Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mark Bennett - Outside the Ivory Tower: Taking Back our Freedoms, Resources and Prosperity

Who really has jurisdiction over so-called Federal Lands in our counties? What is a constitutional
county? Do we have rights, in some cases going back to the Magna Carta, that allow us to take back our county –our freedoms, resources, prosperity? Learn about this and many other topics from people who not only have “new” ideas, but from those who are doing it now in several Western counties. This is the winning strategy. It’s called Defend Rural America and its coming to Amador County this Saturday, November 3th at the Sutter Creek Auditorium at 2 pm. Check them out at: (http://
www.defendruralamerica.com/DRA/Home.html)

How bad is the current situation and how strongly do I think that we need to move and to move immediately? Since the financial crisis of 2008 we have had a slow recovery of about 1.5 to 2% economic growth (GDP). But 83% of that increase in economic growth has been inflation. Actually, less goods have been sold but at higher prices. Translating from Washingtonspeak, there is not only no economic growth, but we are all being further squeezed with higher prices.

Since Obama took office the amount of Federal government debt owned by the Federal Reserve Bank has increased 452%. It now buys 61% of all Treasury debt. So it is printing money that is essentially worthless except for the belief in “the full faith and credit of the US Government”. If that belief ever falters, our money becomes truly worthless. An event overseas, perhaps with a trading partner like China, could become the catalyst for questioning the value of the US dollar.

The rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, tell us that municipal bonds are safe, despite the recently publicized bankruptcies. Yet a current study by the New York Fed “found between 35 and 50 times more municipal defaults over the past few decades than rating agencies have reported.” About 51% of municipal bonds are purchased by middle class Americans because of their income tax exemptions. Nearly one third of the $10 billion one year bills California sold, the largest municipal debt deal of the year, were bought by individual investors. Collateral for those bonds is the taxing power of California. Even in our current state budget, for whatever value you assign its tricks and realities, projected sales tax revenue is down 33 %. Several major municipal defaults could further weaken the middle class with an unknown affect on the balance of political power.

Many media report that the economy is getting better because consumer debt is now a lower percent
of personal income. However, the total amount of consumer debt is unchanged. The other personal
income is going to basics, like gasoline and food, at inflated prices as noted earlier. It is only artificially
low interest rates that are allowing us to make our debt payments. Low interest rates benefit borrowers,
the largest being the US government. A 1% increase in interest rates would add $100 billion to the
federal deficit and cause the Federal Reserve to have a $150 billion capital deficit because of its holding
of Federal and related debt.

We have 1.1 law enforcement officers and firefighters and over 1.2 tax preparers according to the FacetheFactsUSA website. After reading that statistic I realized that my income tax preparation expense was equal to over 25% of my property tax bill! This is just one of the endless examples of what economists call “misappropriated resources”. We have 5 % of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners at an annual taxpayer cost of over $63 billion a year. While this is due to a variety of reasons, including the general decline of society, many people are incarcerated for simply standing up for freedom. Presently serving time is someone who violated the zoning code with bible study classes in their home and another who collected rainwater on his property. Please remember that our pending General Plan asserts that the water falling on our properties belongs to the Valley Aquifer and that we should all convert to surface water (rivers) and construct expensive new systems.

Despite all this doom and gloom, we in Amador County are truly blessed. Sutter Gold Mining recently announced the discovery of two new gold bearing veins. Reading between the lines of their press release, it seems very little of the Mother Lode has been explored and almost none with modern technology. Underground miners make $17 to $26 an hour depending upon their skill level. The industry’s mean annual wage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $46,980. Will we have to wait through another eight years of environmental delays for mine expansion? Or can environmental review be approved, as in Canada, in a year and a half?

Be there this Saturday, November 3th, at the Sutter Creek Auditorium at 2 pm. Your future and that of our county and nation are in danger. And while the economy is critical, it is the soul of America that is at stake.

