Sunday, February 27, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

    With all that's going on in the world, this one seems pretty apt and especially applicable, even for the U.S., which mistakenly considers itself to be "exceptional" and hence, exempt.  It isn't. 
   From Kay Ryan's new book, The Best of It, New and Selected Poems.

Home to Roost

The chickens
are circling and
blotting out the
day. The sun is
bright, but the
chickens are in
the way.  Yes,
the sky is dark
with chickens,
dense with them.
They turn and
then they turn
again.  These
are the chickens
you let loose
one at a time
and small --
various breeds.
Now they have
come home
to roost -- all
the same kind
at the same speed.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What's A Guy Gotta Do Around Here To Get Arrested, Anyway?

Colin Rigley has a funny story and photo in the News Brief section of this week's New Times ( ) showing Dan DeVaul standing at the reception windows at the County Jail, hoping to get arrested and so go serve his 88 day jail sentence (which was levied when he was found "guilty" of code violations for housing homeless people in sub-standard, overcrowded, illegal, dangerous, code-violating conditions at Sunny Acres, a clean and sober recovery program on his ranch in SLO.)

Sheriff said, No Deal.  He'd have to wait until a court order was issued to arrest him and haul him off to the pokey.

The funny part?  If you read Ron Crawford's email (posted below on Feb 22) the Sheriff's jail facility is NOW overcrowded and so may well be in violation of County code.  Which is why the BOS voted to spend $10 million to build a jail facility to relieve all that likely illegal overcrowding.

But there's Dan, guilty of code violations trying to get into a jail that's . . . .  guilty of code violations?

So, who should issue a code violation citation to the Sheriff?  Dan?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

C'mon Jake, it's Chinatown

Ron Crawford, of wrote a letter to the SLO County Board of Supervisors. It’s posted here with permission.

On Sunday, the Tribune did a HUGE front page story on this issue, plus an editorial. Yet nowhere in that article was mention of SB959. Nowhere. Plus, I’m not even sure it was even mentioned in the staff report (though this whole jail project vote had been postponed when Ron first brought SB959 to the attention of the Sups, with one of them saying he was concerned with “the growing empire of incarceration.”)

The vote on this is today. Any bets on what a “broke” county with no interest in “Empire building” will do? Right.

Dear SLO County Supervisors,

Thank you for this opportunity to provide public comment for Item A-4, the women's jail expansion project, on your 2/22/11 agenda.

I urge your board to immediately stop development of the proposed women's jail expansion, and, instead, adopt an SB 959 style program of mandatory home detention, and then use a tiny fraction of the $10 million the county will save by the abandonment of the jail expansion project, to start a women's-only drug and alcohol rehab/prevention program in SLO County.

As I first reported in 2008 at this link:

... California law allows for counties in the state to enact programs that place "low risk" inmates on mandatory home detention in order to reduce overcrowding issues in local jails.

The law, SB 959, was passed in 2007, and supported by our local Republican assembly member, Sam Blakeslee, the California State Sheriff's Association, and was signed by a Republican Governor, Governor Schwarzenegger, and is already adopted by the vast majority of counties in the state.

SLO County is not one of them.

If your board were to immediately enact an SB 959 style program of mandatory home detention, that would, in turn, immediately remedy two HUGE problems currently facing SLO County government:

1) It would immediately eliminate the massive liability issue that currently exists (and has existed for the past several years, including since SB 959's passage in 2007) at the overcrowded-and-therefore-illegal women's jail facility, by giving the county the option to place the over-the-limit, "low-risk" women inmates, on mandatory home detention, where they will be monitored by skilled, law enforcement professionals.

That move would immediately bring the county into building code compliance with the currently illegal facility.


2) (And, this is really HUGE): Immediately enacting a SB 959 style program would also immediately solve one of the most awkward situations I've ever seen in my 20-plus years of covering local government.

By deliberately housing people in a non-building-code-compliant facility -- as the county continues to do with the women's jail facility, when all it would take to immediately remedy the situation is a simple vote by County Supervisors -- SLO County government is guilty of doing EXACTLY what they are accusing local rancher, Dan De Vaul of doing, yet you're going hard-core-enforcement on him.

See what I mean there? It's a very awkward, and highly embarrassing situation for the county.

