Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sonoma Power Broker Darius Anderson Signs on as PG&E Lobbyist

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2018 at 4:04 PM


As he sets out to lead the way in rebuilding the North Bay after the October wildfires, Sonoma County developer, newspaper owner and Democratic Party power broker Darius Anderson’s Platinum Advisors is also lobbying on behalf of PG&E’s post-fire interests in Sacramento.

According to the California Secretary of State (see graphic above), Platinum Advisors was hired by the utility on March 28, just as a Senate bill that’s squarely targeted at PG&E’s fire liability was scheduled to make its way through the committee process in the Senate.

Sponsored by a quartet of state senators, including North Bay pols Bill Dodd and Mike McGuire, SB 819 sets out to limit the extent to which electric utilities can pass off fees and fines to ratepayers.

According to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, SB 819 enhances the state’s current ability to regulate rate hikes; California law already gives the state Public Utilities Commission leverage to “fix the rates and charges for every public utility and requires that those rates and charges be just and reasonable.”

The current regulations prohibit gas corporations from “recovering any fine or penalty in any rate approved by the commission,” and SB 819 extends that prohibition to gas and electric corporations such as PG&E, which is based in San Francisco, provides power to some 16 million California residents and is the dominant investor-owned utility in the state.

SB 819 would in effect head off PG&Es attempt to convince Sacramento lawmakers that fallout from the “new normal” of wildfires shouldn’t fall on the utility, even if its equipment is determined to be the culprit. Two state agencies are investigating the fires and no final determination has been made about PG&E's ultimate responsibility for the fires, if any.

PG&E is opposed to SB 819.

The bill was set for its first committee meeting today, April 17, before the Senate’s Energy, Utilities and Communications committee. McGuire’s a member of the bi-partisan committee. The bill was introduced on Jan. 3 and the Senate set today’s hearing date date on March 12. Platinum Advisors was hired by PG&E two weeks later.

The company was founded by Anderson, a Sonoma resident who is also the principal owner at the Sonoma Media Group (which owns the Press-Democrat), and the founder of the Rebuild Northbay Foundation, a nonprofit he created after the fires. 

The Rebuild North Bay Foundation’s board includes Steven Malnight, a senior vice president at the PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas and Electric Company. According to the Rebuild website, Malnight until recently served as PG&E’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs, “where he oversaw PG&E’s regulatory policy efforts at the national and state levels, including interaction with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)….”

The utility has come under intense scrutiny following the wildfires last fall as state investigators set out to determine what caused the fires which destroyed thousands of homes and buildings, killed dozens of people, and prompted around 300 lawsuits against the utility—including a suit by Sonoma County itself. Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore’s wife, Elizabeth, is the chair of the Rebuild North Bay Foundation.

The North Bay fires caused an estimated $9 billion in so-called "insured damage." Numerous press reports have noted that PG&E carries about $800 million in liability insurance. The takeaway: The investor-owned utility is facing one of the more severe existential crises in its hundred-plus year history, and says that SB 819 could not have come at a worse time for the utility or its ratepayers—especially given its commitment to participating in the state’s climate-change reduction strategies.

At issue for PG&E is the principal of “inverse condemnation,” whereby a utility can be held liable for damages from a wildfire, as PG&E noted in a press release on Jan 3, “even if the utility has followed established inspection and safety rules.”

PG&E put the heavyweight Sacramento lobbying group Capitol Advocacy on its payroll as of Jan. 1. It added more lobbying firepower with the addition of Platinum Advisors about two months later, as the legislative session got rolling.

Anderson was not immediately available for comment via email or phone.

On Jan. 3 PG&E issued this statement in opposition to SB 819:

“While there has been no determination on the causes of the Northern California wildfires that took place in October, it is clear that California needs much broader reforms that recognize the mutual interests of customers, utilities, investors, insurers and others as we work together to address the impacts of climate change including more frequent and more damaging wildfires. California is one of the only states in the country where the courts have applied inverse condemnation liability to events caused by a privately owned utility’s equipment. This means that if a utility’s equipment is found to have been a substantial cause of the damage in the event like a wildfire—even if the utility has followed established inspection and safety rules—the utility may be liable for property damages and attorneys’ fees associated with that event. Allowing essentially unlimited liability undermines the financial health of the state’s utilities, discourages investment in California and has the potential to materially impact the ability of utilities to access the capital markets to fund utility operations. All of these are bad for customers and bad for the state of California. And, at a time when California is asking privately owned utilities to invest billions of dollars to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, these risks pose real consequences for the state’s environment, economy and communities.”

