Monday, March 13, 2017

Butte Fire Community Conversation - Next meeting is Sun Mar 26

Today’s (February 20) Community Conversation at the Mountain Ranch Community Center, hosted by Susan Galvan (President of the Community Club) was a great start to a promising commitment among Butte Fire survivors to reclaim and renew their community. Every one there was someone I would consider a leader in their community. Even though I didn’t get to say “hello” to every one I knew, I enjoyed seeing so many caring and motivated people. A special thank you to the AmeriCorps NCCC crew (sponsored by The Hive) who took notes for us and got a big dose of meaningfulness for all the work they are doing to help our community, one family at a time.

Even though the rain was pounding and the wind was howling, many were undeterred. Participants gathered at proctored tables and took turns answering three questions about the biggest changes experienced since the fire, strengthening community connections now, and paths to creating a community that is thriving and a good place to live. It was clear that even though more than one year has passed since the fire, many have not had the opportunity to heal individually, and it was difficult to start thinking about the community as an entity that needed to heal as well. However, after getting passed the lists of what was wrong, the focus began to change.

There was consensus that there was “deep loss of deep love” for the landscape and its familiar landmarks, for the togetherness that used to be experienced at events that are no longer happening, for the comfort of familiar faces at the grocery store and post office, and that much of what was gone was being replaced by fear of the unknown as well as fear that previous negative experiences were being realized once again. Yet, there was also a sense of opportunity on the horizon.

Participants agreed in the end that there was a path and they wanted to participate in paving its way. The “bricks” were named involvement, communication, infrastructure, neighborliness, safety, support, gratitude, resources, awareness, bridges, stability, opportunity, and comradery. Some commitments were made to bring back a meeting place for morning coffee, creation of a volunteer corps and community cooperative, creating a community plan, attending board meetings, sharing with neighbors, talking with those in charge of infrastructure, and much, much more.

The group will be meeting again on Sunday, March 26 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. and you are always welcome to join us. If you can't wait to get involved and pitch in, please give us a call or contact Susan Galvan at 209-728-8208.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

“Paws For Life” – A Program That Benefits People and Dogs in Amador County

(Permission to reissue, courtesy of Rick Torgerson, Publisher, The Upcountry News, March 2017, Vol 16, No. 3)
Written by Ruth Gottstein
Usually, my fellow columnist Danny Udseth, writes about dogs. Normally, I wouldn’t invade his territory and hope he forgives me!
An iconic fixture in Amador county, Margaret ‘Margé’ Blair (AKA “The Dog Whisperer”), along with a dedicated group of volunteers, brings dogs to Jackson Gardens among other assisted care facilities. Contact with these furry friends uplifts the spirits of the residents who might not otherwise have any contact with animals. On a recent visit, Margé shared with me a program that I in turn, wanted to share with all of you. But first, a little background.
Margé is a certified dog trainer who has been training and problem solving professionally since 1991, at her ranch, Twin Cedars K-9, located east of Jackson. She also breeds and trains working line German Shepherd dogs for search and rescue, law enforcement, obedience, therapy work -- and great family pets.
She recently told me that in early 2014, officials from the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) approached a group based in Santa Monica called Karma Rescue, with a unique opportunity: could we help them develop a training program inside one of our state prisons that would pair inmates with rescued shelter dogs? While similar programs have been developed across the country, “Paws For Life” is California’s first and only program in a high-security prison involving inmates serving life-term sentences.  
“Paws For Life” brings rescued shelter dogs to live full-time with inmates at California State Prison, in Los Angeles County. Over a twelve-week cycle, inmates will learn from Karma Rescue trainers how to train our rescue dogs for “Canine Good Citizen” certification.

Once a dog earns this designation, the chance for successful adoption increases – as does the ability to rescue another shelter animal in its place. The inmates also benefit: beyond the rehabilitative therapy of a dog’s presence, they are learning “real world” skills and connecting to a larger humanitarian process outside of the prison walls. This program gives them a way to contribute back to society by helping a dog get a second chance at life.

