Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sonoma D.A. announces pro-tenant resolution in price-gouging case

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 5:16 PM

....and the Sonoma D.A. agreed.
  • ....and the Sonoma D.A. agreed.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch today announced that a property-management corporation with business in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park has agreed to a stipulated judgement and will pay $50,000 in penalties, $10,000 in legal fees—and restitution to a dozen tenants who were found to be victimized by rental price-gouging following the 2017 wildfires.

Admiral Callaghan Professional Center, Admiral Callaghan Professional Center II, and other related business entities were named in the suit now concluded. Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau found the company had violated state Penal Code 396's price-gouging restrictions put into effect following the declaration of a state of emergency after the October 2017 firestorm.

According to online business resources, Admiral Callaghan Professional Centers is based in Novato and is the property manager at some 60 sites comprising nearly 280 housing units. They were cooperative in the recent price-gouging inquiry.

"The corporations and their counsel cooperated in the investigation and resolution of this matter," Ravitch's office reports via an email this afternoon.

Ravitch reminded local landlords that price-gouging restrictions are in effect through Dec. 4 and could be extended. "The restrictions make it illegal for property owners to increase the price of rental housing by more than 10 percent of the rental price charged prior to the fires," she explains.

Residents are encouraged to report cases of suspected price gouging to the District Attorney’s Office at http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/District-Attorney or call (707) 565-5317.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Report: Santa Rosa roadways among worst in nation

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 8:56 AM

Santa Rosa's roads have gone to pot(hole) according to TRIP report
  • Santa Rosa's roads have gone to pot(hole) according to TRIP report

A report out today from TRIP, the national transportation research group, says that Santa Rosa has some of the worst road conditions in the country. The city's seventh on the list of bad-road cities with populations between 200,000 and 500,000, with 43 percent of Santa Rosa's major roads and highways in woeful shape.

TRIP's research found that Santa Rosa automobile drivers spend an average of $776 a year in vehicle operating costs associated with the poor road conditions; the national average is $599. It also reported that among big cities, San Francisco and San Jose take top honors for their poor roadways.

The TRIP report arrives as Santa Rosa residents are asked to support local Measure 0 this election day—and to consider a repeal of the state gas-tax boost set to go into effect in January under SB1. Gas-tax revenues under SB1 are targeted at rebuilding the state's roadways but Measure 6 would repeal the measure. 

According to the city website, the League of California Cities estimates that Santa Rosa would receive $2,935,933 in fiscal year 2018-2019. SB1 will eventually send $3.9 million annually in road maintenance funds when fully implemented, reports the city.  That's the good news. "Even with this new funding, we are still left with a shortfall of approximately $10 million annually."

Santa Rosa has a $1.1 billion dollar street system with more than 500 miles of roadway and an average annual maintenance budget of around $5.4 million dollars. The city says that because of deferred maintenance, its Pavement Condition Index (PCI) has declined to 60, "at the line between 'good' and 'fair' condition. Recent evaluation with our pavement management program has concluded that we should be spending at least $18 million per year just to maintain the existing pavement conditions at 60."

Measure 6 sets out to repeal SB1 and been heavily pushed by the state Republican party and gubernatorial candidate John Cox. The GOP recently announced it would run anti-SB1 ads on gas station TV screens to whip up support for its repeal.

The local Measure 0,  or "the Vital City Services Measure" sets out to temporarily raise the local sales tax by one-quarter cent and would raise $9 million annually "to help Santa Rosa recover from the recent fires, rebuild our infrastructure, preserve emergency services such as rapid 9-1-1 emergency response times, and address other critical City needs," according to the city website. The tax lapses after six years.

The crumbling-infrastructure question was raised at a recent Santa Rosa City Council candidate's forum for the newly created districts 2 and 4.

District 2 incumbent John Sawyer said that  if Measure O fails and Measure 6 prevails, "I recommend everyone invest in new shocks." 

Here's the TRIP report:

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Prescribed Burns Planned for Salt Point State Park

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 3:20 PM

Salt Point State Park's got lots of trees, too. - CA STATE PARKS
  • Ca State Parks
  • Salt Point State Park's got lots of trees, too.


California State Parks is reporting today that they're working with Cal Fire to plan prescribed burns in Salt Point State Park that could be set as early as Friday.

The burns are being coordinated with the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control Board to minimize smoke impacts in the region. According to State Parks, the burn will take one day to implement followed by several days of patrolling the burn zone.

The fire won't be set unless weather and air-quality conditions are favorable for smoke dispersal. State Parks says in release that public trails near the burn site will be closed, and that notifications will be posted at camp kiosks, trailheads and the agency's district office in Duncan's Mills. The fires will be set between the hours of 9am and 6pm, and residents are warned that they may smell smoke.

The burn is intended to clear vegetation, conserve the grasslands, reduce hazardous fuel loads from the 6,000-acre park, and improve wildlife habitat. "This treatment will enhance the health of the grassland by removing invading woody species, restoring essential nutrients to the soil, and reducing the chance of a catastrophic fire."

