Monday, January 26, 2015

"The Cutting Four-piece: Crime and tragedy in an era of prison overcrowding." - Scott Thomas Anderson

Follow up to "Shadow People"
Just wanted to send a note to everyone who was nice enough in 2011 to help "Shadow People" reach the public by getting behind it on  A Kickstarter site just went up for my newest national journalism project,  "The Cutting Four-piece: crime and tragedy in an era of prison overcrowding."
Given the critically wounded state of journalism in the region and the state, this is the type of project few reporters are attempting at the moment.
"The Cutting Four-piece" includes stories from Amador, Calaveras and Placer counties. You can see the new mini-documentary video about the project, and if it's interesting, pledge for an advance copy of the book, while at the same time helping to get hundreds of free copies to community foundations, educators and groups that work around criminal rehabilitation.

Scott Thomas Anderson, Journalist

Friday, January 23, 2015

Progressive Women's Committee - Thurs Feb 5

THE PROGRESSIVE WOMEN’S COMMITTEE will meet on Thursday, February 5, 2015 at 11:30 a.m. at Thomi's Banquet Room in Jackson. The speaker for February will be Dr. Rita Huspen Kerr, Amador County's new Health Officer.  Reservations are required and may be made by contacting Sally at or 209-267-0177 no later than Tuesday, February 3rd (sooner if possible). The buffet luncheon is $15.00 which includes an entree, salad, vegetarian offering
various drinks, coffee, tea, dessert, tax and tip.
Pay at the door - cash (the exact amount is appreciated) or personal check only.

Note and this is important: If you make a reservation and cannot attend, please call Sally at 209-267-0177 to cancel by Wednesday, February 4th  at noon. If you have made a reservation and do not show up, you may be billed for the luncheon.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Support the Fight Against the Proposed Plymouth Casino - 2015 NCIP Surf & Turf Fundraiser Dinner - Sat Jan 31

In 2015 NCIP will incur more legal costs than at any time in the past 11 years.
Join us at the beautiful Helwig Winery on Saturday, January 31, 2015 as we start the year with a fundraiser to help with those legal costs.  The doors will open at 6:00 pm for a Surf &Turf dinner featuring crab and prime rib. No Casino In Plymouth attorney Ken Williams will be present to discuss the current status of our litigation and take questions.

The decisive legal battle has begun with Big Government and Big Money still trying to force an unwanted casino on Plymouth.  If built, the proposed casino will destroy forever this unique foothill community. Our first battle is being fought in federal district court. The Government and Casino interests have assembled a large team of lawyers.  On behalf of the Plymouth community, NCIP is going up against their deep pockets with dinner dances and yard sales. But, we are also armed with the truth, attorney Ken Williams, and most importantly, a community committed to supporting this cause.

Federal and tribal lawyers fired a lengthy volley of verbiage in their recent reply to our Motion for Summary Judgment. Instead of responding to the merits of our motion, the defendants attacked our motion vigorously maintaining in effect that the Department of the Interior can create the standards for review of its own actions, and we must accept the Department’s judgment that it met its own standards. We strongly disagree and will continue to argue that the Department's decisions related to the proposed casino were contrary to law and their own regulations. Our reply is due in February.

We are fighting to preserve the rural and wholesome nature of our community that is the foundation of our unique foothill lifestyle.   This effort requires fortitude and financial commitment. NCIP remains more determined than ever but we need your continued help.   Please plan to attend our fundraisers. You will find good neighbors, good food, and information about this issue.  If you cannot attend please make a donation.

The January 31st Dinner tickets are $125. Contact Jon Colburn by phone at 245-4816 or by email at  

Donation checks can be made payable to CERF with NCIP Lawsuit noted on the memo line and mailed to NCIP Box 82 Plymouth, CA 95669

For more information about this issue please visit

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fear, Politics and Rational Process for Crises Management - Part 1 of 4 Part Series on Climate Change

Part 1 of a 4-Part Series Examining Climate Change and Current Research
Copyright 2015 Entropy LTD LLC - P. C.  Young Jan 18 2015

Climate Change evokes strong and immediate reactions ranging from the Apocalyptic to the yawn and everything in between. Unfortunately for the public, political forces have taken hold of objective science, presumed tentative results and assumed them as rationale for policy change worse they have then enlisted converts to effect large scale Massive Energy policy changes.

