Thursday, 01 December 2022

Opinion

Last May, Elizabeth Hill, the nonpartisan legislative analyst, warned that the state budget proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier that month (a revised version of the plan he first laid out in January) relied on “overly optimistic” assumptions about revenue.


In particular, Hill forecast a decline in property taxes – due to the extended housing crisis – along with an expected shortage of money for the remainder of the current state fiscal year (which began July 1, 2007) and the next.


By late summer, the Schwarzenegger administration began work on the 2008-09 budget, projecting an “operating deficit” – the difference between spending commitments and expected revenues – of $6.1 billion.


In November Hill, citing a California economy now struggling to cope with the full effect of the housing crisis, upped the ante, saying that deficit would likely reach almost $10 billion over the next year and a half.


And then, in early December, word leaked out that the administration expected the gap to be in the range of $14 billion or more.


Is the state’s financial situation unraveling that quickly – and if so, why?


Economists say we have been hit by a double whammy thanks to the housing crisis – a reversal of the appreciation rates which pushed California home prices up more quickly than those in other states, and record foreclosures of homes purchased through sub-prime or other shaky loans offered to people no longer able to make their mortgage payments.


We should have a clearer picture of what that really means when the governor submits a new budget proposal to the Legislature on Jan. 10.


In the meantime, Schwarzenegger has announced he would declare a “fiscal emergency” next month, a move that may enable the administration and the Legislature to address the budget deficit more quickly than usual.


The governor has also instructed state agencies to propose 10-percent, across-the-board spending cuts.


While I appreciate the sentiment, $14 billion is more than 12 percent of the state’s general fund budget. In addition, a majority of state spending is mandated by voter-approved initiatives or federal laws over which we have little or no control.


Some Republican lawmakers say we may need to cut from programs and services taking up the lion’s share of state spending – K-12 education and higher education, health and human services, transportation and public safety.


We cannot cut our way out of a $14 billion deficit: reductions of that magnitude would have a devastating impact on kids, the elderly and the disabled – something most of us would oppose.


We need to increase revenues, too, because we’re not just talking about the cost of programs and services here. The deficit includes repayment of bond debts – debts which have increased significantly in recent years.


In 2003, former Gov. Gray Davis, also facing a significant budget gap, restored vehicle license fees to where they were under his predecessor, Pete Wilson.


Critics attacked Davis for increasing the “car tax,” and those attacks no doubt contributed to his defeat in the recall election later that year.


In his first action as the new governor, Schwarzenegger fulfilled a campaign promise to roll the vehicle license fee back again – politically popular but not the wisest policy decision. By rolling back the fees, he helped drill a $6 billion hole in the state budget.


I bring this up not to assign blame, but to highlight the fact that the budget deficit has many contributing causes – and there is no easy fix.


The legislative analyst has suggested we eliminate some recently-established state programs, abolish tax breaks, raise taxes and reduce benefits for people who rely on government programs.


I am not ready to endorse any particular strategy just yet, but I think it is imperative that we keep all of the options on the table and that we prioritize to protect the most vulnerable among us.


That includes thinking long and hard as we also pursue health care reform.


On Dec. 17, the Assembly approved a bill (the product of negotiations between Schwarzenegger and Speaker Fabian Nunez) to cover more Californians with health insurance.


I want health care reform, too, but I support Senate Leader Don Perata’s decision to delay Senate action on the plan until January – and until the legislative analyst has had a chance to estimate whether implementation of the Schwarzenegger-Nunez bill might further strain the state budget.


“It would be imprudent and impolitic,” Perata said, “to support an expansion of health care coverage without knowing how we’re going to pay for vital health programs the state now provides for poor children, their families and the aged, blind and disabled.”


I agree.


Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) represents California’s 2nd Senate District, which includes portions or all of six counties – Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma. Visit her Web site at http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.

The California Highway Patrol and Team DUI have joined forces to spread the word about the choices we make regarding the decision to drink and drive.


We enter the holidays with plans of get-togethers with family and friends, company parties and year-end celebrations. There will be an increase in traffic with old man winter knocking at our door. Based on past performance and statistics, the anticipated driving under the influence fatality rate is expected to run in the 40-percent range.


What, do you ask, can a person do to reduce that statistic? There are several things that can be done.


