≡ Menu

Oil and gas well profiled on sunset skyThe anti-fracking hysteria (and I use the word advisedly) in Monterey County and elsewhere is vastly over-wrought, and based almost entirely on misinformation. See this from the EPA.

Here, in a nutshell, is the bottom line: last year there were 300,000 (count ’em, 300,000!) fracked wells in operation in the United States. Common sense tells us, or at least should, that if the magnitude of problems were even a tiny fraction (pardon the pun) of those claimed by the opponents, we we would be in the midst of an actual, as opposed to purely hypothetical, environmental nightmare. This is not to say that there are not risks, but that they are both manageable and greatly outweighed by the benefits.

The simple fact is that fracking has not only made the U.S. the world’s leading producer of oil but, thanks to the substitution of natural gas for coal in electricity production, the world’s leader in the reduction of CO2 emissions. This year, more electricity will be produced from gas-powered plants than from coal-powered plants. Producing electricity from natural gas releases half the CO2 that doing so from coal does, with none of the nasty chemical byproducts. In addition, our dependence upon imported oil (and all that that implies) has been very significantly reduced. Simply put, fracking has had an enormous positive environmental impact.

To put the benefits in more concrete terms, thank fracking for the fact that you are paying a LOT less for gasoline that you were two years ago. See chart.

The truth is that properly regulated fracking would be not merely an economic boon to Monterey County but really, really good for the environment.

Given the standard envrio-nutty response to any suggestion that they are full of it, I should add that I have absolutely no financial interest in any energy-related company.

Allison is a retired computer industry analyst who lives in Carmel Valley.

{ 24 comments }

Dollarphotoclub_89236926Many houses in North Monterey County, currently affordable to low-income households, will convert to unaffordable market rate unless the Coastal Commission, at its August hearing, makes the unlikely decision to override its staff’s recommendation. Replacements for these homes are not provided for, and there are not any in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, one in three Salinas City School District students is homeless. [#1] They live in cars, trucks, motels or tents, and their chances of someday living in a decent home owned by themselves or their parents are slim to none.

I am asking for your help. What’s needed to prevent this loss is a flood of YOUR emails to Coastal Commissioners.

The issue involves the Jan. 26, 2016, decision by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors (Parker dissenting) to amend the affordability requirement that keeps 161 homes in the Castroville area coastal zone permanently affordable to low-income households. [2]

The decision changes the permanent affordability requirement to 20 years, which will expire in 2020 since the Moro Cojo homes were built in 1999-2000, financed with federal and state subsidies.

By law, their affordability status may not change unless the Board of Supervisors acts consistently with the 1982 North Monterey County Local Coastal Program. It states that Monterey County shall protect affordable housing in the North County coastal zone and, if for any reason the affordable housing must be converted, replacement units shall be required. Despite that mandate, the supervisors voted in January  to amend the permanent affordability restriction at the Moro Cojo project so it will terminate in 2020, and they requited no replacement units. The net effect will be to immediately REDUCE affordable housing stock by over 160 units.

I appealed the board’s decision to the Coastal Commission on the grounds that it violated the 1982 Program related to affordability. Reviewing the appeal, Coastal Commission staff has recommended that the Coastal Commission not interfere with Monterey County’s January decision.  [#3]

The staff report is so long (90 pages) that busy commissioners are unlikely to realize important facts without some guidance. As you will note below, important facts are buried so far into the 90 pages as to virtually guarantee they won’t be read unless someone directs them to the information.

Your emails will help direct the commissioners to the salient points of the appeal; I’m asking that you urge the commissioners to read pages 78-90 of the staff report. Commissioners will learn important facts they will otherwise not know.

Here are examples of what they’ll learn:

  • Marc Del Piero, chair of the 1982 Monterey County Board of Supervisors when the North County Coastal Program was adopted and an author of the program, submitted a declaration supporting the appeal, stating under penalty of perjury that changing the affordability status of the Moro Cojo homes is “clearly inconsistent” with the program. The staff report never mentions his declaration. Instead, it just includes it without comment on pages 78-80.
  • An analysis of the five issues on which the Coastal Commission evaluates consistency with the North Monterey County Coastal Program, with substantial evidence supporting each, also is never mentioned in the staff report. It too is included only as an attachment without comment on pages 81-90.Without a flood of emails alerting the Coastal Commission to the information hidden at the end of attachments to the staff report, Monterey County’s January decision is nearly certain to be sustained and existing affordable housing will be lost with no replacement. Low-income families now homeless will be unable to afford market rate Moro Cojo homes. Sending emails won’t take long. Click on the email address for each of the 19 people with email addresses at http://www.coastal.ca.gov/roster.html.  An email with that addressee’s name will appear. Copy and paste into the subject line: Appeal No. A-3-MCO-16-0017

Then copy and paste this into the body:

I’m a Monterey County resident. I respectfully request you to read important information at pages 78-90 of the staff report in connection with the criteria for finding “substantial issue.” That information is not mentioned elsewhere in the staff report but is important. It will show you why the Coastal Commission should reject staff’s recommendation for the Aug. 10 hearing and instead vote to find “substantial Issue.”

The emails must reach addressees by Aug. 4. Brian O’Neill of the commission staff must be copied on each to prevent the email from being ex parte:

brian.o’neill@coastal.ca.gov

After you send the emails, if you want to feel happy from knowing you’ve done something good, drive to the Moro Cojo subdivision on Castroville Boulevard off Highway 156 near North Monterey County High School. You will find a well-kept neighborhood where low-income families purchased affordable homes and live in dignity. Remember,

  • According to the county’s current cap for resale of Moro Cojo homes, which would become void if the Coastal Commission does not override the County’s 1/26/16 decision, “The current maximum resale value of a three-bedroom house in the [Moro Cojo] subdivision, is $291,750.” (Page 9 at http://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2016/8/w16c-8-2016.pdf, far more affordable than market rate.)If the emails persuade Coastal Commissioners to vote for “substantial issue,” a subsequent hearing will be scheduled on the affordable housing policy issues. If the facts are fairly presented, I believe the Coastal Commissioners will override the County’s 1/26/16 decision. That would result in the 161 Moro Cojo homes remaining permanently affordable to low-income households in Monterey County.LINKS:

#1. http://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2014/09/18/homeless-ranks-salinas-schools-up- swing/15809113/

#2. http://www.montereyherald.com/article/NF/20151208/NEWS/151209801

#3. http://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2016/8/w16c-8-2016.pdf

#4. http://www.coastal.ca.gov/roster.html

{ 22 comments }

Monterey Downs EIR might not survive close inspection

Business people horse racingIt will be interesting to see what the environmental review experts come up with when they dig into the “Final Environmental Impact Report” on the Monterey Downs project. Expect them to find plenty to talk about. It took the decidedly inexpert Partisan staff about 20 minutes to spot a fairly significant problem.