Let’s take a step back. The concept that atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (the main combustion Product of the Internal Combustion Engine) might affect an increase in Global temperature has been the subject of scientific research for over a century. It was first recognized that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) absorbs infrared radiation and re-radiates it as heat (1865). Way before the Al Gore Trumpeted the end of the world (he and others made millions from this venture).

The major concern is that man made pollutants will cause a gradual or catastrophic change (warming or cooling) change in the Global Temperature. This includes Methane, CO2, SO2 (sulfur dioxide) carbon black (soot). The exact rate (change over time) has yet to be determined but ultimately some transformation will occur. Speculation as to the ill effects is from increases in the ocean rising over currently habitable coastlines (don’t buy inland properties just yet) to large scale die offs of coral reefs, to famine to increases in rape? (its always rape it seems to evoke more fear in the female population)

Unfortunately, the Scientific community has been put between a rock and a harder place and that would be funding. As a Scientist you depend on Government grants and when the prevailing government supports global warming then you had better tailor your research to compliment that political view or find another area for research.  The Previous Bush administration was a guilty of this as is the Obama administration citing firings and withdrawal of monies for grants for those poor souls who tried to continue or begin new research on anthropogenic climate change.

We should consider that both skeptics and absolutists are both wrong currently. The proof of any scientific theory is in accurate prediction. This has not yet occurred and researchers are looking at altering their models and “retrofitting” them to more stochastic or empirical models rather than the very complicated ones they use now. Stochastic is essentially Monte Carlo simulations or like rolling the dice, looking at probabilities , extrapolated from proven and simpler models.

The other elements that require investigation and are finally being looked at with appropriate scientific objectivity is a Gaia approach. Gaia refers to Dr. Marguilis Lovelock and his defining the earth as a system. That means interconnected and complex. This also means some degree of adaptation and resilience now borne out by findings that plants now increase both density and growth (by as much as 16%) as the CO2 levels increase.

Such approaches also consider biological adaptation. That organisms and therefore bio-system’s can adapt, such as rates and occurrences for coral reef bleaching (reached a maximum 1997-1998 worst on record) are not as sensitive to bleaching due to local adaptation and geographic redistribution.

It was recently found that Ant’s can increase the dissolution rate (how fast carbonates are formed) depending on the CO2 content of the atmosphere.  We should never forget that Volcanoes (source of CO2 and SO2) and the earth’s tectonic movement can release large amounts of methane. Such events occurred in the past and contributed to climate change.

What is clear is that inevitably, continued increases of man made pollutants will cause a shift (how large or how small yet unknown) as other pollutants have causes wide spread changes in the ocean flora and fauna. It is naïve to continue to believe we can belch quantities of stuff without effect.

Science is steadfastly, and with some objectivity, peering into the future. Armed with viable and proofed scientific evidence, we can presumably prevent future crises by provisioning and or guarding. Placing some restrictions at a rate which enables human’s to adapt.

Unfortunately, once political forces get a hold of an idea and attempt to push through legislation without bullet proof data, then credibility is lost perhaps to our ultimate disadvantage. Objectivity is not an inherent characteristic for much of humanity, nor should it ever take the place of an emotive and empathetic people guided by pure science but understanding the implications of imposing Science on others. Some would call this wisdom.  The Fact is: People resist change simply because it is change.

Philip Young

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

California Budget Project's "Policy Insights 2015" to be held March 4 in Sacramento

JANUARY 13, 2015

Don't miss out on the premier annual conference for advocates, policymakers, researchers, and other leaders working to improve the lives of low- and middle-income Californians.

The California Budget Project's Policy Insights 2015 will be held Wednesday, March 4, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. We hope you'll join us as we celebrate the California Budget Project's 20th anniversary.  

Policy Insights is an opportunity to discuss how smart budget and policy choices can help ensure that all of California's families and communities share in the state's economic future. Plenary sessions and workshops will explore timely issues and debates ineducation, health, criminal justice, child care, economic development, tax and budget policy, and more

Discounted early-bird registration ends in one month, on February 13, so be sure to register today.

Questions? Contact us at or 916-444-0500.

