Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Opinion

The Konocti Fire Lookout on Mount Konocti in Lake County, California. Photo by Chuck Sturges.

Konocti Lookout, on Wright Peak of Mount Konocti is a National Historic Lookout with both California Historical Status and National Status (#US1104, CA107).

It has served Lake County, Colusa County, Sonoma County, Yolo County, Mendocino County and the Sacramento Valley since 1977.

From its scenically and beautifully perched location it overlooks and protects Mendocino National Forest, the Snow Mountain-Berryessa National Monument, Native American tribal lands and almost every beautiful Lake County location in between.

Why does it need to be repaired? And what happened to Konocti?

In 2015, after a long time unoccupied and almost abandoned, Forest Fire Lookout Association (http://ffla.org) contacted the agency responsible for Konocti Fire Lookout and proposed opening the Fire Lookout and Staffing the lookout with volunteers, at “no cost” for personnel. The agency accepted and “Konocti Chapter” of Forest Fire Lookout Association was born (http://ffla-ccwr.org).

In 2015, after many years of what seemed normal at the time, fire season in Lake County and surrounding counties changed drastically.

In 2015, wildfire came to Lake County. We lost four citizens that year, and too many houses to count. Tragic and devastating. Cobb Mountain and Hidden Valley Lake areas were scorched and will never be the same, ever. Neither will Lake County citizens.

Since that time in 2015, Lake County has burned over 60% and the wildfire threat seems to be commonplace now. Everywhere you look, you see scorched earth, burned homes and reminders of what the new normal is, every fire season. Every fire season (June through November) we see fire apparatus from all over California, and even some from out of state responding with lights and sirens to a fire in lake county.

Konocti Fire Lookout is perched in the middle of Lake County with the best view for smoke checks and wildfires. It is manned during high fire danger periods, and even after lightning storms like we experienced in 2020.

Yes, there is satellite imagery, cameras that cost Pacific Gas and Electric Co. thousands to install, and this year even drones in some areas. Although the technologies have increased, the human element cannot be removed or ignored. Someone, a human, has to look at cameras, look at satellite imagery, and operate drones. Humans cannot be replaced, now or never. This is the new big argument.

In 2019, Konocti Fire Lookout volunteers were greeted by a busload of Lake County residents who were transported to the lookout in a Lake County bus. It was a small group, and nobody knows who the visitors were exactly. The lookout volunteers, as always, were happy to greet the visitors and show them the beautiful lookout and talk about what their duties are and were.

The visitors were greeted and instructed that only a few visitors were allowed into the lookout at a time. Some of the visitors did not understand the restrictions but all complied. This extended the time the visitors were rotated in and out of the fire lookout. This is because it is so beautiful looking over Lake County, from inside the lookout, no one wants to hurry through the awe inspiring views. But, someone on that bus that day did not like the wait.

In October 2019, the Konocti Chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association was staffing the Konocti Fire Lookout when California state engineers arrived, unannounced, to inspect the fire lookout’s structural integrity. After the inspection, the Konocti volunteers were suddenly asked to vacate the lookout, as it was structurally unsound and unsafe. This ended the fire lookout season for Konocti Fire lookout.

It ended the use of the Konocti Fire Lookout forever, or until it was repaired. And there is “no repair date.”

Since that day in October 2019, we have performed our duties as forest fire lookouts from the top of Mount Konocti. From the ground, there is not a 360-degree view. There is little protection from the elements but the volunteers are flexible and still enjoy the view and are committed to protecting Lake County from further destruction from wildfire.

Before that fateful day in October 2019 when the engineers arrived, the Konocti volunteers would have as many as “three” first reports of wildfire a season. Last year, even after we were working from the mountaintop, we had one significant “first report” in the Clearlake Oaks area of Lake County.

What has Forest Fire Lookout done to repair Konocti Fire Lookout?

