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News from the Redwood Empire
July 2001

The Town Hall Coalition is a grassroots social movement of citizens from all walks of life who have come together to address issues relating to changes in water quality and quantity, habitat destruction, pesticide contamination, forest conversions to vineyards, and changes in land use. Our concern addresses the lack of protection by elected officials and regulatory agencies of public health, safety, and the environment. The Town Hall Coalition has sponsored eight town hall forums with panels of experts from government, business, farm labor, scientists, and nonprofit organizations. These forums are designed to exchange information, provide community stakeholders an opportunity to speak and listen to each other, and form grassroots citizen action groups for social change.

Within the past year, Town Hall Coalition helped to organize the following forums: Your Water, Your Wallet, Your Health!; Cancer in Sonoma County; Are You Concerned about Vineyard Development?; and Pesticides, People and Healthy Farming. We have published and distributed numerous information pamphlets including The Organic and Biodynamic Wine and Vineyard List for Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino Counties and a Contact List. Our Contact List is a directory of government agencies, elected officials, environmental organizations and news media.

The Town Hall Coalition is currently in the process of developing a Participatory Democracy Campaign. The campaign's primary purpose is to enable people to activate, organize, and participate in decision-making processes at the local, state, and national level. Our goal will be accomplished through working with community members throughout Northern California to organize future Town Hall Forums on current issues, establishing grassroots citizen action groups, and providing information and support to people who want to run for elected or appointed positions in government. We are in the process of publishing a Participatory Democracy manual. This manual will consist of various pamphlets with information about how to get involved in the decision-making process, a contact directory of government and environmental organizations, an updated organic and biodynamic wine list, and how to form Town Hall Coalition affiliate groups. We plan to distribute this manual to every registered voter in Sonoma County. Future plans include replicating the Participatory Democracy model in ten Northern California Counties. The Participatory Democracy Manual's distribution, future town hall forums and the formation of citizen action groups depend on grants and donations from generous people in the community.

It is our goal to be able to preserve natural life-giving ecosystems in Northern California for generations to come. The success of the Participatory Democracy Campaign, future forums, and the ability to organize citizen action groups depends upon available funds. Please become a member and donate to the Town Hall Coalition. Help protect the quality of life, public health, and environment in Sonoma County and Northern California. Your donation will insure that the volunteers and staff at the Town Hall Coalition will continue to organize, provide information to the public, and participate and comment on issues that benefit the public good.

The Town Hall Coalition would like to give special thanks to Pesticide Watch for their generous grant to the Town Hall Coalition. This money will help pay for letters that will be sent to neighbors of vineyards about their rights and options to protect themselves from pesticides and soil erosion, an updated Town Hall Coalition brochure, and enable staff to respond to complaints about pesticide drift and contamination of soil and water. Many thanks to our members and individual donors for their moral support and generous contributions. In order to maintain the Town Hall Coalition Resource Center and programs, we need donations and memberships from you, our supporters.

Citizen Action Affiliate Groups

Please contact the Town Hall Coalition if you are interested in forming or joining a Citizen Action Group.

Habitat and Land Use

The Habitat and Land Use Committee distributed 360 letters to Sonoma County vineyard owners and managers. These letters included information about organic practices, wildlife friendly fences, and laws that regulate vineyard development. Ultimately, this committee would like to mail letters to 1,500 property owners who neighbor vineyards. The letter would contain contacts so that neighbors can intervene, when necessary, concerning the vineyard development surrounding their homes.

w Freestone Valley:
As a result of citizen involvement and cooperation with landowners and regulatory agencies, new and improved plans have been proposed concerning the development of a horse ranch and a vineyard. Thank you to everyone who wrote letters.

w General Plan, Housing Element, and Zoning Ordinance Updates:
The county is updating regulations and codes that could drastically alter the quality of life in rural neighborhoods. Proposals include higher density zoning and reduction of setbacks for development. To participate in the public hearings and to receive copies of the documents, call the Permit and Resource Management Department at 565-1934 or 565-3476. We urge anyone who is interested in preserving the quality of life in rural neighborhoods to participate in hearings regarding these important updates and changes to the General Plan. The Board of Supervisors and their appointed Planning Commissioners make the land-use decisions. Please check the voting record of the Supervisor and Planning Commissioner in your district. We need a new Board of Supervisors.

w General Plan Public Meeting Dates and Locations:
Meeting Times: 7:00-9:30 PM
Aug. 2 -- Geyserville High School (1320 Moody Lane, Geyserville)
Aug. 7 -- Sebastopol Vets. Bldg. (282 High Street, Sebastopol)
Aug. 9 -- Guerneville Odd Fellows Hall (16219 1st St., Guerneville)
Aug. 14 -- Petaluma Vets. Bldg. (1094 South, Petaluma)

Toxics

Staff and committee members are networking with other groups to follow up on possible legal action to address the poisoning of 400 robins and bluebirds due to the use of the chemical Nemacur. Nemacur, developed by Bayer Corporation, was applied by drip irrigation on vineyards owned by Klein Foods in Geyserville and managed by Vino Farms. The Sonoma County District Attorney has fined Klein Foods and Vino Farms for poisoning wildlife due to this spill. Thank you to Citizen Action Group members who followed up on this complaint. We have also responded to numerous complaints about pesticide drift and suspected poisoning of wildlife.