1107 9th Street, Suite 310 | Sacramento, CA 95814 | (916) 444-0500 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Losing the Community in our Agricultural Area

Amador County’s agricultural community is in danger. Development and vacation rentals have started to proliferate our area and are taking away our residents, our sense of community and our stock of residential homes.
I moved to my 20 acre vineyard property 18 years ago and was immediately welcomed by the rural agricultural community. I discovered that “close” neighbors were not just next door, but those 20, 40, and even 1,000s of acres away.
I recently took stock of the properties on my private road and those behind me lining Shenandoah Road. We have lost eight residences in our residential agriculturally zoned neighborhood. Now, on Tuesday, January 13th @ 7pm, the Amador County Planning Commission will be asked to approve a use permit application to develop a 15,292 square foot resort they are calling a Bed and Breakfast (B&B).
The conversion of residences to commercial uses in Amador has snowballed recently, to the point we are losing our residents and sense of community. At least with the use permit process for a B&B I have a chance to voice my concerns. Besides the multiple homes that have been converted to tasting rooms or winery offices, three of my neighboring properties have been converted to VRBO’s with guests nearly every weekend and there was no application process or approval required. Without any official county policy or limitation on these types of uses, we could potentially see a whole community of residents turn over to weekend rentals and vacationers.
A use permit is being requested to demolish the existing home at 10508 Dickson Road (a private road in a residential agriculturally zoned neighborhood in Shenandoah Valley) and build a 15,292 square foot development under the guise of a B&B. The project includes a 13,626 square foot main lodge/event center with 5 guest suites (15+ bathrooms), a 5,000 square foot courtyard, pool, spa, sports court area, and a 1,666 square foot manager’s residence. The application also requests approval to host up to 24 weddings or special events per year with up to 100 guests. This does not include “incidental parties and events” such as birthday parties, graduation parties, corporate meetings or reunions to be held by guests of the inn, proposed without the other limitations.
The applicant has stated that once this project is developed he will apply to add another 5 unit development on the adjoining parcel. To put this development into scale: The Shenandoah Inn (on Hwy 49) has 48 rooms and is still only 22,526 square feet; The Amador Harvest Inn (on Steiner Road) is a 3,400 square foot house. This proposed project is actually a commercial development not suitable for an agricultural property.
The mitigated negative declaration document states that this “project would be located on second highest point within a mile of the site” and “This site gives the proposed two-story main building the potential to be one of the most visible in the area with above-grade heights of between 32 and 40 feet. It would also be the largest structure…in the neighborhood.” Yet, they are trying to claim that the “impact to the visual character will be less than significant.”
I have always supported agritourism as long as it is a compatible use and is properly located. This is not a NIMBY (not in my back yard) issue. My husband is on the county Planning Commission and has voted against projects in other areas of Amador when they were not compatible uses. We have supported B&B projects when they were properly located on public roads, making use of existing dwellings that could easily revert to use as homes. We’re being more vocal this time because this currently proposed project is on our residential agricultural private road and the size is unprecedented.
Our current County codes and ordinances do not take into account the growth of our region or the impact that strict regulation in other wine regions are having on us. As these other regions ban and regulate the more commercial type developments in their agricultural regions, Amador has become a prime location for developers to take advantage of our somewhat vague ordinances and codes. Here are some examples:

·               El Dorado County requires B&Bs to be an owner-occupied residence and considers it an expanded home occupation when in agricultural and residential districts. (El Dorado County Ordinance 4770)
·               Napa County does not allow any new B&Bs in their areas zoned agriculture or residential country and prohibits VRBOs in those zones. (Napa County Summary of Allowable Uses By Zoning District)
·               Sonoma County Sonoma County has enacted strict regulations on both B&Bs and VRBOs including limits on the number and locations to keep them from getting out of control. They define a B&B as a single-family dwelling, with an owner in residence under strict regulations. When Sonoma County enacted their ordinances they stated the purpose was to “allow new visitor serving uses and facilities in some agricultural areas but limit them in scale and location.” They stated that their ordinances were “necessary to enable expanded opportunities for visitor serving uses to support the tourism industry, ensure neighborhood compatibility, protect the general welfare of residents in the County, protect the existing housing stock and residential land supply, facilitate economic growth, and further the public necessity and convenience.” (Sonoma County Code Section 26-16-20 and Ordinance 5908.)
We need to learn from these areas and protect our own existing housing stock and our strong sense of rural community. How can we have a sense of community if we no longer have many true residents?
Nicole Ryan
Shenandoah Valley Resident and Grape Grower
Plymouth, CA

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Letter to the Editor: SEIU/ACEA History

When I went to work for the county in early 1984, I was happy to discover and join the Amador County Employees Association (ACEA).  Coming from a strong labor background, I knew that workers joining together is the best way to make significant advances in the workplace.  