Not knowing the exact repair costs, but knowing it will be more than requested we have started a GoFundMe account to repair Konocti Fire Lookout. It will cost a lot to sit down with an engineering firm and have them tell us what the possible estimate is, from the state engineers report. A copy of the report can be provided if requested.

The Forest Fire Lookout Association has written letters to Assemblywoman Cecelia Aguiar-Curry, Sen. Mike McGuire and Congressman Mike Thompson. Sen. McGuire’s office is the only one that has responded.

In the letters, FFLA, as we are known,actually begged for assistance. Sen. McGuire’s office responded and told us that recently Cal Fire received “deferred maintenance funding” which Sen. McGuire's office supported and signed. FFLA and Konocti Lookout were told, “Cal Fire received more than enough money to repair Konocti Fire Lookout.” Sen. McGuire’s office told FFLA that they will follow up with Cal Fire regarding the repairs. To our knowledge, there are no current plans to repair Konocti Fire Lookout.

FFLA is asking Lake County citizens and anyone knowing the value of Konocti Fire Lookout, and the job the volunteer fire lookouts are doing, to please assist us telling our leaders that it needs to be repaired, and soon. Contact Sen. McGuire’s office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Cal Fire Sonoma Lake Napa Unit Shana Jones’ office at 1199 Big Tree Road, St. Helena, CA 94574, telephone 707- 967-1400.

If you would like to know more about becoming a Konocti Fire Lookout volunteer or know more about our interest in preserving this fire essential, national and California State Historical landmark, please contact me at Christopher Rivera, Director, California Pacific Region, Forest Fire Lookout Association, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Donations can be made to Konocti Repairs at http://gofundme.com/f/konocti-lookout-repairs.

We are also asking the Lake County community to become a Konocti Lookout volunteer. We are a community based volunteer organization accepting anyone who would like to learn the art and skill of being a forest fire lookout. We will train you to do all aspects of “smoke watching” from the top of Wright Peak.

Konocti Chapter of Forest Fire Lookout Association is a 501(c) (3) non profit. For more information you can call Jim Adams at 707-245-3771, Chris Rivera at 707-239-6824, or go to http://ffla-ccwr.org or http://ffla.org.

Longtime Lake County, California, resident Chris Rivera is director of the Forest Fire Lookout Association, California-Pacific Region.

During spring we see growth, rebirth, vitality, and renewal. Like the leaves bursting out of the trees, spring energy encourages us to move “upward and outward” and grow.

We are ready to get moving and be more active. It’s the time for our energy reserves that were harnessed in the winter to be put into action. Finally the seed underground is sprouting and we can see the manifestation of the energy that has been stored and replenished in the winter.

In Five Element acupuncture spring is the gift of the wood element. Like the energy of spring, wood energy wants to rise up, push through, envision a plan, make decisions and get things done.

Wood energy supports a vision for the future, yearns for creativity and leadership. It grants us the confidence to surge forth with the power of the spring.
After a long year of challenges, we are especially ready to get out and get moving. So what is the best approach to take as we move forward this spring? We can look to the wood element for guiding us in our vision for this spring.

The wood element functions through the organs of the liver and the gallbladder. They rule the smooth flow of energy and blood in the body and regulate all of the emotions. They are our first responses to the stresses in our lives.

The wood element teaches us about having a vision for our life, growth, flexibility and adaptability. Growth is a positive process that expands our potential, yet our vision must also remain flexible to succeed.

The energetic function of the liver is called the Official of Strategic Planning, the grand architect for our vision of the future; this official sees the directions we must take to live our lives in harmony with nature.

The energetic function of the gallbladder is the Official of Decision Making, granting us the ability to make decisions and judge wisely.

Making a decision is not always a matter of choosing between equal alternatives. Through these officials we can see both new possibilities and the wisdom of the past, to therefore see a clear and appropriate future course to take. Without wood's vision, a plan, decision and direction, no movement is possible — and there is often frustration.