Water

Water Committee volunteers will assist you and your neighbors to learn how to test for water quantity and recharge of your well. If you would like to take part in a training to learn how to test for water quantity, call the Town Hall Coalition at 874-9110. We would like to thank Stephen Fuller-Rowell for organizing this program.

Staff and members of Citizen Action Groups have been working with other groups interested in protecting the Russian River from destructive gravel mining practices supported by the Board of Supervisors and their appointees to the Planning Commission. Gravel mining reduces the storage capacity and filtering ability of the Russian River drinking water aquifer. A drop in the level of water in the river has already occurred due to gravel mining. This has resulted in dried up wells and exposed bridge piers and has led to taxpayer's money being spent on fixing these problems. Please check our web-site at townhallcoalition.org if you would like to participate in public hearings and meetings concerning this issue.

Save Our Forests

Sonoma County's redwood forests in the northwestern section have faced a barrage of conversions from forestland-to-vineyard applications. The Save Our Forests Group is working on local and state legislation and policy to eliminate clear-cut logging and conversions of forests to vineyards and other such uses.

Community Clean Water Institute

We are thrilled to report that Community Clean Water Institute, formed as an affiliate group within the Town Hall Coalition, has spun-off and become its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. CCWI is dedicated to promoting and protecting clean water and public health through identifying water pollution, advocating for sound water policies, and providing information about water quality to the public throughout Northern California. Their mission is accomplished through identifying and informing the public and regulatory agencies of polluted ground, surface and drinking water and advocating for sound water quality policies. The Institute recently hired a full-time staff person, Brian Bacciarini, who will spearhead the program development aspects of the organization. Brian is a senior at Sonoma State University and will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies and Planning with a focus in Water Quality this coming December. CCWI had initiated a program to test and provide information about water quality in Northern California in areas where pollution is suspected. Please contact Brian at CCWI for more information: Phone: 707 874-3803; Fax: 707 874-2579; e-mail: cleanwtr@sonic.net or web-site: www.ccwi.org

Town Hall Forums

Recent Forums
Your Water, Your Wallet, Your Health!
In March, Town Hall Coalition cosponsored a forum in Santa Rosa on issues relating to water in the Eel and Russian Rivers and the role of the Sonoma County Water Agency. Your Water, Your Wallet, Your Health! Forum was moderated by Daniel Solnit, Director of Leadership Institute; and attended by over 350 people. Panelists included Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin; David Keller, former Petaluma City Councilman; Brenda Adelman, Director of Russian River Watershed Protection Committee; Nadananda, Executive Director of Friends of the Eel River; Alex Forman, member of the Marin Municipal Water District; and Don McEnhill, Friends of the Russian River. Special thanks go to members of the Working on Water group for organizing this successful event. Members of the group have continued to follow up on issues relating to gravel extraction in the Russian River, water diversions, water rates, and growth. Please check www.townhallcoalition.org for updates and information about public hearings and policy relating to gravel issues.

Are You Concerned About Cancer in Sonoma County?
In April, Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Noreen Evans moderated a town hall forum in Occidental titled Are You Concerned about Cancer in Sonoma County?. Debra Anderson, President of the Occidental Chamber of Commerce and owner of the Lookinglass Salon, worked incredibly hard to organize this emotional and informative event. Anderson has developed a map and a cancer registry where people with cancer and their loved ones can record information and put them on the map. Molly Boice and the Juicy Tomatoes presented a reading from Press Democrat Columnist Susan Swartz's book by the same name. Panelists included Francine Levien, Founder and Director of Marin Breast Cancer Watch; Marty DeKay-Bemis, West County Health Center; Britt Bailey, Center for Ethics and Toxics; Ginger Souders-Mason, Marin Beyond Pesticides; Dr. Kathryn Scott, Sonoma County Public Health; and Emmie Morgan, representative for Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey. Tapes of all the forums are available at the Town Hall Coalition office.

Upcoming Forums
Would you like to help put on town hall forums concerning issues that are important to you? All levels of assistance are needed, from minimal to intensive. If you are interested in participating in the following forums, please call the Town Hall Coalition at 707 874-9110:

Youth Activists Conference
Town Hall Coalition, students from Sonoma State University, New College, Planting Earth Activation, and various other organizations have joined forces to organize a Youth Activist Conference in Sonoma County. Plans are underway for several organizational events with music and entertainment. The main event will be a full weekend of inspiring speeches, networking and organizing with young people from all over the Bay Area and Northern California in the Spring of 2002. Many issues will be addressed at the conference including: micro-radio, environment, civil rights, food systems, free speech, education, the drug war, war on youth, prison industrial complex, and more. This conference will provide an opportunity for young people to get involved in regionally-based efforts to reverse corporate and business dominance of politics and government regulatory agencies, environmental destruction, and harsh government regulations against the rights of youth.

