Sunday, January 6, 2008

Storm Damage Photos

A mother and daughter escaped injury early Friday morning when a towering Douglas fir tree crashed through the roof of their home in Camp Meeker. Neighbors came to their rescue.

Gary Helfrich, Camp Meeker Volunteer Fire Department

CLICK HERE to see more Santa Rosa Press Democrat photos.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Thanks to the Schell-Vista Firefighters

We are very thankful to all our brave firefighters who put their lives on the line to help others. Just last night they come to a house on my street to take someone to the hospital. The following article is about the Schell-Vista firefighters.

Schell-Vista Fire Department
23000 Broadway
Sonoma, CA 95476

Improvising to protect public
Schell-Vista firefighters use creativity as stormy day brings flooding, fires, power failures, fallen trees

Published: Saturday, Jan 5, 2008

There are a few things the men of the Schell-Vista Fire Protection District know will happen when heavy rain and high tides collide.

One is that the brackish water in Sonoma Creek will jump the banks, flooding roads, vineyards and sometimes houses.

Another is that motorists will ignore the signs firefighters put up to close the road and protect public safety.

"Will you look at that idiot?" volunteer fire Lt. Jason Webber, 32, said Friday morning when the driver of a pickup veered around a sign and headed straight for floodwaters raging across Highway 121 south of Sonoma.

What Webber did next -- steer his fire-red Ford 250 pickup equipped with sirens and lights into the oncoming lane to try to stop the errant driver -- is not recommended in training manuals.

But Webber, who also is a paid captain for the Marin County Fire Department, said if he followed the rules in situations like this, nothing would get done.

"I'd rather beg for forgiveness later than ask for permission first," he would say later when he and another firefighter helped themselves to more signs at Sonoma's vacant corporation yard.

Improvising in the face of chaos is just part of a firefighter's job.

That much was evident Friday as the men of Schell-Vista responded to a winter storm that brought flooding, fires, power failures, felled trees and other problems to Sonoma County.

Inside Station One, Webber stood next to a fire engine at 9:30 a.m. while going over a few points with a half-dozen firefighters.

They are among 40 firefighters, all male, who respond to emergency calls across 75 miles of territory outside Sonoma city limits, stretching east and south to the Napa and Solano County boundaries.

Schell-Vista firefighters Jamal Cook and Matt Garner trim a tree which fell on on a power line.

Station One, at Highway 121 and Broadway, is the local ground zero for floods, situated within sight of Sonoma Creek. When the creek spills over, water encircles the station and runs along the highway, which is within steps of the facility.

"Who's on swift-water?" Webber asked.

"Tall and stumpy," replied a firefighter, pointing to two men who generally fit those descriptions.

They've been through this drill so many times that they almost don't need reminding of what needs to be done.

They know it so well, in fact, that most of the men did not wait for their pagers to go off on Friday, but instead arrived early that morning on their own.

Tony Andersen, a 37-year-old firefighter who owns a window treatment business and grew up in the town, said he knew as early as Wednesday that he'd have to cancel a weekend getaway with his wife.

His watch, which records the tides, held an ominous forecast for Friday.

"We just know if we get an inch of rain and a 6.3 tide, the road's going over," said Andersen.

During New Year's storms in 2005-06, Schell-Vista firefighters assisted in almost two dozen swift-water rescues.

Webber's own parents were flooded out of their home and ended up living with him for more than a year while repairs on the house were made.

"Oh God, I hope it doesn't happen again," he said.

There was nothing that dramatic Friday. But the day did have its moments.

Minutes after wrapping up the briefing, Webber announced that the highway was flooding.

Within seconds, the men were scrambling to put on gear, including life vests for those assigned to swift-water rescue.

Their first goal was to close the byways leading to Highway 121.

With lights on his pickup flashing, Webber raced along the rural roads, passing cars that pulled to the side and skirting around downed trees.

At the busy intersection of Highways 121 and 116, Webber and firefighter Mickey Breen got out of the truck to erect signs closing the road. That job technically falls to Caltrans, but with the road under water, there was no time for formalities.

The pair then raced north to Watmaugh Road, where fallen tree branches were creating a hazard for motorists.