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Friday, April 6, 2018

As High-Profile Policing Stories Pile Up, Santa Rosa PD Still on Fence over "Cops" Contract

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 12:45 PM

Badge boys, badge boys, whatchoo gonna do when Langley comes for you?
  • Badge boys, badge boys, whatchoo gonna do when Langley comes for you?

A spokesman at the Santa Rosa Police Department says the agency has not yet decided whether it will sign off on a contract with Langley Productions, the Santa Monica–based company that produces the controversial reality-show Cops.

“We are still evaluating the proposed contract,” says Captain Rainer J. Navarro via email. “As soon as we have an answer one way or the other, we will provide that information to the press.”

Langley Productions approached SCSO and SRPD back in January about signing on with the 31-year-old program, decreed by the criminal-justice news-site the Marshall Project that same month as the most polarizing reality show in America. The Sheriff’s Office signed on with Langley Productions, but SRPD did not, even as local news outlets blared with the news that SCSO and SRPD would be rolling with the TV crews, complete with the requisite and repeated cueing of the Bad Boys theme. 

Based on interviews with elected city officials, it was anticipated that SRPD Chief Hank Schreeder would have made a decision by the end of last week. City officials told the Bohemian two weeks ago that he was doing his “due diligence” and meeting with individual members of the City Council and taking the pulse of the community before he made a decision.

The Bohemian has a records request in with Sonoma County to ascertain the range and extent of SCSO's communication with county officials or before Sheriff Rob Giordano signed the Cops contract in March.

In the meantime, days after the Cops films crews started following around swing-shift deputies with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, a man died after SCSO deputies detained him in a City of Sonoma mobile-home park, on March 28 at around 10 p.m.

The “fatal incident protocol” at SCSO requires the department to hand off the investigation of the man's death to the SRPD, which issued a statement on March 29 detailing the incident and what would happen next. 

Forty-four year old Roderic Cameron was naked and smashing streetlights at the Sonoma Oaks Mobile Home Park. The City of Sonoma has a contract with SCSO to provide police manpower there.

The SRPD statement said that the suspect was Tasered and that “maximum restraints were used to detain Cameron,” who went into a medical crisis after being detained with a cord around his ankles, according to a report in the Press Democrat.

After being treated by deputies and paramedics on the scene, Cameron was rushed to Sonoma Valley Hospital and pronounced dead.

Neither the SCSO or SRPD, or the producers of Cops, responded to inquiries sent last week about whether the Cops crews were on hand during the fatal incident, which led to the administrative suspension of several SCSO deputies and the independent investigation by SRPD, which is ongoing. 

Whether the Cops film crews were there or not, the Sonoma incident has served to underscore a longstanding critique of Cops that it has historically depicted a biased view of policing that emphasizes the public-relations benefit for local police forces that sign on to the program—without addressing some of the systemic issues around police bias that plague departments across the country. The program has also been blasted for its uneven depiction of policing, to the extent that it focuses on high-action sequences over the mundane and routine public-safety work that officers engage in most of the time. 

In its three-decade history, Cops episodes have been filled with events similar to the scenario that unfolded in the City of Sonoma. A large and irrational screaming naked man who is bleeding and smashing lighting fixtures in a motor-home facility? That's ratings gold for the program.

But scenes of detainees dying while in custody do not typically make it onto the program, if for no other reason that the suspects have to sign a consent form before the footage can be aired. And, the police forces who sign on with Cops are typically given veto power over any clips that the producers propose to air.