It isn’t the kind of thing that will stop the project but it will remind project critics, and there are many of them, to accept nothing at face value as they scour all those pages of dry discussion and even drier fine print.

The problem has to do with one word, “wide,” and how its absence rather dramatically changes the meaning of a section having to do with the project’s water supply, particularly the sustainability of the Salinas Valley groundwater basin.

Some quick, obligatory background. After a long delay, the city of Seaside on Friday released to the public the environmental impact report on the Monterey Downs project, a hotly contested plan to build a horse racetrack 1,280 housing units, an arena, hotels and other facilities on a nicely treed site at Parker Flats at Fort Ord. The EIR was prepared for the city by Michael Baker International of Irvine. It’s a thick and heavy document that includes tons of information, including numerous letters from government agencies and others, including supporters and opponents.

This EIR found numerous environmental issues of concern, including water, of course. It was well established before the environmental review began that while there may be enough water available to start the project, there isn’t enough to complete it. For that reason, developer Brian Boudreau and project supporters at City Hall hope to move ahead in phases while others work on developing an additional water supply.

The primary purveyor of water for the project would be the Marina Coast Water District, which does have plans for a desalination plant down the road. But the water district, MCWD, pumps a considerable amount of water out of the ground, including water from the Salinas Valley groundwater basin (SVGB), the principal source of irrigation water for the Salinas Valley.

Here’s where “wide” comes in. Strike that. Here’s where “wide” should come in.

Buried at the bottom of one long section about comments from other agencies, the EIR repeats several lines from the draft environmental impact report from a year and a half ago. It says, “The Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin has a large storage volume and is recharged by the Salinas River, which is augmented by upstream reservoirs managed by the MCWRA (Monterey County Water Resources Agency). Therefore, the aquifer does not experience variations due to climatic conditions.

I put that last sentence in bold italics because that’s the key passage. It also caught the attention of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, which wrote to the city in June 2015 about that and other water-related issues.

The letter, by district manager Dave Stoldt, said his agency monitors the groundwater basin, partly because what happens there affects what happens in the Seaside groundwater basin, which supplies much of the Monterey Peninsula. And, he continued, the draft EIR “presents no data or references that support the conclusion that ‘the SVGB does not experience variations due to climatic conditions.’”

Stoldt writes that there clearly is a connection between rainfall and the status of the Salinas basin.

“The overwhelming evidence for the SVGB is that over the long term, recharge from precipitation and reservoir storage releases does not match groundwater production, and the basin is in a condition of chronic overdraft. Any conclusion … that suggests otherwise should be removed and a statement that reflects the present understanding of the basin condition should take its place.”

The writers of the EIR addressed the issue by attributing the sentence in question.  The EIR says, “This statement concerning SVBG was obtained from the Water Supply Assessment and Written Verification of Supply for the Monterey Downs Specific Plan (Schaaf & Wheeler, November 6, 2012) (pages 22-23).”

But, and you problably saw this coming, what the Water Supply Assessment and Written Verification of Supply for the Monterey Downs Specific Plan actually says on Page 22 is that “the aquifer does not experience wide variations due to climatic conditions.”

Emphasis added in hopes of sparking some discussion about the difference between no variations and some variations.

Big deal? Probably not. The project is not going to rise or fall over this one slip. But the makers of the EIR had 18 months to clean things up following the release of the draft environmental impact report, and a mistake like this suggests either a fairly substantial case of sloppiness or perhaps some inappropriate bias in favor of the project. Either is cause for concern as the experts dig in.

To read the report, click here.

{ 20 comments }

Business people horse racingMONTEREY DOWNS E.I.R. TO BE RELEASED TODAY

Sports fans love statistics and going for records. But here’s some numbers you probably won’t find on the sports pages – the death rate for thoroughbred race horses.

The Del Mar track in Southern California is two weeks or eight days into a 54-day season and already at least 11 horses have died, according to the Veterinarian Reports for the first two weeks. Five died in the first week and six in the second.

That’s a rate of 1.37 horses killed per race day. Perhaps they are going for the track record! Over the past four years the average race horse death rate at Del Mar has only been 0.35 and they are well ahead of that, though admittedly it is early in the season. Also, over that same four-year period the highest death rate was 0.47 in 2012.  That’s a lot of dead horses for a $2 bet.

I’m writing about this because of the proposed Monterey Downs racetrack at Fort Ord, whose environmental impact report is scheduled for public release today. Here’s the connection:

“Monterey Downs draws inspiration from Del Mar, which by most accounts is the classiest and most successful track in California.”

In other words, if you want to know what the developers and promoters of Monterey Downs have in mind as their model, look to Del Mar, where horses are dying with predictable regularity. Is that what we want for Seaside? For our young people? For the CSUMB students who will matriculate immediately adjacent to the proposed Monterey Downs track? If not, we should just say “NO to Monterey Downs!”

Bill Weigle is professor emeritus of mathematics and environmental studies at the University of Maine at Machias. He lives in Seaside. 