A firefighter informed Webber that branches had fallen onto a car being driven by a woman who said she was best friends with another woman who was killed in 2002 on Arnold Drive when a eucalyptus tree toppled onto her convertible.

"She was freaking out," the firefighter told Webber. The woman was uninjured.

The excitement lasted for several hours before subsiding along with the rain and wind.

Back at the station, some of the firefighters gathered on the back patio and scanned the flooded countryside with binoculars for ducks ahead of a scheduled hunt today.

Others gathered in the living quarters to watch a reality show on TV. It was then a matter of waiting for something to happen.

At one point, the men raced outside to watch as the driver of an SUV plowed along the flooded highway, ignoring the signs and risks to his own safety.

The driver made it through. But the firefighters have witnessed many other occasions when the outcome was different.

At least the game of chicken between Webber and the pickup driver resulted ultimately in the driver turning into a driveway before reaching the floodwaters.

"We're going to see people at their absolute dumbest," Webber predicted earlier in the day. "There's always a way around, but people panic. They need to relax."

You can reach Staff Writer Derek J. Moore at 521-5336 or


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Santa Rosa Press Democrat Reader Storm Photos


Friday, January 4, 2008

Big Storm

Two dozen Sonoma roads closed or restricted

ABC North Bay sees first rain of storm

The false front and awning at Revolution 9, at 14 Bolinas Road crashed to the sidewalk on Friday January 4, 2008 in Fairfax, CA after a big winter storm moved through Northern California. (source)

Storm slams Sonoma County

Published: Thursday, Jan 3, 2008

The first wave of storms has hit Sonoma County, dropping almost 2 inches of rain so far today in some parts of the North Coast and cutting power to 400 homes.

Almost 2 inches of rain had fallen near Healdsburg, by 1 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Guerneville has recorded 1.63 inches and Santa Rosa 0.93 inches.

Power was cut for about three hours to 400 homes in Cotati, Petaluma, Sebastopol and Bodega Bay this morning when a redwood limb fell on a power line.

PG&E crews replaced a wire and conductor and had power restored by 12:30, said Jana Schuering, a PG&E spokeswoman.

Despite widespread worry of the ferocity of the first major storm of the season, Sonoma County Emergency Services Coordinator Sandy Covall-Alves said storm-related emergency situations were unlikely.

“The emergency operation center is ready to go if we need it, but it’s not anticipated that we will,” she said. “The rivers are not forecast to flood. There will be a significant rise in them, but they will be significantly below flood stage.”

At Bodega Bay, Coast Coast Guard Seaman Jake Crafton said rain was falling and wind speeds were hitting about 25 knots.

Because no emergency systems have been activated, local agencies are not preparing more staff or offering such services as sandbags. Instead, authorities are urging residents to stock up on batteries, have emergency kits at home and drive carefully.

You can reach Staff Writer Laura Norton at 521-5220 or email at


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California storms knock out power, close ski resorts, fell trees
By SAMANTHA YOUNG Associated Press Writer 01/04/2008 01:14:19 AM PST
SACRAMENTO—A fierce arctic storm pounded California Friday with heavy rain, whipping winds and threats to drench mudslide-prone canyons already charred by wildfire.

Roads closed, power out as storm strikes
Napa Valley Register, CA - 1 hour agoIn Sonoma County, Highway 121 at Schellville, a main thoroughfare for Napa County residents commuting to Bay Area, is also closed due to flooding

Storm's fury causes power outages, downed trees, flooding
San Jose Mercury News, USA - 2 hours agoIn Napa and Sonoma Counties, 7000 households didn't have power. Hundreds more are in the dark in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

63000 without power in Bay Area - 2 hours agoEarlier Friday, PG&E said 7200 customers in Sonoma and Napa counties and 6500 customers in Marin County were without power.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Storm coming

Something's brewing

Experts warn that the storm predicted to hit North Bay today could be biggest in 2 years


The first storm of the new year promises to pack a wallop, and Mela Angleman isn't taking chances.

Visions of 2005 flooding still float in her head, said Angleman, the sixth-generation owner of a Bodega Bay ranch. She spent Wednesday laying down straw and coconut-husk matting to limit damage.