The designated driver approach is one in which someone in the group is in charge of the transportation. Treat him/her good by supplying the designated driver with all the soda or other nonalcoholic beverages they desire.


Call for a taxi or friend to pick you up or just plan on spending the night at the place you are drinking at.


And, by all means, don’t get into the vehicle if you know that the driver has been drinking.


Our holiday exhortations not to drink and drive are repeated annually, even though they may seem monotonous and ritualistic. This plea will be made anew every holiday period because the decisions reached by each individual driver counts for so much.


The highway is a community in itself, particularly in California, where our major roads are constantly occupied, where activity never ceases, and where unwise and thoughtless behavior results in undesirable consequences.


Sometimes the consequence of driving after drinking is drowsiness, because alcohol is a depressant. That form of sleepiness is not so easily overcome, except for the obvious don’t even start out or let the sober designated driver take over the vehicle.


This is not meant to be a gloomy message, but we all see enough suffering every holiday season that need not happen if we all do our part.


Please think about judgment and choices this season as your life may depend on it.


Also, let us remind everyone to activate your headlights during inclement weather for everyone’s safety.


Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season and see you in the New Year.


Lance Mino and Adam Garcia are California Highway Patrol officers. Team DUI is a group of local agencies – including the CHP – and individuals dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking in Lake County.


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I will center my discussion on the concept of morality as I interpret it from a modern indigenous perspective. My opinion represents only my family, not any Tribe or Nation.


I think that those who are carrying this jihad of hatred from both sides cannot be deterred from their paths by words. The direction of this civilization is toward increased terrorism and suffering. Only a complete change of direction will carry us off of this path toward the whirlwind. Modern civilization is enamored with its toys and successes, never examining what price has been paid in human life and destruction for those achievements.


Many of our common citizens recognize deep down that our culture is slipping from its pretentious moral high ground toward a decadent society consumed with violence and the desire to preserve its luxury and status at any cost. Institutional Islam seems intent on keeping its mouth shut while fanatics twist the teachings of their great Man of Peace into exhortations to sacrifice innocent life in suicidal acts of resistance against their age old religious enemies-both Christian and Hebrew. The cycle is endless, with centuries of history to drive it.


I have a quote for you to think about as I babble on. "Morality relates not only to the actions of human beings toward other humans but toward the entire planet as an integrated living being." I suppose that this is the major difference between the three great religions descended from Abraham and the rest of the indigenous world.


The concept of guilt at birth, which teaches that death, violence, and tragedy are unnatural conditions, and the belief in judgment, punishment, and reward has created an absolute fear of death in some, while encouraging acts of violent sacrifice in others the two bloody sides of today's coin of terrorism. Both sides court war, not only in revenge, but in the misguided belief that in causing death one can prevent future deaths. Life by the sword.


I'd like to present another view of morality centered around a Native concept that the entire earth is a living being. Every physical form upon it is comprised of the same elements moving and interacting. Earth, fire, air, water, rocks, trees, animals, and human beings. Indigenous peoples consider all these forms to be alive for differing purposes in our global family. The rock does not speak because that is not its purpose. Human beings have our own purpose. But Indigenous people do not ascribe to humanity any superiority or greater value than our environment because we could not sustain our lives separate from it. If we depend on it, how can we be superior to it?


We are asked to possess three characteristics: respect for Creation, responsibility to act in the best interests of Creation, and gratitude for that Creation. We do not perceive natural violence and death as punishment, but only a mysterious addition to Creation that is, for the moment, beyond the reach of our understanding.


Each moment the sun eats and transforms or kills hydrogen that has taken millions of years to form. On earth death allows for the building blocks of creation to take new forms. When a species suffers extinction there is often an explosion of new life in the areas previously inhabited. Indigenous people rever Creation. I'll say that again. Indigenous people rever Creation. It is all sacred. Every act, every word, every motion of humanity as well as the earth and all our relatives are part of a sacred related family ceremony. Just as the sun eats the hydrogen without remorse, so we are eaten and give back our spirits to Creation. We view death as a natural process. We grieve for our losses, as do any humans, but we know that the basic elements of creation are everlasting and cannot die. No guilt, no blame .