The wood element governs our sense of vision, the emotion of anger and the sound of shouting. When our vision is stifled, we may feel anger: We've made our plan, decided to act, and suddenly our plans are thwarted.

We may feel anger and frustration and want to shout. We may feel irritable, depressed, and lose focus or hope for the future. Sometimes when we are out of balance, we identify with only one position and become attached to it. We may lose our wise judgment.

When our wood energy is healthy, we can take a step back, be flexible, adapt, change direction, stay hopeful, readjust our plans, and begin again. We can forgive ourselves and each other and not become too rigid or unyielding in our approach to life.

Like a tree that bends in the wind, a balanced wood energy is well rooted and can find a flexible path to express itself in a strong and healthy way.

Healthy wood energy acknowledges the inherent self-esteem in ourselves and each other. It honors the spirit of each person’s inherent need to manifest who they are.

The wood element grants us the space and the vision for each person to grow and become their unique self — to be the ‘tree’ you are meant to be. We can see this wisdom in the harmony of all things within nature, that includes the coexistence of every living unique being.

Here are some ways to move your wood energy and stay balanced in the spring.

Get moving. Moving helps to keep your energy flowing properly. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, going for a walk, or stretching the muscles, tendons and ligaments. All of these will help to support your wood element in the springtime.

Get creative. Take time to really think and feel about what you want to be, and what direction you want your life to go.

Write down your vision, intention, and dreams for your future. Take time to make a plan so you can make the right decisions to realize your vision. Maybe you need someone’s help to achieve your goals. Maybe you are the leader that wants to offer help for someone else to realize their dreams.

Try essential oils. Lavender, peppermint, camomile, lemon and bergamot essential oils help to move the energy in the liver and gallbladder channels. Sandalwood oil is especially nourishing and grounding.

Drinking herbal teas like lemon, peppermint or camomile can help to support the liver and gallbladder channels.

The wood element likes sour food (like kimchi and yogurt), light meals with lots of greens (the color of the wood element). Bitter greens like dandelion, nettles and arugula can be helpful to cleanse the liver and gallbladder and promote better digestion.

Avoid too many rich, heavy, greasy foods, or too much alcohol as that may congest the liver and gallbladder. This can also lead to inflammation and other diseases.

Sleep is also an essential time for replenishing the liver and gallbladder to recover from the stresses of the day.

Spring is also a good time to try a liver or gallbladder cleanse or adapt to a healthier diet.

These are all ways to help support your wood element, to nourish your vision and to continue to grow.

Make plans and decisions that align with who you are meant to be. Stay flexible, be creative and hopeful to achieve your goals. In all these ways you can support your wood energy and stay balanced and healthy in the spring.

Wendy Weiss has been practicing Chinese medicine for 29 years. She can be reached at 707-277-0891.

Becky Salato. Courtesy photo.

LOWER LAKE, Calif. — In the best of times, education is a team sport. Success requires students, families and educators to work together so students can develop academically, socially, and emotionally. 

This year was not the best of times, and everyone was forced to take on new challenges— some of which felt overwhelming.

At home, some students didn’t have time for their own studies because they had to care for younger siblings. Some students didn’t have good learning experiences because even though the school district provided Chromebooks and hot spots, internet access just isn’t available everywhere.

Some students had a hard time focusing on studies at home because they didn’t have a quiet place to concentrate without constant interruptions. Some students simply couldn’t get motivated with little supervision and so many online distractions.

Whatever the reason, we now have a lot of students who need to catch up, and it’s not the kind of work that can be done quickly or easily.

I share this not to be negative, but to be realistic. If we are to support our students, we must recognize where they are and create a plan to fill in the holes. In education, we call this learning-loss mitigation.

The school system cannot hold back all the students who did not become proficient in their grade-level curriculum this year.

We also cannot simply move forward with next year’s curriculum for those who are unprepared for it.