On June 1, 2014, Karma Rescue brought five shelter dogs to the prison. Men who had not seen an animal in decades were openly emotional at the sight of the beautiful creatures before them. Just petting our dogs brought many to happy tears.
In 2016 Karma Rescue started the same program at Mule Creek State Prison and Rehabilitation. The five dogs were chosen from the Amador County Animal Control and Adoption Center and then placed in the prison with the inmate trainers.  Each animal had three to four trainers who socialized and trained the dogs.  By the end of the twelve week program, the trainers and dogs were administered the AKC “Canine Good Citizen” test. The Mule Creek program is currently working with their second class who will graduate on April 18, 2017. The goal with this class is to have local families adopt the dogs by graduation day.
Margé also provided some updated facts:
93 dogs trained and adopted out to date.
Lancaster prison now has twelve dogs and 37 men in the program.
Mule Creek has five dogs and 17 men.
Karma Rescue is a 501© (3) non-profit organization run entirely on charitable contributions from generous citizens and animal lovers– like you! If you are interested in making a donation, visit their website:

(Photo/graphics from web site)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

NRCS Announces New District Conservationist in Jackson

JACKSON, Calif., Feb. 23, 2017–USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is pleased to announce the recent appointment of Bobette Parsons as the new district conservationist at the NRCS Local Partnership Office in Jackson, Calif. Parsons will start her new role serving Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties beginning February 27.
Parsons comes to Jackson from Monterey County, Calif., where she has served as the district conservationist for NRCS since 2015. Prior to 2015, Parsons served as a soil conservationist for NRCS in Grass Valley, Calif., Honolulu and Hawaii counties in Hawaii, and Twin Falls County in Idaho. Prior to her service with NRCS, Parsons served as Forest Hydrologist for the US Forest Service on the Willamette, Wallowa-Whitman and Deschutes National Forests in Oregon.
A fourth-generation Californian, Parsons is excited to help local agricultural communities address natural resource problems that are unique to the state.
“As a soil conservationist, I’ve worked with many communities and individuals dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods,” said Parsons. “Californians managing their land for crop production, livestock, forests and dairy are all so important to our nation that I am proud to serve as a soil conservationist to help them. Our agency helps producers make their operations strong and resilient while also protecting natural resources for the future.”
Parsons graduated from Humboldt State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in resource planning and interpretation. She earned her Master of Science degree in soil science at Washington State University. Her experience includes conducting soil erosion and nitrogen research in the state of Washington under a multi-state project: Solutions to Environmental and Economic Problems (STEEP).
“Although I have served in many areas, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties are close to home for me, so I am thrilled to be coming back as the district conservationist,” said Parsons.
NRCS is a federal agency that works in partnership with resource conservation districts. With the mission of “Helping People Help the Land,” NRCS provides products and services that enable people to be good stewards of the nation’s soil, water, and related natural resources on non-federal lands. More information on NRCS’ products and services can be found on the NRCS California web site at

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ratepayer Protection Alliance: AWA appoints new District 1 Director

The Amador Water Agency has appointed Paul Molinelli Jr. as the replacement for his father, the retiring District 1 (Jackson) Director Paul Molinelli Sr. The public objected to the selection process as well as this final selection from a pool of six other candidates.

The strategically timed December resignation by ex-Director Paul Molinelli Sr. enabled AWA to avoid an election in which the people would decide their representative. At the Dec. 8 Board meeting a proposed process of selection was met with strong opposition from a board room full of residents.  Staff proposed creating an ad hoc committee consisting of 2 Directors, receiving letters of interest, conducting interviews and returning to the board with a best replacement recommendation.

The public pleaded with the AWA board to either hold an election or allow the Board of Supervisors to conduct a more objective replacement process. The public provided evidence that ad hoc members would lack understanding of the needs and desires of the Jackson area residents stripping the citizens of any legitimate political power through representation. Sean Kriletich pointed out that with two years left on the term “Direct election by the people is the most basic form of our democracy and it is especially important at the county level.”   AWA staff countered that a special election process could cost in excess of $60K and that the Board of Supervisors were not informed to a level that would allow them to select an appropriate replacement.

Contrary to AWA staff estimates, Amador County Elections reports that the highest possible cost to hold a special election in District 1, providing all 4,223 voters showed at the polls, would be $21K.  Using a historic voter turnout average of 70% that sum reduces to less than $15K- $45K short of the grossly inflated $60K cost presented to the AWA Board. Yet not one AWA Director asked for evidence of the cost nor was the $60K cost reflected in writing anywhere.  Rubber stamping staff recommendations presented without support is, sadly, typical for the Board.

