Showing posts with label Russian River. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russian River. Show all posts

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rattina bids a fond farewell & takes a few parthian ... I mean parting ... shots

Greetings, friends, neighbors, & readers:

My family and I have enjoyed our six years of living in the enchanted forest of Rio Nido, but finally made the difficult decision to relocate closer to my husband's high-tech job in Silicon Valley. I've felt privileged to work with so many caring, competent, and talented neighbors towards creating positive change in our community, through the Rio Nido Task Force (now called Friends of Rio Nido). I also loved volunteering at Guerneville Elementary School, leading my daughter's Brownies/Daisies (now Juniors/Brownies) girl scout troop, teaching Sunday School at the Guerneville Community Church, helping launch the Rio Nido Community Garden, volunteering at the Monte Rio Preschool (now STARS), doing face painting for various fundraisers, and being a member of the Rio Nido Home Owners Association.

I'll also miss covering news and issues in this blog, my "West County Buzz" column for the (now defunct) Russian River Monthly, and the "Rockin' Rio Nido" column I co-wrote for the Sonoma County Gazette with my local BFF & partner in crime, Elena Chronis. She and Kim Link have taken over the Rio Nido column and are doing a fabulous job. I hope Elena will also take over my blog, but we're still trying to hash that out.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with the following random comments & observations:
  • Go Rio Nido!: I'm excited & amazed by how much we've accomplished over the past couple of years! Our once neglected & overlooked little backwater River hamlet is finally getting some well-deserved attention & wherewithal to attain the potential this friendly, intimate, verdantly beautiful, redwood-shaded village deserves. The Rio Nido Task Force has evolved into Friends of Rio Nido (FRN)-- an organization with bylaws, an elected board, & strong direction -- which already operates informally as a positively influential force & which also seeks legal, non-profit status. FRN's Board members & various committees have already obtained $18K in RRROC funds for July's successful clean-up (thank you Jennifer Ostrom), plus lots of County help with street & directional signs (thank you Matt Malick). Kim Holliday from the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) & John Uniack (retired RRROC member) have also worked behind the scenes to obtain funding for immensely helpful projects in the works, including the purchase of land for nearby public beach access.

  • Go Rio Nido Roadhouse!: Against all odds, Brad Metzger has managed to maintain former owners, Dee & Midge's long-standing & beloved summer community traditions, while bringing it into the 21st century and serving the year-round community. The Roadhouse is now a successful year-round business, restaurant, bar, and music venue, and also informally functions as a community center with a pool, summer water aerobics, and site for local meetings and benefits. Thank you Brad, and Kim Link (the manager).

  • Why does Justin Lacey from RRROC hate Rio Nido?: He consistently rants & votes against everything we -- and RRROC member Kim Holliday -- propose for Rio Nido at the RRROC meetings. I, and many others, have found this to be highly offensive. Lacey says he's mad because Holliday's facts & statistics (regarding redevelopment expenditures for towns in the redevelopment area) are inaccurate & that Rio Nido has had more than its share -- even though it definitely HASN'T. Lacey obviously can't stand working with Holliday, which others who've worked with her may understand ... BUT ... the reason why Holliday's agendas so frequently prevail is because she's smart & well-prepared; her facts are always impeccably presented & thorough; plus, her engineering background & technical consulting experience (formerly for Accenture, now as a freelancer for various companies) has enabled her to decipher arcane County processes & work with others towards getting things done. Go Kim!

    I sure hope that Lacey has calmed down since the last time I spoke with him back in June. When I asked him about his hostile reaction to projects advocated by Rio Nido residents & stakeholders, he started frothing at the mouth & expressing resentment about how people from Rio Nido come to meetings as a bloc to "make demands." But wasn't RRROC established specifically in order to ensure that communities have a voice in the County's redevelopment processes? Rio Nido-ans have finally learned from other River communities -- most notably Monte Rio & Villa Grande -- & have become more organized. That's a good thing, & I hope more neighborhoods do the same.

    Folks from Guerneville, Monte Rio, and Rio Nido need to work together -- not against each other -- if they want the business climate, economics, and quality of life on the River to improve. Nobody should be scorned for getting neighbors organized to seek funds and resources for their immediate communities. Instead, these communities should serve as inspiration to other neighborhoods on the River. Spiteful bickering has no place in an environment where services are being ruthlessly cut and so many folks have exhausted their unemployment benefits and still can't find work.

    If Lacey's still ranting, somebody PLEASE tell him to get a GRIP!

  • Summer business is booming -- keep it up!: I feel sad about all the recession casualties and will miss Vine Life, River Mist, Mosaic, and others. But I'm thrilled that 2011 finally brings a well-deserved prosperous summer for locals. Boon Spa & Restaurant, the Monte Rio Theater/Cafe, the Rio Nido Roadhouse, the Village Inn, the Guerneville 5 & 10, & others seem to be thriving now. I've also noticed some new restaurants and storefronts -- including Big Bottom Deli, Sharon's Emporium, Trio, etc. -- who seem to be kicking butt. I also visited Johnson's Beach this summer and was happy to see it bustling with activity. I'm also delighted that the new owners of the historic Guerneville Theater & also Monte Rio's Pink Elephant have made so much progress. Keep up the good work!

  • Re-Launch FOGS, for pete's sake: I don't know what happened with the Friends of Guerneville School (FOGS). During my daughter's last year there, FOGS appeared to be moribund. Yet my fellow parents frequently approached me to ask when the next non-existent meeting was happening, and how they could get involved. Alas, I was similarly clueless concerning the status of FOGS. I hope someone can get FOGS going again, because the Guerneville School really needs the money. It's scary that the only recent fundraisers for enrichment activities have been conducted by the group of parents who organized two successive annual Spaghetti Cook-Offs at the Rio Nido Roadhouse -- with no support from FOGS -- & managed to raise over $7000.