For the past few years, county enforcement officials have been hammering away at Mr. De Vaul for violating building codes by, allegedly, housing people in non-building-code-compliant structures, all the while the County is housing people in non-building-code-compliant structures, when all it would take for the county to immediately remedy your illegal situation is one, quick vote, simply to do what most counties in the state are already doing.

You know, now that I see it written that way, as far as SLO County officials are concerned, I can see how reason #2 might actually be even more important than reason #1 (and reason #1 is an amazingly important reason, considering that those illegally housed inmates are ALL sitting on a jackpot right now, and they don't even know it... yet. Let's just hope that one of them doesn't trip on one of those illegal mattresses on the floor, and "injure" their neck, BEFORE you pass a SB 959 program, huh?)

That second situation is flat-out embarrassing for the county, and one quick vote on a SB 959 style program would immediately make that highly embarrassing situation disappear, AND bring the county into building code compliance, finally.

Furthermore, the numbers associated with the jail expansion project, are, again (and there's really no other way to put it), embarrassing -- nearly three times the cost (just to the county) than the national average to house an inmate.

And when compared to the cost of mandatory home detention? There's no comparison.

Here's why:

According to the (September, 2010) staff report, there's enough space at the current facility to legally house 43 inmates. However, also according to the staff report, the average population at the facility is 73 inmates, so, we're talking about 30 inmates here... 30... on average.

According to a 2009 Pew study, that I dug up on the Internet, incarcerating one inmate costs, on average, $29,000 a year in the U.S.

According to the county's staff report, the cost to the county to build the project is estimated at about $10 million (with another $25 million coming from a grant from the state).

I'm going to take that number -- $10 million -- and spread it out over 20 years, for $500,000 a year.

Then I'm going to add that $500,000 per year to the estimated cost of staffing and running the new women's jail facility of $1.8 million a year, for a total of $2.3 million per year, over the next 20 years, to build and operate the facility.

At that number -- $2.3 million per year, to build and operate the facility -- the cost per over-the-limit inmate, for the current average of 30 over-the-limit inmates, is over $76,000 per year... per over-the-limit inmate!

County staff states that as the county's population continues to grow, it's safe to assume that so too will the women's jail population.

At 40 over the limit, it's $57,500 per year.

And at 50, it's still $46,000... per year... per over-the-limit inmate.

Incarcerating one inmate costs, on average, $29,000 a year in the U.S.

According to the 2007 bill analysis of SB 959, "The cost of involuntary home detention electronic monitoring is about $10 per day."

$3,650 versus $76,000. (More than 20 TIMES the difference!)

Additionally, it's important, I think, to reiterate the background of SB 959, and its backers.

SB 959 was supported by our local Republican assembly member, Sam Blakeslee, it was supported by the California State Sheriff's Association, and it was signed by a Republican Governor.

The reason I want to reiterate that, is because, frankly, it makes absolutely no sense for the SLO County Sheriff's Department to NOT back mandatory home detention, 100-percent, yet they are not recommending it to your board at all.

The problem with that? Their arguments against adopting an SB 959 style program in this county make no sense at all.

What? Mandatory home detention for a handful of "low risk" women inmates, where they will be carefully monitored by skilled law enforcement professionals, is going to cause some sort of crime spike in SLO County, and therefore we need to spend millions and millions of dollars on a new, state-of-the-art jail facility?

If that's, indeed, the case, then why does the text of SB 959 read, "This (home detention) program has been very successful in Los Angeles County. The program's success has been two-fold. First, it saves the county money. The cost of home monitoring is $10 a day as compared to $70 a day for an inmate in custody. [And the] program opens up bed space for serious or violent offenders. The state and counties are all experiencing a crisis regarding limited jail [and] prison space. The home monitoring program is an effective solution to assist in alleviating overcrowding."

Again, with the embarrassment to the county... over and over and over on this issue.

I can't speak for all SLO County residents, but I am 100-percent positive that I will still sleep at night knowing that a small handful of "low risk" women inmates are being carefully monitored by skilled law enforcement professionals at home, instead of jammed into an illegal, county-owned jail.

Finally, when I last reported on this story, in September of 2010, at this link:

... I spoke with Frank Warren, of the County's Drug and Alcohol Services Division.

I asked Mr. Warren if his department had a women's-only drug and alcohol rehab/prevention program.