“I have concerns and thoughts about Cops being filmed with SCSO and SRPD in Sonoma County” says police-accountability activist Frank Saiz, who decreed the program “garbage” as he took a shot at city- and county-police spokesmen for hyping the program and its public-relations benefits when the Press Democrat reported on its arrival in the county a few weeks ago.

"This reality show is supposed to showcase law enforcement’s good, hard work that deputies do, per [SCSO spokesman] Sgt. [Spencer] Crum, while SRPD Lt. Rick Kohut says that it is ‘good publicity for the city.’ Is the morale that bad,” says Saiz, “that law enforcement needs to get juiced up and pretty for a reality show?

Kohut subsequently told the Bohemian that Schreeder was aware of  the historical critiques on the program, and said it was a possibility that he wouldn’t sign the contract, even after the Press Democrat reported that the SRPD would be participating, beginning in May.

Meanwhile, the local death of Cameron occurred against an explosive backdrop in Sacramento where Stephon Clark was recently shot eight times by police officers there, prompting demonstrations and calls for greater police accountability in the capital city.

Clark, 22, was killed after a helicopter and foot chase, and while he was in his grandmother’s backyard. Officers claimed he was coming toward them with a gun, a claim which is now being investigated by the California Department of Justice, since a subsequent autopsy and fact-check of the officers' claims revealed that Clark was shot six times in the back while carrying only a cellphone.

Again, the first part of the story would make for great television: With a helicopter overhead, a foot chase that ends with a suspect in handcuffs and the cops saying things like, “Why’d you run, man?” is the Cops gold standard for gripping reality TV. The foot chase that ends with an unarmed 22-year-old black man getting shot six times in the back, in his grandmother’s backyard, typically does not make the editing-room cut in Cops-land.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

SCSO Spokesman Spencer Crum: I Never Praised Cops

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 7:55 AM

SCSO swerves around questions about its decision to sign contract with Cops. - SCSO
  • SCSO
  • SCSO swerves around questions about its decision to sign contract with Cops.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Spencer Crum says his comments in the Bohemian this week mischaracterized his views on Cops and that he never offered praise for the program.

His statement comes a day after the Bohemian reported that the Santa Rosa Police Department had not signed off on a contract with the controversial reality show. The SCSO signed a contract with the Cops producers, Langley Productions, earlier this month and the program started filming last week in Sonoma County.

Crum was sent a set of questions about SCSO’s decision to sign a contract with the Cops producers earlier this week, and one asked whether the spokesman could provide SCSO’s view of the critique of Cops that was laid out in a recent Marshall Project report.

The criminal-justice investigative website called Cops the most polarizing reality show in America in a report that ran in January, the same month that Langley was emailing SCSO and SRPD to solicit interest in Cops.

The inquiry sent to Crum, and to SCSO public-affairs specialist Misti Harris, noted that the show had been dropped by Fox in 2013 over longstanding concerns about its racially-biased depiction of policing.

Crum didn’t address any of that. Instead, he sent the following response:

"COPS provides a platform to provide information to the public on the good work being done by Sonoma County deputies and the challenges they face on the streets."

That sure sounds like praising a show instead of addressing legitimate questions about it.

In an email, Crum now says that “I was praising the good work of our deputies and only stating COPS provides a platform to show our good work. I wasn’t praising the television show and I think your article mischaracterized my statement. That’s all I wanted to point out. In none of my answers did I praise the show.“

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Former KSRO Host Melanie Morgan Soars into Flamingo

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2018 at 2:35 PM

tweet tweet
  • tweet tweet

Hard-right media militant Melanie Morgan will soar into the Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa tonight for a talk sponsored by the regional NorCal nest of the Eagle Forum, where birds of a particular “family values” feather, have flocked together since 1972.

Morgan, the former KSRO talk show host, was spotted not long back in Marin County, where she had been a long-time resident. In 2017 the Marin I-J reported that she and a small group had gathered to push a hardline immigration message at a Novato school meeting called by the principal to try and reassure the children and parents that they’d be safe from immigration raids.

The Eagle Forum is itself opposed to any budget-wall “deal” that includes a DACA renewal, according to its website, along with its historical opposition to gay marriage, reproductive rights, and the Equal Rights Amendment.