    The principal and teachers are doing a great job with the school-- last year, our students' test scores earned us a "California Distinguished School Award" -- but I don't know how long they can keep getting these great results with so little money. Guerneville Elementary/Middle School needs classroom volunteers, money for extracurricular programs, and also classroom supplies. Recent cuts in educational funding have been brutal, and too many parents are too impoverished to make up the difference. They may want to talk to the folks from Monte Rio Elementary/Middle School -- which seems to have a lot of parent involvement and funding. Their test scores aren't as high, but they're still decent, and they're gaining a strong reputation for their art, music, and performing arts programs.
Th-th-th-that's all folks! Farewell, and good luck to all of you on the River, and thank you all for your support. Since "San Jose Rattina" simply doesn't sound right, this is my last post for this blog.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Some fond memories of winter holidays on the River

I can’t believe we’ve been living here long enough to reminisce about holidays on the River. It’s easy to do since we have so many wonderful community traditions, including the ones below (I’ve been so crazy-busy, I didn’t have time to write things up in advance this year -- though my neighbors and I did list them on the Rio Nido Web site at http://www.rionido.net/. Information is also available from the Russian River Chamber of Commerce at http://www.russianriver.com/ ).

  • Annual Pasta Dinner/Fundraiser: The flurry of festivities kicks off on the first Wednesday of December with the Gonnella family’s annual pasta dinner/fundraiser for Bob Burke’s Kids at the Union Hotel in Occidental. This year, my daughter’s choir group, the Russian River Choir, and other groups performed holiday music while the adults enjoyed a hearty dinner of pasta, assorted sauces, salad, garlic bread, and dessert. It’s free to attend, but this event gathers enough in donations to help fund Burke’s numerous gatherings and recreational activities for children with cancer and their families. Although the eponymous and much-loved Bob Burke passed away this year, his family keeps the traditions and foundation alive. This year’s event was well-attended, as hundreds of people gathered together to celebrate and show their support. We saw folks we haven’t seen in ages!
  • Annual Tree-Trimming Downtown Guerneville: Not even the winter rains and recession Grinch can keep the holiday spirit away. Every year, on the first Thursday of December, our merchants decorate their storefronts and the street with lavish holiday lights and the Russian River Chamber of Commerce gathers folks together in our little town square to light the festively decorated Christmas tree. Okay, well, this year, the tree was a tad smaller than usual … but as I always say to my petite daughter who sometimes complains about being one of the littlest kids in her class … “good things come in small packages.” About 14 girls showed up from our wonderful Russian River Children’s Choir with Sonia and Ashley to sing Christmas carols and Chanukah songs. Since things were running a bit late, Sonia and Ashley took the girls around to go caroling throughout downtown, and in the Fire Station, and were rewarded with way too many cookies!
  • Holiday Parade of Lights in Downtown Guerneville: On the first Saturday in December, Guerneville closes off Main Street and everyone on the River converges for our celebratory Annual Holiday Parade of Lights, in which local businesses and other organizations display their creative talents and strut their stuff with a magical assortment of elaborately-decorated floats. Alas, the Triple R’s float was sorely missed, but the 5&10, Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and a host of others kept everyone happy and entertained. This year’s theme was “World Dance Celebration” and folks definitely seemed ready to celebrate!
  • More to come: Check out Pegasus Theater’s new production of “It’s a Wonderful Life at the Rio Nido Lodge, local New Years Celebrations at the Rio Nido Roadhouse, Village Inn (in Monte Rio), and other venues, and more.

I also wanted to share the following personal holiday memories from a few years back. It always amazes me how quirky, eccentric, and kind people can be out here on the River … especially to children.

From the trunks of babes ...

Seven holiday seasons ago, we were still living in Berkeley, my husband got a bonus at work & we decided to take a mini-vacation from our total wreck/fixer of a house & booked a little cabin at River Lane here in Guerneville for a couple of days. On top of other stresses, our daughter was in massive exploratory toddler & potty-training mode, & the remodel for our rotting, mildew-ridden, antiquated bathroom was NOT going well (probably because we had no money & had to re-do the entire thing ourselves ASAP before the floor caved in).

River Lane was a tad shabby (it has since been refurbished), but affordable & possessed of a cozy, rustic charm … plus it had a lovely deck with a view of the river. We noticed a tall, striking-looking woman in high-heeled patent leather red pumps and a sparkly, red feather boa with her daughter (approximately aged 8) struggling in the parking area with a battered old car which refused to start, & my husband chivalrously offered to give her a jump-start. Meanwhile, my daughter played with the older girl & they got along famously.

The woman & her daughter seemed nice, intelligent, & stylishly dressed. I was also struck by the warmth and affection with which they treated each other and our daughter. But it soon became apparent that they were homeless & had been taking a brief respite from car camping, courtesy of the low, off-season hotel rates. This horrified & saddened us, because my husband & I have gone through rough times & still often struggle financially despite our making a good income. There but for the grace of G*d go I … We teeter precariously on the crumbling precipice of middle-class respectability & it seems frighteningly easy to lose footing & tumble over the edge & into the yawning abyss.

We invited them to have dinner with us, but they said they needed to move on because they visiting with friends “up north” that evening & were supposed to be there already. My daughter’s erstwhile playmate then reached into an over-stuffed garbage bag in the trunk of her car, retrieved a small, plush Simba toy (the Lion King was all the rage back then) & handed it to my daughter, saying “I want you to have this.” My daughter’s eyes widened with delight as she grinned from ear-to-ear, danced a happy little caper, & launched herself into the older girl’s open arms, crying, “I don’t want you to go!”

We don’t know what became of them, but Simba remains one of daughter’s prized possessions & we will never forget this act of spontaneously generosity from this slender, pretty girl with the fluffy ponytails & large, sparkling eyes framed by enormous eye-glasses. We still wonder what became of them and wish them well.

First Christmas home on the River ...

We bought our house & moved in during the following holiday season. Flush with cash from the sale of our previous adventure in sweat equity & an overly-frothy housing market (sigh, how we miss those days now that our current home is WAY underwater), we set about doing our little part to support local businesses and decided to do all of our holiday shopping in downtown Guerneville.

After purchasing some unique and attractive gifts from Etcetera, Wayne Skala’s funky jewelry shop, and Jennifer Neeley’s wonderfully eclectic Memories that Linger (we still miss the latter two stores), we wandered into Hemp and Chocolate. I indulged myself with a couple of new, fabulous outfits (the owner designed them herself – she’s quite talented), and my daughter and I picked out a couple of soft, plushy, gauzy fairy-dolls for her friends. Since she was only two at the time, she threw a fit when she realized that she couldn’t keep them. Of course I had discretely set aside one for her, but how could she know that?

Suddenly, the door opened, and my daughter stopped in mid-tantrum and exclaimed, “Santa Claus!” Then she joyfully ran up to hug the handsome, portly, older gentleman who had just walked in. Sure enough, he sported a red flannel shirt, silver spectacles, rosy cheeks, and full silvery white beard! I apologized profusely, but he cheerfully waved me off and asked what my daughter wanted for Christmas.