"We're doing proactive, preventative work to prepare as much as possible," Angleman said. "We're trying to hold the soil in place to make sure the way that the water hits doesn't make it erode."

Forecasters, PG&E representatives and public safety officers are warning Bay Area and North Bay residents to prepare for what they say could be the biggest storm in two years.

Wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour and as much as 2½ inches of rainfall could mean power failures, downed trees and unsafe road and ocean conditions, they said.

"It's time to batten down the hatches," said Diana Henderson a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

Local Coast Guard officials are watching the storm closely and advising boaters to stay off the water because of expected high seas, winds and heavy rains.

"It's not a good idea to go out; it's going to be pretty nasty out there," said Joe Montes, a firefighter with the Bodega Bay Coast Guard.

If the storm hits as hard as expected, PG&E will begin an inventory of all available resources to better distribute them where needed, said spokeswoman Jana Schuering.

"We do have people prepared for this storm and every storm that ever happens," Schuering said, adding that there were a few things residents could do to minimize the impact of the storm on their homes and keep safe.

Henderson said the storm would whip into gear "just in time" for this morning's commute and roar through Friday evening. Showers and thunderstorms are expected over the weekend.

The projected rainfall could fill low reservoirs and bring the North Bay up to regular rainfall totals after an extremely dry season.

"We need it. We want it. But not all at once!" Angleman said as she finished preparations at the ranch.

You can reach Staff Writer Laura Norton at 521-5220 or


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

30 Top Jobs for 2008

30 Top Jobs of 2008

Service Occupations and Professional Jobs Lead

A new year means new beginnings: new resolutions, ideas and friends; new habits, relationships and goals; new salaries, titles and responsibilities. And perhaps most importantly, new jobs. Lots of them. And not just for 2008, either -- until 2016.

Total employment is expected to increase by 15.6 million jobs during the 2006-16 decade, according to the most recent employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Almost all of this growth will occur in the service providing sector, which will account for 75 percent of all jobs in 2016.

Professional and related jobs and service occupations are projected to grow most quickly, accounting for more than six of 10 new jobs created throughout the decade. Twenty-eight of the 30 fastest-growing jobs are in professional and related occupations and service positions.

Interested in getting in on the new job action this year? Here are the 30 fastest-growing growing occupations for 2006-2016.

1. Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts
2006/2016 Employment: 262,000 / 402,000
Percent Growth: 53.4
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Bachelor's degree

2. Personal and Home Care Aides
2006/2016 Employment: 767,000/ 1,156,000
Percent Growth: 50.6
Salary Range: Less than $21,220
Education/training: On-the-job training

3. Home Health Aides
2006/2016 Employment: 787,000 / 1,171,000
Percent Growth: 48.7
Salary Range: Less than $21,220
Education/training: On-the-job training

4. Computer Software Engineers, Applications
2006/2016 Employment: 507,000 / 733,000
Percent Growth: 44.6
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Bachelor's degree

5. Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
2006/2016 Employment: 71,000 / 100,000
Percent Growth: 41
Salary Range: $21,260 - $30,560
Education/training: Associate degree

6. Personal Financial Advisors
2006/2016 Employment: 176,000 / 248,000
Percent Growth: 41
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Bachelor's degree

7. Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance
2006/2016 Employment: 2,000 / 3,000
Percent Growth: 39.8
Salary Range: $30,630 - $46,300
Education/training: Postsecondary vocational award

8. Medical Assistants
2006/2016 Employment: 417,000 / 565,000
Percent Growth: 35.4
Salary Range: $21,260 - $30,560
Education/training: Moderate on-the-job training

9. Veterinarians
2006/2016 Employment: 62,000 / 84,000
Percent Growth: 35
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Professional degree

10. Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
2006/2016 Employment: 83,000/ 112,000
Percent Growth: 34.3
Salary Range: $30,630 - $46,300
Education/training: Bachelor's degree

11. Skin Care Specialists
2006/2016 Employment: 38,000 / 51,000
Percent Growth: 34.3
Salary Range: $21,260 - $30,560
Education/training: Postsecondary vocational award