Sounds like a plan. 
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Friday, October 12, 2018

Cal Fire Ramping Up for High Wind, Low Humidity Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2018 at 5:15 PM

It's going to be a Red Flag weekend—stay vigilant.
  • It's going to be a Red Flag weekend—stay vigilant.


Cal Fire says it is increasing staffing this weekend owing to the potential for "extreme fire weather across many parts of California," according to a news release. The warning comes on the heels of a week of remembrance in the North Bay following last October's devastating firestorm.

Cal Fire reports that the National Weather Service is predicting gusty winds and low humidity "in much of Northern California" this weekend. "We have increased our staffing," says Chief Ken Pimlott, "but need the public to remain vigilant.'

The agency is urging weekenders who are otherwise enjoying the great outdoors to "exercise extreme caution when in or near the wild-land or open areas to prevent sparking a fire."

They're asking folks to refrain from mowing or trimming dry grass on windy days; to not park their cars in dry grass; to target shoot in approved areas, with lead ammo only; and to ensure that any campfires are sanctioned by Le Authorities. And: Keep an eye peeled for arsonists.

For more info, head to Cal Fire's handy site offering fire prevention and evacuation tips: www.ReadyForWildfire.org.
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Monday, October 1, 2018

Jerry Brown: Hero of the 'Pro-Life' Movement?

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2018 at 7:48 PM

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Now here's a subject line in an email you don't see every day: 'CA Governor Jerry  Brown becomes newest hero of the pro-life movement.'

Today the Alexandria, Virginia–based organization Americans United for Life applauded Brown for his veto Sunday of a bill that "would have required public universities in California to offer abortion bills on campus," said the organization in a statement.

SB 320 was first proposed (and written) by students at UC Berkeley and has been debated over the past year, after a 2017 bill was introduced by Inland Empire Democrat State Sen. Connie Leyva.

A late-August story in the Berkeley student newspaper the Daily Californian, argued that "for thousands of students enrolled in California public universities who could face unwanted pregnancies, SB 320 could be the difference between finishing college and dropping out." It highlighted the challenges for college students seeking an abortion and argued that the on-campus medical-abortion option would ease access to for students seeking their constitutionally protected right to have an abortion.

According to votesmart.com, Brown has been a lifetime champion of reproductive-choice rights for women and has a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Now he's a pro-life hero in the eyes of AUL President and CEO Catherine Glenn Foster, who says in a statement that "Governor Brown recognized that in a state where Medicaid already pays for elective abortions, there is no issue of access, since, as he said yesterday, ‘the average distance to abortion providers in campus communities varies from 5 to 7 miles, not an unreasonable distance.’

Foster also argued that "college health clinics are not equipped to handle the very serious risks of chemical abortion drugs, which, as AUL testimony against the bill pointed out, the FDA warns can cause life-threatening hemorrhaging of blood and bacterial infection."

Leyva told the Daily Californian today, “I’m so incredibly disappointed in the Governor, and I think it’s yet just another example of old white guys thinking they know what women need,” Leyva said. “For him to say he doesn’t think (the commute is) inconvenient, he just completely missed the whole point of the bill.”

She vowed to reintroduce the bill again next year, when Brown is no longer governor. 
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Friday, September 28, 2018

Air Resources Board Considers All-Electric Bus Fleet by 2040

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 8:21 AM

California looks even Furthur into a possible future of zero-emissions buses
  • California looks even Furthur into a possible future of zero-emissions buses

The California Air Resources Board is meeting this morning in Sacramento to hear expert testimony on a proposed rule that would mandate a statewide zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040.

The ARB reports that transportation emissions are at their highest levels in ten years—what?!—and today's meeting will zero-in on the board's Innovative Clean Transit Rule, an ambitious effort to electrify buses in municipalities from Chula Vista to Yreka.

Closer to home, Santa Rosa is already on the stick: This week the Federal Transit Administration announced $366 million in competitive grants had been awarded for bus and bus-facility infrastructure projects. California clipped $29 million of the federal greenbacks, including $1.8 million directed to Santa Rosa.

The FTA reports that Santa Rosa will use the money to fund the purchase of zero-emission buses, as the city begins to transition from its stinky fleet of exhaust-spewing buses, to an all-electric fleet of clean, mean, transporting machines. $1.8 million can basically get you two electric buses. 

A June 2017 feature on electric buses that appeared in the online Marketplace.org noted that a diesel bus costs around $500,000; electric buses cost about $800,000—but the added cost is offset by fuel savings over the vehicle's lifetime.

Today's hearing in Sacramento begins at 9am and will feature testimony from EarthJustice, Sierra, the Coalition for Clean Air, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the American Lung Association of California.

Sayeth the ARB: "Experts say California cannot meet its clean air or federal ambient air quality standards so long as the state's vehicle fleet is dependent on fossil fuels," as it notes that the state already has a thriving electric-bus manufacturing industry.