{ 45 comments }

donald-trump-has-surged-to-the-top-of-2-new-2016-pollsOne of the most popular tourist attractions in Tallinn, capital of Estonia, is the KGB museum in what once was the actual KGB office and spying station. It is on the top floor of Tallinn’s tallest building, the Viru Hotel, which provided KGB agents a vantage point to keep watch on Estonians hunched over in heavy coats, trying their hardest to escape any notice from their Soviet masters.

I have spent only a few days in Estonia, so I’m afraid I have forgotten the term for the older residents who try so hard to remain invisible even now, decades after the country’s Singing Revolution freed it from Russian control. But they are still there, the ones with the grey hair, avoiding eye contact with anyone, still afraid of the KGB, fearful of what could happen to a person, a family, a career, if anything they did was perceived as a potential threat to the regime.

But my lessons on the Estonian point of view continued after that trip because of friendships — first with an old friend, Jeffrey Levine, who was ambassador to Estonia until last year, and a newer friend, whose name I am reluctant to use here. More on him in a bit.

Levine now lives in Northern California and he wrote a strong piece this week for the Sacramento Bee responding to Donald Trump’s silly suggestion that the United States not come to the defense of Estonia or other small NATO allies who haven’t met his standard for contributing financially to the western alliance. For years now, Estonia and neighboring Lithuania and Latvia have feared a Ukrainian-style Russian takeover, and the chances of that could be edging higher as Trump plays footsie with Putin.

Trump’s “position is even more inappropriate when it comes to Estonia, one of three Baltic countries that were forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union and regained their independence at the end of the Cold War,” Levine wrote. “Since joining NATO in 2004, Estonia has been a model member. It contributes the required 2 percent of GDP to national defense, deployed troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan, opened its military bases for international exercises and participated in numerous peacekeeping missions. It has also been a staunch supporter of the U.S. in virtually every international forum.

“In addition, Estonia and several smaller allies have tailored their own defense planning and spending to meet their NATO commitments. They have foregone military spending that might actually improve their own self-defense capabilities in favor of contributions that increase NATO’s overall effectiveness. It is NATO’s commitment back to these nations that makes this workable.

“There is no doubt that if Trump did evaluate Estonia’s contributions to the alliance, he would quickly conclude it merits U.S. support. But should this be in question at all, especially in a crisis situation?”

Through Jeff, I met an Estonian who is on the front line of his nation’s cold war with the Russians. He is an officer in the Estonian army and I came to know him well while he studied for two years at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

I’m afraid to name him because I wouldn’t want the Russians to pay him any extra attention. I’ll just call him my friend.

With his wonderful young family in tow, he came here to study unconventional warfare at NPS. The ambassador asked if I could play a host role, which I was glad to do except that I was naturally reluctant to do much of anything that would advance anyone’s war effort.

Much of what officers from foreign militaries do during their time at NPS is to work on a master’s thesis. Since English is my friend’s fourth language (after Estonian, German and Russian), he asked for help with the writing and editing. I was relieved to learn of his topic – how a small military can work with the civilian population to form and sustain a resistance movement in the event of invasion by a foreign power. That didn’t assault any of my lefty sensibilities.

In the course of many, many writing and editing sessions, I learned a fair amount about Estonian history and its demographics. As many as 40 percent of the population is Russian born and a sizable share of those are loyal to the Russians. Even so, for the Trump camp to dismiss Estonia as a “suburb of St. Petersburg” says, first of all, that the Donald has little understanding of either place.

While helping my friend with his syntax (Estonian uses almost no articles) and his footnotes, I also learned a fair amount about the successes and failures of both armed and unarmed resistance efforts in modern times. And while listening to my friend talk of his family and friends, I learned about what makes Estonia Estonian and not a mere Russian satellite.

What I saw in Tallinn a couple of years ago is a country of young hipsters making their country an important high-tech outpost and old farmers still using mules to plow potato fields. All in all, it was decidedly more Western than St. Petersburg, visited during the same trip, and much more Western than other Eastern Bloc nations such as Bulgaria, where Ambassador Levine also toiled for the State Department.

Trump seems to think that Estonia would welcome a Russian incursion or, at the very least, simply roll over. Through my friend’s eyes, I see a nation that ousted the intruder before and is not about to let it return without a fight. To say that this country shouldn’t join that fight demonstrates once again that Donald Trump would be just as quick to turn his back on our allies as he is to break contracts with his partners and suppliers. Let’s hope he doesn’t start calling his platform his contract with America or anything like that.

Simply put, Trump needs to butt out of the conversation about Estonia and the remarkably long list of other topics beyond his grasp. If he understood what he was talking about, he might understand that the notion of cutting Estonia loose contradicts all of his rhetoric about freedom and independence. If he’d like to learn more, I have someone he should meet.

{ 18 comments }

American Flag Painted by Roller Brush, Wining Concept of FlagAs the Democratic National Convention opens in Philadelphia, there’s no shortage of drama.

Bernie Sanders backers were marching in the streets and booing leaders at the first breakfast meetings of state delegations Monday morning.

Some of the rancor is owing to the dump of stolen emails from the DNC speaking ill of Sanders’ campaign and much is simple antipathy for Hillary Clinton and her hawkish record on Iraq and Libya and ties to Wall Street.

Will Sanders be the wrench in the works — a la Ted Cruz’s boo-fest in Cleveland after not endorsing Donald Trump — in Philly for the Clinton campaign? The simple answer, yes.

— Some Sanders’ backers are so devoted to their man that it won’t matter if Sanders offers the most-ringing endorsement of Clinton humanly possible. He set in motion the revolution and revolutions are wont to eat their own. Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein is in the wings, ready and willing to drain a few percentage points from the liberal vote. If it helps Trump win in November, so it goes. Purity must be maintained.

— Trump is burning up his Twitter feed with mockery of the Clinton-Kaine ticket while trying to woo Sanders’ backers with contrived sympathy and his paper-thin rhetoric on protectionist trade policies. What else about Trump could appeal to a Sanders progressive escapes me, other than sheer anti-Clinton vitriol.