He said, they do not.

I then asked him if he has heard of such programs in other municipalities, and he said, "Yes."

I said, "I can imagine how women would very much prefer that arrangement, as opposed to both men and women."

He said, "Yes. That is true. That is what my research shows."

I then asked him why the county doesn't have such a program.

He told me that it is a matter of funding.

With all of the above in mind, here's is what I recommend that your Board do on this entire issue:

1. Immediately stop plans for the current;y proposed women's jail expansion. The design of that project alone is costing the county a fortune (some $2 million to date).

2. Immediately adopt an SB 959 style, mandatory home detention program.

3. Immediately place whatever the current amount of "low risk" over-the-limit women inmates is on mandatory home detention, which will also immediately remove a massive liability issue for the county, and immediately resolve that whole, highly embarrassing, doing-the-same-thing-as-De Vaul thing.

That action will also immediately save the county some $10 million in design and construction costs, and another $1 million-plus per year to staff and operate the proposed facility.

4. Immediately take whatever amount necessary of that $10 million (and I'm sure it will just be a tiny fraction of that amount, but please make it a hefty amount), and start a women's-only drug and rehab/prevention program in SLO County.

5. Then, if the current women's jail facility (now that it's building code compliant thanks to your SB 959 adoption) is really as bad as the Sheriff's Department paints it out to be (and, it kind of sounds like it is, which is another embarrassment for the county... I mean, what are we, Midnight Express all of a sudden?), then use another $1 million, or so, of that saved $10 million-plus, to simply renovate the current facility.

In summary, please immediately stop development of the proposed women's jail expansion, immediately adopt an SB 959 style program, immediately place the "low risk," over-the-limit women inmates on mandatory home detention, and then use a fraction of the $10 million saved to start a women's-only drug and rehab/prevention program in SLO County, and to renovate the current facility.

Thank you for your time,


Monday, February 21, 2011

Nile Fever?

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for Februrary 21, 2011

Holy Cheese Whiz! Is the Miracle of Tahrir Square catching? Like their Egyptian counterparts, are the good burghers of Madison, Wisconsin in revolt Chedder Rules!

No doubt about it, it was an astonishing sight. Thousands of protesting cheese heads filling the streets of downtown Madison while government thugs pursued fleeing Democratic state senators. The senators had galloped out of town in order to stop the Republican legislature from voting on a union-busting measure. It was Cairo in the heartland, but without camels.

And, like the government-toppling Egyptian miracle, this protest by government (union) employees in Madison soon started to spread to other states as other government employees got the notion that this was really all about the Republican end game: Bust the Unions to break the last impediment to our decades-long race to the bottom for a living wage (“We’re all Wal-Mart greeters, now!”) and Bust the Unions since they are the last political arm of the Democratic party. And do it under color of balancing a city or state’s busted budget.

In the larger picture, it’s actually all about chickens coming home to roost. For thirty years Americans have quietly been sipping a toxic brew: They voted for politicians to give them all manner of nice pudding: Better Schools! Better Roads! More Parks! Strong Defense! Build Star Wars! At the same time, they also voted for all kinds of tax breaks for the rich (that old “trickle-down theory”), voted for laws that would benefit corporations that off-shored their firms, (which they did in a heartbeat, taking their nice jobs with them). Then they voted for all kinds of tax loopholes allowing those same corporations to escape taxes altogether, voted to remove many of the regulations that oversaw Wall Street’s shenanigans, all the while heeding the Conservative Siren Song: Taxes are Bad! No New Taxes!

The result was predictable. It’s what happens when termites are given free rein in the home: You hear the sudden Craaackkk! and then, Splat! as your legs fall through the honeycombed floor.

And in Madison, as elsewhere, it finally became clear what 30 years of termite damage can do: Suddenly, there was no longer any floor there.

The jobs were gone, the tax base was gone, the money was gone. It was time to pay the piper. Time for slash and burn. Time to haul out the politics of grievance to blame all those wicked Union “government workers,” you know, those awful teachers, firemen, policemen and other state workers who were now being painted as greedy cheats responsible for creating these pension imbalances and liabilities, when, in fact, they were the victims. It was they who paid out of their own pockets for their share of their retirement funds only to see it go to imprudent state pension fund managers who failed in their due diligence and gave that money to the Wall Street Fraudsters who rigged the game and gambled it all away.

