“Books are the best friends you can have; they inform you and entertain you and they don’t talk back.” John Steinback
Change coming to the California State Assembly.
Jim Wood has been a California State Assembly Representative for nine years. He has decided not to run for re-election in 2024. His announcement has opened up the door for a boatload of candidates. At least two if not three Democrats will be running and so far one Republican has announced. Residents of the 2nd District (which encompasses northern Sonoma County, Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties) are going to see a lot of politicians in the coming year.
Lower Court Decision Paused
Last month the Sentinel carried an article about the three decade old ban on Assault Weapons that was overturned by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego. Attorney General Rob Bonta immediately filed a notice of appeal of the decision. A federal appellate court paused the lower court decision overturning California’s ban on assault weapons, granting a stay in the matter, leaving the law intact while it hears an appeal. The 2-1 decision was made by a three judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The panel leaned heavily on another decision by the appellate court earlier this month. In that decision an 11judge panel paused another ruling overturning the state’s ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines. The larger panel granted the stay because California was likely to win on appeal, since it provided strong arguments for why its ban on large-capacity magazines is constitutional despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling reining in gun laws nationwide.
Federal Building Closing
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which manages federal properties announced that it planned to dispose of more than two dozen buildings in the country. Included will be the John F. Shea Federal Building which is at the corner of Sonoma Avenue and D Street in Santa Rosa. This building opened almost 50 years ago and includes local offices for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, local offices for the Internal Revenue Service and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Approximately 100 Federal employees and contractors work at the building although many have worked remotely since the 2019 Covid pandemic. It is unclear at this point where or when the affected agencies will move. GSA stated that it would work with tenants to understand future long-term space requirements, but no decisions have been made. The GSA evaluation of the building is that $11 Million in major repairs is needed. The building has a 10% vacancy rate. Council Member Chris Rogers stated that the building could potentially be transformed into a new City Hall. Apparently, the present City Hall needs more than $50 Million in deferred maintenance. Councilman Rogers said that the property could also be redeveloped into a mixed-use housing and commercial development.
“Where law ends, Tyranny begins.” John Locke
New Health Officer Named
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has appointed a new Health Officer. Dr. Tanya Phares has been the chief medical officer for St. Mary’s Health Network and previously was chief medical director of a health plan and a medical director of a Nevada vaccine clinic. A nationwide search was conducted and Dr. Phares “emerged as the top candidate.” The county health officer serves as the chief medical officer and top health policy official for the county and is granted authority from the state to declare public health emergencies, issue health orders and impose penalties for noncompliance. Dr. Phares earned her medical degree from Western University of Health Sciences and completed an internal medicine residency at the University of California Irvine. Her preventive medicine residency was done with the California Department of Public Health. Dr. Phares will receive an annual salary of $315,844.
State Appeals Court Reversal
A new California law (AB 173) went into effect on September 23, 2021, which expanded access to personal information. The law allows the state to share private information about gun owners with the California Firearm Violence Research Center at the University of California, Davis. The National Rifle Association filed a civil rights lawsuit in San Diego federal court in October 2022 on behalf of five gun owners. In the lawsuit, gun owners asserted they were already required to give up a great deal of personal information in order to buy firearms under California’s heavily regulated gun-control laws. Since the 1950’s California law has required the Department of Justice to collect records of handgun sales. Recently, California has also begun collecting data about long guns and ammunition.
A San Diego County Superior Court temporarily blocked AB 173 last October which was then appealed by the state. A three-judge Court of Appeals for the Fourth District in Sacramento sent the case back to the lower court in San Diego. The Court stated that the court in San Diego had abused its discretion by granting an injunction and failing to consider the state’s interest in studying and preventing gun violence before blocking the law. The lower court was ordered to reverse its order.
The House of Representatives passed House Resolution 798 which condemned the support of Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist's organizations at institutions of higher education. Twenty three of the most liberal Representatives voted against the Resolution. Jared Huffman, Congressman for District 2, initially voted no on Resolution 798. After consideration, Mr. Huffman wrote a letter of apology to the Jewish community. One of his objections was that the Resolution suggests that the problem with demonstrations on campus takes place on liberal college campuses.
“When stupidity is considered patriotism it is unsafe to be intelligent.” Isaac Asimov
Miyoko’s Creamery closing Petaluma facility.
Miyoko’s Creamery in Petaluma is planning to expand its brand. Because of the need to increase production and efficiency the company will stop manufacturing at the Petaluma facility. The company manufactures vegan dairy alternatives and has seen double digit growth over the last few years. The company started in Marin County in 2014 and expanded to Petaluma in 2016. Currently, the company has 28,636 square feet of production space in Petaluma. The mozzarella products and some of the artisan vegan cheese wheels are produced in Petaluma. They will now be made in co-manufacturing facilities on the east and west coasts. It is unclear what the footage in Petaluma will be used for when the plant closes.
New life for the Sebastiani Theater
The Sebastiani Theater in Sonoma was built by Samuele Sebastiani in 1933. The Sonoma Planning Commission has approved a new screening room and kitchen to be added to the theater. Nearly 5,000 square feet will be added to the back of the theater to add flexibility to host live performances on stage. The facility will acquire a wine and beer license and will meet the requirements of movie studios to show movies daily. The expansion will also meet requirements of the American with Disabilities Act. The renovations provide the opportunity to turn the theater into a performing arts and film center.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Martin Luther King
Fiscal Emergency in Sebastopol
The Sebastopol City Council declared a fiscal emergency on November 24th. The council decided that a parcel tax ballot measure would not be the best way to deal with the budget woes. The fiscal emergency resolution does not specifically call for a special election to put a general sales tax measure before the voters. On November 14, a resolution that would have led to a ½ cent sales tax being placed on the March 2024 ballot failed to gain the unanimous approval of the Council. The city is dipping into reserves to meet a $1.67 Million general fund deficit. Current projections state that the council will run out of reserves in three years. Two council members question those projections. One council member reminded everyone that the recent and current budgets have included one-off infusions of funds, including federal COVID-relief monies, insurance payments and one-time bequests to the city’s police and fire departments. There have been one time contributions consistently since 2018. The council is looking at placing a sales tax measure on the November 2024 ballot. The council voted against a special election on a sales tax. That would have competed with a countywide ½ cent fire sales tax on the 2024 ballot. The countywide referendum would direct $1.2 Million annually to Sebastopol’s fire department.
“When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you.” Walter Payton
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the Windsor Police Department will be hosting a “pack the patrol car” event in early December. Donors are encouraged to bring enough donations to fill a law enforcement vehicle.
The Sheriff’s Office will be collecting gift items at a drive and resource fair from 2 to 5 p.m. December 8th at 2769 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa. The department is searching specifically for gifts for teens including art supplies, small electronics, sports equipment and gift cards. The donations (new and in original packaging) will be given to the Salvation Army and R-Hoops, the summer basketball program sponsored by the Sonoma County Deputy Sheriffs Association.
The Windsor Police Department will be collecting donations of new and unwrapped toys for local families in need until December 13th. Besides having collection barrels in the Police Department lobby toys will also be accepted at the 22nd Annual Town of Windsor Holiday Celebration on December 7th from 5 to 8 p.m. on the Windsor Town Green.
The Petaluma Police Department is collecting new or unwrapped toys until December 11th for the Petaluma People Services Center in a bin in its lobby. Suggestions for donations include board games, headphones, move tickets and personal care sets.