And expecting students to learn twice as much in a single school year isn’t fair. So, what do we do?

We embrace unconventional thinking.

Traditionally, we’ve had a nine-month school year, from late fall to early summer with a couple of months off. We’ve known for years that students who do not engage in any academic endeavors during the summer lose some of their learning.

Ask any teacher; they’ll tell you they start every year with review. Maybe we make summer school the norm for most students for the next several years. Or maybe we think about time and learning differently.

Time should not define learning. Time should be the variable and learning should be the constant. How do we use the time we have more effectively?

I’m talking about moving from traditional school to transformational education. In the new paradigm, all students still need to master certain concepts. But rather than marching through a book from page 1 to 350, we assess the group and pick the pages they need to master the concepts.

Our school system was created to prepare students for working in factories and farms after the Industrial Revolution. It’s time for a new revolution and the pandemic may be just the break we need to see things more clearly.

If we do nothing differently, nothing will change — yet, the world has changed.

In addition to designing a new approach to education, we also need to recognize the importance of flexibility when students are struggling (remember, everyone struggles sometimes).

School is a place where we want to teach important “soft” skills like taking responsibility for one’s actions and meeting deadlines, but when children are having a hard time holding it together, an all-or-nothing approach is counterproductive and harmful.

We need to think about the world students live in, one that is more complex than the one many of us grew up in.

The social and emotional pressures of social media have had a devastating effect on many students’ mental health. The pandemic has interrupted their social development as well as their academic learning.

I am in favor of high standards, but I am not in favor of setting expectations that are so high they practically guarantee students will fail.

I invite students, families, and fellow educators to work together to come up with new ways to support student learning.

Becky Salato is the Konocti Unified School District superintendent.

For more than 20 years I have been justifying the existence and worthiness of my child, myself, and those that care for and support us, while under government scrutiny and judgment, every single month. This will not end until death.

My children are 3, 4, 16 and 20 years old. A monetary value cannot be put on the changes to people, programs, policies and services, access to care, removal of barriers, opened doors for others, work with nonprofit and government-based organizations, and countless community based projects, resources and support that we have brought to Lake County because our existence, this is home to my family and me and we care.

People should be able to thrive at their homes, in their hometowns and in rural communities, regardless of vulnerabilities.

In-Home Supportive Services, or IHSS, is a division of Medi-Cal, which is operated by California Department of Healthcare Services, or DHCS.

This is health care that we are here talking about today. That means providers and clients are protected, and obligated, by federal and state privacy policies such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, however, I do have some information to share with the public.

California’s Medi-Cal budget is $22.5 billion from the general fund, $118 billion overall. However, I want to be clear that today we are talking about pennies on the dollar in costs to the county, in exchange for invaluable resources and revenues added to our wonderful Lake County communities.

The Board of Supervisors cannot support health and wellness in any aspect for any entity, cause, function, board or committee, without supporting IHSS and everyone involved in it.

IHSS is an essential part of the operations of a County Organized Health System like Lake County operates on in order to receive their funding from the state and federal government.

The people of Lake County elected the Board of Supervisors to be community minded for all people living in Lake County.

If the Board of Supervisors has issues with the IHSS program, how it is funded, how they run essential operations, who uses the program and who is employed by the program, they need to take it up with DHCS and the state and federal governments, not take it out on the struggling, traumatized, vulnerable community members and residents of Lake County that are just trying to survive in their homes.

What is a community health needs assessment, or CHNA? It is a systematic process involving the community to identify and analyze community health needs. The process provides a way for communities to prioritize health needs, and to plan and act upon unmet community health needs.

Lake County has 64,562 residents with 29,267 or 45% of those residents receiving Medi-Cal benefits through Partnership HealthPlan of California, or PHC, which is the organization responsible for managing Medi-Cal through the County Organized Health System.