But you don’t see Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker standing up there before the streets full of angry cheese heads saying he’s going to string up the state’s pension managers, do you? Nor do you see him demanding that Wall Street be put on trial and the stolen, defrauded money be returned to the workers.

No. Not a bit of it. Instead, it’s kick the (unionized) teacher time. Blame the (wicked) government employee time. They’re to blame for Wisconsin’s woes. And California’s. And Tennessee’s.

Which is a typical blame-the-victim response in our clueless Battered Wife Nation. What’s not so typical is that apparently – finally? -- the victims here have connected some dots and caught on to the game and are actually standing up and joining their Cairo counterparts in saying, “Enough!”

Well, I’ve had enough as well. Enough with being piously told that “We all have to make sacrifices here.” Fine. Reduce corporate CEOs’ pension/perk funds to zero, cut their salary 10%, then ask their employees to “make sacrifices.” When millionaires and gazillionaires have to choose between taking medicine or buying food, then we’ll talk about “shared sacrifices.” Hold Wall Street to account, restore the money stolen, then talk to the victims of that fraud about tightening their belts. When it comes to cutting a teacher’s salary or slapping a small tax on a millionaire, my choice is a clear one.

Until then, I hope that somehow Nile Fever continues to spread across America. If the uprising in Cairo was all about Egyptians recovering their voice and taking back their power, then surely that’s what’s needed here as well.

In his new book, Matt Taibbi spells out just how this country was taken down and will continue to be looted, because, “We have voters who don’t pay attention, a news media that either ignores key subjects or willfully misunderstands them, and a regulatory environment that bends easily to lobbying and campaign financing efforts. And we’ve got a superpower’s worth of accumulated wealth that is still there for the taking. . . .”

The title of his book says it all: Griftopia – Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That is Breaking America.

Is it possible that the Wisconsin cheese heads have finally figured out that long con and decided that the race to the bottom stops with them? If so, then that would be the Miracle in Madison. From Cairo and back again.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

This by Kay Ryan, from "The Best of It; New and Selected Poems"


The bird
walks down
the beach along
the glazed edge
the last wave
reached.  His
each step makes
a perfect stamp--
smallish, but as
sharp as an emperor's chop.
Stride, stride,
goes the emperor
down his wide
mirrored promenade
the sea bows
to repolish.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Light it Up, Some More

The Planning Commission hearings on permitting the Sun Power solar array out on the Carrizo Plains is slowly, slowly winding down. At the Feb. 15th meeting, Sun Power returned with a compromise design that would reduce the number of poles by 25%, reduce their average height to 50,’ increase the pole set back to 3,000 feet from Highway 58 and underground the disputed lines via the design. The new design doesn’t impact critters any worse while improving the visual impact. All of which solved some of the major concerns by the Commissioners.

Public Comment included:

Eric Greening (who needs to be nominated for Citizen of the Year . . . every year. He is always so informed on every issue and offers up such thoughtful and often critical comments.) urged the Commisisoners to clarify the Twissleman Mine issue (whether it’s an illegal illegal or not and clarify it’s status before signing off on the project, since, while the two aren’t connected, they are interdependent in many ways. (The mine would supply a closer source of aggregate and stone for the project.)

Joel Twissleman spoke on the issue of considering mitigation measure costs vis a vis benefit. In other words, don’t spend gazillions of dollars on patching a mouse hole when the barn door is wide open. i.e. spending pots of $ to reduce dust on one road when there are hundreds of dirt roads and farm plowing that regularly kicks up tons of dust, the plains is filled with power poles now so a few hundreds more aren’t going to “blight” a “pristine” pure area, and so forth.

And Andrew Christie, of the Sierra Club, read a long, long, long list of Solar Projects planned for the San Joaquin Valley, all placed on already chewed up land which would not involve ruining habitat held by endangered creatures. The message: Don’t site this solar project in the heart of a highly sensitive environment when there’s plenty of better sites available, an issue that needs to be carefully documented to appeal any findings

The rest of the afternoon was spent going over various other issues and finessing the language. Carlyn Christianson, the Chairpoerson, has her work cut out for her. There’s a whole bunch of new Commisisoners so, as an old hand at this (she served on the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Wars Planning Commission hearings, when then-Chairwoman Sarah Christie transformed the county’s plan) she has to spend some time “herding cats,” since the newbies are often unfamiliar with procedure.