The Marketplace.org report highlighted one of the California companies building the next-gen fleet, Proterra. They've got a good problem, noted the article's author, Andy Uhler: "It can’t build buses fast enough to keep up with demand." 
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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Just Say Kavan-no.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2018 at 2:09 PM

Dr Blasey-Ford: An American Hero
  • Dr Blasey-Ford: An American Hero

It's been quite an emotional day in America as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford took the stand before the Senate Judiciary Committee to describe her alleged sexual assault at the hands of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The hearings today have prompted dozens of House members to ramp up their demand that Sen. Mitch McConnell postpone the confirmation hearings until the FBI conducts an investigation into multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and assault that have been levied against the former frat boy Kavanaugh.

Ford and two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, have come forward in recent days to describe horrific acts allegedly committed by Kavanaugh, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by a president who has himself been accused of sexual assault and misconduct. Kavanaugh has denied everything and .

Local U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman is one of the 65 congressional Democrats to sign the statement sent to McDonnell today. He sent along the statement this afternoon, which reads, in part: "These courageous women have nothing to gain by speaking their truth and every reason to stay silent and avoid the harassment and death threats they are currently receiving for coming forward." McConnell has assured Kavanaugh supporters that he will be seated on the bench. Today's hearing may perhaps throw that assurance into doubt.

Downstate U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu signed the statement, as did U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, from Riverside. Those are a few of the handful of men who signed it. U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, whose congressional district comprises Santa Rosa, did not sign the statement calling for McConnell to pause the proceedings, nor did Nancy Pelosi.  
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Recycling Industry Coalition Slams Trump for Disastrous Trade War with China

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 2:35 PM

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Trash haulers and recyclers from around the state threw tabloid trash president Donald Trump in the dumpster this week over his escalating trade war with China and its disastrous impact on the state’s recycling industry

The Trump trade war, charged a garbage-hauling coalition that gathered in American Canyon on Tuesday, “is leaving them with stockpiles of recycled materials, and sending more waste to landfills.”

Last week, China announced new tariffs on recyclable exports from the U.S., in retaliation to Trump’s implementation of taxes on numerous Chinese imports. One new tariff from the Chinese targets fiberboard and cardboard. “It’s a popular export for recycling,” says coalition spokesman Steve Maviglio, “because it’s usually high quality, not spoiled by food or anything. [The Chinese] like it as opposed to mixed paper.”

The new China-slapped tax on cardboard, says Mavilglio, was an unexpected hiccup for a statewide recycling industry that’s already working within tight margins, not to mention having to negotiate ever-more-restrictive conditions set by Chinese importers about the purity of the product they’re getting.

California is the nation’s leader in the recycling business, generally, says Maviglio, and far and away the biggest exporter of recyclables to China. Now recyclers are faced with growing piles of recyclable materials in their facilities, which are increasingly winding up in landfills.

Tuesday’s American Canyon press briefing at Napa Valley Recyclers had two main thrusts: One, to ask residents to recycle smarter in order to stem the flow of China-rejected cardboard into landfills.

“Don’t put things in the bins that don’t belong there,” says Maviglio. “China is tightening up on what they will accept and won’t accept.” China used to accept recyclables with up to 5 percent contamination from other waste products. Now the nation won’t accept bales of cardboard that eclipse a 1 percent contamination rate.

The other thrust of the presser was to push California lawmakers, if possible, to step up with new legislation to keep the state and municipalities that have recycling contracts from not having to eat new costs of shipping the product to China. With only a few weeks left in the legislative session, time’s of the essence, says Maviglio for the state to provide relief to impacted haulers and recyclers. “Different companies,” he says, “are getting hit harder than others.” Cal-Recycle hosted a conference a few weeks ago to try and find common ground on the issue, he says.

When municipalities around the state contracted with waste haulers and recycling companies (such as Recology's recent forays into Santa Rosa and West Marin), to stem the flow of trash to landfills, “tariffs from an unexpected trade war never figured into their plans," says Maviglio Certainty is the key in this industry, especially when you’re talking about such large quantities being shipped.” Those costs are inevitably passed along to residents and businesses.

As a side-note, while the recycling coalition isn’t talking about landfills’ susceptibility to fires, it would stand to reason that the more cardboard product that winds up at the dump, the greater the risk for fire. As Cal-Recycle notes on its website, “Landfills fires, both surface and subsurface, are more common than one might expect.” 
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

State EPA Eviscerates Trump Plan to Undo Emissions and Fuel Standard Regulations

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2018 at 4:56 PM

Up, up and away with this pitiful buffoon
  • Up, up and away with this pitiful buffoon


From the staff report out today:

This threat of weakening the standards of the unified national program, left unaddressed, could substantially slow progress towards the emission reductions needed to address the serious threat climate change poses to California, the country, and the world, waste billions of gallons of gasoline, and cost consumer money on fuel. Now that U.S. EPA has stated that it intends to abandon the rigorous U.S. EPA standards the record supports, regulated entities and the public confront considerable uncertainty as to the fate of the program, undermining the goals of the unified national program to provide a clear path towards necessary pollution reductions.

Here's the whole, feisty report:

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Sonoma DA: Santa Rosa upskirt perv gets 9 years for truly heinous behavior

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2018 at 8:07 AM

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This guy's a real winner. Yowza.






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