While paying for our purchases, this lovely man smiled, handed my daughter the fairy doll, and said, “Merry Christmas!”

… And our first flood

There’s nothing like moving in during a flood year to initiate you into the ways of the River awfully danged fast! It rained and rained over the following weeks through Christmas and New Years. My daughter and I enjoyed all the fabulous recreational puddle-stomping available, until one morning, we woke up to the amazing sight of neighbors kayaking down our street! Apparently, this was one of the legendary floods we had heard so much about. The floodwaters had stopped just short of our property by our town’s little Post Office. We were perched high and dry above the flood line, but we couldn’t get out for several days. Luckily, we had plenty of food, a full propane tank, and had somehow avoided losing our electricity.

Since my parents had sent us two boxes of luscious pears from Harry & David, and my aunt and uncle had sent us a crepe pan with crepe mix, we invited our neighbors (who were all gathered at the Post Office) over for brunch. This proved a lovely way to get acquainted.

I was impressed with how everyone helped each other. Neighbors with electricity stored food in their refrigerators for those who had lost their electricity. Volunteers checked up on elderly, sick, and disabled neighbors to make sure they were okay and to see if they needed to be evacuated (in some sort of huge, amphibious vehicle parked in front of our Fire Station). And afterwards, everyone pitched in for all the big Spring Clean Ups in Rio Nido, Guerneville, and Monte Rio.

Friday, December 3, 2010

NIMBY goes BANANAs in Western Sonoma County

Has anyone noticed that here in Western Sonoma County, people are constantly objecting to having things near them? Seriously, this place is NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) gone totally BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything)!

The following things come immediately to mind:

  • Fire station sirens: Neighbors in Graton keep suing their own Fire Department because the siren is too noisy. Never mind that the loud siren is the only way to effectively summon their volunteer fire fighters in that far-flung, rural community.
  • Homeless shelters: Yikes! Let’s not go there.
  • Skateboard parks: Our fear of sullen, pimply-faced teen-agers hanging around smoking dope ensures that they’ll continue using abandoned homes and secluded riverbanks for these nefarious purposes. The same goes for youth centers and additional neighborhood “pocket parks.”
  • Cigarette smokers: Sorry, but the smoking area is located in Nevada. Pot smoke’s okay, though.
  • Electro magnetic fields: Cell phones, cell phone towers, and Smart Meters cause cancer! Pot smoke’s okay, though.
  • Wineries and vineyards: Um … but we don’t we live in the wine country? Medical marijuana farms are okay, though.
  • Vacation homes: We definitely need to place restrictions on the more egregious activities that go on in some of these places, but we also need to remember that our economy depends on tourism.
  • Convenience stores: The new owners of Guerneville Food & Gas (formerly known as Russian River Gas) want to install a delicatessen and sell beer and wine. Many of us folks in Rio Nido and along Old River and Riverside Roads would love to have a full-service gas station and convenience store within walking or biking distance. Unfortunately, the County will not give them a license to sell beer and wine due to objections from just ONE OLD LADY who doesn’t even live here year-round. Despite GF&G’s location on River Road and the proximity of hotels and vacation homes, the area is zoned as “residential” and hence liquor sales can be prevented by a single resident or property owner. The previous owner spoke with this lady personally, promised to install a security camera, prevent people from drinking on-site, and install a fence to screen the noise … but alas, no go.
  • Music venues: Despite Rio Nido’s long and fabled history as a music Mecca, some neighbors have caused hassles for the Rio Nido Roadhouse with the County. Most of us folks here in Rio Nido absolutely love the Roadhouse as a music hall, restaurant, summer-pool hangout, and general gathering spot. The RNR also serves as our unofficial community center, hosting numerous meetings and fundraisers benefitting important programs and services. Besides – unlike many of the wild parties held in River vacation homes – the RNR’s music ends at 10:00pm at the latest.
  • Multi-unit housing: Despite our chronic housing shortage, lack of year-round customers to support our local businesses, and the desirability of walk-able neighborhoods and better public transportation (which require high-density housing in order to be viable), nobody wants these large structures blocking their sunlight and views. But … where will our children live when they grow up?
  • Gravel quarries and asphalt plants: I agree with people on that, but could change my mind if these businesses created enough well-paying jobs to make the visual and environmental impacts more palatable, and if the people driving those ugly, obnoxious slow-moving gravel trucks would (a) paint their trucks to look nicer; and (b) let motorists pass them when passing is safe & legal, instead of deliberately changing lanes to prevent us from passing.
  • Tattoo parlors that sell sex toys: I wrote about the neighbors protesting in front of Red Spaghetti last year, but after receiving comments and talking with nearby residents, have concluded that we should "live and let live." In general, they're a positive presence in the Hacienda neighborhood, plus their coffee is AMAZING!.

Can you think of anything else you don’t want near you? If so, please feel free to add your comments below.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The intractability of homelessness here on the River

It amuses me to discover that local homeless advocate Jan De Wald supports housing projects for mentally ill, homeless people in downtown Guerneville, yet opposes a housing project for mentally ill, homeless veterans on Merry Lane off of Drake Road. Coincidentally, De Wald happens to live two doors down from the proposed site. Heh heh. The proposed "Veterans Village" project is sponsored by the Patrick McCaffrey foundation, a non-profit founded by bereaved parents, and dedicated to creating nurturing, transitional housing for recovering veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They also seek to build similar facilities in such far-flung locations as Humbolt, CA; Charlotte, NC; and Oak Ridge, MN.

As some may recall, De Wald and her colleagues from formerly the Russian River Interfaith Coalition (RRIC) attempted to use the Rio Nido Fire Station as an emergency homeless shelter in 2008 (see my blog postings, “An emergency homeless shelter in the Rio Nido Fire Station?”, “Rio Nido residents clash over proposed homeless shelter during contentious meeting” and “Homeless update” from November and December, 2008). Shortly after enraged neighbors held a public meeting (and DeWald narrowly avoided being pelted by rotten fruits and vegetables by having the good fortune of not being informed of the meeting), RRRIC changed its name to Community Housing Opportunities West (CHOW).

