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News from the Redwood Empire
December 2000

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! The staff and volunteers at the Town Hall Coalition have prepared a list of organic wines and vineyards and a contact sheet of government agencies, elected officials, environmental organizations and news media for your information. Please feel free to copy these lists and distribute them to family and friends. We hope you will find them useful. These information pamphlets are a work in progress. Please contact the Town Hall Coalition Resource Center if you have additions or corrections to these lists. Your donations to the Town Hall Coalition will help us print and distribute these brochures to interested people throughout Sonoma County and beyond.

The Town Hall Coalition was formed in the summer of 1999 as a community response to concerns about the deteriorating quality of life due to the overwhelming number of new industrial vineyards and other development in Sonoma County. Since then, the Town Hall Coalition has addressed issues relating to changes in water quality and quantity, wildlife habitat destruction, pesticide contamination, forest and oak woodland conversions to vineyards, and the lack of protection of public health, safety and the environment by government officials and regulatory agencies.

The Town Hall Coalition has sponsored six forums throughout the county with panels of experts from government, business, farm labor, scientists and nonprofit organizations. These public forums are designed to exchange information and provide community stakeholders an opportunity to speak and listen to each other as well as organize. Within the past six months, we held forums in Occidental and Sonoma to address the issue of the sharpshooter emergency, pesticides and environmental and public health concerns. Over 2,000 people attended these forums which were widely covered by the media.

The Town Hall Coalition works closely with community members and regulatory agencies to report emergency environmental and public health risks. During Thanksgiving week, the Town Hall Coalition received reports that over 400 birds including robins, bluebirds and other appeared to be poisoned and were dying from nemacure, a nerve toxin. The Town Hall Coalition has requested a cease and desist order for the use of this chemical until the Department of Fish and Game, Water Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, National Marine Fisheries and the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner can prove that nemacure does not kill birds, fish, and other wildlife. Concerns have been expressed that these nerve toxins might get into the soil and contaminate domestic wells and we have requested guarantees that public health is being protected. This is an example of the immediate action taken by the Town Hall Resource Center. Your donations make it possible for the Town Hall Coalition to take your calls and respond to concerns about public health and environmental issues.

The Town Hall Coalition needs your continued support! All of our Community Action Committees welcome more participation. Call the Town Hall Coalition Resource Center for information on meeting times and contact people. Your donations are needed to maintain the Resource Center and continue with the many valuable programs and projects supported by the Town Hall Coalition. We have secured nonprofit status and donations to the Town Hall Coalition are tax-deductible. We are in the process of forming and formalizing our Policy Advisory Board with members selected by our Community Action Committees. The intent of the Policy Board is to advise the Administrative Board about membership, selection of future board members, communication, Community Action Committee structure and input into larger organizational fund-raising and general governing principles, etc.. If you would like to participate in the Policy Board please join a Community Action Committee. We plan to start the Advisory Board gatherings after the first of the year. Many people have expressed interest in the continued work of the Town Hall Coalition to endorse political candidates, lobby and influence legislation and government policy. We are applying for a 501C4 nonprofit status which will allow us to continue with this valuable work.

Members of the Town Hall Community Action Committees have participated in educational public meetings and provided information relating to public health and environmental protection before government decision-making bodies. The committees meet regularly. If you would like to join a committee please call the Town Hall Coalition Resource Center.


Committee members have joined forces with the No Spray Action Network. They have been working to prevent forced pesticide spraying in residential areas to control the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter. To this end, they have testified at public hearings, educated county and state elected officials, participated in conferences, forums, and panel discussions and served as resources to the media. The Toxics Committee plans to develop strategies for reducing pesticide use over the long term. Current goals of the Toxics Committee include: create educational materials, work with vineyard managers, monitor pesticide use and drift, explore tests to identify side effects to public health and the environment from pesticide use and improve pesticide regulation networks with other organizations.


The Water Committee keeps abreast of all the county-wide water issues, contributes to educational and informational discussions about groundwater and surface water regulations, gathers and distributes information, educates the public about water issues and networks with local and regional groups. Currently the committee is working on county groundwater and grading ordinances, water table monitoring, the Sonoma County Water Agency plans to increase the Eel River Diversions to the Russian River, Camp Meeker and Occidental wastewater plans and is networking with Western Sonoma County watershed groups.

w A coalition of groups have formed to hold a county-wide water forum addressing water diversions, rates, growth, etc. in January or February of 2001.
w Members of the Water Committee were invited to speak at a conference sponsored by the Friends of the Eel River, in Humboldt County, in November. They presented ideas and strategies for organizing Town Hall Forums and established Community Action Committees to assist the Friends of the Eel River in reducing the diversion of water flow from the Eel River to the Russian River to fuel growth, and to get the dams decommissioned to restore life to the river.
w The Water Committee volunteers will assist you and your neighbors to test for water quantity and recharge of your well. If you would like to have your water tested for water quantity and recharge please call the Town Hall Coalition Resource Center at 874-9110.
w If you want to test for water quality (e.g. pesticides, heavy metal contamination) call River Watch at (707) 874-2579.

