken Barbecue, Sunday May 24th: Food: 4pm-7pm ($8.00 adult, $5.00 child). Music & dancing: 5pm-9pm
  • Fourth of July Hot Dog & Hamburger Barbecue, Saturday July 4th: Food: 5pm-8pm $5.00 per plate; Music & Dancing: 5pm-9pm
  • Rio Nido Cleanup Day, July 11th
  • Pancake Breakfast: Sunday July 19th: Breakfast 9am-12noon. Adults $6.00, Child $3.00
  • Rio Nido Homeowners Golf Tournament, Saturday August 8th: Northwood Golf Club, starting at 9am. 2-player Better Ball format (no handicap). $80 per player. Includes: 18 holes, cart & BBQ at Rio Nido BBQ area after game. To sign up, list the names & addresses of the players, include a check payable to the Rio Nido Homeowners Association, & snail mail to RNHA P.O. Box #A, Rio Nido, CA. For more information, contact Troy Held at troymheld at yahoo dot com (this is not formatted as a link because I don’t want the poor guy to get automatically-generated spam)
  • Pancake Breakfast & Art Festival, Sunday August 16th: Breakfast 9am-12noon. Adults; $6.00, Child $3.00; Rio Nido Art Festival 10am-3pm
  • Rio Nido Homeowners Association (RNHA) General Membership Meeting, Saturday August 29th at 11am.
  • Labor Day Chicken Barbecue, Sunday September 6th: Food: 4pm-7pm ($8.00 adult, $5.00 child). Music & dancing: 5pm-9pm
  • MARSHMALLOW ROASTS ... To be announced: For good, wholesome family fun, join our gracious hosts, Domenic & Suzanne Farnocchia for roasting marshmallows by a roaring campfire, followed by a rated G movie (maybe PG, if they’re feeling kind of wild).
  • RIO NIDO MINI GOLF – OPEN WEEKEND EVENINGS Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend: Our mini golf course isn’t as fancy as the one on Drake Road near downtown Guerneville (which is wonderful & seems well on its way towards becoming designated as an historical landmark), but it’s fun, charmingly designed, is in walking distance for folks who live or vacation in the neighborhood, it costs only .50 cents per play, & it’s RNHA member Susie Markham’s labor of love. The kids adore it – plus, it keeps them occupied & somewhat corralled during our events. There’s even a small rec-room with kids’ games & inexpensive candy, chips & sodas for sale.
  • Cool, shady playground: We also have a lovely little playground & picnic area with a circular path for scooters, roller skates, & bicycles/tricycles, which goes over a charming little bridge for our seasonal creek. It’s located a couple of “blocks” north of our picnic area, post office & fire station.

IF YOU’RE A VISITOR OR NEWCOMER: Bring along some extra cash to the holiday events, because you may want to buy a Rio Nido T-Shirt or Sweat shirt with a picture of our winking moon; purchase a yummy dessert from the baked goods table; treat your kids to minigolf; or wet your whistle with some beer, wine, or a mixed drink. You’ll also need an extra layer, because it gets cool here at night. If you have kids & feel nostalgic for the sort of fun, small-town summers you enjoyed as a child, Rio Nido is definitely the place to go – especially during summer holidays.

There are also tons of festivals throughout our area throughout the summer & a lively fireworks show on July 4th weekend in downtown Guerneville. For events listings, visit the Russian River Chamber of Commerce in downtown Guerneville or check their Web site at . If you want to stay here in Rio Nido, consider a vacation rental through Balaika Guest Homes or D&G Equities. These folks are reliable & have a good selection of rentals in this area.