— Cyber security experts are fingering hackers with ties to Russian spy agencies for the theft of the embarrassing DNC internal emails. This adds another troubling layer to questions about Trump’s financial ties to Russia, his Putin-friendly foreign policy view of the NATO alliance, and whether Russia is deliberately acting to sabotage an American election.

Seems the FBI should be investigating the DNC hack — which is the modern version of the 1972 break-in of DNC headquarters at the Watergate hotel. But these days, even FBI crime stats are viewed with suspicion. Looking into the DNC hack warrants serious investigation, but these days, who the heck cares?

— Trump looks like he will successfully deep-six his tax returns forever, so voters will never get basic answers about his businesses, his financiers, his taxes or his charity. I would like to know to whom the possible next president owes money, but details, details. His great America has a wall to build.

— Will it be necessary for nominee Clinton to follow Trump’s lead and pivot deep into the Twilight Zone and accuse Sanders’ father of being in on the Kennedy Assassination, too, just to keep pace with Trump? Trump is enjoying a bump in the polls after Cleveland despite continuing such untethered pronouncements.

After the next four days of diversion in the City of Brotherly Love, all the rough beasts will resume their slouch toward Election Day. And what a crapstorm it promises to be.

{ 21 comments }

LARRY PARSONS: Beware Trump’s promises

I was going to quickly — or, as Republican nominee Donald Trump would put it — very, very, very quickly offer a few takes on his 70-minute acceptance harangue Thursday night.

But I had to start early this morning to pick up a roll of special-transmission tin foil, which allows me to see all truths out there, but usually hidden by crafty Clinton spinmeisters, CIA mind-control programmers and sundry system riggers.

If I don’t set out before the crack of dawn, I would be easy prey for marauding hordes of politically correct killers and fancy-pants liberals who nightly turn the streets of America into the blood-curdling hellhole to which Trump wants to take a really great water cannon.

Poised to set off, I quietly chant, “USA, USA, USA,” in hopes of warding off any straggling, malevolent roamers intent on murdering the likes of me before they retire for another day of vampirish rest in their foul nests.

Through the slit holes in my front-porch bunker, the coast looks clear. I’m headed for the 7-Eleven two blocks away, where almost-certain hand-to-hand combat awaits me if I’m to secure one of the store’s last rolls of ridiculously overpriced Reynolds Wrap. I beseech you, Donald, give me strength. Don’t let me become another anecdote in your stump speech about all the horrible, awful, vicious mayhem that is America.

I duck behind a bush outside of Burger King, where things look suspiciously normal inside. People are taking trays from the counter and sitting down to eat. Cars, which apparently avoided crocodile-infested sinkholes that plague every street, line up at the drive-up window. Songs play from radios.

A kid on a skateboard whizzes down the sidewalk. He doesn’t appear to have a care in the world. Foolish — very, very, very foolish. As only you and I know, Donald, looks can be deceiving. They are easily disguised beneath many coats of attractive orange lacquer.

This kid could be an immigrant, a terrorist, or — Donald, forbid — not yet inoculated with the correct dosage of fear. Has he not heard your message of dread?

This is no time for happiness. Silly smiles just aid and comfort the enemy. Kisses? Don’t even think. The battle is nigh. The Donald Signal flashes across the storm-tossed sky.

I sneak a peak over the top of the bush to make certain I actually recognize the truth underneath this placid-appearing summer scene. Yes, there it is again, the hideous landscape of America where everything good, decent and inlaid with Italian marble has been torn, ripped asunder and left in shreds for lawyers and carrion birds.

“USA, USA, USA,” I shout as I zig-zag in a low crouch past a couple renting an action-movie video from one of the big red kiosks. I reach the front door of the 7-Eleven. Every nerve in my body is on high alert as I scan the aisles for evildoers.

There’s a woman by the slurpee machine, and a guy deciding which flavor of Doritos to buy. Are they really a suicide hit team? Are they going to take all the maple bars? Will they take forever getting change out of their pockets while I wait to pay for my tin foil?

I have me eyes peeled for trouble because trouble’s all that’s out here in America. And our airports, don’t get me started. Very, very, very third-world airports. The world is laughing, convulsed in laughter, giggling uncontrollably at us. Not good.

Foil secured, I duck behind a dumpster, peel off a long strip and wrap it around my head. Reception is strong. I begin to receive the truth. It is staggering, almost as staggering as the  foul odor wafting from this dumpster.

My god, I’ve gotten it all wrong. Trump says he cares about the Second Amendment more than anything. He proudly packs, and proclaims that everyone should pack to have a sliver of a chance to make it through another night on the horror-strewn streets of America.

But what did he say he would do come inauguration next January? Instantly make America safe again. Restore law and order before doing any other amazing things.

If everyone and every place in America is safe from harm, thanks to Trump, of what use will be 350 million guns in circulation? Folks won’t need them anymore to keep their families safe. Trump will do that. Guns will be useless, except to hunters and hobbyists. They’ll become passé, boring relics of pre-Trump dystopic America. You won’t be able to give them away. Into the trash they’ll go.

My tin foil crackles: “Wake up sheeple! Trump aims to take your guns away!!!! He’s a fiendish libtard con man!!!!!!!. End of transmission.”

Shaking like a leaf, I make it back home by trotting beside a lumbering farm labor bus for cover. I bolt and bar the door. It is quiet and dark.

{ 9 comments }

marijuana plant as very nice natural backgroundAmong those seeking marijuana-related permits from the city of Salinas are a representative of the pot dispensary in Del Rey Oaks, restaurant owner Mike Hackett, businessman and civic activist Ricky Cabrera and Pebble Beach Food and Wine operator Rob Weakley.

 City officials on Friday released a list of applicants for permits the city plans to issue for marijuana cultivation, distribution, manufacturing and and delivery. Details of the applications were not made available because the applicants are competing for three permits in each of the categories.

The only operator seeking a permit in each category is Monterey Bay Alternative Medicine, which operates the medicinal marijuana dispensary in Del Rey Oaks. For its pursuit of Salinas permits, its representative is board member Daniel Dawson.