Copyright 2012, Mark L. Bennett

Monday, October 29, 2012

Outside the Ivory Tower: 42 Roads and the New Forest

Outside the Ivory Tower: 42 Roads and the New Forest - By Mark Bennett
Also posted at: http://markbennett1.blogspot.com/

In 1066 the Norman French conquered England. William the Conqueror seized an area of land for his private preserve known as the New Forest. Despite having been inhibited since pre-historic times, most of the residents were evicted. They now lived under a European import called Forest Law, contrary to the Common Law tradition of the Celtic and Saxon citizens. “Forest Law imposed a kingdom within a kingdom, where the few inhabitants were subjected to draconian laws to preserve, increase and protect game of all species . . . a Forest is land subject to special laws.” William’s son “William Rufus is supposed to haveincreased the severity of penalties for flouting Forest Law - death and mutilation apparently the penalties for interference with the King's deer…Rufus was killed in the Forest by an arrow; he was probably murdered.” Rufus was followed by Henry I who, at his coronation “issued a Charter promising to modify or abolish the excesses of Forest Law. In fact he maintained the system and increased its efficiency. He used it to his pecuniary advantage by extracting financial penalties for misdemeanors.” (All the above quotes are from http://www.newforest.hampshire.org.uk/history1.html)

Many people say history repeats itself, while others say it merely rhymes. But you can see for yourself if the imposition of European land use upon the British almost a thousand years ago seems like the current policies in our National Forests on Monday, October 29th at the Jackson Civic Center from 3 to 8 pm. They will be discussing the status of 42 travel routes in the El Dorado National Forest.

The website of the Forest Service abounds with information about their activity, however, older material seems to vanish or is hard to find. Despite road closures and other policies to keep us ordinary folks out, the National Forest abounds in human activity. I have read about 10 or so projects in the El Dorado National Forest over the past year. While their site gives details of the projects, the price tag is conspicuously missing. I decided to find out for myself and emailed the Forest Service about just one project. Their prompt and courteous reply informed me that the Indian Valley Restoration Project “is estimated at about $200,000.” So this summer’s local environmental extravagances with our tax dollars (or borrowings from the Chinese) probably total at least a million dollars.

The Indian Valley Restoration Project involves “ three quarters of a mile of a tributary stream of Indian Creek using a series of plug and ponds to enhance habitat for yellow- legged frogs, Yosemite toad, willow fly catcher” and others. Note that plugging meets bringing in boulders from the Silver Lake area, presumably by sufficient capacity vehicles. And note the word enhance. Many within the Forest Service and in the proposal’s public comments stated that the project was unnecessary. But given the current thrust of the Forest Service and the pressure of various environmental groups, projects such as this proceed. (The above information and quote were taken from the Forest Service website)

So next time you struggle to meet your bills and wonder why your taxes are so high, please remember how cute the yellow-legged frog is and how much you love them. Some people apparently love them because they could become an important new constituency in our land use decisions. Don’t miss this opportunity to talk to our Forest Service on Monday, October 29th from 3 to 8 pm at the Jackson Civic Center