IF YOU LIVE HERE - Please support the RNHA – Become a member: Do you live, work, or own property in Rio Nido or on Rio Nido Road (which is basically in Rio Nido, despite the Guerneville zip code)? If so, PLEASE join the RNHA. All you need to join is $15, a membership form with your contact information (RNHA has them at the booth at all the major events), & a pulse. Your yearly membership dues will help support all these events; maintenance of our picnic area (which is available year-round) & mini golf course. You will also periodically receive an RNHA newsletter with local news & upcoming events (it seems to come out about four times per year). Despite the organization’s name, renters are also welcome to join. For more information & sign-up forms, please visit the RNHA table at one of our holiday events, or write to: Rio Nido Homeowners’ Association, PO Box A, Rio Nido, CA 95471.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

R.I.P. Russian River Monthly

On April 17, 2009, Writers and staff for the "Russian River Monthly" received emails from General Manager Zelda Michaels announcing that the well-respected and much-loved 13-year-old local newspaper has folded. "This is a letter I hoped never to write," Ms. Michaels sadly acknowledges, and goes on to explain that the publisher (who has backed the paper as a silent partner and prefers to remain anonymous) pulled the plug because advertising goals have not been met and "anticipated sales would most likely continue to fall short". (NOTE: I strongly & vehemently disagree with this pessimistic assessment of the paper's future prospects!)

People close to the "Russian River Monthly" provide various theories regarding the cause of the publication's demise, including: The current recession, which has hit "Russian River Monthly" readers and advertisers particularly hard; Lack of "counter copies" which would would have delivered more ad views to well-heeled visitors; Stiff competition from the "West County Gazette" (which circulates in more affluent parts of the county, and can afford to charge less for ads because its publisher, Vesta Copestakes, is an amazing one-woman-show who employs no writers or staff), and; Lack of strong leadership and vision.

Observers also hint at acrimonious struggles amongst mutually hostile factions within the newspaper. The two most frequently-mentioned groups consist of: (1) People who feel that founding member and Managing Editor, John DeSalvio (aka "The Mayor of Guerneville"), is egotistical, irresponsible, and utterly impossible to work with; and (2) um ... John DeSalvio.

Although the departure of the "Russian River Monthly" for the local toxic landfill coincides with the departure of John DeSalvio for Burbank, CA (in the grand scheme of things, are these twain destinations truly so far apart?), these events are unrelated. Although Mr. DeSalvio has long served as the public face of our local newspaper and has made many important contributions, he is not actually the publisher (contrary to common belief) ... um ... unless he actually IS. The publisher IS anonymous, after all.

Personally, I'm sad to see the "Russian River Monthly" go. And not just because I'm losing my glamorous job as a human interest columnist and am now once again relegated to the drab role of "hausfrau".

Although I truly enjoy reading Ms. Copestakes' "The West County Gazette" & Johanna Lynch's "Russian River Times" & appreciate everything they do for our community, the "Russian River Monthly" was the only local paper that consistently provided high-quality reporting and objective journalism. The sort of quality you can only get by actually paying reporters, columnists, and editors to stay on top of things and go to all those bored (oops, I mean "board") meetings -- even if it is only a measly five cents per word.

I sure hope other local publishers can pick up the slack.

West County Buzz, April 2009 (my column in the "Russian River Monthly"

West County Buzz, April 2009
by Elisabeth Parker


Too Good to Be True …
On Apr. 1, 2009, Sonoma County Controller Rod Dole and the Board of Supervisors held a 9:00 a.m. press conference in front of the Employment Development Department (EDD) building in Santa Rosa to announce a moratorium on property taxes.

"Tough times call for tough choices." Dole proclaimed tearfully before a cheering throng of recently laid-off citizens filing unemployment claims. "Budget deficits have forced Sonoma County to cut back on tax collection services. For this, I deeply apologize from the bottom of my tiny, cold heart."

5th district supervisor Efren Carrillo elaborated, "My West County constituents demand innovative and cost-effective solutions to the complex economic and environmental challenges we face.”

April Fool! Alas, the County expects local residents to file and pay their taxes as usual.