 Others seeking cultivation permits, and their representatives, are:

  • Badfish Gardens-Kurt Kaufeldt
  • East of Eden Cannabis-Omar Bitar
  • Harkins Grow-Kasra Ajir
  • Riverview Farms-Hackett
  • Griffin Holistics-Cabrera

Applicants for dispensary licenses are:

  • East of Eden Cannabis-Omar star
  • Riverview Farms
  • Griffin Holistics
  • Purple Trilogy-Hope Ricks
  • Canna Cruz-Grant Palmer
  • Collective on Romie-Sean Eddie

Applicants for manufacturing permits are:

  • 710 Combinator-Attorney Gavin Kogan
  • Riverview Farms
  • Cypress Manufacturing-Rob Weakley

Applicants for delivery permits are:

  • Golden Essentials-Vanessa Aguilar Moreno
  • Central Coast Cargo-Diego A. Ruiz
  • Campassionate Bay Delivery-Luis Solis

{ 3 comments }

On medical pot, Monterey County is a buzz killer

marijuana plant as very nice natural backgroundAs California and the nation drift toward legalization of recreational marijuana, it might seem safe to assume that things would be getting easier  for medical marijuana patients who grow their own. With more and more commercial greenhouses and fields filling up with intoxicating buds, why would anyone worry about backyard gardens where medicinal herbs share space with tomato seedlings and begonia cuttings?

Surprise.

For reasons as confounding as a county zoning manual, Monterey County is on the verge of making it significantly more difficult for medical marijuana users to grow their own.

Today, most do-it-yourselfers simply cultivate an obscure corner of their property and post copies of their medical marijuana cards on a fence nearby in case the cops come traipsing through.

Soon, if the county bureaucrats, politicos and badge wearers have their way, the process will include a formal application process, permits, annual renewals, inspections, fees and more fees.

Although voters have made clear almost everywhere that they are comfortable with decriminalizing much of what goes on in the world of pot, the Monterey County supervisors seem intent on “recriminalizing” things. Violation of any of numerous new regulations, including purely paperwork matters and the labeling of fertilizers and other planting materials, would be deemed misdemeanors – crimes, potentially punishable by jail terms.

The supervisors have lumped personal gardens together with proposed new rules for commercial cultivation of medical marijuana – rules strongly influenced by the strong possibility that California voters will approve a November ballot measure legalizing recreational use – but with numerous strings and taxes attached to cultivation and distribution.

The public’s attention has mostly been focused on the proposed local rules for commercial operations, a topic ripe for scrutiny given the recent rush by investment groups and others to buy up property and especially greenhouses and the decision by the county to appoint supervisors John Phillips and Dave Potter as the ad hoc committee in charge of working up the new regulations. The roles of Phillips and Potter invite examination because Phillips is so closely tied to agribusiness already and Potter, who leaves office at year’s end, is a shrewd figure who has made a career of mixing personal and professional interests.

Among the most interesting aspects of the county’s proposed regulations for commercial grows that the required permits would go only to those who already have a greenhouse. So unless you saw this coming, unless you had friends in the right places and a way to receive some off-the-record promises from the powers that be, you’re too late for the marijuana train.

But back to the backyard. The county hasn’t set the fee yet for applying for a medical marijuana growing permit but the expectation is somewhere around $150 for an annual permit. And $150 a year later, and so on. Some think it will be much higher.

The good news for medical marijuana users is that the county would allow gardens larger than what are current allowed. Gardens are now limited to six female plants. Under the proposed county rule, gardens could be as large as 100 square feet.

Little else in the 13-page proposal amounts to good news.

The garden would have to be at least 30 feet from the property line, which is fine on large lots but not on many urban parcels. The plants could not be visible from off the property or from the neighboring properties and “no cannabis odors shall be detectable from offsite…”

DSCN0550 (1)

Retired defense lawyer Richard Rosen says county’s proposed rules are “nuts.”

The garden also would have to be protected by a locked fence capable of keeping out any potential intruders.

Permit holders would be required to submit to random and warrantless inspections of their gardens

The proposed ordinance hasn’t attracted any organized opposition but it has rankled one medical marijuana user who is especially well equipped to dissect its provisions. He’s Richard Rosen, one of the region’s most successful defense lawyers, who has represented many marijuana growers large and small. Rosen is a cancer patient who has retired from his law practice and now spends much of his time perfecting his blues harmonica technique.

On a lovely Carmel Valley afternoon, he sat on his front porch and went through the proposed regulations line by line. He found little to like.

“Ordinance 7.95 makes it as difficult as possible to get a personal grow permit,” he said.

Rosen says California law enforcement groups are strenuously opposed to relaxing the marijuana laws, partly because they spent much of the last several decades so focused on trying to eradicate pot. In rural counties such as Monterey, the biggest and most exciting law enforcement operations were the annual marijuana raids carried out by teams of state and local agents, using airplanes and helicopters to spot the groves of Carmel Valley and Big Sur and then sending in deputies with machetes to mow down the crops.

“It became engrained in them that marijuana growers were the enemy,” Rosen said, and they aren’t ready to move on.

The California Narcotics Officers Association is among those leading opposition to the pro-legalization ballot measure in the fall. It routinely conducts seminars on detecting and disrupting marijuana operations, including medical marijuana crops. It has labeled medical marijuana as a fraud.

Despite softening of the medical marijuana rules, and the move toward legalized pot, Rosen says the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies aren’t trapped in the 60s. In recent years, he said, he represented several people who were cited for marijuana possession despite having valid medical marijuana prescription cards on them. The standard response from the citing officer, he said, was “We don’t care.” Invariably, Rosen says he was able to get the citation wiped from the record and have the pot returned.

Theoretically, much of the proposed county ordinance is driven by public safety concerns but Rosen says that’s bogus.

“They say they don’t want people coming in and stealing the pot, but there is no rule that I have to put a locked fence around my car or my lawn mower,” he said.

“And why keep it under lock and key while it’s growing but not while I’m smoking it. Do I have to lock up my painkillers?”