12. Financial Analysts
2006/2016 Employment: 221,000 / 295,000
Percent Growth: 33.8
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Bachelor's degree

13. Social and Human Service Assistants
2006/2016 Employment: 339,000 / 453,000
Percent Growth: 34.3
Salary Range: $21,260 - $30,560
Education/training: Moderate on-the-job training

14. Gaming Surveillance Officers and Gaming Investigators
2006/2016 Employment: 9,000 / 12,000
Percent Growth: 33.6
Salary Range: $21,260 - $30,560
Education/training: Moderate on-the-job training

15. Physical Therapist Assistants
2006/2016 Employment: 60,000 / 80,000
Percent Growth: 32.4
Salary Range: $30,630 - $46,300
Education/training: Associate degree

16. Pharmacy Technicians
2006/2016 Employment: 285,000 / 376,000
Percent Growth: 32
Salary Range: $21,260 - $30,560
Education/training: Moderate on-the-job training

17. Forensic Science Technicians
2006/2016 Employment: 13,000 / 17,000
Percent Growth: 30.7
Salary Range: $30,630 - $46,300
Education/training: Bachelor's degree

18. Dental Hygienists
2006/2016 Employment: 167,000 / 217,000
Percent Growth: 30.1
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Associate degree

19. Mental Health Counselors
2006/2016 Employment: 100,000 / 130,000
Percent Growth: 30
Salary Range: $30,630 - $46,300
Education/training: Master's degree

20. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
2006/2016 Employment: 122,000 / 159,000
Percent Growth: 29.9
Salary Range: $30,630 - $46,300
Education/training: Master's degree

21. Marriage and Family Therapists
2006/2016 Employment: 25,000 / 32,000
Percent Growth: 29.8
Salary Range: $30,630 - $46,300
Education/training: Master's degree

22. Dental Assistants
2006/2016 Employment: 280,000 / 362,000
Percent Growth: 29.2
Salary Range: $21,260 - $30,560
Education/training: Moderate on-the-job training

23. Computer Systems Analysts
2006/2016 Employment: 504,000 / 650,000
Percent Growth: 29
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Bachelor's degree

24. Database Administrators
2006/2016 Employment: 119,000 / 154,000
Percent Growth: 28.6
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Bachelor's degree

25. Computer Software Engineers, Systems Software
2006/2016 Employment: 350,000 / 449,000
Percent Growth: 28.2
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Bachelor's degree

26. Gaming and Sports Book Writers and Runners
2006/2016 Employment: 18,000 / 24,000
Percent Growth: 28
Salary Range: Less than $21,220
Education/training: On-the-job training

27. Environmental Science and Protection Technicians
2006/2016 Employment: 36,000 / 47,000
Percent Growth: 28
Salary Range: $30,630 - $46,300
Education/training: Associate degree

28. Manicurists and Pedicurists
2006/2016 Employment: 78,000 / 100,000
Percent Growth: 27.6
Salary Range: Less than $21,220
Education/training: Postsecondary vocational award

29. Physical Therapists
2006/2016 Employment: 173,000 / 200,000
Percent Growth: 27.1
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Master's degree

30. Physician Assistants
2006/2016 Employment: 66,000 / 83,000
Percent Growth: 27
Salary Range: $46,360 or more
Education/training: Master's degree

Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Copyright 2007


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New 2008 Law for Cyclists

Cyclists must have front, rear lights at night

New state law applies to bikes on sidewalks, pathways; some riders object to cost of equipment

Jan 1, 2008

For years, the law that required cyclists riding on the street at night to use lights didn't include those traveling on sidewalks or pathways.

But beginning today, state law requires that if you ride at night, you must be illuminated.

"We are making bike paths equivalent to streets as far as the safety illumination (laws)," said Jim Brown, spokesman for the California Bicycle Coalition, which co-sponsored a bill with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

Riders using the Prince Memorial Greenway, the Joe Rodota Trail or a neighborhood sidewalk at dusk or darker must have a light visible from a distance of 300 feet and a red, rear reflector visible 500 feet away.

The law allows riders to use reflective tape around their ankles or reflective shoes instead of reflective pedals, which have moved away from large blocky steps to sleek, almost invisible platforms.

