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Comment Archives: stories: News & Features: News

Re: “Debriefer: October 21, 2015

Thanks to each of you for responding to this piece. It should be noted that I was the editor of this item and take responsibility for whatever problems any reader might have with it, including our use of the word "catastrophic" in relation to a leaf-blower ban's impact on residents. Yes, that was intended to be tongue in cheek, a tone that is a hallmark of this column. I regret that it was taken as seriously as it has been. I would also ask that factual issues raised by any commenters are appreciated and should be directed to my attention, Thanks again for taking the time to comment, and please keep reading. Tom Gogola

Posted by Tom Gogola on 10/26/2015 at 1:50 PM

Re: “Debriefer: October 21, 2015

This is demeaning to the efforts of Sonoma residents from all walks of life who are only trying to have some relief from the constant din and dust and exhaust of gas leaf blowers. The headline, "Leaf Blower Foes Bring the Noise" sets the biased tone. Sarah Stierch had 24 hours to write this piece and it shows -- she did not do her homework and collected quotes via email.

The grassroots group Sonoma Neighbors Against Leaf Blowers has consistently and deliberately conducted itself in a civil and rational manner, sticking to fact and science, as opposed to some of the more visible ban opponents who have raised their voices in meetings, and verbally harassed women after Council meetings, including calling them bitches and saying "F--- You." Even one Council woman was harassed and threatened in the parking lot. If anyone is bringing the noise, it is them. They are the reason the Mayor now has a police presence at every meeting where leaf blowers will be discussed.

There are more than "a handful" of towns with bans on all blowers or on gas blowers. As of 2013 there were 21, and dozens more with heavy restrictions and/or trying to enact a ban. Regarding your assertion that cities with bans are wealthy -- and I'm not sure what your point is in mentioning it (you might also have chosen to point out that many of them are environmentally-oriented, "green" communities) -- I would point out that neither Berkeley nor LA are wealthy cities. Certainly we currently see more wealthy communities with bans, because I doubt poor communities have the political power or frankly the time to stand up for themselves. In Sonoma, Boyes Hot Springs is one of the most effected (no this is not an East Side issue) and you might be interested to know that many of the ban proponents who have spoken at the City Council meetings were from the Springs, describing the many ways leaf blowers negatively impact their lives. They know a ban would not help them, but hope that if Sonoma bans them, the County might eventually follow suit. It is our intention to create packets of information to share with other communities.

Having several issues of importance does not preclude dealing with leaf blowers, another important issue (unless you dismiss the science on the serious health risks of breathing in fine particulate matter, and the other health and environmental impacts associated with leaf blowers).

The issue of job loss is a red herring. This report from Burlingame prepared by a citizen's committee for the City Council is one of the best and most recent -- there are others as well -- to spell out the satisfaction in towns with leaf blower bans, and the total absence of any evidence that anyone lost their jobs or went out of business. (The interviews with cities are summarized starting about 2/3 through the document.)

Finally, Waldron's letter did not predict "catastrophic" effects as you describe them, and your own quote confirms this. "A little less tidy" for the same price is not what I'd call catastrophic. I've spoken to him myself and I know his feelings about a ban have consistently been: it's probably inevitable (for good reasons) and he can deal with it - for some jobs the cost will go up slightly or the result will be less perfect.

I think you've done a disservice here to the public, who have a right to know the facts.

Speaking of facts, there is ample research on the health risks associated with the filthy emissions and fine particulate matter leaf blowers produce, including reports from the Harvard School of Public Health , Harvard Medical School, NYU Medical School, the American Lung Association, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, an Orange County Grand Jury Report on Leaf Blowers, physicians groups, the EPA, The New England Journal of Medicine, The NY Times, Scientific American, Environmental Health Perspectives, and many other sources.