The lawyer said it makes no sense that the county requires special labeling fertilizers and other cultivation-related products “but you can spray Round-Up anywhere you want and they don’t do anything about.”

County officials say water conservation is one rationale for the proposed rules, though the regulations are silent on the subject.

Rosen said county officials say they also are worried about backyard gardens eroding the character of neighborhoods though they cite no examples. Commercial operations certainly have had impacts, negative ones, on numerous neighborhoods. Some areas in Denver have been blighted by the barbed wire and other security measures that accompany commercial groves. But, in Rosen’s view, there is no support for the assertion that small, personal-used gardens will harm anyone.

“Citing ‘neighborood characteristics’ sounds like code for we don’t want you to do it.”

Rosen said he considered leading an effort to make the rules more reasonable. “But I spent the last 40 years fighting with people and now I want to harmonize with them. I don’t want to go to Salinas and get up before the board and get 60 seconds to talk to people who have already made up their minds.”

Another medical marijuana patient, also in Carmel Valley, says he has successfully cultivated a couple of plants over the past decade but finds it much easier to buy through a dispensary such as the one that opened recently in Del Rey Oaks.

“Of course, I can afford to go that route but there are a lot of people who can’t, people who can barely get through a day without some help, and now are counting on the goodness of friends and neighbors. They’re gonna go stand in line for a permit and invite the sheriff’s people to come inspect their yards? I don’t think so.”

This fellow asked not to be named “because I’m pretty much paranoid on a good day.” He said the idea of a big money business being regulated by local elected officials “scares me to death.”

“I’d love to be able to grow my own and even to experiment with varieties,” he said, ” but I’m nervous enough as it is needing to sometimes take a very small supply somewhere in the car. Until I know law enforcement’s totally out of the equation, I don’t want to put myself in position to be handcuffed and hogtied. But if others speak out against these silly rules, I’ll certainly add my voice.”

Here’s a county staff report on the overall marijuana regulation effort in Monterey County. Cities in the county are adopting their own rules. Attachment A – Discussion

{ 8 comments }

182285_600Day 1 at the Republican National Convention, to be charitable, did not go smoothly.

When the day’s best speech about the warm and cuddly aspects of Donald Trump is being defended the next morning as 93 percent not-plagiarized, there are big chunks of gravel in the smooth road to the White House.

But one thing I’ve noticed over the years about big GOP celebrations went off just like clockwork. Trump entered the stage out of a backlit mist of fog in a tableau worthy of a championship wrestling match, while the song “We Are the Champions” by Queen blasted the Cleveland convention arena. Within hours, surviving members of Queen were demanding that Trump Fest stop using their anthem.

Then the hippy-dippy tune “Happy Together” was pumped through the arena where delegates had spent hours cheering fearful speeches far from those “peace, love, understanding” times when that song was a hit.

Within minutes, members of the Turtles crawled out of their shells and were not happy. They demanded that their song be struck from the convention playlist.

I’ll leave it to intellectual-property lawyers to litigate the legal issues. But this stuff keeps happening. Earlier in the campaign, I recall members of the Rolling Stones asked the Trump Bandstand to stop spinning “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at rallies.

I believe the Trump Jukebox’s response to the Stones’ ultimatum was: “Piss off! The Beatles were better anyway!”

I’d suggest using the Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun” for a couple obvious reasons. It’s obviously a fave on the NRA mixtape, and it’s a track found on the Beatle’s all-White Album. But I’m sure Paul and Ringo would put their Beatle boots down and demand the RNC “Hold it right there, mates.”

These dust-ups aren’t new. Anyone who knows about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his fan-boy crush on Bruce Springsteen realizes Christie’s biggest disappointment probably wasn’t being bypassed as Trump’s VP choice but being enjoined by The Boss from using Springsteen tunes on his short-lived campaign.

Springsteen has been around so long that he asked Ronald Reagan’s campaign to quit using — and grossly misinterpreting — the song “Born in the USA.”

I did a little research over a year ago about similar episodes and was struck by how many different musicians have complained over the years about their creations being used as ear candy for political campaigns.

In 2010, the prog-rock band Rush told Sen. Rand Paul — a big Rush fan — to stop using its music and quoting Rush lyrics in his speeches. In 2012, Newt Gingrich was sued for using “Eye of the Tiger” for his presidential campaign and eventually settled. Back in 2000, Tom Petty told George W. Bush to stop using his “I Won’t Back Down” in his race against that other southern tough guy, Al Gore.

And on and on. Bands from Heart and Neil Young to Katrina and the Waves and the Dropkick Murphy’s have scored publicity from complaints about their tunes being appropriated by GOP politicians. A few times, Democrats have been instructed to drop the needle elsewhere by musical artists. Still, it appears that most offended musicians — a decidedly liberal lot — get their feathers ruffled when conservative politicians use their works.

I’m not aware of anthem-style rock songs that sing the praises of cutting taxes for the 1 percent or auctioning off national parks and forests to the highest bidder. But I have a few suggestions for music the RNC could use this week to avoid any more of these kerfuffles.

Stick with songs by NRA board member Ted Nugent like “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Jailbait,” country songs used in pickup truck commercials, orchestral pieces by German composer Richard Wagner and the extra-long version of “Yakety Sax” by Boots Randolph.

“Yakety Sax” makes anything fun.

{ 29 comments }

We have not sent you a private message. If you got one, it was some scammy thing.  Please ignore and do not try to open the message.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

{ 8 comments }
IMG_1496

Amy White photo

I took a drive down to Soledad this morning and was inspired to write. I went there to drop off a basket of products from my little farm: organic pomegranate juice, bright orange cherry tomatoes, lemon and traditional cucumbers, fresh lavender and Russian sage. I was delivering the goodies to Lupe, the manager of my favorite grocery store, Foods Co. You’ve probably passed it many times while driving south on the 101. It’s in the same shopping center as the Starbucks. I discovered the store in 2015 and am consistently amazed at the beautiful produce and organic products. Gonzales doesn’t have a good store so we are lucky to have Foods Co. right down the road.

