Monday, February 24, 2014

An Open Letter to Chairman Ted Novelli, Chairman of the Land Use Committee

To: Chairman Theodore Novelli
CC: Supervisor Richard Forster, Supervisor Brian Oneto, the Public
February 24, 2014

Re: Recommendation for Land Use Committee to consider and bring to the Board of Supervisors

Dear Chairman Novelli,

On February 6th, Amador Superior Court ordered Amador County and the Board of Supervisors to revoke and rescind the certification of the Environmental Impact Report for the Newman Ridge and Edwin Center North Quarry and Asphalt Plant, to reverse the industrial rezoning and to redo and recirculate sections of the Environmental Impact Report to comply with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) law, if the Project was to try for approval again.

As you know, this has been a costly process. Now, with the reversal of a prejudicial EIR – which denied the Public the ability to clearly understand and comment/object to the Quarry and Asphalt Plant - there is an opportunity for the County to also fix a policy that is not serving the interests of the County or the Amador County taxpaying Public.

Up until recently, Amador County selected the Consultant of its choice to conduct a study and write an Environmental Impact Report for any Project requiring one. That ensured that the County could select the best-qualified, independent Consultant whose primary loyalty was to the Public – as represented by the County – not the Developer project applicant.   

In the case of the at least three recent Projects for Developer William “Bill” Bunce (working within a number of Limited Liability Companies such as Newman Minerals, LLC, Greenock Ranch Lands, LLC and Edwin Lands, LLC, among many others, with Farallon Capital Management as major investors), the long-standing Amador County policy was changed without explanation or even Public discussion or disclosure. This Developer has been allowed the unprecedented liberty of selecting the EIR Consultant for his own projects.

Permitting any Developer to pick, employ and pay their own Consulting team – which could skew the study toward the Developer - represents a serious conflict of interest and questionable ethics practice by the County. Only the most principled Consultant would dare produce a document unfavorable to the Developer, since doing so would ensure the Developer would never hire them again.

Specifically, this Developer both selected and hired CEQA Consultants for 1) the Ione Hare Scramble Motocross course and 2) the Newman Ridge Quarry and Edwin Center Asphalt Plant and  3) the Irish Hill expansion.   In each case, the Consultant has produced a document that minimized or altogether omitted significant environmental impacts. The result has been tremendous community discord, Public opposition and strife surrounding each of these Projects, and now, a legal decision unfavorable to the County.   

An EIR Consultant selected by the same Developers whose projects they are supposed to objectively analyze can lack the appropriate distance and objectivity necessary to deliver an unbiased study, since they owe their employment and possible future employment to the very same Developer that selected and hired them.

The resulting Public turmoil and expensive litigation in Amador County that have followed these projects speak for themselves, and highlight the problem with the current County policy and begs the question: Why has this Developer received special attention?

Here is a quote from a case on this same subject:

In our view, the lead agency's obligation not to commit to the project in advance, but instead to carry out an environmental review process and create environmental documents that reveal the project's impacts without fear or favor, and only then make up its mind about project approval, means the agency cannot have an interest, prior to project approval, in producing a legally defensible EIR or other environmental document that supports the applicant's proposal. At the same time, of course, the applicant's primary interest in the environmental review process is in having the agency produce a favorable EIR that will pass legal muster. These interests are fundamentally at odds.

The conflict between the agency's interests and the applicant's is far from being only theoretical. For many issues of the first degree of importance—whether an impact is significant or a mitigation measure is feasible, for instance—there may be substantial evidence on both sides. Either conclusion might survive judicial review. It is on issues like these that the preparers of environmental documents must make their most crucial decisions. On these issues, the interests of the agency and applicant are opposed, even though they share an interest in producing a document that will be legally sufficient. The agency's duty is to present the conclusion best supported by the facts, while the applicant's interest is to present the conclusion most favorable to its proposal. These often will be opposite conclusions, although either would be legally sufficient.
(Citizens for Ceres v. Superior Court  217 Cal.App.4th 889, 918, 159 Cal.Rptr.3d 789, 808 (Cal.App. 5 Dist.2013)

As the Chairman of the Amador County Board of Supervisors and Land Use Committee, we seek for you to right this wrong and reverse this change, back to a more objective policy that serves the Public interest, not the Developer’s interests.