Of the PHC member population in this county, 21% are ages 0 to 10, 16% are ages 11 to 19, 30% are ages 20 to 44, 22% are ages 54 to 64, and 10% are aged 65 and over.

Eighty-eight percent of PHC members primarily speak English, while 12% are Spanish speaking.

The ethnicity for this population includes 62% white, 24% Hispanic, 3% Native American, 2% African American and 8% others.

Many seniors and disabled adults have PHC as a secondary insurance, and those people were not counted in this survey. I will argue that makes the vulnerable populations of people over 50% of the entire population of Lake County.

What is a vulnerable population? Vulnerable populations are groups and communities at a higher risk for poor health because of the barriers they experience to social, economic, political and environmental resources, as well as limitations due to illness or disability.

The vulnerability of these populations can be measured based on racial and ethnic minorities, the uninsured, low-income children, the elderly, the homeless, those with human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, and those with other chronic health conditions, including severe mental illness.

Vulnerable populations of people face a multitude of stigmas, judgments, and criticisms from everyone. Society, friends and family members, government workers programs and resources, most of which are supposed to only be there for love, support, and help.

Vulnerable people are more likely to experience abuse, across the life continuum, and often starting in childhood. Poverty is one of the contributing factors that make a child vulnerable. Most children living in Lake County are living in poverty (or below) standards.

Severe housing problems are characterized as overcrowding, high housing costs, and lack of kitchen or plumbing facilities. Twenty six percent of Lake County’s populations are facing severe housing problems, adding to the numbers of vulnerable people living in Lake County.

Fires, floods, public safety power shut-off events and now COVID-19 have not left one resident of Lake County unaffected. We are all traumatized and have experienced more as an entire county than most people face in their lifetimes.

We are Lake County Strong. We were defining emergency preparedness, defensible space, disaster response, shelter in place, essential workers and community mindedness years before COVID-19. COVID-19 brought to light the lives of IHSS workers, and the lives of those that live sheltered in place at home from the rest of the world.

The Board of Supervisors needs to stop making vulnerable people beg for dignity, respect, acknowledgment, support, time or moneys. There will never be any equity among vulnerable peoples (the majority) in the Lake County communities we love, in our homes, and with the rest of society, as long as the Board of Supervisors continues to single out and exclude the IHSS program.

Residents of Lake County need to know that their elected officials have everyone’s best interest in mind, especially now after more than a year sheltered in place from the outside world with no resources or relief.

We have kept our most vulnerable clients healthy and safe during the covid pandemic, often at the expense of ourselves as caregivers.

County programs resources and services, community based organizations and the rest of the residents of Lake County need to know you understand the health care system and the functions of each entity involved. They need to know you support the health and wellness of the communities you’ve been elected to serve as a whole operation, not just in vanity.

Removing homeless off the streets to appear to be supporting people and their health, while failing to help and support working people make happier, healthier homes, is incredibly vain.

Failing to provide a good contract for IHSS workers knowing that there are families dependent upon this income, is counterproductive to all of the adverse childhood experiences work that you support, the poverty education that Dr. Donna Beegle has brought to Lake County, and is a slap in the face to every entity and person involved in health and wellness in Lake County.

Prove that you haven’t been wasting the health care system’s time and money, that you support Lake County residents no matter what their status is, that you value Lake County workers and that you are community minded and Lake County Strong.

Kendra Cramer lives in Kelseyville, California. She plans to present this to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting on Tuesday, June 22, 2021.

Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.


KELSEYVILLE, Calif. — It’s been a crazy year.

Whether you’re talking to students or teachers, they’ll tell you this school year feels like it has gone on for decades.

The good news is that the end is in sight, and hopefully next year will be closer to normal where students come to campus every day and teachers have the opportunity to connect with students often enough to recognize and address any gaps in learning before they get too big.

A small percentage of students did better than usual academically during the pandemic. They enjoyed distance learning because they find the social pressures of normal school highly distracting.