Morgan’s also been going after a corrupted liberal media and its flights of fact-challenged fancy, through organizations called Media Equalizer and Stop The Scalpings, the latter of which seems to exist solely for the purpose of making sure Sean Hannity is never fired from Fox. 7 p.m.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Sonoma County Supervisor Gorin in D.C. Today, Talking Fire

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2018 at 1:27 PM


Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin was in Washington D.C., today, giving a presentation before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. The subject: the October wildfires and how they impacted Gorin and her District 1 constituents. Gorin lost her Oakmont home to the fires and offered a poignant detail to the committee about seeing an "ironing board sticking out of the ashes" where her home once stood. She was invited to speak by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, the North Coast congressmen who represents parts of Sonoma County. Gorin and her husband lost everything to the fire that consumed their home and thousands of others.

"And you magnify my experience and my husband’s, by 5,000 or more, and you get some scale of the needs of my community and more," she said, highlighting a critical county need to upgrade its early-warning system and the need for better disaster preparedness overall. "We need to prepare our community for the unfolding disasters in the future," she said.
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Friday, March 9, 2018

Sen. Dodd: Yountville shooter is a veteran terminated from a VA program

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 12:30 PM


State Senator Bill Dodd was at a meeting about emergency alerts this morning when his emergency alert went off, along with those of Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore and District 4 Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry. The alert they'd just gotten was about the active shooter situation at the California Veteran's Home in Yountville, located in Dodd's district. He says he's just had a briefing with the governor's office and that the shooter has been identified, though his name is not yet being released. "This was a veteran who has PTSD that was in a program and apparently terminated from that program and came back with body armor and an automatic weapon. They know who he is," Dodd says. The Napa Valley Register is reporting that the hostage-taker is a 36-year-old man who was part of a program on the facility called the Pathway Home, a non-profit that's on the grounds of the veteran's center, and is licensed by the state, according to its website, which describes the 501-c3 thus:

"The Pathway Home (TPH) is an innovative, sustainable, residential program that serves post-9/11 Veterans affected by deployment-related stress. Many of these Veterans have seen multiple combat deployments, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mild-Traumatic Brain Injury, depression, substance abuse, and other post-deployment issues often impede their re-entry to civilian life. The costs to them are high: derailed academic careers, professional frustration, and stress on personal relationships. We recognize this, intervene early, and provide a structured community that helps overcome the stigma of more traditional settings by integrating wraparound mental health services and community support in a residential setting."

Dodd says that there are no known injuries within the facility, "not as of this time," and reports that 20-30 shots were fired. "It's still pretty active," he says as of about 12:15pm.

News photos from the scene are showing up on the Twittersphere with lots of ambulances lined up. Reports are emerging that the hostage-taker may have been a veteran of the U.S. Army who had served in Afghanistan. CNN is on the story.

As of 2:30pm, the Napa Sheriff's office says three hostages are employees of Pathway Home. Law enforcement would not provide any details about the shooter except to say that they had his cell phone number and tried to contact him through the day to no avail. The FBI is on the scene along with U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, whose Congressional district encompasses Yountville.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Petaluma Sheraton Workers to Hit the Bricks for Better Wages

Posted By on Fri, Mar 2, 2018 at 2:48 PM


Hotel workers  at the Petaluma Sheraton will take to the streets at the s emi-ungodly hour of 7 a.m. tomorrow (March 3) to demand better wages and affordable health care for housekeepers, desk clerks and kitchen workers. The workers, who are members of UNITE HERE Local 2850, say they are getting jammed hard by the Sonoma County's spiraling cost of living—and have been negotiating a new contract since last July, to no avail.

The union notes that the wages are not of a livable variety, as housekeepers start at $12.50 an hour. The Sheraton is operated by Pyramid Hospitality, which also runs the Doubletree in Berkeley where those same workers start at $15.90, according to UNITE-HERE. The company runs hotels around the country.

In a statement, Sheraton housekeeper Maria de la Luz Tostado says, "With the wages I make now, I barely make ends meet—we live in a city where cost of living is really high. We work very hard all day every day to make this hotel run smoothly, and it makes good profits; we deserve a piece of that."