There are three kinds of people: Those who can count, and those who can’t. Speaking of our tax dollars at work, nine local residents (who apparently believe themselves able to count) showed up at the Guerneville Library at 11:00 a.m. on March 3rd to apply for $20 per hour jobs with the U.S. 2010 Census. These temporary positions require employees to go door to door and conduct interviews with anyone who happens to be home and isn’t brandishing a weapon.

First, Recruiter Robert Mitchell gave an overview of the job requirements and hiring process, then he passed out the rather lengthy application forms, which asked questions like whether applicants have served time in jail or held elective office (the former should apply for banking jobs). Catherine Young, a public relations consultant and member of the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) asked, “Should I check ‘Yes’ here?” (for holding elective office, not serving time in jail). Alas, even Mitchell felt uncertain about whether serving on RRROC officially counts as holding an “elective office”.

Qualifications for census takers include a working vehicle, valid driver’s license, high scores on the 30-minute test, and the ability to correctly fill out copious quantities of forms. According to the Web site, the Federal Government uses information gathered from households to allocate spending on public projects like roads, schools, public safety, parks, and housing. According to Mitchell, job-seekers with the highest test scores will be notified by the end of April. Since Young scored 98 out of a possible100 on the 30-minute, 28-question test, she’ll probably land one of these coveted jobs.

Exit, stage left … At least one person won’t be home when Young knocks on his door. Long-time resident John DeSalvio, who many folks regard as the suave and cheerful “Mayor of Guerneville”, will soon leave us after 28 years on the River. DeSalvio has served our community in various functions, including a recent stint on RRROC. He was also among the original founders of this publication when it launched 12 years ago, and continues contributing as managing editor, designer, and advertising sales representative.

I Left My Heart in … Downtown Burbank? DeSalvio cheerfully explains that he’s moving to Burbank, CA to join his boyfriend, Ross, and to pursue a new career in screenwriting, playwriting, and doing voice-overs. “I’m working with a few people on various projects,” notes DeSalvio, but can’t reveal anything more due to those pesky non-disclosure agreements. Friends can bid DeSalvio farewell at his 68th birthday bash on May 8th at Main Street Station in downtown Guerneville. For a modest cover charge of $5.00, the evening’s entertainment features DeSalvio singing pop standards and Broadway show tunes, and performances from other local talent including Kit Mariah and Lois Pearlman.

Outdoor Barbecue, rain or shine … Apparently, Vesta Copestakes of Forestville isn’t the only Russian River resident who revels in rain. On Saturday March 21, about 20 neighbors in Rio Nido gathered at Bruno Farnocchia Memorial Park at 4:00 p.m. for a potluck, barbecue and marshmallow roast in the pouring rain! Thanks to the tarps, which Domenic Farnocchia (the deceased Bruno’s grandson) and Matt Bedford cleverly hung from trees prior to the event, the majority of celebrants stayed reasonably dry. Notable exceptions consisted of local children, who – fueled with immense quantities of sugar after consuming burnt marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers – frolicked around the adjacent playground and shallow creek. “This is fun. We definitely needed to do this,” concluded Farnocchia.

Blast from the past: Here on the Russian River, even our water agency’s utilitarian booster station (which pumps our water supply uphill) in Guernewood Park has a colorful past. When asked why locals call the booster station “Handy Andy’s”, Sweetwater Springs Board Member Gaylord Schapp explained, “A handy man named Andy used to live there for years, above George’s Hideaway. He was a colorful character with lots of kids.” Since then, a fire destroyed the house. Handy Andy was also a popular toy tool kit from the 1950’s, which now fetches $69.99 and up on eBay. Later, “Handy Andy” evolved into a slang expression for poor or generic workmanship, similar to today’s “Home Depot Nouveau”.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

West County Buzz: March 2009 (my column in the "Russian River Monthly"

West County Buzz: March, 2009

By Elisabeth Parker

Below, please find my "West County Buzz" column from the March 2009 issue of the Russian River Monthly, our local newspaper.