Copyright 2012, Mark L. Bennett

Friday, October 26, 2012

Via RPA: AWA Fails to Give Notice of Upcountry Property Tax

  • AWA Fails to Give Notice of Upcountry Property Tax On September 24th, the AWA Board voted to notice their intent to form a Mello-Roos special tax assessment district to pay for the Gravity Supply Line (GSL). However, AWA did not give the required notice for the October 25th hearing date, and the Board did not hold the hearing as planned. On October 11th, consultant SCI reported to the Board that several properties were mistakenly left out of the Community Facilities District (CFD) boundaries. SCI also discussed changing the tax rate method of apportionment approved by the board just two weeks earlier. The consultant suggested removing some unimproved properties and reducing the tax on other unimproved properties. The reduction in tax to unimproved properties will require increasing the tax rate to all other properties. If AWA changes the tax rates, AWA will again need to schedule a meeting to notice the intent to form the CFD. The Board is required to hold a hearing at least 30 days after passing a resolution of intent. If AWA does this, we will keep you posted and inform you where to find protest forms. Related Story
  • AWA Board Pulls Rate Increase Notice at Last Minute While discussing changes to the Upcountry CFD, the public pointed out that the rate notice slated to go out the next day had information about the CFD that may change. Board secretary Cris Thompson reported that the notices had been printed, but not mailed, thus the mailing of an inaccurate rate increase notice had been averted. However, 7,000 copies of the 6-page notice, the envelope, and possibly the postage are now slated for the recycle bin because the rate hearing date on the notice is now obsolete. The rate notices will need to be reprinted, stuffed into envelopes and stamped at ratepayer expense.
  • Directors Farrington and Thomas Recommend Unconstitutional Policy Changes AWA’s Policy Committee, including directors Rich Farrington and Gary Thomas, sent their recommendations for new meeting decorum policy to the Board. The policy contained restrictions that would not allow handing out literature or displaying signs during the meeting. Members of the public complained that the policy was restricting first amendment constitutional rights to free speech. Two board members felt that the current policy did not need to be changed. However, director Farrington persisted in attempting to convince other board members that the changes were needed to restore order in the board room. The policy changes were sent back to Farrington and Thomas for further committee review.
    1. To view this article online, visit:
      http://www.amadorwatchdog.org/minutes/20121011_minutes.html#tax

      Wednesday, October 24, 2012

      SCBPA: Vote YES on Measure Q!




      Amador County Chamber of Commerce, Amador Coucil of Tourism, and the Sutter Creek Business and Professional Association - supports Measure Q, This measure will help Amador County create new tourism that will support local jobs - at no cost to local residents. 

      California State Legislature has enacted California Revenue and Tax Code Section 7280, which authorizes the County to levy a transient (tourists) occupancy tax (TOT), commonly known as a "hotel tax" and sets forth the parameters and exemptions regarding hotel taxes.

      Amador County Code Section 3.16.030 currently establishes a six per cent (6%) tax for the privilege of occupancy in any hotel by a transient (tourist) within the County. The cities of Jackson, Sutter Creek and Ione are currently collecting a ten percent (10%) hotel tax.  The Board of Supervisors of Amador County desires to submit to the voters of the County a measure to increase the hotel tax to ten percent (10%) within the County to be consistent with the hotel tax imposed by the cities of Jackson, Sutter Creek and Ione.

      Thank you for voting YES.

      --
      Regards,
      Lisa Klosowski
      Director: Sutter Creek Visitor Center
      (209) 267-1344

      TSPN INTERVIEW: Jim Gullett, Chairman of the Yes on Measure Q Committee

      Tom Slivick talks with Jim Gullett, Chairman of the Yes on Measure Q Committee.
      http://tspntv.com/home/item/19572-tspn-tv-news-in-depth-jim-gullett-10-19-12

      Tom Slivick talks with Jim Gullett about what benefits Measure Q could bring to Amador County if the measure passes in the November election.
      http://tspntv.com/home/item/19571-tspn-tv-news-in-depth-benefits-of-measure-q-10-19-12

      Tuesday, October 23, 2012

      From District 1 Supervisor John Plasse regarding OHV trails/roads

       We need to all show up and at the Jackson Civic Center on Oct. 29th between 3 and 8 PM (or other locations shown in this press release) and let the new Forest Supervisor Kathy Hardy know how important reopening these OHV trails and roads are to all of us. They not only provide us, the public, access to our public lands, but they are also vital to the local high country economy. Many businesses, from quick stop gas stations to campgrounds and restaurants, benefit from the OHV based tourism that travels the Highway 88 corridor.

      Forest Supervisor Hardy has told me directly that her proposed action is to amend the Forest Plan so that most of these routes can be reopened in as short a time as possible. Given the litigation the USFS routinely faces from environmental groups, and even their own employees, she needs all the public comment in support of that action she can get!

