News Bites

Just Say No to Offshore Oil

State Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, last week called on the state Legislature to urge President Bush to abandon plans to encourage oil drilling and natural gas exploration off the California coastline. Wiggins wants a permanent ban on such drilling, especially in 36 offshore tracts already under lease off the central coast. Wiggins’ amended resolution, first introduced in February, came at the behest of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Marin. It also asks that the Bush administration not appeal a recent federal court ruling that upheld California’s right to review federal offshore oil proposals off its coastline.

High-Tech High

Petaluma’s dynamic superintendent of public schools, Carl Wong, has pulled off yet another coup–snaring a $375,000 grant from Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ educational foundation to fund a small, technology-based high school. The facility, modeled after a similar nationally acclaimed school in Napa, will be located in the heart of the city’s Telecom Valley district. It is scheduled to open in September 2002. Petaluma school officials hope to land a $2 million state grant to open the school. Gov. Gray Davis has authorized $20 million in the state budget to establish 10 similar schools throughout the state. Those appropriations are pending state Senate approval.

Land Swap Deal

Environmentalists are hot under the collar over a land swap that will give one of the largest landowners in Sonoma County 143 acres at Lake Sonoma in exchange for a 38-acre patch. The deal with rancher Crawford Cooley was brokered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built the 17,000-acre reservoir and popular playland behind Warm Springs Dam in 1983. Since the construction of the dam, Cooley–whose family owns nearly 21,000 acres of ranchland north of the lake–has disputed the boundaries of the reservoir. The Madrone Audubon Society, Sierra Club, California Native Plant Society, and Fish and Wildlife Service all criticized the deal as being bad for local fauna and flora. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, criticized the swap as being bad for taxpayers. The Sonoma County Water Agency joined the chorus of critics, saying that the deal will allow Cooley to graze cattle near the lake and lead to polluting runoff.

Shelter Update

Stung by complaints from residents and criticism from housing advocates, Santa Rosa and Sonoma County officials now say they will consider opening a pair of homeless shelters within the next year. Santa Rosa Mayor Mike Martini announced that city officials are studying two downtown sites for a possible shelter. County officials claim they are considering a similar move. In 1996, the county Board of Supervisors nixed a widely supported plan to convert a then vacant Santa Rosa Avenue hotel into a 175-bed homeless service center. The past five years have seen no movement toward finding permanent shelter for the county’s sizable homeless population.

Ballot Bonds

Are you ready for a property-tax hike? Voters in eight Marin County communities will face a variety of bond measures on the November ballot that ask residents to tax themselves for everything from school repairs to water-system upgrades. Voters in Novato, Lagunitas, and the Reed Union School District will find school-bond measures on the Nov. 6 ballot–in Novato, Measure A would raise $107 million to repair 14 local schools at a cost to taxpayers of $60 per $100,000 of assessed property value for 25 years. Under Prop. 39 guidelines, adopted last year, 55 percent of Novato voters must approve the bond measure. In addition, measures D, E, and F would tax homeowners in Novato’s Bel Marin Keys Community Services District to improve the lagoon there.

From the September 6-12, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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