10 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Sarah Ford on 10/22/2015 at 11:05 AM

Re: “Debriefer: October 21, 2015

I would like to point out, that the refugee crisis in Europe is more important than affordable housing, but what does that have to do with affordable housing not being an important issue? On the drought, as we have been told by our arborist, if people did not blow the leaves off, the ground would not become rock hard and unhealthy for our native trees. This would also help stop the spread of sudden oak death, by keeping the trees healthier. I am 64 years old and weight 107 pounds. I sweep the leaves out of our driveway and off the street in front of our house and place them under the oak trees on a regular basis. So, I do not buy into this "We must have our leaf blowers as a necessary landscape tool, or our world will fall apart, our property values will plummet if we can not keep our yards devoid of all naturally occurring elements" litany in favor of leaf blowers. Maybe it is time to embrace our natural world, and contribute to its health and be just a bit less tidy without our leaf blowers.

Josette Brose-Eichar
Boyes Hot Springs

17 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Josette Brose-Eichar on 10/21/2015 at 2:22 PM

Re: “Debriefer: October 21, 2015

Wow. Sarah Stierch got so much wrong about this five year effort to ban leafblowers in Sonoma, and is so clearly committed to journalism as an exercise in hyperbole vs. getting the facts straight, it would be a miracle if anyone working on either side of this issue ever talked to a Bohemian writer again.

10 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Lisa Summers on 10/21/2015 at 1:21 PM

Re: “Legal Lockdown

What a shock it is that DA Ravitch took a pass. I'm sure ever since she faked her investigation of Eric Gelhause, she will double down from now on. Those local defense attorneys must have been pretty sure these allegations had meat on 'em to get Attorney Izaak Schwaiger involved. I bet if the attorneys with juevos in the area did a little digging, they'd find a can of worms at that jail.

4 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Russell Naylor on 10/20/2015 at 1:03 AM

Re: “Back Door Men

Just another example of "rogue police". Unexcuse-able behavior for the protectors of the Friendly City. If I am not mistaken, this isn't the first time. What if Barney Fife's gun went off and killed one of their kids? Resisting arrest???

9 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Rick Fernwood on 09/24/2015 at 9:53 AM

Re: “Back Door Men

This is outrageous behaviour from a local police dept supposedly pledged to "serve and protect" their community. "Surveil and harass" is more like it.
With so many in every community being incarcerated for non violent crimes and first time offenses, why have the police increase the sense of injustice with these tactics? Good grief, 3 officers to conduct a parole search when no crime was suspected, no complaint made?
That's not only a waste of tax payers money, but very poor public relations.

14 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by leslie 2 on 09/23/2015 at 11:48 PM

Re: “Back Door Men

Crackpots after easy money.

2 likes, 20 dislikes
Posted by Bee Ben on 09/23/2015 at 8:07 PM

Re: “Going Tipless

This article has inspired me to return to Peter Lowell's for another meal. I've experienced both good and bad from the restaurant (food is nearly always 4-5 stars imo), but service has been tricky at times. Glad to hear they are taking leadership on income inequality in our community!

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Denny Rosatti on 09/22/2015 at 11:53 AM

Re: “Going Tipless

BTW, Lowell Sheldon is just ahead of the game, one day soon, tipping will go away in California....mostly because of a high minimum wage.....I've been in the restaurnat business 35 years, I know. I've been an owner the last 16....Tipping is going away....

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Rocco Biale on 09/21/2015 at 1:14 PM

Re: “Going Tipless

To justsaying....if TIP is To Insure Promptness, why do we do it at the end of the meal. If we're " insuring" something, shouldn't we do it before?

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Rocco Biale on 09/21/2015 at 1:12 PM

Re: “Going Tipless

Just a couple points here, from a New Yorker who's relocating to Sebastopol:

1) Peter Lowell's is hands down my favorite restaurant in Sonoma -- it's one of my favorite restaurants anywhere! PL's embodies everything a local place should be; it's creative, exuberant, relaxed, true to its principles, and above all DELICIOUS. I have read gripes on SM about service, but in two dozen visits over the last 7 years I have never had anything but great service there. So I think that is truly a bad rap.

2) Maybe it's the years I've spent overseas where "service-compris" is standard, but to me an automatic service charge just makes sense. Tipping is an archaic practice that neither really communicates a larger message to management nor fairly compensates the supply chain that leads to that hot plate of deliciousness just placed before you. And it makes both waiters and patrons uncomfortable, by setting them up essentially as counterparties in a transaction, rather than people enjoying the miracle of a great restaurant. Let's face it, this model is outworn. There are plenty better ways for waiters to show they care and patrons to show they're happy than by this financial reward/punishment system.