The sacred permeates the lives of Indigenous Peoples because it is perceived to be inherent in every earthly form and movement. This is not simply an intellectual exercise but a deep emotional attachment to Creation. To be very frank, some of our Elders predicted these circumstances would occur because of the seemingly selfish preoccupation some societies have with considering humanity as the preferred species rather than as an integral equal part of a whole earth entity.


But there is a difference between the mysterious order and purpose of natural destruction in Creation and the willful, contentious and calculated violence of human beings purposely disturbing and destroying the very relationships that should give their life meaning, purpose and joy. My uncle believed that it was the fear of death, the fear of judgment, the fear of loss, the very selfish fear of personal extinction that leads to all the dangerous and destructive vices and proclivities men practice. Certainly, as there is the light of love, there is also the darkness of hatred. And for every other good and noble virtue we find a counterpoint of darkness.


We can feel no gratitude, no appreciation for the beauties and lights of our lives without the potential to suffer the other. As the volcano pours its lava into the villages below, we are assured that someday flowers will sprout in the enriched soil of that destruction. That is what separates natural violence from the violence of men. Natural violence will always result in new creation. But the horrors men put upon each other do not guarantee that from those horrors new flowers of great beauty will sprout. The Power of Creation can not be reproduced by Man.


In our family we think that it is part of man's purpose in creation to search for a balance between fate and choice. Our nature and potential is malleable. It can be chosen and altered. We live in the bubble of America while the rest of the world struggles for the basic necessities of life. To raise the standards of the world to our level we would have to speed up the harvest of these resources six times or find six new planets to plunder.


The truth is that we have created a world of fantasy which pretends that we can continue this lifestyle indefinitely while 75 percent of the rest of the world is lacking nutritious food, shelter, or a safe place to sleep. It is a myth that there are enough resources for them to raise their standards to our level, even if the entire world modeled their systems after ours.


Today, the designs of small and powerful groups of men spin out of control thrusting us away from balance and toward destruction. It is part of our purpose to attempt to divert this course, to point toward beauty and gratitude, and away from revenge and violence. But those who have chosen war and conflict will not be convinced or changed.


As my friend Clayton says they are the people of ruin, everything they touch they ruin that has become their purpose. In America, one would expect that a people experiencing such plenty would be overwhelmed with gratitude for our many blessings and overflow with compassion. For our leaders to act with attitudes of arrogance, superiority and a willingness to exercise a violent spirit can only lead to our losing those blessings. Meaningful change can be led specifically by people who demand that the moral principles of our spiritual heritages be applied without compromise to the principles of the republic. Lip service and rhetoric only increase the danger. Our foes are all the dark vices embodied in the greed and corruption of the men of power around the world.


Our hope is that gatherings of like minded neighbors will encourage a willingness to endure sacrifice for change.


This gathering is the only means in which power can be taken back into the hands of common families. We need not share exactly the same perspectives and beliefs, only agree that our goal is not to loose unnecessary and unjustified evils upon the world merely to preserve a standard of living that it will be impossible for the rest of the world ever to share.


The noise we make must be heard above negotiations, even above the bombs. I'll end with this quote:


"Goodness does not thrive in the absence of evil. Selfishness, small vices and jealousies dominate mankind in those times. True goodness only emerges in the threat and presence of Shadow -- nestling in the crook of its arm, whispering in its ear, until the Shadow goes mad and men relinquish their fears to cry once more for compassion and the creative spirit."


James BlueWolf is a artist and author. He lives in Nice.


{mos_sb_discuss:4}

The holiday season is upon us. With the festivities of the season comes accountability that is often not thought about. The accountability comes when you step into a motor vehicle. When you are the driver of a motor vehicle, you hold your passenger's life in your hands along with the life of passengers in other vehicles.


In the matter of a few seconds, a thoughtless, negligent choice of a DUI driver can forever change the lives of families and friends as they are left with the devastation of a deadly vehicle tragedy. The lives of many are shattered forever, as there is no way to pick up the pieces to one’s life once you have lost a loved one due to a negligent act of a thoughtless DUI driver. If you care enough about your passengers and other innocent people, then it is your responsibility to keep them safe.


Think of what your life would be like once you have received a telephone call informing you that your loved one was killed in a devastating DUI tragedy. That call could be about your spouse, close relative, best friend or your precious child. Think how grieving parents must feel as they say goodbye while watching their child’s casket being lowered into the ground. The intensity of that pain is next to none.