And all sympathy to the newbies – ain’t easy plowing through all this technical stuff while trying to also get familiar with various ordinances. But it’s always impressive to see the care with which each Commissioner attends to the details at hand. That’s heartening since the Devil is always in those details and the earlier on in the project those devils are discovered and ironed out, the better.

So the details were revisited again; noise, agricultural issues, hours of operation during construction (6-7 a.m. – 9 pm to allow for a mid-day break in the the schedule during the brutally hot summer months), worker transportation via Sun Power shuttles (free) with (costly) parking permits suggested to reduce private 9individiual) cars, thereby reducing air pollution from a whole passel of cars arriving each morning. There’ll also be a decommissioning fund to pay for all costs to close things out at the end of the plant’s 25 year working life.

There was a flurry of concern to try to find out whether (or if) the SOC should rely on economic impact to the county (i.e. local employment) or whether employees would be brought in out of the area. According to Sun Power, they’ve contracted with the local unions and trades and their rules require that local residents get first dibs on jobs, so presumably, local workers would get a shot, which would help support an SOC finding.

The Commissison will meet again, Feb 24, at 9 a.m. to (likely) finsh the work. The project will then go to the Board of Supervisors for another hearing and more public comment.

Goodbye Mr. Smith

Steven Smith, 27, was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter for shooting girlfriend Gina Stanko, 35, in the head and hand. The sordid story that unfolded in the paper was awash with Tales of People Behaving Badly, including charges of Improper Canoodling, Stupidly Impregnating The Other Woman, Boyfriend Battering by The Other Woman, Inflammatory Yelling and Screaming and Using a Gun while Stupid.

Clearly, neither of these two lovebirds ever learned a basic lesson: If she smacks you around, that means she doesn’t like you. If you shoot her in the head, that means you don’t like her. Time to move on.

Mr. Smith got 18 years. The baby in question got a life sentence with Screaming, Slapping Mummy Dearest.

Rain! Rain! Time for Puddles

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why There's a Sunday Poem (But Not Today)

Let us remember . . . that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.

Christian Wiman, Editor
 Poetry Magazine

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt Rules!

Calhoun’s Cannons for February 12, 2011

It was a children’s crusade. But instead of swords, they came with iPhones and Facebooked and Twittered and the world watched, amazed. They stood in the square, righteous and pure and clear-eyed and simple and sure as only children can be. And said, Enough!

And their sisters came and their mothers and fathers and illiterate day-laborers and workers from nearby towns came and joined them and they all said, Enough!

And government goons came to beat them and kill them by the hundreds, yet their numbers grew and grew and still they stood in their righteous thousands and said, again and again, Enough!

And the world held its breath, the Egyptian Army held its fire, weighed the odds and considered its duty – to the state or to Pharaoh? –and then decided.

Pharaoh lost.

And fled to his palace to count his money and muse over the fate of kings and tyrants in the age of Social Media and a new generation of kids who, in their innocence, demanded the right to shape their own futures.

And America, a country that started in revolution and with the words, “We the People,” dithered and hummed and didn’t know what to do since we are also a country that profoundly distrusts “the people.” They’re too hard for our corporate plutocrats to control in their quest to make the American empire safe for Coca Cola. Plus, Pharaoh was our boy. Never mind that he brutalized his people and was a world-class kleptocrat. Our history is clear on this issue: America never met an anti-democratic thug it couldn’t buy and get in bed with. The Shah was our boy, Somoza was our boy, Saddam was our boy.

And here was our Egyptian boy, wholly owned and paid for buy us and there, for God’s sake, were those damned “We the Egyptian People” standing in Tahrir Square saying, Enough!

How dare they? What’s the world coming to when scary “foreigners” take to the streets to demand their right to join our head table? And then ask for a piece of that nice pie formerly reserved to only a select few? What happens when an idea of “democracy” ignites and spreads from Tunisia to Cairo to Yemen? Where next? What next?