3) Restaurant work -- at every level -- is HARD WORK. Competition is fierce for the best employees. Plus, shouldn't the people who bring you such goodness be fairly paid for that task?

Finally, Lowell, as everybody knows, is a passionate, committed, incredibly brilliant chef who is an asset to our community. I don't even want to contemplate Sebastopol without PL. We need to be supporting the local businesspeople that are bringing their hard work and passion every day.

4 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Marc Farre on 09/21/2015 at 11:45 AM

Re: “Going Tipless

Was just recently at the restaurant, my first time. I was a little underwhelmed. I did read about the 20% policy and it did not strike a positive chord for me. I still believe that a TIP is To Insure Promptness. WE did not really experience that.

As for the comments from DonDonSurvelo, do not worry about Lowell's. I noticed that they are already collecting the 9% tax on the "Service Charge". Hmmmm Not only are we required to pay a standard fee in lieu of the traditional tip, we are now taxed on it, whereas before tips were not a taxable commodity for the client. (Yes the servers and any kitchen staff that were receiving a portion are required to report it as income)

The result is a 25% (in my case) surcharge to the advertised prices. Not sure how that jives with the laws regarding advertising or labelling of prices. I would guarantee that even with the good intentions of paying the staff a living wage ($16 -$28 an hour given the hours and expense of living in the bay area is not a living wage) that none of us would buy gasoline (or groceries) that were labelled at $3.00 per gallon and after we filled up were billed $3.75

2 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Just Saying on 09/19/2015 at 7:29 AM

Re: “Going Tipless

As the owner of Peter Lowell's Restaurant I am always interested to read comments on the changes we are making.

1st off I would like to acknowledge that we are not perfect. We have not always performed at as high a level as we would have liked, and are still improving today. Today, however, our service is far more consistent than any time in the past. We believe that we have the potential to provide excellent service to each and every customer that walks through the door. I humbly ask any former or current customer that has had an unpleasant experience to email me directly. I would like to invite you in for a meal on the house. I have no doubt that "keeping it real" is speaking the truth. Again, I humbly ask for a another chance. Every staff member on our current team has the utmost respect for the art of serving and comes to work each and every day hoping to curate excellent experiences for all our guests. email me at and I will set you up!

As to the taxation... "dondonsurvelo" is correct. Much like every other business in the country, we will now be paying taxes on every dollar our employees take home as pay. No one likes paying taxes! That's the basic truth. We will however survive and prosper despite the extra tax burden.

Lowell Sheldon

15 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by lpsheld on 09/18/2015 at 11:34 AM

Re: “Going Tipless

Good tip or bad tip, the owners and management should be more connected to the client in the seat and know whether service and food are good or not. A good server will let management know if there is a problem at the table even if they are the cause of the problem.

One thing not mentioned in this article is the increased taxation the owners will pay. Right now the owners are required to report a minimum of 8% of a server's sales as income. Now with no tipping the employer will have to report 100% of the income of the server and will have to match the Federal, State, SS and Medicare taxes. Higher incomes mean more taxes for the employer. It won't put them out of business but it will cut into the bottom line and it is not something you can put off paying.

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by dondonsurvelo on 09/17/2015 at 8:29 PM

Re: “Going Tipless

I've had some of the worst service ever at Peter Lowells. Now they can still make an excellent wage for ignoring you.

17 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Keeping it real on 09/17/2015 at 10:56 AM

Re: “Going Tipless

Pullman Kitchen in SR tried it at 17% and then stopped it because.....

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Connieinca on 09/16/2015 at 3:11 PM

Re: “Debriefer: September 9, 2015

Who told you SWMC would open soon? The same guy who's said it so many times in the past year? Doesn't sound like a very reliable source to me.

Posted by Dick Fritter on 09/11/2015 at 5:24 AM

Re: “Patience!

They didn't pass the pharmacy test on Monday. Not sure where you got your information. Apparently it will be rescheduled soon.

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by just wondering on 09/02/2015 at 1:53 PM

Re: “Patience!

Did you do any research besides what Hino fed to you?
Conflicts of interest are not "academic" discussions...

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Dick Fritter on 09/02/2015 at 1:20 PM

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