I had left my wallet there on Friday after grocery shopping, but I actually think I left it in the parking lot. Some sweet person must have taken it inside the store to wait safely for me to fetch it. I wept a little in the truck after giving Lupe the basket and getting my wallet and seeing that $93 cash, my credit cards and my drivers license were still safely inside, in addition to the numerous receipts for chicken feed and fertilizer that I need to turn into my CPA.

On Tuesday I also cried, this time out of frustration because I couldn’t get the motor started on the pump that injects fertilizer into the irrigation lines for my orchards. I planned to drive the motor to Alfredo, who has a mechanic shop a few miles down River Road from my place. On my way out, I ran into the mechanic for the neighboring vineyard. He giggled a little when he saw my puffy eyes, and I’m sure he’s seen it before given that he has four daughters and a lovely wife. I imagine frustration tears are shed often in his household. He followed my truck up to my orchard and showed me that the motor needs to be level for it to start – a safety feature – and that I had over-choked it. He gave me a big hug and said, “Next time, skip the tears and come find me.”

I could tell a hundred more stories like these. Since I moved to Gonzales in 2012, my quality of life has improved because of the kind, hard-working people that I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by. I haven’t met people this kind since living in the deep South, especially in my mother’s home town of Eunice, Louisiana. On top of that, here there are mountains and majestic oak trees and vineyards and perfect weather and tidy rows of crops and Spanish (instead of hard-to-understand Creole French). I love it. I am so lucky.

It’s this feeling that prompted me to leave my job on April 29 and commit myself to serving the communities of the Salinas Valley through teaching. I felt in my heart that the cynicism of land-use politics was breaking my spirit, and I wanted to do something positive and joyful. The level of cynicism that had invaded my spirit was apparent this summer during my teacher “boot camp” at CSU Monterey Bay. I was surrounded by optimism and excited energy and it felt strange. I knew then that I still had some work to do to shake off the almost nine years of fighting for causes. They were good causes but they required me to wear armor and assume the worst. One of my bosses at LandWatch told me in 2007 that “no one is your friend in this business.” I want to be in a business where people are my friends!

If it’s OK with the readers of the Partisan, I plan to write again in the future.

Amy White formerly headed LandWatch Monterey County.

{ 31 comments }

Confused thinking and uncertainty symbol as a group of traffic or road arrow signs shaped as a human head as a decision making crisis or being lost in confusion concept on a white background.Maybe sharing your thoughts will relieve some of the pressure

A couple of Partisan loyalists inquired Friday about the health of the proprietor, a somewhat subtle way of pointing out that there have been no new posts here for several days now. The proprietor muttered a few words about having taken a few days off and being busy working on a couple of articles that require more effort than the usual routine of simply tossing opinion and a few scattered facts onto the page.

That is the truth, but it is also true that national and international events have proved to be nearly overwhelming in the past few weeks, this past one in particular, putting the subject matter for some potential posts on the wrong side of provincial.

We are working on one piece involving criminal justice in Monterey County and another, or more, on the medical marijuana thing locally. We’re also almost compelled to produce something informative about the local oil industry and the upcoming anti-fracking initiative. That’s all relatively weighty work and it has barely left time for even the production of trifles. I contemplated an attempt at political humor, a column proposing that the perfect running mate for Donald Trump would be comedic figure Howie Mandel, primarily because of his enthusiasm for the banal, but when law enforcement and a sizable portion of the population are at war in this country, I recognized that the timing was way off.

We hadn’t recovered from Orlando when Dallas came along, and now Nice and Turkey, and sandwiched in there the disaster that is Mike Pence. Next we have the GOP convention to entertain and depress us, and we must hope that it is not overwhelmed by bigger news.

Now, to the point. Forgive us for ignoring you and your need for a supplement to the daily diet of low-calorie news cooked up by the entrenched sources. We are still here, chipping away at things, well aware that production has slipped. We assure you we will be back at it in the near future and in the meantime, we welcome your thoughts on just about anything.

Perhaps some of you would like to start a debate about police shootings. Or how about this? Do you think that Monterey County supervisors Dave Potter and John Phillips can be trusted to come up with medical marijuana regulations that take into account interests beyond those of their campaign contributors?

Take it in a different direction, if you’d like. There’s the state water resource board and its plan to give Cal Am more time to tack a 10 percent profit margin on everything it does or even thinks about doing. Even the things it is unable to do. Then there are  those crazy lease-leaseback deals at Monterey Peninsula Unified and now, the fellow in the middle of it, Dan Albert Jr., running for Monterey City Council. What do you think about that?

C’mon, help us out. Space is almost unlimited here in Blogland and filling it can be hard work. While waiting for us to dive back into the news and opinion pool, let’s see what you can do to stir the waters yourselves or to poke other Partisanites into action. There is no shortage of things to talk about. That comment button below is there for a reason.

{ 25 comments }

poop bagsOne of mankind’s great inventions, and they only cost a nickel

In the context of the simmering conflict of dog-poop etiquette that afflicts my adopted neighborhood, I recently encountered the most pathetic woman I have ever seen.

We surprised one another, early on Sunday morning, as I walked my bundle of curlicues on Van Buren Street in Monterey, on the sidewalk along whatever it is MIIS is calling itself these days.

The woman was startled to have been caught, red-handed, while stealing an entire roll of doggy bags from the nearby poop-bag dispensary. The Mitteldorf Institute of International Studies had erected the dispensary along the sidewalk some time ago as a convenience to neighborhood dog walkers.

For my part, I was frankly rattled to chance upon someone who would commit such a low-grade misdemeanor. I mean, really! Stealing poop bags?

Like most of us, administrators at the Marzipan Institute of International Studies are greatly bothered, if not inconvenienced, by dog owners who allow their little brutes to crap indiscriminately wherever they wish, but who then allow the steaming piles to remain where they land until a hapless pedestrian steps in it, soiling his/her footwear with a stench that will adhere to and alter the entire day. It’s happened to all of us, and it’s never pleasant. It’s like you’re unable to completely scrape the newspaper publisher off the bottom of your shoe.