The law, introduced by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, allows police to ticket riders not using lights. The fine is $25 plus any ancillary fees.

"Many of the laws are developed because of safety for both the person operating the bike in this case and other people on the roadways," CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader said. "Some of the illumination laws aren't just for people to see where they are going but for others to see them."

While shedding light on night commuters is a worthy goal, Anthony Soto of Santa Rosa said there is a contingent of riders who depend on their bikes for transportation at all hours and for whom an expensive illumination system is not an option.

"The homeless -- they can't afford to pay for batteries over and over," he said.

Soto, riding through downtown Santa Rosa on Monday, said he was pulled over and cited earlier this year while riding at night without lights in Railroad Square.

Facing financial difficulties, Soto said the $25 fine has not yet been paid.

Like bikes themselves, the cost of lights varies dramatically.

A front light can be had for about $20 but some systems that tout being able to illuminate a rugged mountain trail at night can run as much as $500, said Dan Tracy, a salesman at Cambria Bicycle Outfitters on Santa Rosa Avenue.

A red blinking taillight that sells for $15-$20 is much safer than the reflectors that are affixed to every bike sold in California, he said.

"Reflectors are mandatory for every bike we sell, but ever since I was a little kid, that has been the first thing to go," he said. "That is the first thing people ditch."

In cities throughout Sonoma County, Bike To Work Days and other cycling promotional events have been an opportunity to give away lights.

"We have probably given out a few hundred, mostly the red lights for the rear," said Tom Maunder, a Petaluma resident and former chairman of the Petaluma Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee.

While sympathetic to those facing the added expense, Maunder said the new law is a sound one.

"The fact that it costs money to get a good headlight is an impediment, but I don't think it's a good enough argument to advocate against lights and illumination," he said.

Tim Kniffin of Santa Rosa, a recreational cyclist, equates it with mandatory car maintenance.

"My first reaction is if you are driving at night, you have to have headlights," he said. "It's like getting the car smogged -- if it's a law, that's what I will do."

The law will not only help cyclists see what is in front of them, but will help others see them, said Beryl Brown, a member of Santa Rosa's Bicycle and Pedestrian Board.

A front light will help announce the approach of cyclists to pedestrians on dark trails and sidewalks, she said.

"It's essential," she said. "Unfortunately, when you are walking along on the sidewalk and they come up and don't announce themselves in any way, it's scary and a little frightening."

You can reach Staff Writer Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or


Santa Rosa Press Democrat Top Stories for 2007

2007's Top Stories


What made the headlines this past year, from the drop in home prices to the oil spill.


Chaos in the housing market ripped through North Coast communities in 2007, leaving few people untouched. Fall home prices scarred almost every facet of the local economy and took a visceral human toll as houses sat unwanted on the market, mortgage foreclosures skyrocketed and unemployment rose. Even those not buying or selling homes are likely to be touched by the fallout as city halls began warning of impending cuts. Local governments are dependent on the strength of the economy for revenues and the numbers in early 2008 are not looking strong.


Upheaval and uncertainty marked the delivery of health care in Sonoma County. Sutter Health announced it would close its medical center -- the former Community Hospital -- in Santa Rosa and turn over public medical care programs to Memorial Hospital, which immediately launched an accelerated expansion project. The Sutter decision prompted an outcry from some medical activists and then objections from county officials who said the move would violate Sutter's contract to serve the uninsured and underinsured. Negotiations continue behind closed doors.

Smaller hospitals reeled as well. Palm Drive in Sebastopol went into bankruptcy, and officials at Sonoma Valley Hospital struggled for a third time to find a location to replace its aging facility.

Through it all, the Kaiser Permanente juggernaut continued to attract more and more Sonoma County residents -- 6,000 in 10 months -- to its one-of-a-kind blend of hospital and HMO. It swelled to 166,000 members, or 1 out of every 3 residents, and now commands more than half of all Sonoma County patients with workplace medical insurance -- one of the reasons for Sutter's intended pullout.