That’s the scary thing about “democracy.” It can take many forms and in this country, a “democracy” not aligned with America’s corporate self-interest is viewed as the wrong kind of democracy and in no time it’s co-opted or overthrown in favor of American-run thugs who are paid handsomely to make sure that their country’s self-interest is America’s self-interest. While the “We the People” of that country need not apply.

Until, inevitably, some alchemy of time and generations results in a volatile brew that will ignite and burn into chaos and murder and more thuggery. Or by some miracle, turns into a beacon of light and reform and a rebuilding of a government of law and a real sense of Commons that will bring benefits to everyone.

At this point in Egypt’s history, the world still needs to hold its breath. (And keep its dirty fingers off the scales and out of the pies.) The message of Tahrir Square is simple in its clarity. Enough. Enough of the fear-driven lies, enough of government lawlessness, enough of the kleptocratic plundering, enough cats-paw manipulating. We the People demand the right to form our own “more perfect union” in our own way for our own people.


That is a cry of light in a world of darkness. I can only hope that cry will be enough to keep the fragile flame alive until it can ignite a steady life-giving fire that cannot be snuffed out.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Archibald McDog, Happy at Last

Finally, The Arch finally got the bandage off his foot. True to form, even that was done the hard way. His foot was infected and puffy so it took a few days of amoxicillin after the bandage was off for that to return to normal. But, the gaping wound in the back of his thigh was sealed and dry enough that I could get him out of his hideous prtective cover-ups. 

Which made him very happy. I mean, take a look. Would you want to be wandering around wearing this? Right. 

Fashion faux paw
The Muslims are Coming!

Tonight at 5:15, and continuing for the next 5 weeks, at the SLO downtown library public meeting room, a series of lectures on Islam will be given (free) to the public.  Local imams, Cal Poly religion experts, etc. will be enlightening any members of the public who show up.  And given the recent hysteria and silliness concerning "Muslims" that's insanely awash in Right Wing Country, I hope people who should attend will do so.  Might learn something.

But, I know that they won't.  Don't think the lady who recently wrote an outraged letter to the editor will be there.  She was furious that a tax-payer supported space (library meeting room, available for all kinds of non-profit, educational purposes) would be used to teach religion, and wondered if Catholics or Mormons would show up next to "teach" people "religion" on public property. 

Reading her letter I had three thoughts:  1) What a great idea.  As a nation that prides itself (on paper at least) on our "freedom of religion," we're woefully ignorant about our neighbor's beliefs and religious histories. (Aw, heck, we're woefully ignorant (and deliberately misinformed) about a whole lot of things.) And 2), the letter-writer has confused teaching about a particular religion with actually teaching religion with an eye towards conversion or indoctrination. And 3), because this woman clearly didn't know the difference, she really, really should show up.

But I know she won't.


Paddle Them Boats
It's the second Saturday of the month so Matt Hudgens of Central Coast Standup Paddling ( (395-0410) will be down at Coleman Beach in Morro Bay (under the triple power plant towers) from 9-noon and if I understand rightly, there'll be a paddle board manufacturer/rep there as well, with all different kinds of board for people to try.  So, if you've always wanted to go fall off a paddle board, now's the time.  It's free and Matt's a great instructor. And the weather promises to be summer-warm. 

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

Yes, it's Superbowl.  but just look out that window . . .

I meant to do my work today
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree
And a butterfly flitted across the field
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing o'er the land
Tossing the grasses to and fro
And a rainbow held out its shining hand
So, what could I do but laugh and go?

                       Richard le Gallienne (1866-1947)

Friday, February 04, 2011

Light It Up, Part III

On Thursday, the Planning Commission returned to the job of parsing the Sun Power solar generation plant out on the Carrizo plains. The Commissioners had taken a tour of the site on Wednesday. Some notes and oddities:

Visual Issues:
--Set backs from Highway 58 has been moved from 200 to 250 yards.
-- power poles are to be light colored
-- it’s likely the visitor center will be moved out from the center of the facility and put closer to Highway 58 or moved into California City itself where there are already buildings and easy access from the road. Concerns were expressed that having the visitor center in the middle of the array would present security issues as well as environmental ones. And there was talk of combining visitor center activities with the other solar array that’s planned to go out in that neck of the woods since it would be silly to build two of them. It was also suggested that the visitor center be sited where it could, perhaps, overlook at least one array and possibly give an overview of the entire valley, which would give visitors a sense of the entire place and a its place within the valley.