To be fair to DeWald, she and her cohorts, the folks at CHOW seek to create transitional and permanent housing facilities built to code, with appropriate staffing, supervision, and access to treatment and social services (through Russian River Health Centers, West County Services, County agencies, and other reputable organizations) for vulnerable people who already live here on the River. The proposed Veterans Village facility, on the other hand, is a hulking monstrosity that violates numerous zoning and coding laws, to which neighbors objected long before Veterans Village came into the picture (See Andrew Eckers’ and Mike Dick’s letters to the editor on pages 7 and 8 of the November 2010 issue of the Sonoma County Gazette).

The neighbors have reportedly received no assurances that the Veterans Village facility will be appropriately staffed and tied in with available community services. It is also unclear as to whether this organization would provide housing to local veterans with PTSD, or move them in from elsewhere.

Nonetheless, I find it highly ironic that most people – including myself – support housing for mentally ill, homeless people. We just don’t want them living anywhere near US! No matter how many studies come out in support of main-streaming mentally ill, homeless people and housing them within our communities (see the National Coalition for the Homeless Web site), the majority of us remain skeptical.

It makes me wonder how we can ever solve the seemingly intractable problems associated with homelessness on the River.

The sad thing is that mentally ill people can come across as difficult and even scary at times. The majority of them are odd, possibly tormented, but generally harmless. I also must say that personally, I’ve had friends and acquaintances with severe mental illnesses who make many positive contributions to their communities (they often seem to be artists, writers, and musicians) and who largely succeed in their daily struggle to get help and lead productive lives.

Then again, the dangerous ones often wind up in the news for crimes we wouldn’t want perpetrated on us, our neighbors, or our loved ones. When you hear that crazy lady meandering down the street loudly spewing curses upon some unseen entity (unfortunately, I've never heard anyone wandering about loudly spewing praise and delight) , how can we tell which category she falls into? Most of us won’t take any chances.

My following two personal experiences explain why:

  • A woman who moved down the street from me seemed a bit off-kilter but okay at first ... even kind of sweet. Then, she stopped taking her medications and tormented my entire neighborhood for months of sleepless nights as she engaged in loud arguments (sometimes with her boyfriend sometimes with apparently no one); ran around in the street screaming curses and chasing after her poor little Chihuahua who was obviously desperate to escape; engaging in high-speed car chases in her dreaded maroon Saturn up and down the canyons with some guy in a green truck; and hanging out in front of her apartment building accosting passers by. It took forever for her poor elderly landlords to evict her because they were terrified of her; we kept our kids on lock-down; kept calling the sheriffs (who couldn’t book her because she hadn’t committed any obvious crime); and had no peace until she was finally arrested for smacking a 14-year-old kid across the face who was only returning her escaped dog to her (though I’m amazed that the poor dog didn’t bite him for doing that).
  • I also used to provide In Home Support Services to a nice lady with rheumatoid arthritis who lived in a nice, well-managed Section 8 complex in Santa Rosa. When her increasingly unstable neighbor caused disruptions by playing loud, Christian heavy metal music at all hours of the day and nights, yelling insults and threats that could be clearly heard through their shared wall, and began stalking her (he actually knocked on the door when I was there and said he was the maintenance guy), it took the complex’s management several weeks to resolve the issue. We don’t even know how it was resolved … was he evicted, or did his social worker put him back on his meds?

Of course, the above paragraphs are merely anecdotal and have no statistical validity. Nonetheless, I’m sure some of my readers have similar stories to tell. After all, we do live in an place where -- at a recent community meeting -- a neighbor complained about the Sheriff's slow response to complaints by telephone, and another neighbor brightly responded, "when machetes and propane are involved, the Sheriffs come right away!" Ummmm ... okay.

A big part of the problem is that … As far as I can tell, the law makes no distinction between mental and physical disabilities for individuals protected from housing discrimination by the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Providers of social services staunchly (and correctly) believe that most mental illnesses – even severe ones – can be successfully treated as long as the individual continues treatment and keeps taking their medications. Unfortunately, patients often discontinue their treatment and medications due to lack of access and/or intolerably severe side effects. Google "mentally ill, medications" and you'll get pages of results featuring the word "non-compliance."

A 1997 study published on Psychology Online estimates that 50% of patients with schizophrenia do not take their prescribed medications. After placing a group of 77 homeless people with schizophrenia in an “assertive treatment program” (i.e. the sort of compassionate, highly supervised type of program our social service providers can no longer afford in today’s economy -- after all, this was back in the halcyon days of 1997), the compliance rate only increased to 57%! Yikes!

No wonder residents and business owners howl whenever anyone attempts to set up a homeless shelter, treatment facility, or transitional/permanent housing complex in their neighborhood. Advocates for the homeless and mentally ill need to understand: We fear for our safety, the survival of our already fragile businesses, and our general quality of life. Alas, homeless advocates cannot provide us with satisfactory answers ... or persuade us to actually hear any.

I also believe that our lack of affordable Section 8 housing results from these fears. The twin specters of wraith-like tweekers and crazy people prevent us from providing affordable homes for single moms, low-wage working individuals and families, and people with debilitating illnesses and physical disabilities who struggle daily with chronic housing insecurity. The County prioritizes the most vulnerable (if you're a "Liberal") or most desperate (if you're a "Conservative") cases for Section 8 ... but if more Section 8 housing were available, many more of us would qualify for assistance. After all, we live in Sonoma County, a magical place where the median income is supposedly $70K for a family of four and STILL most of us seem barely able to make ends meet.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tom Lynch resigns from RRROC, what's the world coming to?

Good grief, Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee members seem to be fleeing in droves! Could the long hours and no pay have something to do with it? After losing three members in less than a year (John Uniack, Chris Auzston, and Elio "Buck" Sierra), Tom Lynch tendered his formal resignation this evening. RRROC now has one vacancy each for the residential tenants and residential home owners categories.

During tonight's monthly RRROC meeting at the Guerneville Veterans Hall, Lynch explained that he wanted to avoid possible "conflicts of interest" due to his construction company's future projects (ooh! ooh! What are they?). His fellow RRROC members said they would miss him, and so will I. His jovial presence has calmed many contentious meetings. Dan Fein stated that "Tom is the longest-serving member of RRROC -- 25 years."

Lynch also currently serves on the Zoning Board. He first appeared on the local political scene as "Manure Man" in 1985, when he protested Santa Rosa's "accidentally" discharging 750 gallons of "effluent" into the Russian River by covering four entire city blocks around Santa Rosa's City Hall with manure. He almost made it to the City Hall steps before running out of you-know-what.