Into each life some rain must fall. It’s hard to enjoy this winter’s unusually sunny weather, with the threat of drought looming above like a non-existent rain cloud. Luckily, Forestville newspaper publisher and local rainmaker, Vesta Copestakes, took action. “My personal philosophy is that there’s nothing you can’t do something about,” Copestakes brightly asserts. In her Feb. 12 issue of the “West County Gazette”, Copestakes exhorted readers to “Think Rain”, posted messages online, and donned bright yellow rain gear (with a matching set for her dog). She even asked local Native Americans to perform a rain dance, but tribal representatives explained that rain dancing is a Plains Indian tradition.

The power of positive thinking. On Feb. 8, the Ocean Song Farm and Wilderness Center in Occidental hosted the rain dance, and the first drops fell that evening.. Led by Cho'Qosh Auh'Ho'Oh, a Coastal native elder, 100 participants from three tribes, Pagan groups, and nearby communities coaxed rain from the clouds with a ceremony, dances, songs, and poetry. A potluck supper concluded the evening. “It’s just wonderful that all these people came together,” exclaims Copestakes.

Coffee Bizarre and the spontaneous combusting vest. No rain fell on the bright morning of Jan. 22, when an unidentified woman’s vest caught on fire as she nodded off in front of Guerneville’s Coffee Bazaar with a lit cigarette (someone please tell Scotty the Barista to go light on the de-caf!). Mike Millar saved the day with his resourcefulness and the DVD he was returning to the Guerneville Library. Astonished onlookers gawked as Millar vigorously smacked the flames with the DVD, jolting the woman awake into a state of uncomprehending terror. “It was the funniest thing,” laughingly recalls an anonymous woman.

No news is good news. Meanwhile in Camp Meeker, “Things are dead quiet since the conflict over the cell phone tower,” reports Tom Austin. “Dead quiet” aptly describes a town with no cell phone reception. Verizon’s proposed cell phone tower on Morelli La. triggered acrimonious infighting, as residents craving cell phone service clashed with activists concerned about alleged health hazards posed by radio frequency radiation. In August 2008, an anonymous neighbor launched Fight the Tower, a Web site and blog (

Fear and loathing ... Tensions increased in the following weeks, culminating with angry reactions to a vicious Sept. 16 post likening Fred Meyer – a respected Camp Meeker Parks and Recreation Dept. board member and tower proponent – to Marie Antoinette. Meyer’s wife, Dani Sheehan Meyer, retorted, “This has got to stop.” Things finally simmered down when Verizon backed out of negotiations with CMPRD following a jam-packed town meeting on Oct. 22. Over 325 Camp Meeker residents (out of a mere 425 souls) had petitioned the Board to decline the proposed contract.

When beseeched for even the tiniest snippet of more recent news, Austin paused and then exclaimed, “Well, we’re happy about the rain!”

How many Sonoma County sheriffs does it take to not catch the “Guerneville Archer”? Apparently, an entire SWAT team. On Jan. 28, an arrow struck Monte Rio resident James McNeill on the head, launching a siege on the suspect’s home on Mill St. 29 hours and several canisters of tear gas later, law enforcement discovered that the suspect – 30-year-old Shaun Gallon – had flown the coop. A trained survivalist, Gallon remains at large with a $75,000 arrest warrant out for attempted murder.

Reign of error. Meanwhile, Capt. Matt McCaffrey evacuated the neighborhood, triggering mixed reactions from residents and business people. A local employee who requests anonymity, declared, “It seemed kind of stupid. They used all this high technology and none of it worked.” Amon Sharkey from the West Sonoma Inn reports, “I was working that day. We couldn’t leave because they were shooting tear gas, so I stayed at the front desk and booked reservations.” Jill De Proto of D&G Property Management found things to be a bit more interesting. “We were not evacuated, because we are located behind Bucks,” she explained. The phone rang off the hook with people asking for news updates, while folks from the SWAT team came in and out for water and bathroom breaks. De Proto was happy to help. “It was exciting. We were the ‘Hot Line’ for two days.”