The thoughtless, negligent act of an irresponsible DUI driver can rip the heart out of a family and friends forever. They will never be whole again. No longer will the voice of a loved one be heard. No longer will a smile be seen. No longer will a loved one share in a life with their family or friends that they were meant to. The emptiness that a family feels is like a bottomless hole. All of this devastation is because someone carelessly chose to drink and drive without regard for another human being.


An irresponsible DUI driver, no matter what age, who continues to operate a motor vehicle without regard for the safety of their passengers or other innocent people, is inexcusable. There is no excuse that can condone the death of an innocent person due to a deadly DUI tragedy because a driver was selfish in their choice of actions.


Life is the most precious gift that we will ever have. Each time you get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, remember you hold life in your hands. To protect a life, you must be accountable for a life. When you drink and drive you are capable of murdering. You are capable of destroying a family forever. If you see yourself in this description either now or previously, it is not too late to hold yourself accountable and strive to change.


This holiday season, tragically, there are families that will no longer be able to share their special times together because of harmful choices that were made by an irresponsible DUI driver.


Don’t be the one to rip a family apart because you were the cause of a DUI collision or tragedy. Take responsibility for your actions now, before it is too late. Once you have caused a deadly DUI tragedy, there is no turning back. You will be forced to live with the consequences and your guilt for the rest of your life while an innocent family will be forced to live with devastation and emptiness for the rest of their lives.


We each have the power to allow everyone to have a safe and happy holiday as we all can make a responsible choice not to drink and drive.

 

Judy Thein served as Clearlake's mayor in 2007 and is a member of Team DUI, a group of local individuals and agencies working to stop underage drinking and drinking and driving. Thein’s daughter, Kellie, was tragically killed two years ago because a DUI driver made an irresponsible choice to drink and drive.


{mos_sb_discuss:4}

The devastating consequences to Clear Lake and other Northern California waterways threatened by an invasion of the alien quagga mussel has been widely publicized in Lake County throughout 2007. Now it seems that others in the region are are beginning to share our concerns.


On Dec. 8 the Executive Committee of the 11,000-member Sierra Club Redwood Chapter proposed that mussel containment become a top priority for the California Sierra Club, as advocated by Sierra Club Lake Group Chair Victoria Brandon and Chapter Delegate Paul Marchand.


At the Water Managers Forum held in Lakeport on Nov. 30, Cobb area district water manager Robert Stark called an infestation of these mussels in California waterways "the catastrophe that hasn't happened yet": it would devastate their ecological balance and dramatically impair their recreational value, while imposing a grievous financial burden upon water companies and other organizations that rely on surface water sources to meet community and agricultural needs.


Of European origin, quagga mussels entered the Great Lakes in ballast water in the 1980s, and have subsequently become widespread in the eastern United States, where they clog intake pipes, destroy motors, turn mooring lines into razor blades, and monopolize so many nutrients that fish and other forms of aquatic life starve. Direct repair and maintenance costs top $100 million annually. No practical method of eradication has yet been discovered.


They were found in Lake Mead in January 2007, and subsequently in other parts of the Colorado River drainage and several unconnected reservoirs in San Diego County, with recreational boaters believed to be the primary transport agent.


In October, legislation sponsored by Yolo Assemblymember Lois Wolk (AB 1683), provided the Department of Fish and Game with the authority to inspect, decontaminate, and if necessary to quarantine boats, other vehicles (eg trailers and seaplanes), and marinas, and to delegate these sweeping powers to other agencies but without the budgetary increases needed for effective implementation.


The Redwood Chapter wants the Club to urge California government to take decisive action to keep the mussel invasion from spreading throughout the state. Specific recommendations include: exercise by the Department of Fish and Game of its AB 1683 powers to quarantine mussel-infested waters or to impose mandatory decontamination on boats and other vehicles leaving those waters, with whatever funding increases are necessary to enable the effective performance of this mandate; inspection of boats and boat trailers for mussels at the state border, with mandatory decontamination if necessary; joint action with Nevada, other affected states, and federal agencies to establish containment methods; and design and implementation of a comprehensive campaign of public information.


The Chapter expects to present a resolution including these recommendations to the Regional Conservation Committee of the California Sierra Club on Jan. 20, 2008.


Victoria Brandon is chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group.