Biological issues
--SunPower will settle land mitigation costs up front to take care of those costs early-on, it being stated that that would help reassure investors since there won’t be any hidden or unknown costs waiting in the wings.
-- There is an abundance of mitigation land available. (I’ll bet, considering California Valley has a long history as a sort of “swampland in Florida” real estate scheme that suckered in a long list of buyers with dreams of becoming land barons, only to hit the reality wall when lack of water caused the whole scheme to crash and burn. Which means there’s likely a whole lot of “willing sellers” out there just waiting for someone looking to buy mitigation-offset land.)
--noise and night lighting impacts: suggested use of downcast lighting, minimize lights in the first place, link security lights to a security system – lights go on only when the alarm system is triggered, which would give security personnel light to go check things out, but would mean security lights wouldn’t have to stay on all night & etc. The real concern here is affecting the Carrizo’s stunning “dark skies.”
--- Commissioner Topping repeatedly returned to the rather ridiculous land use policies that resulted in a rather ironic situation that puts all sorts of expensive EIR’s and mitigation measures for SunPower, for example, to install a solar array, while Farmer Jones can happily farm his 1500 acres with no requirements, even though he’s farming smack dab in the middle of a valley filled with endangered species of all kinds and that farming long ago destroyed endangered habitat and annual plowing keeps that habitat destroyed.
     True, any farmer who knowingly destroys a K-rat, for example, can be fined (or if the Fish and Wildlife ranger catches Farmer John actually killing a K-rat, he can be arrested on the spot), but define “knowingly,” as in “knowingly destroy.” And, yes, if you suddenly start farming fallow land, land likely to have been colonized with K-rats, the Feds could end your farming days right quick. And yes, most farmers and ranchers are wonderful stewards of the land and are more and more going “organic” in their land use practices But, the fact remains: farming destroys endangered habitat, so while a company like SunPower has to pay through the nose and jump through a great many mitigation hoops to offset destroyed habitat, Farmer John can plow his acres pretty freely. A point Mr. Topping repeatedly pointed out, to the general agreement of the Commissioners who are well aware of the various oddities in the County’s land use plans.
-- More irony – once farming stops, K-rats recolonize the area. So, it’s likely, since you can’t “farm” under solar arrays, the rat population may boom under and around the arrays, while farmland all around the arrays will continue to be disked all to hell and gone with nary a whisper of “mitigation.”

Worker Safety
-- SunPower will pay up front for increased CHP presence and the taxes the arrays generate will pay for increased presence of Sheriff, code enforcement, environmental monitors and fire personnel. This increase needed to adequately cover the workers camps and also make sure there’s sufficient manpower to suppress any grassland/wild-fires that could endanger the fragile habitat.
--Concerns were expressed over Valley Fever being stirred up by building the arrays, but it was noted that regular farm plowing would release more dust at one time than that being released by the arrays since they’re going in piece meal and the project is required to use dust suppression techniques (which aren’t required when plowing a field.) A representative from County Public Health made it clear that Valley Fever is endemic in the soil of the whole county (along with anthrax, which is in soil where cows and sheep are raised) so trying to pinpoint the source of any Valley Fever spores is nearly impossible. (Said public health personage put up a county Valley Fever map (second highest number of cases being in Paso Robles area) and noted that CMC inmates are a huge “hot spot” of cases, and alluded to prisoners being exposed to roadway dust, so I can only presume CMC road-crew prisoners are being exposed in high numbers, which means they’re not given proper safety (breathing) apparatus while they’re working, which sets up the creepy vision of slave labor gangs sent into dangerous situations where they’re exposed to possibly deadly pathogens?)
--So while real mitigation was impossible vis a vis Valley Fever, it was suggested that SunPower conduct an education outreach for valley residents, and staff will inquire further and get back to the Commissioners with any further information that might help with that issue.

Meeting to be continued on Thursday, February 10 th, from 9 a.m. – 12, Topics still left to go through: Water, Ag issues and noise. If the Commissioners get through those issues, they’ll also receive more staff information from their previous deliberation, and may start voting on the issue. Or, as is more likely, that session will be continued to Thursday Feb. 24th, (9-?) where it will most likely be completed, voted on, then go to the BOS.