In the span of barely a month in the spring, three more local families found themselves sharing their grief with friends, neighbors and whole communities when their sons died in the arid landscape of Iraq. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams, 25, of Santa Rosa was killed April 8 by a sniper in Baqouba; Army Sgt. Mario K. Deleon, 26, of Petaluma was killed April 16 in Baghdad by small-arms fire; and Army Sgt. Anthony J. Schober, 23, was buried in Santa Rosa after he was killed May 12 in an ambush south of Baghdad.

The costs of war appeared in many other forms, too, notably in September when a score of local Army National Guard soldiers joined California's largest combat deployment since the Korean War. These citizen soldiers -- ranging from 20-somethings looking for adventure to a 50-year-old Cloverdale school principal and grandfather answering an inner call to duty -- are serving near Baghdad.


The year began with a groundswell of support for an overhaul in immigration rules, fueled in part by the huge 2006 rallies in Santa Rosa and across the country. The landscape abruptly changed in June when Congress rejected President Bush's immigration policy, signaling a deep nationwide philosophical divide on the issue and ending any serious debate until 2009. The bill had offered legal status to millions of illegal immigrants while appropriating money in an attempt to secure the country's borders. Opponents called it amnesty for lawbreakers while supporters said it was a first step in tackling one of the nation's most complex problems. The most noticeable action on immigration came when the Department of Homeland Security announced new rules cracking down on employers who hired workers whose documents are invalid. The move led to fears of agricultural labor shortages.


Though there were fewer homicides on the North Coast in '07 than the year before, several high-profile slayings and violent acts put communities on edge and focused attention on gang activities. The Oct. 22 shooting death of Luis Roberto Miranda, 17, at the popular Maxwell Farms Regional Park near Sonoma prompted community soul-searching. At a memorial for the slain teen, 150 people gathered to call for peace between rival groups. A month later, there was another shooting at the park, this one not fatal.

Home invasions, usually involving drugs, grew in prevalence. In November more than 300 pounds of processed marijuana was found in the Santa Rosa home where a 20-year-old man was fatally shot during a robbery attempt by him and two friends, all suspected gang members.

Also in November, a Santa Rosa man and his son, both convenience store clerks, were shot during a robbery attempt at their family's Santa Rosa market, killing the father and critically injuring his son. A man with a long history of criminal activity and drug abuse has been accused of the crimes.

And most recently, college student and Analy High School graduate Benjamin Floriani was stabbed to death in west Santa Rosa at a party attended by as many as 50 young adults. Four people have been charged in the case.


Commercial air service resumed in March, proving there was pent-up demand from businesses, tourists and casual travelers. Horizon Air's daily flights to Seattle and Los Angeles turned in stunning 80 percent passenger loads, prompting the airline to add flights to Los Angeles and new service to Portland. Success has given rise to an airport development plan that calls for runway extension and even more air service expansion.


The nightmare of freeway widening became second nature for habitu├ęs of Highway 101. The three-year, $111.5 million project through the heart of Santa Rosa passed the halfway mark -- it should be done in spring of '09 -- with barely a notice, though the completion of widening of the undercrossing at Steele Lane significantly eased cross-town commutes.

There's no end in sight to construction snafus, however. Just as the central Santa Rosa leg gets completed, crews will start on the three-year project to widen the freeway from Steele Lane north to Windsor. And at about the same time, work will begin to widen the stretch from Rohnert Park Expressway south through Cotati to Railroad Avenue. Might as well sit back and enjoy it.


The deaths of four people at the hands of law enforcement officers in Sonoma County sparked emotional community debate on the use of force and focused attention on police conduct. In the most controversial case, 16-year-old Jeremiah Chass of Sebastopol was shot to death by sheriff's deputies March 12 in the front yard of his family's home. Deputies said the boy, who was suffering mental health problems, posed a threat to his 6-year-old brother. The youngster was safely at his mother's side when Chass, armed with a Leatherman-style tool, was shot while struggling with deputies in the family van.

Santa Rosa police shot and killed 22-year-old murder suspect Haki Thurston of Oakland on Feb. 23. Richard DeSantis, a 30-year-old unarmed man with bipolar disorder, was shot at his house by Santa Rosa police after his wife called 911 to report he was firing a gun in their home. Luis Felipe Sanchez, 27, was shot by three Sonoma County sheriff's deputies after firing on a deputy May 4 at a Rohnert Park mobile home park.