Oddly enough, Lynch was not pulled over by law enforcement, despite the fact that he was driving a tractor and broadcast manure spreader around Santa Rosa at three in the morning. Our very own aggressive, ticket-mongering CHP officer -- who currently rules River Road with an iron fist -- probably still wore diapers back in those halcyon days.

On a positive note, RRROC voted to FINALLY approve the Design Guidelines document for the Russian River Corridor, provisional on a few "insubstantial" changes, plus further discussion on recommended architectural styles (based on ones which have historically existed in the area), as suggested by RRROC member Catherine Young. She was concerned that the lovely, Beaux-Arts style of the "Bank Building" in Guerneville would be disallowed for future projects because it wasn't specifically included on the list (for some interesting insights about why the "Bank Building" was abandoned over 20 years ago, read local author Stephen Pizzo's book Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans).

Gee, the Design Guidelines only took 9 years to complete. But it was definitely worth the wait. I should know, because Yolanda Solano from the Permit and Resources Management Department read all 56 pages aloud to us during the meeting. I now understand why my 8-year-old daughter needs me to read her to sleep. Yet many folks expressed appreciation for the vastly-improved, simpler, more accessible, and better organized document Solano presented. She responded graciously by giving credit to the Design Guidelines Task Group* for their extensive reviews and recommendations.

RRROC also formally approved the list of individuals appointed to the Brand Working Task Group by Kathleen Kane from the Community Development Commission (CDC) . The newly-created task group will work with the County's consultant, Great Destination Strategies (GDS) and the CDC towards providing advice and feedback towards developing, branding, and facilitating our local tourism industry. For some reason, this makes me cringe, even though I know that tourism is our economic life-blood.

The Brand Working Task group will include some of the most dynamic business people in our community, including Margaret Kennett, Jan Russel, Peter Hacket, Lynette McClean, Justin Lacy, Kim Holliday, Robin Johnson, Phillip Hampton, Camille La Grande, and Lynn Crescione.

Speaking of Lynn Crescione, she totally kicks butt as the new RRROC chairperson. Meetings used to drone on and on for as long as four hours. Nowadays, decisions are quickly made, and meetings last two hours maximum. This may have something to do with the fact that budget cuts have tightened funding guidelines. Nonetheless, Crescione deserves major high-fives for achieving briefer, more tightly-focused meetings.

In addition, Jennifer Howse from the CDC reported on the following projects:
  • $4 million in redevelopment funds are available for non-housing projects and $800K for housing-related projects this year.
  • Sweet Water Springs' improvements are moving along.
  • the Guerneville River Park's clean-up is completed.
  • the RiverKeeper's park is connected to a new and more reliable water supply.
  • 24 businesses have applied for commercial rehabilitation loans and seven have been approved for design grants.
  • Two housing rehabilitation projects are in the development stage. No new loans have been approved.
  • The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Graffiti Abatement Program will be presented to the Board of Supervisors in October. If approved, the program will receive funding.
  • The Fife Creek Commons (formerly known as the 5th & Mill Affordable Housing Project) has begun. The mediation, final report, relocation of the Marshall House, and grading permit paperwork have been completed. Financing is expected to close by early October.
  • Improvements to the Rusky Rika Dacha apartment complex on River Rd. have been completed.
  • Great Destinations Strategies (GDS) will hold a public meeting on November 3rd to discuss brand concepts.
________________________________________
* The following individuals have served on the Design Guidelines Task Group: Jon DeSalvio, Lynn Crescione, Catherine Young, George Zastrow, Carl Combs, Mitch Gordon, and Gillian Hayes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Go with the (Low) Flow ...

Your intrepid reporter seeks to find out whether or not our part of the Russian River provides good clean fun for ourselves & our children for the summer of 2010 & gives it a rock-solid go-ahead!
Q: What do you do when your Kayak capsizes on the Russian River during a low-flow summer?
A: Get out & walk.
As both of my readers know, I'm NOT a huge fan of the current "Low Flow" water management policy for the Lower Russian River. When folks talk about "Low Flow" around here, it refers to a Federally-mandated policy designed to limit water flows for the Lower Russian River to 70-90 cubic square feet per minute (CFM, which also means "Come F*** Me", believe me, I know, I've worn those kind of shoes in days gone by), so the estuary at the foot of our River doesn't break through to the Pacific Ocean & thereby allows baby salmons to hatch & grow in an ideal habitat. I agree with this in principal, but find the policy to be flawed in multitudes of ways which could cause permanent economic damage to our home-spun tourist industry.

Last summer's "Low Flow" policy -- imposed by drought in addition to habitat preservation -- proved a disaster. Locals & tourists alike found the shallow swimming holes & billowing algae blooms to be utterly loathsome. Even the briefest excursions for my friends & I who have young children resulted with our children contracting ear-aches, stomach-aches, pink-eye, and other ailments.

This summer's different. For starters, we've had abundant rainfall. As a community, we've also demanded that we approach "Low Flow" & habitat preservation in a new way.

In our second "Low Flow" year, in the wake of heavy rainfall, I decided to test the proverbial waters with my 8-year-old daughter starting with Johnson's Beach in downtown Guerneville. My daughter ADORES paddle boats for their rock-solid stability, loathes canoes for their "tippi-ness" & feels neutral about Kayaks because she has never ridden on one.

Thanks to "Low Flow", my preferred option of renting a kayak at Johnson's Beach was the only option available to us. We plunk down our $10 for a generous hour, life-jackets, paddles for both of us, & a swift push-off & off we go. We push off from Johnson's Beach, paddle under the Bridge, and -- voila! -- FREEDOM! My eight-year old daughter gets the rhythm & pushes her paddle away from shore. The River runs clear & cool & we watch the rocks skidding by beneath us. Eventually, we need to stop & drag our kayak along as we drift into the shallows, but we could have avoided this by staying in the channel.

The River runs clear, fast, & smoothly ... we lose our paddle, lunge for it, & grab for it ... OOPS, I've screwed up -- then off we go, in deep, clear green water, paddling past Mallard ducks with their ducklings trailing behind, tiny swallows swooping about, tiny humming birds alighting upon the enchanting foliage on shore, & huge Blue Herons taking off into the sky.

All along we pass by these beautiful vacation homes with people who feel as excited as we do about all the beautiful creatures who cross their line of vision. We paddle by, & the River flows by swift & sure & clean. Most of the time, we can see to the bottom.

Perhaps this can work for all of us, I danged well hope so.