      So please get the word out and let the US Forest Service know that we feel that public lands belong to the public at large and are for all of us to enjoy in the manner we chose. Claims that OHV's would cause some irreparable environmental harm to grassy areas that our great-grandfathers traversed in steel wheeled wagons and carts are just bogus. I know we weren't listened to by the USFS ideologues of the past, but let's give the new Supervisor the benefit of the doubt and the chance to write her own legacy. Thanks for your support.

      John Plasse
      Supervisor, District 1
      (209) 223-6491 Office
      (209) 481-3732 Cell
      jplasse@amadorgov.org

      Friday, October 19, 2012

      Letter to the Editor: Amador Fire Protection District Board & Chief Support the GSL


      The Amador Fire Protection District Board of Directors and Fire Chief Jim McCart have endorsed the Amador Water Agency’s proposed Gravity Supply Line as the best option to replace the failing pumping system that gets water from the Mokelumne River to the upcountry public water system.

      AFPD President Boitano and Chief McCart say, in their October 12th letter to the Amador Water Agency, “Looking at the effects on and benefits to fire protection services, from the two options being considered, the construction of a gravity supply line would enhance our firefighting efforts to control and extinguish a fire.”

      The upcountry water system serves about 3,500 customers and 544 Fire Hydrants. President Boitano and Chief McCart also state, “The proposed gravity supply line will:

      1. Provide a reliable source of water which is not dependent on electricity for delivery. An electrical power outage commonly occurs during a wildfire when there is the greatest demand on water resources to suppress the fire and protect homes and other infrastructure.

      2. Make available a much larger reserve storage of water for fighting fires in the event of a power failure.

      3. Provide a source of water from the proposed fire hydrants on the supply line which will deliver many more gallons per minute than is available from the fire hydrants in the current distribution system.”

      They conclude that “the Amador Fire Protection Board of Directors support the Amador Water Agency’s proposal to construct the gravity supply line.” The letter is signed by both AFPD President Boitano and Fire Chief Jim McCart.


      Rich Farrington
      District 3 Director
      Amador Water Agency

      Friday, October 12, 2012

      Citizens' Groups Challenge Federal Government's Decision at Plymouth, CA

      No Casino In Plymouth (NCIP) and Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) have filed an amended complaint in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California challenging the May 30, 2012 decision by Acting Assistant Secretary Of Indian Affairs to take 228.04 acres into trust for the Ione Band of Miwok Indians to build a large Las Vegas style casino in the small Amador County town of Plymouth, California.

      NCIP and CERA assert in their complaint the Department of Interior (DOI), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Office of Indian Gaming (OIG) have not complied with the laws and regulations related to fee to trust for Indian gaming and the decision to take the 228.04 acres into trust is an abuse of discretion, arbitrary, capricious and contrary to the law.

       The suit challenges the authority of the DOI to take land into trust for the Ione Band, challenges the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Report, and challenges the alleged restoration to Federal Recognition of the Ione Band.

      Plaintiffs, NCIP and CERA, maintain that recent Supreme Court decisions in Carcieri, Hawaii, and Patchak weigh entirely in their favor legally and are confident that when the facts of the case are presented a court decision in their favor will permanently end all efforts to take land into trust to build a casino in Plymouth.

      The amended complaint was served on Tuesday, October 9th and is available at nocasinoinplymouth.blogspot.com. Questions or inquiries for additional information can be sent via email to nciplymouth@hotmail.com or by mail to NCIP, P.O. Box 82, Plymouth, Ca. 95669.

      Pine Grove Community Conservation Wildfire Protection Plan - Public Comment Period through Dec 6


      The Amador Fire Safe Council announces the release of the final draft of the Greater Pine Grove Community Conservation Wildfire Protection Plan for public review and comment.  The plan can be found on AFSC's website at:
       
       
      The plan, funded by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, is broken down into easily accessed sections, including an executive summary; risk surveys indexed by street name; home fire safety and protection; recommended fuel reduction projects; conservation elements; defensible space; wildfire ecology and environment; as well as numerous maps outlining fire history and risk in the unit.
       