Dejah Dorantes of Forestville jokingly inquires, “How would the Sheriff of Nottingham handle this situation?”

Miscellaneous tidbits. Speaking of Jill De Proto (who also serves as president of the Russian River Rotary Club), the wildly successful annual Valentine’s Day Crab and Pasta Feed attracted 250 hungry locals and completely sold out. “This was a very proud moment for the Rotary,” exclaimed De Proto. Proceeds from the dinner and silent auction will provide $1000 scholarships for graduating high school students. John Chapman (AKA “Milo” from KGGV FM) also reports that Herman Hernandez from Russian River Parks and Rec. debuted his striking new haircut which resulted from the donation of his locks at this event. “He looks like a skinhead,” laughs Chapman.

The following evening, Coffee Bazaar hosted the second annual “Love and Loathing on the River” poetry contest and reading. The winners were Christopher “Oak” Reinier (Guerneville), Deanna Hopper (Santa Rosa), and Shellee Harper Post (Monte Rio). Organized by Terri Carrion from Hemp & Chocolat, the event drew a lively crowd . “It was great,” enthused Barista Angelina Greep. “We had a big turnout with lots of people from all over the county. The poetry was eloquent.”

This column’s first response to the request for news items came from Stephen Gross, and was suspiciously entitled “[Bohemian] Grove to Open Gates to County Homeless.”

Alas, RRM’s legions of fact checkers proved unable to verify this spectacular act of generosity, or the part about a contract with an “organ donor clause” allowing the Grove to recover the costs of any property damage through the sale of organs. For the complete text of this humorous and “The Onion”-worthy article online, go to

OOOPS! CORRECTION REQUIRED: Vesta Copestakes did NOT dress her dog in a rain coat, even if she has a dog. When I saw the photograph of a woman & dog in matching raincoats in the February issue of the West County Gazette, I assumed that it was Ms. Copestakes & her dog & was informed that my assumption was WRONG. Mea culpa.

As the coach in that ancient but memorable movie, "The Bad News Bears" once stated so succinctly, "Never ASSUME anything, or you'll make an ASS out of U or ME."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Black-balled from Jenner's online community newsgroup

Hmph. Since I care about our community here in Western Sonoma County along the shores of the lower Russian River, maintain this blog, & have recently begun writing a human interest column for the "Russian River Monthly," I thought it would be a nice idea for me to signup for the Jenner Community Bulletin online newsgroup at Apparently, these folks enjoy having their issues & concerns ignored by the local media, because "they" rejected my application to join this apparently exclusive little online forum. Now, I can't help but wonder what these folks are up to ... mwah ha ha.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Justin Raimondo's article about Rio Nido

Rio Nido resident Justin Raimondo wrote an amazing article about the history & current state of our little Russian River hamlet of Rio Nido. It's located at:

Saturday, January 31, 2009

West County Buzz: My new monthly column for the “Russian River Monthly”

Woo hoo! My new "West County Buzz" column appears in the Russian River Monthly this month. Ugh! My new "West County Buzz" column got edited beyond recognition. Yeah, yeah, I'm overly prolix in my prose & my article weighed in just a few words over the word-limit allotted for my column space. Okay, a lot of words over the word-limit ...

*Sniff* Like any other writer, I feel utterly violated when my verbiage gets cut. Nonetheless, it's part of the game & I generally accept that. Especially since the editor, George Klineman, has good judgement. What I CANNOT accept is the COPY EDITOR randomly hacking off my first paragraph & thereby ruining my column. Yeah, everyone makes mistakes, & I've made some doozies in my time, & the copy editor usually does a good job, so I WILL get over it ...

In the meantime ... mwah ha ha ... Here is my revenge ... the original text of my upcoming column two days before you receive the paper, WITH the apparently offending first paragraph ...