If not, I'll always feel grateful for the spectacularly beautiful day we had.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Russian River Chamber of Commerce activities

In an attempt to staunch the flow of local business closings, our Chamber of Commerce arranged for John DeGaetano of the Small Business Advisory Program to host a May 24th Marketing workshop for local business owners. Unfortunately, a scant five people participated, due to the 3:30pm-5:30pm meeting time. Which genius scheduled that one? DeGaetano, an advisor to the Russian River Chamber of Commerce, also hosted two seminars back in March, entitled, “Marketing your Business in the Community and in this Economy.” With all ironic smirks aside, I wish I could have attended one of these programs, they sound interesting.

Actually, our Chamber of Commerce has been quite busy lately with the lovely hanging baskets which decorate downtown Guerneville; the Give Back Tuesday fundraisers at the Rainbow Cattle Company; the Stumptown Daze parade; and the June 3rd "Chamberee" schmooze-fest during which members from eight Chambers of Commerce throughout the County gathered at the Pacific Coast Air Museum to share ideas and services.

In their June 2010 newsletter, the Chamber of Commerce announced that funding is available to landlords or businesses who wish to improve the appearance of their storefronts. DeGaetano will also provide local businesses with free advice by appointment. If you're interested, please stop by the Chamber or call them at 707.869.9000.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 2010 post-election haikus ...

Alas, I did not post my recommendations in time for the June 8, 2010 elections. I hope my negligence didn't leave both of my readers mentally paralyzed & unable to vote, thereby skewing the results of this sparsely-attended election.

Hopefully, the unique and valuable perspectives so briefly & concisely stated in my post-election haiku poems will at least partially make up for the damage caused by my brief inattention.

MEASURE F:
Voters increase funding for
Russian River Fire Protection District


Measure F, F-Yes!
So Fire Dept. can save our homes
(which are STILL worthless).

PROPOSITION 16:
Voters reject PG&E's thinly veiled attempt
to prevent communities from establishing public utilities.


You can "offer" us
the "right to vote," but you can't
make us vote your way.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY:
Jill Ravitch ejects incumbent Stephan Passalacqua

Too few convictions,
Too many injustices,
un-spellable name.

4th DISTRICT SUPERVISOR:
How Mike McGuire crushed Debra Fudge

Pound lots of pavement;
Make thousands of facebook friends;
Add lots of money.

If you like these, please feel free to forward them or re-post them with a link!

Monday, May 3, 2010

My no Low-Flow letter

Greetings, readers:

Below, please find the letter I wrote to accompany the Low Flow Protest form I've filled out & sent to the State Water Resrouces Control Board, Sonoma County Water Agency, & Russian River Watershed Protection Committee. The deadline has been extended to MAY 13th, which means you'll need to mail your Low Flow Protest form by TUESDAY MAY 11th for them to arrive in time.

PLEASE take a little time, printer's ink, paper & stamp money to fill out & mail this. The idea of low water levels along the Russian River every summer for the rest of our lives is simply too dreary & depressing to contemplate. Writing a letter to send with the form can also help get the message across. Feel free to use mine to help you get started.

Thanks, everyone!

May 3, 2010

State Water Resources Control Board

Division of Water Rights

PO Box #2000

Sacramento, CA 95812-2000

To Whom It May Concern:

As an environmentalist, property owner, concerned citizen, and mother, I strongly oppose the proposed modification for lowering Russian River summer flows on a permanent basis for the following reasons:

  • Negative impact on water quality: Last summer’s low water flows – necessitated by drought conditions – resulted in stagnant pools, algae blooms, and poor water quality. In addition, my daughter (and other children in the area) have contracted stomach viruses and/or ear infections within hours of swimming in the River last summer. We don’t need to conduct expensive scientific studies with voluminous page counts – like the one you hired Entrix (a non-local company based in Dearborn, MI) to do – to know that these conditions cannot possibly benefit any species of fish, endangered or otherwise.
  • Negative impact on our economy: The towns of Forestville, Rio Nido, Guerneville, Monte Rio, Cazadero, Duncans Mills and Jenner rely heavily on tourism for financial survival even in the best of times. In today’s precarious economy, Low Flow would destroy our tourist industry and serve the death blow to our local businesses, real estate values, tax base, and already beleaguered public infrastructure.
  • Negative impact on our quality of life: Many of us have chosen to live on the Russian River because of the area’s unique natural beauty and recreational opportunities. Low Flow would permanently damage our natural resources and our communities.

This is also to point out that our part of the Russian River (Rio Nido, Guerneville and Monte Rio) has been designated as a Redevelopment Area due to its economic and environmental vulnerability. Over a decade’s worth of our communities’ tax dollars – plus time and labor from Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee members and countless others – have been invested in promoting ecologically sustainable economic growth and opportunities here on the River.

To destroy everything our citizens, business owners, and other stakeholders have loved and worked for over the years by implementing permanent Low Flow conditions would be unconscionable. I don’t understand how such an irrational and potentially destructive proposal backed by such limited and flimsy scientific justification could possibly merit serious consideration. The higher levels of water flow that Russian River residents and visitors have enjoyed since at least the late 1800’s didn’t kill the fish. Over-fishing and pollution from agricultural run-off and sewage from Santa Rosa killed the fish.

Sincerely,

Elisabeth A. Parker

Cc: (1) Sonoma County Water Agency C/O Grant Davis, General Manager, P.O. Box 11628, Santa Rosa, CA 95406; (2) Russian River Watershed Protection Committee P.O. Box 501, Guerneville, CA 95446

Encl: SWRCB Protest form

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The low-down on Low-Flow

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Low-Flow issues on the Russian River, here are some links:
See, I'm trying to be balanced and provide links to pro-Low Flow as well as no-Low Flow pages. Alas, my Google searches have failed to turn up any other pro-Low Flow sites because Low Flow totally SUCKS.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Low Flow protest deadline pushed up to May 13th

Good news for slackers like me who missed the recent Low Flow protest deadline (April 12th) ... The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has extended the public comment period to MAY 13th 2010. For more information about Low Flow, please read Brenda Adelman's article in the West County Gazette.