      The public may comment on this plan until December 6, 2012 when it will be submitted to the agencies for final signature.  Comments may be made in writing to Amador Fire Safe Council, PO Box 1055, Pine Grove, California 95665 or electronically through the comment box on our website or to: amadorfiresafe@gmail.com .

      Thursday, October 11, 2012

      Gabe Gottstein for Amador Water Agency Director, District 3



      Guest Commentary - Supervisor Louis Boitano: Measure U Supports Abatement Of Unsafe, Abandoned Vehicles

       On Nov. 6, Amador County voters will vote on Measure U to continue funding the Amador County Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Program for the next 10 years.

      The program is financed through a $1 fee on every vehicle registered in Amador County through the California Department of Motor Vehicles - an additional $2 fee for certain commercial vehicles. The money goes directly to the abatement, removal, or disposal of any abandoned, wrecked, dismantled or inoperable vehicle or part of a vehicle located on private or public property that is considered a public nuisance. Removing abandoned cars prevents Amador County from becoming a junkyard, helps keep children safe, and maintains property values.

      The County's Abandoned Vehicle Authority (AVA) administers the program. Since its inception in 1991, the AVA has removed approximately 3,500 vehicles from our roads. In the 2011-12 fiscal year alone, the AVA ridded 103 vehicles from Amador's streets. The County estimates another 100 vehicles will be eliminated this year with continued funding, raising approximately $46,900 per fiscal year to keep our neighborhoods free of blight caused by abandoned vehicles.

      Collection of the AVA Fee will continue only if Measure U is approved by a two-thirds majority of qualified voters. Voting "yes" approves the fee. A "no" vote would end the program.

      Yes on Measure U is supported by the Amador County Board of Supervisors, City of Amador City, City of Ione, City of Jackson, City of Plymouth, and the City of Sutter Creek. The AVA benefits all of us - in cities and the unincorporated areas of the County - by providing resources local governments need to deal with abandoned vehicles and keep our communities safe.

      Please vote Yes on Measure U. For more information, call District 4 Supervisor Louis Boitano at (209) 223-6470.

      Monday, October 8, 2012

      Via Citizen Report: Coalition Rally - Fri Oct 19

      NO on 32   YES on 30
      Teachers and School employees
      Friday October 19, 2012
      4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
      Highway 49, in front of MacDonald's and Holman's
      Please join us in a fight to preserve our voice in Sacramento and support school funding.

      Friday, October 5, 2012

      Thursday, October 4, 2012

      Via Citizen Report: No on Newman Ridge Quarry and Edwin Center North Asphalt Plant


      "We want the Amador County Board of Supervisors to Vote No on the Newman Ridge Quarry and Edwin Center North Projects."
       Will you sign this petition? Press Control and Click on the URL below, or copy and paste into your browser:
      Thank you!

      Folks: please go to our website--page 2 and give us your signature. Web site:www.ionevalleylawda.com This will be forwarded to the Amador supervisors for the Oct. 9, 2012 meeting at 10:30 am in Jackson, CA. Do give your email address as they forward right to the Supervisors office. Thank you for your support.

      Fraser West Family

      okewest@wildblue.net

      Wednesday, October 3, 2012

      Mother Lode Tea Party Patriots presents Mark Meckler - Thurs Oct 18

      The Mother Lode Tea Party Patriots speaker in October is Mark Meckler, National Co-Founder of the Tea Party Patriots.

      The topic will be "Win or Lose-What's Next"? In the days and years ahead, many will look back and state this was the time and this was the election that transformed everyday Americans  into action.


      Please join us on Thursday Oct. 18th at 6:30pm at the Italian Picnic grounds, Hwy 49, Sutter Hill.

      Contact us at: motherlodeteaparty.com.

      You can  stop by Wed -Sat at our HQ/Education Center, So Hwy 49, Motherlode Plaza, Jackson
       or call 223-1318.



      Mother Lode Tea Party Newsletter - Oct 2012

      Click on link below to view newsletter:
      http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1109130244675-50/Oct+Newsletter.pdf