WEST COUNTY BUZZ, February 2009

by Elisabeth Parker

WINDS OF CHANGE? Or is it the sound of the media’s collective flatulence as they fawn over Barack Obama? After whose inauguration, Representative Lynn Woolsey and her Washington colleagues toasted the new president at the Congressional Luncheon with Russian River bubbly from Korbel Champagne Cellars. Meanwhile Guerneville’s Tacqueria Tapatia served live inaugural coverage on a big-screen TV with their breakfast burritos …

Speaking of newly elected young whippersnappers facing major challenges, colleagues report that 5th District Supervisor Efren Carrillo works 16-hour days, and doesn’t even drink coffee. “The favorite part of my job is knowing that I'll be playing a role in turning these challenges into opportunities,” says Carrillo, adding that, “The people I get to meet every day from all walks of life make this role very enjoyable.” His jam-packed schedule includes department briefings, meetings, communicating with constituents, speaking engagements, and site tours. “It’s amazing how we manage to fit that all in one day!” jokes Carrillo.

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW: Carrillo recently appointed Pamela Davis of North Bay Corporation (Sonoma County’s garbage and recycling company) as the new planning commissioner, while local builder and activist Tom Lynch amply fills the vacant Zoning Board seat. “Efren’s great!” declares Lynch. “He’s such a breath of fresh air.” Lynch looks forward to focusing on creating “green-collar” jobs, encouraging energy conservation and promoting environmental sustainability.

Carrillo believes that rural areas like the Russian River are “at times forgotten.” He declares, “One priority for the Russian River is to make certain that local government works for them. There are many issues that we can tackle,” including water management, environmental health, conservation of waterways and other natural resources, building a strong local economy, providing adequate mental health and medical services, and creating affordable housing.

TOUGH TIMES: Meanwhile, outgoing Planning Commissioner Rue Furch joins the ranks of the unemployed … On the River, when the going gets tough, the tough work at Safeway. Like Rio Nido contractor Stan Groth, who started in January. “I like the people, and the pay is good,” says Groth … Speaking of jobs, Dan Coshnear, author of the award-winning short story collection, “Jobs and Other Preoccupations”, is featured in this month’s “North Bay Bohemian”. “It’s nice to be recognized,” says Coshnear. He lives in Guerneville with his wife and two children.

WAR ON TERROR: The so-called “Guerneville Safeway Terrorist” called in sicko to work on Jan. 6th and threatened to shoot everyone. Managers shut the down the store for four hours until the suspect, a 45-year old Cazadero resident and (presumably former) Safeway employee, was taken into custody …

Curiously, the suspect targeted his fellow employees instead of the evil corporate masterminds of Safeway’s diabolical plot to drive customers insane with ongoing price increases, out-of-stock items, and random product relocation. He reportedly sought revenge after a manager reprimanded him in front of coworkers. So WHY was he released on bail nine hours later? Sergeant KevinYoung from the Sheriff’s Department explains, “His fourth amendment rights allow him to make bail.”

MARCH ON WASHINGTON: Meanwhile, the Monte Rio School’s eighth grade class is raising money for their upcoming Washington DC trip. Julie DeCarly (Shelby’s mother) states, “We’ve got a jam-packed itinerary … It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Plans include visits to the Smithsonian, White House, Lincoln Memorial, and other attractions. But first, they need $20,000 …

“We’re a third of the way there,” says Allison Van Rillaer (Jocelyn’s mother), thanks to a flurry of fundraising events, including a successful New Year’s Eve bash at Duncans Mills’ newly re-opened Blue Heron, which raised $1300. Owner and fourth-generation local Jaime O’Bryan says he was glad to help. Dinner music, champagne and a one-night’s stay at the newly refurbished Timber Cove Inn for the silent auction were provided by Ralph and Michelle Higgins, Korbel Cellars, and general manager Kurt Piccilo.