Forest Conversions and Deforestation
The Town Hall Coalition is networking with local groups throughout Northern California to organize a town hall forum and to create Citizen Action Groups that will explore ways to end deforestation by clear-cut logging, destructive land-use practices that destroy watersheds, and the conversion of forests to industrial vineyards, agriculture and other uses.

In Memory

The Town Hall Coalition is saddened to report that Francine Levien, Founder and Director of Marin Breast Cancer Watch, has passed away. Francine has been an inspiration to us all and her legacy shall live on. We wish her well on her journey.

Participatory Democracy - Think Locally, Act Locally How to Get Involved in Consolidated Elections

Have you considered running for election to a local nonpartisan special district? Examples of local special districts include Community Services, Fire Protection, Public Utility, Recreation and Park, School, and County Water Districts. Members of these boards make critical decisions about pesticide and herbicide applications on public landscaping, park and recreation facilities and programs, water and sewer systems and services, public health, education programs, ambulance services, fire protection and more. Property owners within the boundaries of special districts pay additional taxes that are administered by these boards. Any registered voter who is a resident of the district is qualified to run for election. Elected representatives of special districts must publish meeting time, date, and place and follow the open meeting and Brown Act laws. Board agendas, minutes and voting records are open to the public and kept by the secretary of the board.

Special District elections are held in odd number years and election costs come out of special district funds. In order to encourage more people to participate in elections, the Board can pass a resolution to consolidate the election to the even number years when county, state and federal elections are held in order to cut the cost of publication and mailing ballots. When incumbent Board members decide to run again and no other candidates take out nomination papers there is no election, the incumbents are automatically appointed and serve the full term as if they are elected. If there are two openings and one or more incumbents do not apply there is a five-day extension so other candidates can take out nomination papers. An election is held when there are more candidates than open positions. If you are interested in running for office please call the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters for more information at 1-800-750-8683.

The next election will be held November 6, 2001. July 16 to August 10-Take out nomination papers at the Registrar of Voters: 435 Fiscal Drive, Santa Rosa. No fee and no signatures are required.

Partial list of special districts holding elections for November 6: Community Services District: Qualifications: Registered voter in district, resident of district continuously throughout the term of office. Meet the requirements of Principal Act of District.

Cazadero Community Service: 5-member board-2 Openings (Gluch, Tye); 4 Year Term; 708 people eligible to vote and run for office. Secretary: Ruthann Tye 632-5733

Occidental Community Service: 5-member board; 2 Openings (Corcoran, McNeal); 4Year Term; 2,070 people eligible to vote and run for office. Secretary: Jenny West 823-2129 (Anyone registered to vote and living in the district is eligible to run for office and vote. The district includes Harrison Grade Road to Green Valley, Graton Road to Green Hill, Occidental Road to Furlong, Willow Creek and Coleman Valley Roads to Coleman Creek, Joy Road to Joy Ridge Lane, Bohemian Hwy mile south of Occidental, all of Deer Meadow, Stoetz, Hill Crest, Acreage, Westwood, Wyammi Ranch, Morelli, Taylor, Jennifer, Lori, Fitzpatrick, Marra and Bittner Roads.)

Recreation and Park District: Qualifications: Registered voter in district, or registered voter in the state and property owner of real property within the district.

Camp Meeker: 5 member board; 3 openings (Helfrich, Martinsen, Meyer); 4 year term; 539 people eligible to vote and run for office. Secretary: Lori Ford 874-3794 Consultant: Hal Wood Russian River Utility 887-1502

Monte Rio: 5 member board; 3 openings (Kokalis, Kieffer) 4 year term; (Haas) 2 year term; 929 people eligible to vote and run for office. Administrator: Sylvi Ciocatto 865-2487

Russian River: 5 member board; 2 openings (Jackson, Pullaro); 4 year term; 3,757 people eligible to vote and run for office. Secretary: Ilene Bentley 869-3048.

Public Utility and County Water Districts: Qualifications: Registered voter, resident of the district continuously throughout the term of office. Meet the requirements of the Principal Act of the District.

Forestville County Water: 6 member board; 2 openings (Horstmann, McDermott); 4 year term; 1,765 people eligible to vote and run for office. Secretary: Judith Miller 887-1551

Russian River County Water: 5 member board; 2 openings (McGowan, Zagoria); 4 year term; 1,525 people eligible to vote and run for office. Secretary: Cindy Kilass / Contact: Hal Wood 887-7735

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Town Hall Coalition
6741 Sebastopol Ave. Ste. 140 Sebastopol California 95472
T: 707-824-4371 / F: 707-824-4372
E-mail: info@townhallcoalition.org