Progressive institutions like the Murgatroyd Institute for International Studies erect these poop-bag dispensaries as gentle reminders to dog walkers and to promote public health. As the sign affixed to the poop-bag dispensary at Mockingbird Institute for International Studies reminds us, “Pet Waste Transmits Disease.”

We live in a civil society, for the most part, and a good number of dog owners in the neighborhood happily comply with the unspoken code of dog-walkery: Your dog craps, you pick it up and you dispose of it properly, preferably by tossing it at the family of neighborhood opossums.

Sadly, a handful of locals are barbarians who blithely reject their responsibilities and who won’t pick up after their dogs. You know who you are, you bastards. The road to your special corner of hell will be paved with festering piles of dogshit.

For the rest of us, poop bags are the currency of my neighborhood.

Forget the adage about good fences; good poop bags make good neighbors.

Even without the convenience of nearby poop-bag dispensaries, responsible dog owners can purchase poop bags at any reputable pet store for a reasonable price. They come in little rolls and the plastic bags withstand the normal exertions of a typical walk, in a variety of colors to suit all personal preferences. The truly conscientious dog owner can purchase cute dog bone-shaped poop-bag dispensers that snap right on to leashes.

The international dog-poop disposal industry has made it all easy, stylish and fun to accessorize.

Better yet, volumes of poop bags are available at Amazon for eye-poppingly low prices. A quick check: 700 bags for $14.99, and the online store will even include a free mini dispenser and free two-day shipping. Assuming your dog is good for an average of two dumps a day, that’s nearly a year’s supply of poop bags for a measly 5 cents a day.

But conscientious and thrifty dog owners can improvise, if need be. They can recycle their old plastic produce bags, if they wish, or reuse the plastic bags that allegedly protect your newspapers against fog and rain. And everyone is free to use the bags offered, one at a time, from the dispensaries erected by forward-thinking institutions like the Marlboro Institute of International Studies.

As I’ve mentioned, such dispensaries are meant as a convenience to the general public. Take one, if you need it, and leave the rest for others. Which is why it was so disconcerting to witness the offender in the act of stealing the entire roll of poop bags from the MiddleEarth Institute of International Studies last week.

Having been caught in the act, she clutched the purloined poop bags to her chest and dashed to her vehicle for a getaway. The pitiful woman refused to look my way as she made her escape, too ashamed to acknowledge my righteous entreaties. I noticed an accomplice in the back seat of the woman’s SUV. It was a large mixed-breed pooch with sad eyes that gazed at me longingly, as if to implore me to rescue him from his cheapskate owner.

Former newspaper reporter and editor Joe Livernois walks his dog with utmost responsibility as he sallies forth into Monterey each morning to capture photographic images of the city for www.goodmorningmonterey.com.

{ 34 comments }

????There are parallel universes in the local water picture, both wanting a reliable and affordable water supply.

One I call Universe A, which praises Cal Am’s progress toward its desal project. It has continuing accolades for the proposed cease-and-desist-order modification that penalizes water users if Cal Am misses milestones. It has the print media demeaning other opinions that Cal Am is not a prince.

The other universe, Universe B, remembers history. It has Cal Am over­drafting the Carmel River that led to the infamous cease and desist order in 1995 to reduce pumping. It remembers Cal Am over­drafting the Seaside basin, resulting in a court adjudication that restricts Cal Am pumping there. It remembers that Cal Am has had more than 20 years to produce a new water supply, and has failed to do so. It remembers Cal Am stranding $35 million on three failed water supply projects between 2000 and 2012, with the ratepayers paying every penny of it. Shareholders paid zero. And still no water.

Universe A apparently accepts the fact that desal projects around the world cost much less than half the cost of Cal Am’s proposed desal at about $4,400 per acre-foot, without a good explanation. It ignores the fact that Cal Am exports 65 percent of its revenue, about $30 million annually, out of the community.

Universe B is criticized by Universe A for pointing out Cal Am shortcomings. Universe B discovered Cal Am’s conflict of interest with contractor Dennis Williams and Geoscience. It pointed out the misinformation about Cal Am’s slant well, promoted to be drawing water from under the bay but instead pumping directly from the intruded Salinas River Groundwater Basin, without entitlement. Universe B remembers that as the entire Peninsula conserved at record levels, there has never been proof that Cal Am fixed enough leaks to claim it conserved much at all. It remembers that Cal Am accounting and management systems waited years before announcing it would seek reimbursement of $51 million for revenue lost from conservation.

Universe A is critical of Universe B for not rallying to Cal Am, the adopted child of Universe A. Universe A thinks Universe B is impeding Cal Am progress. Universe B’s response is that Cal Am is its own worse enemy. Universe B remembers it was Cal Am that violated the county ordinance requiring public ownership of desal. It was Cal Am that decided to install its slant well without getting prior approval for water rights in the Salinas Basin. It was Cal Am’s minders, the California Coastal Commission and the county, that may have failed to enforce its responsibility for local coastal plans, according to new litigation.

Universe A has blinders on, is solidly glued to Cal Am and accepts Cal Am skirting the law, but calls into question others who think a violation needs enforcement action.

Universe B worries that the cost of Cal Am operations, its desal project and its demand to rake in profits, are getting sky high. It wants to see a comparative analysis of the Moss Landing desal options (Deep Water and People’s), since both are projected to cost half of Cal Am’s $4,400 per acre-foot. It can see additional options in more reclaimed water in the future.

And the simplest potential option of all (other than political will), is to extend the Aquifer Storage and Recovery project, currently drawing from the Carmel River, to draw also from the Salinas River near the rubber dam. More than 250,000 acre-feet runs to the bay in winter time, unused and not claimed. If a mere 3 percent of this surplus water, useless to anyone else, was diverted to the Seaside Aquifer, the Monterey Peninsula’s water problems would largely be solved, in a simple and economical way.

George Riley is managing director of Public Water Now. He wrote this for the Monterey Herald, where it appeared on Sunday.

{ 28 comments }