News Briefs

News Briefs

Davis Trial Starts

SAN JOSE A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge banned TV cameras from the courtroom on Monday as the long-awaited trial of state parolee Richard Allen Davis finally got under way. Davis, accused of murdering Petaluma schoolgirl Polly Klaas in 1993 and hiding her body beneath debris near an old saw mill near Cloverdale, sat just a few feet from Klaas family members who held a color photo of the slain 12-year-old. Superior Court Judge Thomas C. Hastings refused to unseal sensitive transcripts and files from the pretrial hearing, which is thought to include a complete copy of Davis’ videotaped confession. He also took under consideration a defense motion to move the trial to Los Angeles. The trial was moved in December to Santa Clara County after Davis’ lawyers argued that their defendant couldn’t receive a fair trial in Sonoma County. The trial is expected to last at least six months.

Nuclear Boycott

WASHINGTON D.C. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, joined in a boycott of French President Jacques Chirac’s address to Congress last week, to protest the nuclear tests on a French Polynesian atoll. Chirac said before the talk that he had canceled the two remaining blasts, but Woolsey responded that the testing was “irresponsible” and “undermines our move toward a nuclear-free world.” Rep. Frank Riggs, R-Windsor, attended the speech.

ESL School Thrashed

SONOMA A plan by a Sonoma Valley school trustee to segregate non-English-speaking students on a separate campus outraged the education community, where more than 40 percent of students at some schools would meet the criteria for the proposed “magnet” school. Dorene Musilli made the suggestion last week at a school board meeting. Critics point out that the proposal runs counter to recent trends to “mainstream” non-English-speaking students into regular classrooms and is just one more sign of the insensitivity of some local school officials. Last year, the district came under statewide scrutiny when school board president Jason Breaw gave a classroom reading of “The Story of Ping,” dressed as an ancient Chinese storyteller named Who Flung Pooh.

Homeless Services OK’d

PETALUMA Despite some protest by neighbors, the City Council Monday gave thumbs up for a temporary homeless service center to be located at Payran and East D streets. The facility will provide bathroom, shower, laundry and some office services to the homeless. The council approval is based on several conditions, including an increase in area police presence and that the city modify its lease agreements with the Petaluma Library and the Petaluma Kitchen governing conduct around these facilities. The council will receive monthly reports on the homeless center’s operation and there will be a six-month review of the facility to see whether the center increases the number of transients in the vicinity.

Oil Kills Birds

BODEGA BAY Globs of thick, sticky, tarlike oil washed up along the North Coast last week, killing scattered birds and threatening other sea life. The goop, in pieces as large as a football and as small as a quarter, was discovered at locations ranging from Point Reyes to remote beaches in Humboldt County. It is suspected to have come from tankers flushing their holds offshore, but tests are under way to confirm the source.

Crime Rises

SONOMA In a trend that mirrors statistics countywide, newly released 1995 figures show that violent crime is on the rise in the unincorporated part of this southeast county community. While there were no homicides in 1995, there were six rapes (up from five in 1994); 273 assaults (up from 237); 75 domestic violence reports (up from 61); 263 burglaries (up from 221); and 658 thefts (up from 585).

Rapes Admitted

SEBASTOPOL Lonnie Victory, a former roadie for Guns n’ Roses, pled no contest to charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted five women at his home, and videotaped the episodes. The 31-year-old man could spend his next 31 years in state prison if the maximum sentence is handed down.

Oak Protection Advances

SANTA ROSA The county Planning Commission has endorsed a tree protection ordinance that would restrict the cutting of valley oaks nine inches in diameter or larger. The measure, which applies to those specific parts of the county in which the oaks once flourished, will now be subject to public hearings before the Board of Supervisors. It is opposed by the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, which contends that it places too many restrictions on agricultural landowners.

Sewer Capacity Shared

ROHNERT PARK A looming crisis in sewage capacity has been averted, thanks to Santa Rosa city officials. The Board of Public Utilities grudgingly agreed to “loan” Rohnert Park 127,000 gallons of unused capacity at the regional treatment plant, until the long-term wastewater disposal system is ready for use. Several BPU members were critical of Rohnert Park’s poor management of their waste flow and of the city’s reluctance to install water meters, but when the vote came, board member Richard Dowd was the lone objector, saying the loan was a case of “rewarding deviant behavior.” The BPU action prevented a potential building moratorium in Rohnert Park, which was down to its last 100,000 gallons, barely enough for two more years of new growth.

Short Take
The county Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to create an ad hoc committee to help draft a ballot measure curbing urban growth.

From the Feb. 8-14, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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