For folks with no time to read, here's the long and short of it ... unless you WANT the Russian River to be shallow, algae-clogged, and totally GROSS (like last summer) every single summer for the rest of our lives, regardless of rainfall levels, PLEASE help stop low flow by doing the following:
  1. Download the Low Flow protest form from the West County Gazette
  2. Fill it out (it's really short)
  3. Write a heart-felt letter about summers on the river or how your business depends on tourism, etc.
  4. Make two photocopies, &
  5. Mail the three documents by MAY 10th (to allow for mail delivery time) to the following addresses:

STATE WATER RESOURCES CONTROL BOARD
DIVISION OF WATER RIGHTS
P.O. BOX 2000
SACRAMENTO, CA 95812-2000

Sonoma County Water Agency
C/O Grant Davis, General Manager
P.O. Box 11628, Santa Rosa, CA 95406,

AND ...

Russian River Watershed Protection Committee
P.O. Box 501
Guerneville, CA 95446.

Please note that you MUST mail these things by May 10th because the Water Agencies have NOT joined the 21st century & do NOT provide email addresses or Web forms. Actually, since they also don't provide a FAX number, they haven't even joined the 20th century!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

River Rattina supports RRFPD's proposed fire tax, despite vigorous protests from beleaguered wallet

Braving the vigorous attacks of her shrieking, snarling, snapping, cavernous void of an empty wallet, Russian River Rattina publicly announces her support for the Russian River Fire Protection District's proposed annual $140 per parcel tax hike.

At a disturbingly violent press conference consisting of River Rattina and her enraged wallet, the online journalist declared, "I know times are tough for all of us economically -- OUCH! -- but it's the right thing to do -- DANG! There goes another FINGER for gawd's sake!"

River Rattina's support was cemented when RRFPD personnel broke down the door of her home to rescue her from the physical attacks inflicted by her angry wallet, & whisked her off to the hospital in their ancient, dilapidated ambulance -- which the County refuses to replace, despite repeated requests for funding, because ambulances do not meet Sonoma County's required zoning standards for affordable housing.

But seriously ... how do I explain my change of heart after opposing Measure G and perpetually fuming about how this is NOT a good time for tax increases? I've gone back and forth with RRFPD's supporters in person, on this blog, and on the West Sonoma County Bulletin Board (WACCOBB) -- plus I've read their statements in various local newspapers. Their intelligent, courteous, and well-thought out responses have convinced me we really do need this tax.

Of course, I still feel that California's tax system is unfairly regressive; that our 30% redevelopment set-asides are starving our special districts (schools, emergency services, law enforcement, etc.) of revenue while providing few economic and community benefits per tax dollar spent; and that RRFPD and others in need of money should seek it from people who actually HAVE money these days (i.e. banking executives, terrorists, and white collar criminals).

But, when push comes to shove, we cannot afford -- as a community -- to cut back any further on our emergency protection. I say "emergency protection" rather than "fire protection" because the folks at RRFPD help us with a lot of things besides firefighting. They provide our ambulances and paramedics when we call 911; help with logistics and evacuations during floods and other emergencies; and they do proactive stuff like memorable and well-received safety presentations for schools and various other organizations. The elementary school kids absolutely adore them.

It isn't Fire Chief Sean Grinnell's fault that our crappy economy, Proposition 13, Russian River Redevelopment's 30% set-asides from our Special Districts, and the gaping maw of financial mismanagement from the County, State, Feds, and evil banking firms have somehow managed to suck away all of our financial wherewithal to an undisclosed location. The ill-fated Measure G may have been more fair overall, but it was obtuse, complicated, and we therefore voted against it. RRFPD has worked hard to address these issues with the current tax proposal -- which comes up for a vote in June. It's clear, simple, fair, and relatively affordable.

RRFPD needs the money, or they'll have to lay off key personnel and cut services. The money flat-out isn't there. So it's up to us to ensure that it is, for the sake of our ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our businesses, and our visitors. It basically amounts to $15 per month. I know that's a lot for many of us, including me. But if you think of it as a form of insurance (which it basically is), we have little choice but to bite the bullet and pay.

PS -- RRFPD really DOES need to replace their ambulance. They approached RRROC for funding -- from the tax revenues which have been diverted from them, for pete's sake -- with a strong and well-supported proposal. County officials responded that funding would be unlikely because -- apparently -- a replaced or refurbished ambulance does not meet requirements for redevelopment funding. This is blatantly untrue. Apparently the County only funds what it wants to fund. Like ... um ... affordable housing?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rio Nido residents enter float in annual holiday Parade of Lights

Rock with Rio Nido in the Parade of Lights.
JOIN THE FUN ON OUR 1st RIO NIDO FLOAT!
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.

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 (http://standupfortherussianriver.blogspot.com/)

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

--- ORIGINAL EMAIL FROM LLOYD GUCCIONE ---

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

Sunday, April 19, 2009

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

West County Buzz, April 2009
by Elisabeth Parker

MY LAST "RUSSIAN RIVER MONTHLY" COLUMN !!!! ... SERIOUSLY ... READ MY FOLLOWING BLOG POST!

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 www.2010Census.gov 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, November 29, 2008

Join the new Rio Nido Community Forum on Yahoo Groups

I've started an online newsgroup for my little community here in Rio Nido. To join, visit our Web page at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rionido/ & click the button that says JOIN NOW. Here, we can exchange information, discuss issues & current events, post announcements, upload relevant photos & documents, & keep a calendar of upcoming events. I hope we can get this thang going.

Rio Nido residents clash over proposed emergency homeless shelter during contentious meeting

12.12.2008 12:30pm, Rio Nido -- Local resident & RRROC member John Uniack & Rio Nido Homeowner's Association (RNHA) chair, Doug Meisner bravely faced hordes of enraged Rio Nido residents with flaming torches & pitchforks in a largely futile attempt to present the Russian River Interfaith Coalition's (RRIC) proposal for hosting an emergency homeless shelter in the Rio Nido Fire Station.

Okay, I'm exaggerating about the flaming torches & pitchforks & unruly mob. But the 30-or-so folks who showed up -- including vacation home owners who drove all the way from San Francisco to attend the meeting -- were pretty highly outraged. Especially since RRIC representative Jan De Wald cancelled the meeting at the last minute & didn't even bother showing up.

Neighbors (including me) voiced numerous objections, including: "We're residential & aren't set up for this!"; "Why does everything get dumped on Rio Nido!"; "My house has been broken into TWICE!"; "They'll smoke cigarettes & do drugs in the parking lot!"; "Yeah, SURE it'll be 'temporary'!"; "The Interfaith Coalition doesn't even have the guts to show up!"; etc.

