March  2024

 When asked how fascism starts: “First, they fascinate the fools.  Then they muzzle the intelligent.”              Bertrand Russell


Time for a new city?

California Forever is a new company formed by Silicon Valley tech billionaires.  The goal of this group is to build a city-from-scratch in Solano County.  The stated goal is new housing, better jobs and more.  The promises are estimated to cost in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.  The backers of this plan have pledged that county taxpayers outside the new community will not have to pay for any of it.  The backers call these pledges which are contained in a proposed countywide ballot initiative “guarantees.”  They state they will be legally bound to honor these “guarantees.”  However, experts and local officials question whether the developers would be obligated by law to deliver on so-called guarantees. 

The tech billionaires plan to put a nearly 100-page ballot initiative on the Solano County ballot in November.  The subsidiary of California Forever is Flannery Associates which has spent $900 million to buy 62,000 acres of farmland (about the size of Sacrament) since 2017.  They plan to build on 17,500 acres of that land (about the size of Vacaville).  They hope the new community will attract an initial 50,000 residents and eventually up to 400,000 which would double the population of Solano County. 

Of course, there are a multitude of problems with this proposal. 

   1. Taxes.        Costs to the county including current and future administrative costs                           are being  reimbursed by the company.  However, the project is                                   being pursued through   the initiative process.  The county is                                       evaluating what additional costs may be   recoverable from the                                   project proponents based on required county staff time.    Some                                   costs   already incurred have not been reimbursed.

   2.  Security.    The unincorporated area would be under the jurisdiction of the                                    county sheriff   California Forever would pay this cost.

   3.  Jobs.         California Forever states the initiative will provide 15,000 new jobs                            t hat will  pay at least $83,850 annually.  However, there does not                                appear to be a list of  which employers are interested in coming to                              the new city. 

   4.  Housing.    The key selling point of the new community is the 40,000 to                                      160,000 new   homes planned.  The company stresses that this will                              not be a typical   sprawling commuter suburb.  There will be                                        apartments, condos, town and   rowhouses and back yard cottages.                              Affordable housing will also be available.

Beyond the logistical problems with the project are the people behind this project. The creator of the project is a Czech-born entrepreneur who recently became an American citizen.  The right-hand man on the project is South African.  Foreign involvements in projects such as this one in Solano County is a potential trigger for a U.S. government national security review.  Both Congressmen Mike Thompson and John Garamendi have called for more information regarding shareholders to clarify how much foreign money and foreign interests is involved in the project.  The five year buying spree has concealed the identity of investors.  Many of the parcels purchased surround Travis Air Force Base. 

The fact that there’s a highway to hell and only a stairway to heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers.


Janet Nicholas     1946 – 2024

Former Sonoma County Supervisor and member of the state Board of Education died on February 23, 2024 in Sonoma.  Nicholas was a proud Republican. She served on the Sonoma County Planning Commission when she ran against and defeated incumbent 1st District Supervisor Ernie Carpenter.  Nicholas was elected Sonoma County Supervisor for the 1st District and served from 1984 until 1991. She resigned from the board to accept Governor Pete Wilson’s appointment to the state Board of Prison Terms.  In 1996, Nicholas was appointed by Governor Wilson to the state Board of Education. Janet Nicholas was truly a public servant. The memorial for Nicholas was on March 28th in Sonoma.


Child Care Tax

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is backing a tax measure for the support of childcare and health care.  Funds would be raised through a quarter-cent sales tax.  The measure proposes directing 60% of revenue to child care, including pay for employees, workforce growth and expansion of the child care network as a whole.  The remaining 40% would be directed to children’s health and early development programs including perinatal and early childhood mental health, pediatric screening and treatment. Money would also be used to assist children facing issues such as homelessness. 

The funds would be administered by First 5 Sonoma County.  This organization is a local child and family services agency which would have oversight from an advisory council appointed by the Board of Supervisors. 

The Registrar of Voters has certified that the campaign collected the required 19,758 voter signatures.  This means the measure needs a simple majority to pass in November. 