The County, and the County alone, should select Environmental Consultants, to ensure maximum objectivity, guarding against bias or influence from the Developer, for any Project needing CEQA analysis. We ask for this Policy to be changed immediately.

Sincerely,

Sondra West-Moore for
The Ione Valley Land, Air & Water Defense Alliance, LLC

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Amador Democrats host viewing of documentary, "I Am" - Sat Mar 1

AMADOR DEMOCRATS are proud to show the movie, "I Am" on Saturday, March 1st at 1 PM at the home of Luisa Almeida.  Luisa lives at 15864 Ridge Road (at the corner of Ridge Road and New York Ranch Road).
This movie is a 2010 American documentary film written, narrated and directed by Tom Shadyac. Mr. Shadyac also directed Liar, Liar, The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty and Ace Ventura.  This inspirational film is a far cry from his comedic works.
This documentary explores Mr. Shadyac's personal journey after a 2007 bicycle accident, "the nature of humanity", and "world's ever-growing addition to materialism."
Attached is more about "I Am" from Wikipedia.

Please RSVP, Steve Christensen christensen668@sbcglobal.net, 267-0615

Monday, February 17, 2014

NCIP/CERA Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 09:28 PM PST
No Casino In Plymouth (NCIP) is pleased to inform you that on February 13th No Casino in Plymouth and Citizens Equal Rights Alliance filed a Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings based on our claim that the Ione Band was not recognized in 1934 and therefore are not eligible to have land taken into trust.
Our motion is based on a 1996 Federal District Court decision that the Ione Band was not in 1992 or any time prior to 1992 a federally recognized tribe. During this case the position of the Federal defendants was clearly stated. "The [United States] government deny that the Ione Band of Miwok Indians has ever been a federally-recognized tribe." Based on this and many other similar assertions made by the Federal defendants, the Federal Judge determined the Ione Band had never been and was not a federally recognized tribe. This determination is conclusive and binding on the Federal defendants and the intervenor Ione Band in our case.
We are hopeful our Judge, Judge Nunley, will decide in our favor, Should that happen, NCIP will have prevailed in the case and a lengthy costly trial in the Federal District Court will be avoided. However, an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by the Federal defendants and/or the intervenor Ione Band would be expected.
We now wait for the Federal defendant's and/or the intervenor Ione Band's reply.  After they reply, we will then have an opportunity to respond to the reply. This process is expected to take about six weeks and then an indeterminate time for Judge Nunley to issue a decision.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/207344651/NCIP-v-Jewell-Motion-for-JoP-P-As

If you have any questions please email them to bcranford4588@att.net

Friday, February 14, 2014

Your voice is needed in Calaveras County to Save the Moke! - Tues Feb 25

On Tuesday February 25th, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors will consider and vote on a resolution to support Wild and Scenic designation for the Mokelumne River.
Your help is needed that day to deliver the message that you want the Moke protected for good! We won't know if the supervisors will vote on the resolution in the morning or afternoon until the February 18 release of the agenda.
In the meantime, the Foothill Conservancy encourages you to talk with your neighbors and friends. Please consider speaking at the meeting - the more supporters the better! Let us know if you'll be attending.
We'll keep you updated and will provide more information soon on ways you can actively participate in this very important decision, one that will impact the future of the Mokelumne River.

If you have any questions, or would like more information, contact Cecily at cecily@foothillconservancy.org,209-223-3508
Please forward this to others who might be interested.

*****Please Note New Address & Phone*****

Cecily Smith
Executive Director
Foothill Conservancy
35 Court Street, Suite 1
Jackson, California  95642
209.223.3508
www.foothillconservancy.org

The Foothill Conservancy's mission is to protect, restore, and sustain the natural and human environment in Amador and Calaveras counties for the benefit of current and future generations.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ione Valley LAWDA wins lawsuit

The order filed by Amador Superior Court attached. The project is currently stopped based on the misleading data and lack of transparency to the public regarding traffic and rail impacts. 