ACT LOCALLY: Chuck Ramsey from the Monte Rio Community Alliance has good news for those concerned about the immense and unsightly pile of rubble blocking the Monte Rio’s Park and Ride and the entrance to Starrett Hill Drive. The Department of Transportation has made good progress since the retaining wall collapsed on Christmas Day due to heavy rains. “The [concrete] forms are up and Starrett Drive should be open by the end of March,” reports Ramsey, muttering, “It’s been a real pain getting home on Starrett Hill.” Apparently, the only other entrance is so narrow that drivers are required to do a three-point turn to get in and out … Alas, with the Park and Ride out of commission, carpooling isn’t an option.

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS: Valentine’s Day approaches and love is in the air … Or perhaps it’s the usual herbaceous aroma wafting from Kaya, Guerneville’s purveyors of coffee, tea & medicinal marijuana. Efren Carrillo looks forward to “spending Valentine’s Day at the Russian River Rotary’s Annual Crab Feed. I look forward to seeing many of you there!” Local celebrity Vira Burgerman (the California Mermaid) has moved her hair salon to downtown Guerneville. Rio Nido will soon have an organic community garden, thanks to a persistent band of neighbors and the Russian River Parks and Recreation department. Guerneville’s Kings and Queens vintage clothing shop is about to break Memories that Linger’s record for longest going-out-of-business sale ever. Last month, the “Going out of business sign” was joined by a smaller sign announcing, “Gone for Jan. Back in Feb.” Guerneville writer Lynn Millar exclaims, “I love that! We’re going out of business but now we need a month off!”

Valentine’s Day: The ideal romantic Date.

Speaking of Valentine's Day, an assortment of local personalities personalities have graciously shared their ideas of the “ideal romantic date” with Russian River Monthly readers:

  • Efren Carrillo, 5th District Supervisor: I’m spending Valentine’s Day at the Russian River Rotary’s Annual Crab Feed! I look forward to seeing many of you there! [Eeek! He's lucky he's not married!]

  • Pamela Tinnan, Pastor, Guerneville Community Church: My favorite date with Zack [her husband] was when we stayed in Point Arena. We were in the hot tub on the beach drinking a glass of wine under the stars & had a view of the light house.

  • Peter Andrews, KGGV FM DJ: I’d want to be in Paris sharing a meal in a bistro overlooking the Seine River.

  • Valerie Hausman, Events Director, Russian River Chamber of Commerce: A picnic with a blanket & a picnic basket on a nice Indian summer day, feeding each other fresh grapes & strawberries.

  • Owen Edwards, Entertainment Columnist & KGGV FM D.J.: I’d start by giving a knitting lesson, move on to a candle-light supper accompanied by a 2004 Merry Edwards [no relation] Pinot Noir, & finish with a triple cheesecake for dessert.

  • John Blair, Photographer, Blair Studios: For guys, the ideal romantic date is whatever makes our significant other happy.

  • Russian River Rattina, local blogger and dilettante: Dinner with my husband at Bert Rangel’s restaurant, the River’s End in Jenner, with a view of the ocean and a gorgeous sunset. Alas, I have champagne taste and beer bottle pockets.

  • Lloyd Guccione, Community Activist: How about Mr. Bush and Mr. Bin Laden shaking hands and showing off a really big hug for the telly sitting in a nice kosher restaurant?
Ooh, we desperately need a Middle Eastern restaurant around here which serves affordable Kosher/Halal cuisine with locally-produced, organic ingredients & a drive-through so you can grab your falafel & hummos on the run. They'll call it Abdul Bernstein's Arab-Jewish Cafe & establish a new trend with their cutting-edge barbed wire decor. Lovely. Oh -- watch out for those pesky landmines.

What’s going on in your neighborhood? Please email Elisabeth Parker with news, gossip and tidbits at RussianRiverRattina @ gmail . com