The Petaluma workers are also being asked to shoulder $560 a month for family health coverage offered by Pyramid, while those Berkeley workers' families plans cost $0, according to UNITE-HERE.

“We know Pyramid can do better,” says Local 2850 President Wei-Ling Huber in a statement. “Sonoma County workers deserve to live with dignity too.”

Should you care to blow the car horn in solidarity, the Petaluma Sheraton is located at 745 Baywood Drive, Petaluma.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Huffman Signs On for Impeachment

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 12:59 PM

Signs are pointed in the direction of impeachment - WIKPEDIA
  • wikpedia
  • Signs are pointed in the direction of impeachment

U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman has signed on as a co-sponsor to Articles of Impeachment introduced in Congress against Donald Trump, his office reports today. The articles have been written up by Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen, who is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. The articles lay out five areas where the lawmakers say Trump has abused his power, as it hits on collusion, corruption and the reality-show president’s violently mocking disdain for the fourth estate, especially when it comes to his obsession with female news anchors' bodily fluids.

The North Bay Democrat says in a statement:

“Every member of the House of Representatives pledges to support and defend the Constitution of the United States when we are sworn into office. That carries with it the responsibility to provide checks and balances on executive power, and in exceptional circumstances, to impeach a President who has violated the law or abused power to the serious detriment of our country.”

“I’m cosponsoring Rep. Cohen’s articles of impeachment because they focus on the most serious and egregious examples of President Trump’s impeachable actions—his obstruction of justice, his unprecedented conflicts of interest, his unwillingness or inability to credibly and forthrightly address Russia's interference in the 2016 election, and his recklessness with matters of national security. President Trump has shown contempt for the institutions and safeguards that are essential to the rule of law and the proper functioning of our democracy. That is precisely the situation that the rare remedy of impeachment was intended to address.”

Here’s a summary of the articles of impeachment:

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Contractor who Set Out to Rebuild First Post-Fire House—Rebuilds First Post-Fire House

Posted By on Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 12:25 PM

Mark Mitchell told us in November: I want to rebuild the first house. Now he's doing just that for his friend Dan Bradford, in Coffey Park. - TOM GOGOLA
  • Tom Gogola
  • Mark Mitchell told us in November: I want to rebuild the first house. Now he's doing just that for his friend Dan Bradford, in Coffey Park.

Back in November I wrote about Dan Bradford, a Coffey Park resident who lost his home to the Tubbs fire and who'd gotten caught up in some red tape over the cleanup of his property. Bradford had hired his friend Mark Mitchell—who, as he had done in Lake County, wanted to be the first contractor to swing the first hammer signaling the first house was being rebuilt after the October fires.
Well, wouldn't you know it but I just read in the local daily newspaper that Bradford's house is indeed the first one being rebuilt in Coffey Park. That's great news.
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Friday, February 23, 2018

ReCANstruction comes to the Coddingtown Mall

Posted By on Fri, Feb 23, 2018 at 12:15 PM

Shark! Shark! There's a shark in the mall! The winning sculpture from a recent ReCANstruction contest in Texas.
  • Shark! Shark! There's a shark in the mall! The winning sculpture from a recent ReCANstruction contest in Texas.
The Redwood Empire Food Bank is hosting a great and timely charity art competition at the Coddingtown Mall that kicks off tomorrow (Saturday 2/24) from 10am to 3pm. ReCANstruction, says REFB in a release, brings together students, businesses and architects to design sculptures made from canned goods that will eventually go to feed hungry folks around the county. The judging begins at 1pm and the panel includes a trio of local heroes from the recent fires: Santa Rosa fire chief Tony Gossner; volunteer fire chief Mike Mikelson and, according to REFB, 13-year-old REFB Food Drive champion, Memphis Roetter. When the competition's over on March 2, the sculptures will be dismantled and all canned goods will be send to the food bank's warehouse, which provides meals for some 82,000 families and seniors throughout the county. Participants include the Sonoma Country Day School, ZFA Structural Engineer, Wright Contracting and others.

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