The board selected District 3 upcountry and District 5 Plymouth areas as the ad hoc committee members, further supporting the public’s complaint that a true understanding of their needs could be achieved.  Jackson being the most active city and the county seat holds little comparison to constituency or geography of the ranchlands in Plymouth or the fire threatened forests of Pioneer and Buckhorn. District 2, Ione, and District 4, Sutter Creek, are much more similar to District 1. The AWA board forged ahead, ignoring the public, unanimously adopting the ad hoc committee and the process presented by staff.

On Jan. 26 the board unanimously approved the ad hocs recommendation of Paul Molinell Jr. to be effective on Feb. 1 2017.  The committee stated their selection was based on his experience in customer service, in managing a county-wide organization, and for his familiarity with many of the regulatory requirements similar to those of the Agency. This vote brought two of the publics previously stated fears to fruition. This appointment furthered a sense many residents hold of a rigged system smacking “of cronyism, hidden agendas and a lack of respect for the people of District 1.”  Second, the ad hoc committee’s explanation disregarded public concern for democracy and that their interests be considered.

With the announcement of this selection and prior to the vote, the public divulged a 20 year track record of Paul Jr. not only supporting large sub-division development and unbridled growth in Amador County but also known as a founding member and officer of pro-growth organizations. By owning the waste collection monopoly, Molinelli has a clear personal interest in favor of rapid and uncontrolled growth not to mention an expertise in rate raising.

It was shared that Paul participated in election campaigns for two Board of Supervisor incumbents setting up a Political Action Committee (PACs) that could receive indirect untraceable campaign donations. Both re-election campaigns, District 3 and District 4 lost their elections, strong evidence Paul has no understanding of the concerns of local voters. This also bodes poorly for the critical relationship required between the AWA board and the County Board of Supervisors. The AWA Board even contradicted its own polices by overlooking Molinelli’s written opposition to designating the Mokelumne River Wild and Scenic. AWA supported the W&S study in Sacramento, which is intended to lead to the designation.

In the eyes of four of the five seated AWA Directors, Paul Molinelli Jr. may be qualified to follow in the footsteps of his Father, but proof of his inability to represent ratepayers, tax payers and residents  fairly, honestly, objectively and transparently is glaringly obvious from his 20 years of support for special interests.  It is apparent through their actions that the AWA Board of Directors continues to hold no interest in listening to, representing or protecting the public from unnecessary rate increases. Molinelli will be up for re-election in November of 2018.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Local Democrats attend 5th ADEM, three candidates selected as Assembly District Delegates

On a recent rainy and blustery Sunday, local members of the California Democratic Party braved the adverse weather to attend the 5th Assembly District Election Meeting (ADEM) at the Civic Center in Jackson. The event was sponsored by the California Democratic Party.

The ADEM committee, was led by Elizabeth McCulloch, the official convener and included Tim Knox, Sally Trestrail, Lynne Standard-Nightengale, Steve Christensen and other members of Amador County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC), who did a great job coordinating and hosting the event. A simultaneous meeting was held in Oakhurst for the southern residents of District 5. Through teleconferencing, District 5 candidates in both locations were given one minute to introduce themselves and to share their vision for the future of the California Democratic Party. Registration and voting began at the conclusion of the mini-speeches.

Locals Amy Champ, Jenna Beck and Scott Williams were among the winners, all of which are Progressive Grassroots Democrats following the call to step up and enter into local politics.
Amy Champ
Amy Champ has a PhD in Feminism and Performance Studies, and a Masters in US Government. She worked as a policy adviser to Bernie Sanders and assisted with debate strategy. Amy lives in Plymouth and is an active member of the ACDCC.
Jenna Beck

 Jenna Beck is seeking a degree in Psychology, and resides in Camanche. She is dedicated to public service, loves people and believes in their inherent goodness. Her long term goal is to represent the citizens of California as a Congress Woman.
Scott Williams
Scott Williams resides in Ione. After serving in the US Air Force, Scott continued his education at UC Berkely and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resources. He served in both Calaveras and San Joaquin counties for 30 years as a teacher.

The Assembly District Election Meeting (ADEM) is held every two years to elect 7 women and 7 men to be Assembly District Delegates (ADDs) for their area. ADDs are responsible for planning and attending informational meetings throughout the region and working with other delegates to represent their community. They are also elected by voters in their district to vote on behalf of the community they represent at Regional Meetings, and the California Democratic Convention.

To learn more about ADEM and the election outcome, visit the website at;