Baseball fans rode an emotional roller coaster with Barry Bonds. First the bulky San Francisco Giants slugger became baseball's all-time home run king by sending No. 756 into the stands in August. In September, the Giants told Bonds that after 15 seasons in San Francisco, they would not re-sign him and he would have to take his bat elsewhere. In November, after years in the spotlight of a federal investigation, Bonds was indicted on charges of lying to a San Francisco grand jury about using performance-enhancing drugs. Then he became a focal point of the Mitchell Report, an examination of steroid use in Major League Baseball.


Miles of Pacific shoreline and the waters of San Francisco Bay were fouled when a container ship struck the Bay Bridge Nov. 7 and hemorrhaged 58,000 gallons of fuel oil. The Justice Department sued Regal Stone Ltd., owner of the Cosco Busan, and the ship's pilot, John Cota of Petaluma, alleging violation of several federal laws and seeking unspecified damages. Cleanup costs are expected to exceed the $61 million federal limit on insurance liability.


Northern California Fire Crews Head South Again

Northern California Fire Crews Head South Again
Posted: Monday, 31 December 2007 9:39AM

SONOMA, Calif. (KCBS) -- Cal Fire crews and resources from Northern California headed south Monday as Santa Ana winds again kicked up in the southland.

Resources such as bulldozers, strike teams and air tankers from the north began their move as Southern California was placed on a fire watch, according to Jim Barnes, an air tanker pilot from Cal Fire's Sonoma Air Attack Base.

"We're one component of a very large team and our primary mission is to support the ground firefighters and to protect life and property," said Barnes.

Southern California is essentially under a year round fire season, according to Cal Fire officials.


Sonoma Index Tribune's Top Stories for 2007

The top story in the Valley this year was the murder of 17-year-old Luis Miranda in Maxwell Farms Regional Park.
Top Stories

In late December, the I-T news staff selects the top most influential Sonoma Valley stories over the past year.

It's never easy and not everyone will agree with these choices, but these issues either affected or drew the attention of a wide range of Valley residents. The outcome of many will influence the future of this community, while others struck deep emotional chords.

1 - Maxwell Park murder

On Oct. 22, 17-year-old Luis Miranda was shot to death in Maxwell Farms Regional Park by alleged gang member Juan Calderon, igniting a wave of mourning, recrimination and community outreach that continues into the new year.

It was the first gang-related slaying in recent memory, and it challenged the Sonoma Valley to take more seriously the growing evidence of gang infiltration previously limited to petty violence, tagging and intimidation.

Calderon, also 17, was identified by numerous witnesses as the shotgun-wielding assailant. He was arrested along with Juan Carlos "Puppet" Perez, 24, and 19-year-old Javier Ceja. The three had been involved in an angry confrontation with Miranda earlier on the evening of the shooting, and all three were charged with murder with gang enhancements. They were arraigned in Sonoma County Superior Court Nov. 9, and all three entered pleas of not guilty.

A preliminary hearing has been set for Jan. 28, at which time Judge Rene Chouteau will hear evidence from prosecutors to determine whether to bind the suspects over for trial.

A series of community forums in the aftermath of the tragedy brought community members together to hear guidance from Santa Rosa gang-prevention experts and to plan future gang-prevention strategies. The next meeting is set for Monday, Jan. 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the El Verano Elementary School gym.

2 - Hospital Board picks In-Town site

After years of expert opinion, on Oct. 10 the Sonoma Valley District Health Care Board finally voted to put the replacement facility for the seismically unsound Sonoma Valley Hospital on the In-Town site.

The In-Town site consists of the current facility, which sits on several acres of land on Andrieux Street, as well as the Carinalli property, which includes four acres of land on Fourth Street West between MacArthur Street and Bettencourt Street.

The board's decision was immediately wrapped in controversy after a representative of Barry Swenson Builders questioned the validity of the financial figures the board used that showed the In-Town option would be the most economically feasible choice. Swenson is the private development company interested in constructing the Broadway site, which had also been considered by the board.