{mos_sb_discuss:4}

Something needs to be done to make the traffic coming and going on Highway 29 through Middletown stop and shop. But, what can be done?


Some have suggested that Caltrans re-route the traffic through the downtown area making the main street through town one way. If nothing else, this would provide more space for parking. But, is more parking space really the problem?


While the parking space available in Middletown needs improving, I do not believe that alone is Middletown's problem. Middletown needs to promote itself better.


The fliers for the town are out-of-date. For example, the wine tasting room featured on the Middletown brochure is now a candy store. Nevertheless, even if the brochure was up-to-date, I doubt that would be enough to make traffic want to stop and shop in the town.


Something more forceful and dynamic needs to be done. Middletown needs digital signage. For that matter, all of Lake County could benefit from digital signage. But, let's start with Middletown the gateway to county.


For months, the Middletown Area Town Hall has been talking about digital signage as a means to draw more attention to the local merchants. You could have one outdoor sign adjacent to the Middletown sign at the north and south end of the town. These signs would alert drivers to what the town has to offer them BEFORE they enter the town. Being dynamic, these signs would change just like a slide show on a computer screen. One sign could tell you a lot about the businesses that are on the main street and the planned activities in the town.


Please be advised, digital signage does not simply work its magic along the highway. It can work its magic along a storefront and even within the post office bulletin board via a flat screen LCD monitor. If you have ever ventured into the Clearlake Wal-Mart and been back in their TV section, you have witnessed digital signage at work. No, that was not a commercial network TV station all those TV sets were featuring. That was digital signage a computer program all those TV sets were running.


Digital signage even works its magic on the Internet. Want proof? See what Kevin Comora, president of Vizicast Multimedia, created for Middletown the last time he came for a visit. Visit www.sftv.com and play the video link, “Middletown USA.” Just be sure to download the "powered by Scala" plug-in before you play the link. Otherwise, it will not work.


Lake County, as reported by this publicationi, want to record meetings with a webcam and place them on the Internet. Well, what the county should do is edit that video BEFORE placing it on the Net. Research has shown that most people do not want to listen or watch anything on the Internet that requires more than 30 minutes of their time. The idea of placing a hour or two-hour session of a Board of Supervisors meeting is definitely a mistake.


But, put up just the highlights? That might work very well. And, digital signage via a program like Scala InfoChannel Designer provides the way to get that done. That is the digital signage software used by more businesses around the world than any other. It is what makes kiosks work in hotels. It's what you see in modern shopping centers and airports.


Lake County has three Visitor Information Centers. One is in Middletown at the Calpine Visitor Center. One is located in Lucerne and one is located inside the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce Office. Well, a touchscreen multimedia kiosk would do wonders for providing up-to-date information about what Lake County has to offer its tourists in all those locations. Want to find a good restaurant or hotel? Just press a button on the touchscreen and you get to see all your options.


What is really awesome about this is that one system can run an unlimited number of screens. Each screen could be running the same multimedia program or one uniquely its own. The same could also be said for Web sites.


But, there's more. The software program can be used to create wonderful multimedia DVDs to be included in Lake County's press kits. Last year, Lake County's Department of Economic Development sent a press kit to Roger Ailes, chairman of the Fox News Channel in support of a letter-writing campaign by Middletown High School students geared to bringing Fox News to Middletown for "Middletown Days."


While the campaign proved successful Fox News sent correspondent Adam Housley to speak at the parade there was no dynamic signage DVD in the press kit. Instead, it simply included a CD with PDF's on it. A dynamic signage DVD would have been much more impressive.


This Saturday, during "Christmas in Middletown," inside the Middletown High School Multi-Use Room, between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., Kevin Comora returns to educate the local business community on digital signage and what it is capable of doing for them. Since Lake County's Board of Supervisors has proved funds to give Middletown new lights downtown, I think the time has come to give the county NEW marketing resources.


There is currently a moratorium on billboard signage in Lake County. But, according to District 1 Supervisor Ed Robey, there are no rules on the books regarding digital signage. Why? Because Lake County's signage rules have not been updated for 20 years!


Well, I think the time to bring digital signage to Lake County has arrived. What do you think? Before you form an opinion, see digital signage in operation up close and personal this coming Saturday at "Christmas in Middletown." I think this amazing technology will impress you.


Lamar Morgan lives in Middletown.


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