“There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people.”                   Adam Smith


Hilton Hotel – Santa Rosa

For many of us in Sonoma County, the Hilton Hotel was one of the best places to meet and eat. Tragically, much of the hotel burned in the Tubbs Fire in 2017.  The Hilton Corporation did not wish to rebuild.  Now, the Palo Alto-based Radiate Hospitality company has submitted plans to rebuild on the site.  Three of the buildings on the site which did not burn but were damaged will be renovated if the plan is approved.  The project calls for a boutique hotel with 158 rooms which will be connected by landscaped walkways, a sprawling outdoor courtyard and a ballroom.  The total size of the hotel will be just more than 11 acres off Round Barn Boulevard.

The project is planned in two phases.  The first phase of the plan is to renovate the three remaining buildings on the site.  The second phase will be to build out the remainder of the property with 50 new guest rooms built along the western edge of the site. The new facility would include a lobby, ballroom, restaurant and bar near the entrance off Round Barn Boulevard and a spa near the existing pool on the northwest corner. The first phase of the project is going through the city permitting process.


Cal-OSHA  - The office of Safety, Health Administration

Cal/OSHA enforces job safety and health standards by conducting inspections and in some cases, issuing citations and fines.  Cal/OSHA inspects workplaces when it receives a report of a death or serious injury or when there is a complaint by an employee or employee representative.

Apparently, there is a staffing crisis at Cal-OSHA.  The Sacramento Bee has been investigating the agency for four months. Governor Newsom has been silent on the staffing issues at the agency.  Investigators state that the first thing the governor should do is to appoint a new permanent Chief of Cal-OSHA.  The opinion of many people is that extra money in the budget won’t solve the staffing crisis alone.  Garrett Brown, a prior worker for the agency, stated that “you can keep adding positions and therefore budget allocations.  But, unless you fill those positions, it’s meaningless in terms of actual enforcement and impact for workers of California.” 

Issues with human resources have plagued the Department of Industrial Relations since it lost direct hiring authority in a nepotism scandal.  California also has a cryptic and lengthy merit-based hiring process which weeds out prospective candidates who cannot afford to wait weeks or months to receive an offer from Cal-OSHA.  Brown also stated that a major problem in the hiring process itself is that the HR staff fails to perform.  Assemblymember Liz Ortega, D-Hayward, has doubled down on her intent to conduct an audit of Cal-OSHA.

“Quality is not an act.  It is a habit.”             Aristotle 


Should factory farming be ended?

The definition of concentrated agricultural farming includes animals stabled or confined for 45 days or more in any 12 month period. An initiative is getting close to getting on the ballot that would put an end to what is called factory farming. The size of farms that would be out of compliance would vary by animal and, in the case of chickens and ducks, by how manure is handled on the property.  Examples include farms with 200 or more dairy cattle, 3,000 or more sheep, 16,000 or more turkeys or 9,000 or more laying hens in facilities that employ a liquid manure handling system. 

The Coalition to End Factory Farming is very close to getting an initiative on the November ballot that would put an end to what the group calls factory farming.  Local farmers insist that the term factory farming is misleading. They state that none of Sonoma County’s dairies or egg farms are true factory farms. 

The Coalition has collected 37,168 signatures.  The Registrar’s office stated that if the coalition ultimately has enough valid signatures (19,746 signatures), the initiative will go to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.  At that point, the board can either adopt the initiative as an ordinance or submit it to the voters in the next statewide election or a special election. 

Note:  As of March 30th, enough signatures have been gathered.  