But most students missed their friends and didn’t like learning online. No matter how creative and wonderful the lessons, students just didn’t feel as engaged when school wasn’t in person — and their academic performance makes it clear that they’ve got some work to do if they want to be ready for next year’s curriculum.

As I mentioned in my last column, Kelseyville Unified School District is now offering free, on-demand tutoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week for homework help, test prep (for everything from a class quiz to the SAT), essay revisions and concept explanations.

Spanish speakers can access bilingual tutors in math, science, and social studies, as well as ESL/ELL support. We hope this will help students now and in the years to come.

This summer, we are offering in-person summer school for all interested Kelseyville Unified students weekdays July 6 through 30 with classwork from 8 a.m. to noon, then a half-hour lunch with dismissal at 12:30 p.m.

To make this more convenient for local families, we’ll provide transportation to and from school sites.

For elementary students, summer school will focus on critical skills in math, reading, and writing to bridge learning gaps and help prepare students for the next school year.

Mountain Vista Middle School will offer two programs: The Summer Math Academy, designed to address targeted math standards, and the AVID Excel Summer Bridge program for English Learner students. Kelseyville High will offer credit-recovery and learning-loss programs.

For all sites, on-campus COVID safety protocols will remain in place, including required face coverings and social distancing.

Those interested in registering their student should do so by May 17. Visit www.KVUSD.org for access to the registration form or contact your child’s school for more information.

If you’re wondering whether your student would benefit from summer school, the short answer is probably yes.

Studies show that even during normal years, many students experience the “summer slide,” a loss of some of the knowledge they learned the year before.

This year, students cannot afford a slide since so many of them did not learn as much as they would have if they could have attended school in person.

Worst case scenario is that summer school will help students hold onto the knowledge they learned. Best case scenario is that students will be able to pick up additional knowledge and feel more confident going into the next school year.

If you decide against summer school, consider activities that will help your child engage in learning. If you’d like help coming up with those activities, ask their teacher for ideas.

Dave McQueen is superintendent for the Kelseyville Unified School District.

Kelseyville Unified School District Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – In all my years in education, I’ve never experienced a year like this last one.

As soon as the pandemic hit, we put all of our energy into two things: 1. Keeping students and staff safe by following the constantly changing rules, and 2. Providing the best education we could by using technology and distance learning.

As you can imagine, even our best students struggled at times. For students who were already struggling, well, things didn’t get any easier.

At this point, we want to do everything we can to help students stay focused and on target academically.

That’s why I’m so pleased to share that we are now offering free, on-demand tutoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week for homework help, test prep (for everything from a class quiz to the SAT), essay revisions and concept explanations.

Spanish speakers can access bilingual tutors in math, science and social studies, as well as ESL/ELL support. I believe this resource will offer much-needed support to our students and families.

To provide this service, we’re partnering with Tutor.com, a service of The Princeton Review, a nationally recognized education company that is also well-known for its test prep resources.

To access the service, students log in to their ClassLink account and sign in with Google. Then, all they have to do is answer a few questions to identify the subject matter they’d like help with.

Students are quickly matched with a qualified tutor with whom they can speak, message back and forth, share files, and interact through a live whiteboard feature with special tools.

On average, students are connected with tutors within 60 seconds. Sessions are recorded so students can revisit and review the material. And students can identify favorite tutors so they can reconnect with them in other sessions.

Support is not limited to live interactions with on-demand tutors. Students can submit essays for feedback and receive comments within 12 hours. Students can also take practice quizzes in a variety of subjects to prepare for upcoming tests and connect live with tutors to go over any missed questions. Finally, students can take advantage of SAT and ACT college entry exam prep support.

If you have any questions, please contact your student’s teacher and or Paul McGuire, Kelseyville’s Tutor.com coordinator at 707-279-4232.

Please take advantage of this much-needed resource.

Dave McQueen is superintendent of Kelseyville Unified School District.

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