Best Regards,
Sondra West-Moore
Ione Valley LAWDA

Monday, February 10, 2014

Letter to the Editor: The Golden Rule

Dear Editor;
            As a Christian, I find it disheartening to see the huge income gap between the rich and the poor.  This income inequality shows a lack of compassion for the well-being of our neighbors in need.  My loving parents taught me the Golden Rule: love your neighbors as yourself.
            To help narrow the huge income gap between the rich and the poor, I believe we need to raise the minimum wage so our neighbors can have more income to be able to afford to pay their rent, buy food with cash instead of food stamps, shop at local Mom and Pop stores on Main Street, and eat at local restaurants. The extra money they earn would go back into the local economy which would increase demand for services that could spur businesses to hire more workers to satisfy and maintain customer satisfaction.
   Jesus spent his ministry preaching and healing the poor. As Christians, we need to follow in his footsteps by loving our neighbor, empathizing with their plight, and giving them the income they deserve to be active members of our community.


- Steve Christensen

Letter to the Editor: For Better or for Worse!

I am puzzled by the frequency of anti-government sentiments in the opinion section of our local newspaper.  Amador County is a large recipient of government spending, without which 50% or more of our population would be impoverished.  Imagine the impact of getting rid of ‘all the government jobs:’  police, fire, teachers, the Court System, DMV, Cal Fire, the prison system, the Health Department, the public library, and other county, state, and federal departments.  There are so few full-time jobs in our county today that I can’t imagine the exodus of people who would have to seek employment elsewhere.  What would happen to our elderly if they (and their employers) had not been forced by the federal government to contribute to Medicare and Social Security over the years?  

Most of the elderly I know in this county depend on this money to exist and would not qualify for private medical insurance because of their high risk factor.  What would happen to our local hospital and doctors if seniors had to pay their own medical expenses out of pocket?  I think they would have to close the doors.

Then there are all the government grants and subsidies given to our county that contribute to public transportation, senior services, Behavioral Mental Health, road maintenance, and protection of our water and air.  I, for one, celebrate the Clean Water Act of 1972, restricting pollutants into our water system.  While I am a supporter of minimum government intrusion, I am not convinced that there are enough generous people and businesses willing to embrace a posture of self-sacrifice for the benefit of the whole society.   Until our hearts grow larger with compassion for ‘the other,’ government oversight seems to be the best solution at this time.


Karen Siegfriedt, Jackson

Friday, February 7, 2014

Via Citizen Report/Commentary: Four women to be on Amador County's ballot in June

I was talking with a coworker yesterday who didn't know there were three candidates running for Supervisor in District 3. When I told her about Lynn Morgan, her response was, "Wow, we haven't had a woman on the BOS since Stephanie Moreno, and I think there was only one other, but that was a real long time ago."

Well, folks, there are going to be FOUR women on Amador's ballot in June:
Lynn (Dist 3 Supe, running against incumbent Theodore Novelli and challenger Michael Spence)
• Kim Grady (Clerk-Recorder - incumbent/unopposed)
• Tacy Oneto Rouen (Auditor-Controller)
• Kim Burke (Auditor-Controller)

The incumbent Auditor-Controller, Joe Lowe, is retiring. So far, Rouen and Burke are the only two candidates for that position. Monday ends the Signature-in-Lieu filing period (where candidates can collect signatures from registered voters in their districts in lieu of paying the full filing fee). The regular candidacy filing period goes until March 7 (March 12 for Auditor-Controller since the incumbent is not filing). If you are an Amador County resident who would like to throw your hat in the ring, call the Elections office at (209) 223-6465. Positions up for election in June include:

• Supervisor, District 3 (Upcountry/Part of Pine Grove)
• Supervisor District 5 (Plymouth/Fiddletown/River Pines/Part of Pine Grove)
• Assessor
• Auditor-Controller
• Clerk-Recorder
• District Attorney
• Sheriff
• Treasurer-Tax Collector

Supes for Districts 1 (Jackson/Part of Pine Grove), 2 (Ione/Amador City), and 4 (Sutter Creek/Part of Pine Grove) are up for re-election in 2016.

The more I think about it, the more I believe contested races are a good thing. They keep voters thinking about the issues and talking about them. And it keeps the incumbents competitive. It truly is just like a government contractor whose contract is up for renewal, and the entity (in this case, the voters), has to go out to bid.