When things finally settled down, people asked questions & the following answers have emerged:
  • WHY RIO NIDO?: The RRIC can't find anyone in Guerneville to do it & have exhausted all their other options. St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church provided emergency shelter at Hubert Hall in Guerneville last year, but can't do it this year because financial difficulties have required them to shut down their church & hold their services at Hubert hall. The Guerneville Community Church can't do it because the Guerneville Head Start preschool is located on the premises. And I have no idea of why the Guerneville Veteran's Hall won't do it.
  • How many people would be using the shelter?: 10-15 per night.
  • When would the shelter be used: Only in the winter when the temperature goes below freezing (I'm not sure if shelter would also be offered when it rains).
  • How would they get here?: A bus will pick them up from downtown Guerneville in the evening & take them back to downtown Guerneville in the morning.
  • What measures will the RRIC take to keep Rio Nido safe?: The homeless will be bussed in & out (as explained above) & the doors will be shut for the night. A qualified & experienced social worker will be hired to provide supervision.
  • Why didn't anyone from the RRIC show up at the meeting?: They cancelled the meeting because they're having difficulties in obtaining permits from the Board of Supervisors. Hence, their proposal may be moot.
  • Who ultimately gets to decide?: The Russian River Fire Protection District (RRFPD) gets to decide because they own the Rio Nido Fire Station.
  • How many homeless people are there on the River?: Approximately 257 people. As of 2007, the Sonoma County Task Force on the Homeless counted 1974 homeless people in Sonoma County, 13% of whom are estimated to live in the Russian River area. These figures are only estimations because the homeless are difficult to count & also because of varying definitions of homelessness. As far as the emergency shelter is concerned, we're talking about the chronically homeless who've camped out along the River (behind Safeway, under the Guerneville Bridge, etc.) for years & years. According to my highly unscientific & statistically invalid head-count, I think we're looking at about 30 people who will be in need of emergency shelter. But there are also folks who are temporarily homeless, folks living in shelters, & folks who couch-surf & drift in & out of non-standard housing situations. For more information & a link to the 2007 study (formatted as a PDF) go to the Sonoma County Development Commission's FAQ about Homelessness.
SO ... where does this leave us? We'll find out at the NEXT MEETING to be held at the Guerneville Senior Center on Wednesday December 3rd at 5:30PM.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An emergency homeless shelter in the Rio Nido Fire Station?!

Should the Rio Nido Fire Station become an emergency homeless shelter for the winter? The Russian River Interfaith Coalition wants us to consider this possibility. If you feel strongly one way or the other, please come to the neighborhood meeting -- especially if you live in or do business in Rio Nido.

The meeting will be held at 12:30pm, Saturday November 29th, at the Rio Nido Fire Station.

Personally, I think this is a terrible idea for the following reasons:
  • The Fire Station is too small & has no bathroom (though there's a small one in the adjacent post office) or kitchen facilities;

  • Rio Nido has few services & amenities & is two miles from downtown Guerneville (though the Interfaith Coalition plans to hire a bus to shuttle people back & forth each morning & evening);

  • The presence of a homeless shelter & the resulting concentration of people with substance abuse & mental health issues would be extremely disruptive to our neighborhood & possibly unsafe for the high percentage of vulnerable young children & senior citizens who live in the immediate vicinity of the Fire Station;

    and ...

  • Oh, yeah, as I forgot to mention when I first posted this ... what happens if there's a fire? & where would we put all of the fire fighting gear?
The folks at Hubert Hall say they can't host a shelter again this year (even though my church hosted a dinner/raffle last year which raised $3000 for creating a shelter there). The people at the Guerneville Veterans Hall also say they can't do it. If these facilities -- with their kitchens, bathrooms, & square footage -- can't handle the upcoming wave of homeless people, then the Rio Nido Fire Station certainly can't.

I spoke with a couple of people who are involved with the Interfaith Coalition. They've assured me that the hours will be limited, that the shelter will be managed & supervised by qualified personnel, & that a bus will bring the people here at night & take them back downtown in the morning. They also informed me that they've exhausted all other possible options & that the Rio Nido Fire Station is their last hope.

I feel like I'm being a heartless ogre, since without an emergency shelter, some of these folks could freeze to death. But as a home owner & the protective mother of a 6-year-0ld girl, I really don't want the mentally ill & substance abusing people who camp out beneath the Guerneville Bridge all year long to be imported en masse to a facility which is only a few yards from my house! I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way, since there are at least 10 other children in the immediate vicinity.

I'm not the only one who feels that constant proximity to drug users with mental issues is unwholesome for young children: Even my fellow congregants at our Guerneville Community Church -- who passionately advocate for the homeless -- admit that we can't host the shelter in our church because the Guerneville Head Start preschool is located on the property.

On the one hand, I do believe that we should take care of people going through hard times. High rents, foreclosures, unemployment, & health issues have caused many members of our community to lose their homes ... or be on the verge of losing their homes. On the other hand, I do not think our community should necessarily participate in enabling drug addiction, crime & vandalism amongst the chronically homeless.

I also don't understand why the Interfaith Coalition regards the Rio Nido Fire Station as the only possible option. There are two properties in downtown Guerneville which appear to be unoccupied: (1) The church next to River to Coast Childcare Services across from the Veteran's Hall by Church & Mill Streets; and (2) The old, gray bank building on Main & Church Streets. Why can't we have the shelter in one of these places?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Discharge THIS, Santa Rosa!

I recently signed a petition to prevent the City of Santa Rosa from discharging even MORE of their "processed waste water" (i.e. "sewage") into the Russian River from Steelhead Beach in Forestville, & recommend that you do the same. To sign this petition, please visit Coffee Bazaar on Armstrong Woods Road in Downtown Guerneville, or visit the Web site at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/savesteelheadbeach/ & fill out your information online.

After all ... if the waste-water is as clean & compliant with the Federal Clean Water Act as the folks in Santa Rosa claim, then they should have no qualms about doing what folks do in water-starved San Diego: Recycle their processed sludge into drinking water & pump it back into their water supply.

Speaking of water issues, after two summers of "low-flow" out here on the River & the resulting algae blooms & outright revulsion from local residents & tourists alike, I'm REALLY starting to resent all the lush, green expanses of lawns I so frequently see while driving through Santa Rosa. The cleanliness & ecological health of the Russian River -- a public resource -- should certainly take precedence over the poor landscaping choices of individual property owners when it comes to water management.