Then, as the annual contract came up for negotiation (headed by the contracted law firm), I overheard in all offices, “What are we going to give up this year?”  I thought it was a joke until negotiations concluded and any gains made were paid with take-aways, leaving no net gain.   The next contract was the same:  gains paid by take-aways.  A multi-year contract was never considered to give the law firm more billable hours.   Some of us thought the attorney was in collusion with county management and made behind-the-scenes agreements to decide our fate even before the workers were allowed input.

The County was rampant with nepotism, cronyism, sexual harassment and gender bias.  The ACEA was a glorified social club, more interested in planning the next party than worker rights and representation.  ACEA conventional wisdom was that management, from the Board of Supervisors on down, would do their best and protect us.  What a crock!!  That’s when the workers (spurred on by Association leadership) decided to join a professional, organized labor entity: SEIU.   The association isolated us, the Union made us part of a larger labor family.

Amador County is fortunate to have a skilled, talented and loyal workforce.  Their pride in product (despite bureaucratic rulemakers) is to give the taxpayer the best bang for their buck.  These workers deserve the best representation their dues dollar can give them – and that is SEIU.  There is no way to get full value when paying a law corporation an hourly fee.

I urge the current county workforce to look at history and learn from your predecessors’ mistakes.  To go back to an Association now would perpetuate the lack of professionalism in labor relations.  Be active and support your Union and continue to insist the Union support you.


Margie W. Strauss
Retired 2005 – 20 Years, Amador County Social Services

Monday, January 5, 2015

John Muir to tell tales in Moke Hill on Friday, February 6

Acclaimed performance by actor Lee Stetson fun for all

As part of celebrating its 25th Anniversary, the Foothill Conservancy is hosting critically acclaimed actor Lee Stetson portraying the renowned Yosemite naturalist John Muir onFriday, February 6, at 7:00 p.m. The performance will be in the historic Mokelumne Hill Town Hall, 8283 Main Street in Mokelumne Hill. Tickets are on sale now.

“We are excited to have Lee coming to our area to perform Conversation with a Tramp: An Evening with John Muir.” said Foothill Conservancy Executive Director Cecily Smith. “Muir’s life was extraordinary, and Lee’s portrayal of Muir is an intimate sharing of the humor, intelligence and tremendous passion of one of the world’s best-known and admired naturalists.”

Lee Stetson
Lee Stetson has been performing as John Muir for over 30 years at universities, museums and parks from Washington, D.C. to Hawaii. He portrayed Muir on Ken Burn’s award-winning series National Parks – America’s Best Idea. Stetson also performs at Yosemite Park, where Muir lived for approximately six years.
John Muir emigrated from Scotland to Wisconsin with his family in 1838. His first visit to Yosemite was in 1868, when he was thirty years old. Muir was so taken with the area’s natural beauty and wilderness that he remained for several years, working in jobs including sheepherder and saw miller. He was instrumental in advocating for the creation of Yosemite National Park.

Founder of the Sierra Club, Muir is perhaps best known for his passionate advocacy to save wilderness, particularly the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite Park, threatened with flooding when the O’Shaunessy Dam was proposed. What some label the first environmental fight ended unsuccessfully in 1913 when Congress approved the dam project.

“John Muir’s love for the wilderness, and his desire to protect it, was based on his seeing the connection and interdependency of natural ecosystems.” said Smith. “Muir understood that protecting natural systems was key to ensuring a healthy environment for both people and wildlife. His lessons live on today as we work to protect ecosystems that provide the clean water, productive soils and diverse habitats humans and wildlife need to survive.”

Tickets to the performance are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. They’re available online at: Tickets can also be purchased from the Foothill Conservancy office by contacting Carolyn at 209-223-3508, or
Beer, wine, soda and snacks will be available for purchase at the event.

“An Evening with John Muir” is a benefit for Foothill Conservancy’s Mokelumne River and watershed conservation efforts. For more information, contact Carolyn at 209-223-3508.