Forest Protection

The Forest Group continues to meet once a month and has been working on a broad spectrum of issues. Volunteers review and comment on Timber Harvest Plans and Forest Conversion Plans that are likely to overcut or use poor practices. The committee is also promoting organic and biodynamic forest practices, educating the community about forest practices and other environmental issues such as Oak Mortality Syndrome. It also monitors the California Board of Forestry regulations.

Habitat and Land Use

The Habitat and Land Use Committee is moving forward with its project to send letters to vineyard owners/managers and neighbors. Address labels have been generated for approximately 360 owner/managers and approximately 1500 neighbors. The committee will begin by sending letters to neighbors in the West County when we have funding. The purpose of this project is to empower vineyard neighbors with information and contacts so they can intervene when necessary in vineyard development surrounding them. It will provide information about organic practices and laws regulating vineyard development. Larry Weiss, an animal rights lawyer and activist, is working with the Habitat Committee to tighten up the issuing of Depredation Permits. The question of Depredation Permits has been on the table since we learned that Dehlinger Vineyards took out a permit to kill 77 migrating Cedar Waxwing birds last year. Weiss has written a bill to amend the Depredation Permit process and presented it to the Animal Legislative Coalition that meets in Sacramento. The coalition has agreed to support the bill. The bill proposes to grant discretion to the Department of Fish & Game in the issuing of Depredation Permits and to set criteria for the exercise of that discretion.

We would like to give special thanks to the Western Sonoma County Rural Alliance for serving as temporary fiscal sponsors during our formation. The WSCRA is an important nonprofit environmental organization that aids neighborhood groups engaged in projects to protect the environment. WSCRA’s Bob Sharp Environmental Scholarship Fund awards two scholarships each year to Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State Students pursuing the field of environmental studies.

Thank you to all of our volunteers and members of the Community Action Groups for your contributions of valuable time and energy that makes the Town Hall Coalition such a successful organization. Thank you to Anna Rose, Maggy Howe, Betty Ann Sutton, WSCRA, Caroline Casey, Pilar Law and Alaura O’Dell of WOW Productions, Milk and Honey, Mermaid’s, Starhawk, and Reclaiming of Sonoma for your generous donations. And thank you to our Administrative Assistant, Christina Newell, for everything you do!

We have outgrown our space in Debra’s Lookinglass Salon and we moved to a larger office across the street above Howard’s Station Restaurant on the Bohemian Highway in Occidental. A big thank you to Debra Anderson, Alisa Hubbard, and Carla Dykes of the Lookinglass Salon for allowing the Town Hall Coalition Resource Center to make use of their waiting room for the past year. Please help us in expressing our deep appreciation to the Lookinglass Salon by patronizing their business for a great haircut, facial, pedicure, and/or manicure!

In order to continue providing information like the Organic & Biodynamic Wine and Vineyard List, the Contact Sheet, organizing for the Town Hall forums and maintaining the Resource Center we need to ask for donations and memberships from you, our supporters. Here is a partial list of how contributions are used:

w Rent, telecommunications, staff, and to maintain the Town Hall Coalition library.
w Produce Town Hall Forums on water, toxics, vineyard development, wildlife protection, public health, etc.
w Produce educational fact sheets, distribute information to the decision-makers and the public.
w Provide information and assist citizens to file comments and complaints with regulatory agencies about environmental issues.
w Provide technical and research assistance to Community Action Groups: Water, Habitat and Land Use, Toxics, Forests, Legal, etc.
w Network with other environmental groups throughout the region.

The Town Hall Coalition Resource Center is in need of the following items: folding chairs (for meetings), posters and pictures for the walls, a rug and a PC computer. Please stop by the new resource center, 74 Main Street Suite D, directly above Howard’s Station Restaurant in Occidental. Office hours are M, W and F 9-5. Our telephone number is 707-874-9110, fax is 707-874-2579, and our e-mail and website are the same.

We need your help to protect the quality of life, public health and environment in Sonoma County. Please contribute to the Town Hall Coalition. We welcome donations from anyone who loves the wild and wonderful nature of Sonoma County and who wants to preserve the beauty of this county for generations to come! Make checks to: Town Hall Coalition P.O. Box 1005 Occidental, CA 95465.

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Town Hall Coalition
6741 Sebastopol Ave. Ste. 140 Sebastopol California 95472
T: 707-824-4371 / F: 707-824-4372