Although board chairman Dr. Dick Kirk announced intentions of listening to a hospital proposal from Swenson, other boardmembers are pushing to move forward with plans on the In-Town site. It is still unclear whether the board will hear a final presentation on the Broadway site.
The board's decision raised even more controversy among the neighbors who live near the Carinalli site, who say the new hospital will hurt property values. The neighbors have vowed to fight construction all the way to City Hall.

Meanwhile, hospital administrators and boardmembers move forward on plans, and are in the process of developing project cost estimates, which Chief Executive Officer Carl Gerlach pegged at "above $200 million." Boardmembers are seeking to put a general obligation bond measure to finance construction on the ballot next spring.

3 - School parcel tax fails

In July, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District decided to ask the voters to approve a $91 a year parcel tax for six years. The parcel tax would raise somewhere between $1.2 million and $1.4 million a year and would be used to keep the school libraries open, would pay salaries of coaches and pay extracurricular stipends for teachers, among other things. The measure, which appeared on the November ballot, needed 66.7 percent to pass, but received only 57 percent of the vote. The school board will be looking at cuts later this month.

4 - Hospital parcel tax passes

Dozens of hospital supporters cheered on the evening of March 6, when they learned that Measure B, a $195 parcel tax initiative to aid the financially struggling Sonoma Valley Hospital, passed with 73.7 percent of the vote.

Many thought there was no way the required 66.7 percent of voters would approve the tax; however district voters demonstrated the hospital is an important addition to the community with an impressive show of support. Campaign leader turned hospital boardmember Bill Boerum said he ran a stealth campaign in a conscious effort not to raise opposition to the measure.

The tax, which lasts for five years, will garner about $3 million a year for the hospital. Hospital administrators repeatedly said that without the added financial support of the parcel tax, the facility would not have had the means to stay open and would likely have shut down.

Hospital administrators will once again be asking voters for support this spring, when a general obligation bond to finance new hospital construction is expected to hit the ballot.

5 - City puts moratorium on mobile-home conversions

A plan to convert the Rancho de Sonoma mobile-home park to a resident-owned subdivision inspired a resident-protest movement against owner Preston Cook and prompted the Sonoma City Council to impose a moratorium on park conversions.

The park-conversion movement has alarmed mobile-home park residents across the state because the process can lead to the elimination of rent-control protections and the eventual reduction in affordable housing, especially for seniors on fixed incomes.

The moratorium was originally intended to last only until a revised city ordinance could be developed tightening protections for park residents. Simultaneously, an ad hoc council committee planned meetings with residents and Cook to explore the possibility of a negotiated settlement.

But when City Attorney Tom Curry finished researching state law and presented a draft ordinance to govern future park conversions, the council concluded a legally defensible ordinance would contain too many loopholes that could actually reduce the level of protection park residents were seeking.

The council therefore voted 4-1 against adopting the new ordinance and instead extended the existing moratorium until June of 2008, at which time it could issue another extension for an additional year.
Meanwhile the council committee has been holding meetings with residents, and Cook and is still seeking to find common ground.

6 - 'Bottle Shock' films in Sonoma

Residents of Sonoma got a taste of life in Tinseltown when the independent film "Bottle Shock" rolled into town and began filming around the Valley in August. The film was produced by Brenda and Marc Lhormer, Sonoma residents who run the Sonoma Valley Film Festival and head the Sonoma Valley Film Society.

The Lhormers got an early script of "Bottle Shock" from a friend in the industry. The film told the story of the proprietors of Chateau Montelena, a Napa winery that beat out the exalted wines of France in a 1976 blind tasting known as the "Judgment of Paris." The Lhormers brought on the writing/directing/producing team of Randy Miller and Jody Savin ("Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School") who rewrote the script, which Miller directed and Savin helped produce. Film stars include Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman, Freddie Rodriguez and Rachael Taylor.

The filming took place at Buena Vista Vineyards, the Ledson Hotel and even shut down East Napa Street for a day. Dozens of onlookers gathered anytime the camera came out to watch movie magic in action. The film was just accepted into the lineup at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.


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Over the years my opinions have changed but this will never change: Jesus Christ, Lord, God and Savior, died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay for my sin.