Gwen Clayton

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hotel Sutter signage issue

Amador County and Residents of Sutter Creek:
What is your opinion about Hotel Sutter's non-compliance with the Sutter Creek Planning Commission's consensus vote for them to remove their signage?
Read the below letter from Sutter Creek Planning Commission:


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Progressive Women's Committee will continue without guest speaker Kris Johnson

I just received this message from Kris Johnson's campaign, that she sustained an injury yesterday that will prevent her from continuing her campaign for office.
Here is the press report that went out this afternoon.

Granite Bay, CA , February 3, 2014 - Kris Johnson, the Democratic candidate for the US House of Representatives District 4, regretfully announces she must withdraw from the race due to an injury she sustained on Sunday.  While not life threatening, it will require a long rehabilitation period that precludes her from the rigors of campaigning. 
 “It truly breaks my heart to drop out of this campaign, with hundreds of supporters reaching out to me as soon as my candidacy was announced. I am hopeful another candidate will quickly step forward to take my place to serve as a true representative of the people and resources of our district, which has not been well represented by the incumbent for over 5 years.”

I know that many of you have responded to the luncheon notice specifically to hear and meet Kris. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.  
The luncheon will take place as usual, but without a speaker.   

For further information, please contact Sally at trestrail@gotsky.com or at 267-0177.

ALERT for all County residents regarding proposed “Limited Density Owner Built-Rural Dwelling” ordinance

ALERT FOR ALL COUNTY RESIDENTS
NEW proposed Ordinance,  15.10 Chapter  titled “Limited Density Owner Built-Rural Dwelling”  has been introduced by our Board Of Supervisors and the Public Hearing has been continued to February 25, 2014 and then set for adoption. 

As presently drafted it would:  Lower the building code standards, other mechanical and plumbing standards, waive permit requirements, refund fees up to 80% and wave  inspections.  This could all be done by the approval of one person - the appointed Building Official!

PLEASE REVIEW THE ATTACHED  PROPOSED ORDINANCE TO SEE IF THIS PROPOSAL WOULD BE GOOD FOR AMADOR COUNTY OR NOT AND THEN SHARE YOUR CONCERNS OR VIEWS AT THE PUBLIC HEARING

Pertinent information is from page 6 thru 27 of this attachment. Following that are two examples of ordinances from only two of the three other counties that have implemented similar ordinances out of all the other counties in the state.
  The Board of Supervisors will have public hearing on this Ordinance at the below noted meeting.
FEBRUARY 25th  9:00AM
BOARD OF SUPERVISOR CHAMBERS
810 Court Street
Jackson, California

Monday, February 3, 2014

Lynn Morgan to kick off campaign for District 3 Supervisor on Sunday, February 9

Lynn Morgan, candidate for Amador County Supervisor, District 3, will kick off her campaign at a public event on Sunday, February 9. The event will be held at the Volcano Armory Hall from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. District 3 encompasses the town of Volcano, eastern Pine Grove, Pioneer, Buckhorn and eastward to the county line at Kirkwood.

“I’m excited to be launching my campaign for District 3 supervisor,” Lynn said. “Our successful effort to save to save the Payless IGA in Buckhorn showed what the people of District 3 can do when we work together. I look forward to putting my skills and energy to work on the challenges we face.” 
Lynn and her husband Pat retired to Pioneer in 2007, attracted by Amador County’s scenic beauty, wonderful people and rich history. But Lynn’s “retirement” didn’t last long. She soon found ways to put her business and marketing skills to work. Lynn is a director of Farms of Amador and member of the Sutter Amador Hospital Community Advisory Board, and immediate past chairwoman of the Upcountry Community Council. In her career, Lynn led public-private partnerships to promote California agricultural products and support farmers, all while raising four children. She holds an M.S. in Agricultural Economics from U.C Davis. 

“I’m convinced we can have a beautiful county and a healthy economy,” Lynn said. “We don’t have to choose one over the other. I am dedicated to improving county services for the people of District 3, making county government transparent and accountable, and building a stronger economy founded on locally owned businesses, with more local, family-wage jobs. I believe our county can succeed if we focus on the values we hold in common, not the issues that drive us apart. That’s what I plan to do.”

The event will feature local musicians Adam Gottstein of Volcano and Geff Crawford of Pine Grove, as well as snacks and beverages. The public is invited to come, meet Lynn and learn about her ideas for District 3 and Amador County. For more information, call Lynn at 209-813-0618. To read her platform, see www.lynnmorgan.org.