Environmental report required on Koi National Proposal

The proposed Koi Nation resort-casino near Windsor has generated very strong public reaction.  The debate has raged since the Pomo Band announced they had purchased 68.6 acres of vineyard land in the Shiloh area of unincorporated Sonoma County in September 2021. 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is a branch of the United States Department of the Interior, regulates tribal gaming.  On March 8, the Bureau announced its intent to require an environmental impact statement for the project, opening another 30 day window for public comment. An environmental impact statement gives the public an opportunity to weigh in on the project and the tribe is fully in support of that.  Many groups have lined up for and against the casino.  The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the Dry Creek Rancheria, Cloverdale Rancheria and Kashia Band of Pomo Indians are against the Shiloh reservation. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution against the project in April 2022.  The Windsor Town Council, State Senator Mike McGuire, Representatives Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson, Senator Alex Padilla and Senator Feinstein before her death all came out in opposition to the proposal. At this point only the Northern California Carpenters Union has been a strong supporter of the Koi Nation plan.  The final say, however, is the responsibility of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Acorn Environmental, which is based in El Dorado Hills, has been contracted to prepare the environmental impact statement.  The Department of the Interior will supervise the work and be responsible for its accuracy, scope and contents.  The Koi Nation will cover the cost of the report.

The public comment on this topic will close April 7.

“We can serve our weaknesses or serve our purposes.”        Mother Frances Cabrini


Santa Rosa School Board Eases Graduation Requirements

The board of trustees for Santa Rosa City Schools approved a new set of waivers.  Teachers have argued that the district’s graduation requirements are keeping struggling students from succeeding. Per the new policy, students will no longer be required to fail a class before being considered for a waiver.  In 2018, the district adopted the “A-G For All” policy.  This policy required that all high school students meet college entrance requirements in order to receive a diploma.  The rationale behind this plan was that access would be increased for students of color who were not taking advantage of college preparatory classes.  However, introductory math and English classes were removed as course options. 

It has been five years since the A-G alignment.  Every year the board has authorized yearly waivers to the graduation requirements.  Students who were not going to be graduating received waivers.  The board has authorized yearly waivers which has allowed students in danger of not graduating because of math or foreign language requirements to receive a diploma.  The board agreed to an ongoing waiver which allows students to omit the third-year math requirement with written permission of a parent or guardian. 


Poppy Bank Expansion

While many banks have been having difficulty and some have closed, Poppy Bank is expanding. Poppy Bank is a Sonoma County-based bank with $6 Billion in assets.  The bank has gained regulatory approval on opening 13 additional branches.  CEO Khalid Acheckzai stated that six branches have already opened.  They are in Sacramento, Folsom, Elk Grove, Laguna Hills, Del Mar and San Jose.  Seven additional branches are due to open within the next six months.  Poppy Bank operates nine branches in the North Bay. 

Poppy Bank is a privately owned bank but the bank would still operate like a community bank because the personal touch is important for maintaining good customer relations.

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”  Peter Drucker


AT&T Landlines Want to Say Goodbye.

AT&T wants to be released from its obligation to provide traditional land line service to anyone who requests the service.  AT&T serves as the “Carrier of Last Resort” for the largest portion of the state.  The company argues that its responsibility to maintain outdated landline technology detracts from efforts to improve cell and internet service.  The company claims that 20 states have relieved the company of its obligation to some extent.  There is major disagreement from many people regarding losing AT&T.  Many people have written that AT&T is the only reliable communication service available to many Californians.  Cell phone service is not reliable and does not always reach where it is needed.  In Mendocino County internet service does not exist everywhere and satellite services in the tall forest is impossible.  Although copper line phones are an obsolete technology, it is the only one available to many Californians.

Members of a California congressional delegation have sent a letter to California Public Utilities Corporation President Alice Busching Reynolds.  The question they asked concerns the situation when residents are left without electricity weeks at a time due to floods, fires, landslides, storms and earthquakes. 

AT&T had an outage on February 22, that knocked out cell service to thousands nationwide and affected police and fire agencies, including 911.  This event has had a major place in conversations.

Stay tuned.  This issue is not settled.


Surprise in Heaven

I dreamt death came the other night,

And Heaven’s gate swung wide,

An Angel with halo bright

Ushered me inside.


And there! To my astonishment,

Stood folks I’d judged and labeled:

As “quite unfit;” “of little worth;”

And “spiritually disabled.”


Indignant words rose to my lips,

But never were set free,

For every face showed stunned surprise—





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